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New Day Saturday
U.S. and NATO Believe Russia Ready to "Bombard Cities into Submission"; Russia Accused of Violating Short Ceasefire, Shelling Civilian Corridor; CNN at Site of Destruction Near Kyiv as Russians Close In; U.N.: More Than 1.2 Million Refugees have Left Ukraine; U.S. Warns the Days Ahead in Ukraine will Be Worse with Death and Destruction; Ukraine Accuses Russia of Halting Civilian Evacuation After Russia Violates Ceasefire. Aired 6-7a ET
Aired March 05, 2022 - 06:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning to viewers here in the U.S. and around the world. It is Saturday, March 5th. And I'm Brianna Keilar with John Berman. Welcome to special edition of "NEW DAY."
We're following some fast-moving developments in Russia's war on Ukraine including a grim warning.
A Western intelligence official says that Russia could, quote, "bombard cities into submission" leading to an escalation and civilian casualties. U.S. also says Russia is poised to send more than a thousand mercenaries into Ukraine here in the coming days and weeks.
And in another major development, a Ukrainian official says that Russia has agreed to a ceasefire in the cities of Mariupol and Volnovakha. That humanitarian corridor is supposed to remain open for a few more hours to allow the evacuation of civilians. Right now, evacuations are underway, but we are looking at potential reports that they are not being done in safety.
(VIDEO PLAYS INSIDE NUCLEAR PLANT STANDOFF)
And this is new video that we have this morning from inside Ukraine's largest nuclear plant which was taken over by Russian forces. An announcement over that public address system, they're pleading with troops to stop firing on the plant. Authorities say at this point, radiation levels do appear to be normal despite that attack. But Russian forces are now closing in on Ukraine's second largest nuclear plant.
JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky is urging NATO to establish a no-fly zone over his country, something that U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken and the NATO chief are not willing to do. They say it would trigger a full-pledge war in Europe. And despite Russia's onslaught the resolve of the Ukrainian people unwavering. We have video from Luhansk of Ukrainian protesters shouting down Russian troops.
(VIDEO PLAYS PROTEST IN LUHANSK, UKRAINE) Put on your stuff and leave. So according to the United Nations, more than 1.2 million refugees have already fled Ukraine, more undoubtedly on the way.
We're joined now by CNN's senior international correspondent Sam Kiley. He is live from Zaporizhzhia, not far from the nuclear power plant now under Russian control.
Sam, we're going to get to that in a second. But if you will, I want to start with the situation in Mariupol, right here on the Sea of Azov, a city which has very much been under siege, surrounded by Russian forces in where there's supposed to be this temporary ceasefire in a humanitarian corridor to let some people out. What can you tell us?
SAM KILEY, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, John, the details of whether or not people are able to get out are still extremely unclear. There was supposed to be a brief window that had been negotiated for Mariupol, and one other city that had been besieged by Russian forces to allow people out.
We're not that far away. We might expect to have seen the beginnings of refugees perhaps arriving -- perhaps in advance of that agreement on a ceasefire. Prior to that, though, the city had been almost entirely sealed off with the deputy mayor there telling CNN just more than 36 hours ago now that there was no water, electricity, or food, that the town was being constantly shelled. I think that's consistent with what United Nations -- rather NATO sources and Western intelligent sources have said is a shift in tactics, which we've seen across the country by Russia, now targeting civilian areas.
As it appears, their military campaign to decapitate, to remove the leadership in Kyiv has begun to run into the mud effectively. They do seem to be switching tactics to what they had practiced in the past, particularly in Syria, and in the past, in Grozny, which is the use of aerial weapons, massive amounts of rocket attacks against civilian targets.
And here in Zaporizhzhia, there's going to be a great deal -- there is a great deal of anxiety because the Russians are, of course, getting closer. And this is a city with major bridges across the Dnieper. And it's getting from the eastern side of the Dnieper to the western side Dnieper, which is going to be a major problem and issue for any advance being made by the Russians. John?
BERMAN: And again, also, Zaporizhzhia, the city not far from the power plant where -- there is where this morning also the Russians are moving ever closer to the second largest nuclear power plant in Ukraine. Sam, what's the situation inside these plants?
KILEY: So inside the plant we received last night very dramatic video that you played partly there in the introduction of these public address to broadcasting out to the attacking Russian troops to ceasefire. Now we know from analysis of video, CCTV from that plant that an outline building, a training area was hit, but at least one missile. The Ukrainian government has said that tanks were fired using the main gun.
This is extremely troubling because, of course, this is the biggest nuclear power station in the whole of Europe. It has six reactors, some of which have been not closed down completely. Reactors can't be closed down but put in kind of cooling mode.
It's also storage location for spent rugs which is again highly radioactive. And, of course, on top of that, the U.S. ambassador to United Nations said yesterday that there was evidence that Russian forces were closing on the second largest nuclear reactor about 200 miles from where I'm standing further west, the southern Ukrainian nuclear plant. They were about 20 miles - Russia is 20 miles from there. Appeals particularly from the International Atomic Energy authority, John, to stay away from these locations.
This is the first time these sorts of locations have been attacked directly and occupied in war time. Of course, there are deep, deep worries that the sort of horrific disaster that we've seen in Chernobyl in the 1980s in Northern Ukraine could be repeated here but as a consequence of war.
Vladimir Putin has insisted they've captured these - captured these nuclear power station and occupied Chernobyl in order to protect it. Difficult to explain that to the large number of workers that the Russians are keeping there to continue to run the plant. Many of them based in this city. They're unable though to do any shift changes, so these people will be exhausted, they'll be terrified, they are operating the barrel of a gun. And, of course, that means that their increased worries that there could be some kind of accident, a genuine accident as opposed to one cause by direct fire by Russia forces. John?
BERMAN: Yes, quite literally, according to sources yesterday, operating under the barrel of a gun.
Sam Kiley in Zaporizhzhia. Thank you for being with us, Sam.
KEILAR: And joining us now from Ukraine is Terrell Jermaine Starr, the nonresident senior fellow at the Atlantic Council's Eurasia Center and host of the "Black Diplomats" podcast.
Terrell, it is wonderful to see you again after a few days here. And I just want to talk to you about what you've been reporting on. I know you just spent two days with a Ukrainian man who's helping a family of refugees reach essentially the E.U. border trying to be accepted there. Tell us about their journey.
TERRELL JERMAINE STARR, NONRESIDENT SENIOR FELLOW, ATLANTIC COUNCIL EURASIA CENTER: Absolutely. First of all, thank you very much for having me on the show again. Then that Ukrainian man is Andre right here. We're preparing right now to take a second family either to Poland, to the Polish border or the Slovak borders.
So the past two days, we have pretty much escorted a family from a village or a town outside of Kyiv, a city - you know, and taking them on a two-day journey to the Slovak border. What does that look like?
Well, for one, you're dealing with a family, a mother, her two twin daughters, and the daughter's aunt who basically have been traumatized after being in a basement for three days straight, emerged only when Andre arrived. And so, you're dealing with these people's trauma.
One thing about being a refugee is very expensive. If you don't have -- you know, while the government has been providing trains to various borders, if those trains are full and you want to leave and get another option, you need a vehicle. That cost money. You need money for lodging if you can find a place to stay. That cost money.
Gas, incidentals, food. Over those two days, the trip that we took ordinarily would have taken about 12 hours. Under these circumstances with the dozens of checkpoints that we had to go through. It took two days.
And so, you're dealing with families again, who are dealing with extraordinary trauma, you're dealing with stress, and we're all put together in a car over a two-day period. During that time there, I -- you know, during one of the stops, I actually was, you know, documenting this moment, documenting their travel.
I went to a building, asked for permission from a volunteer regiment of armed men if I could take a photo. One of the gentlemen said no. One of the men who I did not speak with or engage, pulled a gun on me and walked me by gunpoint to my vehicle where this family was located around 600 yards. So you're dealing - so in a midst of taking refugees out, you're dealing with a real martial law moment where everything is very precarious.
KEILAR: It's incredibly scary just as you're trying to cover this, Terrell. I wonder what is it like for the kids in these situations especially knowing that they're going to the borders and their fathers will not be going with them?
STARR: That -- that's one of the - yes, that's one of the toughest decisions you have to make because the thing about being a man in Ukraine at this moment is that if you're of draft age, when you get to the border, you're not -- 9.99 times out of 10, you're not going to be allowed to exit with your - with your - with your family. And so today one of the challenges that we're dealing with is we're taking another family to the border, one who has cancer, and she definitely needs -- and her child. The husband needs to go with her in order to support her to take care of her because she can't take care of the child alone.
So I'm doing my best to work with the contacts I know in government to make an exception for him. I'm not sure that that is going to happen.
And so, it deals with not only displacement, but you're breaking families apart in these crises. And so, you're dealing with the trauma of these kids saying good-bye to people saying -- you know, taking everything that they have and all of their lives and stuffing it into the back of a jeep.
And so, the mothers -- the mothers and, you know, the aunt yesterday with the first family, they did the best that they could to comfort the children, work with the children, but the mother and their aunt had their own trauma. They were literally following us around like ducks and constantly asked, hey, you're not going to leave, right? You're not going to go too far, right?
In fact, when I was taking the family across the Slovak border, there's - there's a separate line for Ukrainians, there's another side for foreigners. And I was in the foreigners' side. You know, for us, even though I am with a U.S. passport and I can go to Slovakia without a problem, with no visa, this family was really terrified about being separated from me. But that goes back to the trauma that they dealt with in being in that basement for three days. And that emerged until we arrived.
And so, yes, there's a tremendous amount of stress that these children are dealing with. And one of the things that we made sure was going to happen was that they would immediately be met with psychological services, but the charity that we spoke with said that the main thing that they needed to do was establish stability so that these people knew that they have one place to go and develop a routine, and then those therapy services will come.
KEILAR: Look, this is harrowing, these journey that these families are going through, Terrell. And we thank you so much for talking to us about it. Terrell Jermaine Starr, thank you.
STARR: Thank you.
BERMAN: All right. We do have breaking news for you this morning. There was supposed to be a temporary ceasefire in Mariupol right here, this city on the Sea of Azov that the Russians have all but surrounded. Let me push in.
You can see the Russian troops all the way around them here. There was supposed to be a corridor to let people out. But we do have news on that front. A statement from the governor of the Donetsk region which does include most of that area right there.
It says, evacuation of peaceful population of Mariupol postponed due to the fact that the Russians do not observe the regime of silence and continue shelling of Mariupol and its environs. For security reasons, the evacuation of the population has been postponed.
And another official has said that the Russians are using or used the ceasefire to move their troops in even more. So, again, there had been a ceasefire, a temporary pause. That's off.
I'm joined now by CNN national security analyst, Steve Hall. He's a former chief of Russia operations for the CIA there.
Steve, that's some news right there. There had been some hope to get some people out of the city into safety. Apparently, according to the Ukrainians, the Russians are not respecting that. STEVE HALL, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: We're hearing this from the Ukrainians. So, you know, obviously we would want to verify that. But I could tell you, it is sort of consistent with what we've seen from Russian forces in the past. I mean the Russian forces unlike Western forces and American forces are much less concerned with, you know, with casualties that happen on, you know, sort of collaborative -- things that don't happen on purpose, whether it's hospitals, whether it's civilians. They're just -- that's a lower priority for them. They don't have oversight committees. They don't have investigative groups afterwards that say how were all these people killed when they were supposed to be getting out of Mariupol or whatever it was. They just have much less accountability. And so, they care less.
What they really care about is getting into these cities and started to control them. And if civilians get in the way, you know, that's just - that's just kind of their tough luck.
BERMAN: There had been accusations that even before the Russians invaded, they were using diplomacy to reposition their troops. And they were lying that they were withdrawing. There was talk to the first two rounds of direct negotiations with the Ukrainians and the Russians. So the Russian were using that to further invade. So the Russians were lying even there. And now the accusation is that the Russians have promised to stop firing, and they're not.
HALL: Yes. The problem with the Russians, whether it's their military operations, whether it's negotiations, whether it's treaties that they've signed, multiple treaties over the years that says that, you know, they would leave Ukraine alone if Ukraine would just give up its nuclear weapons, you know, a couple of decades ago. Regardless of what stadium, whatever, you know, however you're engaging with the Russians, you simply cannot trust them because for them, it's all a tactical or strategic move. So, you know, if it's to their advantage to say we're opening up a corridor, and it's to their diplomatic or military advantage, they will certainly say that. But they cannot be believed.
BERMAN: They cannot be believed. All right. Steve Hall, stand by for us. Again, much more on the breaking news.
Ukrainian authorities have now say - now say the Russians are not respecting the ceasefire. They're postponing the existence of this humanitarian corridor out of the Mariupol region. We're live on the ground in Ukraine next.
BERMAN: All right. You can see Russian forces continue to try to push toward the capital of Kyiv right there. Here's a closer look. I want to go right to Clarissa Ward who's on the ground there now. And, Clarissa, I think you're on the scene of where there had been some kind of attack. Why don't you tell us where you are and what you're seeing? CLARISSA WARD, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: All right. So John, we're here on the northern western outskirts of Kyiv at the entrance to a place called Irpin. And basically, what you're seeing here is people who have been under heavy bombardment now for seven straight days finally managing to flee from this area of Irpin. And if we pan over here, my cameraman, Scott McWhinnie, can show you. The bridge here that connects Irpin to central Kyiv has been destroyed.
That was destroyed by Ukrainian forces to prevent Russian forces from moving on into Central Kyiv. But what you're seeing now is that people have to navigate and cross on foot this destroyed bridge in order to get out safely.
Now, since we've been here, we have heard nonstop heavy artillery coming from that direction, also that direction. You can imagine, John, how petrified these people are. Many of them have been pinned down for days on end. You can see them here.
They've got their pets. They've got small carry-on bags. We have seen a lot of people who are elderly, a lot of people who have difficulty walking. We're seeing a lot of people who are clearly visibly shaken, petrified because they have been trapped in terrible bombardment for days on end and are just now starting to get out.
And I've got to tell you, John, it just doesn't stop, the steady stream of people. They keep coming, trying to cross the bridge. You can see there's actually water flowing through it. They have to walk across a sort of plank. You could see the upturned car from when that bridge was originally downed. But this for the people of Irpin right now, John, is the only way to safety. And it is relative safety, of course, because even the city center is being encroached upon as the fighting gets closer and closer. I don't know if my microphone is picking up on that artillery, but it is a steady stream of thuds that have been ongoing since we got here, John.
BERMAN: Constant shelling. In the scene, Clarissa, I have to tell you, the imagery is hard to make sense of it. It looks like an Escher sketch, everything twisted there. These people, where are they trying to go and the people in uniform helping them, who are those people helping them?
WARD: So the people helping them are primarily the Ukrainian military, and they're obviously wanting us to stay a little bit out of the way here because we don't want to obstruct in any way, shape, or form the passage, the safe passage of people. It does look like they're bringing somebody or something out in some kind of a stretcher here. It may be a body. We're not entirely sure. We want to be mindful and respectful and not show you anything that might be too graphic or too disturbing.
But listen, this is war, and this is - this is the reality. It is always such a sort of truism. It's become a cliche, but it is so true of war that is innocent people trying to live their normal lives who bear the brunt of it. And I think as you see these people trying to make their way through twisted metal to escape to the relative safety of the city's center.
And I should add, John, as you pointed out, nobody knows how long that relative safety will last. The fighting has been encroaching on all sides. We saw a village in the southwest of Kyiv or southwest of Kyiv was attacked yesterday. That's potentially a very ominous sign indeed because it means that potentially, they're getting closer to trying to encircle the city.
And you can see now all these soldiers trying to lift this person or this body. It's very difficult to tell. It looks like a person who can't walk. It's a sort of makeshift stretcher to try to get this person out to safety. Just an extraordinary scene of bravery, of people in this community rallying together, trying to help this poor woman who is obviously having difficulty walking with whatever resources they possibly can, John.
BERMAN: Clarissa, if you can, if you're safe, I would like you to stay with us a little longer. And I did just hear some thuds in the background. I can't hear the artillery there. And to our audience, I do want to say, I do understand that these images are disturbing, but I think it's a disservice to try to sanitize the horror of war here. This is what is happening to the people of Ukraine now. They are suffering so badly, and I do think it is important to see that.
Clarissa, just from a military standpoint, we know there had been this idea of a humanitarian corridor in the south in Mariupol. We know that Volodymyr Zelensky, the Ukrainian president is saying while he wants the elderly, the children to get out of cities that may be targeted, he's urging people who can, to stay and fight.
Is there a concern as more people flee to safety it only makes these cities even more of a target?
WARD: Well, of course. The more people you have flooding into the center of Kyiv, a lot of them, I should say, John, are really heading straight to the train station. We were at the train station in Kyiv a week ago. It was already crowded. Some pretty hectic scenes as people were desperately trying to get on trains. Now it is much more congested, a lot more traffic. For people who are fleeing battle zones like Irpin behind me, the train station trying to get further west is the next port of call.
But what's extraordinary, John, and I think you're seeing that born out here by the number of people still flooding in after seven days of straight bombardment is that a lot of people are not leaving their homes yet. A lot of people can't get their head around the idea of simply deserting their lives, their families, their homes, their pets, their houses, everything they've worked so hard for.
And so, it's extraordinary to see what a high threshold many Ukrainians have. It takes a lot before they're willing to leave their homes. These people have been under bombardment for seven straight days and are only just leaving their homes. And they're leaving them reluctantly, and they're leaving them with the knowledge that they might not be able to go back to them. And you can see many of these people are elderly.
(speaking in foreign language)
See them, people are so exhausted. They can barely walk. They're having to climb this sort of twisted metal. Many of them, as you can see, are elderly. They're visibly distressed. It's just an awful, awful scene. And these people are the lucky ones.
(speaking in foreign language)
I'm just going to help her carry this bag a second. Excuse me, John, while we try to -
(speaking in foreign language)
So people are obviously incredibly affected by the situation. They're frightened. They're exhausted. They're on edge. They've got their pets. They've grabbed whatever they can.
And you're right, John. You know, you asked me before about them going to the city. A lot of these people have no idea where they're going to go, once they cross this bridge. They know that they're in relative safety once they do it, but they don't have any idea where they're going to go. They don't have any idea where they're going to sleep tonight. They don't have any idea when they can get all their belongings from back home. We're still hearing the steady thud of artillery in the distance, and the fear is, John, it's just going to keep getting closer.
BERMAN: These are the faces of courage, the faces of suffering, the faces of war, Clarissa. And as we watch this - this exodus, this steady flow of people in the rubble behind you, is there a sense -- do you have a sense that the Russians are getting closer? Is the circle closing in on Kyiv?
WARD: So I would say this. There's no question from what we're seeing and hearing from U.S. officials and others that the push has not gone the way that the Russians had hoped. They had really hoped to take control of this Gostomel airbase, to be able to fly transport planes in, link up with ground troops and launch this major offensive on the city center. Gostomel, that airbase, is still contested. There are still skirmishes back and forth every day.
The Ukrainian authorities are now saying that the Russians are so pinned down that they've taken 40 civilian hostages and are holding them in a basement to try to stop Ukrainian authorities from shelling and attacking them. So there's no question that the Russians have been slowed down significantly.
That said, they're still making progress. They're still pushing in along the edges. And as I mentioned before, this attack yesterday on a village five kilometers southwest of Kyiv is not a great sign because it would seem to portend that there is progress in terms of trying to encircle.
[06:30:00] Now, I should say this was a sort of artillery. This wasn't ground
forces attacking this village in the southwest. It was artillery. But that's how it usually starts. You try to soften the ground, take out as many targets as you can, before you move your ground troops in. And there is a realization, I think as well for the Russians that, that large convoy outside of Kyiv cannot sit there forever.
At some point, they're going to have to try to push on in. And even beyond that, John, at some point strategically for the Russians to be able to achieve the objectives that they have set out for themselves, they have to take Kyiv. And that is why you are hearing so many sort of foreboding warnings from officials, from military analysts that the situation in the capital city is only going to get worse, and that what these people have been living through in Irpin for the last seven days could soon become the reality of people in the city center as well, John.
BERMAN: What a horror. Clarissa Ward, thank you to you and your team for being there and showing us what's happening. We'll check back in with you in a bit. Stay safe.
KEILAR: So the Russian military is now occupying one of Ukraine's southern cities, and we're going to talk to the mayor of that city next.
KEILAR: The U.N. Refugee Agency now says that more than 1.2 million refugees have left Ukraine. And of course, there are so many more in the process trying to do the same thing. Joining me now is Olga Dudakova; she's a mother and she's also a tour guide who made the agonizing decision to leave Kyiv. She does remain in Ukraine. Olga, can you tell us just about this, what you went through --
OLGA DUDAKOVA, KYIV TOUR GUIDE: Yes --
KEILAR: I mean, you left with your son and you had to leave your husband. What was that like?
DUDAKOVA: So, actually, I've got two sons and one daughter, so I've got three kids. And yes, I live in Kyiv, I'm a tour guide in Kyiv, and after we have lived in the total bombardment and shelling for two days, we made this heavy decision to leave my beloved city because I'm a tour guide. This is my kind of job. I show Kyiv to the rest of the world. And we made the decision to leave, but not to go abroad, we decided to stay in the central Ukraine, just wait, just to -- just to see ourselves in safety.
And then when we waited there for a couple more days, we found out that there's not actually a safe place in Ukraine. And when we began to hear the bombing also on that place where we were staying with our relatives, we decided to go west. So now, currently, I am on my way to the kind of western border of Ukraine. And here, I feel a little bit safer because during the day we don't
hear shelling and bombarding. But during the night, there are sirens, we can see that, and the Russians, they are -- I mean, they're targeting main cities mainly, they're not at the small ones. This is how it's going --
KEILAR: Have you been able -- have you been able, Olga, to talk to your husband?
DUDAKOVA: Yes, I've been able, and he's with me actually. I'm not --
KEILAR: Oh --
DUDAKOVA: Leaving him. But I don't know if we decide -- if we decide to go abroad, like if we decide to flee to Hungary or to Poland, somewhere, even to the down western borders of Ukraine. I don't know if he would be allowed to follow me to go with the family as a whole family, because according to the total military -- it's not militarization, but like total -- when all the men from the age 18 to 60, when they are all called to the army. So, this is kind of the total --
KEILAR: Olga --
DUDAKOVA: I can't find the right words --
KEILAR: As you said, you're a tour guide in Kyiv, you show this beautiful city --
DUDAKOVA: Yes --
KEILAR: To the world. What are you worried about --
DUDAKOVA: Yes --
KEILAR: As we hear these reports that the expectation is that it is just going to be bombarded by the Russian military?
DUDAKOVA: I'm sorry. I'm sorry. I'm absolutely -- my heart is bleeding. I'm crying like all day and the night, and even I -- I'm just praying for things to cease. This is my -- this is a treasure, the heart of Ukraine, the soul of Ukraine. If you know, there's a 11th century cathedral in the city. It is just at the city center. And they warned -- like Russians warned that they are going to destroy this unique architectural complex that is devastating, and we don't even know what to think and what to presume.
There are so many buildings that have already been destroyed. They are mainly residential buildings. But also, if you remember, Babi Yar also badly was kind of affected. Babi Yar, this is the place of holocaust of the biggest massacre when the Jews were killed, like 33,000 Jews were killed during World War II on that place. And so, it means that they are targeting not just the residential buildings, they're targeting also that -- like memorial complexes and the things that are very -- like important to the soul of Ukraine, because this is our spirit. And also, it's really devastating. And to see truly, you get to see
the city also when there are many ancient churches, and it's absolutely flattened. People are -- people flee because they're afraid of their life. They want to find a safe place.
But we are not understanding why is that? Why is it that we have to leave our families, our places where we leave, and why do we have to escape to nowhere? So, we just -- we just don't understand that, sorry.
KEILAR: Yes, it is -- it is beyond understanding, it certainly is as we're watching people go through this and making these terrible decisions they have to make. Olga, we do hope that you stay safe, we hope that you and your kids don't have to separate from your husband, and please stay in touch with us.
DUDAKOVA: Thank you so much for making that and for supporting Ukraine.
KEILAR: Thank you for joining us this morning. We appreciate it. We do have some more on our breaking news. Russia is accused of violating a short ceasefire during a civilian evacuation.
ANTONY BLINKEN, U.S. SECRETARY OF STATE: Cooperation between Poland and the United States, I think it's safe to say it's closer than it's ever been. Since January 30th, the United States has more than doubled the number of our military personnel deployed in Poland to now more than 10,000, including a brigade of the 82nd Airborne division. And we significantly increased the amount and types of military equipment and capabilities that we positioned in Poland.
As President Biden has said, we will defend every inch of NATO territory. Poland is also a leading responder to the humanitarian crisis that Russia's invasion of Ukraine has sparked. As at the beginning, I just said as of today, more than 700,000 people have been forced to flee the violence perpetrated by Russia by crossing the border from Ukraine to Poland with more coming every single day.
I may have the opportunity to speak to some of the folks who have come over just recently from Ukraine, but I have to say, it's an incredibly powerful reflection of Poland's values, that vulnerable people know that here, they will find refuge. To help support the needs of Ukrainians in Poland and other countries, the Biden administration just requested of Congress 2.5 -- excuse me, $2.75 billion in humanitarian assistance.
That's both to meet the need of vulnerable people and communities inside Ukraine as well as to support refugee services including here in Poland.
[06:45:00] That's in addition to the more than $54 million in humanitarian
assistance to Ukraine that we announced just last week. We also sent a disaster assistance response team to Poland, working very closely with humanitarian agencies to provide the critical health care, safe drinking water, sanitation, hygiene supplies, protection for vulnerable people, especially women and children. We've delivered nearly 20,000 thermal blankets suited for cold climates.
We've provided funding for emergency supplies to sustain healthcare for up to 100,000 people for three months, and up to 500 emergency surgical procedures. Our embassy in Kyiv has temporarily relocated to Poland as well, and I'm grateful for that, that Poland is hosting them. They and our embassies and consulates in Poland and across the region are working hard to assist American citizens and their families departing Ukraine and to help them with the influx of U.S. military personnel, humanitarian workers as well as assistance.
We established the U.S. welcome center close to the Ukrainian border. It's been operating 24/7 since the hostility began. We have support teams as well stationed near the border in Romania, Hungary, Slovakia, Moldova, to assist any Americans who are leaving Ukraine. At this moment of crisis for millions of Ukrainians, and as the security of Europe hangs in the balance, Poland has stepped forward with generosity, with leadership, with resolve.
We're grateful for the strong foundation of friendship and cooperation that we built together over many decades which so many are now relying on today. Thank you.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Thank you very much. Time for some pictures, please.
BLINKEN: Here we go.
KEILAR: All right, you're looking there at Secretary of State Tony Blinken speaking live in Poland where so many refugees from Ukraine have fled to. That's where half of the refugees have actually moved to. This is coming as the U.N. is reporting that 1.2 million people have left Ukraine to neighboring countries. Also, Romania, Moldova, since the invasion started. CNN's Ivan Watson live for us in Moldova with more.
What is it like there, Ivan, especially since there is talk about if Vladimir Putin goes beyond Ukraine, he may have his eye on Moldova, which is also not a NATO country?
IVAN WATSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, here in Moldova, this former Soviet Republic, one of the poorest countries in Europe, it's not just the tens of thousands of Ukrainian refugees coming into Moldova across borders, it's also frightened Moldovans who are also leaving to neighboring Romania. So, this is just part of the enormous population of people that are on the move right now.
Brianna, I've just traveled across four countries that border Ukraine, Slovakia, Hungary, Romania, and now Moldova. And everywhere in the border regions, you see Ukrainian refugees, and that there's one image I think that kind of typifies what these people look like. And it is typically a woman pulling a single rolling suitcase and then at least one child by the hand. That is what I've seen in guest houses, in gymnasiums that serve as shelters, in airports.
I was in an airport overnight last night, and a provincial airport in Romania where there were Ukrainians like that sleeping on the floor. Of course, predominantly women and children because the men under Martial law in Ukraine and have to stay behind, men of fighting age, to help defend their country.
And as you mentioned, the United Nation says it's at least 1.2 million people. A little country like Moldova has taken in more than a 100,000 people, and the movement of people is complicated by the fact that this country which borders Ukraine has had to close its airspace since the first day of the Russian invasion to protect civilian air traffic.
So people who are coming in here are then having to cross another border to Romania to try to catch flights deeper into Europe to try to meet up with friends or family to take temporary shelter. None of these people know what will happen next in their lives. And there are the security questions for the neighboring countries who are, of course, worried. Moldova has requested immediate membership in the European Union.
That's something that Ukraine has asked for, that another former Soviet Republic, Georgia, has asked for. And Vladimir Putin views those moves by countries that were in the former Soviet's sphere as threats to Russia, does not want them to be able to make these decisions independently.
And it just comes back to, on the one hand, the incredible hospitality of people in these countries like Moldova, that the refugees are getting free transport, they're immediately being given food, they're being given shelter on the one hand, and transferred with free train tickets, in fact, to move around, but nobody knows what will come next.
And I even saw -- I was in this airport last night, a family clinging to their doggy that they brought with them and, of course, worried about their men their fathers, their husbands left behind. Another image that sticks out, every one of these refugees just clinging to their phones, trying to learn what's happening back home and what country they may go to next. Brianna.
KEILAR: Yes, the mass separation of Ukrainian families, it's heartbreaking to watch. Ivan Watson live for us from Moldova. Thank you.
BERMAN: You know, live and we were just talking about 1.2 million people have fled Ukraine since the Russian invasion began. That includes the sister of a CNN producer who was visiting her boyfriend there when the attacks began. Her journey out to Poland took four and a half days, 108 hours, including just a long walk in the cold. She says she endured racism, injuries, freezing temperatures and sleep deprivation.
Rugiatu Maxey joins us now from Warsaw in Poland. Rugiatu, we're so glad you made it out, and I know your journey was 108 hours long, I'm not going to ask you to recap every hour of it. But there was at one point, I mean, you had to walk for hours and hours and hours. What happened?
RUGIATU MAXEY, FLED UKRAINE: Oh, so, we had a car that was taking us to the border, but then the traffic was really horrible. We had to -- we came down the car and we started walking. The map shows that it was just like five hours of walk, and then we keep going, we keep going. It was like you end up being -- we started walking around 2:00 a.m. and then we got there at 8:00 p.m. the next day.
BERMAN: Wow, that's a long walk, and it was freezing temperatures?
MAXEY: Yes, very cold. It was snowing a little bit. It was like really cold outside.
BERMAN: And look, we have heard plenty of stories and we've seen with our own eyes incidents of racism for people trying to get out. And this is something you experienced yourself. Please explain what happened.
MAXEY: So, the first time when we got to the border, we -- the first thing we saw was two separate lines. Like they have queues, two separate queues. The first queue was with Ukrainian citizens and the other queue was with every other foreigner from different places. So I personally, I went in front of the guard and I was like, could you help me? Like I'm an American citizen, can you help me?
And the guard said no, he was like, no, Ukrainians first -- like Ukrainian in their language. So, I couldn't understand, and at some point, I was sick, I went to -- after walking 18 hours, I was really sick from the cold temperature, from walking a long time, and my boyfriend went and asked the military guys, please, I have emergency, my girlfriend is very sick, can you help? Like they just -- he couldn't help me.
And then, when we were at the bus, like blacks, we were told to come down the bus despite even if you pay money or you do all the right procedure. Like you buy -- if you bought a train ticket or a bus ticket, it doesn't matter, blacks, we were told to come down the bus.
BERMAN: Rugiatu Maxey, we're so glad you made it out, safe travels home. Thank you so much for being with us this morning.
MAXEY: Thank you. My pleasure.
KEILAR: The U.S. is remaining firm, firmly against Ukrainian pleas for a no-fly zone. Secretary of State Tony Blinken warning that it could lead to full-fledged war. Joining me now is CNN foreign affairs analyst Kim Dozier and CNN political and national security analyst and White House and national security correspondent for "The New York Times", David Sanger. I mean, this is just the basics of the no-fly zone, are that it has to be enforced. And so there, you would inevitably have U.S. forces against Russian forces and then a a U.S.- Russia war.
KIM DOZIER, CNN FOREIGN AFFAIRS ANALYST: And Russian officials, Putin have already threatened to use tactical nuclear weapons, they've put them on alert. So, that is the main reason you hear from European officials why we can't possibly consider this.
But the fact of the matter is, the Russians are slowly making progress in taking territory, and so that's why President Zelensky is probably going to go before the Senate today and argue as he's been arguing the past few days. If you want us to keep our territory, we need air cover. It's too late to try to rush in sophisticated air defense systems that the Ukrainians don't have time to train on under fire.
So, it seems like the U.S. is going to the default position. We know the Russians are going to take the cities, this is going to be an insurgency, and that will just lead Putin dry.
KEILAR: It makes sense, David, that the reasons the U.S. has for saying no to the no-fly zone makes sense, but I think it also makes sense when you hear President Zelensky feeling forsaken by this decision.
DAVID SANGER, WHITE HOUSE AND NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT, "THE NEW YORK TIMES": You know, right now, Brianna, the United States and of course, Ukraine are caught in the realities of the country's non- NATO status. If Ukraine was a NATO member, and there are lots of good reasons that it was not yet a NATO member, there's no question that the United States would have full air cover up there.
The reason the Ukrainians have not been able to destroy that long convoy, 40 miles or whatever length we now believe it was, even though it got stuck it seemed on its own was they didn't have air superiority and they're not going to have air superiority. And President Biden has understandably said, look, the key to the American involvement here is, that if it's not a NATO member, we're not going to put the U.S. military into direct conflict with the Russian military because you get escalation for all the reasons that Kim just described.
And once you get escalation as he put it back in January, you're off into a full-scale war with a nuclear power or you at least run that risk. So that's the simple reason it's not happening. But it's what happens when you end up trying to fight an invasion with one armed tied behind your back, and that's because of the non-NATO status.
KEILAR: So then on the humanitarian side of things, there's the question of, well, what's going to happen if Kyiv is encircled? More immediately, we have these humanitarian corridors from some of these cities in Donetsk to try to get people out, and there are reports that Russians are firing on them. They're supposed to be, you know, safe, safe passage.
DOZIER: Well, that's probably a bit of insight into what we've already been seeing a lack of command and control between the different Russian units on the ground. You know that the head office may be trying to tell people, let people out through these certain channels. But you've got a lot of different Russian troops moving in a sort of frenzy, disconnected, and they may not even know which areas or people they're supposed to let out.
The other reality is Russian forces have never been known for being careful about not taking civilian casualties. They've even targeted civilian areas in order to drive them out and leave the hardcore fighters behind, all the easier to target them.
KEILAR: What are you preparing to see, and do you think that the U.S. government is being frank about it?
DOZIER: I think before the invasion even started, the U.S., Europe decided that Ukraine would unfortunately have to be sacrificed to Putin and then hopefully, Putin would waste his energy, his resources, show his face to the world, and as Secretary Blinken has said over the past couple of days, it has united the world as never before against Russia, but what we're looking at is a long drawn-out protracted fight across this massive European country that will pull down the economy, cause a lot of casualties.
The Russians will probably take the cities, but the Ukrainians have been trained by U.S. special operations forces for decades on how to run an insurgency. They're going to be supplied by smart, technically skilled people from European nations surrounding it. They've got long borders where they can smuggle men, material, back into the country. This is going to make Afghanistan, which the Soviets fought in, look -- well, not nearly as challenging as the kind of enemy they're going to be up against.
KEILAR: That's so something. Kim, David, thank you so much to both of you, really appreciate the conversation. NEW DAY continues right now.
ANNOUNCER: This is CNN Breaking News.
BERMAN: Good morning to our viewers here in the United States and all around the world. It is Saturday, March 5th, I'm John Berman with Brianna Keilar. This is a special edition of NEW DAY, and we do have breaking news.