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NYT: "Russia Deploys A Mystery Munition In Ukraine"; More Than 1.7 Million People Had Fled Ukraine For Poland; Zelenskyy Calls On Canada's Parliament To Help Close Airspace. Aired 12:30-1p ET

Aired March 15, 2022 - 12:30   ET



JOHN KING, CNN HOST: Let's assess Russia's latest military strikes in Ukraine and get some military assessments. With me here is retired Air Force Colonel Cedric Leighton, Colonel Leighton, let me just come up first to these recent strikes. If you look at some of the recent attacks in the last 24 to 48 hours, there does seem to be a pattern. You see number one, air bases, Dnipro in the East, more to the west here. And then you see these communication towers largely in the West, but also some here in Kharkiv, what does that tell you about the Russian strategy?

COL. CEDRIC LEIGHTON (RET.), CNN MILITARY ANALYST: So John, what it tells me about the Russian strategy is that they have a very coherent plan about going after things like airfields and air bases, as well as communications towers. Now, what's interesting about the communications towers is that makes perfect sense from a military standpoint to go after them.

However, it so happens that the Russian communication system, the encryption system that they use is dependent on 3G and 4G cell towers being active in the area that they're operating in. When they knock out these towers, the 3G tower and the 4G towers go away and they can't communicate in encrypted messages back to their headquarters. What that means is they're forced to communicate in the clear. And that has resulted in the Ukrainians being able to target the Russian units much more effectively.


KING: In that by in a clear, to someone who might not understand, the jargon, you mean open radio?

LEIGHTON: Open radio, just like you and me talking right now without encryption.

KING: All right, so let's look at some other this one is come up interesting. This is the story here to the new -- in "The New York Times" this quote unquote, mystery munition being fired at the same time as other rockets. You see, it's relatively small. It's designed to help those rockets evade air defense systems that's fired from mobile launchers across the border. And you can see right there, it's about a foot long. So it's -- that is not the weapon, right? That is a decoy?

LEIGHTON: That is correct. That is a decoy. This is designed to confuse the enemy air defense systems, in this case, the Ukrainian air defense systems. So what it does is it fires off at about the same time as the actual missile, and then it peels off of the incoming missile, and it serves to hone in the heat seeking missile that is firing at it, hone in on it, as opposed to the actual warhead. And when it does that, it confuses the air defense system. And then the missile that actually has the munition on it, the actual warhead hits its target without being interfered with by something like a stinger or some other missile like that.

KING: So how quickly when something like this emerges on the battlefield, and you haven't seen it before, how quickly now, I assume that those have -- are now in NATO's hands. And NATO is now studying them to try to advise the Ukrainians on how to sort it out.

LEIGHTON: You're right. So what happens is it gets to NATO, let's say, it would go to a lab to be assessed. And in that lab, they will decide what kind of countermeasures they can use against this. So a lot of this is based on radio frequencies being available. And if they find the right radio frequencies, they can then program a device to go after this and overcome this decoy.

KING: So a relatively new device there. There's a fascinating story in "The Washington Post" today talking about how those who are on the ground observing the Russian alleged Russian advance on Kyiv are just seeing incompetence, supply chain problems, and here, this is Rob Lee, a defense policy expert quoted in "The Washington Post," it's kind of bizarre seeing this, Kyiv is the decisive mission, we all agree that's the capital city, the decision objective, and yet they're sending in some very old units to take it including these old T-72 tanks that went into production way back in the Cold War, 50 years ago so or more. Why? Why would the Russians use old equipment like that?

LEIGHTON: John, because they don't have anything else. Yes, they have more modern tanks than a T-72 that you see here. But they're not deployed, they haven't been fielded. Their logistics system is not keeping up with modern warfare. And what we're seeing if you're using this against this enemy center of gravity, then you don't have anything else because in normal situations, you would use your most modern weapons to go after your most modern and most important targets.

KING: So let me ask you now because of this incompetence, call it what you will, old hardware, the sad part is we are also seeing images like this because Russia is using more air attacks and more missiles. This is from a suburb of Kyiv about 16, 20 miles to the northwest of Kyiv. And you were noting earlier, you see the flames coming up on the screen here, you see the flames coming up here. This just looks like indiscriminate missiles, bombs, residential area.

LEIGHTON: Absolutely. This is what when we talk about dumb bombs, this is the result of dumb bombs. These aren't precision guided munitions. Now the Russians have them. They use them against airfields in other -- when they were doing other targets. But you see something like this and you know that there's an active fight going on at this point.

And civilian targets are obviously being hit. There's absolutely nothing of military value in this image. And what you see here is wanting destruction areas like here completely burned out, areas like this also burned out. These are the kinds of things that become really important from a war crimes perspective. And it's key in this case.

KING: Right. It's incredible sadness. Colonel Leighton, appreciate your very important insights there.

Let's move on to Poland now, another big part of this story. Hundreds of thousands of Ukrainian refugees streaming into the country, the International Organization for Migration estimates more than 3 million refugees, have left Ukraine since the invasion began three weeks ago, CNN's Ed Lavandera live for us, just inside Poland from Ukraine. Ed, what are you seeing?

ED LAVANDERA, CNN SENIOR NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Hey, John, well, it is stunning how quickly these numbers of refugees continue to increase day by day here. And we are witnessing it firsthand here at the train station, one of the closest train stations to the Polish Ukrainian border. This has been the epicenter of where so many people have been coming through for nearly now, three weeks.

And one of the challenges we're really beginning to see is that once these refugees make it here to the Polish border, that there are so many communities that essentially have been filled up with refugees already taking shelter here that there is real pressure now to push these refugees further in to the rest of Europe, which makes the journey much more treacherous.

And to kind of highlight that point, John, I'll show you a picture of a 66-year-old woman named Tatiana Polozenko (ph) who we saw just moments ago. She had come out of the train station and she was desperately asking volunteers here where she should go. Her home, just west of Kyiv, had been bombed, she made it here after nearly two days, holding just three bags of her belongings. She was telling the volunteer that she has no family to go to, she has no idea where to go, she was asking which country she could go to, that would be friendly to Ukrainian refugees.


And that is the confusion and the desperation that she is trying to figure out and fight through in these moments. And these are stories that continue to play out over and over again here at the train station in Poland. And it is a real challenge as this continues to push on for weeks, if not months, that, you know, the real question becomes just how much more help our European governments going to have to begin offering.

Until now, it has really been on the goodwill of non-government organizations, and residential families that have opened up their homes to take in these refugees. But this is going to go on and on for weeks and you're really starting to get a sense of just how much pressure that is going to be putting on communities across Europe. John?

KING: Ed Lavandera, critical reporting, Ed. Keep us posted on that. And you raised the right question, this will be months and months question. Ed Lavandera, appreciate live report there. And for information if you want to help, here's how you can find out. If you want to help the people of Ukraine go to

Up next, President Zelenskyy makes a virtual address to the U.S. Congress tomorrow pressing his case for more help from Washington and the West. First, a new update on that Russian television editor who held up this antiwar sign on live television.



KING: An important update now on that Russian television editor you see her there who crashed a Kremlin broadcast with a sign readings stop the war. Marina Ovsyannikova was found guilty of organizing and an authorized public event in Moscow court today. She was fined 30,000 rubles. That's the equivalent about $273. We continue to watch the developments there.

Tomorrow, the Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelenskyy will address the United States Congress. It's a meeting, a virtual speech he requested. He's expected to ramp up his calls for a no fly zone over Ukraine, an appeal he made to Canada's Parliament just moments ago.


PRES. VOLODYMYR ZELENSKYY, UKRAINE (through translator): You will need to do more to stop Russia to protect Ukraine and by doing that to protect Europe from Russian threat. They're destroying everything just and all of our friends of our -- of Ukraine. All Friends of the truth at least understand how important it is for us to close our airspace.


KING: With me to share their reporting and their insights, CNN's Dana Bash, Zolan Kanno-Youngs of the New York Times, and Karoun Demirjian of The Washington Post. President Zelenskyy is a remarkable communicator. He has become a global icon for resistance and for democracy. And he is using these speeches now, the British House of Commons, the Canadian Parliament, tomorrow, the United States Congress to push the West to give him things it does not want to give him including that no fly zone.

DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, when you say the West, it sort of depends on who you ask in the West. And he knows his audience clearly, when he speaks to Congress, because the majority of Congress, Democrats and Republicans are saying, even some of the President's closest Democratic allies are saying, give him those MiGs, give them those Soviet aeroplanes that he's asking for that the administration can't -- they canceled that transfer last week.

And so we've seen largely a united front, not just in the West, but remarkably here in the United States when you haven't seen that at all on like any issue recently. And this is going to test that because you're already seeing people in the Senate draft legislation to try to override what the administration, thanks to the pressure from the Pentagon decided last week which is that it is too escalatory for these planes to go through NATO bases which is what they would need to do in order for them to be used properly.

KING: Right. So there's two separate questions about the skies if you will, one, do you get -- let him get the Polish jets or any MiG-29s that are, you know, NATO hands other countries hands that you could get to him. Number two, he also wants a NATO enforce no fly zone, which has been a nonstarter, that has less support in the Congress because you do have a lot of people understand that would be NATO could be American jet, it could be a British jet, it could be a French jet, would come into contact with Russians in the sky and could create a war.

But on the question of the -- transferring the Polish MiG-29s, John Thune, top Republican in the Senate says there will be a lot of bipartisan support for jets. Bob Menendez, the Chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee, a Democrat says, I don't understand why are not working expeditiously to facilitate, excuse me, planes in Ukraine. Jack Reed though, a former Army Ranger, who's the Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman says the plan to provide Ukraine with MiG- 29s would not be effective.

There is -- there are some and Jack Reed is an ally of the White House, the Pentagon is saying look, this anti-aircraft missiles are more effective. But Zelenskyy is making this direct appeal, he keeps going over the president's head.

KAROUN DEMIRJIAN, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes, and I mean, look, this is a really smart negotiating tactic. He want to push the pressure on the president. You go to the legislative branch of the country and you try to get the three upward pressure on the President that way to have them do more. I think at the end of the day what you're probably going to end up with though is someplace in the middle.


Look, I mean, we we've been sending stingers, we've been sending javelins, we've been sending, you know, shotguns and things like that, those are really good for if you're doing urban combat, or if you're trying to strike kind of low altitude bombers and helicopters, they need more firepower to actually be able to shoot these Russian planes out of the sky.

So they were probably not going to send them Patriot missiles because it's too sensitive. But there's more that we could send them this S- 300 deal. And if there's more pressure on Biden to do something like a no fly zone or send the MiGs, and he's not going to go there. The middle ground becomes further over that way, though, and there's maybe more incentive for them to find more of what's in the middle to provide --

KING: Right. You mentioned the S-300 deal. This is this is an everyday occurrence now going back and studying things that we thought we could forget, if you will, with the Berlin Wall coming down and the peace dividend, sure that Russian sell things in the world, the United States sells things in the world, every country with the big military sells S-300 Soviet, a Russian made antiaircraft defense system.

ZOLAN KANNO-YOUNGS, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: No, absolutely. And look, it's not just also increasing pressure, and by appealing to the legislature by appealing to Congress, but also you're seeing Zelenskyy continue to do this publicly, put these videos out to increase public pressure here, right. For up until now, these recent weeks, there has been mostly I would say praise when you talk to members of Congress, when you talk to those observing the White House around kind of the tranche system of economic penalties.

But from some people I've talked to, it's almost now you're moving to the next stage where, look, you've gone with sanctions at this point. And now these countries, including Romania, including Poland, you have Moldova, as well, these countries that are on the footstep of Russia, where anxiety is growing, are expecting some of these recent sources to now arrive, it's not enough at times for just to announce that humanitarian aid will be dispatched to announce that military assets and that NATO also has your support, but they're expecting that support to arrive on the ground. And you can expect that message to be delivered.

I mean, this came up, I was just on the Vice President's trip to Poland as well as Romania. And the issue over these MiG fighter jets as well, which, again, national security experts and some of the Pentagon would say look, it's just not worth the risk, their ageing aircraft, this is going to be one from the ground rather than in the air. But this was an issue that got brought up immediately in that bilateral amongst other issues as well, refugee crisis included.

KING: And one of the points the administration makes, and, you know, it's sort of interesting, Zelenskyy says thank you very much. He's very gracious in all of these speeches. Thank you for everything you've done, now I need more. The administration says, listen here, both from the State Department of the Pentagon, we're doing everything we can and constantly thinking of new ways.


NED PRICE, STATE DEPARTMENT SPOKESMAN: We're providing Surface to Air Systems, we're providing antitank systems, we're providing anti-armor systems, we're providing small arms, we're providing munitions, we are constantly in search of our own inventories.

JOHN KIRBY, PENTAGON PRESS SECRETARY: Certainly the United States is not going to stand in the way if another nation wants to provide aircraft or any other systems to the Ukrainians that they deem fit and able to do.


KING: One of the interesting challenges, here is, you know, in some ways, Zelenskyy is going to say, Mr. President, I need more so people will say, you know, always asking Biden to do more. On the other hand, is are not these addresses, whether it's the U.K., the Canadian Parliament earlier this morning, the United States Congress helpful to the president in the sense that the President now has to urge the American people to deal with higher gas prices to deal, this is going to go on for months, if not more, and Zelenskyy is part of the keep the world together.

BASH: Yes. I mean, it's just as you said, it's galvanizing public opinion, not just in Ukraine, but here in the United States. The one aspect that we haven't talked about, which is really important is when the Pentagon people you talk to I'm sure, and others may be like Jack Reed, the armed services chair, when they look at this, when they talk about they worry about this being escalatory. They're reminding people that this is a man, Vladimir Putin with chemical weapons, who's used them before with nuclear weapons. And when he perceives the United States as potentially doing something that triggers him, that's a whole different --

KING: And beyond that today, tomorrow, and next week needs of Ukraine. You see the NATO Defense Ministers meeting, the possibility of the president traveling to Europe next week for an emergency NATO Leader Summit, that's about planning a new architecture of European security that is well beyond this.

DEMIRJIAN: Oh, you can't exit from this experience and hope to go back to normal. This is going to be one of those reps or events that changes the way we see the international order and security going --

KING: Beyond a doubt. And sad news to report at the moment "Fox" has now confirmed one of its veteran international cameraman, Pierre Zakrzewski, was killed are reporting in Ukraine. The network says he and "Fox News" correspondent Benjamin Hall news gathering when their vehicle was hit by incoming fire outside of Kyiv. Hall remains hospitalized in Ukraine.


We'll be right back.


KING: Some other important news now, a suspect arrested for shooting homeless man in Washington, D.C. and in New York City. CNN has obtained new video of the suspect you see it here being taken into custody by D.C. police early this morning. Authorities say they've known his identity since Monday and were able to track him to this D.C. gas station. He was wanted in connection with five separate shootings over a nine-day period that left two homeless men dead.

Idaho's legislature passed an abortion bill Monday modeled after that restrictive Texas abortion law. It bans abortion after about six weeks of pregnancy except in cases of medical emergency rape or incest. The bill would also allow the father, siblings, grandparents, aunts or uncles of the fetus to sue any medical professional who performed an abortion. It now heads to the governor's desk. The NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg tweeting just moments ago he's convening an emergency extraordinary NATO summit the 24th of March. That is next Thursday at NATO headquarters. The leaders will travel there to discuss obviously, the invasion of Ukraine.


That's it for INSIDE POLITICS. We'll see you back here this time tomorrow. Ana Cabrera, Anderson Cooper, pick up our coverage right now.