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New Day Saturday

Explosions Heard In Kyiv As Russian Troops Move Closer To Capital; EU Leaders Impose A Fourth Round Of Sanctions On Russia; French, German Leaders On The Phone With Putin After Failing To Reach Ceasefire Agreement This Week; Key Inflation Measure Jumps Into Highest Level Since January 1982; U.S. Consumers, Small Businesses Feel The Impact Of Rising Inflation; Tornado Watch Issued For Carolinas, Southeastern Virginia; Over 25 Million People Under Freeze Warnings Across The South. Aired 8-9a ET

Aired March 12, 2022 - 08:00   ET




JESSICA DEAN, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning and welcome to your "New Day." It is Saturday, March 12. And I'm Jessica Dean in for Christi Paul.

BORIS SANCHEZ, CNN ANCHOR: Great to be with you this morning, Jessica. Thank you so much for starting your day with us. I'm Boris Sanchez.

DEAN: Up first this morning Russia stepping up its attacks on Ukraine and closing in on the capital key we're hearing from local officials that Russian missile and airstrikes caused damage to the north and south of the capital overnight.

SANCHEZ: Yes, and we're getting new pictures of the damage this morning. Ukraine's interior minister says that shelling caused the fire at a frozen foods warehouse north east of Kyiv. You can see what's left of the building just charred vehicles and smoldering ruins.

The UK Ministry of Defense says that the bulk of Russian ground forces right now are only about 15 miles from the center of the capital. Russian troops have also surrounded several Ukrainian cities.

DEAN: New efforts are underway today to get humanitarian aid to the city of Mariupol and to get civilians out. Official say a convoy is headed for that area carrying 90 tons of food and medicine. At least 13 humanitarian corridors are expected to be open today. But some pass attempt to establish humanitarian passages haven't worked.

SANCHEZ: And now the focus turns to what Vladimir Putin may do now that the invasion hasn't exactly gone the way that the Kremlin plan. The White House has warned Russia that they should not use chemical weapons in Ukraine.

CNN White House correspondent Arlette Saenz asked the President about those concerns. Here was his response.


ARLETTE SAENZ, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT (on-camera): 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 want a chemical weapons attack?

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


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

DEAN: And we want to get an update on overnight developments in Ukraine right now. Let's go to CNN reporter Salma Abdelaziz. She's live from Lviv.

Salma, Russia appears to be closing in on the capital Kyiv, walk us through the latest this morning.

SALMA ABDELAZIZ, CNN REPORTER: Absolutely, Jessica and Boris. Russian forces appearing to widen their offense offensive intensify their attacks, pushing that front towards the west for the first time. Cities that had been previously spared, like Dnipro and (INAUDIBLE) also suffering under shelling and bombardment from Russian forces, according to Ukrainian authorities. Terrified civilians still trapped inside those areas.

And that's not all. We also know that there is now an intensification of attacks around the capital around Kyiv, key infrastructure to the north in the south of the capital was hit overnight. We understand one of these pieces of infrastructure was actually just a hotel and other was a food warehouse. I know you showed our viewers images of that earlier. That's why what's crucial today is the humanitarian corridors. Thirteen humanitarian corridors have opened today according to the Ukrainian authorities, they are across various cities. But of course the most dire situation right now is in Mariupol, a place that's been besieged cut off from power, water, basic supplies. Right now, there's a humanitarian convoy on its way to that city carrying basic goods. Orthodox priests are on convoy to try to help the families inside, but here's the catch. This is the sixth time Ukrainian authorities say they've tried to get help to that city. And every time according to the Ukrainians, they have been thwarted by Russian troops. So a lot of people pinning their hopes on this convoy making it into Mariupol today.

And there's yet another twist today, President Zelenskyy accusing the Russian government of attacking the very democracy of this country and I'll tell you why. A mayor in a local town in South East Ukraine today was according to a Russian backed prosecutor arrested for involvement in terrorism. If you ask President Zelenskyy he calls it an abduction. He's demanding the immediate release of this mayor says this is a threat to the rule of law in the country. He's also just released a video message encouraging everyone to continue to stay strong to continue to unify behind this resistance saying that this country has dealt the biggest blow to the Russian army in decades.


Again, those are the words of President Zelenskyy. But as this offensive from Russian troops widens intensifies, there's a feeling across this country that nowhere is safe.

SANCHEZ: President Zelenskyy likening the abduction of that mayor to an ISIS kidnapping the detention of that mayor, I should say. Salma Abdelaziz from Lviv, thank you so much.

Let's take you out to the White House now we're President Biden is warning Russia not to use chemical weapons. CNN's Jasmine Wright is with us now.

And Jasmine, what more can you tell us about this warning from the President?

JASMINE WRIGHT, CNN WHITE HOUSE REPORTER: Well, Boris, the President, you're a real red line here 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 has been really leaning in on this warning saying that Russia could use chemical weapons in Ukraine, or at least use it to create a false pretext for a further invasion. And now the president in that moment, nor official that I spoke to just an hour later would talk about what the U.S. intelligence shows them to allow them to form this consensus that this type of attack is potentially on the way but the official that I spoke to said that the President's words stand, though, they declined to really illuminate further on what a severe price would look like.

Now, just a few hours later, Boris, the President drew another red light when he said once again, that he would not be sending in U.S. troops to basically start a new World War III on the ground in Ukraine. Take a listen to his words here at the Democratic -- House Democratic Ideas Conference in Philadelphia.


BIDEN: We will not fight the third world war in Ukraine. The idea, the idea that we're going to send in offensive equipment and have planes and tanks and trains are 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.


WRIGHT: So very strong words there from the President. We have to remember that he made these remarks just hours after he spoke to Ukrainian presidents, President Zelenskyy by phone and a phone call that lasted nearly an hour. And remember the Zelenskyy is an official that's really calling for allies to create a no-fly zone over Ukraine something that officials have continuously struck doubts in it that would amount to starting another world war when it comes to enforcement. So, on that longer phone call we know that the President and Zelenskyy talks about that new trade announcement as well, yes, Zelenskyy gave him a battleground assessment. He said in tweets later on, as well as talking about more atrocities he believes that the Russians have committed against Ukraine.

So Boris and Jessica, one thing going forward into this weekend as the President spends time at Camp David will be asking the White House really whether or not the President is calling more world leaders as they really tried to chart out a path ahead to deter Russia. Jessica, Boris?

DEAN: Yes, we'll see if we get any readouts this weekend. Jasmine Wright at the White House for us, thanks so much.

The European Union is expected to roll out another round of sanctions targeting Russia today. And CNN's Melissa Bell is in Paris this morning.

Melissa, take us through these sanctions.

MELISSA BELL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, basically, this is latest round of European sanctions. They were announced yesterday, they come into force today, what happens very similar to what the United States has announced. And of course, so many of these sanctions have been coordinated these last few weeks. And that's why leaders in the United Kingdom, the United States and Europe believe that they're likely to be so effective. The latest ones announced that the European Union like the United States and other G7 members will be removing the preferred nation status of Russia, they're also looking at -- they've also banned cryptocurrencies to try and prevent those being used to get around the previous rounds of sanctions, and also revoking any rights that the that Russia had within the World Trade Organization. Essentially, what this allows, is it means that Europe can now target specific industries and trade specifically. So for instance, announcing also that it is banning the exports from the European Union of luxury goods, banning the import of Russian steel, and iron.

Of course, this is important because what we've seen so far those round of sanctions that have targeted the finance, finance industries, the banks, the central bank, with its assets frozen, and of course, that has a very real impact on the everyday life of ordinary Russians. There are also those sanctions that have targeted the oligarchs another round announced by the Treasury, the American Treasury Department this morning, that are really come to reinforce the ones that were announced on Wednesday by the European Union targeting the oligarchs and those people that are very much around Vladimir Putin trying to get them where it hurts in their finances their assets property that they may have in countries here in the European Union.


Now, in the last few minutes we've just been hearing from the French presidential palace, a phone call has just ended between the French president, the German chancellor and Vladimir Putin. And whilst not very much was expected, we're waiting to hear the details of exactly what was said. The important thing here is that, Jessica, this phone call that lasted an hour and a half, the French president said a couple of days ago, look, he didn't believe that there was going to be any diplomatic suit solution found to what's happening in Ukraine anytime soon, either in the coming days, or in the coming weeks. That was what he said a couple of days ago, speaking at a summit of the 27 European leaders in Versailles, we wait to hear what's come out of that phone call.

But at the very least, it is one of the last channels that we have those phone calls that the French president regularly has with Vladimir Putin to try and find out what's going on his mind what his intentions are, even as Kyiv begins to be more heavily bombed the north and to the south, as we've been hearing this morning, what is going on in the mind of Vladimir Putin? And that's something we're waiting to hear more from, from (INAUDIBLE) sources who were able to listen to that call.

DEAN: Yes, a great point.

SANCHEZ: Yes. And we will get you the latest details on those calls as soon as we get a read up. Melissa Bell, reporting from Paris. Thank you so much.

DEAN: And former U.S. ambassador to Ukraine, William Taylor is here now with us to share his expertise on the region. He's also a vice president for the U.S. Institute of Peace focused on Russia, and Europe.

Ambassador, great to have you with us.


DEAN: Thanks for making time. It's nice to have you here on set. We just heard reporting from Melissa, that this phone call just wrapped up between French, German officials and Vladimir Putin. What do you think realistically, we can expect from that phone call? She's talking about maybe the best-case scenario is we're just getting a little insight into where Putin's mind is right now.

TAYLOR: And that would be useful, of course. But all the indications so far are that the Russians are not serious about these negotiations. The Russians have gotten -- Mr. Putin has gotten himself into this situation, without a way to get out. He probably realizes that this is a blunder this was a strategic mistake. But there's no way out for him that he can see at this point. So, these conversations with the French president and the German Chancellor are useful. Others could have President Xi of China might be able to have some effect on President Putin.

But looking broadly, this is a mistake for President Putin, he has to figure out how he can get out of this of this problem.

SANCHEZ: And the fact that he may find himself cornered this way, leads to fears that he may use things like chemical weapons in Ukraine, he has made the threat of using nuclear weapons previously. From your perspective, is there a way for the Biden administration to deter Putin from using chemical weapons seeing as how in a regime that he supports in Syria, that red line of using chemical weapons came and went during the Obama administration to not much effect and deterrence, right?

TAYLOR: Right. That's exactly right Boris. The military options against some kind of use are the same ones that -- you've already quoted President Biden saying that that would be World War II. And if that's what the Russians want, and certainly what NATO does not want. That said, the decision to use chemical weapons, nuclear weapons, biological weapons, this is a major decision that the President Putin would live with forever, for a long time. This would guarantee if it's not already clear, his pariah status in history forever. He has to understand that.

The decision making however, in the Kremlin is so concentrated, is so focused on one man who is separated out from any kind of touch with reality, again, goes back to the possibility that these negotiations or conversations in these phone calls from the French or German, maybe even Chinese could have some effect.

DEAN: And to what extent did the sanctions have any effect on kind of Putin's thinking around chemical weapons around? What's next around? Is there a potential off ramp? How do you anticipate that's affecting his thinking?

TAYLOR: Jessica, I think these sanctions were initially designed to deter what we were just talking about and they didn't deter. He's decided -- he either didn't believe it. In which case, he's got a big surprise on his hand, because the sanctions are really hammering his economy, either he didn't believe it, or he was willing to go anyway. So, it's not clear to me that sanctions are going to be the deterrent or sanctions are going to be the way to get him to back down. It is more than the failure on the battlefield so far.

He's had some successes, certainly in the south. The Ukrainian military has done extremely well, extremely well against his forces against Putin's forces. And that could be the push the trigger that makes him say somehow he'll sport try to spin it in a good way but that success from the Ukrainian military maybe the way that he moves to some other route


SANCHEZ: It may also have to have to do his not being deterred by sanctions, with the belief that perhaps there is a way through China to lessen the effect of those economic problems that are being caused by the sanctions on the oligarchs on Putin himself. Is it a worthwhile effort for lawmakers in Congress to try to address that? There are some lawmakers that have said that China should perhaps be punished or at least warned that dealing with Russia, whether it's through trade of. oil or other trade has to be a vehicle to ratchet up the pressure on the Kremlin.

TAYLOR: Boris, I think the Chinese are already figuring that out. They are stepping back, they are not stepping in to help the Russians, they may even be -- there are indications that the Chinese companies are not violating that ban on high tech components, electrical components going into Russia, because they don't want to be sanctioned by the United States. They want to be able to continue to deal with (INAUDIBLE). So the Chinese may already be stepping back a bit.

We noticed that the Chinese did not support the Russians in the in the United Nations either in the Security Council nor in the General Assembly, they abstained, they didn't support the Russians. So the Chinese are in a funny, difficult position, they may be holding back themselves.

DEAN: And this is of course, is all coming as we're seeing the EU and NATO really strengthen right and really unify and come together. And we saw that, you know, President Zelenskyy has asked for admittance to the EU that, as you well know, takes years and years and years. But what do you see moving forward in the next days, weeks? How does the EU in particular move?

TAYLOR: It's so interesting, Jessica. The EU is now moving pretty quickly on this request on this application. We remember that in 2013, it was the EU application, it was Ukrainians application to join the EU and the signature on the Association Agreement, which is kind of the first step toward membership that triggered President Putin's attempt to get President Yanukovych to go away from that, to move away from that to reject that. And that led the Ukrainians to go to the speech that caused the Revolution of Dignity, the Euro Maidan, which is then led to the annexation of Crimea, and led to where we are today.

So, it is the EU that is an important component, as well as NATO. EU is probably a nearer term possibility than NATO. Both are a possibility still, both are in the Ukrainian constitution. And both could be a turning point.

DEAN: Yes. All right, well, Ambassador William Taylor, thanks for your expertise. It's always great to see you.

TAYLOR: Good to see you.

SANCHEZ: (INAUDIBLE). So, it's been roughly three weeks since Russia invaded Ukraine. The invasion though has not gone the way the Kremlin anticipated. Russian troops are now forced to regroup. In just a few moments we're going to show you where and break down the latest with our military experts. Don't go anywhere.



BORIS: To get you a broader view of where the conflict in Ukraine stands right now, we have retired Air Force Colonel Cedric Leighton back at the magic wall. As always, we appreciate your insight and perspective.

Let's start with the stalled Russian convoy because for more than a week, we've been seeing these satellite images, it's a 40-mile convoy that was concerned that it was headed straight for Kyiv. And now we've learned that they've essentially disbanded and now they're in the trees.

COL. CEDRIC LEIGHTON (RET), CNN MILITARY ANALYST: Right, that's exactly right, Boris. So you know, take a look here. This is basically where that convoy is just in the top part of that circle. So this is what the convoy looked like, this is a very 28 (ph) these images were taken then. And you see convoy trucks right along the road right here. And also right down in this area right here with some dispersement in these areas, but nothing, nothing really big.

Well, let's go into what happened on the 28th, you had them all more detailed view, you've got these, this whole column of trucks and armored personnel carriers, not so many in this particular photo, but they were in that convoy. And you move forward to Thursday. And you see, there are a few that are on the highway here. But you have a lot of dispersal in fields like this. And in some cases in tree line areas like in these areas, right and here, and then you also see some activity in the tree line here.

So what we're doing here is if you're running a convoy like this, what you could be doing is you could be hiding it to avoid it, it being targeted. The Ukrainians use drones. TB2s from Turkey, are the favorite model right now. And they're very effective because they're armed. And they can actually go after convoys. And we've seen some videos to that effect. And what they're actually doing in this case is dispersing them for safety reasons. But there's also the possibility that they may have had we supply issues, fueling problems, and other issues may have cropped up in this case.

SANCHEZ: Yes, watching videos on social media, it certainly appeared like they were stalled. And I've seen videos where even there MREs, their food supplies were expired in 2013. What do all these issues tell you about the status of the Russian military in their preparedness for this invasion?

LEIGHTON: Unprepared, not ready to go to war. Clearly somebody has been lying to the chain of command in Russia. And these things are endemic of a system that is rife with corruption. That is a problem. And when you take a corrupt army to war, that corrupt army ends up not performing well, once they hit contact with an enemy that is willing to fight.

SANCHEZ: But despite that, overall, as we look at the broader picture, the Russian onslaught is expanding. We've seen strikes further west in Ukraine than we expected. What areas right now are you concentrated on the most when it comes to the Ukrainian defensive?

LEIGHTON: Well, the first thing is I haven't forgotten about Kyiv. So that is still goal number one. But you're correct. You know, areas are here, here and here have been struck by Russian aircraft and Russian rockets. This is very interesting because it does several things. First of all, it takes the war into another part of Ukraine that hadn't been affected by it before. And but the other thing that it does is it possibly interdicts the supply routes from the west from places like Poland. If you start cutting off air supplies here, and roads, Rohde replenishment areas, then what you end up having is a lack of ability to move things to Ukrainian troops. And that can be a huge problem.


SANCHEZ: And that logistical challenge, getting things in from Poland, perhaps other NATO allied countries into Ukraine, part of the reason that the Pentagon ultimately decided to step away from that plan to supply the Ukrainians with those old Soviet MiGs, those old fighter jets, right?

LEIGHTON: That's exactly right. And that was one big reason. And, you know, one of the other things is that you can do a lot of things with smaller equipment, man portable equipment, such as the stinger. This is an anti-aircraft defense system, it's a man portable system, that means you can actually carry it. Its five feet long, has a range of five miles. And it's designed to take down aircraft, it is highly effective. The stinger and other missiles of its type from other countries can be used very effectively by even relatively untrained troops that are fighting on behalf of Ukraine.

And the other thing that of course, we have is the Javelin this goes after the tanks. This is an anti-tank guided missile system, shorter than the stinger. But it is also shoulder fired and can be operated by one soldier.

SANCHEZ: And, Colonel, I want to go back to the broader map of Ukraine. Earlier when you're with us this morning, you were making the case that one of the Russian objectives is to essentially block Ukraine from access to the Black Sea.

LEIGHTON: That is correct, Boris. And, you know, this is one of the things that we can't overemphasize. So when you ask what areas am I concentrated on? You know, one in two, absolutely. But the big thing here is this the coastline right here. See, this has not been covered yet by the Russians.

SANCHEZ: This is Odessa.

LEIGHTON: And this is Odessa. And Odessa is the major port city. If Odessa falls that, in essence landlocked Ukraine puts it in a circle of Russian forces, and what happens there is they can't have direct access to the sea. And that becomes a huge issue for any economy. Any country that is trying to get entry into the European Union has huge implications for Ukraine for the future.

SANCHEZ: And as we've been watching those areas, in Odessa and Mariupol have been getting pounded. We will continue to watch them very closely.

Colonel Leighton, always appreciate your insight. Thanks so much.

LEIGHTON: You bet. Boris. Thank you so much.

DEAN: President Biden has said the U.S. will not fight against Russian troops in Ukraine. But what happens if Putin uses chemical weapons? Would President Biden be compelled to act? We'll discuss, that's next.



SANCHEZ: We're now into the third week of Vladimir Putin's unprovoked invasion of Ukraine and Russian forces are moving closer and closer to the capital of Kyiv. The fighting has intensified with reports of nonstop bombing throughout the morning, within earshot of the city. Local officials say the areas to the north and south remain the most dangerous and new efforts are underway to try to get civilians out of those cities under siege. At least 13 humanitarian corridors are expected to open today to allow more people to evacuate.

DEAN: And President Biden has drawn a red line saying Russia will pay a severe price if the country uses chemical weapons in Ukraine. And this comes after several warnings from the White House that a bio weapon attack could be used in the conflict or that Russia could use it as a false flag operation to escalate things.

I want to bring in CNN National Security Analyst and former CIA Chief of Russia Operations Steve Hall, and CNN Global Affairs Analyst and Staff Writer for The New Yorker, Susan Glasser. Great to see both of you this morning. Thanks so much for being here.

Steve, let's start with you. The President wouldn't say what intelligence the U.S. has right now. But the White House has warned now that Putin may use chemical weapons in Ukraine. Walk us through Putin's pattern when it comes to using chemical weapons and what pretext do you believe the Biden administration might have seen or they might have.

STEVE HALL, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: Even if they don't have actual heart intelligence indicating, you know, what type of weapon is going to be used, whether there's going to be one of these so called false flag operations, the pattern is really clear. You know, the first step you go back to is the Syrian war. What did the Russians do there? The Russians worked with the Syrians to claim that there were terrorists, you know, ISIS guys in the countryside, who were using these horrible chemical weapons and therefore they needed to go in and bomb, you know, whatever village, whatever sort of buildings they needed to go after very indiscriminately like we're saying in Ukraine.

So that's sort of that false flag, the provocation type of operation, which would make perfect sense for the Russians to do, also in Syria. Now on the offensive side in terms of the weaponry, we know, of course, that the Russians do have chemical weapons. And if you're asking who's used chemical weapons, most recently, it's the Russians, in assassination attempts like against Sergei Skripal in the U.K., or you know, a decade or more ago against Mr Litvinenko who was actually poisoned with polonium, a nuclear substance in his tea.


So they're willing to use it but they're also willing to use the possibility that it could exist in Ukraine as an opportunity to go in and bomb a target that they want to. DEAN: Right, and really terrorize people as well. Susan, if that were to happen, if they used chemical weapons, what do you think is the result from the nations that have united together against them? What happens? Is that a more aggressive response from the U.S., from NATO? What does that look like?

SUSAN GLASSER, CNN GLOBAL AFFAIRS ANALYST: Yes, I think that's classic. Unfortunately, the pressure to escalate on the United States and other countries would just grow and grow already. I think we're in that cycle where the more Putin and his military are carrying out even the existing strategy of horrific attacks on civilian targets, bombing of cities, starving of cities, that already is increasing the pressure to act, a use of chemical weapons.

President Biden, that's why you hear very clear communications, we're not taking certain steps like delivery of fighter jets, that we could in order for Russia, hopefully not to take certain escalatory steps. There are a number of weapons, not just chemical weapons that have not yet been put into the fight by Russia that could be. And I think that's one of the biggest concerns right now is that the pressure then grows and becomes almost impossible to not do something more.

DEAN: And of course, President Biden, the White House has really tried, as you point out, to be quite clear and that they, you know, we heard a clip from him earlier today, he's -- that we do not want World War III. We don't want to escalate this, if possible. It's very -- they're trying very, very hard not to do that.

GLASSER: Well, that's right. You also see already, you know, a certain amount of pressure where President Biden is getting pushed back from those who want to do more at every step along the way. Part of the reason why is because if you move too quickly to these kinds of responses, then what do you do if there is a chemical weapons attack or something like that, number one, you -- we continue to see the use of intelligence by the United States, by the Ukrainians in order to put out there what they think the Russians are doing, partially to shape their actions, partially to stop them from doing it, and partially to prepare people for how bad this is going to get. And again, you see already where we're headed with the horrific civilian destruction this week.

DEAN: Right. And, Steve, I want to go back to you and talk about an op-ed, that you actually wrote in The Washington Post this week about the real threat to Putin that he doesn't fear the powerful oligarchs in Russia, but is terrified of a coup from Russia security and military elite. Tell us how did they become such a threat to him? Why are they such a threat to him?

HALL: I think there's some confusion with regard to what are the threats to Putin inside -- domestically, inside Russia. There's the idea that, you know, significant protests might sort of shake the system and worry Putin? I don't think so very much.

Yes, if there were hundreds of thousands of people on the streets at all times, that might be a concern. But, you know, he represses very effectively with his police forces. We've seen this. You get to the oligarchs. The oligarchs are basically his money launderers.

They do have power because they control certain aspects and certain segments of the Russian economy. But the people that I think Putin is really concerned about are folks we refer to as the syllabi key (ph), which is the security and military elite. These are current and former chiefs of intelligence and security services, as well as some, perhaps, some senior military folks.

Those are the guys who have guns. Those are the people who have the skill set to keep things clandestine from Putin, if they were going to try some sort of coup attempt. And this is not unprecedented. In 1991, then President Gorbachev was subjected to a coup by a similar group of people. So that's something that Vladimir Putin is not going to forget historically, is a possibility, if things don't go well for him, you know, inside of Russia, and with this war.

DEAN: Right. And we know that he's kept himself increasingly isolated for a number of reasons. It could be COVID, it could be for his security, all of the above perhaps.

Susan, quickly, before we go, we know that Putin spoke with the German chancellor and the French president just wrapping that up a few minutes ago. What do you expect to hear from that? And at this point, do you believe that these calls are just us getting insight into where Putin's head is right now?

GLASSER: Yes, I mean, we do not seem like we are at the moment in a meaningful diplomatic engagement with Vladimir Putin. So certainly, it's better for there to be people he's still willing to speak with and to get insight, such as we can from those conversations. But right now, I think it's highly unlikely that Putin is going to be in any kind of frame of mind to be talking about ending this war, especially when his objectives have not yet been met.

There's no obvious way. I think I would be wary if you start hearing people talking about off ramps and exit ramps for Vladimir Putin right now, unfortunately.

DEAN: Because you just don't see any?



DEAN: All right. Thanks so much Susan Glasser, Steve Hall, we appreciate both of you.

SANCHEZ: Inflation and the war in Ukraine is causing headaches here in the United States. Across the country, people are paying more for everyday items like food, rent and gas. So what happens if you live on a fixed income or if you're a small business owner? Is there relief in sight? That story coming up.


SANCHEZ: A key measure inflation has jumped to its highest level since 1982. The Bureau of Labor Statistics reported this week that the consumer price index stood at 7.9 percent.


DEAN: Everything from a loaf of bread to a gallon of gas costs more right now and Americans from coast to coast are feeling that impact. CNN Senior National Correspondent Ed Lavandera has more.


ED LAVANDERA, CNN SENIOR NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: For a cold hard lesson on inflation, step into the refrigerator where Karina Gudino Wollangk stores the food supplies she just bought for her pop up food stamp business in Phoenix, Arizona.

KARINA GUDINO WOLLANGK, OWNER DOWN TO GET TACOS: So usually it would be the boneless would be about $1 a pound. Right now it's 184 pounds. This cheese used to be $9, right now, it's all -- it's like $14.56.

LAVANDERA (voice-over): Two years ago, Karina opened up down to get tacos, catering special events. Inflation has up ended her business.

(on-camera): Have there been events where you've just lost money?

GUDINO WOLLANGK: Oh, 100 percent. So these are from today.

LAVANDERA (voice-over): As we look over, some of the week's receipts, Karina explains the hardest impact of inflation on a small business owner is how unpredictable her world has become. The demand for her business is there. Everything else is a nightmare.

(on-camera): And that makes it hard for someone like you to run your business?

GUDINO WOLLANGK: Correct. And makes it unbelievably difficult for us to predict any pricing. I can't even say I'm going to charge you a certain price right now because in three days, it's probably bound to change, you know? And it's never for the better.

LAVANDERA (voice-over): Phoenix, Arizona has one of the highest inflation rates in the country. The latest statistics show it's three percentage points higher than the national average for cities. And that makes life harder for people living on fixed incomes like Jerreldine Spencer.

JERRELDINE SPENCER, ARIZONA RESIDENT: This was the first one I ever did.

LAVANDERA (voice-over): As she shows us her painting skills, Geraldine tells us she lives on $1,700 a month in Social Security. She says she pays $600 in rent, and at least $300 a month pays for needed kidney and blood pressure medications. The rest of her bills like home utilities, car fuel and groceries, she finds depressing.

(on-camera): How hard is it living on a fixed income?

SPENCER: It is hard. And I feel so sorry for my friends that just don't have this kind of money as much as I do, because they're much worse off than me.

KATIA SCHVARTZ, PHOENIX RESIDENT: So my commute is about a block and a half, which is real nice.

LAVANDERA (on-camera): So you can walk to work?

SCHVARTZ: I walk to work. It's the best.

LAVANDERA (on-camera): That's a cheap gas bill.

SCHVARTZ: Oh, I love it.

LAVANDERA (voice-over): The walk home from the ceramic shop where Katya Schwartz works might save her money on gas.

SCHVARTZ: This is my humble abode.

LAVANDERA (voice-over): But the nights after work are filled with dread searching for a new place to live. In four months, Katia's rent for this 300 square foot apartment is going to jump from $670 a month to just over $1,000. She says her paycheck won't cover it.

SCHVARTZ: I would consider living in my car. Yes, I would. So my sister would never allow it.

LAVANDERA (voice-over): Phoenix home prices have skyrocketed in the last year. Apartments Katia can afford are so far away. That paying to gas up her car would then be too much.

(on-camera): I would imagine that battling this at this stage in your life is --

SCHVARTZ: It's really hard. It's really hard. It's -- it makes me feel useless. Like I'm not doing enough.

LAVANDERA (on-camera): Were you worried that --

(voice-over): Katia says she's at stage one panic levels, and the thought of what happens next makes her quiver.

Ed Lavandera, CNN, Phoenix, Arizona.


DEAN: Ed, thank you.

More than 25 million people in the South will be under freeze warnings tonight. How cold is it going to get? I'll tell you in just a few minutes.



DEAN: This morning, a new Tornado Watch has been issued for parts of North and South Carolina, as well South Eastern, Virginia severe weather slams parts of the U.S.

SANCHEZ: Yes, I'm hearing this already snow in the nation's capital. CNN Meteorologist Tyler Mauldin is in the CNN Weather Center with more. Tyler, let's talk about those Tornado Watches this morning. Where are they?

TYLER MAULDIN, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Yes, so we have two areas under a Tornado Watch now. We've got North Central Florida on our Tornado Watch until 11:00 a.m. And then you've got the Carolinas right here under a Tornado Watch until 1:00 this afternoon. It's all part of the larger system that is giving way to snowfall in the nation's capital and then the strong to severe thunderstorms down here across the eastern coast.

And you can also see the -- all that snow stretches all the way into portions of Maine and as far west as the Ohio River Valley. So a very dynamic system pushing East. We've got the severe threat on the warm side. You've got the cold air coming in and giving way to the wintry threat on the cold side. So we have a winter weather alerts in effect from Maine, all the way down to North Georgia. Roughly 60 million people under those winter weather alerts.

We could see north of 4 inches of snow from the central Appalachians all the way up into the Northeast in the mountains. Some areas in Maine could actually see more than a foot of snow up in the higher elevations. Across the I-95 corridor, I would say 1 to 3 inches of snow. But then you add in a strong wind coming down and that can lead to some poor visibility out there on the roadways as we go through time today.

Once we get to later on tonight, that system is going to move offshore and what's coming in behind it. So really cold air coming all the way down from Canada.


We can see sub-freezing temperatures as far south as the Gulf Coast and record temperatures as far south as Tampa Bay. So 40 or more, record low temperatures in jeopardy tomorrow morning.

Look at these temperatures when we wake up. Two-thirds of the country, two thirds of the Eastern -- the Eastern two-thirds of the country, I should say, will be in the 20s and the 30s. Look at that all the way down to 29 degrees in Panama City, Atlanta, Georgia. Your high on Saturday, only 35 degrees. Average is 65.

We will rebound once we get to the early to mid-part of next week but it is going to be quite chilly the next couple of days. Guys?

SANCHEZ: Probably a good weekend to stay inside.

DEAN: Yes.

SANCHEZ: Tyler Mauldin, thank you so much. And thank you for joining CNN this morning. We'll be back tomorrow.

DEAN: Yes, we will.

CNN's coverage of Russia's invasion of Ukraine continues throughout the day. Smerconish is up next.