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New Day Saturday

Ukrainian FM: Residential Block in Kyiv Struck by Missile or Rocket; Battle for Kyiv Underway as Russian Troops Close in on Capital; Biden Nominates Ketanji Brown Jackson to Supreme Court; Delta Severs Ties with Russia's Flagship Carrier Aeroflot; Ukrainians Fight to Keep Control of Kyiv; Russian NHL Star Alex Ovechkin Condemns War Against Ukraine. Aired 6-7a ET

Aired February 26, 2022 - 06:00   ET




CHRISTI PAUL, CNN ANCHOR: We're always so grateful to have you with us. Welcome to your "NEW DAY." I'm Christi Paul.

BORIS SANCHEZ, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning, Christi. I'm Boris Sanchez.

PAUL: Let's talk about what's happening this morning and I want to show you some of it right now.

Missile strikes, lighting up the skies overnight. This over the capital of Kyiv as war is ravaging the country's largest city. We're talking about nearly 3 million people there.


That shot that you're seeing there is from a security camera that caught the moment, a missile hit an apartment building there in Kyiv. According to the Ukrainian Interior Ministry, active fighting is still taking place on the streets and an adviser to President Volodymyr Zelensky says police are working against Russian sabotage and reconnaissance groups that are inside the capital.

Now, Defense official tells CNN, U.S. intelligence believes the city will fall in days. But President Zelensky, he's refusing to leave the Ukraine. Embassy in Britain reports that he told the U.S., quote, "The fight is here. I need ammunition, not a ride." That was his response when the U.S. offering to evacuate him.

SANCHEZ: President Zelensky sent out this rallying cry just a short time ago.


VOLODYMYR ZELENSKY, PRESIDENT OF UKRAINE (through translator): Good morning, Ukrainians. Currently, there are a lot of games appearing on the Internet, like that I am asking our army to put down arms and evacuate. So I am here. We are not putting down arms. We will be defending our country. Because our weapon is truth. And our truth is that this is our land, our country, our children, and we will defend all of this. That is it. That is all I wanted to tell you. Glory to Ukraine.


SANCHEZ: Meantime, the Russians continue to deny much of what is happening. The Ministry of Defense says that Russia is not targeting civilian infrastructure. Its media watchdog is threatening Russian news outlets banning them from using the words, attack, invasion or even declaration of war. Russia hasn't reported a single combat casualty so far. All of this despite a stream of social media videos, images and satellite pictures of shelled buildings and rockets in residential streets. British Defense officials meantime say that 450 Russian personnel have already been killed.


Ukraine's military says those blasts were part of an operation that destroyed Russian tanks. And sources say the Ukrainian resistance has been tougher than the Russians expected. This video showing the distribution of some of the 18,000 weapons that have been going to reservists in that country. We have correspondents covering the war from across Europe.

Natasha Bertrand is in Brussels, Belgium, following NATO's response. And Michael Holmes is in Lviv in the western part of Ukraine.

PAUL: Let's begin with CNN's Michael Holmes there. So Michael, talk to us about what you're learning regarding the fight for the capital at this hour. Last we heard Ukrainians were still in control. Does that seem to be the case?

MICHAEL HOLMES, CNN INTERNATIONAL ANCHOR: That is what they are saying. And yes, you pointed out the explosions around the city in the overnight and the early morning hours. Also, for the first time our teams in Kyiv, hearing automatic gunfire, suggesting, you know, street battles at least on the outskirts. But, yes, the government says that despite the fighting in several areas around the capital, the Ukrainian military is reporting that despite all of that, they're holding the Russian forces back. Of course, we can't independently confirm that.

The aim seems clear, though, surround the capital, pressure the government, or President Zelensky. A big question now will be what the Russians do next, do they stay outside, apply that pressure, or do they move in, in force.


Now, that, of course, could end up in a terrible situation for the civilian population. Urban warfare is messy, it is bloody, it inevitably ends in big casualties both military and civilian. I'm here in Lviv, in the western part of the country, not only are we seeing big numbers of people coming through from Kyiv and other parts of the country fleeing, heading for safety and places like Poland, Hungary, Romania, even Moldova. But we're also seeing heightened security in this city.

We've heard daily air raid - air raid sirens and calls for people to, you know, take cover. But nothing kinetic if you like. We've heard explosions outside the city but nothing in. But we are now seeing an increasing security presence inside the city. Soldiers are patrolling, they are being spot IDs at checks.

And then this morning, for the first time, security checkpoints on main roads manned by police and the territorial defense forces checking cars coming into the city. A big fear, authorities say is Russian infiltrators sneaking in. Saboteurs and the like as they described them. In Kyiv, authorities say infiltrators are already inside.

Now, meanwhile, I mentioned the now over 120,000 people who have fled their homes and their country with whatever they could carry. Actually, on my shows earlier, I was interviewing the United Nations deputy high commissioner for refugees and I asked whether a humanitarian disaster is now unfolding. And her answer was, it's not unfolding, it's already here. Christi, Boris?

SANCHEZ: Michael Holmes reporting from Lviv in Ukraine. Thank you so much.

Let's take you now to NATO headquarters in Brussels, Belgium and CNN's Natasha Bertrand.

Natasha, NATO is deploying security forces for the first time and it is history. Tell us about what they're planning.

NATASHA BERTRAND, CNN WHITE HOUSE REPORTER: That's right, Boris. So a really significant moment here where NATO has decided to activate that rapid response force in response to Russia's aggression towards Ukraine. We don't know exactly how many of those troops are actually going to be activating at this point because that force is actually about 40,000 forces. And that includes land forces, it includes maritime force, and of course airborne forces, also special operation forces.

Basically, making them ready to be called up at any moment, if they do need to be called up to protect those eastern flank NATO countries. But the NATO Supreme Allied Commander kind of walked through what this actually looks like.

He said, "They represent a flexible, combat credible force that can be employed in multiple ways and we are utilizing fully their inherent agility. These deterrence measures are prudent and enhance our speed, responsiveness and capability to shield and protect the one billion citizens we swore to protect."

Now, the rapid response, Boris, is its original purpose, was for this collective defense. It's been called up in the past for natural disasters, for the Olympics, for example. But this is the first time, given the war that we're seeing in Ukraine that they have called up - been called up to protect those eastern flanked NATO countries. The concern is not necessarily that Putin is going to go further west. And that he's going to try to attack a NATO country. But the concern is that an escalation could happen and things could spiral out of control very quickly. And so, that is something that they're trying to prevent here.

They are setting up deconfliction mechanisms with Russia. All in an effort to essentially prevent this from spilling into those eastern flanked countries like Lithuania, Estonia and Poland. So the American president, of course, Joe Biden says that this is not going to, you know, result in U.S. forces or NATO forces being sent directly into Ukraine. It is simply for deterrence and defense.

PAUL: Natasha Bertrand, we appreciate it so much. Thank you.

Let's go CNN White House correspondent Arlette Saenz.

Arlette, good to see you this morning as well. We know the president is speaking with his National Security team this morning. One, what do we know about that conversation and what specifically they'll be focusing on? And two, any response from the White House regarding the response that they heard when they offered to help President Zelensky evacuate?

ARLETTE SAENZ, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Christi, the White House has not commented yet on that report that Ukrainian President Zelensky turned down a U.S. offer to evacuate the capital of Kyiv. Of course, the White House has been asked repeatedly about whether they are concerned about his safety. And they have ultimately said that they remain in contact with him.

Earlier in the week, we had reported that the U.S. felt that it would be up to Zelensky to make that decision about his safety. And whether he were to evacuate at the time. But we will see if the White House will have anything further to offer over the course of the day.

Now, President Biden will be waking up here at his home in Wilmington, Delaware, where he continues to monitor these unfolding attacks by Russia on Ukraine. Later this morning, he and Vice President Kamala Harris will be speaking with members of their National Security team, as they continue to receive those updates that they've really been receiving on a daily basis.


Now, while the president is here in Wilmington, Delaware, he has access to all of those secure capabilities to be able to hold these types of calls with his top officials as he looks to gain more information.

Now, yesterday, President Biden spent about 40 minutes on the phone with Ukrainian President Zelensky. And one thing that the president did during that call, according to the White House, was really commend the Ukrainians for their efforts amid these bombardments and attacks.

Now, one other thing that the Zelensky side said was that they had talked about concrete defense assistance. And late last night, the White House announced that President Biden had authorized the State Department to release about $350 million worth of security assistance to Ukraine.

An administration official says this would bring the total assistance offered to Ukraine to over $1 billion over the course of the last year. So, we will see if we will get more details about how -- what exactly that assistance might look like. Of course, the White House has insisted that they will continue to provide support to Ukraine in the face of these attacks. And a little bit later today, the president will be getting the latest updates on where things stand.

SANCHEZ: Arlette Saenz traveling with President Biden in Wilmington, Delaware. Thank you so much.

Let's get some perspective now from CNN political analyst Josh Rogin. He's a columnist with "The Washington Post." And also, the author of "Chaos Under Heaven: Trump, Xi, and the Battle for the Twenty-First Century."

Josh, I do want to ask you about China's role in all of this, but let's start with something you wrote in "The Washington Post" this week that the United States has forgotten the lessons of Russia's 2008 invasion of Georgia, saying quote, "Putin understands only the language of security risk and reward. Showing military strength in a calculated way can get him to back down. Taking such moves off the table for fear of provoking him leads only to more aggression."

Josh, as we question how effective sanctions imposed by the West might be, is there anything other than hard power than military force that might cause Putin to de-escalate?

JOSH ROGIN, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, Boris, to be clear, there's nobody right now calling for U.S. troops or NATO troops to be on the ground in the middle of the war in Ukraine. But what I wrote, the reason I wrote this was because I interviewed the president of Georgia in 2008 who fought against Russian troops, Mikheil Saakashvili, who is imprisoned in Georgia. I did an interview in his prison -- through prison. He passed his notes through his lawyer to me. And what he said was, you don't actually have to get into a war with Russia. But you do have to show strength in a military way. And what they did in 2008 was they've -- George W. Bush flew U.S. Air Force planes into Tbilisi and left them there. And Russia backed down.

Now that's not an exact analogy to what's happening today. But the point is that the Biden administration is offering money and they're offering diplomatic support and sanctions but nothing on the security side that Putin would understand or respond to. And therefore, we shouldn't be surprised that Putin doesn't care about the sanctions. We shouldn't be surprised that he's not intimidated by the threat of cutting off the Russian banks. You know, that's not going to stop him. We have to do more. Of course, the Ukrainians are begging for us to do more. And Zelensky is begging us to do more -- for us to do more.

SANCHEZ: You make a really compelling case in the piece that Vladimir Putin has been building up to this for some time, in the way that he's acted in Syria, for example. He's been accused of committing war crimes there for the better part of a decade. In Georgia as well, and other parts of the world. But notably, I want to get your thoughts on this. Something that Senator Marco Rubio posted on Twitter late last night about the Russian leader. He says that something is off with Vladimir Putin. And that it would be a mistake to think that Putin would act the same way he did five years ago. Do you think something is different about Vladimir Putin now?

ROGIN: Right. I mean, you don't have to be a psychoanalyst to understand that Putin is getting worse. His actions are getting more reckless, more bloody, more evil, and that's clear because of what we see on our TV screens. The Syria example is really relevant here. Because in 2015, when the Russians started killing Syrian civilians, they were doing it a few at a time. And seven years later in 2022, they're doing it dozens or hundreds at a time. They're testing weapons in Syria, chemical weapons, (inaudible) weapons, they're hitting hospitals, they're hitting schools.

And right now, we see that in Kyiv. All of a sudden, we see that as the military advances. They've started to target civilians. They're bringing the weapons and the brutality and the murderous gruesome tactics that they honed in Syria and in Georgia and in Ukraine in 2014 to Kyiv today.


And I think the point that everyone who has faced Russian army destruction has made to me over the last few weeks is, yes, this is only getting worse.

So what do you expect when you let Putin have his way in Syria. Yes, he's going to think that he can have his way in Ukraine. And the results of that are bloody and awful. And that leads you to only one conclusion that maybe we should stand up to him and do more.

SANCHEZ: And, Josh, let's get to China. Because for the most part, they have leaned into Russian talking points about security issues in Ukraine. They abstained on the U.N. Security Council when it came to condemning the Russian action in Ukraine. And yet, overnight, there were indications in Russian media that the regime wanted a slowdown. They didn't want the situation to get out of control. Help us understand, is this a legitimate shift, do you think in China, after seeing some of the images we've been seeing in Ukraine the last couple of days?

ROGIN: I think what's going on in Beijing is very clear actually. It's not in China's interest to have a war in Ukraine. It's not in China's interest to have energy prices spike. It's not in China's interest to have a precedent that one country can attack another country because they supposedly have a foreign policy based on nonintervention and respect for sovereignty.

At the same time, Xi Jinping is best friends with - frenemies rather with Vladimir Putin. So they're stuck. They can't be for it. They can't be against it. They don't like it. They can't oppose it. It just shows you that China is playing zero role on the world state despite professing to be a world leader, despite professing to be multilateral in peace and all that. When push comes to shove, they will side with their dictator buddies. Because murderers, dictator thugs stick together.

And because in the end, it's really a battle of dictatorship versus freed up and society. So Russia is on and China are on the same side. That's not our side. That's the other side. And they mean us harm. And that for them, Trump is any sort of ideology or any sort of interest. It's just as simple as that. They think they are against us, so they're against us. And we just have to be honest about that.

SANCHEZ: And you can bet that folks in Taiwan are watching those two frenemies very closely to see how the West will respond to them given the implications for what could come down the road.

Josh Rogin, thanks so much as always. Appreciate our conversation.

PAUL: Thank you, Josh. So coming up a historic pick for the nation's highest court. We'll tell you about the woman on track to become the nation's first black Supreme Court justice, female.

Also, the CDC makes a big shift and changes its guidance on masks. What this means for you and your family. Stay close.



SANCHEZ: We're about 21 minutes past the hour. And we are watching an unfolding situation in Ukraine where Russia is continuing its invasion. We're told that Ukrainians are actively fighting in the streets. President Biden is scheduled to meet with his National Security team later this morning for an update on the situation in Eastern Europe. And we've got more from the region coming up throughout the morning, so stay with CNN.

Now, some historic news from the nation's capital. President Biden making history by nominating Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson as his first Supreme Court pick. And if she's confirmed Judge Brown will be the first black woman to sit on the nation's highest court. She's currently on D.C.'s federal appellate court and she's been considered the front-runner for the vacancy since Justice Stephen Breyer announced he would be retiring.

PAUL: Now, the president is already receiving some pushback from some GOP members. CNN national politics reporter Eva McKend is live for us on Capitol Hill.

Eva, good to see you this morning. Can you specify for us or outline some of this pushback he's getting?

EVA MCKEND, CNN NATIONAL POLITICS REPORTER: Yes, Republicans are pouncing early on everything from her educational background, taking his anti-intellectual view that somehow being ivy league educated is a bad thing. Also knocking her on her record on crime, as well as her support from liberal groups. And this is perhaps no surprise. I've been around for several of these Supreme Court nomination battles here on Capitol Hill. And they are bitterly partisan affairs. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell a bit of irony here. He, of course, no stranger to money and politics, but in a statement, he says in part that, "Judge Jackson was the favored choice of far-left dark-money groups that have spent years attacking the legitimacy and structure of the court itself."

And even a lukewarm response from Alaska Senator Lisa Murkowski. She says, "I've been clear that previously voting to confirm an individual to a lower court does not signal how I will vote for a Supreme Court justice. I'm committed to doing my due diligence before making a final decision on this nominee. Being confirmed to the Supreme Court -- the nation's highest tribunal, and a lifetime appointment -- is an incredibly high bar to achieve."

Now of course, Senator Murkowski along with Senator Susan Collins of Maine, as well as Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina all voted to support this judge just last year, to elevate her to the D.C. circuit court. So those three are the ones to watch, as this confirmation battle heats up.

SANCHEZ: And Eva, the pushback is obviously clear, but can Republicans do anything to derail this nomination if Democrats stick together?

MCKEND: Well, Boris, they can certainly engage in a bit of theatrics. You know, the Senate Judiciary Committee can boycott hearings, boycott votes. They can do that to stall the process. It won't derail it altogether, but it could slow it down. But the ranking member on the Judiciary Committee, Iowa's Senator Chuck Grassley, so far, he indicates he has no appetite for that.


And, of course, Republicans are really going to take their lead from the Minority Leader Mitch McConnell who is well versed in how to handle - how to navigate these Supreme Court battles. And right now, Republicans aren't in a very good position to take back the midterms. He likely will advise his caucus to do their due diligence to push back where they can. But because this is not going to be an ideological shake up on the court, Republicans really have to weigh how far they want to take this, how bitter they want this to become, especially with such a historic nominee.

SANCHEZ: And as you noted, several Republicans have already voted for her to join the appellate court, so it would be quite the switch a rue. Eva McKend from Capitol Hill, thank you so much.

PAUL: Let's talk to CNN political commentator and political anchor "Spectrum News." Errol Louis with us now. He's also the host of "You Decide" podcast.

Errol, good morning to you.

ERROL LOUIS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Good morning. Christi. PAUL: It's so good to see you. So listen, based on what we've learned about this nomination. We know that she's meeting with senators this week, this confirmation process just kicking right off, right out of the gate. What do you expect will be part of those conversations and what is she up against?

LOUIS: Well, look, a lot of the conversation is going to be very much as Eva McKend was talking about, a probing to see if there are some points among Republicans where they can try and damage her, where they can try and make her look like part of the radical left or some other sort of hostile grouping that she's really not a part of. And so, it will be kind of a bit of a show.

I do believe that they're going to also get a sense of whether or not she has public support. She's very charismatic individual. She's got an enormous record that people are going to have to look through. I think they'll be more and more impressed as they see it. And the job then of both the nominee and the Democrats who are supporting her will be to convince Republicans that they'll have better look, finding some other issues to run on. That she's not something that's going to -- her nomination, I should say, is not going to be something that gets them a lot of political assistance as we get closer to the midterms.

PAUL: So it's important to note, as we've said that Judge Jackson has been confirmed on a bipartisan vote three times -- bipartisan basis three times already before by senators, Murkowski, Graham and Collins. So with that said, how do senators, if this happens, how do senators who voted for her in the past explain why they wouldn't this time?

LOUIS: We've seen Lindsey Graham do more somersaults, you know, than a clown in the circus, so he'll just do one more. He'll just flatly contradict what he said in the past and just kind of move on. He's already pretty much made clear that that's what he's going to do. While that's happening, though, I think a different conversation can break out if the Democrats are wise about it which is to emphasize the diversity, not just of gender and race, but the diversity of legal experience that Judge Jackson would bring to the bench. Meaning she's one of the few who has ever actually represented clients, actually been a lawyer who helped people when they have a criminal case.

One of the - one of only two, along with Sotomayor, if she is confirmed, who have actually just been lower court judges, federal court judges who heard cases. I mean, you know, we have an extremely narrow slice of a legal profession represented on the Supreme Court now. And while the politicians will play games, those who want to actually move the country forward, I think, will try and shift the conversation away from what Republicans want, what Democrats want. And more toward what the court and the country really needs.

PAUL: Those may be the conversations they have, Errol, but is anybody ready who opposes Biden to give him a win? Because this would be a win in his column.

LOUIS: Well, that's right. I mean, look, clearly the Biden team, and they did a really good job of teeing this up. I think they're going to try and signal to the senators, look, this is going to happen anyway. So you could either try and score some points and then lose or just quietly move on to something else and then lose. Because I don't know that they have the votes.

I mean it's going to be very narrow. It's a very divided Senate, of course. But the reality is they already have such an ideological imbalance on the court. That if anybody who wants to make an argument for a conservative court, they've already got one.

So it's not necessarily a fight that they need to throw a lot of resources into. So again, we'll see, you know, there are candidates who want to be president of the United States. So, you know, Senator Hawley, Senator Cruz, they're going to try and showboat for the cameras. Senator Graham likes to be on stage. And so, he'll say whatever he has to, to get on television. But when all of that noise has gone away, I think will be a different kind of a conversation that emerges.

PAUL: All right. Errol Louis, we always love to hear your perspective. Thank you for being with us.

LOUIS: Thank you.


SANCHEZ: The Russian invasion of Ukraine is having ripple effects all over the world. Now, Delta Airlines is severing ties with Russia's national airlines. The details on that, next.


SANCHEZ: Delta Air has cut ties with Russia's national airline as the fallout from Russia's invasion of Ukraine spreads to air travel.

PAUL: CNN's Pete Muntean has a closer look for us at what's happening in the air.


PETE MUNTEAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (on camera): Delta Airlines' agreement with Russia's national airline is over effective immediately. It's just the latest partnership with a career known as Aeroflot to come to a sudden end. First, English football club Manchester United ended its corporate sponsorship with Aeroflot.


And now, Delta says it will not book its passengers on Aeroflot flights. That also means that Aeroflot cannot book its passengers on Delta flights. It's what's called a Codeshare Agreement, pretty common in the airline world. The end of it is mostly symbolic, but it does affect a handful of flights from Moscow, JFK or LAX.

Delta says it's working with impacted passengers to re-accommodate them, it is getting harder for Russian airlines to operate in general. On Thursday, the United Kingdom announced it was banning civilian Russian aircraft from entering its airspace. Pete Muntean, CNN, Washington.


PAUL: Well, this morning, Ukraine is battling to keep control of its capital as Russian troops move into Kyiv. Officials say a large apartment block in western Kyiv was struck by a Russian missile in early hours today after what they say was a terrifying night of explosions and gunfire. Now, residents there in Kyiv are scrambling to find safe shelter.

SANCHEZ: Now, last hour, I spoke to Matthew Schmidt, he's the director of International Affairs Program at the University of New Haven. And he shared with us his shots on the resistance that Russian forces are facing from the Ukrainian military on the ground. Listen to this.


MATTHEW SCHMIDT, DIRECTOR, INTERNATIONAL AFFAIRS PROGRAM, UNIVERSITY OF NEW HAVEN: I think the most important thing we should be looking for with the Ukrainian military is their ability to transition from the active defense that they're in now into a guerilla war. It's not quite the same as an insurgency because you want to see unit cohesion, when those Ukrainian troops fall back, they would become leaders inside some kind of guerilla structure, and they would be engaging in much more effective ambushes, and things like that.

Vladimir Putin is kidding himself if he thinks that he's going to be able to effectively occupy a country of 40 million people with 200,000 troops. This is going to be a long and bloody guerilla war. And you know, you look right now, the first estimates I've seen, that there were 3,500 Russian casualties. Let's just say that that's off by half. You're talking about, what? Five thousand Russian casualties in the next three days?

That's more than they've seen in any military action in living memory. And that's going to start to impact the Russian public and drive those protests in Moscow and St. Petersburg and elsewhere. And that's the defeat mechanism for Russia.


SANCHEZ: The Ukrainian ministry, meantime, is asking people to stay indoors and go to the nearest shelter when they hear sirens. Many of you watching want to know how you can help. And right now, there are organizations around the world and on the ground in Ukraine trying to help those in need of food, shelter, water and additional aid. For more details on how you can help those efforts, you can go to slash-impact.

PAUL: And cities all across the world are displaying blue and yellow lights, the colors of the Ukrainian flag. This is in a show of solidarity with the European nation as it grapples with the full-on Russian invasion. In California, look at San Francisco city hall lit up to show their support. In Paris, the Eiffel Tower was illuminated at the request of Paris' mayor, and the London Eye joined landmarks in lighting up the sky in unity for about 5 hours last night. Also, here in Atlanta, the city displayed the colors of the Ukrainian

flag of both city hall and the airport. Several support rallies are also planned across the U.S. today.

SANCHEZ: There is a new strategy and new guidance on wearing masks. Why the CDC says it's now safe for most Americans to drop their masks indoors. We'll be right back.


ANNOUNCER: This is CNN Breaking News.

PAUL: Following a developing story right now out of Kyiv, officials say an apartment building there was hit by a missile or a rocket.

SANCHEZ: Let's get straight to CNN chief international correspondent Clarissa Ward who is there on the scene. Clarissa, what are you seeing?

CLARISSA WARD, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Boris, hi, Christi. So, we're here in a residential neighborhood quite near to one of Kyiv's airport, Zhuliany Airport, and you can see behind me, I'm just going to step out of the way so that my cameraman Scotty McWhinnie can show you here the damage that has been done. Some kind of a projectile hit this apartment building at about 8:15 this morning, we're hearing, you could still see smoke coming from it.

There was a big fire, still smoking. There are ambulance workers on the scene. And what they're doing now is trying to take some scaffolding up there to try to prevent the 22nd and 23rd floors from collapsing. But miraculously, no one was actually killed in this strike. We're hearing from Ukrainian authorities that six people were wounded. Frankly, it's hard to imagine how anyone survived that. But six people were wounded, they're being treated in various hospitals. And there's a little bit of a he said-she said going on about how this happened. Ukrainians authorities saying that this was the work of a Russian missile.

And the Russians are saying that they believe -- excuse me, sorry, it's very windy here and there's a lot of debris flying around. The Russians are saying that they believe that this was actually a Ukrainian missile defense system that somehow went awry and ended up hitting this apartment building.


Now, whoever was responsible, and however this happened, the reality is, this is the sort of thing that does happen when you have a war playing out in a major metropolis like Kyiv. This is a city of nearly 2.9 million people. And we're in a pretty central area here, this isn't sort of, you know, on the far outskirts of town.

You can just imagine how terrifying it was for the people who were sleeping or just waking up, having their breakfast with their families on a Saturday morning, already terrified about the situation, only to find their building hit in this attack. Boris, Christi. SANCHEZ: And you're absolutely right, Clarissa, the Russians continue

to deny that anything is happening seemingly in Ukraine. Clarissa, you and the team, please stay safe out there, appreciate your reporting as always.

PAUL: Thank you, Clarissa. So, the CDC announced new changes to its COVID-19 metrics that will allow most of us here in the U.S. to unmask indoors, and that includes schools. The agency will now consider hospitalizations and hospital bed capacity in addition to COVID caseloads to determine whether areas of the country are high, medium or low risk. Now, under this new guidance, only about 28 percent of the U.S. population lives in those high-risk areas, talking about Los Angeles, San Diego, that's where masks are still recommended indoors.

Dr. Abdul El-Sayed is with us now, he's an epidemiologist and former Detroit health commissioner. Doctor, thank you so much for being with us, always appreciate your insight here. The CDC's endemic strategy is that what we're seeing now play out as they make these shifts?

DR. ABDUL EL-SAYED, EPIDEMIOLOGIST: Yes, Christi, for context, remember, the CDC's last protocols, last guidance were based on Delta, which was per individual, was far more severe than Omicron which has now dominated the COVID landscape. And they needed to switch tact to recognize that, although Omicron is far more transmissible as we've just experienced, it's less severe. And so, their new guidance, rather than just be based on case-count, assuming every case is very serious, instead, they're also including metrics that include the proportion of hospital beds that are occupied by COVID patients and hospitalizations per person.

And so, I think this is a recognition that we are not going to get to COVID zero. So what do we do from there, and this is a guidance that meets that, plus it meets the fact that local and state governments have moved on their precautions for some time now.

PAUL: So, I want to play you some of what CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky said yesterday about relaxing these indoor masking restrictions. Here she is.


DR. ROCHELLE WALENSKY, CDC DIRECTOR: None of us know what the future may hold for us and for this virus, and we need to be prepared and we need to be ready for whatever comes next. We want to give people a break from things like mask-wearing when our levels are low, and then have the ability to reach for them again, should things get worse in the future.


PAUL: Does this move concern you at all, that perhaps some people won't be as vigilant as they had been before? And are there -- are you still seeing any evidence of more variants popping up?

EL-SAYED: So, you know, once bitten, twice shy for the CDC. And I do worry that of course, you still have young people -- I'm a father of a 4-year-old who can't be vaccinated, and you've got folks who are immunocompromised and folks who still could suffer really serious illness, and so, we have to be vigilant about them, and taking precautions where you can is still important. At the same time, the CDC does have some experience with having in effect declared victory on the pandemic way back last Spring and Summer.

Everybody remembers hot that Summer, we could take our masks off and then Delta came in. So, what the CDC is not doing here is declaring victory. They're recognizing that there are still risks for serious variants that could pop up, that could continue to drive cases and potentially deaths, though, that's not the circumstance that we face right now.

And so, what they're trying to do is hedge against the future while recognizing the circumstance that we're right now. It's not declaring victory against the pandemic. It's recognizing the armistice in which we find ourselves against the pandemic.

PAUL: All right, Dr. Abdul El-Sayed, always good to have you with us, thank you so much.

EL-SAYED: Thank you.

PAUL: We'll be right back.



PAUL: One of the biggest Russian sports stars in the world, Alex Ovechkin of the Washington Capitals joining the growing list of athletes and organizations that are publicly condemning Russia's war on Ukraine.

SANCHEZ: Let's bring in CNN's Carolyn Manno now from New York. And Carolyn, this is really meaningful because we know how the Kremlin responds to dissidents, right?

CAROLYN MANNO, CNN SPORTS CORRESPONDENT: Yes, that's right. You don't see a lot of Russian athletes speaking out against a government like this, and this is a surprising move from an athlete who has aligned himself with Putin in the past. There aren't many Russian athletes who match Ovechkin's star power, his visibility, he's a Stanley Cup champion, he scored the fourth most goals in NHL history.

So what makes this most significant is the way in which the 36-year- old has supported the Russian president in the past. In 2017, he announced his decision to organize a movement in support of Putin ahead of his most recent re-election, a year before that, Putin sent Ovechkin a personal letter and gift for his wedding.


So, the two have a relationship. The hockey star's Instagram profile actually featuring a picture of the two of them. But in his first public comments since Russia invaded Ukraine, Ovechkin stopped short of condemning Putin, but he did call for peace.


ALEXANDER OVECHKIN, WASHINGTON CAPITALS WINGER: Please, no more war, you know, it doesn't matter who is in the war. Russia, Ukraine, in different countries. I think we live in a world like we have to live in peace.


MANNO: Russian tennis star Andrey Rublev using a post-match tradition you see there to express his concern over the Russian invasion. Instead of scribbling the normal signature on the camera lens that you see after a match in Dubai, the world number seven writing "no more war". And several major international sporting events featured on Russian soil are being pulled as a result as well within the last hour.

Poland announced, said it is boycotting its World Cup qualifying match against Russia next month on the men's side. Both Russia and Ukraine are still scheduled to play their women's World Cup qualifying matches in April. Boris and Christi.

SANCHEZ: Carolyn Manno, thank you so much. Stay with CNN, we'll be right back.