Return to Transcripts main page

Early Start with John Berman and Zoraida Sambolin

Three NATO Prime Ministers Meet With President Zelenskyy in Kyiv; President Zelenskyy Will Deliver Rare Wartime Speech To Congress Today; Fox News Veteran Cameraman And Ukrainian Journalist Killed In Kyiv. Aired 5:30-6a ET

Aired March 16, 2022 - 05:30   ET




CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN ANCHOR: New shelling in the Ukrainian capital overnight. At least two people were hurt when Russian artillery hit a 12-story residential building close to central Kyiv.

And this remarkable show of solidarity in a capital under bombardment. Three prime ministers from NATO countries -- from Poland, the Czech Republic, and Slovenia -- meeting with President Zelenskyy in the midst of an invasion outside those walls.

Let's bring in independent journalist Nataliya Gumenyuk, founder of the Public Interest Journalism Lab. So nice to have you there this morning.

Remarkable to see those foreign leaders in Kyiv with President Zelenskyy even as Russia shells the capital city.

I know you've just arrived there in the last day or so from Kharkiv. What are you seeing there in the capital?

NATALIYA GUMENYUK, INDEPENDENT JOURNALIST, FOUNDER, PUBLIC INTEREST JOURNALISM LAB (via Skype): Hi. So, yes, Kyiv is my native town and I'm happy to be home. And I should say there are still millions of people living here. It's (INAUDIBLE).

There are special circumstances now. We have for the whole day a curfew so people are not allowed to get out of their towns.

We were warned about possible very heavy air raids during the night. Fortunately, they were not really there. We still -- at the moment, we have the air raid announced -- alert announced two hours ago and it's still lasting.

I would be cautious with using this word "luckily" or "fortunately" because what should we also understand that airstrikes are there but sometimes Ukrainian army air defense system manages to deter that.

And, you know, it's not always possible because we now more clearly understand that the tactic is to target anywhere they can reach out. Therefore, it's, of course, not really safe for so many people. But the town is really, really big.

And we know that the situation is way more difficult for those people who are residing in these smaller suburbs in areas in the town's outsides where they are still stuck and where we do know that there is the presence of the Russian troops. (INAUDIBLE) are trying to do is to negotiate to abdicate (ph) those people, but it's really difficult.

But the -- they are living under this third week of the possible attack every day and it's really about the millions of people living in this alert mode for a very long time and trying to deter and to pursue.

ROMANS: Absolutely.

Tell me about the morale among Ukrainians in Kyiv, especially as we've -- I'm sure you're seeing news and you're hearing reports from friends and family about strikes in smaller towns as well. What is the morale like there?

GUMENYUK: Yes, something to mention. We hear about a lot of refugees from Ukraine but people who, let's say, are (INAUDIBLE) -- you know, like, not the elderly. Not the people with kids. They all try to stay in their town. There are an incredible amount of people whom I know from anti-war activists to artists who join their -- male especially, who join territorial defense -- who do anything.

But the people whom I want to really stress is really those whom you usually do not call as heroes. Just -- you know, there were confirmed that 17 members of the rescue service in Ukraine have been murdered during all kind of the attacks, helping to rescue those people from the buildings.

In Kyiv, but also I've been traveling quite a lot recently around Ukraine and being like in the smaller towns which were heavily damaged. I've seen those workers (ph) -- doctors, firefighters, local mayors who really stay and try to do things they were not really trained.

ROMANS: Right.

GUMENYUK: You know, to deliver food to the people in the shelters. And first of all, to rebuild infrastructure. Because first of all, and that's unfortunate, those civilian objects are targeted like electricity grid system or water supply. And they are really trying to make it possible because they're still working. So, somehow, the country is still livable for most of the people.

ROMANS: Amazing. All right, Nataliya Gumenyuk, thank you so much for joining us and stay safe. Best of luck to you, and come back soon.

All right. The resilience of the Ukrainian people has been remarkable. Citizens of all walks of life are joining the fight.

Let's turn now to Kira Rudik, a member of Ukraine's Parliament who went from I.T. specialist to resistance fighter. What's happening in your area, and are you safe? And what are your constituents experiencing?

KIRA RUDIK, MEMBER, UKRAINE'S PARLIAMENT: Hello. Thank you so much for having me.


So, tonight was, indeed, easier than we expected. Yesterday was the most heavy shelling that we have seen since the beginning of the war. And right now, we are all acting as our mayor said. We are sitting on a curfew.


RUDIK: However, the resistance teams will be allowed to get out if there will be certain tasks to complete. As of right now -- as of the morning, there is no tasks and we are just on a standby. We are waiting until there will be some additional things to do to act on, if some. This is the way the resistance teams are acting right now, helping out on the small minor tasks that the regular army is not able to concentrate on.

ROMANS: Yes, that 35-hour curfew you were mentioning until 7:00 a.m. on Thursday.

You say you're on Putin's kill list, yet you remain a very public figure fighting for Ukraine. Are you afraid? Are you worried about Putin targeting leaders like you inside Ukraine?

RUDIK: We have seen a couple of attempts of assassination of leaders. We have seen President Zelenskyy was targeted three times. We do understand this is the way that Putin works. This is his way of fighting. And the only thing that we can do is to win this war, then there will be no more concerns. This is the plan.

There is no point right now to sit tight and be afraid, right?

ROMANS: Right.

RUDIK: The only way for us is to fight him back.

And I will give you a very good example. The city of Mariupol -- the city that has been under the siege, that has people who didn't have enough food for and now they're like 14 days. People who are melting snow to give water to their children.

So, five times -- five consecutive times, Putin was telling that he will let people out. And five times, people with their children were getting on those buses hoping that they will get out and that today will be the day. And every single time they were getting out on this agreement -- on this word -- the Russian soldiers were shooting at them.


RUDIK: And yesterday, the first convoy started getting out. And you know why? Not because Putin said so but because the Ukrainian army was able to control the roads and let the people out into the part of the road.

So, this is the way to fight Russians. Only find them and throw them back from where they came from. There is no peaceful negotiation. There is no agreement and hoping that it will be fulfilled.

ROMANS: You mention children -- you know, people trying to get out with their children. UNICEF has reported that the war is creating a child refugee nearly every single second. Three million refugees have fled in total. That's a really jarring number when you think of so many of your countrymen and their children having to leave for safety.

What do you make of that?

RUDIK: You know, what hurts me the most about this war is that we, right now, are losing the next generation of children that we hope that they will live without the trauma. Without the war. Without the poverty. Without the hunger.

And right now, we will have all those children who know what are air raid sirens, who know that they are refugees. That this heartening scene that they have seen in one of the bomb shelters -- a little girl asking mommy -- saying, "Mommy, are we refugees now?"

And this is crazy. This should not be happening in the 21st century in the country in the center of Europe. And this is what hurts us so much -- that this war is ongoing and we are not able to stop it ourselves right now. That the damage that is done to the new generation -- to all the people of Ukraine is irreversible. This will go on for generations.

And this is why we are asking help us win this war. Help us throw them back to Russia -- to this failed state. Help us. Provide us with additional weaponry and additional support.

This is what we need because we know that we can win. We see it. We are motivated to do it. We are fighting this war. We are able to win it.

Please help us out. Give us the no-fly zone. Give us the jets. Give us additional weaponry.

We will throw them back. We will stop the dictator. We will stop this evil.

ROMANS: And we know that's what the message will be from your president -- or probably from your president when he speaks to Congress and the American people later today.

Kira Rudik, thank you so much for joining us. Please stay safe and come back soon.

RUDIK: Thank you.


ROMANS: All right. Many reporters risking their lives in Ukraine to show us what's happening on the ground. We'll remember two Fox staffers killed in an attack near Kyiv, next.


ROMANS: All right. In just a few hours, the Ukrainian President Zelenskyy will address the American people and Congress. He wants more help from the U.S. to beat back the Russian invasion.

I want to bring in Kimberly Dozier, a CNN global affairs analyst, and Time Magazine contributor. So nice to see you this morning.

You know, he has asked for more military aid and specifically, a no- fly zone, and for jets for his country. He may make that plea again here today. Does he have a chance to sway the American people that more aid is needed?

KIMBERLY DOZIER, CNN GLOBAL AFFAIRS ANALYST, CONTRIBUTOR, TIME MAGAZINE: He certainly has a lot of positive support on Capitol Hill. And we heard him speak yesterday to Canadian lawmakers and he issued, again, the plea for a no-fly zone. But he knows he's not going to get that. So it seems like -- in bargaining, you ask for as much as you can possibly get and hope you get something less.


What the Pentagon and the White House have consistently said is they have seen Ukrainian forces on the ground doing a lot of damage with surface-to-air air defense systems.

ROMANS: Right.

DOZIER: And that is what they're more likely to get -- maybe some S- 300s, which is a system that some of the European neighbors have. But, of course, those European neighbors then want to get backfilled by systems --


DOZIER: -- from the U.S. And so, that's how they could facilitate it.

But those MiG-29 jets -- the U.S. consistently says it would be too escalatory to bring them through Ramstein Air Base, which is what Poland was willing to do -- sort of laundering those jets through NATO so Poland didn't take the sole responsibility for transferring those aircraft to its --

ROMANS: Right.

DOZIER: -- neighbor with which it shares a border -- Ukraine.

ROMANS: There is some aid that the president signed into law yesterday -- signed yesterday, and there's a big discussion are there armed drones in that aid. I mean, that's something that the -- that the Ukrainians want as well.

DOZIER: Yes. They've done, also, a lot of damage with some Turkish- armed drones. But they only had a little over a couple of dozen, according to various reports.


DOZIER: And there's -- while they're devastating craft, they are slow-moving, and so we don't know how many --


DOZIER: -- they've lost already in this fight.

So, Zelenskyy is going to ask for the most he can possibly get and hope that Congress then pressures the White House to --

ROMANS: Right.

DOZIER: -- give him as much as possible to keep the war going.

ROMANS: What are your sources saying about Russia and its need for additional resources? I mean, because I think it looks like Putin thought he was going to roll in here and take some of these cities and that movement has failed 21 days in. He didn't just roll in and take these cities.

DOZIER: Well, not exactly failed in that he's still going, but according to the British Defense Ministry, their assessment is that the Russians are taking such high casualties that they're having to call in reinforcements from across Russia. And also, hire private military contractors to possibly secure the cities that have already been taken, like Melitopol, so that then they can continue on with this stalled advance.

ROMANS: One wonders here. We've been talking to so many Ukrainian civilians and leaders who are talking about just the morale and the -- just the fortitude that so many people are -- the Ukrainians are fighting with. One wonders how long Putin, though, can continue with his aggression, even in the face of that amazing fortitude of the Ukrainians. You know, what is the off-ramp for Putin, and does he even want one?

DOZIER: Well, at this point, Putin isn't facing a lot of aggravation at home because he's found ways to stamp out most dissent.

ROMANS: Right.

DOZIER: And there are reports that some of the mothers -- the same ones who -- mothers of Russian soldiers who objected and helped draw down the war during Chechnya are starting to protest against their sons being lost in this war. But that's a nascent effort.

And at this point -- you know, Putin -- his ego is still invested --


DOZIER: -- in this and he was pretty dour about how negotiations are going with Zelenskyy. The Ukrainian president is hinting that he might pledge not ever to join NATO -- to become neutral like Finland. But Russia still wants Ukraine to give up territory -- Crimea, the Donbas -- and Ukrainian leaders aren't ready to do that.

ROMANS: Yes. The Ukrainian president is saying we are reasonable people. We know we couldn't enter NATO tomorrow. You know, that they're not. And -- well, everyone knew that. They were not on the doorstep of entering NATO ever, you know? Not in the near term.

DOZIER: And the fact of the matter is NATO will not let a country join that has any forces occupying it --

ROMANS: Right.

DOZIER: -- because the moment it joins, Article 5 comes in and Ukraine could say OK, NATO, help us kick out the Russian forces.

ROMANS: Exactly, exactly. So that was one of those pretenses -- Putin's pretense.

All right, thank you so much, Kimberly Dozier. Very nice to see you here. Thank you.

DOZIER: Thank you.

ROMANS: All right. This morning, the Fox News Channel mourning the loss of two staffers killed after their vehicle came under attack near Kyiv Monday.

Veteran war photojournalist Pierre Zakrzewski was an Irish citizen based in London who had reported extensively from conflict zones for Fox.

Oleksandra "Sasha" Kushiev -- Kuvshynova, rather, was a 24-year-old Ukrainian working as a consultant for the network. She was there helping Fox crews navigate Kyiv while gathering information and speaking to sources.

Their colleagues have been paying tribute to them overnight.


JENNIFER GRIFFIN, FOX NEWS NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: The loss and pain we feel is enormous. But if ever there were a time that the world needed journalists and reporters risking their lives to tell these stories -- to tell the truth, it's now. Without a free press, the autocrats win. We will redouble our efforts to honor these colleagues and all reporters in harm's way tonight.



ROMANS: Just heartbreaking.

The two -- they were traveling with Fox News reporter Benjamin Hall, who remains hospitalized.

CNN's Scott McLean joins us from Lviv. You met Pierre Zakrzewski on several occasions. I mean, he's known

among foreign correspondents as an all-around great report, great guy, great journalist. What can you tell us about who he was and those moments when you were with him?


Yes, it's certainly not surprising that there has been this outpouring of grief and tributes to Pierre, not just from Fox News but really, from across the international journalism world because he was so well- known and so well-liked. Case in point, my own boss sent out an email to our newsroom because there were so many people at CNN who knew him, were friends with him and had worked alongside him for years and years in the field. If you go almost anywhere on some of these trips, like the one that we're on right now, you were bound to run into Pierre and people like Pierre.

And I did not know him well but I was lucky enough to have met him on two occasions. The most recent was during the lockdown in London, which is rare because he was almost never in London it seemed. And he was complaining about being stuck inside. He was definitely an outdoor cat. He liked getting out in the world.

The first time that I met him was actually two years ago in Kyiv of all places. And when you're on these trips -- when you're reporting these stories you often don't have a whole lot of time to sit and relax. You work 16-plus-hour days every day.

But on that occasion, it was worth missing out on some sleep. My team and his team from Fox spent a lot of time in the bar. We had a few too many beers into the wee morning hours because honestly, I was just really enjoying the company. I remember sitting next to Pierre and hearing the war stories -- the literal war stories from his time in Iraq and Syria and Afghanistan, and the list goes on.

And honestly, he was just a really lovely guy to spend time with. And I'm not surprised that there's so much grief. As I mentioned, he just seemed to be universally loved and universally respected and admired in this industry, Christine.

ROMANS: Foreign correspondents are a rare, brave, beautiful breed, and we're so glad for all the work that all of you do and the danger that it always poses. Thanks for those memories, Scott McLean. Thank you.

We'll be right back.



ROMANS: All right, let's get a check on CNN Business this morning.

Looking at markets around the world, big bounces in Asia. Those markets are now closed. And Europe has opened and opened sharply higher. Look at Paris and Frankfurt. On Wall Street, stock index futures also leaning up here. It looks

like triple-digit rallies there for the Dow.

It was a big stock rally yesterday on a big slide in oil prices. Look at tech there. Tech stocks led the charge. The Nasdaq up 2.9 percent. Both the Dow and the S&P gaining about two percent.

Look, here is the huge story. Red-hot oil prices are cooling off. U.S. crude tumbling another six percent, closing below 100 bucks a barrel for the first time this month. Global crude prices also down about six percent. Overall, crude is down about 30 percent in just a handful of days. That is a big reversal.

A couple of reasons here. COVID-19 lockdowns in China. That means factories need less oil. That hurts oil demand. And relief is coming for gas prices because of it probably. High energy prices cooling here.

Again, down 30 percent in just a few days. That's helpful for the global inflation fight.

Also to cool that inflation, interest rate hikes are coming. The Federal Reserve will likely raise interest rates today for the first time since 2018.

Speaking of the Fed, Sarah Bloom Raskin, President Biden's Federal Reserve board nominee, withdrawing her name from consideration for a job there. Raskin did not appear to have the votes for Senate confirmation after Democrat Joe Manchin announced he would not support her.

The president nominated Raskin in January to be vice-chair for supervision at the Fed. She faced strong opposition for her stance on climate change and concern that she could discourage banks from lending to fossil fuel companies.

All right, the Senate agreeing on something here -- the time of day -- unanimously passing a measure Tuesday that would make Daylight Saving Time permanent. The Sunshine Protection Act would mean no more falling back every year in the fall.

It would still need to pass in the House and be signed by President Biden to become law. No word yet from Speaker Nancy Pelosi on when or if the House will take up the sunshine and smiles bill.

Finally this morning, the sweet sound of Ukrainian resistance.


Violinist playing patriotic Ukrainian march song in a firehouse in Ternopil.


ROMANS: That violinist was playing a patriotic Ukrainian march song in a firehouse in the city of Ternopil. That's in the western part of the country near Lviv. Another iconic symbol of the fierce determination of the Ukrainian people as the Russians widen their assault near the border with Poland. Beautiful music.

Thanks for joining us. I'm Christine Romans.

President Zelenskyy will make a direct plea to Congress hours from now amid Russia's relentless attack on civilians. "NEW DAY" picks it up right now.

ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.