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Stanislav Horuna is Interviewed about Fighting Russia; Biden and NATO Leaders May Meet in Person; Kharkiv Struck 65 Times in One Day. Aired 8:30-9a ET

Aired March 15, 2022 - 08:30   ET



STANISLAV HORUNA, UKRAINIAN OLYMPIC KARATE MEDALIST, NOW FIGHTING AGAINST RUSSIA: And they hit sometimes around my city. And we cannot stay safe. Like, for example, before yesterday, at one military range, there was made a hit with missiles, and more than 35 people dead, and more than 100 injured.

BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN ANCHOR: Yes, we followed that very carefully. That not far from the Polish border, very close to Lviv as well.

HORUNA: Yes. Yes.

KEILAR: You said, Stanislav, that you're ready for the worst.

HORUNA: Of course.

KEILAR: And we've been speaking with a lot of people who are in your situation. You know, in peace time they're athletes or they're film students. And here they are having to make a decision about what they're going to accept. What is that, when you say you're preparing for the worst, I mean, have -- you must have thought about this possibility of what this could cost you and your family.

HORUNA: Those people who cannot fight, cannot help here with anything. It's better for them to be (INAUDIBLE) as far as possible. This is the best way for them to help the soldiers and volunteers to stand against because we don't need to take care of them. And those who can do something, of course, they stay and organize or fight or support each other or whatever.

KEILAR: I wonder --

HORUNA: That's what we are -- that's what do. Athletes -- many athletes from the whole Ukraine, we have some influence in supports here and actually we coordinate together and we ask international federations and -- including IOC, International Olympic Committee, to ban Russian and Belarusian athletes. That's what we can do. And of, course, using our social media, we support Ukraine and we tell to the world what is going on here.

KEILAR: And they listen to you because they know you. They've watched you compete. People are your fans. What is it like to represent your country in the Olympics and then watch it be invaded by Vladimir Putin as he argues that Ukraine is not even actually a country, that it doesn't have a national identity? What is that like?

HORUNA: It was -- in all my previous achievements, including bronze medal at the Olympics, it was like in the -- in the past life. And now for the last three weeks, I live just separate life, just as a regular soldier. And all previous achievements, they -- they don't matter. Same with the other athletes. We are all, like, just -- we just do some certain tasks and it doesn't matter who you was before, who you were before. We are all equal. And we just all work together, cooperate for the common result and for a common victory, of course.

KEILAR: I know you say, Stanislav, that everyone is doing it, but I have to tell you, it's -- it's pretty amazing to behold as you and Ukrainians step up to do this.

Stanislav Horuna, I want to thank you so much for being with us.

HORUNA: Thank you for inviting me. Thank you.

KEILAR: It's an extraordinary moment as the leaders of NATO could meet here in the coming weeks to discuss Russia's invasion of Ukraine.

Plus, new images from one Ukrainian city that the Russians have seized. What they are removing and who they are putting in place.



JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: All right, new this morning, police in Washington, D.C., arrested a suspect wanted in connection to at least five shootings of homeless men in both Washington, D.C., and New York City. The attacks, two of which were fatal, prompted an intense search with officials urging homeless individuals to seek shelter and offering a $70,000 reward for information. Police say ballistic evidence helped link the same gun to all five shootings.

KEILAR: There are new reports now that NATO leaders could meet next week -- as soon as next week, in what would be really an extraordinary session. This while multiple U.S. officials have confirmed that President Joe Biden is preparing to possibly travel to Europe next week, though both events have yet to be confirmed.

Let's talk about this with Julia Ioffe, the founding partner and Washington correspondent of Puck, and CNN global affairs analyst Susan Glasser.

This would be huge. Let's talk about what this meeting would signify. Assuming it moves forward, but obviously it appears to be in the works, what would this signify to you?

SUSAN GLASSER, CNN GLOBAL AFFAIRS ANALYST: Well, you know, look, we are gone from the heavily scripted days of, you know, pre-planned NATO summits years in advance. Like, this is -- the signal here is that this is a massive European and international emergency that's going to just rewrite what security looks like in Europe. Not just in the short-term of this war, but really in the long-term. We're just at a fundamentally different moment and I think there's no script yet for NATO in how to prepare for a longer-term confrontation with Russia.

KEILAR: What's the message that Vladimir Putin absorbs watching a hastily called NATO meeting?

JULIA IOFFE, FOUNDING PARTNER AND WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT, PUCK: That everybody's ganging up against him, which is the exact thing he was trying to avoid, right? Going into this war, all he kept talking about was the indivisibility of European security, i.e., he gets a say in security in the rest of Europe, he gets a say alongside NATO. Now the absolute opposite is happening. NATO is unified against him, shutting him out, punishing him.

KEILAR: Does it change anything to him, though? Does he change anything about how he's approaching Ukraine?

IOFFE: I think it makes it worse. I think it's the cornered animal situation. You know, his -- he's making his paranoid delusions a reality, so he's getting more and more paranoid and I think he's going to get more and more aggressive. And, sadly, I think it's Ukraine that's going to get the brunt of the punishment.

KEILAR: And we should also mention a stunning development that you have these prime ministers of three NATO countries, Poland, the Czech Republic, and Slovenia, and they're going to Kyiv.


They're going, Susan, into a war zone to meet with President Zelenskyy.

GLASSER: Yes, it's pretty remarkable. I mean this is, again, talk about off the script, this is a dramatic moment of eastern European solidarity against Putin. And, remember, that's exactly the reason why many of these countries decided to join -- and wanted to join NATO in the first place. It's a long, long history and memory of Russian aggression in the neighborhood.

And just to the point about Putin and NATO and the meeting right now, I think there's an extremely real risk that Putin is looking to escalate right now and believes that NATO and the United States are already parties to this conflict. Not only arming the Ukrainian military, resupplying them, but also declaring essentially economic war on Russia in ways that are having catastrophic impact.

KEILAR: I think every morning we wake up fearful of what has transpired in the hours before, right, in Ukraine. And I think we're at this moment that we should discuss about what this is going to look like in Kyiv. Two days' worth of a -- they're telling everyone they have to go inside. They can go to a bomb shelter, but there's a curfew there. What are you preparing to see? IOFFE: I think kind of what we saw in Mariupol, which is a siege, the

shelling and bombardment of civilian areas on purpose, a kind of war of attrition against the civilian population, it's what we saw the Russians help Assad do in Aleppo, it's what the Russians did under Vladimir Putin in Chechnya and Grozny. They are trying to get the population -- make the population so desperate that they pressure the government to capitulate. Because I don't think, to Susan's point, I don't think there's a way down from this for Putin.

KEILAR: General Kimmitt was just on with us, and he said, this is going to be the biggest urban warfare in history.

GLASSER: Yes, I think people are not really prepared yet for -- you know, we talk about the attacks on civilian populations and the brutality we've seen so far. This is nothing yet comparable to what Putin has already previously done and carried out in Grozny and Aleppo. So we're not actually at the point of the Grozny-fication of this war. And I really -- we're talking about a level of destruction that we just haven't seen in Europe in a long, long time.

KEILAR: And I think part of the reason -- look, Wesley Clark was on and he said, doing the curfew is an indication that there are already some Russian forces that have gotten in. And maybe not that many, but it's a way of saying, stay off the streets because we don't want you caught up in anything.

So, if that is where this is headed in this week, before this potential NATO meeting, how does that ramp up the pressure on NATO countries to do something? Does it change the equation?

IOFFE: I fear that just right now it doesn't yet. I think NATO is still going to stay on the sidelines of this, precisely because they don't want a direct military confrontation with Russia. It's the thing that everybody's been trying assiduously to avoid.

But what happens, for example, if Vladimir Putin uses chemical weapons in Kyiv or in Mariupol. We've seen him and his allies in Syria do the same. They're clearly preparing something, because they've been making a lot of noise at the U.N. and in the media that -- Kremlin-controlled media that the Ukrainians are -- have all these biological, chemical weapons, and that they're going to use them, which seems like fertile ground for a false flag operation.

So, what is NATO going to do if -- you know, it's one thing for sarin gas to be used on people in faraway Syria who are Muslim and who are of a different culture. What is Europe going to do when it's on European soil done to Europeans? Are they going to intervene? Are they going to keep standing back? And if they do intervene, how far are they willing to go? And are they willing to have a direct confrontation with Vladimir Putin, which is what he seems to want.

KEILAR: I want to play a moment that we saw -- well, we didn't see, but millions and millions of Russians saw it on state television. And this is a TV editor who actually works at Russia Channel 1, that's why she had access there to the set. And this says, no war. This is an anti-war message. And she's telling Russians, you're getting propaganda. You're getting lies here. What did you think of this moment, Julia?

IOFFE: Well, I thought it was incredibly brave. She did this knowing what the punishment is these days. The Russian parliament just passed a law that makes something like this punishable by up to 15 years in jail.

And what we're hearing this morning coming out of Moscow is that the police have not only arrested and charged her, but they're going with the maximum pressure, right, with the maximum punishment. The low end is a fine.

I think it was incredibly brave, but I don't know that this sets off something wider. And I don't know how many Russians actually saw that or are affected by it or are moved to think by it.


I worry that if she gets 15 years and is made an example of, that it prevents other people from doing the same.

KEILAR: Certainly getting a lot of attention here.

Susan, we're out of time. I owe you one, Susan Glasser, for next time.

Susan Glasser, Julia Ioffe, thank you so much to both of you.

Some disturbing new images just in of a Russian attack in Kharkiv as we're learning of 65 strikes in one day there.

Plus, the Ukrainian flag in Russian occupied Melitopol has been taken down and newly installed Russian-backed mayor ordered the broadcasting of Russian TV there. We'll have the latest on the ground.


BERMAN: All right, stunning new video just in to CNN. This is from the city of Kharkiv, in eastern Ukraine. You can see the destruction there. Officials say the city was struck 65 times yesterday alone.


That's 600 residential buildings that have been completely destroyed since the beginning of the war. You can hear blasts nearby as evacuations there are underway.


People take cover on the ground in the middle of the day.

Joining me now, CNN's senior global affairs analyst Bianna Golodryga.

Bianna, the mayor there says that these homes can never be repaired. That -- look at that. I mean how do you repair that? Fifty schools, hospitals destroyed. Just an incredible level of destruction.

BIANNA GOLODRYGA, CNN SENIOR GLOBAL AFFAIRS ANALYST: Yes, we're three weeks in and we're professionals, right, and it's hard not to still get emotional every single day when you watch images like this. And, clearly, these are not military targets. Whatever Russia is referring to this as, a special military operation, this is not. This is indiscriminate bombing meant to strike fear in the residents there. If you aren't going to give into us, and, you know, hand over control peacefully, this is the message that Russia is sending the rest of the country and the world that this is what they're capable of doing, Ukraine's second largest city, home to historic universities. So much rich history there and culture and you wouldn't know it just looking at this -- these images.

BERMAN: People need to imagine that this is their home.


BERMAN: How would you feel if this was your home, if that was where you lived underneath that twisted metal there. These are just, again, remarkable.

We have some other pictures which tell the story of what's happening in the country right now. This is in Melitopol, a city in the south under Russian occupation. This was the huge flag, the Ukrainian flag, flying there, taken down now in the city as Russian troops are there. And we're now told that the Russians who are trying to run things there are broadcasting Russian state television.

What does this say about the Russian hopes and plans for occupation?

GOLODRYGA: Well, this is the best that they can hope for. Remember, this is the eastern part of the country, Kharkiv in the north and Melitopol in the south in the Zaporizhzhia region. This is a Russian- speaking area and part of the country. And as you see that Ukrainian flag go down, know that there were thousands of protesters that took to the streets when they saw that. Not in the support of the flag going down, but in support of that flag remaining up.

Their mayor also kidnapped, right, by the hands of the Russians, Ivan Fedorov, and he was replaced by a former deputy council member there in the city who quickly came -- when she came into power -- there you see video of him being kidnapped, walked out there by Russian troops.

President Zelenskyy, we should note in his conversation with the Israeli Prime Minister Bennett had specifically mentioned this mayor's case and called for Bennett to put as much pressure as possible on Vladimir Putin to have him released.

But the new mayor, the new mayor that's been installed quickly wanting to turn on Russian propaganda and Russian state television there, for Russian speaking viewers.

BERMAN: Bianna Golodryga, I really appreciate you being with us, helping us understand what we're seeing in all of these devastating images.

GOLODRYGA: Of course.

BERMAN: So, the Ukrainian postal service honoring the soldiers of Snake Island who told a Russian warship go f yourselves.

Plus, what happened when young Ukrainian refugees entered their new school in Italy.



KEILAR: Time now for "The Good Stuff."

A heartwarming welcome for two Ukrainian refugee children starting their first day of school in Italy.


KEILAR: As 10-year-old Dmitry and eight-year-old Victoria nervously made their way through the front doors, there they were welcomed by a crowd of more than 200 students and teachers who had erupted into cheers while waving blue and yellow Ukrainian flags. This is a video that went viral. It was first posted on Sunday and has since been viewed more than 400,000 times.

BERMAN: A little bit of a different kind of "Good Stuff" here.

Ukraine has introduced a new postage stamp to honor the Snake Island soldiers who defied a Russian warship with swearing when the war began.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): I am repeating, I am Russian military ship, propose to put down arms or you will be hit.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): Russian warship, go (EXPLETIVE DELETED) yourself.


BERMAN: So, the stamp design was the landslide winner of a competition to honor the 13 brave Ukrainian soldiers who told that Russian warship, go f yourself. It shows a soldier standing to Snake Island giving the finger to the warship.

Now, these soldiers were initially feared dead, but the Ukrainian navy later said they were alive, they were forced to surrender due to lack of ammunition. You know, Brianna, in the U.S. we have commemorative stamps like the Snoopy stamps. You know, honey, go by me some of the Snoopy stamps. They can say, you know, honey, go buy me the go f yourself stamps, Russian war ships.

KEILAR: A sign -- a sign of your love and affect.

But, so, the one they picked, to be clear, is the one where the -- this one, right?

BERMAN: Yes. We have -- we have tastefully blurred out the middle finger.

KEILAR: We blurred it out.

BERMAN: Through we repeatedly say, go f yourself, Russian warships. But the -- the middle finger there, God forbid anyone see that right there.

KEILAR: I will tell you, I did love the video with the little kids because I just can't imagine how nerve-wracking that is for -- I think it's wonderful they got back in school so quickly. But I just -- oh, they must have been all nerves. And then to have their classmates welcome them in, it must have been a beautiful thing for the students.


BERMAN: Look, and we're seeing this reaction across Europe, which is a different reaction than we've seen in past waves of refugees. I know there is so much need right now, and this has got to be welcome to those families. Very nice to see that.

CNN's coverage continues right now.