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Erin Burnett Outfront

Russia Intensifies Attacks On Western Ukraine, Fuel Supply; Biden Insists Putin Comment Was Personal "Outrage," Not Policy; Ukraine: Russian Forces Are "Trying To Make A Corridor Around Kyiv" To Block Supply Routes; Drone Footage Shows Buildings, Houses Obliterated In Mariupol; Source: Abramovich, Ukrainian Negotiators Sickened During Talks; Biden: "No Apologies" For Saying Putin "Cannot Remain in Power". Aired 7-8p ET

Aired March 28, 2022 - 19:00   ET


WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: Thank you very much. Brian Todd reporting. I'll be back later tonight in two hours 9 pm Eastern for the latest on the war in Ukraine and today's other top stories. Until then, thanks very much for watching.

Erin Burnett OUTFRONT starts right now.

ERIN BURNETT, CNN HOST: OUTFRONT next breaking news, Russia now stepping up its attacks on Ukraine's fuel supply as President Biden makes no apologies for saying Putin cannot remain in power.

Plus, "we walked among corpses." Hear the horrifying accounts from Ukrainians who have managed to escape the besieged city of Mariupol.

And negotiators, including the Russian oligarch trying to hammer out a deal between Ukraine and Russia recently experienced skin peeling and sore eyes after negotiating session. What happened?

Let's go OUTFRONT.

And good evening. I'm Erin Burnett.

OUTFRONT tonight, the breaking news, Russia intensifying its assault as it targets Ukraine's fuel supply. According to a top Ukrainian military official, Russian forces have hit a fuel depot in Rivne in western Ukraine.

Now, this is just the latest strike targeting the country's fuel facilities specifically. Over the weekend, a barrage of Russian missiles targeted fuel storage sites across the west of Ukraine including in Lviv and today's attack happening as Russia and Ukraine are battling for control of crucial Ukrainian cities.

Tonight, the mayor of the besieged city of Mariupol using some important words saying humanitarian quarters are now in the 'hands of the occupiers', also calling for a complete evacuation of the city which at one point had a population of over 440,000 people. And just outside the capital, Ukraine's Deputy Defense Minister claims Russian forces are attempting to block humanitarian supply routes around Kyiv. Our Fred Pleitgen traveled to one village north of the capital and

this is video that he and his team filmed today. You're going to hear from him in just a moment. Look at those roads. I mean, those streets are completely impassable, utter destruction, buildings destroyed. There's no in and out easily there.

It does come though, as Ukraine is making real progress near Kyiv. In Irpin, the mayor says Ukraine has freed the contested town and that Russian soldiers are actually offering themselves up for surrender. There is a lot to get to on the ground tonight as the President of the United States says he is not backtracking on his comments that 'Putin cannot remain in power'.


JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I'm not walking any back. The fact of the matter is I was expressing the more outrage I felt toward the way Putin is dealing and the actions of this man which is just brutality to half of the children in Ukraine. I just come from being with those families, but I want to make it clear, I wasn't then nor am I now articulating a policy change. I was expressing moral outrage that I felt. Nobody believes we're going to take down - I was talking about taking down Putin.


BURNETT: We have reporters across Ukraine as well as in Poland, where so many of the nearly 4 million Ukrainian refugees are tonight. I want to start with Fred Pleitgen though OUTFRONT live in Kyiv. And Fred, I just showed everyone some of the video that you filmed when you went on north of Kiev. I mean, it was amazing, right? You saw those in the streets complete and utter rubble. Those giant pothole wouldn't be the right word. I mean, those are just complete holes and destroyed what used to be city streets.

That's what I'm referring to right there. What more are you seeing and on the ground tonight?

FRED PLEITGEN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, I think that was emblematic what we saw there in that suburb, which is to the north of Kyiv. We're still seeing some of those pictures right now. What you're seeing right now is actually a house that got hit by an artillery shell or by a rocket and several people were wounded in that house and a two year old child was actually killed.

And that's something that, unfortunately, is all too common in those areas, especially towards the north of Kyiv and to the northwest of Kyiv as well. The place that we were at yesterday is actually now been declared one of the most dangerous places around the capital of Kyiv.

At the same time, throughout this entire day, Erin, it's really been something that we've seen throughout the past days, but even more so today. There has been extremely heavy fighting in those areas. This entire day, we've had air raid sirens and we've had booms going off. We've had multiple rocket launching systems being activated, especially there towards the northeast. And it was so interesting then, that the Ukrainians came out and so

that they had to taken - fully taken - that suburb of Irpin. Now that of course is one of those places that was really hotly contested, really fought over. And while they say that they've taken over that entire area, they still say that it's unsafe to enter there, because it continues to get shelled and that's also the thing that we witnessed when we were in north of the capital that the Russians are trying to make advances. In many cases, they're failing and then they're shelling a lot of those areas and civilians are being heard.

Of course, as you know, we've been reporting about this for such a long time now.


The Russians claim that they're not hitting civilian targets, but what we saw on the ground especially in that area certainly seemed to indicate that a lot of civilian houses were being hit. And then the Deputy Defense Minister come out and say that the Russians are trying to create corridors around the city, essentially encircling the city, that's something that the Ukrainians are trying to stop and they say they're somewhat making headway, Erin.

BURNETT: All right. Fred, thank you very much.

So now let's go to retired Army Lieutenant General Mark Hertling, former Commanding General of Europe and the 7th Army and Seth Jones, Director of the International Security Program at the Center for Strategic and International Studies. He served as an adviser to the Commanding General of U.S. Special Operations Forces in Afghanistan. All right. So much to talk about tonight with what's happening on the ground.

Seth, first though President Biden today saying he was 'expressing my outrage'. But that he was not making a policy change when he explicitly said Putin cannot remain in power. He says he's not walking anything back and he makes no apologies for anything he said. What do you make of those comments?

SETH JONES, DIRECTOR, INTL. SECURITY PROGRAM AT CENTER FOR STRATEGIC & INTERNATIONAL STUDIES: Well, I think the comments frankly were unhelpful. I mean, if we look at the Russians right now, their military is gotten bogged down. The number of fatalities are in the order of about 10,000, which is an extraordinary number of Russians killed in battle, wounded, maybe at the 30,000 level, about a three to one ratio, the economy is in shambles and Russia is politically isolated.

So anything that begins to sound like the U.S. is encouraging the Russians themselves or Putin to be overthrown I think is backing Putin into a corner. So I think the President doubling down frankly was probably not unhelpful. I mean, remember, Russia at the end of the day has nuclear weapons, so we don't want to get into particularly destabilizing period with them.

BURNETT: Gen. Hertling, you have spoken extensively and done such analysis on why so many Russians are being killed, why so many Russians have been injured and your work on that has been phenomenal. So with your perspective, where do you see things right now, especially when you look at Irpin, the Ukrainian say they've taken it over. Mariupol there they're actually saying - the Ukrainians are saying the Russians are controlling the humanitarian so-called escaped quarters. Where does this stand with the Russian forces having suffered such losses?

MARK HERTLING, CNN MILITARY ANALYST: Well, you've got certain areas, Erin, where the Russians actually have forces on the ground and they're being engaged with Ukrainian forces. I mean, it is a conventional high intensity fight with a lot of lethality. You have other places where there are no Russian forces to be found, but they can continue to shell cities and towns and populations with long range fires coming anywhere from 17 miles to 200 or 300 miles away, depending on the type of munitions that are fired.

But the issue is on this, you can't hold territory if you don't have people there. You can certainly continue to shoot at it and destroy things and make a wasteland like we just saw with Fred Pleitgen's report walking through those towns. I mean, that's just catastrophe and there's nothing left in many of those places.

No one can live there right now. But if you're a Russian and you're trying to take a place over, you don't want to take over a wasteland, you just want to destroy it and that's what's happening with a lot of war crimes as part of all that. It's just dastardly.

So where are we right now? The Ukrainians are still fighting ferociously against Russian forces. They are kind of trying desperately to relieve towns, but that brings up the conundrum of a lot of refugees in those towns trying to get out. So it is an intense battlefield on both sides.

Seth mentioned 10,000 casualties, I'm going to say I believe that it's much higher than that with much higher wounded. This is intense modern day conventional conflict with high powered and ferocious weapons. It's very different than what we've been watching for the last 20 years in Iraq and Afghanistan, when it's squad against squad. These are heavy armored equipment against other heavy armored equipment.

BURNETT: I mean, it is stunning when you talk about it, whether it's 10,000 or as you say, General, perhaps significantly higher. And then you add in wounded on top of that. You're starting to look at a significant percentage of the troops that were ever even stationed around Ukraine by the Russians. It is ...


BURNETT: ... yes.

HERTLING: And if I can add to that too, Erin, what we're talking about too are the combat forces. When you put an army into another country, less than 50 percent of the total force are the frontline combat forces, about 55 percent to 60 percent are the logistics forces. So what you're talking about truly is the majority of the casualties are coming in the combat forces.


So it's even worse than you would consider when you start doing the battlefield calculus and the battlefield math.

BURNETT: And so Seth, in that context, Ukraine asks for more weapons from NATO and the U.S., obviously, has been providing a significant amount of weaponry to Ukraine and defensive capabilities as well. But when you look at the incredible losses Putin is suffering and then you contextualize it with the support that Ukraine is now getting - continued - from NATO and the U.S., how does Putin see that when it comes to that fundamental choice that he may have to make over what weaponry to use?

JONES: Well, Erin, I'm concerned about a couple of different things. One is what we saw in Syria with President Putin's ally, Bashar al- Assad, which is the use of chemical weapons to clear cities and neighborhoods. They use saran, chlorine and other types of weapons that the Russians were very active in providing a disinformation campaign. The other is increased targeting in an effort to interdict the flow of weapons coming into the country.

And we have seen examples in the past couple of years, including a GRU unit, Military Intelligence Directorate, conducting an attack in the Czech Republic of an ammunition depot. So this would be a subversive act in a NATO country like Poland to target a weapons depot being used to provide assistance to the Ukrainians. Those are two areas that I'm concerned and we'll continue to watch and we've been war gaming various aspects of that as well.

BURNETT: Yes. Well, of course, that is - then you end up with these situations where a tense situation escalates in a way that nobody, nobody wants. Thank you both so very much.

And next, Ukrainians who have managed to flee one of the hardest-hit cities are telling us now the horrific scenes that they witnessed as they left.


LILIA (through interpreter): Soldiers without heads, without arms, they're lying there. Nobody is gathering them.


BURNETT: Plus, CNN learning top negotiators for both Ukraine and Russia, including a Russian oligarch recently suffered minor skin peeling and sore eyes, so what happened?

And the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences responding to actor Will Smith slapping Chris Rock at last night's award show as new details emerge now from what happened last night.



BURNETT: New drone footage into CNN tonight showing the sheer scope of the devastation in Mariupol. Officials estimate 90 percent of residential buildings in that city have been damaged. Many of them, I mean, just completely as you see there, reduced to rubble, to just shadows.

Passage in and out of the city is now under Russian control, leaving those stranded without access to food, water or electricity. Ivan Watson is OUTFRONT tonight in Zaporizhzhia, a gateway for many who are trying to reach Ukrainian-controlled territory coming out of Mariupol.

And Ivan, what are you hearing from the people who were able and to make the harrowing escape from the capital and to survive doing that after surviving weeks with no communications, and no fresh water, and no electricity, and no additional supplies of food?

IVAN WATSON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, can you imagine, Erin, that people who had to endure this terrifying bombardment and shelling and airstrikes who in many cases save their homes were damaged or completely destroyed and had to endure this without normal amenities like electricity, and running water, and heat and fresh food, then they flee and they have to go through multiple checkpoints run by the same military that destroyed their city. That's what I'm hearing again and again from these evacuees.

And when they reach this city, for some, it's their first moment of kind of peace and safety in a month.


WATSON (voice over): Shattered by Russian artillery, the windshield of a car that a Ukrainian family used to make their two-day escape from the besieged port city of Mariupol. We meet Natalia shortly after her family reaches relative safety in the parking lot of a superstore on the edge of the Ukrainian city of Zaporizhzhia.

"The day before yesterday, an artillery shell hit our house," she says. Half of the house is gone. This is what was left.


NATALIA, FLED HOME IN MARIUPOL (through interpreter): If Russia sees this, I want them to know that they aren't defending us. They are killing us, because they seem to think they're defending us and that's just not true.


WATSON (voice over): This parking lot, an unofficial gateway to Ukrainian-controlled territory for more than 70,000 Ukrainians who official say fled Mariupol. The evacuees look shell-shocked. They arrive in vehicles draped with white rags and signs that say children and some like four-year-old Alisa Isaiva (ph) show up in yellow school buses. "They were bombing us," she says, "bombing us with planes and tanks."

Alisa's aunt, Lilia, says she suffered from a concussion for days after a strike hit her home.


LILIA (through interpreter): We walked among corpses. There were bodies under evergreens, soldiers without heads, without arms, they are lying there. Nobody is gathering them. There was such fear that I felt like I was underwater. I wanted to wake up and now I'm here and this feels like some kind of a dream.


WATSON (voice over): Inside the superstore, volunteers and the city government are trying to help.


WATSON (on camera): Newly arrived evacuees are welcomed at this support center where they're offered warm meals, access to medics and information about how to travel deeper into safer parts of Ukrainian territory. There's also a bulletin board here where some people are offering free repair of shattered car windows. And there are also postings here looking for information about missing loved ones.


WATSON (voice over): For some who survived Russia's modern day siege ...


... this is the first hint of safety they've had in weeks. Outside, Yulia Mishodova and her son, Stanislav, have just arrived. Stanislav is chatty and upbeat, but his mother appears unsteady. "When Russian warplanes bombed," she says, "the family hid under the dining room table surrounded by pillows."


YULIA MISHODOVA, FLED MARIUPOL (through interpreter): When the plane flew past we were sheltering in the center of town. Until now, my ear still hurts from the shockwave.


WATSON (voice over): The unlikely safe haven provided in this parking lot is precarious. Ukrainian officials say Russian troops are positioned barely a half hour's drive away from here. Now, Erin, all of these evacuees, they tell me they wipe their phones of photos and all their social media content because the Russian troops at checkpoints go through their phones looking for information.

One man I talked to he said that a Russian soldier asked him, "Hey, why aren't you fighting alongside us with us for Russia?" And the man stayed quiet he said because he was afraid of being shot by the soldiers. Of course, he does not support Russia's invasion and occupation of his country. Erin?

BURNETT: Fascinating conversation or question to ask. Thank you, Ivan.

And next President Biden said he was speaking directly to the Russian people when he said Putin cannot remain in power. So did anyone in Russia hear the message? A special report next.

Plus, Russian billionaire, Roman Abramovich, and Ukrainian negotiators suffered a reaction, some sort of reaction after attending a meeting to end the invasion. I mean a physical in that - skin issues, eye issues, what was it?



BURNETT: Tonight, President Biden says he was speaking to the Russian people when he went off script during his speech in Europe declaring Putin 'cannot remain in power'.


BIDEN: Last part of the speech was talking to the Russian people, telling them what we thought. I was communicating this to not only the Russian people but the whole world. This is just stating a simple fact that this kind of behavior is totally unacceptable.


BURNETT: Matthew Chance is OUTFRONT. And Matthew, President Biden says that he wanted the message to get to the Russian people, that he wasn't making a regime change statement. He was talking to the Russian people to try to tell them that Putin cannot remain in power after this war. But, of course, the question is when a tree falls in a forest. I mean, do people actually hear this in Russia?

MATTHEW CHANCE, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Erin, I've just lost contact with you, I think in the studio but I heard your question. And look, I mean, you're right, I mean, if no one heard it then what's the point of saying it?

But, I mean, the truth is I think that from the monitoring of Russian state television that we've been doing here, it does seem that, in fact, this issue of the suggestion that there should be a regime change in Russia, which, of course, President Biden and other White House wrote back on earlier today.

That did cut through that was promoted on Russian television, but it was used as a way to show that President Biden said the wrong thing. It was called a careless remark on Russian state television. Dmitry Peskov is the spokesperson for Vladimir Putin. He said it was a personal insult against the Russian president. So it was all used to sort of ridicule, if you like, President Biden. But you're right, generally, the Russian authorities have tightened

their grip on the information flow to ordinary Russians, so they've cut off all the independent media. A great example of that was an interview done yesterday by several independent Russian news outlets in which they interviewed Volodymyr Zelenskyy, the Ukrainian President. It's the first time Russians have been able to do that.

But before it even went to air was banned by the Russian media regulators. The Russians say that it could violate laws in the country. But you're one of the journalists that I spoke to exclusively tonight said what this is clearly about is controlling that flow of information yet again to ordinary Russians. Take a listen.



UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (Foreign language).


CHANCE (voice over): This was a groundbreaking interview with what the Kremlin sees as an enemy head of state and a first for Russian journalists covering this war.




CHANCE (voice over): But for many Russians, the words of President Zelenskyy, including his offers of compromise for peace will never be heard. Russian authorities banning the interview before it was even broadcast and now vowing to investigate the journalists who carried it out. Journalists like Tikhon Dzyadko, the Editor-in-Chief of TV Rain. An independent Russian channel forced off the air earlier this month.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: (Foreign language).

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (Foreign language).


CHANCE (voice over): "No to war," his editorial staff said as they walked off their Moscow set.


TIKHON DZYADKO, EDITOR-IN-CHIEF OF TV RAIN: There is a digital iron curtain on the Ukrainian topic in Russia and we see that there is a, I would say, military censorship in Russia and all the information which is not going in from Russian Ministry of Defense or from the Kremlin is forbidden, so it is really important to tell the people the truth or at least to tell them what the other side of the conflict or the war thinks.

CHANCE (on camera): Why do you think it is so important for the Kremlin to keep such a tight grip on that flow of information and on the message they want Russian people to hear?

DZYADKO: Almost the whole story of Russian war in Ukraine is a big lie just from the beginning. Even the word war is not being used by the Russian government. We understand that this is not true. We understand that there is a war. We understand that a lot of civilians die there every day and we understand that a lot of Russian soldiers as well die there every day.


And Volodymyr Zelenskyy is the person who has a lot of information on what is going on there, and, of course, he gave us this information during this interview and, of course, the Russian government doesn't want this information to be spread in Russia.

CHANCE (voice-over): This is what the Kremlin does want Russians to see, blanket coverage on state media of its special military operation. Russian forces cast as liberators and heroes.

There have been displays of dissent like this one of a journalist holding up an anti-war placard during Russia's main daily newscast. The program was quickly cutaway. But for millions of Russians, the idea their country is a force for good fighting neo-Nazis in Ukraine and be welcomed by the people there is much more appealing than the hard truth.

Why is it such a successful strategy? Why are people so ready to believe that propaganda?

DZYADKO: There is a huge part of Russian society of people who are in denial, people who just do not want to admit that their country, our country, my country is bombing civilian objects and schools and hospitals and et cetera, et cetera. It's hard to admit that maybe there is something very wrong with your -- with your homeland and that somehow we as a citizen of Russia is somewhat responsible for it.

CHANCE: Hard to admit perhaps, but with tough, new information laws, increasingly illegal too. Russia's criminalizing of the truth is this war's latest casualty.


BURNETT: Matthew, you know, as the Kremlin intensifies its crackdown on the media, I know you are also reporting that some negotiators in the peace talks that have been sort of ongoing have experienced skin peeling, sore eyes, during those talks between Ukraine and Russia and that includes the billionaire Russian oligarch Roman Abramovich who has been -- went with Ukrainian negotiators to these meetings.

What more are you learning about this?

CHANCE: Yeah. I mean, it's an extraordinary track in this ongoing saga between Russia and Ukraine. The fact that Roman Abramovich, the current owner of Chelsea football club one of the richest men in the world was involved as a back channel between the Ukrainians and the Russians I think is fascinating.

But when you add to that this idea that a couple of weeks ago, according to sources that I've spoken to close to the Ukrainian negotiators, a couple of weeks ago, there was an incident in Turkey where they were meeting and where they experienced, Roman Abramovich and a couple of Ukrainian negotiators experienced sore eyes and their skin peeling, you know, it's just -- it doesn't bear thinking about.

And there was some speculation it was due to poisoning. That's been rode back by various other sort of people in the know saying it could have been an environmental factor that was involved, some sort of toxicity in the atmosphere. But nevertheless, it does add a layer of intrigue to what is a very intriguing story already -- Erin.

BURNETT: It sure does, especially in the context of the Russian history here with poisons, right? I mean, you hear this and it raises so many questions.

All right, thank you very much, Matthew Chance, for that reporting.

I want to go now to Andrei Soldatov. He's a Russian investigative journalist and founder and editor of, a watchdog of the Russian secret services' activities that has now been blocked in Russia.

So, Andrei, let me just start with you. You hear Matthew Chance reporting that Ukrainian negotiators and Roman Abramovich were left with minor skin peeling and sore eyes during the Russia/Ukraine talks earlier this month.

Now, you followed Russian intelligence services for a long time. What do you think about this story?

ANDREI SOLDATOV, RUSSIAN INVESTIGATIVE JOURNALIST: Well, unfortunately, the record of the Russian security services is absolutely horrible. We know that poisoning actually is one of the most preferred methods of the Russian security services, and for the last 20 years, we've seen a series of poisonings, of journalists, of activists, of politicians, again activists both in the country and abroad.

And the symptoms now described by people close to Abramovich actually are quite consistent with what was experienced by Petr Verzilov, one of the most prominent Russian activists in 2018.

BURNETT: Wow. So, I mean, look, there's a lot we don't know here, but obviously the context here is what causes -- you know, you just sort of sit there and say, wow, I can't believe this.


So the "Financial Times", Andrei, in this context, reports that Putin personally approved Roman Abramovich's involvement in the peace talks and "The Wall Street Journal" reports, President Zelenskyy asked President Biden don't sanction Roman Abramovich because he's important here.

Why do you think he has been chosen for this role, presuming he stays in it given what appears to have occurred, but by both sides?

SOLDATOV: Well, I think, first of all, Roman Abramovich himself volunteered because he doesn't want to be under Western sanctions, that is absolutely clear. Also to be honest, it would be very easy for Putin to dismiss everything which would be offered by Roman Abramovich, because these days, he's not that close to Vladimir Putin.

He can get a meeting with him, but that's basically all of it, he doesn't have an official standing. He doesn't occupy any official position. So while you can use him or you can just dismiss him. You have all options.


All right. Andrei, thank you, I appreciate your time.

SOLDATOV: Thank you.

BURNETT: And next, a federal judge saying it's, quote, more likely than not that Trump committed a felony by trying to overturn the 2020 election, a significant development today. Plus, we're going to take you to the largest Ukrainian refugee site in all of Europe where resources tonight are being pushed to their limit.



BURNETT: President Biden denying he is trying to walk back his remarks that Putin can no longer be in power due to his invasion of Ukraine.


JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I was expressing the moral outrage I felt towards this man. I wasn't articulating a policy change.


BURNETT: Just to be clear, this was what he said initially.


BIDEN: For God's sake, this man cannot remain in power.


BURNETT: OUTFRONT now, Will Hurd, former Republican congressman from Texas who also spent nearly a decade as a CIA officer. He is author of "American Reboot: An Idealist's Guide of Getting Big Things Done", which is due out tomorrow.

And we need idealism and we need big ideas.

So, Congressman, let me start off with President Biden saying Putin cannot remain in power. That's what he said. He said, I was talking moral outrage. I was talking my emotion and my heart. I was not signaling some policy change where the U.S. is going to actively try to take Putin out of power.

Can those two things exist simultaneously from the president of the United States?

WILL HURD (R), FORMER MEMBER OF HOUSE INTELLIGENCE AND APPROPRIATIONS COMMITTEE: Not from the president of the United States. Just like we learned in the last administration, errant tweets, errant comments in speeches has a tectonic impact when it comes to foreign policy.

There is a lot of Russians today thinking, oh, maybe this is the U.S.'s goal is for regime change. A lot of our allies are asking questions like is this -- does this signal policy? Also, you have the Ukrainians thinking, oh, my god, is this now the time for the Americans to start providing more support to us in order to really double down against the Russians. So it complicates our foreign policy.

BURNETT: I guess in a sense, it sounds like what you're saying is, look, you can have moral outrage. We all know what Biden thinks, of course, he wants Putin out of power. But saying something, putting words to something, even if Putin already knows it, is still a different thing.

HURD: It is a different thing. And being the leader of the free world has impact, right? What you say matters. And we've got to make sure our actions and our words combine.

That's one of the chapters in my book, I talk about how to make sure our audio and our video match. We've got to do the things that we say. When they don't match, you ultimately have problems. Also our adversaries need to know, be clear what do we stand for, what are we going to do?

In my opinion, when it looks -- I've been associated with the national security space for 20 -- 21 years.


HURD: And I learned something very simple. Your friends should love you and your enemies should fear you, right?

And that statement makes our enemies question -- our allies, excuse me, question what our policy really is and what have we done all day today? We've talked about what did Biden really say.

We haven't talked about what did President Zelenskyy mean by saying he's open to the idea of neutrality. We haven't talked about --


HURD: -- how do we have a marshal plan for Ukraine and Eastern Europe to deal with the aftermath of the Russian invasion of Ukraine. Those are the conversations we should be having, and we're not because of this gaffe.

BURNETT: So earlier today, a federal judge -- you know, you talk about Trump with his tweets and the things he was saying, right, was -- it was absurd, it caused problems in so many cases. Today, a federal judge said it's more likely than not that former President Trump committed a felony with specifically with trying to overturn the 2020 election.

So do you think somebody who committed a felony should be a party's presidential nominee?

HURD: No, of course I don't think that. Again, I don't know what information the judge was basing this off of. I think a phone call to the Georgia secretary of state saying scrounge up some votes, that was an effort to commit fraud.

But here's the reality, even when someone like Mo Brooks says we need to look forward, not back, the Republican Party needs to accept the fact that Donald Trump lost this election. The further -- the sooner we get beyond that, the better off we are going be as a party.

BURNETT: OK. So, in your book you write about this. You're very critical of the state of the Republican Party and you write: The party can't have in it A-holes, racists, misogynists and homophobes. For our party to more accurately reflect a broader America, we will need to appeal to the middle, not the edges.

Do you see that spreading in a party where, you know, what you're facing is it seems to be a quarter to a third of the country, and certainly the vast majority of your party still believes in Trump?

HURD: So I would say voters are different. Like I've crisscrossed -- you know I had a big district when I was in Congress.

BURNETT: Yep, largest border district in the country.

HURD: Largest border district in the country. As I crisscross the country, you hear people are concerned. What's going to happen in '22?


Republicans are taking back the House. It's almost a fait accompli, and that we're taking back the House because of Democratic incompetence. Imagine if we were a party that people looked to and said, hey, we actually believe in your ideas and we like you people. It's not just a vote because we don't like the other side.

That is what we'll have to deal with and if the Republican Party starts appealing to a broader audience, you'll see some south Texas a lot more Latinos voting for Republicans and probably in record numbers. Why? Because the border is in chaos. Why? Because 40 percent of folks that live along the border have some connection to law enforcement.

So when one wing of your party on the Democratic side talks about defunding the police, these things have impact.

So this is the opportunity for the party to go to. Oftentimes what do we do in politics, we fight the last election, not the next election.

BURNETT: All right. Thank you very much, Congressman Hurd. I appreciate it. And as I said, his book, "American Reboot", out tomorrow.

And next, we go to the city, home to the largest refugee camp from Ukraine. Its population has grown by almost 20 percent -- hospitals, schools, full.

Plus, Will Smith posting a message just moments ago. What he's saying about the joke that led him to slap Chris Rock.



BURNETT: Major cities across Ukraine remain under full attack by Russian forces tonight. This is CNN footage of Kharkiv, once a bustling city of more than 1 million people, the second largest in Ukraine.

Look at this. This is the second largest city in Ukraine. The constant bombardment has forced millions of refugees from there and elsewhere mostly in Eastern Ukraine, across the border to Poland, where resources are now stretched incredibly thin.

Kyung Lah is OUTFRONT tonight in Warsaw.


KYUNG LAH, CNN SENIOR NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Nothing can help 5-year-old Yan (ph) understand how he and his mother ended up here, a packed convention all in Warsaw, Poland, filled with thousands of Ukrainians.

He's constantly afraid. He's always afraid?

"He's afraid to sleep alone," says his mother, Katya Krush, after nights in this basement, as Russian missiles leveled his neighborhood two hours north of Kyiv.

Everything is fine, she tells him. Are you sure there's nothing flying here, he asks.

TOMASZ SZYPULA, HELPING RUN LARGEST UKRAINIAN REFUGEE HUB IN EUROPE: They even don't know why they are here. They think maybe they can for some kind of vacation or --

LAH: They don't comprehend?


LAH: Because they're too young.

SZYPULA: Yeah, too young.

LAH: Multiply Yan by thousands a day and that's who Tomasz Szypula is trying to help, at what's now the largest Ukrainian refugee hub in all of Europe with up to 7,000 refugees here a day.

SZYPULA: I must work, you know, and I don't have to think about such a things too much because it's -- it's really difficult, and it's a tragedy, you'll see. That's -- it's better not to think about that.

LAH: The 1.5 million square foot expo is now a gateway to the rest of the world, where after crossing into Poland, refugees begin the real process of finding a temporary life beyond war. They're waiting to go somewhere? Estonia?

SZYPULA: Yeah, they're getting to Estonia.

LAH: Those with no destination yet wait.

How long has this been going on?

SZYPULA: It's less than a month.

LAH: Less than a month?


LAH: That becomes more challenging as a war stretches on. "Thank you, Warsaw," says this woman, a Ukrainian, one of the more than 2 million Ukrainians refugees that have arrived in Poland, more than 300,000 in Warsaw alone.

RAFAL TRZASKOWSKI, MAYOR OF WARSAW: The polish people will welcome Ukrainians, whatever happens, because they are fighting for our freedom, and we do understand that. But of course there is a certain limit, human limits, of what we can -- what we can do.

LAH: When you say you're at capacity, what do you mean?

TRZASKOWSKI: We've offered as a country free education, free health care to all of our guests, which of course means that, you know, our schools are going to be filled within weeks, that our hospitals are going to jam.

LAH: Warsaw's mayor says no one will be turned away, but he needs help, to help Yan, his mother, and the people of Ukraine.

The Polish people accepted us well, she says.


LAH: Good people?

KRUSH: Yeah, good people.


LAH: The mayor says his population of the city has increased by 20 percent, and that's just happened in one month. So what is extraordinary to him and really to us, Erin, as we walk around is what we are not seeing. People sleeping on the streets, any tents anywhere. He says he's been able to do this successfully so far. He's just not sure how much longer he can do that -- Erin.

BURNETT: That's obviously the crucial question, right? How much longer can all this stay? Thank you, Kyung.

And next, Will Smith just posting a message for Chris Rock.



BURNETT: Will Smith moments ago apologizing to Chris Rock for slapping him at the Oscars last night. It came after the comedian joked about Smith's wife's hair.

Smith just writing this on Instagram, quote. Jokes at my expense are part of the job, but a joke about Jada's medical condition was too much for me to bear and I reacted emotionally. I would like to publicly apologize to you, Chris. I was out of line, and I was wrong.

Stephanie Elam is OUTFRONT.


STEPHANIE ELAM, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): A slap to the jaw that had jaws dropping all around the world, and the academy condemning will smith today, announcing a formal review to explore further action and consequences. This after Will Smith confronted Chris Rock onstage for a joke about Smith's wife.

CHRIS ROCK, COMEDIAN: Jada, I love you. "G.I. Jane 2", can't wait to see it.

ELAM: At first, Smith appeared to laugh. But watch Jada Pinkett Smith's face. Their mood changes as the joke sinks in.

ROCK: Oh, wow! Wow! Will Smith just smacked the (EXPLETIVE DELETED) out of me.

WILL SMITH, ACTOR: Keep my wife's name out your (EXPLETIVE DELETED) mouth.

ROCK: Wow, dude.

W. SMITH: Yeah.

ROCK: It was a "G.I. Jane" joke.

ELAM: The Dolby Theater crowd stunned. Denzel Washington and others stepped in to counsel Smith as Sean Combs called for calm.

SEAN COMBS, RAPPER: Okay. Will and Chris, we're going to solve that like family at the gold party.

ELAM: Rock's words a reference to the head shaven character from 1997's "G.I. Jane". Over the years, though, Pinkett Smith has spoken publicly about her struggles with alopecia.


ELAM: An auto-immune disease that causes hair loss.

It's unclear if Rock knew this when he made the comment onstage.


ELAM: When Smith won best actor later in the night, the world waited to hear what he would say.

W. SMITH: I want to apologize to the Academy. I want to apologize to all my fellow nominees. Art imitates life. I look like the crazy father just like they said.

ELAM: Obviously missing from his apologies, Chris Rock. The actors date back to at least the mid-'90s.

ROCK: Which one of you handsome men is Big Willie?

ELAM: When Rock appeared on the "Fresh Prince of Bel-Air".

But it was in 2016 when Rock hosted the Oscars that he took aim at the Smiths, for boycotting the show during the Oscar So White Campaign, joking that Pinkett Smith wasn't invited anyway and poking fun at the size of Smith's paycheck for "Wild, Wild West".

It's unclear if any of that fed into the Oscars fiasco.

Smith later joining the party circuit with Oscar in hand, dancing to one of his own songs.

Stephanie Elam, CNN, Hollywood.


BURNETT: And thanks so much for joining us.

"AC360" starts now.