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New Day Saturday
U.S. Marines Confirm Four Marines Involved In Training Mission Crash In Norway; Casualties Rise As War In Ukraine Enters Fourth Week; UN: 90 Percent of People Fleeing Ukraine Are Women And Children; Biden Warns Xi Not To Assist Russian War Effort; Ukrainian Officer Open Up About Realities Of War; Zelenskyy Calls For Negotiations On Peace "Without Delay"; Casualties Rise As War In Ukraine Enters Fourth Week; Ukraine Claims 14,000 Russian Troops Killed In Fighting. Aired 8-9a ET
Aired March 19, 2022 - 08:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
KRISTIN FISHER, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning it is Saturday, March 19th. Thanks for waking up with us. I'm Kristin Fisher in for Christi Paul.
BORIS SANCHEZ, CNN ANCHOR: A pleasure to be with you Kristin. I'm Boris Sanchez, thanks so much for starting your weekend with us.
FISHER: And we're going to begin with some breaking news. U.S. officials confirm that former Marines were killed, excuse me, were involved in a crash in Norway. They wouldn't elaborate on their status or identities. Earlier, Norway's Prime Minister said that four U.S. service members died after a U.S. military aircraft crashed during NATO training exercises in Norway yesterday.
SANCHEZ: Let's get straight to CNN's Natasha Bertrand. She's live for us from EU headquarters in Brussels. Natasha, obviously this investigation is still ongoing, details are being gathered as we speak. Walk us through what's been confirmed so far.
NATASHA BERTRAND, CNN WHITE HOUSE REPORTER: Yes, Boris. So very little is known so far about this accident. But what we saw from the Norwegian Prime Minister who tweeted this morning, is that he is saying that four U.S. soldiers have been killed in an Osprey accident during this massive training session that NATO is holding, just north of it -- in the north of Norway, I should say. They were in their aircraft, and they were flying north of the Arctic Circle when their aircraft went down. And they have been unable to they -- the rescue teams did actually get to the site. And of course, the conditions were very harsh. The weather has been very bad. And they did confirm, according to the Norwegian authorities that all for the soldiers had died.
Now the U.S. military is not confirming as much as that, they are not releasing any names, either of the four soldiers that were involved in this incident. But this is obviously a major blow if it is -- if it turns out to be confirmed that these soldiers did die, because this training exercise, of course, comes at a very pivotal moment for the NATO alliance. They conduct this exercise every two years. So it is not exactly in response to this Russian invasion of Ukraine. But it is the largest of these exercises that they have held over the last several years. And it's held in Norway precisely because of these harsh conditions on the ground, precisely because it trains these soldiers to be accustomed to harsh weather conditions and challenging terrain to allow them to be prepared for essentially anything that comes their way.
So, we're waiting for more details to be confirmed about this incident. But of course, it is very sad news this morning. Boris, Kristin.
SANCHEZ: Tragic news indeed. We will of course keep you updated with the very latest. Natasha, please stand by.
The President of Ukraine meantime is calling for peace talks to end Russia's assault on his country without delay. President Vladimir Zelenskyy in a Facebook post this morning says it is time to meet to restore justice for Ukraine or in his words, Russia will face massive losses.
FISHER: His message comes as Vladimir Putin steps up his brutal attacks on civilian and military targets, including a base in Mykolaiv. Russian forces also fired six missiles on the city of Lviv near the Polish border right on NATO's doorstep. President Zelenskyy says 130 people have been rescued from a theater hit by Russian bombs in the battered city of Mariupol, but hundreds more may still be trapped underneath all of that rubble. The UN says civilian deaths are up to at least 780 across Ukraine, although that number of course is likely much higher.
SANCHEZ: And this assessment is notable. The UK defense minister says that Russia has been surprised by the scale and ferocity of the Ukrainian resistance. U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin who's traveling in Europe says that Russia has made a number of missteps. And a news conference in Bulgaria earlier today, Austin said the smartest thing for Putin to do is end the war and end the bloodshed.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
LLOYD AUSTIN, DEFENSE SECRETARY: Russia's invasion has taken a terrible toll on Ukrainian lives, including brave soldiers and far too many innocent civilians. Yet Russia's aggression that galvanized the Ukrainian people, NATO and the free world.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SANCHEZ: These recent setbacks have led experts to believe that the Russians are going to become even more aggressive as time passes. So, let's get you an update on the situation inside Ukraine as the Russian onslaught continues.
FISHER: CNN's international correspondent Scott McLean joins us now. So Scott, tell us a bit more about these pictures that are coming out of Mykolaiv. [08:05:02]
SCOTT MCLEAN, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Hey Kristin, yes some really stunning images these were taken by a pair of Swedish journalists who happen to be in that area and where they're in the immediate aftermath of this Russian bombing as they believe it was of a military barracks in Mykolaiv. And so this happened yesterday, early in the morning. In the immediate aftermath, you can see it is absolute chaos, there were fatalities, undoubtedly. And you can see rescuers trying to pull people out of the rubble. And actually they captured one man being pulled out and it looks like miraculously he barely has a scratch on his body.
Now, in terms of the casualty count, we don't have an exact number. But the estimates are -- one particular estimate is not looking good. One soldier told that sweet -- the Swedish journalist that there were some 200 people there, and he estimated that 90 percent of them very likely did not survive. Now, Mykolaiv is in a strategic part of southern Ukraine, this is an area that the Russians have really struggled to take. And if they did take it, they would able be able to open a front to the west and move toward Odessa or they could regroup and start heading north to attack Kyiv from the south.
We are also seeing new pictures from Mariupol. This is the besieged city in the southeast of the country. And new drone pictures show the absolute destruction of many buildings in this city that have been charred or flattened or completely destroyed. There are also new satellite images showing that there is a steady stream of cars managing to get out of the city through a semiofficial humanitarian corridor that for the moment seems to be working. But the big pressing concern there is not only the humanitarian situation with food and water, but also the status of the people who are trapped in the basement of a theater there that was targeted by Russian missiles. One hundred thirty people were able to be pulled out of there, according to the president, but there could still be hundreds more trapped under the rubble. And we don't have a status update on them just yet. Local officials complain that the Russians continue shelling in the area, which is making rescue efforts difficult.
Now, that's what's happening from the air. On the ground that Ukrainian say that the Russians are not making a lot of progress to separate military assessments from the west say, virtually the same thing that the Russian advance has stalled. And so now President Zelenskyy says that the Russian -- the Russians would do well to negotiate an end to the conflict.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
VOLODYMYR ZELENSKYY, PRESIDENT OF UKRAINE (through translation): I want everyone to hear me now, especially I want them to hear me in Moscow, it's time to meet time to talk time to restore territorial integrity and justice for Ukraine or else Russia will face such losses that several generations will not be enough for it to rise back up.
(END VIDEO CLIP) MCLEAN: And I should mention also there in Mykolaiv, we understand from a local official that rescue efforts are still very much ongoing. This is some 30 plus hours after those bombs first fell. Kristin.
FISHER: Wow, that is just an incredible amount of time and the fact that they're still bringing out some people alive, just incredible. Scott McLean. Thank you so much.
As Russia's attacks on Ukraine intensifies, so does this refugee crisis, of course and the United Nation says that more than 90 percent of those fleeing Ukraine are women and children.
CNN correspondent, Melissa Bell joins us live from Poland, along the border with Ukraine. Melissa.
MELISSA BELL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: So his is the border crossing where people arrive on foot make their way across on foot, they end up here. And as you were saying 90 percent of them women and children, that's what we've been seeing here. The more than 2 million Ukrainian refugees who have now crossed the Polish border, really a very particular demographic composition, there are men that are over fighting age and otherwise, you're talking about women, many of them fleeing with small children with several children, and with their pets, or whatever it is that they can carry. From here, they're taken by bus on to (INAUDIBLE) and then they find ways of finding shelter for them in the immediate term before then moving them further in and out.
The UNHCR says that the vast majority of those 2 million refugees are actually still included. You can imagine the burden on that in a country that's had to welcome these refugees as quickly as it has. And really what so many of them that we've been speaking to tell us is that they don't really want to go further into the European Union, although more and more European countries are going to be trying to take them in to give them that much needed aid. They really want to stay as close as they can close to where their men are fighting this war, a war that many of them believe will be one sooner or later and their only aim at this stage is really to get back across the border they've just come across and as soon as they can, Kristin and Boris.
FISHER: Melissa Bell, thank you so much.
SANCHEZ: Let's focus on the White House now. President Biden this week taking direct steps to warn a major global player to stay out of this conflict, telling President Xi Jinping of China there would be serious consequences if China aids Russia and Ukraine.
CNN White House reporter Jasmine Wright is traveling with the President in Delaware, where he's spending the weekend.
Jasmine, take us through this phone call between President Biden and President Xi.
JASMINE WRIGHT, CNN WHITE HOUSE REPORTER: Well Boris, President Biden was direct when he laid out the implications and consequences that would face China if it did help Russia in its ongoing conflict. But one thing that was not clear was whether or not President Biden attains at least part of his goal, which was to influence China's President Xi into choosing the right path. So U.S. officials say that the nearly two hour long call they described it as direct, substantive and detailed. And of course, it comes at a pivotal moment where U.S. officials feel like China's influence here could have great implications on not only the trajectory of this ongoing conflict, but of course, whatever decision that China makes could influence U.S. and China relations for decades to come.
So yesterday in a White House briefing our own Kaitlan Collins, she asked a pivotal question here, which was whether or not the U.S. feels or still has concerns rather that the U.S. could aid China -- or could aid -- excuse me, that China could aid Russia, either militarily or financially in this ongoing conflict.
Take a listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Yesterday, Secretary Blinken said the administration was concerned that China is considering answering Russia's request for more military equipment after this (INAUDIBLE) does the White House still have that concern?
JEN PSAKI, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: We have that concern the President detailed, you know, what the implications and consequences would be if China provides material support to Russia, as it conducts brutal attacks against Ukrainian citizen civilians. And obviously that is something we will be watching and the world will be watching.
COLLINS: So that concern hasn't gone away following the call.
PSAKI: Obviously, actions are a key part of what we'll be watching.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WRIGHT: So there we heard from Psaki. One thing that she did not talk about on this call Kristin and Boris is exactly what consequences the U.S. has prepared for China or could prepare for China, if it were to in fact do what they fear, which is aid Russia in this ongoing conflict. But senior administration officials talking to reporters afterwards did say that Biden went through great detail about the type of economic isolation that Russia is now facing because of their ongoing aggression. Boris, Christi - - Kristin.
FISHER: And of course, another big week for President Biden. Next week, he's going to be traveling to Brussels, Belgium for a NATO summit. So, certainly we'll all be watching that as well.
Jasmine Wright, live in Rehoboth Beach, Delaware for us. Jasmine, thank you.
SANCHEZ: And here with us now to discuss the stakes in that NATO summit next week, former U.S. ambassador to NATO, Kurt Volker, he's also the former U.S. Special Representative for Ukraine.
Ambassador, thank you so much for taking part of your weekend to share your expertise with us. What are you anticipating is going to come out of this summit?
KURT VOLKER, FMR U.S. AMBASSADOR TO NATO: Well, thank you for having me. This is an incredibly important summit. It is taking place on extraordinary basis in the midst of a crisis. It is partly to make sure that we and our allies are on the same page, which is good. But it's also very important. We're sending a signal to Vladimir Putin. What will he read at the end of the summit? And there are several messages that I think are key here.
SANCHEZ: Go ahead, walk us through those messages?
VOLKER: Yes. OK. Well, first off, I think the most important thing is to reinforce Article V which is up to defense guarantee of NATO an attack on one is an attack all. We need to show both through words but also through deployments, that we are prepared to defend every inch of alliance territory, including the Baltic states, which of course were incorporated into the Soviet Union by force back in the 1940s. And which Putin has said should be demilitarized. So we have to share the Google (ph) model outlet.
Second, I'm deeply concerned about Russia -- Putin's potential to resort to use of nuclear weapons or chemical or biological weapons. So there needs to be a very firm warning from NATO not to do that. Third, I think it's very important that NATO also send a signal about Ukraine that Ukraine's survival as an independent and solid state in your is a NATO interest. We don't want to say what we want to do. We don't want to be too specific about what we will do. But we need to send a signal to Putin that we're not going to sit by while he destroys and eliminates a sovereign European country.
SANCHEZ: And Ambassador specifically on the issue of the threat of nuclear weapons being used by the Kremlin, what is your response to those who argue that the West should be more forceful in deterring Vladimir Putin perhaps not in Putting U.S. troops or NATO ally troops on the ground in Ukraine but leaving the option potentially open for some kind of intervention?
VOLKER: Exactly. And in fact, President Biden did this once already, he said that there would be a response if there was such a use. But I think it would be important to come from NATO. And I think it needs to be formulated a bit more forcefully, as you say, we don't want to specify what we would do, or what we would not do. We need to let Putin wonder what that might be. But we have significant conventional capabilities that could really inflict damage on Russia's invasion force in Ukraine if we wanted to.
And that's just one thing I think that Putin should be thinking about, if you were to reach for some kind of nuclear weapon or other weapon of mass destruction. SANCHEZ: Ambassador, the Russian onslaught in Ukraine has been expanding. We've heard from our reporters as far west as Lviv, that there have been attacks in that area that's fairly close to Poland. What do you think the NATO allies specifically are looking at as they contemplate potentially the use of Article V to respond if these attacks go further and further west?
VOLKER: Well, first off, I just want to say that those attacks in western Ukraine are in some ways a sign of failing military operation for Putin. Because he hasn't been able to advance his ground forces in the cities, he hasn't taken. He hasn't gotten into western Ukraine. Certainly sending long range missiles to try to do some damage there. This is a sign that is not going well.
As for NATO, I think that NATO has made clear that it's an attack on NATO forces and NATO territory that would trigger Article V. Putin is getting seriously close to that geographically, but he hasn't done it. And I don't think NATO is going to intervene unless there's something like that. That actually hits a NATO ally.
SANCHEZ: So stepping away from Europe for a moment, looking at China, specifically, because they are a major player in this conflict. They benefit from playing both sides making very small remarks about condemning the invasion of Ukraine, but not really doing anything to stop it, in fact, to some degree profiting off of Russian oil, and talking about an enduring friendship between Russia and China for decades to come.
In terms of carrots and sticks, what can the United States do to keep China from providing the Kremlin with arms for example?
VOLKER: I think China has its own unique set of interests here. They're not identical with Russia, nor are they aligned with ours. They're uniquely Chinese. First off, I think China thinks first about its own region and thinks about Taiwan and thinks about its future as a great power in the world. It doesn't want to be seen to be identical to Russia. It doesn't view Russia's attacks on a sovereign state, a UN member Ukraine as equivalent in any way to its desire to take over Taiwan and use that as part of China. So it doesn't want to be tarred with the same brush, it probably does not want to get sucked into the military conflict, it's not going to make any commitments to us, but it probably doesn't want to do it anyway.
But on the other hand, if it comes to sanctions, avoidance, and helping Russia make financial transfers in ways that could be beneficial to China, and weaken a Western liberal economic order, China's would be very happy to do that. So I think they're going to play with both sides, as you said in that way. What President Biden has done by making a distinct outreach, President Xi, making specific points about how we would view any military support to Russia, I think it's very important to follow up on that.
SANCHEZ: And Ambassador Volker, when you look at the rest of the map, where else might the United States benefit from engagement in Turkey or India, some of these other countries that may have a way into perhaps influencing the Kremlin? VOLKER: Yes, well, the Indian position here is very surprising and very interesting. They refused to take a clear position in support of Ukraine. They're continuing to do trade and business with Russia, I think engaging India to say this, this is very inconsistent with your long standing principles about state sovereignty. I think we ought to be able to have a better dialogue with India about what they're doing.
In terms of influencing the Kremlin, I think probably the Chinese have the most influence, but they're not going to be helpful, and few others really do. The most important thing we're doing and this I believe is actually having an impact. It's helping the Ukrainians defend themselves hold off that Russian military force, which they have now done for over three weeks, and I think the tide has turned a little bit in their favor.
And meanwhile, applying these devastating sanctions on Russia, with squeezed between the military on the one side and the economy on the other Putin's going to run out of time and he's going to have to look for some kind of settlement at some point we just have to keep pushing that and keep buying time for the Ukrainians.
SANCHEZ: Well the fear is that before that settlement comes, he may resort to unfortunate means that lead to more bloodshed. Ambassador Kurt Volker, we appreciate your time and expertise. Thanks so much.
VOLKER: Thank you.
FISHER: Missiles are destroying parts of the Ukrainian capitol and we'll show you what is left in the wake of a downed rocket in Kyiv. And what it takes to defend Ukraine. Next.
SANCHEZ: New this morning, the UK Defense Minister says its latest intelligence shows that Russia so far has been quote surprised by the scale and ferocity of Ukraine's resistance, and it's been forced to change its operational approach.
FISHER: CNN's IVAN WATSON spoke with a top commander in Ukraine's army about the tactics he's used using against Russian forces.
MAJ. SERHII TAMARIN, UKRAINIAN TERRITORIAL DEFENSE: It's not so scary to die. It's much more scary to lose.
When we met the second army in (INAUDIBLE) by statistic, we expected more professionals, we expected more aggressive and more strong fighting.
IVAN WATSON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (on-camera): Your battalion filmed this. TAMARIN: It's hitting in Russian tanks.
WATSON (on-camera): And that's hit by Ukrainian artillery.
TAMARIN: Artillery. Yes.
WATSON (voice-over): Drone footage that CNN cannot independently verify from battlefields northwest of Kyiv, filmed by a battalion of Ukraine's territorial defense force, commanded by Major Serhii Tamarin.
(on-camera): Has your battalion had casualties?
TAMARIN: Yes, yes.
WATSON (on-camera): People killed, people wounded.
TAMARIN: Yes, I prefer not to tell the number of people but we have -- I already lost my friends and people who suffer with me. We have people who wounded.
WATSON (on-camera): What is the weapon that is hurting your men?
TAMARIN: The most dangerous is artillery.
WATSON (voice-over): Tamarin is a veteran of the long war against Russian backed separatists in Ukraine southeastern Donbas Region. He re-enlisted along with most of his battalion of nearly 400 after Russia invaded Ukraine on February 24th.
WATSON (voice-over): He calls his strategy, aggressive resistance.
TAMARIN: Just separating for small troops. Not more than 10 people, with a few grenade launchers and some kind of clean up group with rifles and machine guns. I can say is that Russian army -- regular army infantry groups fight well. They even have food bags, which is expired a few years ago, so they don't have normal food. They don't have even water.
WATSON (on-camera): Your battalion, how many armored vehicles, tanks do you think you've destroyed?
TAMARIN: Right now? More than 20 it's not only tanks, it's like tanks and other armored vehicle.
WATSON (on-camera): Does your battalion have an estimate for how many Russians they killed?
TAMARIN: For now, we destroy almost 200 Russians, captured alive closer to six or eight soldiers.
WATSON (voice-over): Tamarin is recovering from injuries sustained during a combat operation.
TAMARIN: Our car is fall down from the bridge which was blown up. Half of my ribs are broken.
WATSON (voice-over): He says his men have started to receive some foreign weapons, shoulder fired missiles and he's confident Ukraine will have victory but at a terrible price.
TAMARIN: Is the price which pay Ukraine right now is I think impossible. It's some kind of whole nightmare, sacrifice of all nation.
WATSON (voice-over): Ivan Watson, CNN, Vinnytsia Ukraine.
FISHER: U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin tells CNN that Russia has made a number of missteps in its invasion of Ukraine.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
AUSTIN: They have not progressed as far as quickly as they would have liked to. They think they envision that they would move rapidly and very quickly seize the capital city, they've not been able to do that. They've struggled with logistics. So we've seen a number of missteps along the way.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
FISHER: Joining me now, CNN military analyst and retired Lieutenant General Mark Hertling. Mark, good morning.
LT. GEN. MARK HERTLINE, CNN MILITARY ANALYST: Good morning, Kristin. How are you?
FISHER: I'm well. So General, you just heard Secretary Austin saying that Russia is really struggling with tactical intelligence and logistics. So how do you think that Ukrainian forces can really exploit these weaknesses or at least try to amid Russia's ongoing attacks?
HERTLING: You have to consider the perspective from both sides Kristin, what we have is a Russian force that has been going from the offensive. They've culminated which is a military term, meaning that they can't go any further in that offensive operation, and they reverted to the defense. On the other side, you have a Ukrainian force that from the very beginning, has realized that their requirements is to conduct what's called an active defense. They pick and choose the time and place of their attacks against the Russia -- and the Russian forces. And that gives them a distinct advantage. They can determine when they're going to attack where they're going to attack and the Russians have to defend everywhere.
So, what we're seeing right now as Secretary of Austin point, it is something that many of us have been pointing out from the very beginning. The Russian force is ill trained, they have not conducted rehearsals or exercises. And they have a -- just an unbelievably poor logistics resupply capability.
So all of those things are contributing to the Russian force being static or stalled on the battlefield. There are reports this morning, that the Russian army has not only stopped north of Kyiv, but the minister of defense in Ukraine is saying that Ukrainian defense forces have pushed them further north out of some of the neighborhoods that our colleague Clarissa Ward was reporting from like urban, and others.
So they are not only defending now, they're being pushed back. In the south, you heard a previous reporter talk about the defensive around Mykolaiv. Those are critically important. And that's mostly territorial forces, preventing the Russians from crossing a river called the Blue River in order to get to Odessa.
If they can't get to Odessa, then the naval infantry of the Russian forces offshore are not going to be able to conduct an amphibious assault. So all of these things are contributing to the failure of the Russian army to gain their objectives.
FISHER: So one of the things that really stands out about this week, General, is Russia really ramping up its attacks on civilian areas, including, of course, that bombing of a theater that had the word children written in Russian in massive letters that you just can't miss right outside. What did those types of attacks tell you? And does it change the strategy that's needed on the ground?
HERTLING: Well, it tells me two things. First of all, Russian is -- Russia is executing the type of campaigns they have executed in the past and other places. We've heard that from so many people. They have reverted from not only attempting to defeat the Ukrainian army, they're also now attempting to a trick in a criminal way, I would say the civilian population of Ukraine.
It is a terror tactics. It is an attempt to cause the will of Ukraine to dissipate and for the President to give up and turn over his country and his government. I don't believe that's going to happen. They have taken just unbelievable casualties in the civilian force. The same can't be true in the military force.
The Ukrainian military and the territorial defenses are still fighting. They're fighting hard because they are fighting for their homeland. So to a degree, to answer your question in a shorter sentence, it shows a little bit of Russian desperation to try and win this conflict. And I don't believe they're going to.
FISHER: General, just today, Russia's Ministry of Defense is claiming that it is used -- successfully used hypersonic missiles to destroy a military ammunitions warehouse in western Ukraine. It's a big deal because, I mean, if true, it would be the first time that this type of really advanced weapon is used in this conflict. So what does that signal to you?
HERTLING: Well, it is the first time this has been used, but I would answer from a military perspective of, so what? What did it accomplish? It's a new piece of technology. It's a new piece of equipment. But it's not helping Russia win this conflict or win this war.
They are going to continue to use their technology and their precision weapons to hit key targets, presumably some in the West, the western part of Ukraine, but it's not going to help them because it does not contribute to battlefield victory. So they can use these weapons and claim victory, but as long as Ukrainian force is fighting, it's irrelevant.
FISHER: Yes, you can have all the advanced weapons in your arsenal, but you've -- if you can't bring your troops on the grounds the things that they need, like fuel and food, like you said, what good does it do? Lieutenant General Mark Hertling --
FISHER: -- thank you so much.
HERTLING: Quite welcome. Thank you.
SANCHEZ: It's been nearly one month of war in Ukraine. Coming up, we're going to show you how Ukrainian forces are fighting back against Russian troops. Stay with us.
FISHER: The mounting Russian casualties in Ukraine are leading to more questions about Russia's military readiness.
SANCHEZ: And it comes as Ukraine is claiming a major battlefield victory. CNN's Fred Pleitgen has more.
FREDERIK PLEITGEN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice- over): Another blow to Vladimir Putin's military. Ukrainian forces claiming they ambush this convoy of Russian airborne troops. While CNN cannot independently verify the information, Russian state TV for the first time acknowledged that a senior airborne commander and several soldiers have been killed. While still outgunned, the Ukrainians feel they might slowly be turning the tie.
The armed forces of Ukraine continue to deliver devastating blows that groups of enemy troops were trying to consolidate and hold the capture defensive lines, a Ukrainian army spokesman says. The Ukrainian say they are launching counter attacks against Russian troops. This video allegedly showing an anti-tank guided missile taking out a Russian armored vehicle.
They also claim they've already killed more than 14,000 Russian troops and shot down more than 110 combat choppers. CNN can't confirm those numbers, but the Russians haven't updated their casualty figures in more than two weeks. Instead claiming what they call their, quote, military Special Operation is going as planned.
Russia's Defense Ministry released this video of helicopter gunships allegedly attacking a Ukrainian airfield. Still, Vladimir Putin clearly feels the need to rally his nation, making a rare appearance at a massive rally at Moscow's main stadium, where a strange technical glitch cut off his speech, but not before he praised Russian troops.
PRES. VLADIMIR PUTIN, RUSSIA (through translation): The best proof is the way our boys are fighting in this operation, shoulder to shoulder, supporting each other and if need be, protecting each other like brothers. Shielding one another with their bodies on the battlefield. We haven't had this unity for a long time.
PLEITGEN (voice-over): But the Russians appear to be so angry at U.S. and allied weapons shipments to Ukraine, they vowed to target any deliveries entering Ukrainian territory. And they're hitting strategic targets as well, firing several cruise missiles at an airplane repair plant near Lviv. While a Russian cruise missile dropped on a residential building in the capital Kyiv after being shot down by Ukrainian air defenses.
Former world heavyweight boxing champion brother of Kyiv's Mayor Wladimir Klitschko pleading for more help.
WLADIMIR KLITSCHKO, FORMER PROFESSIONAL BOXER: This is genocides of the Ukrainian population. You have to act now. Stop (INAUDIBLE) and stop doing business with Russia. Do it now.
PLEITGEN (voice-over): The Biden administration has said more aid and weapons are on the way as Ukrainian forces continue to put up a fierce fight, preventing Russia's troops from further significant gains.
Fred Pleitgen, CNN Lviv, Ukraine.
SANCHEZ: Thanks to Fred for that report.
When it comes to gas prices, you know every cent counts. There are two states though that are stepping in to help drivers. We'll take you there next.
FISHER: As of this morning, the national average for a gallon of gas is $4.26. And that high cost is forcing some people like travelers to make some difficult decisions.
SANCHEZ: Yes. CNN's Isabel Rosales is here now with us. Isabel, what are consumers trying to do to ease that pain at the pump?
ISABEL ROSALES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good morning to you both. Well, it's impacting many Americans tremendously from figuring out how to go to work to running errands, they're having to reassess how they are doing things. So we have seen here in the past week, a slight dip in the prices that is due to a drop in gas demand and due to a lower oil prices as well.
The national average as you said that is $4.26 according to AAA. But still, prices have soared to an all-time high level, the closest that Americans have seen to that was back in 2008 at 4.11. Now it's at 4.26. So definitely impacting Americans a lot here.
We have seen action from Washington all the way down to the state level to try to ease that pain on consumers. The governors in both Maryland and Georgia just recently here Friday suspending their gas, their state gas tax to try to help out drivers. Governor Brian Kemp suspending that through May 31st. And that savings should equal to about 29 cents per gallon there.
I did speak with some drivers who said that is not nearly enough to help out with the headaches that they're experiencing to their wallet. But the sentiment from Kemp is that it's something he is able to do and it's a start. One of the industries that's most hardest hit by these gas prices are cab drivers. And I spoke with a cab driver who's been driving professionally for 30 years outside of the nation's busiest airport Hartsfield-Jackson and he says that it has gotten so bad from the low demand and from these gas prices that he's actually losing money by working.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TEKLU GIRMAZION, CAB DRIVER: There is not any hope at this time. If I got one, I would take the customer otherwise, I will pull out and I will go home empty-handed.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ROSALES: Right, and that cab driver that I was speaking to to look there, he was waiting outside of the airport for hours. He finally, while we were speaking, got a customer. He was excited. But once he left with that customer right before that, he told me that his fear for that ride, his one and only ride of the day, $10. That's when he's taken home. Boris, Kristin?
FISHER: That is just a shame. So it's tough on the cab drivers, also tough on travelers. A lot of families going are hoping to go on spring break this week. Isabel, thank you so much.
SANCHEZ: More than 50 million Americans now face the threat of severe weather. We're tracking some storms that may impact your weekend after a quick break.
FISHER: More than 50 million people stretching from the Gulf Coast to the northeast are now under severe storm threats.
SANCHEZ: Let's get straight to meteorologist Allison Chinchar. Allison, where are the storms heading?
ALLISON CHINCHAR, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Right, it's kind of a split system for today. This is the same system that caused all the damage yesterday. But two focal points. We've got this one across areas of the Northeast including New York, Pennsylvania, New Jersey and a secondary section, it's down across the southeast, areas of northern Florida, portions of Georgia as well as South Carolina.
The threats remain the same from yesterday though damaging winds, large hail and yes the potential for some isolated tornadoes. Some of these storms are already ongoing this morning. But for the Northeast, the best potential for those strong to severe thunderstorms really ramps up this afternoon and into the evening hours.
And yes, some of them will linger into the overnight. So if you are in that area, please make sure you have a way to get those emergency alerts before you go to bed. That's the first system. Now we're keeping an eye on the secondary system. It's making its way into the Pacific Northwest today. It will drop some rain and even maybe as much as a foot of snow across cascades and the Olympics but it's where it goes after today that becomes a big focal point.
It crosses the intermountain west on Sunday and then ends up across the southern plains by Monday. When it does so, it's really going to enter much more favorable conditions for severe weather to develop. In fact, we're looking at, Kristin and Boris, a multi-day severe threat starting Monday continuing into Tuesday as well as Wednesday and could be potentially looking at a possible tornado outbreak those three days.
FISHER: Well that's no good. Allison Chinchar, thank you so much.
And Boris, thank you for letting me fill in with you today and keep Kristin's (INAUDIBLE) warm.
SANCHEZ: Of course.
FISHER: It's been a pleasure.
SANCHEZ: Of course. More than welcome. A pleasure to be with you. Thank the folks at home for joining us today. And a reminder, we're going to be back tomorrow morning at 5:00 a.m. So Kristin, two alarms tonight. Make sure --
FISHER: That's early.
SANCHEZ: -- you're up. Yes.
FISHER: Two alarms. I may do three for the 5:00 a.m. wake up call. But first, we've got Smerconish, he's up next. Have a great day everyone.