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Erin Burnett Outfront

Ukraine Rejects Russian Demand For Surrender Of Mariupol; Biden To Travel To Poland To Discuss Ukraine Crisis; Ukrainian Media Outlet Says Russia Holding One Of Its Journalists Captive; Patriot Of Russia Chulpan Khamatova Renounced Putin And Fled To Latvia; Austin Vows "Significant Reaction" If Russia Uses Chemical Or Biological In Ukraine. Aired 10-11p ET

Aired March 20, 2022 - 22:00   ET




ERIN BURNETT, CNN HOST: Good evening. I'm Erin Burnett and welcome to a special edition of OUTFRONT to begin this hour with breaking news. Ukraine is refusing to meet Russia's demands to surrender the city of Mariupol and that deadline is now formally passed just seconds ago.

Ukraine's deputy prime minister saying tonight and I quote, there can be no discussion of any surrender or putting down arms. We have informed the Russian side about.

Ukraine standing firm despite the other devastation that Russia has inflicted on Mariupol. Today, bombing an art school where the city council says 400 people may have been sheltering underneath it. That school just across the way from a theater that was bombed last week. That was also being used as a shelter. Hundreds are still missing in the rubble there. In fact, more than 800 are still unaccounted for as of the latest numbers we have.

It this act of defiance tonight by Ukraine, categorically refusing the unconditional surrender that Russia was trying to get from Mariupol is complicating Putin's plans. Plans U.S. officials say and we all have seen clearly have not yet gone Putin's way.


LLOYD AUSTIN, U.S. SECRETARY OF DEFENSE: I believe that he's taking these kinds of steps because as was described earlier, his campaign is stalled.


BURNETT: Putin's campaign may have stalled but the damage he is inflicting on civilians in Ukraine has not stalled. It has not subsided at all. And tonight the Mayor of Kyiv says someone was killed in an explosion there. Our CNN crew on the ground saw massive anti- aircraft fire in the skies over Kyiv earlier Sunday as well. Now, the president of Ukraine telling CNN that the time has come for him to negotiate directly with Putin.


VOLODYMYR ZELENSKYY, UKRAINIAN PRESIDENT (through translator): We have to use any format, any chance in order to have a possibility of negotiating, the possibility of talking to Putin. But if these attempts fail, that would mean that this is a third world war.


BURNETT: And I want to go straight to Nick Paton Walsh, who was on the ground in Mykolaiv tonight. And Nick, what is the latest there this hour?

NICK PATON WALSH, CNN INTERNATIONAL SECURITY EDITOR: Erin, it's pretty clear that Ukraine has seen some strategic success here around the Black Sea coast port of Mykolaiv. We would normally see significant more blasts on the skyline here as we have in the past weeks. It has been quieter because Ukrainian forces have pushed Russians back down the road towards Kherson, the first city that Russia occupied.

We saw ourselves that fight on that road and how some of the artillery Ukraine is using appears to be having an effect. But still, the bombardment of both sides seems to continue and there has been a heavy cost imposed on Ukrainian military forces in the past three or four days. One barracks hit, about 30 killed in possibly two missile strikes there and 40 injured we saw ourselves the devastation on Ukrainian troops.

Also to claims by the Russian Ministry of Defense, they use the hypersonic missile to the north of where I'm standing to hit a warehouse after test the claims whether that new technology was in fact used and to what effect, but it marks a new phase here, frankly, in which we see Russia strategically lose terrain on the ground, important terrain when it comes to the road towards Kherson but respond with distant heavy firepower.

Still some of that evidence at times on the skyline behind us here we heard it last night as well, very large blasts in the distance, that still has people deeply concerned here despite the slight sense of a bit more room to breathe and the city that felt it might be in circles in the past weeks or so.

The local regional governor sounding a times more optimistic and in fact, in a grisly way telling locals they might have to start thinking about collecting the abandoned bodies of Russian soldiers on the battlefield. Still here though, Mykolaiv resisting and that is slowing down any Russian moves towards the third largest city in Ukraine that might report Odessa here though things possibly positive for Ukrainian forces. Erin.

BURNETT: All right. Thank you very much Nick. And of course possibly positive the question is for how long and in Mariupol the situation on the ground is dire. Phil Black is OUTFRONT with more.

(BEGIN VIDEO TAPE) PHIL BLACK, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Some of the buildings being destroyed in Mariupol have been crowded with desperate people.


Civilians hoping to find refuge from Russia's assault.

The city council says that now includes a bombed school thought to be sheltering hundreds of people, including women, children, the elderly, have any survived. No one knows for sure.

A local official says there is no way to get the information from. Mariupol civil collapse is total. It's been days since we heard anything about efforts to rescue people from this side. The last report said what 130 people were pulled from the debris of the theater were around 1,000 or more was said to be sheltering, mostly in the basement.

This video was shot inside the theater before the attack. The Russian word for children spelled out on the ground outside in huge letters didn't prevent the strike which destroyed most of this building.

Catarina Yeskaya (ph) lived across from that theater and delivered food and other aid to the people hiding out there. She says it's difficult to describe the sympathy she felt fully. They were terrified, cowering in horror at the sounds of planes overhead, always afraid of a bomb dropping.

ALEVTINA SHVETSOVA, MARIUPOL RESIDENT: lived under Russian attack in Mariupol for 21 days. This is not just a city, she says, this is my whole life. She survived without power in freezing conditions with little food with eight other members of her family until the building was hit. They pulled dead neighbors from the rubble and decided to leave the city.

Alevtina says she can't imagine life without Mariupol. She will return. But now in her burning city, there are lots of people, lots of children under rubble, others in shelters.

The journey out of the besieged city is slow and dangerous. But every day relatively small numbers are leaving whatever way they can along what are supposed to be agreed corridors. A local official says some people have been fired upon, others who've had their vehicle seized at Russian checkpoints. The people of Mariupol have no good options, stay and endure the horror of Russia's bombardment or face danger and uncertainty. Leaving all they know behind. Phil Black, CNN, Lviv, Ukraine.


BURNETT: And OUTFRONT now Inna Sovsun, a member of Ukraine's parliament. She is in western Ukraine tonight. And I appreciate your time, Inna. look, I want to start with our breaking news tonight. Ukraine refusing that Russian demand of surrender from Mariupol, you know, which technically the deadline passed just a few moments ago, but obviously Ukraine firm know, nothing like that in any way, shape or form will occur. A hard defiant no. What do you think happens now, Inna?

INNA SOVSUN, UKRAINIAN PARLIAMENT MEMBER: Well, first of all, I will tell you this, I was not surprised with the official response by the government, it was obvious that Ukrainian government would not surrender in Mariupol. This makes no sense militarily, because surrendering in Mariupol right now would mean that the Russian will have much more forces that they can use in other areas in the Donetsk region.

Second, just politically, we're not given up. We have been receiving so many plates from the people over there who are saying just please do not surrender, please do not give up. And we cannot just, you know, forget about our people. We are seeing messages from people on the occupied territories in Kherson and Melitopol. They're all going to the streets to protest to say that we are Ukraine, please. We are waiting for the Ukrainian army to come back.

And what are you seeing that just given up in other cities is not an option for us, of course. I think that what happens now is the Russians will continue to terrorize the city. That is the only thing that they are left to do with because they cannot fight against the army.

The army has been holding the defense of the city for three weeks now under the toughest condition ever. They have not enough forces to actually, you know, go in all together. But they were trying to play this surrender card. It didn't work. They unfortunately they will continue to use the city as a hostage in Ukraine.

BURNETT: I was just talking to a young man whose mother and sister are still there and just sort of even what he's aware of. And he's obviously not been able to speak to them in weeks. But, you know, anyone who's gotten out who's told him, you know, people drinking from puddles. And you know, it's horrific, of course, what is happening there.

One thing I've noticed, Inna, that you have been following very closely, that I think is crucial and people around the world may not understand. The general in charge of Russia's National Center for Defense Management said something I wanted to quote. He said rescued residents of Mariupol and this is almost 60,000 people found themselves in Russia in complete safety. Now openly talk about those mass atrocities and crimes you have committed. He's referring to Ukrainians. We're documenting all this very carefully at this time.


So they're admitting to having taken 60,000 people from Mariupol civilians and made them go to Russia. You -- What do you know about this?

SOVSUN: Well, I'll tell you this. Just today, we received some poll (oh) done here in Ukraine. And it says, for the first time in Ukrainian history ever, that Ukraine is extremely united in their attitude towards Russia. 98 percent of Ukrainians say that Russia is our enemy, and they hate it. This is the highest number I could ever see, like previously, it was around 50 to 60 percent just for you to understand that the change within the last three weeks.

So, admitting that people from Ukraine from Mariupol, which has been shelled and destroyed by Russians for weeks, were just voluntarily go to Russia. That is just such a blatant lie, that it's unacceptable just to say that.

What we're hearing instead is that the Russians are taking people from Mariupol, relocating them to what they call the filtration camps. And the very word camps in that sense is, is just terrifying that it has been used, then they've been sent to distant areas in Russia, and they've been forced to sign papers that they will not leave, and that they will work for free, which is basically slavery in those parts of Russia.

We got those reports from the city mayor of Mariupol and from the city council. And that is terrifying. There is so much reminiscent of the, you know, of the Nazi camps, that I just -- I really, I didn't believe I will see this. But we are seeing so many of the things that we believed were in the history in the World War II, you know, from the Nazi time, but now we have those like we have mass graves 70 kilometers from Kyiv. And we also have what they call filtration. Oh, sorry. Sorry.


SOVSUN: Then we have the filtration camps, and people sent into forced labor.

BURNETT: So Inna, do you have any sense and I just want to follow up on this point, because you know, that the Russians are saying 60,000 people from Mariupol. But the Russian defense ministry today is saying all together, Inna, they have 330,686 Ukrainians that have been gone to Russia, removed and brought to Russia. Is that number possibly real?

SOVSUN: Well, it's -- it depends on who they calculate, because there have been quite a significant number of people who were living in Russia before that. They were holding Ukrainian passwords would have been living in Russia for a long period of time. Maybe they included those people which has, there has been an intense migration for work purposes or any other purposes. Even in the last eight years of war, many people were still traveling there.

And there are many Ukrainians who are living there and the Ukrainian passports but living in Russia, maybe they took those into account.

BURNETT: All right, well, gosh, I can only hope so because to imagine that many people, you know, some large -- large percentage of whom do not want to be there. And the possibilities that you're opening up with the terms of their departure are quite, quite horrible to contemplate. Inna, thank you so very much. I appreciate your taking the time. I look forward to speaking with you again soon.

SOVSUN: Thank you, Erin. Thank you so much for having me.

BURNETT: And next for the first time since the invasion, Russia using hypersonic missiles capable of a fading defense systems because of their speed. What's the reason?

Plus, growing fears tonight for a journalist who has gone missing. The Ukrainian government believes she was kidnapped by Russian forces. Her friend is OUTFRONT.

And Russia stopping at nothing when it comes at telling, well, lies to their own people.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (through translator): The Russian armed forces do not bomb cities. This is well known to everyone.



BURNETT: President Biden will travel to Warsaw, Poland on Friday as part of his trip to Europe next week the White House just announced it comes as U.S. officials confirm that Russia launched a hypersonic missile against Ukraine, the first known use of the missile in combat.

The attack, which the U.S. tracked in real time destroyed a Ukrainian ammunitions warehouse. Now hypersonic missiles have that name because of their speed. They travel at Mach Five or higher, faster speed, making it very difficult to detect. And by that the implication is they can evade missile defense systems.

OUTFRONT now, Kimberly Dozier, our global affairs analyst and a contributor to Time Magazine. Also with me tonight Lieutenant General Mark Hertling back with me, former commanding general of Europe and the Seventh Army.

So general, the development of these hypersonic missiles. This has been a top priority for the US, for China, for Russia. We all remember when China tested one in the U.S. sort of was completely taken by surprise just a couple months ago. Why are these missiles seen as such a game changer?

LT. GEN. MARK HERTLING, FMR. ARMY COMMANDING GENERAL, EUROPE AND SEVENTH ARMY (RET.): Well, you already said it, Erin, they do fly anywhere from five to 10 times the speed of sound, hypersonic but like a lower speed cruise missile, it can also maneuver in mid-flight. So it isn't like a ballistic missile that goes from point A to point B hits the target.

This one can fly around obstacles, which makes it harder for air defense systems to track and to intercept. Not impossible, but harder. So that's a critical piece. But there's also a factor that the speed and force at impact of something that's going 10 times the speed of sound, as you can imagine, would cause a greater penetration and much more effective destructive power in things like destroying underground storage sites, bunkers, things like that.

And that's what gives makes me question why they're using it against a supply dump, as opposed to a more critically important target. I think it really gets to the point that I think we'll talk about a little bit is why are they doing this?

BURNETT: So Kim, what are your sources telling you? Why are they doing this?

KIMBERLY DOZIER, CNN GLOBAL AFFAIRS ANALYST: Well, of course, a little bit of it is bragging, a demonstration to NATO psychological operation against Ukraine. Look what we're rolling out now. But a lot of it has to be a morale boost for those crushed Russian forces on the ground at a time when they really need them. And when you look at the kind of losses they've sustained about it it's anywhere from 7,000 to 15,000 Russian troops killed in action.


And if you just put that through the simple formula of about 1KIA (ph) to five wounded in action, and that's a conservative estimate, we're looking at ranges of between 40,000, up to 90,000 people taken off the battlefield who can't contribute to the fight. That's almost half the force. Those troops have to feel pretty alone. And hearing that the Russian army has rolled out hypersonic missiles has got to be a boost.

BURNETT: Wow. I said, I think so crucial, though, when you lay out those numbers. I mean, that is stunning if that's what we're talking about here. And obviously, when we see the reports of hospitals, and it's impossible to verify all of this, but the, you know, Russian injured troops. It is pretty dire what they've experienced.

General, the Defense Secretary Austin also said today raise the question as to why Putin may be using these hypersonic missiles. And he also, he said, Is he running low on precision guided munitions? You know, kind of raising the point that maybe they're using it in part because they're running out of other stuff. Could that be?

HERTLING: It's a possibility, Erin, but I'm going to go back to what Kim said before. I think it is sort of a bluster moment for him. I remember the first time Putin rolled this thing out a couple of years ago, there was -- he had a big film, he was standing on a stage and one of these missiles was aimed at Mar-a-Lago when President Trump was president. I don't know for you if your fans remember that.

But this is something to show that they still have potential, number one, is a threat. But secondly, I think the other message that he's sending these weapon systems not only carry high explosives, but they can also carry potential tactical nuclear weapons.

So I think this is more of a signal toward NATO than it is for his own troops saying see this, I've got this potential and you can't knock it down. That's the critical part.


HERTLING: But as we heard from NATO headquarters, they were able to track it yesterday.

BURNETT: Right, that is crucial, as you point out that they would have that nuclear capacity, right, because as we always know, you know, necessarily having a missile doesn't mean that it has the ability to have that warhead, you know, successfully attached to it.

Kim, this comes though as the reality is that, you know, this was used for supply, right, area. The real damage that's happened thus far has been from complete indiscriminate shelling and artillery fire, right, you know, of which the technology is ancient in history of modern warfare.

DOZIER: Well, they resorted to siege warfare, the quick strike didn't work. So they are digging in and waiting for reinforcements and just trying to wear the Ukrainian people down. We know there's also an effort going on in terms of negotiations with various world leaders trying to intervene. But Russia's ask is still too high for Ukraine. Ukraine hasn't yet said we will allow you to have both the Donbass Crimea and a land bridge to connect them that the territory Russia has already seized.

So unfortunately, both sides are dug in, both sides have the skills for more ferocious killing. So I think we're still looking at weeks of this fight ahead.

BURNETT: Thank you both very much. And next, a Ukrainian journalist missing. A news outlet says she was kidnapped by Russian forces and her friend joins me next.

And propaganda, Russians are seeing and hearing a lot of it but do they know that's what it is?



BURNETT: Tonight, a race against the clock to find a journalist who vanished covering the war in Ukraine. A digital broadcaster in Ukraine announcing that Victoria Roshchyna was last heard of on -- from on March 12, a day after filing a story from Russian occupied Enerhodar.

And Ukraine's human rights commissioner says the government believes she was kidnapped by Russian forces and Berdyansk which is another city right now currently occupied by Russians.

OUTFRONT now Oleksandra Matviichuk. She has worked with Victoria for years and is the head of the Center for Civil Liberties in Ukraine. Oleksandra, have you are any of Victoria's colleagues had any luck yet to reach her or to find out anything about what happened to her?

OLEKSANDRA MATVIICHUK, HUMAN RIGHTS LAWYER: Unfortunately not. We only got information from locals that she was probably arrested by Russian security service first Berdyansk in 12 of March. And then we have no information no connection with her.

BURNETT: I mean, it's unbelievable. You got 10 days here almost since hearing nothing. So when you last spoke with her, I presume it was around that time. What did she tell you?

MATVIICHUK: I had a lot my last conversation with her at first of March because we restorable (INAUDIBLE) and she asked me whether I can have free driver for some journalists go which she need to do.

BURNETT: So, this alleged abduction and it sounds like from what you say people saw her being arrested. It comes as numerous journalists have come under attack and some journalists have died under Russian shelling.

Pierre Zakrzewski, a cameraman for Fox News was killed when his vehicle came under fire outside of Kiev. Oleksandra -- Ukrainian journalist Oleksandra Kuvshinova when the same vehicle was also killed in that. Brent Renaud, U.S. journalist was shot and killed when Russian forces opened fire on his vehicle that was in Irpin. The Daily Beast journalists Stefan Weichert and his photographer wounded outside of Kharkiv. And I had a chance to speak with Stefan. Here's what he told me.


STEFAN WEICHERT, FREELANCE JOURNALIST SHOT IN UKRAINE: I think what we have seen hills in the last few days have been that numerous journalists have been shot right driving around in their cars labeled press. So it seems like this is happening deliberately, right.


BURNETT: Do you think journalists covering this war are being targeted?

MATVIICHUK: Yes, it's deliberate policy. And several hours ago, we go to information that Oleh Baturin, the journalist from Kakhovka released. He was in captivity since 12th of March. He spent several day in captivity and he told that he was beaten and intimidated and it was like for his opinion a special operation in order to provide a pull and effect to other journalists not to work in occupied cities.


BURNETT: So what can you -- what are you doing now? I mean, it's got to just feel so frustrating because that what is there to do? You know that there's -- there doesn't seem to be any way to get answers about where Victoria is, but what are you hoping to do next?

MATVIICHUK: We reached international organizations, and we asked them to work in the occupied territories. We need their physical presence here, because locals now are faced with Russian soldiers unarmed and there is no to help, to protect them in occupied territories. We really need international organization to be present here and to monitor what's going on.

BURNETT: Thank you so much. I appreciate your time. I hope that Victoria will soon be come out of there and be safe and unhurt. Thank you.

MATVIICHUK: Thank you.

BURNETT: Next, a famous Russian actress has fled the country not buying what her government is saying about the war in Ukraine.


CHULPAN KHAMATOVA, RUSSIAN ACTRESS (through translator): I don't know how to not pay attention to what I see with my own eyes.


BURNETT: When it comes to Russia's past use of chemical weapons, the list is long. Just ask the man who was poisoned live to tell the story.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It could have not been happened without direct order of Putin because it's always big scale.




BURNETT: One of Russia's most prominent actresses has now fled for Latvia in protest over her country's invasion of Ukraine. In a video posted on YouTube, Chulpan Khamatova said she couldn't stay and continue to live a lie.


KHAMATOVA (through translator): This is a tragedy. No, I don't know how to not pay attention to what I see with my own eyes and received information from Ukrainian friends about what is happening here, lying to myself to the whole world, not to live according to the truth. It's best that they don't force black to be called white.


BURNETT: Nic Robertson is OUTFRONT now with more on Russia's propaganda machine. And I do want to warn you that some of the images that you will see in his piece is -- are disturbing.


NIC ROBERTSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL DIPLOMATIC EDITOR (voice-over): As President Putin slaughter in Ukraine stalled, his offensive at home to hide its brutality is ramping up marking as enemies Russians who don't by the Kremlin's propaganda.

VLADIMIR PUTIN, RUSSIAN PRESIDENT (through translator): The Russian people especially are able to distinguish true patriots from bastards and traitors and will spit them out, like a gnat that accidentally flew into their mouths. ROBERTSON: What is coming out of the mouths of Putin state media propagandists is a full throated defense of Russia's killing of Ukrainian civilians, falsely claiming Ukraine started the war that civilians are being used as human shields. Putin's Kremlin cronies double down on the lie, blame the U.S. and Europe for the civilian deaths.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (through translator): The Russian armed forces do not bomb cities. This is well known to everyone. No matter how many videos are edited in NATO, no matter how many clips and fake photos are thrown in.

ROBERTSON: Yet, an indication how flimsy the Kremlin may fear its fabrications are, Putin held a rare rally, seemingly seeking to scotch concerns of amounting casualties and low morale among soldiers.

PUTIN (through translator): Our boys are fighting in this operation shoulder to shoulder, shielding one another with their bodies on the battlefield. We haven't had this unity for a long time.

ROBERTSON: For many Russians knowing fact from Kremlin fiction is getting impossible. His heavy handed riot police routinely drag anti- war protesters off the streets. Draconian new laws banned criticism of the war, max penalty 15 years in jail. Access to Facebook and Twitter restricted.

And since the war began, Russia's few remaining independent media outlets have been shut down, including TV Rain, whose viewership rocketed news director and anchor Ekaterina Kotrikadze fled for safety.

EKATERINA KOTRIKADZE, DIRECTOR AND ANCHOR, TV RAIN NEWS: There are many people, a lot of people millions of Russians, who understand that something terrible is going on and who understand that they need this alternative sources of information.

ROBERTSON: Not all decent (ph) is stifled news editor Marina Ovsyannikova took her anti-war protests primetime on the Kremlin's most popular propaganda machine Channel One and was quickly convicted of organizing a public event.

MARINA OVSYANNIKOVA, EDITOR CHANNEL ONE (through translator): I have been working on Channel One and doing Kremlin propaganda. And now I am very ashamed of it. That is a shame that I allowed lies to come from the TV screens is shame that I helped zombify Russian people.

ROBERTSON: The real news, the news we'll see of the lost and shattered lives of terrified civilians, of millions forced to flee bombed out homes is barely getting through to Russians. Give Putin more time, and you'll try to shut them off completely.

(on camera): But there is one thing here that President Putin really is struggling to control. And that's the war and that could be his Achilles heel. The loss of a lot of young soldiers that could really stir up angry parents at home and bring out a real anti Putin sentiment on the streets, and I'd have trouble dealing with that, Erin.


BURNETT: All right, Nic, thank you very much. And I want to go now to Ekaterina Kotrikadze, she just heard her in next piece. She's the newest director and anchor at TV Rain.


And as he said one of Russia's last independent news outlets. The network says it was forced to shut down earlier this month, the staff all walked off set. And before going off air, the broadcast cut to Swan Lake. The performance that was a message of protest to the Russian people is that is what state TV showed when a coup unfolded against then or later, Gorbachev.

So Ekaterina, I really appreciate having you back with me. So let's start with that actress. We saw today, this actress, very famous actress leave Russia in protest over what she is seeing with her own eyes, and that she can no longer conscience that lie. Why are so many influential people refusing to take the same stand?

KOTRIKADZE: Well, they're scared, Erin. First of all, thank you so much for inviting me. There are scared because we can see that there are people who try to protest and you could see it in a piece of Nic a couple of minutes ago. They tried to protest. They try to say a word about what's going on. They try to name the situation, a war, actually, they are detained, they have problems, they faced some time in jail. And you know about this law, which actually makes people even more scared of journalists may face with up to 15 years in jail.

So for you know, this disinformation, so called disinformation about the so called military operation in Ukraine. But still, it's important to understand that when Chulpan Khamatova, when she is one of the most famous faces of Russia. She's not just an actress. She's also a very important and famous human rights activist. She helps children in Russia with cancer, and she gathers money. I mean she is an opinion maker. She's not just someone.

So, when she decides to leave the country, it's an important signal from the other hand, and, you know, we need to understand also that she is -- she's one of few, just few people, just up makers in Russia, who take such steps. Because a lot of basis of this emperor in Russia are, unfortunately on Putin side in this situation.

And this concert is just one of the big reminders that propaganda is killing. And that Vladimir Putin information makes everything. Information is the crucial thing, you know. He's trying to control all informational of laws. And he's trying to control all people who, you know, make sense to me and for Russia.

BURNETT: And I know, there's been, you know, conversation about how, what is a protest, right? And this brings me to the Russian cosmonauts. I mean, this is a pretty extraordinary story. They go to the International Space Station, and they are dressed in the colors of the Ukrainian flag. OK, there's no one on this planet who looks at that and doesn't automatically, you know, go OK, I know what that is.

Now, then they said, Oh, well, this was actually a tribute to our alma mater, which, you know, where they went to college, and that those are our college colors. Is that just a, you know, sort of a little bit of a smokescreen so they can get away with it? I mean, is there any, I mean, this just seems to be so clear what it is that some sort of protests, how do you see it?

KOTRIKADZE: Yes, of course, there cannot be such a coincidence, Erin. And then who can believe that during the war, people just dress in yellow and blue? I mean, it's impossible, right? And these people, of course, they are -- they depend on Russian state. They dependent their careers, their lives depend on Russia state, but they wanted to send this message as I understand it, as I feel it. They wanted to send the message that they don't support this catastrophe.

And, well, this is everything they can do. And thank -- thanks to thiss people, maybe someone understands the message.


KOTRIKADZE: Still, it's also that, you know, the situation when you need to understand that there's so many people, millions of Russians, mainly elderly people after 50, 50 plus, maybe more, who trust television when they switch on television automatically this is what they are used to. They see this terrible propaganda.

People with this V letter on themselves telling them that Russia is defending someone and setting someone free. And this people are hating everyone who has different opinion. They hate me personally. They hate my colleagues. And they think that Vladimir Putin is doing the right thing, but it's important that more and more people, young generation do not trust this propaganda and who double check, who criticize, who analyze and I really hope for this people, there are a lot of them.


BURNETT: Ekaterina, thank you so very much. And as you say with those cosmonauts, you know, how they look, a picture may just in that case speak 1,000 words and hopefully too many more than 1,000 people. Thank you so much.

KOTRIKADZE: Thank you.

BURNETT: And next, chemical weapons are part of the arsenal that Putin has used. How far could he go in Ukraine, and some businesses are staying in Russia despite pressure to leave. I'll tell you how.


BURNETT: Tonight, Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin warning a chemical attack by Russia in Ukraine would prompt a quote significant reaction from the United States.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) AUSTIN: I think if chemical or biological weapon was used, he would see a significant reaction from not only the United States but also the global community. And as you heard our president say, we won't take that lightly.


BURNETT: And while it's unclear what that means, Russia denies possessing chemical weapons but of course, U.S. officials are growing increasingly concerned Vladimir Putin may use them because as Tom Foreman is about to show you, the United States has pointed out time and time again Putin's apparent use of them before including in Syria. I want to warn you what you're about to see is graphic.


TOM FOREMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): People suffocating foaming convulsing and dying. This was the result of a Sarin gas attack by the Syrian military on their own people in a town held by rebels in 2017, according to UN investigators, just one of dozens condemned by the West.

UNIDDENTIFIED MALE: It's a serious matter. It requires a serious response.

FOREMAN: But little action followed as Syria denied any wrongdoing with the help of longtime ally Russia.

MARIA ZAKHAROVA, RUSSIAN FOREIGN MINISTRY SPOKESWOMAN (through translator): That's because the American side can't not understand that this Syrian government troops did not use chemical weapons there.


FOREMAN: It's a familiar pattern. Time and again in recent decades Russia has been linked directly and indirectly to chemical attacks only to challenge the accusations. 2004 Ukraine's pro-Western presidential candidate Victor Yushchenko suffers a mysterious and potentially fatal dioxin poisoning. It utterly changes his face and again raises the specter of Russian involvement.

VICTOR YUSHCHENKO, FMR. UKRAINIAN PRESIDENT (through translator): I had never felt anything like it before.

FOREMAN: 2006, Alexander Litvinenko, a former KGB officer, working with British intelligence drinks tea laced with radioactive polonium, he dies in London. Authorities say Russian agents were to blame. 2018, Sergei Skripal, a former Russian military officer and his daughter are poisoned in England, they barely survive. And authorities once more point to Russia.

AMBER RUDD, UK HOME SECRETARY: The use of a nerve agent on UK soil is a brazen and reckless act.

FOREMAN: And 2020, Alexei Navalny, a Russian opposition leader is poisoned with a nerve agent. He too nearly dies. He too points at Putin.

ALEXEI NAVALNY, RUSSIAN OPPOSITION LEADER: Of course, 100 percent it could have not been happened without direct order of Putin, because it's big scale.

FOREMAN: Putin's responses in this in all these cases, no, it was not Russian work.

PUTIN (through translator): In this case, of course, the special services should keep an eye on it. But it doesn't mean that all he needs to be poisoned. Who needs them anyway?

FOREMAN: During the final decades of the Cold War, Russia maintained a massive program to develop biological weapons and their interest in chemical weapons has been a long-standing concern. So the fear they could unleash them on Ukraine is very real, as is the warning the better not.

JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Russia would pay severe price the use of chemical.

FOREMAN (on camera): But does that matter? Russia has heard such talk from the west plenty of times before and seemingly has ignored it all along the way. Erin.


BURNETT: Tom, thank you. And these concerns about chemical attacks coming as we're learning tonight, the 10 million people have fled Ukraine. Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelenskyy in an exclusive interview telling CNN how he is talking about all this with his children. And the toll this is taken on his own family.


ZELENSKYY (through translator): First two days, we did not talk about it at all. And my family, and they did not ask questions. They were thinking about it themselves of what is happening. They simply believe that the good shall prevail. It may seem bad (ph), but this is it. And in order to prevail, good people have to sacrifice themselves.


BURNETT: Nearly thousand civilians have been killed since the start of Russia's invasion. And I should emphasize that number significantly higher. We actually have no idea what it is, right. You know, you've got corpses on the streets in Mariupol, countless bodies and bomb shelters underground that haven't been found, right. So we don't even know how horrible these numbers are going to be.

Miguel Marquez is live from Bucharest, Romania, where refugees have been pouring in over these weeks. And Miguel, officials in Central Europe are worried. They voiced concern that they are reaching capacity to house the refugees who have obviously been through such suffering and anguish. Are you seeing that where you are? MIGUEL MARQUEZ, CNN SENIOR NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, look, they are preparing for a lot more. They're creating a lot more beds here in Bucharest and throughout Romania right now. The big concern are those internally displaced refugees in Ukraine. The numbers have actually come down in recent days coming into Romania and other countries.

But that number of internally displaced is massive. And the concern is as the Russians continue to push West, as they use that indiscriminate force, especially in civilian areas, that those number of internally displaced will start to move into places like Ukraine, in another tidal wave, essentially. So they've opened up beds across the country.

You know, we've seen it not just in individual homes, but cities have done it here. And then on the country level as well, not only preparing more beds for refugees, but humanitarian aid as well creating sort of an Amazon like center to collect humanitarian aid to move that into Ukraine as needed. And as it can, Erin.

BURNETT: So Miguel, I know you spoke to the mayor of Brasov earlier and you've been there of course reporting where so many refugees have gone and been so warmly embraced. What did he tell you about the situation they're in tonight?

MARQUEZ: Yes, it's indicative, and it's impressive. I mean, it's a medium sized city in the center of the country. And look, he is basically saying they are preparing for the long term.



ALLEN COLIBAN, BRASOV MAYOR: Hoped for the best but prepare for the worst. So basically, were preparing for months from now on. Even when we talk about higher education and students, we have the norms here say you have to have a sort of a course of Romanian in order to be integrated. And we're trying to organize it right now so that the beginning of next year for universities in September, they will be ready to be part of the education system that we offer here.


MARQUEZ: So they've created about thousand beds in the city of Brasov itself. They're looking for more. The idea is that they want to keep that support level up at network up because these refugees especially women and children will be the most vulnerable in the months and years ahead, Erin.

BURNETT: And years. Miguel, thank you very much. Next, defying calls to leave Russia. The companies, there are 37 as of tonight, who are still doing business in the country.


BURNETT: And finally tonight, doubling down on doing business in Russia. As of tonight, 33 or 37 European and American companies have maintained a presence there according to Yale School of Management Professor Jeffrey Sonnenfeld. Now, he's been keeping a list of companies and their engagements with their -- with Russia. You know, it started out with 400 as he published it, a lot of them, you know, that wasn't a good headline and they really changed.

But there are still this remaining list and it comes in spite of calls including from President Zelenskyy himself for companies to pull out of Russia in protest of the war.

So who's staying? Well, just to name a few of the brands involved, according to Sonnenfeld is tracking Reebok Brooks Brothers, Nine West, Avon Cosmetics among them. Subway still has 446 locations operating in the country that the company, but the company says they're operated by franchisees.


Koch Industries is also continuing to do business in Russia. A spokesman saying leaving would do more harm than good. Thanks for joining us, our coverage continues.