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New Day Saturday

Explosions Heard In Kyiv As Russian Troops Move Closer To Capital; Russia Intensifies Bombardment Of Cities Across Ukraine; Biden Emphatic That The U.S. Will Not "Fight World War III" In Ukraine; E.U. Leaders Impose A Fourth Round Of Sanctions Of Russia; Ban Of Grain Exports To Ex-Soviet States Meant To Shore Up Russian Supplies; United States Military Veterans Volunteering To Help In Ukraine; United Nation: Expect Millions More To Flee Fighting In Ukraine; Woman Gives Birth After Surviving Maternity Hospital Bombing. Aired 7-8a ET

Aired March 12, 2022 - 07:00   ET




BORIS SANCHEZ, CNN ANCHOR: Buenos dias. Good morning, and welcome to your NEW DAY. We're thrilled to have you this Saturday, March 12th. I'm Boris Sanchez.

JESSICA DEAN, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning, everyone. I'm Jessica Dean in today for Christi Paul. Thanks for having me.

SANCHEZ: Great to be with you, Jessica. Look at us on set. This is great.

DEAN: I know, this is great.

SANCHEZ: Yes. Yes. We do start with some rough news out of Eastern Europe, though, Russia intensifying its attacks on Ukraine and moving ever closer to the capital of Kyiv. This morning, we're hearing from local officials that Russian missile strikes and airstrikes have caused damage to the north and south of the capital.

DEAN: And we're getting new pictures of the damage this morning. Take a look. Ukraine's interior minister says shelling last night caused a fire at a frozen foods warehouse northeast of Kyiv. And you can see the building reduced to rubble, alongside charred vehicles and smoldering ruins there. The U.K. Ministry of Defense's the bulk of Russian ground forces are now about 15 miles from the center of the capital. We also know Russian troops have surrounded several Ukrainian cities.

SANCHEZ: New efforts are underway right now to get humanitarian aid to the city of Mariupol, and to get civilians out. Remember the city has been under siege for more than a week now. Official say, a convoy is headed to that area carrying 90 tons of food and medicine, and at least 13 humanitarian corridors are expected to open today to allow civilians to evacuate. Though, we do have to note, previously, these civilian corridors have fallen apart. The Ukrainians accusing the Russians of breaking ceasefires repeatedly.

DEAN: Also, this morning, the White House has warned Russia could use chemical weapons in Ukraine, seen in White House Correspondent Arlette Saenz asked the President about those concerns.


ARLETTE SAENZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Your White House has said that, that Russia may use chemical weapons or create a false flag operation to use them. What evidence have you seen showing that? And would the U.S. have a military response if Putin does launch a chemical weapons attack?

JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I'm not going to speak about the intelligence, but Russia would pay a severe price of these chemical attack.


SANCHEZ: President Biden also says the U.S. and its European allies are stepping up the economic pressure on Russia attempting to revoke its favorable trade status.

DEAN: Our correspondents will bring you the latest, the most comprehensive coverage of the Russian invasion of Ukraine from inside that country to the White House, and to Paris for the latest economic sanctions against Russia. We've got it all covered for you this morning.

But let's begin first with CNN reporter Salma Abdulaziz, she's Lviv. Salma, Russia appears to be closing in on the capital city of Kyiv, bring us up to speed.

SALMA ABDULAZIZ, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Boris and Jessica, this morning many Ukrainians feeling the war is growing ever closer that those barbaric attacks are intensifying on civilians as Russian troops advanced ever further and to the west of this country, expanding their footprint there.

We're also seeing heavy bombardment, heavy shelling, again around Kyiv, the capital. Our local teams there saying, they heard the sound of bombardment overnight. Now, it's unclear if that came from Ukrainian forces firing back or if that comes from Russian troops. But we do understand that there were attacks on the outskirts north and south of the capital.

You mentioned that warehouse, a food warehouse the Ukrainian authority say set on fire. The other infrastructure that was also damaged was a hotel, a key hotel in a suburb outside of Kyiv, the capital. But we do also, of course, have those evacuations and those are crucial, 13 humanitarian corridors being open today. Key among them is the city of Mariupol.

Now, this is a city that's been besieged. It's the site of that terrible bombing on a maternity ward that we saw several days ago. There's a humanitarian convoy right now on its way to Mariupol led by orthodox priests carrying the food and supplies that, that city has been cut off from, but here's the caveat: This is the sixth time authorities have tried to get help into Mariupol.

The Ukrainian say that Russian troops have every time stalled those efforts. So, there's real hopes, real fears as well, that that convoy would not make it today. The other matter here is that these talks are not just military anymore. Today a very incident that President Zelenskyy is describing as an abduction of a local mayor, this is a mayor I know we have a picture of him to show you in a south eastern city here in Ukraine.

He was taken in broad daylight. Ukrainian authorities again saying, it was an illegitimate object abduction. A Russian backed prosecutor says he's been arrested for involvement in terrorism. But the bottom line here is for the Ukrainians is that this is an attack on their very democracy, Boris and Jessica.


SANCHEZ: Salma Abdulaziz reporting from Lviv, thank you so much. Let's take you now to the White House where President Biden is warning that Russia is going to pay a severe price if the country uses chemical weapons. He's vowing also that the United States will not fight the third world war in Ukraine. Let's go to CNN's Jasmine Wright right now. Jasmine, what more can you tell us about the warnings that President Biden laid out?

JASMINE WRIGHT, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Boris, the President drew a red line yesterday when he said that Russia would pay a severe price if it used chemical weapons in Ukraine. And now, this comes after the White House is really leaned in and warning that this attack, kind of attack could happen or at least they would use chemical weapons to create a false flag operation.

And now, the president, also an official that I spoke to just an hour after he made that warning they would not get into what the intelligence that the U.S. has that shows them that allows them really to form this consensus that this kind of attack could be happening. But the official told me that the president's word stands here, though they would not preview what exactly severe price means.

Now, just few hours later bores the President do a another redline at the House Democratic ideas conference in Philadelphia, when he said that he would not be using U.S. troops; US troops would not go on the ground in Ukraine to fight another world war. Take a listen.


BIDEN: We have a sacred obligation, a NATO territory, a sacred obligation, Article Five, and we will not, although we will not fight the third world war in Ukraine. We're showing strength and we'll never falter. But look, the idea, the idea that we're going to send in offensive equipment and have planes, and tanks, and trains going in with American pilots and American crews. Just understand, don't kid yourself, no matter what you all say. That's called World War III, OK? WRIGHT: So, strong words there from the President. He said, "Don't kid yourself." Now, the President made these remarks just hours after he spoke to Ukrainian President Zelenskyy by phone, a 15-minute phone call that officials say a little bit longer than normal.

And of course, Zelenskyy is one of the main people calling for the U.S. to really establish a no-fly zone over Ukraine, something that U.S. officials say is not happening because that would create essentially another world war, when it comes to enforcement.

And so, on this phone call with President Biden and Zelenskyy, they talked about that new trade announcement as well as battle ground assessments in Ukrainian and other atrocities that they believe that Russia is committing against Ukrainian people. So, one thing, Boris and Jessica, that we are looking out for from the White House today is whether or not the President is talking to more, more world leaders, as they're really plotting the path ahead, trying against deter and punish Russia in these high-tension times, Boris.

DEAN: All right, Jasmine Wright for us at the White House. Thanks so much for that reporting. President Biden is taking another step to isolate Russia announcing the U.S. and other allies will move to revoke Russia's most favored nation status and that essentially means normal trade relations will end. The President has also issued new bans on Russian imports like alcohol and seafood.


BIDEN: And Putin must pay the price. He cannot pursue a war that threatens the very foundations which he's doing the very foundations of international peace and stability, and then ask for financial help from the international community. We're going to hit Putin harder because the United States, and our closest allies, and partners are acting in unison. Totality of our sanctions, now export controls is crushing Russian economy.


DEAN: House Speaker Nancy Pelosi says the house will take up legislation next week to formalize this revocation with hopes that it will receive a strong bipartisan vote. The Senate is expected to move quickly as well.

SANCHEZ: Meantime, the European Union is expected to roll out another round of sanctions targeting Russia today. CNNs Melissa Bell joins us now live from Paris. Melissa, walk us through these new sanctions from the European Union.

MELISSA BELL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Boris, these are sanctions that come into effect today and that really mirror the ones that Jessica was talking just talking about from the White House, revoking Russia's most favored nation status. Also, looking at how they can ban cryptocurrencies being used to try and get around the sanctions, something they'd been worried about.

Europeans also announcing a They are denying Russia its rights within the World Trade Organization, essentially what that does is it allows Europeans then to target the export and import of goods beyond those that had already been targeted in previous rounds of sanctions, those that can be used for either civilian or military use.


Now, they can target any goods they like, now that the Russia has been removed from the World Trade Organization framework. So, specifically, what the European Union announced yesterday, and that has come into force today is a ban on the export of luxury goods from the European Union, and a ban on the import of steel or iron from Russia.

And so, that's what you're likely to see going head these next few days, really, a focus on the trade-off of those financial sanctions, we've seen off to the sanctions announced by both Washington, London and Brussels against targeted individuals, those closest to Vladimir Putin, the oligarchs that really prop up his regime, you're going to look at -- you're going to be seeing much more targeted sanctions by states by blocks, like the European Union, targeting specific industries.

Now, here's the trouble for Europeans, they can't go the way the United States in the United Kingdom have in terms that ban on oil simply because European Union is extremely dependent on Russian energy supplies. What they did announced during a two-day summit that was held on the outskirts of Paris and Versailles this Thursday and Friday, is that they're going to seek to lessen their dependency and get rid of it altogether within the next five years.

So, they're looking towards that. In the meantime, they're going to have to continue importing that energy that they're so dependent on now. Even as we speak, there's a phone call going on between Emmanuel Macron, the French President, the German Chancellor Olaf Scholz, and Vladimir Putin, there isn't that much that's expected to come out of it given Vladimir Putin's determination to plow on but it should provide us with at least some insight into what's going on in his mind. Of course, we'll be following that closely going forward, Boris.

DEAN: All right. Melissa Bell, will check back in with you. Thanks so much for that update. And Russia's relentless attack on Ukraine, U.S. officials say, Putin's army is relying on unsophisticated weapons including so called dumb bombs.

SANCHEZ: Yes, some officials say that it could signal a weakness in Russia's military campaign or perhaps a terrifying willingness to employ brutal tactics that could lead to countless civilian deaths. CNNs Katie Bo Lillis has more.


KATIE BO LILLIS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Boris. Good morning, Jessica. U.S. officials who are closely tracking the mix of munitions that Russia is using in this brutal assault on Ukraine say that Russia is relying far more heavily on less sophisticated, more indiscriminate, so-called dumb bombs than it is on what's known as precision guided munitions. Weapons that are capable of hitting a more precise target.

It's a dynamic that U.S. and Western officials say could offer some important clues about the state of Russia's military, even though right now, they say they don't know exactly why Russia hasn't used more guided munitions. One senior NATO official that we spoke to called it a big question that officials are still trying to answer. There are a couple of theories here, though, according to the sources that we spoke to.

One source familiar with the intelligence told us that there are some indications that Russia has already burned through the proportion of its arsenal that it had allocated for this conflict, which could potentially bolster some long-standing speculation that Russia's stockpile of these weapons is relatively limited. We do know that they're certainly more expensive and more complex to produce.

Another theory, according to some outside analysts is that it's also possible that Russia is simply holding inventory in reserve for later in the conflict, or even as a potential emergency precaution in the event that Russia finds itself in conflict with NATO. It's also possible that Russia's reliance on these older, less sophisticated weapons is simply part of this deliberately brutal strategy designed to terrorize the Ukrainian population and grind them into submission.

At the end of the day, no matter why Russia is using comparatively fewer of its precision munitions, there's no question that the cost of this indiscriminate bombing campaign is being borne by Ukraine's hospitals, by its schools, its apartment buildings by Ukrainian civilians, as well as its military. Jessica, Boris.


SANCHEZ: Katie Bo, thank you so much for that. Let's dig deeper now with CNN Global Affairs Analyst, Kim Dozier. Kim, grateful to have you this morning. Appreciate you getting up bright and early for us. I have a two-part question for you first, trailing off of that report from Katie Bo Lillis about dumb bombs and potentially the use of chemical weapons. What's your assessment of why Russia hasn't used more targeted bombs, more targeted missiles, and the potential for the use of chemical weapons?

KIM DOZIER, CNN GLOBAL AFFAIRS ANALYST: I had heard as Katie Bo had that. European officials have been tracking a low supply of these smart weapons, these smart bombs so that Russia either had to parcel them out or save them from later some of these bombs they were actually getting from Europe and the sanctions that were announced, cut off their supply and their own factories that make the smart bombs take three to four months to replenish existing stocks. So, that could explain the lag and the dumb bombs are doing unfortunately exactly what we've seen the Russians carry out thus far, a terror campaign to flesh out the civilians and the fighters and make it easier for them to just capture empty cities.


SANCHEZ: And on the question of chemical weapons, specifically, President Biden trying to deter Vladimir Putin from using chemical weapons, or Russia through the civil war in Syria. We've seen them support regimes that are not shy about using these kinds of weapons. Walk us through that tightrope that the White House has to walk right now?

DOZIER: Well, they have done their best in terms of declassifying the intelligence and saying this is something that we think they might do. That's a way to defend against this messaging war that will follow an attack, but it doesn't prevent it. So far, the U.S. has time and time again declassified, that they thought Russian forces were going to invade, the forces invaded anyway.

The other thing that unfortunately plays in Russia's favor is if it uses something like chlorine that was used to horrible effect in Syria, in the areas that'll use it, it's going to be hard for the weapons inspectors who would do the kind of investigation to track it back and blame one of the parties or another to go in and collect evidence. So, if it gets used, it'll add to the terror add to the fear, but also add to the murkiness.

Remember when a Russian missile shot down an airliner over Crimea, Russian media, especially state supported media put out four or five different theories just to sort of muddy the water, and that's the kind of thing that they would do in this case. And unfortunately, Biden's threat of you know, we'll do something, just lead you to believe well, probably more sanctions, and that hasn't stopped anything so far.

DEAN: It's so interesting to hear you kind of laying all this out, because we've heard from you and other experts. So much of what Russia is doing is about psychological warfare too, terrorizing these citizens, and these Ukrainians and, and the people there: mothers, children, elderly, everyone. That tell us a little bit about how that plays into their strategy. And, and, and we've also at the same time, seen the White House, President Biden to your point, declassifying some of this information, trying to get out in front of it, trying to talk about the disinformation, trying to kind of give people at least a heads up and get out in front of it

DOZIER: Well, and the declassification of information will work to reach the people who are getting news from the U.S. and Europe. And so, they're probably already inclined to believe what they're hearing. But, you know, Putin may win the battle but lose the war in that his forces may grind through Ukraine and turn it into a wasteland. But unlike other battles, where Russian forces have either flattened or helped proxies flatten the area to win it, this is going to have longer lasting effects.

Putin had been trying to win hearts and minds across Ukraine with a disinformation campaign, combined with funding sympathetic politicians, like Marine LePen in France, and those politicians could take money without much of a blowback. Now, you're going to have Ukrainian refugees spreading eventually throughout Europe, making a compelling in-person case to a generation of Europeans, that this is what Putin's really about. So, yes, Russian forces may win Ukraine, but their campaign to try to win over all of Europe, lost. SANCHEZ: And holding on to Ukraine is a separate question completely, an occupation is very different than an invasion. I do want to zoom out and look at the broader map because there are countries out there, India and China, for instance, and even Turkey, that arguably the west could be courting to try to put more pressure on Russia. Thus far, China has sort of played coy, they've been a little bit two-faced. They've condemned somewhat the invasion of Ukraine, but in fact, they haven't actually done anything to hurt the Kremlin. What about India? What about Turkey? Do you think they can be brought into the fold?

DOZIER: Well, I think China will only step in once its bottom line, its business across Europe really gets affected by the economy being crashed through by just an ongoing conflict. India is still upset with the United States over the Afghan pull out, and they've been hedging their bets with Russia and China.

Also, a lot of Indian military officials went to Russian military academies, and India uses a lot of Russian military airframes, equipment, there's a long standing relationship there so India could actually be a way to bridge the gap and reach Russia.


Turkey has actually beat Russia in three recent battles with its forces and proxies fighting Russia in Syria, Libya and Nagorno Karabakh. Putin seems to respect that kind of tough guy stance from President Erdogan. So, again, that could be another route that we've seen. It's led to some diplomatic outreach hasn't worked so far, but you want to give Putin some way out. If there's going to be any diplomatic de-escalation here.

SANCHEZ: The fear is that putting in, putting him into a corner may lead to devastating --

DEAN: Right.

SANCHEZ: Further issues. Kim Dozier, always good to have you. Thanks much.

DEAN: Thanks. Good to see you.

DOZIER: Thank you.

DEAN: Well, coming up, as the world severs its ties with Russia and isolates it from the global economy. Vladimir Putin is hitting back with his own export ban. What could be the global impact of that? We're going to have more next.

SANCHEZ: Plus, from medical gear to combat supplies. A growing number of U.S. veterans are trying to find ways to help Ukraine.

Coming up, you're going to hear from a former army officer helping to connect veterans with organizations on the ground. We'll be right back.


DEAN: Russia is responding to sanctions from the U.S. and its allies by banning exports of some Russian products and crops on the list of items banned until the end of the year: telecom, medical, auto, agricultural, electrical and tech equipment. It's also banning exports of wheat and other grains to former Soviet countries that make up the Eurasian Economic Union until the end of August to shore up Russia's own supplies. And there are already questions about how much of this is retaliation. And how much is Russia's effort to protect itself.

Joining me now to take a closer look at all of it is Emily Holland, she's an Assistant Professor with the Russia Maritime Studies Institute at the U.S. Naval College. Emily, good morning to you. Thanks for making time with us, for us, this morning. We appreciate it.


DEAN: Good morning. A fortune magazine headline says Russia banned the export of over 200 goods. But is Putin retaliating against sanctions or stockpiling supplies? What's your take there? Is banning those grain exports to former Soviet states as part of a wider strategy, do you think?

HOLLAND: Probably a little bit of both. Unfortunately, we don't really know what yet the consequences are of trying to decouple what amounts to the world's largest economy from an extremely globalized economy. Russia, as you know, is a primary exporter of all major sources of energy, oil, natural gas, thermal, coal, nuclear materials, nuclear power plants, in addition to primary commodities, like wheat, metals and minerals.

So, as the west has really implemented an unprecedented sanctions regime against a major economy, we're sort of only now beginning to see the consequences of that. Russia responded to the Biden administration's ban on the U.S. import of Russian oil and gas products by this initial export ban of certain materials that you mentioned earlier. This so far will probably have a relatively limited effect on the west economy. But everybody is concerned about the retaliatory sanctions, increasing and concerned about a potential disruption of really crucial Russian energy supplies to the market.

DEAN: And so, walk us through what would happen if these did continue, if there were more sanctions. And that scenario that you just laid out actually happens? How could that affect the global economy?

HOLLAND: Sure, what we're already actually seeing that beginning to be priced into the markets, that's why we're seeing extremely high oil prices, we're seeing historically high European gas prices, the market is already pricing in what might amount to a major disruption of Russian commodities.

Now, here in the U.S., you can already see the price of gas is pretty high. There are fears that over the summer, as oil demand increases, the price of gas will only rise with the prospect of Russian gas or oil being removed from the market. That has sort of basic consequences for the U.S. economy, the more money people have to spend on gas, the less money consumers have to spend on goods and services. That slows growth. That hurts small businesses, there are sort of huge knock-on effects to that.

Now, there is not a global oil or gas embargo against Russia. To make that happen, states like China and India would have to join in and so far, even Europe has not joined in on that because they are much more reliant on European energy imports, then is the United States. The United States only has about three percent of its consumption is comes from Russia, so relatively minor, and we can make that up.

Although, we are seeing the consequences of even removing that small proportion of Russia's energy from the U.S. economy. We're already seeing prices spike. So, in general, we're going to continue to see historically high energy prices and not just oil, but also coal, natural gas and, and electricity prices. We're going to see all of those things spiking over the summer. And the concern is that if the conflict rolls on, and the prices continue to increase, what does that mean for the global economy? That could portend a global recession.

DEAN: Right, and I hear you talking about the energy sector and those implications, which are significant, as you just laid out. Walk us through a little bit about you know, we're talking about shutting down the export of wheat, how -- and other food items like that -- how could that affect food insecurity around the world?

HOLLAND: This is a huge problem. The world is sort of already in a food crisis prior to the Russia's invasion of Ukraine. Russia is a major exporter of wheat and other cereals. Ukraine is also another major exporter.


And the exports are not evenly distributed. So, a lot of Russia and Ukraine's wheat and other cereal exports go to the Middle East, which are already food insecure, to begin with.

So, as food prices spike up with the disruption of Ukrainian exports, and now with Russian exports to certain regions, food prices are going to increase. Food prices are also highly correlated with energy prices. You need natural gas for the production of fertilizer, and food prices go up when transportation prices go up.

So, as a result of the energy crisis that we're now in, we're also seeing food prices increase. So, with a double whammy to the food industry. You're seeing less cereals come to the market, but you're also seeing the prices rise.

This is problematic, especially for many Middle Eastern countries, which already subsidized -- have to subsidize the price of bread and wheat, sort of keep some sort of social stability.

What happens when that -- those prices rise and governments can't afford those subsidies? Sometimes there has been linked to conflict.

JESSICA DEAN, CNN WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT (on camera): Right. Right. Well, we will keep our eye on all that. Emily Holland, thanks for laying it all out for us. We sure do appreciate it.

BORIS SANCHEZ, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): Next, they know what it's like to defend freedom firsthand. Now, a growing number of U.S. veterans are stepping up to aid Ukraine. We're going to talk to a former Army officer who's helping with that effort. Next.



DEAN: A shipment to Ukraine desperately needs is expected to arrive in Europe today.

DEAN (voice-over): A senior U.S. defense official says it will include air defense and anti-tank weapons. And the official says this security assistance will keep flowing as long as Ukraine needs it.

U.S. officials are working with 14 other countries to coordinate these shipments of security assistance.

SANCHEZ: As Russia's brutal attack drags on, Ukrainian president, Volodymyr Zelenskyy is calling on volunteers from around the world to take up arms and join his country's fight.

That apparently is a call that some U.S. military veterans are answering. Joining us now is former Army Officer David Ribardo, who served overseas in Afghanistan, and is now helping veterans find ways that they can contribute.

He is working with a group called Volunteers for Ukraine, connecting people with useful skills to donors who can buy airline tickets and supplies.

David, we're grateful to have you and thank you for your service. You say that you're overwhelmed with requests from veterans that want to join this fight.

What's driving them?

DAVID RIBARDO, DIRECTOR, VOLUNTEERS FOR UKRAINE: Well, across the board here, we've had just unanimous support from around the world, not just veterans, but both military and civilian alike have all decided to help out the humanitarian suffering over in Ukraine has been visible in a way that hasn't been in former conflicts.

And so, from everybody, they have all decided to chip in with whatever they can. And so, this is one of the things that's been different about our organization here. Just -- the ability to get a person who has no military background to be able to actually contribute in a meaningful way here.

SANCHEZ: And have you heard from anyone that's actually made it to the frontlines in Ukraine?

RIBARDO: Yes. Some of the individuals that we have talked to are as far out as the frontlines of this combat.

SANCHEZ: Wow. And have they shared with you anything about what they're seeing or how it's going?

RIBARDO: Yes, absolutely. One of the first individuals, we helped out with somebody who is leaving the area needing assistance to get back home, and the description of their conflict experience was unlike anything I've heard of.

My time in Afghanistan, comparatively, they were getting chased through the forest with helicopters shooting at them, and attack aircraft, Russian paratroopers coming in.

So, comparatively, this is conflict that a scale that I've never dreamed of.

SANCHEZ: And David, part of your work right now is identifying the most well-suited volunteers, sorting out those that you call combat tourists and even extremists that apparently have reached out to you.

Give us an idea of how you determine that someone is doing this for the right reasons.

RIBARDO: Sure. One of the hardest things here is the chaos that's happened, as we've had 1000s of volunteers in these first few days. And so, we go through a vetting process where individuals with the correct backgrounds verify military service records, civilian credentials, to make sure that we are sending the right people forward.

It's imperative that we don't send somebody over who becomes a troublemaker. And so, we found everything from combat tourists as the way we described it, which are people who have no skill sets and falsify records to try and sneak in.

Or we've found a white supremacy group that was trying to send a militia over there. And so, those are individuals that we've been working with the correct authorities to make sure they get sorted into the correct places. We're not sending people to cause trouble.

SANCHEZ: The state department has put out a warning, essentially saying that if U.S. citizens are fighting in Ukraine, and they're caught, the Russians would treat them as mercenaries. Are you concerned at all for the folks that you're helping facilitate their efforts to support the Ukrainians?

RIBARDO: Absolutely. Everybody involved with this cause is somebody that we care about deeply. And from my side, that is a statement that for the Russians to make speaks to the character of this war.

It's brutal, it's unforgiving. It's extremely dangerous to be in that country right now. And if you are interested in going across that border, you need to have the correct equipment, you need to have the right training, and this is not the time to be beginning that.


RIBARDO: So, ultimately the individuals we are sending forward are people who do have that background there to deliver humanitarian assistance in a high threat environment.

SANCHEZ: Give us an idea of some of the skills. What kind of unique support can you as veterans provide in this situation?

RIBARDO: Sure. So, in this scenario, our main thing that we've done is to help our volunteers travel. So, we've had a huge outpouring of non- veterans come out with civilians, business people donating airline miles, helping with travel arrangements, and ultimately allowing the veterans to get to where they can be of greatest need.

So, we've been able to send a lot of medical personnel forward, everything from Special Operations Combat Medics, anaesthetists, teams of surgeons and doctors.

One of the individuals we sent over was a surgeon who specializes in limb reattachments. And it's something that the intensity of this war has made those skills extremely valuable.

SANCHEZ: It is not an understatement to say that this is a fight for freedom and I admire those who are willing to go into combat to defend it.

David Ribardo, thank you so much for the time this morning.

RIBARDO: Thank you very much.

DEAN: The U.N. says more than 2 million people have been forced to flee Ukraine in places like Moldova and Romania have opened their doors and offered aid to those who need it most. But how long will some communities be able to provide additional help?



SANCHEZ: We're watching a humanitarian crisis unfold across Europe, and Ukraine's neighbors like Poland, Romania, and Moldova are trying to figure out how to house the 1000s of people pouring into their borders every day.

DEAN: And that's especially difficult when you can't be sure just how many more are coming CNN's Miguel Marquez has the story now from Romania.

MIGUEL MARQUEZ, CNN SENIOR NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The refugee crisis deepening.


ANNA LEUKINENKO, FLED UKRAINE: And they open just my bag, just thinking of what I need and maybe about two hours.

MARQUEZ: Anna Leukinenko from Mykolaiv in Southern Ukraine, a city hammered indiscriminately by Russian rockets and artillery.

Leukinenko had two hours to pack up her two kids, her mother, and her children's godmother. Two hours to pack. No idea if she'll see her husband, grandparents, or country again.

LEUKINENKO: Let's see, in my heart, I said I think that Ukrainian will be free and everything will be OK. But, who knows when?

MARQUEZ: Leukinenko, trying to get from Bucharest to friends in Poland, one story of millions. Families now being torn apart in Ukraine and across Europe.

DR. RAED ARAFAT, STATE SECRETARY, ROMANIAN MINISTRY OF INTERNAL AFFAIRS: We will see people who are without capabilities, without possibilities, financial possibilities, who are running from war, they are running for their lives, taking just a very few things with them, and sometimes even without documentation.

MARQUEZ: The speed at which Ukrainians are transformed into refugees increasing exponentially as Russia continues punishing attacks on civilian and military targets alike.

COSMINA SMIEAN, GENERAL MANAGER, DIRECTORATE FOR SOCIAL SERVICES, BUCHAREST CITY: We don't know what is coming and how many people are coming to Bucharest. As far as we know, the people coming here are only in transit, a few of them remain in Romania. But we don't know how many people will come, so, we need to be prepared.

MARQUEZ: Romanians not just waiting to receive Ukrainian refugees. Now, they are collecting and organizing massive amounts of humanitarian supplies all to be shipped directly to Ukraine.

NICUSOR DAN, GENERAL MAYOR, BUCHAREST: They need drugs and we have a specific list of what kind of drugs. They need the medical kits and they need food that can be preserved.

MARQUEZ: Did you ever think you'd be in this situation?

DAN: No. I mean, a war in 2022, it's unbelievable.

MARQUEZ: Miguel Marquez, CNN, Bucharest, Romania.


DEAN: Miguel, thank you.

And now, let's turn to just an incredible story of survival. It was an image seen around the world this week. A pregnant woman who survived the Mariupol hospital bombing, seen here right after the blast, bloodied and injured as she fled the destruction. She was one of at least a dozen people injured in that attack. Three of them died.

SANCHEZ: On Thursday, she welcomed a healthy baby girl into the world. You see the pictures here.

The Ukrainian ambassador announced to the U.N. Secretary Council that the parents have decided to name her, Veronika.

And just like that family, there are millions suffering across Ukraine and many of you want to know how you can lend a helping hand. For information about organizations that are helping with humanitarian aid, you can go to

There are links there to organizations that have been vetted, and every contribution no matter how small goes a long way.


DEAN: Back here at home from a deep freeze in the south to snow in the Northeast, more than 60 million people all across the country are under winter weather alerts. We're going to have the latest on that forecast, next.


SANCHEZ: Winter giving us one last blow this morning. Over 25 million people are under freeze warnings across the south, as severe weather slams parts of the United States. Right now, more than 74,000 are without power after heavy storms rip through the southeast.

SANCHEZ (voice-over): This morning, portions of the Gulf Coast, including Florida and Georgia are under a tornado watch.

DEAN (voice-over): Severe thunderstorms are expected to roll up the mid-Atlantic and parts of the Northeast could see some heavy snow later today. Temperatures, expected to rebound though by Monday, as perhaps, spring is on the way.


DEAN (on camera): Uber is upping its prices as the recent ban on Russian energy imports to the U.S. has left many drivers struggling to keep up with rising gas prices.

DEAN (voice-over): Uber announced it will temporarily add a fuel surcharge of up to $0.55 to rides and food deliveries. Beginning next Wednesday, that increase is set to last for at least 60 days. It will be based off-trip distance and the gas prices in each state.

The rideshare company says the extra fee will go directly to workers pockets.

SANCHEZ: Meantime, in Georgia, the state Senate there passing a bill yesterday prohibiting schools from teaching certain concepts related to race and ethnicity. The text of the bill lays out nine divisive concepts that would not be allowed, including the concept that the United States and Georgia are fundamentally or systemically racist.

We should know, the bill does allow those concepts to be discussed objectively as part of a larger course of instruction. That bill now moves to the State House for final consideration.

DEAN: Still ahead on NEW DAY, more explosions overnight as Russian forces close in on Kyiv. We're going to take you live to Ukraine for the latest on the ground.