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Russian Strike Sets Kyiv Apartment Building On Fire; Blasts Heard Around Kyiv As Russian Assault Intensifies; Russian Strike Just 12 Miles From Poland & NATO's Doorstep; Russia Asked China For Military Support After Invading Ukraine; U.S. Officials Worry Putin Won't Stop With Ukraine; Zelenskyy To Address Congress Wednesday; Sullivan: Putin Frustrated That His Forces Are Not Making Progress; As More Explosions Rock Kyiv, CNN Talks To Member Of Parliament. Aired 12-12:30p ET

Aired March 14, 2022 - 12:00   ET



JOHN KING, CNN HOST, INSIDE POLITICS: Hello everybody, welcome to Inside Politics. I'm John King in Washington. Thank you for sharing this sober day with us. New images, pictures, from day 19 of Vladimir Putin's invasion of Ukraine, confirm the situation growing bleaker by the hour.

This is the scene in Kyiv today, an apartment building set ablaze by a Russian missile strike. Firefighters there are raising to extract people from the building. That is more and more clear, there is no safe harbor left. The emberglow you see there, explosions at Yavoriv, the Ukrainian military base in the west of the country, about 12 miles from the Polish border. That attack putting the war, yes, right on NATO's doorstep.

In Mariupol, a bird's eye view here of the horror. You can see no building left unscarred. Finally, today the mayor's office says, at least some civilians have been able to get out of that city through humanitarian quarter that after weeks of being trapped, a little food, water or power.

Last hour, a new and horrifying number from the United Nations, 636. That's the number of civilians it has confirmed dead, dying since the start of this fighting. Pair that with the awful example of how war piles tragedy on top of tragedy.

Remember the pregnant woman in this image that appeared on front pages around the globe while she has died. The surgeon who tried to save her and her baby after a Russian airstrike hit Mariupol maternity hospital has a C-section to get the baby out failed, then 30 minutes later, the mother dying as well.

We start the hour in Kyiv, the capital of Ukraine and with our chief international correspondent Clarissa Ward. Clarissa, what is the latest there?

CLARISSA WARD, CNN CHIEF INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, John, it has been a day of heavy fighting. And it started very early with the shelling of that residential apartment block in the suburb of Avalon. That's just five stops on the subway from here in central Kyiv. Remarkably, if you look at those images, you can see how much damage there was, only one person was killed, and several people were injured.

That may be a product of the fact that so many Kyiv residents have already fled the city and they're fleeing, John, because the news appears to be tightening, as Russian forces push not just to the west and to the north to try to surround the city, but also now to the east as well. We have heard basically nonstop rumble of fighting. And I should say, it's been moving in both directions.

We do believe Ukrainian forces are putting up a hell of a fight, particularly in that now famous suburb of Irpin, where we and many of my colleagues have spent a lot of time. new Maxar satellite images appear to show a pontoon bridge built by the Russians in that suburb to try to cross the river to be able to move ground forces into the center of the city. Ukrainians appear to have destroyed that bridge, and to be continuously fighting to push Russian forces back from that bridge and prevent them from entering here in the capital.

Ukrainian officials do believe though, that the goal of Russia's ground troops is still to surround starve bombard this city until they are able to extract the concessions that they're looking for. Meanwhile, another fourth round of talks ongoing between the Russian and Ukrainian side, originally those talks were held in Belarus near the border today. They're being held by video teleconference.

Everyone here waiting anxiously to see, not with a huge amount of optimism. But whether there will be any response to Ukraine's, please at least for some kind of a temporary ceasefire that would allow for civilians to be evacuated and humanitarian aid to be bought in to some of these hardest hit areas, John?

KING: Clarissa Ward, getting us started from Kyiv in the capital. Clarissa, thank you so much. Let's go to Lviv now, excuse me, in western Ukraine. CNN's Scott McLean is there for us. And Scott, portion of the country that had been less targeted now, suddenly are getting Vladimir Putin's attention.

SCOTT MCLEAN, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: It seems like the strikes from Russia are getting further and further west. Lately, we've seen strikes in cities like Lutsk, like Ivano-Frankivsk, both of those places are not far from here in Lviv. And they've been places of relative safety for many people fleeing conflict in the east and southern parts of the country.

John, you can see here from the street in Lviv. This looks like any other day in many other European capitals. People are outgoing about their business. Many businesses are still open. You probably would not know that this country was at war, air raid sirens, though had been going off almost daily for the last several days, sometimes twice a day.

I can tell you people would often quickly run to shelters when they went off. Since Lviv has not been the target of bombing so far, though, as of late. It is remarkable how complacent and how desensitize people have become to the sirens. But it seems like over the weekend, it was a bit of a wakeup call. A military strike hitting about 30 miles from here and just 11 miles from the Polish border on a military base there. This is remarkably close to NATO's eastern front, a place that many people figured Vladimir Putin would not go.

The Latvian president now saying that U.S. troops should be on NATO's eastern front to bulk up their presence there. And Ukrainian president also saying that look, if you don't close this guy in this country, pretty soon the conflict may well be in your backyard. Obviously, John, if the bombing does start to come to cities like Lviv, like Ivano-Frankivsk, the worry is that you may have flooded for the exits of Ukraine.


KING: So, appreciate that important reporting and context. There's a lot of important new reporting this hour, including related to those points. Scott, I was just discussing, the White House now discussing whether President Biden will himself traveled to Europe and have a potential stop in Poland, that of course, will put the president United States just miles away from the Russian assault on Ukraine.

Also, this morning, a meeting between top American and Chinese national security officials, that huddle follows new details about Russia's battle plan. Two U.S. officials tell CNN, Russia asks China for military help in the form of drones and asked also for economic assistance to fuel its Ukraine invasion. Let's get to the State Department now with CNN's Kylie Atwood. Kylie, what do we know about that?

KYLIE ATWOOD, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Well, listen, what we're learning is, as you said, Russia has asked China for military and economic support to carry out this invasion into Ukraine to continue carrying it out. There is a few things that are significant on the timing of this report today.

First of all, the fact that this request came from Russia to China after the invasion had already begun into Ukraine. We don't know exactly what prompted it. But it does come off the heels of our reporting over the last few weeks, that Russia has faced some logistical challenges in mounting this assault on Ukraine, fuel shortages and the like. So, it appears that they're going to China when they have faced some troubles on the ground there.

And the other timing aspect here is, as you said, National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan, is meeting with his Chinese counterpart today in Rome. And this report, obviously coming out putting some heat to the feet of the Chinese officials. It's coming from U.S. officials, claiming that China essentially has the option here to provide support or not.

And we heard over the weekend, National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan, say that the United States has already made it clear in channels to China that there would be consequences if they were to provide any of this support to Russia as part of this invasion.

Now, we are hearing from the Kremlin spokesperson today, denying that any request has been made. Also saying that they have the potential to continue carrying out this invasion, claiming that it was going - it is going to plan. We have heard that from Russian officials over the last few weeks.

And then, of course, the Chinese are also denying that they received any such request. But we're looking to hear more from that meeting between Jake Sullivan and his Chinese counterpart later today from the White House. John?

KING: In some way says important to hear what the Chinese have to say, as much as the American side just to see if the tone changes at all. Kylie, we are grateful to the important reporting from the state department. Let's get some important perspective now from our CNN national security analyst, the former Deputy Director of National Intelligence, Beth Sanner.

Beth let's start right there. Jake Sullivan sitting down across the table from his Chinese counterpart. A, what does it tell you that Vladimir Putin would go to Xi Jinping and ask for drones to help his military campaign? And do you think is likely or highly unlikely that China would decide to get directly involved here?

BETH SANNER, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: Well, I think that as others have said, it's deeply embarrassing to Russia. It shows that there are real limitations just three weeks into a war. How is it that a great military power needs to ask for help. So, that's bad news for Russia. And it's not surprising that they're denying it. But in terms of whether China agrees or not, I think we have to keep in mind a couple of things.

You know, first, China doesn't do anything that's not in direct self- interest. They are not Russia's knight in shining armor. They are not the Red Cross. They are not the IMF. They do things where they make money and it's in their interest. China also has this bigger context.

Today with the COVID-19 outbreak in the port cities, they've shut down one of their second, I think the second largest port city, Shenzhen. It's one of the largest ports in the world, and 90 percent of electronics that are exported from China come from there. That's why we just saw an 8 percent drop in the price of oil.

So, China, you know, has economic interest in maintaining ties to the west. They have 10 times the amount of trade with the West, with Europe and the U.S. and they do for Russia. So, I think they're going to just try to split the baby here. They're going to try to maintain this positive relationship with China. They will do things around the margins, but I don't think they will do anything that they can get caught or blatantly will risk their relationship with - trade relationship with the West.

KING: We'll wait to see again what the readout is and what the public statements are, after that Jake Sullivan meeting with his Chinese counterpart. Let's move back into Ukraine. You see Beth, over the weekend, after attacks that have been largely in the eastern half, even eastern - or eastern two thirds of Ukraine.


Attacks on several military bases in the western part, a place where NATO sending military supplies across the border that's where they would be staged, a place where foreign fighters going into Ukraine to volunteer to fight for Ukraine, that's where they would be trained. What does it tell you about Putin strategy that those facilities in the West? One of them about 12 miles over the border from Poland, meaning the NATO border were attacked?

SANNER: Well, again, it's another sign that the Russians are very worried about the amount of resistance that the Ukrainians are putting up and how much the West is helping with that. And there's more to come. We really need to be flooding in air defense batteries into that area to protect those zones.

But I also, you know, think that it's very difficult for Russia right now, they've run out of a lot of the precision guided missiles. And so, it's difficult for them to hit something like a convoy. They can hit an airbase, but it will be harder for them to hit the supply chain. So, we should worry about that, but we need to keep flooding things in.

KING: And so normally, you mentioned, it has been humiliating. Yes, Russia is taking more and more ground in Ukraine, about as a "great power" it has been humiliating to watch the advanced, the speed of this advance and the trouble Russia has had. So normally, you would think the leader would reset, maybe assess his losses and think differently.

But this leader happens to be unpredictable, and he has the world's largest nuclear capability. Vladimir Putin does, which is why he was striking to hear Jake Sullivan, the White House National Security Adviser say this on CNN yesterday.


JAKE SULLIVAN, NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISER: Anytime you have a nuclear power fighting in a conflict zone, in Europe, near NATO territory, of course, we have to focus on and be concerned about the possibility of escalation, the risk of escalation. But as I said before, we have not seen anything that would require us to change our nuclear posture at this time. It's something we will continue to watch carefully.


KING: When Jake Sullivan, says watch carefully. This was your wheelhouse when you worked in the intelligence community. What exactly are United States intelligence services watching? Just to make sure that Vladimir Putin does not take that drastic step.

SANNER: Well, absolutely, they would be watching all of the signs of the alert levels for the Russian strategic forces, meaning their nuclear forces. And right now, it appears that there has not been a change in that. They've also said that they have not seen any evidence of chemical weapons going into the country, despite all of these very serious concerns, especially with the disinformation coming out of Russia, which tends to mirror what they plan to do.

So, there are great concerns. But at this point, I mean, I think that our intel sounds like, we still have very good information flows, and we are able as an intelligence community, they are able to monitor the range of what Russia is up to. So, we will know very quickly. We also have multiple hotlines to Moscow in case something does go over the border for deconfliction and to de-escalate quickly.

KING: Beth Sanner, grateful as always for the important insights. We will stay in touch. And coming up for us, much more in the breaking news out of Ukraine today.




KING: We learned this morning the President Zelenskyy of Ukraine will address the United States Congress virtually on Wednesday. This comes as the fourth round of Ukraine Russia talks have been "paused until Tuesday." In a new video posting, Zelenskyy sounds anything, but hopeful that the Russian onslaught will end anytime soon.


PRES. VOLODYMYR ZELENSKYY, UKRAINE: This is horrible and pathetic, but we must not relax. The Russian state prepared for this war for decades. It's accumulated a huge military resource for their evil ambitions for the sake of destroying Ukraine and the Europe that we know.


KING: With me to share her insight and expertise, Heather Conley, who's the President of the German Marshall Fund. Thank you for coming. Let's start with President Zelenskyy and just how important he has become, not only to the people of Ukraine, but to the world as this icon of resistance, if you will. The fact that he will speak to Congress on Wednesday. He was the first foreign leader to ever address the British House of Commons. He used that to push the West to do more.

He will speak to the United States Congress, at a time he wants NATO to impose a no-fly zone. NATO said no way. And he wants the United States to help Poland facilitate the transfer of those MiG-29 fighter jets. The Biden administration said no. What do you expect from that? More pressure from Zelenskyy, he has adeptly used his political power to move things along.

HEATHER CONLEY, PRESIDENT, GERMAN MARSHALL FUND: Well, John, I mean, he is the voice of the Ukrainian people. His power is his voice, and in many ways cometh the hour, cometh the man. He has pushed western policy to places. It hasn't wanted to go. So, I think this address to a joint session of Congress on Wednesday, is probably going to be one of the most powerful speeches we have heard. He really represents right now the frontlines of freedom. So, I can't begin to tell you how morally important this is, but how important it will be to continue to push western governments to take actions, they don't wish to take.

KING: One of the points you make it though, German Marshall Fund and President Zelenskyy just made there, is that the West has had this too romantic view of Vladimir Putin for too long, thinking that if we invite him in economically, eventually he'll come around, he'll see things more away. We've learned in the last three weeks, we've learned long before the last three weeks, but especially in the last three weeks, that is not true.


I want you to listen to Jake Sullivan here, the President's National Security Adviser saying, he sees in these Russian attacks expanding to other parts of the country if Vladimir Putin back on his heels.


SULLIVAN: What it shows is that Vladimir Putin is frustrated by the fact that his forces are not making the kind of progress that he thought that they would make against major cities, including Kyiv, that he is expanding the number of targets, that he is lashing out, and that he is trying to cause damage in every part of the country.


KING: When you watch what Putin is doing, compared to what the Russians are saying, or maybe the combination thereof, do you see any hope that this has not - this has gone so badly for Putin, that he's looking for an off ramp? Or is it that this has gone so badly for Putin that he will double or triple down?

CONLEY: I'm in the latter category. I think this is, he is going to continue, he will not stop. And in fact, the more the Ukrainian people resist him, and of course, President Zelenskyy is the voice of that resistance, the more he will crush that resistance. And this is what we are seeing in Mariupol with the starvation of a city. He will not hesitate in bombing hospitals, potentially using chemical or biological weapons, he will not stop. He's gone too far.

Now, there may be a pause for Russian forces to regroup, potentially. But if Ukraine will not bend the knee to Russia, he will make sure that Ukraine is going to be a wasteland. So, that's what we have to prepare for. That's why we have to ensure that the Ukrainian government and military and people have every resource that they can to fight, and they've done a masterful job, 19 days. They've stopped the Russian - the mighty Russian military for 19 days.

KING: But if this goes as you assume it will, at this point, this could be months if not years of showdown with Vladimir Putin, which is why it's fascinating to listen here to the president of Latvia, saying not only do we have to help the Ukrainians, but the West, including the United States and NATO need to rethink security.


PRES. EGILS LEVITS, LATVIA: I welcome also American troops in Poland, in Baltics, and we need a permanent presence of American troops in this area. I think it is a response to Russian ideas on aggression beyond Ukraine.


KING: So, if you take that into context, I just want to go through the map. From Estonia up here, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Slovakia, Hungary, Romania, you've come all the way down that loop. Do you assume that Vladimir Putin has so startled the West, awaken the West if you will, that the security infrastructure, never mind the peace dividend, never mind what was talked about after the wall came down, that NATO troops including U.S. troops will now be more present in all the countries inside that ring?

CONLEY: They have to be, Wednesday's emergency NATO defense ministerial, I think will begin to make some major investments much significant force posture, air defense capabilities we have to, Vladimir Putin will not stop.

KING: Heather, we appreciate your coming in, it's a sober message, but it's important for people to hear it from people who have studied it so long. Up next for us more Ukraine developments including, I'll speak with Ukrainian parliament member, is right there in the capital Kyiv.




KING: It's a large explosions heard around the Ukrainian capital of Kyiv throughout the day. Let's get straight to the streets of Kyiv and a member of the Ukrainian parliament, Alex Goncharenko. Sir, grateful for your time and for your courage. You're on the streets of your capital tonight. When I came in this morning, the intelligence showed that the Russian ground troops who were perhaps 15-20 kilometers away, 10 miles away, something like that. Is that about right in your view?

ALEX GONCHARENKO, UKRAINIAN PARLIAMENT MEMBER: Yes, that's right information. And they also bombed in Kyiv today. There were three attacks, that attacks that were not intercepted by our air defense. So, three civilians were killed, 14 were injured. I was on the places of all attacks. And that is absolutely civilian areas, just residential buildings. One attack was just 100 meters from big school, and school is damaged. So, it is just the attack on civilians. No military targets met.

KING: And you have been going out to visit some of these target areas and posting videos, and I know we have some that we can share. Well, I want to focus first on the humanitarian situation, then come back to the military situation. In terms of the people who are still there. When it comes to food, when it comes to water, when it comes to electricity, medical supplies, is it a stable situation? Or is that a desperate situation?

GONCHARENKO: You know in Kyiv, itself, everything is OK. There are some shortages, but no desperate situation. But in town satellite of Kyiv, some of them are occupied by Russian forces and in some of them, there are fight ins now. And their situation is absolutely awful. And hundreds of civilians were killed there. And people were in just shelters, who over 10-12 days without water, food, electricity. Now, we evacuated most of them, but still some people are in very, very bad situation.

KING: And from a military standpoint, for A, Ukrainian military, and then B, the brave civilians. Sir, you're a member of the parliament, but civilians like yourself, who have been willing to take up arms in terms of supplies there, whether it's anti-tank weapons, anti-aircraft weapons, or just guns in the like for the citizenry. What is the stockpile situation?