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Biden Set To Speak After Zelenskyy Made Passionate Plea To Congress For No-Fly Zone; CNN Speaks With Ukrainian Parliament Member As Kyiv Under Curfew; NATO Chief: Allies United In Decision Not To Establish No-Fly Zone. Aired 12:30-1p ET

Aired March 16, 2022 - 12:30   ET



JACKIE KUCINICH, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, and he, as someone who's been observing what's happened, he's seen the Congress really leading the White House and pushing the White House to do things that perhaps they wouldn't have done things like banning Russian oil, something that the White House really didn't want to do and said Congress was going to take the ball and push that forward. So really, I mean, now the no fly zone that he's asking for, doesn't seem like they're going to go that far. But perhaps some other things that they might move forward on that maybe Biden, the White House right now isn't ready to do.

KING: Right. The NATO Secretary General saying just moments ago, just for the top of the hour that NATO is still unanimous, cannot do that, they believe it'd be a provocation that could lead to an escalation and a World War III, but we will hear from the President moments from now. Jackie is right. The administration has done some things it was not willing to do, or at least not wanting to do yet, because it had been pushed. The President has this plan, keep the NATO allies together, and because of that, maybe we have to be incremental in our approach, but more from the President just moments.

OLIVIER KNOX, NATIONAL POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT, THE WASHINGTON POST: That's right. I mean, I think one of the notable things was that the White House was running behind Democrats in Congress, not just Republicans. That's pretty notable. I also think that when we talk about this no fly zone, and we've got to look at what Zelenskyy has been saying for weeks, which is not a no fly zone. He's been saying close the skies, because one of the biggest problems he has, that most of these attacks are not Russian warplanes. They are standoff weaponry. They are cruise missiles and the like.

That's been really interesting to watch today, because there seems to be this emerging consensus in Congress that what we really need to do, what United States willing to do is provide better, stronger, more high tech surface to air capabilities, stuff that would enable the Ukrainians not just to take out Russian planes, but also take out Russian missiles and the like. And the reasoning there in part is, there's not a meaningful difference between handing a Ukrainian soldier, a javelin to kill the Russian tank and giving them a surface to air capability to take out a Russian plane.

KING: And the giant challenge there as you're talking a little bit about this with Jack Reed, the Chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, is the Ukrainians are trained in Soviet and Russian technology. And so if you want them to use it tomorrow, it has to come from Bulgaria, Greece, Slovakia, countries that have that style equipment, we could send them all the Patriot missiles we wanted to right now. But if the position is and it is the position American troops, no American boots on the ground, but the training would take forever.

SABRINA SIDDIQUI, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Right. And it's still the position of this administration that they do not plan to deploy any U.S. troops to Ukraine. They're still reluctance to send certain types of fighter jets and other air defense systems over there. You know, I think when you heard Zelenskyy asked for it to, Olivier's point is for these S-300 air defense systems that allow them to shoot down Russian aircraft and cruise missiles.

I think what we're expecting to hear from President Biden today, though, based on my conversations with administration officials is assistance that would effectively provide Ukrainians with a lot of the support that the U.S. has already been giving them in terms of anti- armor, anti-tank defense systems, as well as weapons like javelins and stingers. And I think one thing the administration is straddling is this line between giving more support to the Ukrainians, which there's bipartisan, you know, interest in doing, but also not doing anything that Russia would perceive as escalatory, or that they believe could draw the U.S. directly into a conflict with Russia and also just logistical challenges. How do you get certain types of fighter jets to Ukraine?

KING: And when you see that list that was just up there, you know, the administration is in a very tough spot, the President's in a very tough spot. And that he has done a ton, including organizing this coalition and keeping the allies together, the NATO allies together at this moment, which the world frankly, has not done for the past 25 years of bad acting by Vladimir Putin. So here you have and they've done a lot of military assistance here. And yet, Zelenskyy, understandably, the president of a country under siege, keep saying, but I need more.

KNOX: Of course he does. I mean, you know, there's this narrative in the media of the Russian military getting bogged down, and they're having trouble advancing, and you got all these shortages. But, you know, as Nick was showing, they're still perfectly capable of shelling and attacking, especially civilians in Ukraine. But you're right, though, the unity, the relative unity of Europe, America's partners in Asia, and of course North America, that unity has been really pretty remarkable.

And the White House for the last 24 hours or so has been making that point again, and again. You know, they pushed out that list of equipment. Tony Blinken, the Secretary of State, did some interviews this morning to make the same case. You saw the new secretary, secretary general come out and sort of tell Zelenskyy, you know, slow your roll. So there's been a very interesting, coordinated response to his speech today.


KING: And we'll see what the President again moments away from hearing the President. We'll be back with that in just a moment. More in the breaking news out of Ukraine and more directly from the White House hopefully, before the President speaks, hoping to hear from a member of Ukrainian parliament who has been trying to govern and be a mom, the last three weeks of war.


KING: Russian military continue to close in on Ukraine's capital, including striking more residential buildings like what you see right there a 12-storey apartment building near the center of the Capitol Kyiv. Residents there are still under a 35-hour curfew, that runs until tomorrow morning. Joining me now Ukrainian parliament member, Inna Sovsun, she's in western Ukraine now but plans to return to the Capitol after that curfew ends. I'm grateful for your time today. I want to speak to you mostly about the situation what you saw on the ground before you left Kyiv and the governing challenge as a member of parliament to the middle of war. But this is the first time you've been able to see for I believe about three weeks, your nine-year-old son, how's he doing?

INNA SOVSUN, UKRAINIAN PARLIAMENT MEMBER: He's all right. He did tell me like he hugged me. And they said, oh, mom, I'm glad you came. And then he said, oh, I'll tell you a funny story. And he told me a funny story because he's in the Western Ukraine and he has been here from day one of the war, and he said, like yesterday, we were planning to go outside and we were gathering and putting our clothes for a very long time, and then the minute we go outside we hear the siren and we have to go back to the basement. And that was the funniest story, the first that he told me, like, the moment he saw me in the morning.


So that is the life that he's also has been living. Luckily, Western Ukraine hasn't been bombarded to an extent other regions, particularly Kharkiv and Mariupol have been. But it's still the reality even here. And I felt such an extreme hatred to Putin before the very fact that my son knows the sound of the siren. And then when he hears that he has to go inside.

KING: All right. It's a remarkable story and just amen to your son and his resilience at this moment. What is it like as a member of parliament, the American people, the American Congress, heard from President Zelenskyy today in one of his speeches, and he's been speaking to legislative bodies around the world. What is it like as a member of parliament, how are you communicating with each other with the central government doing what -- the business of governing that you can accomplish in the middle of all this?

SOVSUN: Well, of course, the business of governing right now has changed from the day one of the war. We're mostly busy with preparing legislation, debate and policy, and all before the war. But right now, our tasks have changed. Our main job of representing the people of Ukraine hasn't, but the ways of we are doing that is different. So right now, the MPs have found what they're best at doing be talking to the international audiences, helping with their diplomatic negotiations, some MPs went back to the front. So some MPs, particularly those with a military background, they're fighting like my very good friend in the parliament, Roman Kostenko (ph). He's now fighting in the south of Ukraine.

Many MPs is engaged in humanitarian aid and support, particularly those that I represented specific constituencies have MPs in Ukraine represent specific constituencies. So they are like those MPs who are representing Western constituencies. They are gathering the humanitarian aid, those that represent the eastern Ukraine or southern Ukraine, which has been severely hit by the war, they explained what the needs of the specific region are, and how to get help delivered and so on and so forth.

We also did have three emergency sessions since the first day of war. The first one was, of course, the very first day, three hours after the first bomb exploded over Kyiv. The second was the second week of war. And then we also had a parliamentary session yesterday, where legislation mainly related to economic issue of the military situation where direct were discussed and passed yesterday.

KING: You came to Western Ukraine from Kyiv where you were in the capital, we see pictures, we were just showing a 12-storey residential apartment building, obviously been shelled by a missile or some kind of a bomb. We get these snapshots. But it is possible impossible, because we're not there and we don't live there to have the context of this. Tell us what has happened in the capital and things you have seen as you made your way across Ukraine. What are you seeing, what is the level of devastation you are seeing the change in your country?

SOVSUN: So in Kyiv itself, we are not seeing major destructions. They have been getting closer to the city with their missiles. But it appears that air defense around Kyiv is actually stronger compared to the rest of the country. So the missiles heat that we got were what -- from what we understand right now, the missiles that were hit by the Ukrainian Air Defense System, and they were just fallen on the ground and while they're falling they sometimes would fall onto the building or into the trolleybus like the day before.

But then of course, they were shelling the city from the ground on the northwest of the city. And that is where we get the major damage to several residential buildings. It's nothing close to what they have done to Kharkiv. Kharkiv is my native city I feel so much pain for what they have done over there. Like I believe over there, 600 buildings have been totally destroyed, residential buildings, apartment blocks with multiple apartments in them, and nothing compared to what they're continuing to do to Mariupol.

Just 15 minutes ago, we heard the terrible news that they dropped another bomb from the airplane on to the theater building in which thousand, thousand of people were hiding for two weeks. And now they're trying to see if someone survived from that airstrike. So Kyiv compared to that is better. I wouldn't say we are fine, but it is better. And but the city itself feels so different. I was taking a walk yesterday to the parliament. Now it wasn't very smart on my side I have to tell you because they do have some random infiltrator groups who can open fire randomly on the streets in Kyiv, but I decided to take a walk.

And, you know, I go past the bakery, which used to have this huge selection of baked goods and everything, to get coffee and something. And on the door of the bakery it says bread and coffee that's all they're serving right now. They don't have anything else. If you go to the supermarket and the selection is less, it's like 20 percent of what we used to have three weeks ago. You walk on the streets and there are hardly any people.


Now I believe, the mayor said that about 2 million people that live in the city right now, compared to five that it was before the war, it does feel devastated. It does feel empty. It does feel that it was like I actually started crying when I saw this sign coffee and bread because it's such a huge change compared to the reality just three weeks ago.

KING: Just three weeks ago, Inna Sovsun, Member of Parliament, grateful for your time, I'm glad you get to see your son in the middle of this hardship. We'll stay in touch as we go through the days and weeks ahead. Appreciate your time very much. Thank you. Thank you.

And as we wait to hear from President Biden speak at the White House, also a big statement from NATO on the no fly zones in Ukraine, the details next.



KING: These brand new images. You see them there again, heartbreaking just into CNN from the Ukrainian state emergency service. What they show you is brave first responders trying to extinguish fires at a market in the city of Kharkiv. The NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg says NATO is united including in its decision to not establish a no fly zone over Ukraine.


JENS STOLTENBERG, NATO SECRETARY GENERAL: Allies are united both in providing support to Ukraine. to support Ukraine to uphold the right for self-defense. But allies are also united when it comes to that NATO should not deploy forces on the ground or in the airspace over Ukraine. (END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: Let's check in with CNN's Natasha Bertrand. She's live in Brussels where the NATO Defense Ministers are meeting just today. What are the other big headlines Natasha?

NATASHA BERTRAND, CNN WHITE HOUSE REPORTER: So that was definitely one of them that Jens Stoltenberg said that the NATO alliance is completely aligned here on the idea of not imposing a no fly zone over Ukraine. And I have to tell you, John, that that is completely consistent with what we have heard from people here over the last several weeks, which is that there is just no appetite among those NATO members to get involved in that conflict in such a tangible ways in terms of actually putting NATO forces in the air on the ground, that would be necessary to enforce a no fly zone, of course, putting them in potentially direct confrontation with Russia.

Now, the big takeaway from the ministerial, the defense ministerial today, that's U.S. Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin attended is that they are essentially reassessing. They are reassessing how NATO might respond if Russia were to attack a NATO member country, right, either on purpose or accidentally, because as we've seen, the Ukraine -- the Russian war has really expanded further and further west over the last several weeks, including earlier this week, we saw that they attacked a missile or a military base about 10 miles from the Polish border. So it's getting closer and closer to NATO territory. And that has caused NATO to really rethink the entire security environment that they are in right now.

They are considering moving their integrated air defense missile system closer to Russia's borders, they're reinforcing troop postures, they are sending those eastern flank NATO countries additional military equipment to reassure them in the event that Russia does launch some kind of provocation or escalation against one of those NATO member countries. So the bottom line here, the big takeaway of the day, really, is that they're starting to really evaluate at how this could impact NATO. And the reality of course, that the security environment has completely changed here since Russia invaded Ukraine.

KING: Natasha Bertrand important reporting from the NATO headquarters in Brussels. Natasha, thanks so much.

Again, we're waiting for President Biden's event big speech on Ukraine at the White House. As we go to break. Look at this, a Ukrainian violinist playing a patriotic Ukrainian march song. That's from a firehouse in the city of Ternopil. That's in the western part of the country not far from Lviv, another iconic symbol of the fierce determination and resistance of the Ukrainian people.


We'll be right back.


KING: Another important headlines now as we wait for President Biden's statement on Ukraine from the White House, more than 2 million homes in Tokyo are currently without power, that after a 7.3 magnitude earthquake hit off the coast of Fukushima. You remember that is where 2011 quake caused a disaster at a nuclear power plant. Nearly eight inch tall tsunami has been observed off the eastern coast of Japan following that quake. Here you can see the moment when the quake shook Japan's capital city more than 100 miles away from where it hit. Wow.

Coronavirus cases are on the rise in America's largest city, up 11 percent in New York City over just the past two weeks. Plus, the FDA now calling on its vaccine Advisory Committee to meet next month to discuss the next steps in the fight against COVID-19, that from a source telling CNN. And that as Pfizer petitions the agency to authorize a fourth dose of its vaccine for people aged 65 and older.

The second gentleman Doug Emhoff, is positive for COVID. It's the first known COVID case among the first or second families since Biden and Harris took office last year. Emhoff says his symptoms are mild. Vice President's Office says V.P. Harris has tested negative and will continue to test though out of an abundance of caution, Vice President Harris did skip Biden's White House event last night. White House official says the second gentleman is not considered a close contact of the President.

But first in this the coronavirus era, the Federal Reserve expected to raise interest rates by a quarter percentage point at its meeting this afternoon. It's the Fed's first rate hikes since 2018, the central bank shifting from pandemic relief now into inflation fighting mode.


Thanks for your time today on Inside Politics. Again, stay with us, we're waiting for President Biden to speak, a major investment -- new military investment in the Ukraine defense any moment now. Don't forget you can also listen to our podcast. Download Inside Politics wherever you get your podcasts. Stay with us, the breaking news coverage continues with Anderson Cooper and Ana Cabrera right now.