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New Day Sunday

Mariupol School Sheltering 400 People Bombed; U.K. Says Russia Bringing Heavy Firepower To Support Ground Assault; U.N. Says Over 3 Million Have Fled Ukraine; Chinese Vice Foreign Minister Says Sanctions On Russia "Outrageous"; Hackers Try To Fight Putin's Lies And Misinformation; Putin's Digital Iron Curtain; Hearings For SCOTUS Candidate Ketanji Brown Jackson Begin Tomorrow; How Vladimir Putin Hides His Fortune; Moderna Seeking FDA Authorization For Second Booster For All Adults; Boy Travels 600 Miles Alone Fleeing War Zone. Aired 5-6a ET

Aired March 20, 2022 - 05:00   ET




BORIS SANCHEZ, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): Good morning. Buenos dias. Welcome to your "NEW DAY." It is Sunday, March 20th. I'm Boris Sanchez.

KRISTIN FISHER, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): I'm Kristin Fisher in for Christi Paul. Thank you for starting your morning with us.

We begin with Russia raising the stakes. We are getting word of yet another attack on civilians. Local officials in the battered city of Mariupol say an art school, being used as a shelter, was being bombed by Russian forces.

Officials say 400 people were sheltering inside. And there's no word yet on the number of casualties. And we will, of course, keep you update as we get more information.

SANCHEZ: This attack comes as we're looking at what remains of a theater in Mariupol. Remember, desperate Ukrainians sheltered there as Russian bombs rained down. In this new satellite image, you see there, it shows what is left as rescue crews are still combing the rubble for survivors.

Mariupol in the southern part of Ukraine has been under almost constant bombardment.

FISHER: Russia launched new hypersonic missiles in Western Ukraine, traveling five times the speed of sound or faster. And this is a big deal, because it's the first known use of hypersonic missiles in combat.

SANCHEZ: And looking forward, President Biden is heading to Brussels this week, to sit down with NATO allies. And, notably, Ukraine's former president says Biden should visit Kyiv, Ukraine's capital, as a show of solidarity and strength. Listen to what Petro Poroshenko told CNN's Jim Acosta.


PETRO POROSHENKO, FORMER UKRAINIAN PRESIDENT: Well, I know that President Biden plans to go to visit Europe next week. And I think that he analyzing the possibility (INAUDIBLE).

Why don't very good friend of mine and very good friend of Ukraine, Joe Biden, the leader of the global world, who demonstrate now the leadership, why don't he can visit Kyiv next week as a symbol of our solid (INAUDIBLE)?

That would be extremely right step for demonstration the whole world is together with us against Russia.


SANCHEZ: We want to get some fast-moving updates on Ukraine and Russia's latest attack on a civilian target, that art school, where hundreds of people were trying to escape Russian bombs.

FISHER: Salma Abdelaziz joins us live from Lviv with details.

What more are you hearing about this horrific attack?

SALMA ABDELAZIZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Absolutely horrifying news that just broke in the last couple hours. Yet again, innocent people, families, women, children, elderly people, trying to find refuge, were struck by Russian bombardment; 400 people were sheltering in that art school, trying to find refuge when, in the early hours of the morning, Russian warplanes hit the building.

We're still waiting to find out what civilian casualties there may be. Mariupol is a cut-off city, cut off from basic supplies, food, water, communication. Getting information out of that city has been difficult at the best of times, described as hell on Earth, with the sound of explosions consistent throughout the night.

One Ukrainian official said, anytime someone steps outside a bomb shelter, they are risking their lives. Even inside the shelters, people are dying. This comes days after that drama theater housing up to 1,300 civilians was struck by Russian bombardment, two-thirds of that building destroyed.

We have yet to know how many survivors have come out from under the rubble of that building. But what's really concerning is that Western sources say Russia is going to increasingly be using these very brutal tactics that put families, that put innocents right at the heart of this tragedy.

That means more blood letting. That's because as Russian forces increasingly lose on the ground, we're hearing that there are serious miscalculations, Ukraine saying yesterday a fifth Russian general was killed.

[05:05:00] ABDELAZIZ: We can't independently verify that but that's coming from Ukrainian officials. Today we're hearing from British intelligence sources, that Russia is going to increasingly use firepower on civilians to make up for the losses.

In the absence of taking an outright military victory, to be able to control the Ukrainian airspace, which is something that Russia wanted, what they're going to be doing is using increasingly brutal tactics.

And with no diplomatic avenue for now, President Putin indicating he's not ready to meet face-to-face with President Zelenskyy, what people across Ukraine are terrified about is that it is the innocents who are going to pay the price.

FISHER: First that theater, now a school. I mean, there truly is no safe place for these innocent civilians to go. Salma, thank you so much.

Meanwhile, U.S. officials have confirmed to CNN that Russia launched hypersonic missiles against a military ammunitions warehouse in Ukraine on Friday. And the U.S. was able to track the launches in real time.

SANCHEZ: Sources say the launches were likely intended to not only test the weapons but also send a message to the West. CNN's Kylie Atwood has more.


KYLIE ATWOOD, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Russia used hypersonic missiles against Ukraine last week, according to U.S. officials. And this is the first known instance of these types of missiles being used in combat.

And it's significant, of course, because hypersonic missiles travel at five times the speed of sound or faster. That obviously makes defense incredibly challenging to stand up.

Now according to U.S. officials, the United States was able to track these occurring in real time and the U.S. officials said that they believe that Russia was doing this to demonstrate their capabilities, their military capabilities.

But of course, concerning to introduce these new types of missiles to this war that is ongoing in Ukraine with all the death and destruction that have already occurred.

Now the Russian ministry of defense said that these missiles destroyed structures in Western Ukraine. And we should note that the United States has it as a top priority to develop their own hypersonic missiles, because both China and Russia are developing their own.


SANCHEZ: This morning we're learning of 71 children that have been evacuated safely from an orphanage in the city of Sumy. The children are all 4 years old or younger. Many of them are disabled and require medical attention.

They spent nearly two weeks in a basement sheltering. Thankfully, many decided to take the children in. Some remain under specialist care in a hospital in Kyiv.

So far, more than 3 million people have fled Ukraine. Of the refugees, UNICEF reports that 1.5 million are kids and are now at risk of being trafficked.

FISHER: Melissa Bell is in Poland, where a majority of Ukrainians have migrated.

What has changed?

Is the situation getting any better or only worse?

MELISSA BELL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: You know what, it is day 24, all the scenes of tragedy. A train has just arrived from Ukraine. Several arrive every day, carrying 1,000 to 1,500 refugees, women and children, fighting-age men having stayed behind.

But the vast, vast majority are families, women carrying small children, sometimes several at a time.

And you can see here the help being given. Toys are being given to the children to try to comfort them on arrival. The women are carrying their children, a bag, a suitcase, whatever they could flee with, sometimes a pet. We've seen a few people who have their cat or their dog with them.

In the end, what do you leave your home with?

What matters the most and, in the end, very little.

Armies of volunteers have come here to help authorities or fill the gaps left that authorities have simply scrambled to organize themselves to manage this influx that has happened so quickly. From one day to the next, huge numbers of people were pouring through train stations. From here they're taken to temporary shelters, like school gyms.


BELL: From there, they'll be taken to more permanent accommodation. But even that, we're talking about rooms often lent to them by locals, either at the border or further inland. So just extraordinary scenes of logistics being set up by ordinary people, often to try to welcome these deeply traumatized people.

As this war deepens -- and you're talking about atrocities around Mariupol -- more and more people that are more and more traumatized, having lived through a longer period inside the country and in towns that have been under siege, are going to find themselves coming across this border and needing much more than just accommodation but deep psychological care, to be able to heal or begin to heal their psychological wounds. FISHER: That's such a great point. Many of those people were people

who wanted to stay or tried to stay but it got to the point where they had to flee. Melissa Bell, thank you so much.

Here with me to discuss further is global affairs analyst Aaron David Miller and senior fellow at The Atlantic Council Michael Bociurkiw.

Thank you both for being with us this morning.

As we hear about even more brutal and horrific attacks coming from Russia on innocent Ukrainian people, Aaron, I want to start by talking about this use, Russia's use of a hypersonic missile against Ukraine last week. And this is a really significant moment, because it's the first-known use of such missiles in combat.

Is there any way for Ukraine to defend against these types of missiles?

AARON DAVID MILLER, CNN GLOBAL AFFAIRS ANALYST: The Russian military strategy is failing. In four weeks, they've failed to do what Putin wanted to do, which was to essentially conquer major urban areas in Ukraine, force some sort of siege in the capital and the resignation of the Zelenskyy government.

I think the hypersonic was more a demonstration effect than an effort to fundamentally change the battlefield balance. So I think this was a message to the West: I have these weapons, you've tested them. I've now actually used them in combat.

We don't know what the Russian stockpile is. So I don't think, Kristin, that this is going to have a major impact on the battlefield balance in Ukraine. It's a message to the West, though. You supplied Ukrainian government with S-300s or S-400s; I've got my weapons as well.

FISHER: Yes, and, Aaron, one of my guests yesterday pointed out that these high-tech, super-advanced type of weapons don't do all that much if you can't even get food, gas and regular supplies to the troops on the ground.

Michael, this art school, where around 400 people were sheltering, has been bombed by Russian forces and many are still trapped beneath the rubble. It seems that a big part of Putin's strategy is to attack innocent civilians.

What will it take to get him to stop these increasingly savage tactics?

MICHAEL BOCIURKIW, SENIOR FELLOW, ATLANTIC COUNCIL: Of course, it's straight out of the Kremlin playbook. I don't know anymore. No one knows where the West's red lines are.

What more does the West have to see to show how the civil population is suffering?

It appears we having in real time the attempted destruction of a democracy in front of our eyes. It doesn't look like the Western leaders have the spine to put in that no-fly zone.

But perhaps a humanitarian no-fly zone over Western Ukraine, where the mayor pointed out, as hundreds of thousands of people are sheltering here, at least protect them and at least protect the humanitarian supply lines coming through here.

FISHER: The U.K. defense minister says intelligence is showing that they are ramping up defense. I know you kind of painted some broad strokes about why that is.


FISHER: But why do you think Russia is having such a tough time with this ground operation?

MILLER: Well, first, I mean, there are three basic factors. First is the Ukrainian resistance and the sophistication and training of the Ukrainian military. They're showing a tremendous amount of tactile flexibility.

They're attacking Russian columns; great, in fact great impact. Second, is the fundamental flaws of the Russian military. They clearly have failed in trying to coordinate a ground-air campaign. Morale is low. There are all kinds of reports of self-mutilation, of Russian soldiers seeking to escape the war.

Putin basically created an operation that was designed to succeed in a matter of days. And it's highly probable that most of these troops -- and many of them conscripts -- weren't even aware -- and I think we know this now -- that they were being deployed to Ukraine. That's the second factor.

And the third is, I think, the capacity of the West to step up. We can't stop, I suspect, or have made a decision not to do a no-fly zone. But we have been able to supply the Ukrainian military with the kinds of weapons that they need in order to inflict this damage on the Russian military.

So again, after four weeks, the Institute for the Study of War has pronounced -- and I think they're right -- that the first phase of the Russian military has been an abject failure.

FISHER: And if I may, I think a fourth reason is perhaps just the ability of the Ukrainian president to inspire his people.

Michael, you, of course, are in Lviv, where you have been for quite some time and where more than 200,000 refugees have fled, amidst the fighting.

What's the situation like there right now?

And does it feel as though the war has reached that city yet?

Because for so long it had been the one sort of safe spot in Ukraine.

BOCIURKIW: Absolutely. Yesterday there were air raid sirens going on. It created a heck of a lot of anxiety. As you pointed out, the city feels congested; much, much more militarized, a lot more checkpoints.

But if I can, I've also had broad conversations with people here. And they are looking at, yes, we are suffering a lot. But we are also looking ahead. President Zelenskyy is talking about peace talks. A lot of nervousness about that.

But people are trying to look on the bright side. They want the territory loss reclaimed. But also the oligarchs have made it difficult. So people are trying to look at the bright side, that after all this is said and done, we will have a new and a stronger Ukraine. It's heartening to have those types of conversations.

FISHER: It's almost unimaginable, sitting here in Washington, D.C., that you are hearing people with glimmers of hope from where are you.

This morning, China's foreign minister said that time will prove that China's position is on the right side of history when it comes to the Ukraine war. And the keyword being "time."

How long do you think China will allow things to continue before they decide to make their position known?

MILLER: You know, President Xi owns the China-Russian relationship. It's been developing for decades, clearly. The Chinese and the Russians have a major stake in blocking any sort of Pax Americana or unipolar world. And they've done a fairly good job of opposing American influence.

The other issue, of course, is the Chinese-Russian border, a long border, is now relatively secure.

But President Xi, February 4th, essentially elevated this relationship to the level of a formalized strategic partner. He's tethered himself to Vladimir Putin's brutal and savage revisionism with respect to Ukraine.

So it's his policy, he owns it. And he can't walk away from it. I think they'll try to find a balance. Certainly, they're not going to criticize Russians. They're going to blast the United States, which they've already done, blasting the United States for sanctions.


MILLER: I think they'll try to provide some measure of economic support for Putin. But they're going to stay away, certainly, from any kind of military channel that makes China a co-combatant.

Xi is terrified or very concerned about the prospect of secondary sanctions imposed by the United States, should they violate the guidelines that the Biden administration and the international community and the U.N. have imposed.

FISHER: Aaron, thank you for waking up early with us.

And Michael, please stay safe. SANCHEZ: Still to come, piercing Putin's Iron Curtain: how

hacktivists are getting around the Russian information blockade online.

And Kremlin critics say this palace is a symbol of Putin's legacy of corruption. A closer look at some of the wealth these Russian oligarchs possess and how tight of a grip Putin has over them.





FISHER: The digital space has become a modern-day weapon of war and a tool to spread misinformation.

SANCHEZ: And now some hackers are trying to break through Vladimir Putin's lies and take down his digital Iron Curtain. CNN's Donie O'Sullivan has their story.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You know, you should be here, in Poland. You should see all the people, refugees from Ukraine. People like you and me.

DONIE O'SULLIVAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Hackers fighting against Russia's information war.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We knew there were people, all around the world, who would like to do something. But since they can't buy a gun and fight against Russia, we decided to let them use their smartphones instead.

O'SULLIVAN (voice-over): This man part of so-called, Squad 303, online activists in Poland who have built a tool that allows anyone to send text messages and emails to Russians to give them information about the war in Ukraine.

An attempt to get around Vladimir Putin's growing digital Iron Curtain. Russia recently cut off access to Facebook and Twitter.

TITAN CRAWFORD, ONLINE ACTIVIST: There's a new group that came out with a website to allow you to text Russian cell phones.

O'SULLIVAN: So how many text messages, do you think, you've sent to Russians over the past few weeks?

CRAWFORD: 3,000, 4,000, 5,000, 6,000. I couldn't even count. It just keeps going.

O'SULLIVAN (voice-over): Titan Crawford, a truck salesman in Oregon has spent hours messaging Russians. He says, most of his texts don't get a response and some people will tell him to go away but others engage.

CRAWFORD: It's been a mixed bag. I had a gentleman pretty early on that reached out to me and sent me a picture of where he's working. And then I sent him -- we've -- how we like to travel. So I sent him pictures of my travels. He sent me pictures of his travels.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm from a generation of Radio Free Europe. And we all remember of how it is to live in enslaved country, where you do not have proper information, real information about the world. I can remember the time when we used to listen to Radio Free Europe, the only voice from the free world for enslaved people in Poland.


O'SULLIVAN (voice-over): Thomas Kent is the former CEO of Radio Free Europe and an expert in Russian disinformation.

O'SULLIVAN: Do you think some people in Russia will be receptive to these messages or will they say, why is there an American sending me a text message?

KENT: Well, a certain number of people are going to say, yes, absolutely this is hostile propaganda. This is spam. This is an attempt at psychological warfare against us.

But many others will be grateful for some information that they're having trouble to get. And maybe, be affected by the fact that there is someone out at the end of the communication who really would like to hear from them.

O'SULLIVAN (voice-over): Other, so-called, hacktivist taking a different approach on the Telegram app, a group called the Ukraine IT Army has amassed 300,000 members. It sends out lists of Russian websites to attack.

O'SULLIVAN: You're a coder, not a gunner?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, that's true.

O'SULLIVAN (voice-over): We spoke to an organizer of the group over the phone. He said, he is in Ukraine.

O'SULLIVAN: So I think I saw over the weekend, you took down some food delivery services, like for takeout in Russia. I think I saw you guys targeted some banking services in Russia. I mean, what you're doing is targeting Russian citizens, people in Russia.

Do you think that's fair?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, that's exactly the point that I wanted to convey, right?

We want those people feel that the war has started. And not only the Ukraine's involved in that. Because many people in Russia, they don't feel that the war is there and we want them to feel that.

O'SULLIVAN (voice-over): Donie O'Sullivan, CNN, New York.


SANCHEZ: Thanks to Donie for that piece.

Let's dive deeper now into the online crackdown in Russia. Alp Toker is the director of NetBlocks, a group that tracks internet censorship.

Thank you for getting up early for us this morning. Russia had been working toward a sovereign internet for some time and now the war seems to have accelerated that with the crackdown we've seen over the last few weeks.

How does that benefit Vladimir Putin?

What are his interests with shutting down access to the global internet?


ALP TOKER, DIRECTOR, NETBLOCKS: Yes, we're seeing a very rapid implementation of effectively a digital Iron Curtain. So the war is being built and information is now something far less free than it was before the invasion.

And we're seeing Twitter restricted, Facebook but also very popular Instagram service restricted and independent news media and websites. So the last vestiges of information in Russia are being eradicated, because Putin doesn't want the people to know that the country is at war.

SANCHEZ: Right, and we heard that in the interview that Donie was conducting there, at the end, with the Ukrainian hacktivist, who wanted Russians to, quote, "feel the war."

Is there something that Western powers can do and institutions, not just hackers, to try to bring more information to the people of Russia?

TOKER: Yes, right now everyone's trying to find a way to reconnect Russia, to get that information in. And amongst us, we have government-run initiatives and also the crowd hacking initiatives to try to regain those, the information links.

So there are a few challenges here. What you can't do is you can't send really physical equipment. If you look at Ukraine, for example, you have Elon Musk sending in Starlink devices.

That isn't going to work in Russia, because the authorities are going to prevent those devices from being imported. So you have to find other ways of doing this. In the absence of physical devices, what people are trying to do is get VPNs software and tools through.

These are virtual private networks that can work around government implemented censorship. There's also an effort to get existing media to get back online internationally and to get that through to people. And there's also this hacktivist effort, where hackers are trying to

bring down these websites, both the government state websites and the state-run media, to level out the playing field and create an information space where the information can get through.

SANCHEZ: Some of the hesitation from Western powers initially to intervene Ukraine, not militarily but even with providing aid or staring down Vladimir Putin, some of that hesitation had to do with the Kremlin's ability to cripple infrastructure online through the use of cyberattacks or Russian-affiliated hacking groups.

Is there any hesitation in your mind that this could backfire, that Russian cyberattacks could be launched against the West and potentially take out, for instance, a fuel pipeline?

TOKER: Yes, there are fears about that as much as the kinetic space. There's a real problem. When you have all these different individuals targeting nation states, then you have the risk that those attacks may be misattributed or the country may blame another government or use it as a pretext to attack another country preemptively.

And some of those attacks can cause physical damage. We've also seen, since the beginning of this invasion on the 24th, on the very morning of the initial invasion of Ukraine , we saw a network knocked out across Europe in an apparent hacking attack.

And that's had a real-world impact on devices, like on wind energy farms and across different parts of industry. And this has been an extended duration cyberattack. So this is already impacting both Ukraine but also the international community. So yes, there are concerns that this hacking war could escalate.

SANCHEZ: Something to keep an eye on, I remember initially before the war was launched by Russia, there was a warning that went out, asking folks to change their passwords and update to two-factor authentication. So it is a significant threat.

Alp Toker, thank you for your time this morning.

FISHER: History is about to be made on Capitol Hill. The first Black woman nominated to be on the Supreme Court will be in the hot seat tomorrow. The road to confirmation for Ketanji Brown Jackson, it's not going to be easy. The GOP opposition, next.





FISHER: The confirmation hearings for Supreme Court nominee Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson begin tomorrow, as she's formally introduced for her historic nomination as the first Black woman on the nation's highest court. SANCHEZ: After that, there's going to be two days of questioning and

one day of additional testimony from witnesses. Karen Caifa has more on what we can expect during the confirmation process.


KAREN CAIFA, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): When President Biden nominated the first Black woman to the Supreme Court last month, Ketanji Brown Jackson gave a nod to another trailblazer.

JUDGE KETANJI BROWN JACKSON, SUPREME COURT NOMINEE: Today I proudly stand on Judge Motley's shoulders, sharing not only her birthday but also her steadfast and courageous commitment to equal justice.

CAIFA (voice-over): Jackson referenced Constance Baker Motley, the first Black woman to serve as a federal judge. Now Jackson is poised to inspire another generation of Black women in law and shift the nation's highest court.

JOE BIDEN (D), PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: For too long, our government, our courts, haven't looked like America.

CAIFA (voice-over): Jackson was nominated to fill the seat, soon to be vacated by Justice Steven Breyer, for whom she clerked after graduation from Harvard Law School. He will retire at the end of the current court term.

The evenly-divided Senate confirmed Jackson to her current seat just last June. Republicans aren't expected to make hearings too messy. There will still be a 6-3 conservative advantage after Jackson takes her seat. But some areas of her legal career could draw scrutiny.

SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY), MINORITY LEADER: She's clearly a sharp lawyer with an impressive resume. But when it comes to the Supreme Court, a core qualification is judicial philosophy.

CAIFA (voice-over): As she has made the rounds on Capitol Hill, GOP senators indicated her time as a public defender will be one of those areas, including work representing detainees at the U.S. military prison at Guantanamo Bay. And her views on the role of race in the U.S. criminal justice system.


CAIFA (voice-over): Democrats will emphasize Jackson's credentials and character at a groundbreaking moment.

SEN. RICHARD DURBIN (D-IL), DEMOCRATIC WHIP: I can just tell you that she's a person of quality, integrity and values and she has the support across the political spectrum to prove it.

CAIFA (voice-over): Senate Democratic leaders hope to wrap the process with a final floor vote by April 8th -- in Washington, I'm Karen Caifa.

(END VIDEOTAPE) SANCHEZ: You do not want to miss this historic day. CNN will have special coverage of Ketanji Brown Jackson's Supreme Court confirmation hearing, beginning tomorrow at 11 am on CNN.

From a sprawling palace to a megayacht, Russian President Putin lives a life of luxury. But the Kremlin wants you to think otherwise. Up next, we'll take a look at how Putin hides his fortune.




FISHER: Russia's president Vladimir Putin says he makes a salary of only $140,000 a year.

SANCHEZ: Yes, despite that claim, he may actually be one of the richest people on the planet. A CNN investigation examines his secret wealth and including an opulent palace that overlooks the Black Sea. Drew Griffin takes a closer look.


DREW GRIFFIN, CNN SENIOR INVESTIGATIVE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): On the shore of the Black Sea, it can only be described as a palace, 190,000 square feet. From the air, you can see the church, tea house and amphitheater and reportedly an underground hockey rink with a no- fly zone and no boat zone.

This according to an investigation last year by the jailed Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny's group. They claim that this gilded luxurious palace fit for a king was built for Vladimir Putin.

MARIA PEVCHIKH, HEAD OF INVESTIGATIONS, ANTI-CORRUPTION FOUNDATION: This palace is very much a symbol and miniature of Putin's Russia. He no longer sees himself as government employee, as an elected figure. He sees himself as a czar, as a king of some sort.


PEVCHIKH: And that -- and then, you know, Russian czar, of course, deserves a palace.

GRIFFIN (voice-over): CNN can't independently verify Putin's connection to the palace. And Putin's spokesman denies the Russian leader owns it or any palace.

Maria Pevchikh from Navalny's Anti-Corruption Foundation says they have proof, that their sources and documents all point to the palace as an example of how the oligarchs corruptly enrich the Russia's president.

PEVCHIKH: It's -- has been paid for by Russian oligarchs, by Russian state-owned companies. Money from Russian people, from regular people, was stolen and diverted into building this horrendous thing on the Black Sea.

GRIFFIN (voice-over): According to the investigation and a whistleblower who came forward, the money for the palace came from a Russian investment fund company that solicited charity donations from the Russian oligarchs.

JILL DOUGHERTY, FORMER CNN MOSCOW BUREAU CHIEF: There are these rumors about Putin being the richest man in the world. And he may be. It's very, very hard to try to understand what his wealth is and where it's held.

GRIFFIN (voice-over): Rumored to be worth more than $100 billion, officially Putin claims an 800 square-foot apartment, a few cars and modest salary, in 2020 valued at about $140,000. But his official income is irrelevant.

Russia watchers say Putin controls Russia by determining who gets money and who doesn't, who gets to run business, who skims profit and how the wealth is passed. He doesn't need any assets listed in his name, says journalist Tom Burgis. It's all his when he asks.

TOM BURGIS, AUTHOR: It's closer to something like "The Godfather." But ultimately, they owe everything they have to the boss. And with the click of a finger, as he has shown in the past, Putin can take everything from an oligarch. However rich and however influential they may seem, they are ultimately dependent on him.

GRIFFIN (voice-over): Fight the system, interfere in politics and face his wrath: exiled Russian oligarch, Mikhail Khodorkovsky, who was convicted of tax evasion and fraud, spent 10 years in a Russian prison, he says, for not playing Putin's game. He claims Putin is paranoid, dangerous and must be stopped.

MIKHAIL KHODORKOVSKY, FORMER RUSSIAN OLIGARCH (through translator): All of the accounts of all the oligarchs who function as Putin's wallet must be stopped. They must all feel the pain right now and it must continue until the war ends.

GRIFFIN (voice-over): Newly imposed sanctions from the West have now made it hard for many of the Russian billionaires to do business outside of Russia; yachts, bank accounts frozen.

Inside Russia, the economy shows signs of crumbling. But chipping away at Putin's brutal hold on power through economics will take time. And from his actions, observers believe Putin's strategy is far beyond personal riches.

DOUGHERTY: He wants to rebuild Russia as a great power. And you almost have to go back to the czarist days to understand that.

GRIFFIN (voice-over): Just look at the gates of Putin's purported palace, a golden two-headed crowned eagle, a symbol of Russia, similar to the two-headed crowned eagle that is atop the gate of the winter palace that belonged to Russia's last czar.

(END VIDEOTAPE) SANCHEZ: Just ahead, Moderna is the latest of the vaccine companies

now pushing for an additional COVID booster shot, as concerns grow over a new subvariant, causing cases to spike around the world. The latest on COVID -- after a quick break.





SANCHEZ: Moderna is now seeking emergency use authorization for an additional COVID booster shot.

FISHER: And it comes amid concerns of a new variant emerging overseas that could soon lead to an increase in cases in the U.S. CNN's Polo Sandoval has more.


POLO SANDOVAL, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): COVID cases in Western Europe are ticking up, yet again. This week, the United Kingdom and the Netherlands saw cases jump nearly 50 percent over the week before.

But the U.K.'s roughly 55,000 new cases a day is only a fraction of what the country experienced during a previous COVID peak.

And on Sunday, Germany will begin lifting most COVID measures, in spite of new cases hitting a record seven-day high, more than 1,700 in that country.

The rising cases abroad has the attention of American health experts, who are asking if COVID statistics overseas may offer a preview of what's to come for the United States.

DR. JONATHAN REINER, CNN MEDICAL ANALYST: Throughout this pandemic, we have followed the United Kingdom and Western Europe by about three weeks. So what happens there typically happens here.

SANDOVAL (voice-over): Dr. Jonathan Reiner interprets COVID upticks elsewhere as a clear sign that the virus is coming back.

REINER: What they're seeing is not a sort of resurgence of the original BA.1 Omicron variant. What they're seeing is a second peak now of BA.2, the more transmissible variant. And that is now slowly starting to rise in the United States.

And I expect that we will see pretty definitive evidence of an increase in cases in the United States, probably by the end of this month.

SANDOVAL (voice-over): Other health experts caution the U.S. may not be as prepared for a potential BA.2 variant surge. In the U.K., 86 percent of eligible people are fully vaccinated, with 67 percent boosted. Those figures, significantly lower in the U.S.

White House officials also detailed this week that COVID-19 relief funding from the American Rescue Plan is running out. Officials say more funds would be critical if a second booster shot is required. On Thursday, Moderna announced that it could seek FDA approval for a second booster shot for all adults -- Polo Sandoval, CNN, New York.


FISHER: Up next, the story of a 11-year-old boy, who spent days traveling across Ukraine all by himself with no money. What he shared with CNN, now that he's made it safely across the border.




SANCHEZ: This is such an inspiring story. Among the more than 3 million Ukrainian refugees, a brave 11 year-old boy, Hassan, who traveled over 600 miles by himself across Ukraine, made it to Slovakia.


FISHER: Don Lemon spoke with Hassan and his siblings about his harrowing journey to safety, beginning with the difficult moment that he had to say goodbye and leave his mom.


DON LEMON, CNN ANCHOR: What did she say to you when she -- when you left?

HASSAN AL-KHALAF, UKRAINIAN REFUGEE (from captions): She wished me lots of luck and that I wouldn't be crying and sad.

LEMON: Were you worried, though?

AL-KHALAF (from captions): Of course, always worried.

LEMON (voice-over): Hassan, alone, traveled all the way to Bratislava in Slovakia, where he found his older brothers and sisters. They had journeyed ahead earlier, to meet up with their older brother, who was studying in Slovakia. And that's where I met them today.

LEMON: So you had a bag?

AL-KHALAF: Yes, I had one bag.

LEMON: And then you had a number written on your hand?

AL-KHALAF: On my right hand.

LEMON: Did you have money with you? AL-KHALAF: No, no money at all.

LEMON (voice-over): Hassan says he got his hope from his mother, who desperately wanted him to get to safety. And now, she, too, is safe. She was able to reach Slovakia Tuesday and reunite with Hassan.

PISECKA YULIA VOLODYMYRIVNA, HASSAN'S MOTHER (through translator): I cannot leave my mother. She is 84 and she is not mobile. Thus, I had put my son on the train to go to the Slovakian border, where he was met by the people with big hearts.

I would like to express my sincere gratitude to all the Slovakian border guards and all of the volunteers of Slovakia who sheltered my child, who helped him to cross the border on his own.

LEMON (voice-over): Hassan's rescue is a family affair. Some of his siblings gave their mom advice on the best way to get Hassan out of the war-torn country. But there were times they were scared that he would get lost.