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Early Start with John Berman and Zoraida Sambolin

Russian Forces Pushed Back Around Kyiv; Kharkiv Mall Hit by Russian Missiles, Left Six Dead; Ukraine Destroys Russian Warship; Biden, NATO, European Council in Brussels for Series of Emergency Summit on Russia-Ukraine Conflict; Biden Heads to Poland; Discussion on Easing Dependence on Russian Oil; Ukraine's Resilience Against Russian Invasion; Zelenskyy's Request for More Artillery; Interview with Ukrainian Member of Parliament Sviatoslav. Aired 5-5:30a ET

Aired March 25, 2022 - 05:00   ET




ANNOUNCER: This is CNN Breaking News.

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning. Welcome to our viewers in the United States and around the world. I'm Christine Romans.

LAURA JARRETT, CNN ANCHOR: I'm Laura Jarrett. John Berman is live in Lviv, Ukraine. John, good morning.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning to both of you. It is now one month after Russian troops invaded this country. And as of this morning, they are being pushed back some around Kyiv. Intense combat reported all around the capitol. Now, it is hard to get a definite read on this, but Ukraine's forces appear to have retaken territory East of Kyiv. This is a new video of Ukrainian soldiers showing off a captured Russian tank. Look at that.

Elsewhere, six people were killed when a missile hit a shopping mall parking lot in Kharkiv, that's in the far East of the country, as civilians were lining up inside to receive humanitarian aid. A defense official tells CNN, the U.S. assessment is that, Ukraine likely did successfully attack Russian ships in Berdiansk just as the Ukrainians claimed they did. Still unclear what type of weapons were used in that attack but that gave a vivid example of some of the success the Ukrainian troops have had. Joining me now here is CNN's Phil Black.

Phil, I want to talk about what's going on around Kyiv. A lot of activity.

PHIL BLACK, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, indeed, John. So, we now have evidence backing up what we've heard from a U.S. defense official that Ukraine is making ground, pushing Russia back East of the capital. We have social media videos that show very happy Ukrainian soldiers appearing to celebrate in the aftermath of the battle. CNN has geolocated these videos. To a location about 35 miles East of the capitol. It shows these soldiers pointing out, what they call, trophies, Russian tanks. Many of them destroyed and damaged. One of the soldiers talks about the operation being an absolute success and about how they knocked out the enemy.

Now, I also want to show you a new video from Irpin, this is Northwest of Kyiv. This is an area that we've talked about a lot because there has been such intense fighting there in recent days. Ukraine has said that it's in control of about 80 percent. This video shows that it has been hit hard. It is still being hit hard, especially by Russian rockets systems that we understand. When CNN spoke to the mayor there, he said he just left the area. Someone on his staff had been killed. This video shows what was a residential area, homes on fire, homes torn apart. But you can stills see a very much contested still a very dangerous place. John.

BERMAN: Yes. I think it is important to note, Phil, that when we talk about Ukrainians making gains, they're retaking some town we think -- and finding those towns and areas, it's devastating.

BLACK: Indeed. Absolutely. And what this shows is that it doesn't mean the Russians are giving up on that territory. They are still lobbing in heavy munitions, rockets, and shelling, and so forth. So, these areas are still very much under fire.

BERMAN: And again, the Russians, we should note also, claiming some success of their own. They say, they've hit a fuel depot with missiles. We're trying to get an independent confirmation of that.

BLACK: So, this was, they say, a cruise missile launch, from one of their vessels in the Black Sea which struck a fuel depot. They say -- Russia says, the largest remaining fuel depot in Ukraine. And they say it's been destroyed. We can't verify that but it shows the range and the capability of those naval vessels and the cruise missiles. They can strike almost anywhere in the country.

BERMAN: All right. Phil Black, thank you so much. Keep us posted. Christine?

ROMANS: All right. John, thanks so much.

President Biden leaves for Brussels -- leaves Brussels for Warsaw next hour. He'll be greeted there by Poland's President and receive a briefing on the humanitarian crisis unfolding there. More than two million Ukrainian refugees have fled to Poland, so far. CNN's Kevin Liptak is in Warsaw awaiting the President's arrival.

And we're learn -- we're learning just now some new details about the U.S. and the European Commission announcing this new task force, an effort to wean Europe from dependency on Russia oil. To diversify the sources of natural gas. But at the same time, to also wean Europe, wean the world of using so much fossil fuels. What can you tell us?

KEVIN LIPTAK, CNN REPORTER: Yes. And this is a -- had been a real sticking point between the United States and Europe as they try to develop these unified sanctions approach to confronting Russia. And of course, you remember the United States banned Russian oil imports, but that was much harder to do in Europe which is far more dependent on Russian oil and gas. What this task force would do is, sort of, come up with strategies for Europe to find alternative sources and also for the U.S. to provide Europe with its own liquefied natural gas, 15 billion cubic meters of it in 2022.


So, really kind of, cut -- trying to backfill what Europe was taking from Russia and trying to, sort of, loosen the dependence and trying to ensure that Vladimir Putin isn't profiting off of Europe's dependence on this gas.

Now, when the President leaves Brussels and comes to Poland later today, it will really be an opportunity for him to see at much closer range some of these issues that he had been talking about at NATO over the last several days. One of them is, of course, refugees. And that's something that the President will be focused on when he visits the border region, very close to Ukraine, about 60 miles. He'll attend a roundtable with aid workers, hear from the Polish President Andrei Duta. Duta had been explicit in requesting that the United States do more to expedite it Ukrainian refugees coming to the United States who have family there.

ROMANS: All right. Kevin --

LIPTAK: Yesterday, of course, the President announced --

JARRETT: All right. Kevin, the President is taking the podium now. Sorry to interrupt you. Let's listen to what he has to say.


JOE BIDEN, U.S. PRESIDENT: As we announce a new groundbreaking mission between European Union and United States. First, we're coming together to reduce Europe's dependence on Russian energy. Putin has issued Russia's energy resources are to coerce and manipulate its neighbors, that's how he's used it. He's used the profits to drive his war machine. That's why earlier this month, I announced the United States will ban all imports of Russian energy to make it clear that American people would not be part of subsidizing the Putin's brutal unjustified war against people of Ukraine.

At the time I noted that, we were able to take the steps when others could not because the United States is a net exporter of energy with a strong domestic industry. And the United States welcome the European Union's powerful statement earlier this month, committing to rapidly reduce its dependence on Russian gas.

Today, we've agreed on a joint game plan toward that goal while accelerating our progress towards a secure clean energy future. This initiative focuses on two core issues. One, helping Europe reduce its dependency on Russian gas as quickly as possible. Secondly, reducing Europe's demand for gas overall.

To address the first point, the United States together with our international partners, they're going to -- we're going to work to ensure and additional one -- 15, one, five, 15 billion cubic meters of liquefied natural gas, LNG, for Europe this year. And as the -- as EU works to discontinue buying Russian gas well before 2030, it will all -- we'll also work to ensure additional EU market demand for 50 billion cubic meters of LNG from the United States annually by 2030.

To accomplish this, the European commission is going to work with the member states to store gas across the continent, to build more infrastructure to receive LNG, and to take steps to increase the efficiency of gas. This buildout will occur in a way that consists -- is consistent with, not in conflict with, zero -- net zero climate goal that we're shooting for.

It's going to take some time to adjust gas supply chains and infrastructure as it's built the last decade -- for the last decade. So, we're going to have to make sure the families in Europe can get through this winter and the next while we're building an infrastructure for a diversified, resilient and clean energy future.

At the same time, this crisis also presents an opportunity. It's a catalyst. A catalyst that will drive the investments we need to double down on our clean energy goals and accelerate progress toward our net zero emissions future. That's what the second part of this initiative is all about. The United States and the European Union are going to work together to take concrete measures to reduce dependence on natural gas, period. And to maximize the available -- the availability and use of renewable energy. We're going to accelerate widespread adoption of energy efficient technologies and equipment like smart thermostats, the work -- then work to -- and work to electrify heating systems all across Europe.

We're going to invest on innovative solutions and technologies to make the switch from fossil fuels. And together we'll advance the use of clean and renewable hydrogen to reduce our carbon emissions. These steps will increase energy security, economic security, and national security. And we're going to stand up a joint task force to implement these changes and drive progress that will be co-chaired by representatives from the White House and the President of the European Union's Team -- Commission's Team.

Madam President, I know that eliminating Russian gas will have costs for Europe. But it's not only the right thing to do from a moral standpoint, it's going to put us on a much stronger strategic footing.


And I'm proud to announce that we've also reached another major breakthrough in transatlantic data flows. Privacy and security are key elements of my digital agenda. And today, we've agreed to unprecedented protections for data privacy and security for our citizens. This new arrangement will enhance the privacy shield framework, promote growth and innovation in Europe and the United States and help companies, both small and large, compete in the digital economy. Just as we did when we resolved the Boeing airbus dispute and lifted the steel and aluminum tariffs.

The United States and the EU are finding creative new approaches to knit our economies and our people closer together, grounded on shared values. This framework underscores our shared commitment to privacy, to data protection, and to the rule of law. Now, it's going to the European Commission to once again authorize transatlantic data flows that help facilitate $7.1 trillion in economic relationships with the EU.

So, thank you again, Madam President, for your personal friendship, for your partnership, and above all your leadership. All of this is bringing the European Union and the United States even closer together. And that's a win for all of us. So, I thank you all. And I'm now going to yield the podium to the President. Pull this out.


ROMANS: All right. While the President is fussing with the podium there --

JARRETT: He's going to --

ROMANS: -- Kevin, let's talk a little bit about this deal, this energy deal that we're hearing about. I mean, this is about getting supplies -- natural gas supplies to Europe to wean Europe off of that reliance on Russia. Again, this is the -- this is how Russia funds its military, by selling gas to Europe.

LIPTAK: Yes. Russia is essentially a petrol state and much of its profits come from Europe. And this had been something of an intensive back and forth between the U.S. and the EU in the leadup to these talks this week, even before these talks were scheduled. It had been something of a contention point between the two sides as the U.S., kind of, nudged Europe to try and reduce its dependence on Russian.

But of course, Russia -- Europe relied on the United States United States to do that. And it needed some of the U.S. supplies, U.S. officials. We're in touch with a number of others producers around the world, whether it's in the Middle East, whether it was Japan to try and sort of locate these areas where this LNG could be provided to Europe. Where oil could be provided to Europe so that they could cut off their supply from Russia. And this is, sort of, a culmination of that effort today.

Now, we were told in the last several days that White House officials had been in, what was described as, a very intense back and forth. And these are very hard conversations. European leaders are recognized that their populations do not want to pay more for energy, particularly in the winter. Politically, it's a very difficult choice for them to make -- to say that, you're going to have to pay more for gas because we're trying to punish Vladimir Putin. That's a difficult thing to say.

What President Biden is trying to do is make that choice a little easier for these politicians going forward. And now this is still in the works. This task force was just announced today. So, it remains to be seen how successful it will actually be.

ROMANS: Sure. LIPTAK: But certainly, this is a step in that direction.

JARRETT: Yes. The President calling it a catalyst. Calling it an opportunity. Realizing he has to seize this moment. CNN's Kevin Liptak. Thank you so much, Kevin. We appreciate your reporting as always.

ROMANS: All right. Intense street fighting near Ukraine's capital and Russian troops being pushed back. We're going to hear from someone on the ground there, next.

JARRETT: And new request for Western fire power from Ukraine. What a thousand javelins and stingers could do on the battlefield. That's next.



BERMAN: Welcome back. John Berman in Lviv. This morning, Ukrainian forces say, they are retaking territory from Russian troops East of the capitol City of Kyiv. To the North, new video shows the destruction in the town of Irpin. The mayor says that, Russian forces are using rocket systems, but that Ukraine's army still controls some 80 percent of the city.

I want to talk now with Ukrainian lawmaker Sviatoslav Yurash live this morning in Kyiv. Thank you so much for being with us. We keep hearing and see evidence of the Ukrainian counter offensive. What information can you give me about success that your forces might be having?

SVIATOSLAV YURASH, UKRAINIAN MEMBER OF PARLIAMENT: Well, the reality is the Russian invasion is essentially running out of steam and we are pushing back in different directions. Essentially showing the Russians that their way is on the other side of the border. And the fact of the matter is, as far as, siege of Kyiv, they aren't able to conduct that because we have been pushing them out of the towns that are on the road to the West. And as you see from the news today, we are pushing them from the East as well. They haven't even gotten anywhere at -- anywhere South of Kyiv. So, the point is that, essentially, Russians are in situation they don't expect it to be. But let history condemn them -- condemns them to as the failed despot tries to destroy an independence state.


BERMAN: What are your troops finding when they get back into these towns? Because the pictures we're seeing from some places is just utter devastation.

YURASH: I can tell you, for example, my town in Makariv, the site of the greatest tank battles since second World War, it's on the road to the Western border between Ukraine and European Union. Makariv, every single street there is destroyed. Every single home there has signs of devastation. There are tanks -- destroyed tanks in the street. There are bodies on the streets. And the reality is, it's just the result of that Russian aggression, which is trying to show its true face in Ukraine.

You've looked on the images from Mariupol, for example, you can see that it's hell on earth. That Russians have inflicted in their desire to take the town and they have not been able to. So, the point is that, essentially, no matter what hell Russians are causing, we are standing strong because we have no other choice. It's our country. We are fighting to keep it.

BERMAN: The Ukrainians are asking, CNN is reporting, for more weapons. As many as 500 javelins and anti-aircraft missiles a day. A day. How much of a difference would that make?

YURASH: We have proven our ability to use these weapons. We have proven that with these weapons, we can inflict to Russian army the casualties they will never forget. And the point is that we, essentially, are asking for the means to implement all these measure that the West is refusing to -- in all its zone. So, if you don't want no-fly zone by the West, then we are happy to make a no-fly zone ourselves but we are asking for the means to do so.

BERMAN: Sviatoslav Yurash, Ukrainian Member of Parliament, please stay safe. It's always terrific to have you on. I know how busy you are. Thank you, sir.

YURASH: Thank you very much.

BERMAN: President Biden says, the West is more united than ever in its response to Russia's invasion of Ukraine. And he has a new warning for Vladimir Putin if he decides to use chemical weapons.

And China says, it is concerned about the crisis that's unfolding in Ukraine but Beijing won't criticize Russia. A live report next.



ROMANS: As Europe, the United States, NATO unite to oppose Russia's aggression, China is projecting what has been called pro-Russian neutrality. China's Ambassador to the U.N. says, the humanitarian crisis in Ukraine is becoming increasingly serious and something China does not want to see. But he insists major powers should not force developing countries to pick a side in the conflict between Russia and Ukraine.

Steven Jiang joins us live from Beijing. China, Steven, pointedly here will not criticize Russia.

STEVEN JIANG, CNN BIEJING BUREAU CHIEF: That's right, Christine. You know, when it comes to China saying, no one has to choose a side, a lot of them saying, they're talking the talk but not walking the walk. Now, there are some subtle changes recently in their rhetoric. Now, they're saying Ukraine's security concerns have to be addressed and they're also acknowledging this growing humanitarian crisis on the ground. Even sending some small-scale humanitarian aid to Ukraine. But they're still very much refusing to condemn this war, as you mentioned. Now, even calling this a Russian invasion.

And domestically, of course, they're still largely parroting Kremlin's talking points. And they're also, of course, strongly opposing to all forms of sanctions against Russia. Now, reports have emerged recently, their ambassador to Russia, actually, met up with a group of Chinese business leaders in Moscow. Urging them to seize economic opportunities created by this crisis and telling them not to waste time, to fill the void in the Russian market.

So, even though he did not mention Western sanctions specifically, I think, the implications there were quite clear. That's exactly the time -- kind of action that would help mitigate the impact of Western sanctions against Russia. That's also exactly the kind of actions and measures President Biden and other U.S. officials have been warning against. But it seems Beijing has been betting, at least for now, that the U.S. and its allies would not dare impose sanctions on China because of their much bigger and deep -- deeper trade and economic ties. Christine.

ROMANS: Sure. All right. Steven Jiang, thank you so much for that. Nice to see you in Beijing this morning.

All right. A thousand missiles a day, that's a request from the U.S. -- to the U.S. from Ukraine and that's not all they're asking for.

JARRETT: Plus, the pipeline to overturn the 2020 election. New text messages reveal between conservative provocateur wife of Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas and Donald Trump's Former Chief of Staff.