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Ukraine: Russian Assault On Country's East Already Underway; Russian Shelling Batters East9 & South Ukraine; Putin Taps "The Butcher Of Syria" To Lead War; Satellite Images Show 8-Mile-Long Russian Convoy In East; Austrian Chancellor Delivers Direct, "Tough" Message To Putin; Zelenskyy: Our Survival Depends On U.S. Help; French Elections May Potentially Fracture NATO Unity On Ukraine; Biden Meets With Modi As India Refrains From Condemning Russia; Rep. Cheney: Strike On Train Station "Clearly Is Genocide". Aired 12-12:30p ET

Aired April 11, 2022 - 12:00   ET



JOHN KING, CNN HOST, INSIDE POLITICS: Hello, and welcome to Inside Politics. I'm John King in Washington. Thank you for sharing your day with us. This hour fear and anticipation. A massive Russian assault on eastern Ukraine is coming, already shelling overnight in Kharkiv. scorched buildings, debris spilling out from shattered windows, at least 11 are dead. The destruction, you see it there the byproduct of at least 66, 66 rocket launchers.

Outside the city, satellite images tell us Vladimir Putin has assembled an eight-mile-long convoy of Russian tanks and artillery. Inside the city, the mayor says Moscow is deploying new and deadly weaponry, bombs, he says on time delay to maximize the number of people they kill.

In Dnipro, plumes of smoke, mark another Russian attack. This one on that city's airport. Across Ukraine, towns turned to junkyard. Look right there. This is from Irpin, a Kyiv suburb, corpses of cars torch, stacked one on top of the other.

Today in invasion first. Austria's chancellor meets in person with Vladimir Putin. He is the first western leader to get an in-person audience with Putin since Russian forces breached Ukraine's border 47 days ago. Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelenskyy says, he is ready to give his life for his country if necessary, and today, he wants thousands already have inside Mariupol.


PRES. VOLODYMYR ZELENSKYY, UKRAINE: Mariupol lives destroyed, tens of thousands have been killed there, and still the Russians won't end their offensive. They want to make an example out of Mariupol as a city ruined.


KING: Let's begin live in Lviv, Ukraine with CNN's Phil Black. Phil, what's the latest?

PHIL BLACK, CNN CORRESPONDENT: John, a senior adviser to the Ukrainian government said today that this new Russian operation in the east is already underway. And he says that's because there has already been a notable increase in shelling and bombardment across the three key regions in the east, Kharkiv, Luhansk and Donetsk.

He says residential areas are already being hit very hard at Kyiv battle points. And he said there is already a noticeable increase in the numbers of Russian troops and hardware moving into position in these regions. What they are now expecting is a push by these Russian forces to try and drive forward and break through Ukraine's defensive positions in order to expand their control of territory across a wide area.

Before that happens, the focus from the Ukrainian point of view is encouraging, helping people to leave, thousands of people to leave these regions as quickly as possible while they still can. Mariupol, which you touched on is an example of a encircled city where the civilian population was not able to leave.

And you're right today, President Zelenskyy has given a grim assessment of the likely death toll from that siege. He says tens of thousands of people have died since the bombardment and the blockade started there back in March. It is impossible to verify that number, but we do know that much of the city has been damaged or destroyed, a city that once had a population of around half a million people, John?

KING: Phil Black, live for us on the ground in Lviv, sober reporting. Phil, grateful for it. Thank you very much. With me in studio to share his insights, retired Major General, CNN military analyst, James 'Spider' Marks. General Marks, good to have you today. You just heard Phil Black laid out Kharkiv attacks there, Luhansk and Donetsk viewed to be the next fronts in this war.

What will be different about a major offensive for Russia here in the east? Where you see A, a lot of red towns they've already places they've seized since the war began 47 days ago. But also, the striped areas, Russia's health Crimea for eight years, there are pro-Russian separatists in this part of the country, the Donbass for eight years, plus Russian forces as well. What makes that different in terms of Ukraine to protect its territory has to push out Russians, not just keep them away?

MAJ. GEN. JAMES 'SPIDER' MARKS, U.S. ARMY (RET.): Oh, absolutely. John. First of all, thank you for having me. Yes. Let's kind of review the bidding, if you will. Russians have departed from the Kyiv area. They're now moving down here, as we've seen with some of the recent imagery that we've been able to get our hands on. What has been happening in particular is most of the fighting has been taking place in that area, in this particular region of Ukraine. What this has become now, John, is this is the primary effort. All of this activity, the movement of forces in this direction, reposition of forces to take advantage of some of this open terrain. This is much more open terrain. These are supporting activities for the primary effort down here.


What is going to happen most importantly, is the Ukrainians have - the Ukrainians understand this train probably better than the Russians do. This is a home game for them. And this is wide-open terrain. So, the advantage goes to those that can bring the most speed and the most firepower into that. And obviously, the Russians have just moved their new commander to the area, the Butcher of Syria.

Now, this commander---

KING: He's been in Mariupol.

GEN. MARKS: Yes, he has. Yes, sir, he's been there for a while.

KING: So, why does it matter that he's now essentially in charge of the next chapter?

GEN. MARKS: Yes. It's important because with all of the other supporting efforts that we were just talking about, this now is the primary effort for the Russians. He has overall command and control, not only of this region, but he can give directives in terms of what other supporting activities are necessary to support him. The Russians have not had that previously.

KING: And that one of the things we do know, as much as we saw coming into Kyiv. Now, we have coming near Kharkiv, this long eight-mile Russian convoy. There's tanks, there's artillery, there's support vehicles, there's support forces. The Ukrainians were highly successful in stopping the movement of this, and then disrupting it with limited attacks. What should the Ukrainians be doing if Putin is trying to essentially backup his forces in the east and the southeast with this convoy?

GEN. MARKS: Yes. What's important now is that we have the intelligence to see this, the Ukrainians are getting this information. This becomes very targetable. This is GPS locations. These are eight and 10 digits, so you can bring precision fire on each one of these targets. The Ukrainians were very successful about a week and a half ago going after that oil depot in Russia. This needs---

KING: Just across the border here? That one, yes. Right.

GEN. MARKS: It was right here at Belgorod. So, those kinds of deep strikes need to be repeated. And Ukrainians have the capacity to do that. Takes a lot of planning. You have to suppress air defense capabilities. But you can bring capabilities in and go after those and disrupt that supply line before it can influence the fight that's going to take place - the continuing flight that's now increasing down in this region.

KING: You mentioned suppress air defense capabilities. We know, we've previously reported. The United States has deployed some of these EA- 18G Growler to the region, to NATO countries, to NATO bases. They are not supposed to be - the President Biden says, U.S. will not cross into Ukraine. But if you have this air suppression technology, can you use it in the neighborhood? If you will, in a way that helps the Ukrainians if the fight shifts over here, as the fight shifts over here?

GEN. MARKS: The short answer is, yes, there really are two pieces to it. Number one, the EA-18G Growler is never going to put be put underneath some other nations command and control. The United States will control this. The other thing is, if you go back here, you can see that, you know, the Russians have - they've put their - they've got a lot of their fleet activity.

Yes, I'm sorry, John. They've got a lot of their fleet. The Russians have fleet in the Black Sea. We can fly those aircraft into these international waters to influence the flight that's going on. We also would get some additional good intelligence on this activity.

KING: General Marks, grateful for your time, sir.

GEN. MARKS: Thank you, John.

KING: Thank you very much. Up next for us. Austria's chancellor visits Vladimir Putin in Moscow and says he delivered a tough message. He's the first European leader to meet face to face with Putin since Russia's invasion of Ukraine began.




KING: Today Austria's chancellor is in Moscow for an invasion first, a face to face with Vladimir Putin. Chancellor Karl Nehammer recalls his 75 minutes session with the Russian president, "direct, open and tough." And he says, he delivered a clear message that the war must end and that there are only losers in this conflict. Let's discuss, Angela Stent, is a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution. She's also the author of "Putin's World: Russia Against the West and With the Rest."

Angela Stent, grateful for your time today. I know from our previous conversations you see zero evidence of Vladimir Putin is interested in diplomacy or changing course at this moment. But is there value in such a meeting? Is there a value for a European leader to sit across the table, and say, you are morally wrong, you are morally losing, and the world is against you?

ANGELA STENT, SENIOR FELLOW, BROOKINGS INSTITUTION: Well, I suppose to have some marginal value, because at least the European leader can feel that he's, you know, delivered an important message and make sure that Putin is hearing it on the assumption that none of the people around Putin are telling him this. But the question is, is Putin going to believe it? Is it going to make any difference to the way that he's thinking?

And if you look at what's happening now, preparing for an assault on the Donbass region, appointing this new commander Dvornikov, the Butcher of Syria. There really doesn't look as if there's any intention on the part of the Kremlin at the moment to offer diplomacy as opposed to continuing and intensifying this war.

KING: President Zelenskyy, clearly agrees with you. I want you to listen to a bit of his remarkable interview with CBS 60 minutes that aired last night, in which he says, it's about to get worse and his direct appeal to the United States is more help fast.


PRES. ZELENSKYY: We think this will be a new wave of this war. We don't know how much Russian weaponry there will be. But we understand there'll be many times more than there is now. All depends on how fast we will be helped by the United States. To be honest, whether we will be able to survive depends on this.



KING: The White House, other NATO government say, they are doing all they can to get heavy weapons, including some tanks, some anti- aircraft systems, and to deliver them as soon as possible. President Zelenskyy, I get the politics of this and the military imperative of this, keeps saying he needs more though.

STENT: Yes. Well, I'm sure that he's also listening to the reports that our own intelligence and NATO intelligence is giving him that, you know, this assault is going to get worse, that things are going to get worse. And I think he believes that more could be done. I think one can also go back and say, maybe we should have started doing more earlier when this war began, but he said it quite plainly in that extraordinary interview, without NATO and American arms, Ukraine wouldn't be able to push the Russians back as it's able to do at the moment.

KING: One of the remarkable things the past 47 days, plus the weeks before the Russian invasion was that the west has been able to stick together, maybe not giving Zelenskyy everything he wants, but the NATO allies have tried to help as much as they can. There is an election underway in France.

President Macron will now face off in the final run off against Marine Le Pen, who for years has been a fan of Vladimir Putin, who's campaigned her party, took a big loan from a Russian bank not that long ago. What would happen if somehow Marine Le Pen won the French election?

STENT: This is a scenario we hardly like to contemplate. But if she were to win, and there was only I think, three percentage points between them yesterday, there will be a runoff. She has made it quite clear. Her party is anti-NATO. It's also anti-European Union. And she has said very favorable things about Vladimir Putin. As you said, she tell her party has taken money from Russian banks.

And just a couple of weeks ago, she said, if this war stops, then Russia can be our great ally again, Putin can be our great ally. So, you would probably have a fracture of the western unity over how to deal with Russia over the Ukraine crisis.

France is a major European player if he opts out of supporting this coalition that could have serious ramifications for some of the other countries in NATO, for instance, like Hungary, that are much more pro- Russian, and would - don't like the sanctions and things like that. So, it would have very serious consequences. For you know, the future cohesion of the alliance and the ability really to push back on Russia.

KING: Something to watch as we most importantly, keep our attention on the battlefield in Ukraine. Angela Stent, as always grateful for your time and your insights. Appreciate it very much. Heavy shelling by Russian forces as they focus on the east ahead. We'll speak with the former President of Ukraine about how much more his country can endure and what it needs most.




KING: Just last hour, President Biden met virtually with the Prime Minister of India. Prime Minister Modi. This critical meeting comes as India has refrained from calling out Russia for its brutal war in Ukraine. Minister Modi condemned the killing of civilians in the Ukrainian city of Bucha. But listen, doesn't mention Russia at all.


VOICE OF NARENDRA MODI, INDIAN PRIME MINISTER: The killings of innocent civilians in the Bucha city was very worried. We instantly condemned the killings and have called for an independent inquiry.


KING: With me to share their reporting and their insights, CNN's MJ Lee, CNN's Manu Raju, and Vivian Salama of The Wall Street Journal. President Modi there, if you were just following - just tuning in today. Oh, it sounds like he's horrified. It sounds like he's mad about this.

But Vivian, I saw a tweet from you yesterday on this subject. India has abstained from the vote to suspend Russia from the Human Rights Council, abstained from the vote condemning Russia for the invasion, abstained from a vote at the United Nations calling for an emergency session on the Russian invasion. And it also has been gobbling up at a lower price, Russian oil.

VIVIAN SALAMA, NATIONAL SECURITY REPORTER, THE WALL STREET JOURNAL: I mean, not only gobbling up we're talking 13 million barrels of Russian crude since the war began nearly two months ago. Last year, India got 16 million. So, imagine that, you know, almost the same amount in just a month and a half or so, to show that India is definitely accelerating the pace of its imports of Russian oil, something that has gotten the White House very, very disappointed, very angry.

They're trying to play it off, because they believe that India is a very important ally, and they want to maintain that relationship. But behind closed doors, those conversations were definitely tough between President Biden and Prime Minister Modi, and they are trying to make sure that India knows, they have alternatives to Russian crude. And so, here we are, you know, President Biden, leaving the cards on the table saying that the ball is in India's court. But whether or not the act is another story.

MANU RAJU, CNN CHIEF CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: India is actually in a tough spot here because historically they have relied on Russia. They've been allied with Russia, or to the cold war they were allied with Russia, well the United States is allied with Pakistan at the time. And now, India relies on Russia for helping, combating Chinese aggression. Of course, China is its neighbor, and they need - they purchase arms from Russia and Russia is a critical ally.

So, Modi is in a difficult position here because if you were to come out and criticize Putin and say that they are mounting, they're genocide, or it's a war criminal or taking any sort of rhetoric, even close to what the west is doing, that could hurt him with the key ally here. So, which is why they're maintaining this position, this puts some kind of in an awkward position.


KING: And which is why I suspect, and you cover the White House, so help me here. President Biden was very polite in his public have comments when reporters had access to it, saying it's a good friendship, it's a developing friendship, it's getting better. I look forward to seeing you soon. There's a meeting coming up I believe in Japan.

Publicly, President Biden did not want to fight with Prime Minister Modi. But to Vivian's point in private, they get the strategic complications, Manu just mentioned. But they also would like Modi to maybe help them some. If he can't help them fully, help them some.

MJ LEE, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: That's right. And particularly on the oil front, this is a complicated position for the White House to be in because they know that it's not just India that remains dependent on Russian oil and energy. Some of our, the U.S. is E.U. allies remain dependent on Russian energy. And this administration has said in the past, look, we understand the steps that we can take on the Russian energy front. We know that those same steps cannot be taken by some of our European allies, because it dependency there is so great. I think the space to watch though, as far as this White House is concerned, you know, they've made very clear any country including some of our allies, and friends, if they take any steps to essentially be a bad actor on the Russia front, whether it is evading sanctions or helping Russia evade sanctions, there are going to be consequences. You have to wonder for a country like India, where the U.S. India relationship is considered so important. What do those consequences look like?

KING: And so, part of the calculation is presence in this tough conversation with this Prime Minister of India. Then the question is, what next from the Biden administration? As you heard President Zelenskyy again last night, saying thank you for everything you've done, but I still need more.

And he would like the United States, he would like President Biden to go beyond what he's been willing to do, whether it's a no-fly zone, or whether it's humanitarian court or whether it's clearing the way to get some more MiG fighter jets in. And you have Liz Cheney now, one of the leading Republicans on national security issues and Congress saying, I see this, and it is historically bad.


REP. LIZ CHENEY (R-WY): I think this clearly is genocide. Europe needs to understand and grapple with the fact that you've got a genocidal campaign. The first kind of horrific genocidal campaign that that we've seen certainly in recent decades.


KING: Here, I say Europe has to grapple. That's part of the message, you know, those European countries, you noted, Germany, and others, Russian gas, Russian oil, Russian coal. A lot of them have already said, no more coal. Now some of them are debating oil, gas is the big moneymaker. The question is, is the United States and the European allies are they now on day 47, willing to take this higher, to try to hurt Putin? And yes, for yourself in the process?

SALAMA: This is something that is in ongoing discussions. I was with Secretary of State Blinken last week at NATO headquarters and behind closed doors, definitely pressing allies to accelerate their timeline, their commitment to stopping or tapering down their imports of Russian gas and oil. And this is a big problem, a sticking point with the Europeans.

But at the end of the day, the Biden administration also has its own limits. You know, we talk about genocide that just happened, a potential genocide, as a lot of lawmakers are saying, you talk about what happened in Bucha with these atrocities that are coming to light before our eyes. And whether or not, the administration can do anything further, that is short of intervention and involvement that doesn't lead to World War III.

As President Biden has repeatedly said. And so, this is something they continue to grapple with, because they are trying to find that sweet spot of addressing the problem, really hammering Russia but not getting sucked into a brutal conflict that would involve U.S. troops at the end of day.

RAJU: In trying to maintain that unity, which has been the challenge all along. Well, folks like Liz Cheney, wanting to go further, call it a genocide. That's not where the rest of Europe is necessarily on this right now. And rhetorically, strategically, and also economically, they have tried to maintain this alliance, and that's taken some time. And that's led to the frustration of members of Congress.

KING: All right. Let's take a quick break. Our reporters will be back with us on another subject in just a few minutes. But ahead, we'll speak to the former president of Ukraine.