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CNN Speaks To Ukrainian Parliament Member In Kyiv; Russian Negotiator: De-Escalation Around Kyiv And Chernihiv "Is Not A Ceasefire"; This Morning: Biden Spoke With European Allies On Ukraine Crisis. Aired 12:30-1p ET

Aired March 29, 2022 - 12:30   ET



INNA SOVSUN, UKRAINIAN PARLIAMENT MEMBER: And we hope that this is the Ukrainian army pushing the Russians further, because it did push them further from the city of Irpin and regain control over the city. But frankly speaking, I don't see any signs that the Russians are taking their troops away from Kyiv. And also we had about four to five air raid alerts during the day today. That means that they are targeting the city. And they are trying to, you know, hit yet another target here in the city with the missiles that they are sending towards Kyiv. That is what you see from the ground here.

JOHN KING, CNN HOST: Well, that in and of itself, that we're 34 days into this is a significant failure for the Russians who thought they could march on Kyiv in a matter of days, they have failed to do that. And as you note they have met fierce resistance. But what is the situation on the ground in terms of your daily life, your availability to get food, and water, and medicine if necessary, have the Russians been successful at choking off supplies or has that failed as well?

SOVSUN: Well, if you go to the supermarket, of course, the selection of food is smaller than it used to be six, eight weeks ago. But you get basic supplies, yes, you can easily get that. There are no problems with that. So we are seeing some shortages of specific medicines, which are not being delivered. We have seen many shops actually closed down. But you can clearly survive here in the state and there is no problems with that.

KING: As you know, Ukrainian and Russian delegations meeting in Istanbul today, both sides saying the tone was a little better, and they're talking about some progress. You tweeted last hour about the peace talks. In order to make a deal, you need to trust the person you're making a deal with. Can anyone say they can be absolutely sure that Putin will keep his word? I will remind you that a week before the war, he was saying he wasn't going to attack Ukraine, everything you say there is true. And yet and yet, do you see any path out of this other than negotiation?

SOVSUN: Well, I will be the pessimistic voice in that, frankly speaking, because unfortunately, I do not. I believe that the Russians are using the negotiations and the talks in order to regroup their forces. They're saying that they will take the troops away from the city of Kyiv. They have actually corrected that statement as a bit later. They said that, and I would quote here, Mr. Madinsky, who said the escalation in the Kyiv and Chernihiv directions does not mean a ceasefire. And that means -- and that is what we're seeing here right now is there is no ceasefire.

But we believe here that they will move the troops to Donbass region. And that is not, you know, how you build trust. If you just move with the same troops just to a different area where they have made bigger progress at around Kyiv, that is not the basis for, for trust in those negotiations yet again.

So I'm afraid and I'm saying that with very heavy heart, that the way to resolve this issue is militarily, unfortunately. I wish there were a diplomatic solution. But the diplomatic solutions that I've been proposed, I just, you know, the ceasefire that will lead to yet another war in a month, a year or eight years from the day that those are signed.

KING: Inna Sovsun, Member of Parliament, grateful for your perspective and an admirer of your courage as you stay in Kyiv throughout this. Appreciate your time. We'll stay in touch.

SOVSUN: Thank you. Thanks.

KING: Thank you.


Ahead for us, the latest from the Ukraine battlefield and what to watch for as Russia again says it will produce military activities in Kyiv and to the north in Chernihiv.


KING: Russia says it is pulling forces back from the Kyiv area and senior U.S. officials say they do believe there could be a major strategy shift afoot not just an effort to regroup. The Pentagon today says it sees more of a Russian focus to the south and to the east.


JOHN KIRBY, PENTAGON PRESS SECRETARY: Certainly they've got a reprioritization in the east and they have stalled in the south. That's really interesting because in the early days, that's where they were making the most progress. Now the Ukrainians are clawing back territory in the south as well.


KING: The former NATO Supreme Allied Commander, retired Four-Star General Wesley Clark joins us now to share his expertise and perspective. General, grateful for your time. Russia says, Russia says, an emphasis on Russia says because I know we need to put proof to it, that it's going to pull back here in this part of the country where it is was trying to get to Kyiv and as suffered heavy casualties and fierce resistance. It says it's going to pull back and the Pentagon believes it will focus on other parts of the country. Number one, do you believe it but more importantly, number two, from your perspective and your experience, what do you watch for? Where is the proof?

GEN. WESLEY CLARK (RET.), FORMER NATO SUPREME ALLIED COMMANDER, EUROPE: Yes, well, I think the first point is that the Russians tried to eat the elephant in one bite, and they couldn't do it. The Ukrainians always told us they didn't have enough force to conquer the country at once. The Ukrainians were right. So the Russians are engaged in too many places. They're going to pull the forces, some of the forces out of the north. Not all those forces are going to move into Belarus and reorganize.

In the meantime, what they're going to try to do is shift the main effort to isolating and encircling the group of Ukrainian forces that are holding the eastern oblast, the Donbass, try to encircle those forces and destroy them. When Mariupol falls if it does, those Mariupol forces will join that encirclement. And then, when that's completed, they've got a choice of either going after Odessa or going north and trying to finish the encirclement of Kyiv. So these are operational decisions that the Russians will make based on the circumstances at the time.


But there's -- what's important to note for our viewers is that there's no change in Putin's desire to eat the whole elephant. And you hear the diplomacy, the talks about maybe there's going to be a peace talk prior, blah, blah. This is part of the Russian strategy. They want to forestall the assistance that the Ukrainians need. The Ukrainians produce no ammunition. They can't manufacture anything in that country with Russian airstrikes. The Russians are building up their forces. And if the Ukrainians don't get the support they need from the West, then the end is a foregone conclusion. And it is not in the interest of NATO to allow this to happen.

KING: Well, to that point, not in the interest of NATO to allow this to happen. We learned just today that there are some Ukrainian forces across the border in Poland getting training from U.S. and other NATO assets. One of the weapons being provided is the Javelin, an anti-tank guided missile that can be fired from the shoulder, also Stinger missiles which can be used as lower level anti-aircraft air defense system there. Just from your perspective as the former NATO Supreme Allied Commander, how quickly, how quickly can you train up a Ukrainian service member who is probably used to using Russian made equipment to use this?

CLARK: A few days, three days, five days of training, these guys are going to be ready to go in there. But John, these are essentially defensive weapons. We started giving these to the Ukrainians when we thought they might only last for three or four days against the Russian forces. In order to stand against the Russians assault, they need armored forces, they need long range artillery, they need more artillery ammunition, they need armored vehicles, they need air support. And that's the stuff that we can't provide. We don't have the right armored vehicles, the right artillery, the right ammunition for them, that has to come from our East European allies. And we've got to get them to belly up to the bar and start providing it because Ukrainian success on the battlefield is certainly in the interest of Romania, Bulgaria, Poland, Slovakia, Hungary, and the rest of these countries and they've got to start giving that support much more generously.

KING: General Clark as always, appreciate your insights. We'll watch to see if that happens in the important days ahead. And we'll continue the conversation.

Up next for us, President Biden's morning strategy call with top European allies and what he calls now, his moral outrage at Vladimir Putin.



KING: Any minute now we're expecting to hear from President Biden at the White House. He is meeting right now and will speak soon with Singapore's Prime Minister. Last hour, Biden said Russia is testing the world order.


JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Our rule based order is facing unprecedented challenges, Russia's unprovoked and unjustified war against Ukraine is an urgent threat to both Europe and I believe to the Indo Pacific as well.


KING: Just before that meeting, the President spoke this morning with the leaders of France, Germany, United Kingdom, and Italy to discuss the next steps on this, now day 34 of the Russian invasion of Ukraine. With me to share the reporting and their insights, Laura Barron-Lopez of POLITICO, Olivier Knox of The Washington Post, and Sabrina Siddiqui of The Wall Street Journal. We just got the readout from the U.K. at 10 Downing Street of this call. And the language suggests where the leaders understand we're in this for the long haul, not only does it condemn Russian barbarism says Western resolve must stay until the horror inflicted on the Ukrainian people is ended.

It talks about, we must judge Putin's regime by their actions, not their words. Putin is twisting the knife in the open wound of Ukraine. That seems to be an effort by the U.K. Prime Minister to say, I don't believe this optimistic tone coming out of the Istanbul talks, prove it.

OLIVIER KNOX, NATIONAL POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT, THE WASHINGTON POST: Yes. That's right. There's a trust but verify readout from the British, saying that they're not going to take the bait on the Russians announcing a recalibration of their military operation away from the Ukrainian capital of Kyiv. It's a -- they're sorting this, they're not going to take the bait on those comments about the negotiations. It is very much a -- we're still on this, we're full speed ahead. And by the way, we may be in this for a very long haul, because a lot of the steps that the West or the United States and its allies are announcing are actually really hard to unravel down the road.

KING: Steps like kicking Russia completely out of the World Trade Organization, any -- out of the G8, any international architecture, G20 --

KNOX: Well, especially the World Trade Organization, like imagine so it's taking acts of Congress or legislatures around the world to do this, to suspend them or expel them. When and how do you generate the political will to let them back in after everything you've seen in Eastern Europe over the past while either year or the past eight years?

KING: And the challenge for the President has been if Putin as he does, says, oh, I'm going to pull back from Kyiv. Oh, diplomacy is making progress. Everybody should back off is keeping everybody together. That's why I found the energy line in the U.K. readout so important. Because Putin's guess has been at some point, the Europeans will feel too much pain, because they get so much energy from Russia and pull out which is why the President says his phone call, keep everybody on the same page.

LAURA BARRON-LOPEZ, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Keep everyone on the same page. Keep them moving towards a direction where they're less reliant on Russia, period. You know, this comes off the trip where Biden was over there talking to E.U., talking to NATO, trying to move them in a direction where they were less dependent on Russian oil and starting to move them towards natural gas and U.S. providing more exports. So that is something that Biden is going to have to be focused on and making sure that all the steps that they've taken along the way including the U.S. steps that they don't just roll them back right away to Olivier's point because of the fact that that they aren't sure how no one thinks that Putin is trustworthy and that these comments are should be taken, you know, as such.


SABRINA SIDDIQUI, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: And certainly Biden administration officials I've spoken to say they've seen no evidence that Russia is earnestly engaging in peace talks. We heard Secretary of State Antony Blinken say there is what Russia says and what Russia does. And I think there's questions around whether this recalibration is actually an effort to conceal some other potential military action by Moscow. Is it simply because of the unexpected military losses that the Russians have suffered from?

And so I think there are very clear questions that the Biden administration has about whether there -- we are actually on any kind of path toward a resolution to this conflict. And then we've also just heard the Biden administration take a really tough line to President calling Putin a war criminal, of course, saying that he, Putin cannot remain in power, even if they say they're not advocating for regime change, that really creates a landscape where it's hard to see the U.S. easing any sanctions against Russia anytime soon. If anything, it really just escalates the rhetoric and furthers their efforts to make Putin the pariah on the world stage.

KING: And to that point, today's phone call also serves the purpose for the President of the United States saying no harm done from those remarks you're talking about, where there was a lot of anxiety around the world. What did he mean? Was the United States going on the record in favor of regime change when he said, my God, this man cannot remain in power? So the President has the phone call with the key allies. I'd say we're still together. We're still together, even if they might not like the words I chose. And then yesterday, he came out to explain himself saying, and he said he was not backtracking. He said he did not make a mistake. He said this.


BIDEN: And I'm not walking anything back. The fact of the matter is I was expressing the more outrage I felt toward the way Putin is dealing in the actions of this man, which is just brutality. I want to make it clear, I wasn't then nor am I now articulating a policy change. I was expressing more outrage that I feel and I make no apologies for it.


KING: You can certainly understand the moral outrage. He had just been in Poland. He saw firsthand the refugee crisis. He has studied this. Has access to information, none of us have. That still was, he says he's not walking it back. He was cleaning it up.

KNOX: He was cleaning it up. Look, there are a couple audiences for this statement and I actually don't think that Putin is one of them. The President after all, has called him a killer, a war criminal, a butcher, the leader of a paranoid regime, and said at least, on at least two occasions, that Putin doesn't have a soul. OK? He's not looking to spare Vladimir Putin's feelings.

But there are two audiences here. One is the American people who tell pollsters and poll after poll that they're worried about a widening of the U.S. military role in the war in Ukraine. The other is, all the third parties on the world stage, the India's, the China's, and South Africa's, maybe even the Israelis, a lot of people who are watching this, who have not openly condemned Russia for its invasion.

And who by the way, remember how frequently America turns to regime change as its policies, whether it's in Panama, or in Iraq, or Afghanistan, or the big one, Libya, where Barack Obama actually used NATO airpower to ultimately help the rebels there, take out Muammar Gaddafi.

KING: And you can see how important this was to the White House. Look, this is a President throughout his career, sometimes it's charming, sometimes it gets him into trouble. He does speak off the cuff quite a bit. And sometimes his tongue, as I say, it happens to me on my live television every day gets out ahead of your brain. It can happen. It's called being human. You can see the President had these notes yesterday, when he went out there essentially the White House putting for him, you know, that you're going to get asked this question. If you -- weren't advocating for regime change, what did you mean? Can you clarify? And the President then you see on this note card here, he has his answer. This was very important to him to Olivier's points, let's set the record straight.

BARRON-LOPEZ: Right. And also not on the note card but he did mention this yesterday to your point, John, was that he had just come from the refugee camp, where he was holding children and he was talking to mothers who were crying about the devastation that was wrought in Ukraine. And so clearly, his emotion got the best of him because it was not in his prepared statement, the line that he made, and that's why the White House in the days right after and then in his comments yesterday felt the need to really clarify that this is not a policy, policy change whatsoever.

KING: And you see these numbers. Olivier just mentioned the concerns of Americans cost of goods, of gasoline will increase. That's one there. War will involve nuclear weapons. That's a huge concern. But the last one, U.S. will send American troops to Ukraine, 74 percent. The President is trying to say I got this. It's hard. But it's not going to involve U.S. boots.

SIDDIQUI: Right. And the President has been clear that there is no intention to send U.S. troops into Ukraine. They've obviously continued to roll out a no fly zone. And again, reiterating that there is no change in U.S. policy when it comes to regime change. Certainly no attempt here to brought into conflict. But that is still a concern given the escalatory rhetoric that we saw from the President of the United States himself.

KING: Appreciate everybody coming in.


Up next for us, oil markets respond sharply to Russia's war that it will drastically reduce its military involvement in two major Ukrainian cities that's possibly, possibly could change gas prices. That's next.


KING: Oil prices dipped below $100 a barrel earlier today. That as negotiations between Ukraine and Russia appeared to grow at least a bit more substantive. Russia said it would dial back its assault in parts of Ukraine briefly sending prices tumbling as much as 7 percent before they rose again, and continued uncertainty over the next steps in the war.

The FDA today authorizing a second COVID booster shots for adults 50 and older. The move will allow those eligible to get another shot of either Pfizer or Moderna vaccines as soon as four months after their first booster. The CDC is expected to approve the authorization but is not expected to officially recommend those shots. [13:00:06]

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