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Quest Means Business

Officials Say 1,300 Killed In Mariupol Since Invasion Began; Dow Snaps Four-Day Slide As Stocks Steady; Brent Oil Falls Below $110.00 Per Barrel At Wednesday's Low; Thousands Flee Violence In Ukraine Through Safe Corridors; E.U. Slaps More Sanctions On Russian Oligarchs, Maritime Industry; Pentagon Is Supporting Ukraine By Supplying Them With Materiel. Aired 3-4p ET

Aired March 09, 2022 - 15:00   ET



HALA GORANI, CNN INTERNATIONAL HOST: Stocks are soaring this Wednesday after four days of losses driven by the war in Ukraine. Investors are

focused on diplomatic talks over the crisis and a sharp drop in oil prices.

The NASDAQ is up more than three percent. There is a rally in fact today across all three major indices. We'll tell you why.

Those are the markets. Here are the main events this hour.

Continuous shelling strikes civilian targets throughout Mariupol. Ukraine is accusing Russian forces of bombing a maternity hospital in the southern


And the U.S. Secretary of State calls on Moscow to allow civilians safe passage from the fighting.

And the United Arab Emirates tells CNN it is ready to pump more oil as sanctions against Russia send energy prices spiking.

We are live from London. It is Wednesday March 9th. I'm Hala Gorani, Richard Quest is out. I understand it's his birthday today, and this is


Good evening. It has been a day of diplomacy and devastation in Ukraine. On the one hand, the horrific impact of Russian bombs; on the other, news of

talks that well the hope at least is that it could lead to ending the conflict, though, there is not much optimism.

That is what stock markets are focused on, as well as signs that oil price relief is coming and that news is pushing stock markets higher and oil

prices lower. We will bring you the market moves throughout the hour, and we're expecting a briefing from the Pentagon, which is due to start at any


However, we begin obviously with the news and the situation on the ground. An apparent Russian strike hit a maternity hospital in Mariupol. This video

shows damage to a university building in the southern port city. You see how badly damaged it is there on the higher levels.

Officials there say 1,300 civilians have been killed since Mariupol started coming under attack by Russian forces. Ukraine and Russia have agreed on

several evacuation routes. However, those efforts were abandoned near Kyiv.

And local officials there are accusing Russian forces of blocking evacuation buses. The Russian President Vladimir Putin spoke earlier with

the German Chancellor Olaf Scholz. The Kremlin said the two discussed the need for those humanitarian corridors. Sam Kiley will have more from the

region and just a moment.

Earlier, a member of the Ukrainian Parliament spoke to Kate Bolduan. He told her that the Russians have a track record of targeting civilians and

said that that hospital bombing is an example of what he called war crimes.


ANDRII OSADCHUK, MEMBER OF UKRAINE PARLIAMENT: It's not surprising for me what is happening. Putin and Russian Army is repeating what they did before

in all military conflicts in the territory of former Soviet Union. The same they did in Chechnya, the same they did in Georgia, the same they did in

Donbas in Ukraine in 2014 and 2015.

As soon as they start losing war on the ground, they started using civilians as a tool of war. They start attacking civilians to blackmail

officials of the country they attack. So now for me, no surprise to me, Russians are doing like Russians, they never respect human rights. They

never respect human beings.

And now we have repeated cases of war crimes against civilians, and today's attack on a hospital on Mariupol. It's not the first case during last,

let's say seven or nine days. And unfortunately, I think it's not the last case.


GORANI: Ukrainian Member of Parliament there. Now, Russia is denying involvement in the hospital bombing. The American Secretary of State Antony

Blinken says he is absolutely convinced that ultimately, Putin will fail.

At a press conference earlier with the U.K. Foreign Secretary, he said the U.S. has tried to work with Putin to end the conflict. This is what he



ANTONY BLINKEN, U.S. SECRETARY OF STATE: Throughout this crisis created by Putin and Russia, we've sought to provide possible off ramps to President

Putin. He is the only one who can decide whether or not to take them. So far, every time there's been an opportunity to do just that, he has pressed

the accelerator and continued down this horrific road.


If his goal is to impose some kind of puppet regime by displacing the existing government and putting in place one to his liking, I think it is

pretty evident by the response of the Ukrainian people that they will never accept that, and if he tries to enforce such a puppet regime by keeping

Russian forces in Ukraine, it will be a long, bloody, drawn out mess.


GORANI: Antony Blinken, Kylie Atwood was at that news conference and joins me now from the State Department with more.

What are the hopes that -- is the U.S. placing any hopes in this Lavrov- Kuleba in Turkey, perhaps the beginning of a glimmer of hope there that something can come of talks or not?

KYLIE ATWOOD, CNN U.S. SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Not exactly. I think U.S. officials are eyes wide open about the reality here, which is that a war is

occurring while these talks are occurring. And what Biden administration officials have repeatedly said is that while this Russian aggression

continues on, there can't be talks, diplomatic talks that are productive.

So what they have repeatedly proposed is that the Russians need to halt their activity, and then folks need to sit down at the diplomatic table.

And I do think it's noteworthy that the Secretary of State said there that he believes this will be a failure for President Putin essentially because

of the will of the Ukrainian people because he said they are never going to accept a puppet regime that President Putin would potentially try and put

into place into Ukraine.

And it is also significant that just yesterday, another top State Department official, Toria Nuland was talking about, you know how this

could all come to a close, and her prescription of the situation was that this war is going to end when President Putin realizes that his actions

have actually put his own leadership at risk in his country, amongst military officials, amongst the Russian people.

And she said at that point, he is going to have to change course, or the Russian people will take matters into their own hands, a clear indication

there, that the United States believes there could potentially be a groundswell of opposition to President Putin if he continues on with this


GORANI: So they believe that these punitive economic damages -- sanctions I should say, could damage the Russian economy so much that Russians

themselves rise up against their leaders?

ATWOOD: I think that's a part of it. Right? The Biden administration has tried to say that we aren't targeting the Russian people with these

sanctions, but there is no doubt about it, that the sanctions will eventually have an impact on everyday Russians.

And of course, they have tried to target the oligarchs, those who are close with President Putin, so they feel the heat, perhaps sooner, and they can

then express their sentiments to President Putin, but there is a sense here that these are sanctions that could have a widespread effect, not just on

those oligarchs -- Hala.

GORANI: All right, Kylie Atwood, thanks very much.

Now, hopes that somehow an end could be found to the conflict brought buyers back into the stock markets this Wednesday. Obviously not everyone

is sharing their optimism. But here you go. This is what's happening on the U.S. markets.

The Dow was up nearly 800 points at the high today's snapping a four-day slide, it's now up 730 points and change. A drop in oil prices is also

calming some nerves.

All the major averages are up. The United Arab Emirates Ambassador to the U.S. told CNN that the UAE was in fact in favor of OPEC raising oil

production to try to lower the price of the barrel of oil.

Now major averages are up on both sides of the Atlantic. Here's a look at European stock indices. The DAX finished up more than a thousand points, it

is its best in nearly two years to the day. The CAC 40 in Paris was up more than seven percent. That's after some significant slides over the last few


Now I mentioned the UAE Ambassador's comments to CNN and those sent oil prices down pretty heavily after two weeks of runaway gains.

Brent crude was down more than 12 percent at its low today after approaching $140.00 just a few days ago. For some reason, we still have the

Dow on the air. It's still up 70 percent though in the last year. Here's Brent crude for you.

And Goldman Sachs is warning of an unprecedented energy shock triggered by Russia's invasion of Ukraine.

Matt Egan joins me again with more on what to expect. So the UAE and Saudi Arabia and all these Gulf countries, it wasn't exactly clear in the

beginning that they were heeding Joe Biden's call to increase production in order to lower the price of oil when this energy shock caused by Russia's

invasion sent them soaring, right?

But now, they are saying perhaps that they are on board and this is easing concerns somewhat.


MATT EGAN, CNN REPORTER: Yes. That's right, Hala. I would even go a step further, you know initially OPEC was saying that they weren't going to be

doing anything in terms of coming to the rescue. They were sticking to the script of just adding a modest amount of oil back each month, despite the

fact that oil prices had skyrocketed.

Now, there has been a change in messaging here. The UAE Ambassador to the U.S. telling Becky Anderson that the UAE, a major oil producer wants to

increase supply and they are going to tell their OPEC colleagues that they should do the same. That is a very big deal, because OPEC is really the

only game in town. It's the only group that can quickly add back supply, specifically supply from the UAE, from Saudi Arabia, perhaps from Iraq.

And so that would certainly help at a time when the world already was struggling to keep up with oil demand, and that was before the Russia-

Ukraine crisis.

And so the oil markets heard those words and reacted. Brent suffering its worst day in nearly two years, closing down 13.2 percent. We haven't seen a

one day decline like that since April 21st, 2020. That was the day after U.S. oil prices went negative for the first time ever. And this really was

driven by those OPEC concerns.

Now, the question is whether or not this is actually going to happen, whether or not OPEC actually follows up and efficiently increases supply

and whether or not that's enough to offset the loss of Russian barrels and we don't know the answers to those questions yet -- Hala.

GORANI: But in the past, when there have been big energy crises, OPEC countries have been pretty cooperative, right, with the United States.

They've increased supply even when prices were going down, because they knew that this was something that the United States would be grateful for.

In this case, they were not just reluctant, they basically said no. And now they're saying they'll increase production, but we don't know if they'll

actually follow through.

Why is so much reluctance from these Gulf countries?

EGAN: Yes. Hala, that's right. We also don't know how much they're going to increase production by. You know, the plan has been 400,000 barrels per

day, each month being added back. If they're going to only ramp it up to 450,000 barrels per day, that's not really going to do it. It would have to

be a meaningful amount.

But to your question about why there has been this reluctance? I think that's a good question. One reason is they don't want prices to be so low,

that it allows U.S. producers to steal market share away. We've seen that happen before.

The other big issue here is the frayed relationship between Washington and Riyadh, specifically from President Biden and Crown Prince Mohammed bin

Salman and I think that those tensions between the two capitals really has not helped the situation at all.

You know, it felt as though for the longest time Saudi Arabia was in no rush to do President Biden any favors in terms of trying to minimize oil

prices, which have driven up gasoline prices and helped fuel the worst inflation in the United States in 40 years, all big political negatives for

President Biden.

And so perhaps today, we are hearing and seeing signs of a shift. And again, we are going to have to wait to see for, you know, confirmation from

OPEC, and the details about how much oil production they're going to add back and when they're going to do that.

GORANI: Yes. Thank you very much. Great analysis. Let's go back to Ukraine.

Sam Kiley is Zaporizhzhia and he has more on the civilian toll of that hospital bombing in Mariupol. The Russians are denying that they hit the

hospital, but what witnesses are saying on the ground, it tells a very different story.

SAM KILEY, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, I mean, we've got geo located evidence, multiple videos, not just of an airstrike against

hospital number three, a maternity hospital in Mariupol, Hala, but also against a university complex also in Mariupol.

This is something that the mayor of Mariupol, the deputy mayor rather told CNN earlier on the day has become almost routine, although this air strike

so specifically on such an enormous scale, Hala, has been really devastating.

Miraculously, only 17 people so far are understood to have been injured officially. We don't know yet about any dead and perhaps that is because so

many people have been living underground now in that city of half a million people for more than -- for about a week.

Now, they are the unlucky ones. The lucky ones in this war, in the evil calculus of this war have just left the supermarket, which is why I'm sort

of slightly weirdly standing in a supermarket because this is a supermarket that has laid -- these packages being handed out to refugees who've just

come out from the town next to the nuclear power station 30 miles from here that the Russians captured about a week ago.

There are still serious concerns about the future of that nuclear power station. The International Energy Authority has lost contact with the

scientists there that are keeping it, running it. The Russians are claiming that they've got it under control. There have been allegations from the

Ukrainians that people there had been tortured, but there was at least an evacuation out of there for about 700 or 800 people, we believe.


KILEY: And we saw them come here, they've now been bussed to elsewhere here in Zaporizhzhia. But the tragedy is that this is the fifth day upon

which people of Mariupol hoped that they would be able to get out of that town, or at least some of them would be able to get out. There were efforts

being made by the Red Cross, by the Ukrainians, by the international community to try and persuade the Russians to allow a civilian convoy out

into this location where they could come and pick up some of this food.

They haven't had any decent food or food at all, in some cases for many, many days now. And instead of which, there was continued shelling on the

route out and this attack against a maternity hospital.

Earlier on today, Hala, I spoke to a young woman whose husband and daughter trapped in Mariupol, she was trapped out of the town because she was on a

business meeting to Italy. And she has just, today, been able to make a telephone contact, the first time since March the 2nd with them.

She didn't even know if they were alive or dead. She has discovered that they're living in a bunker and they have been for several days with her

mother, who is a pediatrician, but they were all saying that they don't think they've got enough supplies to stay alive for more than the next

couple of days, particularly water.

Water is a particular shortage there. They are having to drink industrialized water, water out of preexisting piping systems. Children are

going down with dehydration. There's deep, deep concern that the numbers of death may suddenly escalate not from bombing, necessarily, but from disease

-- Hala.

GORANI: All right, Sam Kiley, thanks very much. Live in Zaporizhzhia.

Now Europe is promising that it will reduce its reliance on Russian oil and gas. The Dutch Prime Minister talked about some hard realities while in

Paris today.

It's one thing to try to reduce your reliance. It's another thing entirely to actually do it.

We'll have the details next.


GORANI: The Dutch Prime Minister says the E.U. will find it easier said than done to walk away from Russian energy. At a news conference in Paris,

Mark Rutte said it will require putting everything on the table and a complete cut off right now was impossible.



MIKE RUTTE, DUTCH PRIME MINISTER: I could imagine that Germany for example, which we think at the moment, the timing of their atomindustrie,

leaving the nuclear sector, so we have to see what happens.

But I think everything now is up for grabs. In that sense, no dogmas. We have to become less dependent on Russia and gas and oil as soon as possible

but not tomorrow. That's not possible.


GORANI: Well, Europe will have to find new sources of oil and gas to get off obviously, the Russian supplies. Russia was the world's second largest

crude oil producer last year, pumping nearly 10 million barrels a day, about 60 percent of its exports went to O.E.C.D. Europe.

The UAE's Ambassador in Washington says his country supports more oil production and will OPEC -- will ask OPEC to boost supply. The UAE pumped

2.7 million barrels of oil a day last year.

Antoine Halff is the Chief Analyst at Kayrros and he joins us now. Let's talk about how realistic it is when the E.U. says that it would slash its

Russian gas imports by two-thirds this year. Do you think it's doable?

ANTOINE HALFF, CHIEF ANALYST, KAYRROS: It's tricky that we're coming out of the heating season, which is the peak demand season for natural gas. So,

it all depends on the weather. If the weather cooperates, I think it's possible, but it is a challenge.

GORANI: From what I understand, the issue isn't just finding alternate suppliers, it is getting the gas to where it needs to go, that there isn't

the capacity if you bring the liquefied gas to ports to distribute it where it needs to go, whereas the existing pipelines are functioning perfectly

properly in terms of the energy needs of the continent. How do you overcome that?

HALFF: Well, you can switch to LNG as you mentioned, you can also switch to other fuels, like increased nuclear production, whenever possible.

Switch to oil fuels or coal, as we've seen before in Europe, even before this crisis started based on price signals.

So that's a challenge, but I think there's something that power generation companies can do. They're used to switching fuels. The other piece of the

problem is crude and there's now a set embargo of companies against crude from Russia, even in the absence of European sanctions is a huge market

shift away from Russian oil.

GORANI: Yes. And what impact is this going to have on the markets just this invasion alone? What is your longer term prospect for where this will

place gas prices in the medium term?

HALFF: Well, the prices have responded already, so the market is talking, even though there is no disruption just yet. We haven't seen a drop in

inventories in in Europe. We monitor crude oil inventories in real time all over the world and we haven't seen a particular decline this past week. We

haven't seen a decrease in Europe, we've seen an increase, actually and we haven't seen a significant decrease really anywhere else.

But it's a crisis waiting to happen and it is anticipated like the market is priced in. Now, the long term outlook really depends on what is going

on, on the ground in the war itself and that's very hard to predict at the moment.

What we can do is monitor things in real time. We started like imaging in a way that was not possible in the past.

GORANI: Sure. And what about -- what did you make of the U.S.'s rapprochement, I'm not sure you can call it that. But any way, an opening

to Venezuela, it's very realpolitik, all of this, obviously, as it is trying to put the pressure on Russia, getting a bit closer to Venezuela to

try to make up for some of that shortfall from the energy it won't be importing from Russia. What did you make of that?

HALFF: Yes, it's amazing what high prices can do to diplomacy. Clearly, the high price has completely changed the situation with Venezuela. There

is there's now a very strong desire to get closer to bring Venezuela back in the market. It's a source of supply that's particularly close to the


The U.S. was the number one customer for Venezuelan oil, with access to U.S. supplies, Venezuela could increase its production, presumably quite

fast. Iran is another one that's coming out of sanctions. Then add U.S. production itself, yes.

GORANI: And that is where you might have all these interconnecting stories. The Iran Nuclear Deal, for instance, might somehow be, you know,

impacted by the need for Iran to reenter the energy market in some official way. Is that what the market is expecting or not?

HALFF: That's what the market is watching like now. It's interesting because in the past Russia was pushing for Iran to come out of sanctions

and they're now kind of thinking again now that bringing Iranian oil back in the market could play against them.


But I think the market anticipates Iranian barrels coming back. There's a lot of Iranian oil in floating storage right now that could come back to

the market immediately. And then Iran in 2016, when they came out of the sanction for the first time showed that they could ramp up production very

quickly and surprise the world really by how fast they could ramp up production.

So the market, I think, anticipates something of the same nature this time around. So there are alternative suppliers. They used a supply response

today. We are expecting supply response in the U.S. itself in shale oil. Shale oil had not recovered pre COVID production levels, had continued to

be very subdued in its investment, looking for return on investment and production growth, that's likely to change.

We're lucky the Biden administration is changing its tone towards the industry and we are likely to see supply response in the U.S. We're

starting to see a demand response as well. It's a little bit early to tell. But in Europe, in particular, we monitor road traffic very closely and

we've seen a big change in transportation demand in passenger vehicle traffic in Europe, probably as a response to high prices.

GORANI: Thank you so much for joining us, the Chief Analyst at Kayrros, Antoine Halff, really appreciate having you on the program.

HALFF: Thanks, Hala. Appreciate it. Thank you.

GORANI: We were discussing with Antoine America's overtures to Venezuela. Well after saying we will ditch Russian oil, the U.S. is turning to that

country, but it has long treated as an enemy. It could now ease sanctions on the country in hopes of securing more oil.

Venezuela released two Americans from prison in fact. One, a member of the so called CITGO 6 oil executives detained in 2017.

Stefano Pozzebon is in Caracas, Venezuela. What are you hearing on the ground, Stefano?

STEFANO POZZEBON, JOURNALIST: What we're hearing here, Hala, Venezuela is definitely interested in the possibility of lifting some of the sanctions

on their crude oil from (AUDIO GAP) and just to give you an idea of how --

GORANI: Sorry, apologies, Stefano. We're going to try to fix the audio and in fact the video and get back to you. Stefano is in Caracas.

We will try to do that, but as we've been seeing this evening, sometimes these live connections don't always cooperate.

We'll be right back with more of our top stories, including of course the very latest on Russia's invasion of Ukraine.




GORANI, CNN HOST: All right, so any moment now, we'll get a briefing from the Pentagon on the Ukraine conflict and the Russian invasion. We'll bring

that to you as soon as it begins.

Meanwhile, a Ukrainian official says there were problems evacuating civilians around Mariupol, Kharkiv and Kyiv today. Some 40,000 people did

make it to safer ground using those humanitarian corridors. But in other cases it is definitely was not smooth.

CNN's Matthew Chance filed this report from an evacuation route northwest of the capital.


MATTHEW CHANCE, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: As you can see, there are thousands of people now, in their own cars, streaming out through

these safe corridors that have been set up by the Russians and the Ukrainians, to give these people a chance to escape the ferocious

bombardment they have been suffering.

Some of the cars have got "children" written on them. One of them here, all filled with their own children, other peoples' children, children of

neighbors they've taken with them, anything they can do to get them out, into the relative safety of Kyiv and onward toward the west.

Many of them heading toward Poland, to the west of Ukraine. As you see here, there's been some efforts set up as a sort of reception for the

people, because a lot of the people we've spoken to inside these cars say that they've spent days without any proper food, without any water, without

any light. It's been really, really difficult for them.

So you know, even though this isn't perfect, it is at least a chance for these people to, well, to save their own lives -- Matthew Chance, CNN, on

the outskirts of Kyiv.


GORANI: And after the break, piling the pressure on Russia as a wave of sanctions target Moscow's elite and their assets. We'll talk to an expert

about the latest measures and whether they will work. We'll be right back.





GORANI: The E.U. is expanding its economic sanctions against Russia and Belarus, the European Commission president Ursula van der Leyen saying this

fourth round of sanctions will cast an even wider net.

They target three Belarusian banks, Russian politicians and another 160 oligarchs. E.U. leaders are set to endorse the measures at their summit

this week.

As Western allies go after the Russian elites, oligarchs are scrambling to move, sell or hide their assets like luxury yachts, lavish apartments in

London and in other big cities and shell companies as well.

But crypto experts say Russian businesses could use digital currencies to blunt the force of sanctions. Let's talk more with Yaya Fanusie. He's a

senior fellow at the Center for New American Security and a former CIA counterterrorism analyst.

He's also the founder of a firm that helps companies address money laundering and risk -- I'm sorry, we have to go to the Pentagon. Apologies;

we'll get right back to you. The Pentagon's giving a briefing. We'll get right back to you.


ADM. JOHN KIRBY (RET.), PENTAGON PRESS SECRETARY: -- counterpart this morning, to discuss Russia's unprovoked aggression in Ukraine.

We thank the Minister Blaszczak for Poland's extraordinary support of U.S. troops in the country, including those recently sent there on temporary

orders. He noted the hard work and the diligence with which the Poles have been welcoming in taking care of Ukrainians, who continue to flee across

their border, some 1.2 million now.

Secretary also made clear how much he's looking forward to attending in person next week's NATO defense ministerial in Brussels. Now Secretary also

had a chance to discuss with Minister Blaszczak the proposal to send MiG-29 fighter aircraft to Ukraine and, specifically, the notion of doing so by

way of transfer to U.S. custody.

Secretary Austin thanked the minister for Poland's willingness to continue to look for ways to assist Ukraine but he stressed we do not support the

transfer of additional fighter aircraft to the Ukrainian air force at this time and, therefore, have no desire to see them in our custody, either.

Let me walk you through the reasons for this.

First, we believe the best way to support Ukrainian defense is by providing them the weapons and systems they need most to defeat Russian aggression;

in particular, anti-armor and air defense.

We, along with other nations, continue to send them these weapon and we know that they are being used with great effect. The slowed Russian advance

in the north and the contested airspace over Ukraine is evidence alone of that.

Although Russian air capabilities are significant, their effectiveness has been limited, due to Ukrainians' strategic operational and tactical ground

based air defense systems, surface to air missiles and MANPADS.

Secondly the Ukrainian Air Force currently has several squadrons of fully mission capable aircraft. We assess that adding aircraft to the Ukrainian

inventory is not likely to significantly change the effectiveness of Ukrainian Air Force relative to the Russian capabilities.

Therefore, we believe the gain from transferring those MiG-29s is low. And finally, the Intelligence Committee has assessed the transfer of MiG-29s to

Ukraine may be mistaken as escalatory and could result in significant Russian reaction that might increase the prospects of a military escalation

with NATO.

Therefore, we also assess the transfer of the MiG-29s to Ukraine to be high risk. And we are grateful for the superb support and cooperation of our

Polish allies, who continue to host thousands of our troops and are welcoming more, as I said, more than 1 million Ukrainian refugees.

Polish generosity is clearly on display for the whole world to see. But at this time, we believe the provision of additional fighter aircraft provides

little increased capabilities at high risk. We also believe that there are alternative options that are much better suited to support the Ukrainian

military in their fight against Russia.


And we will continue to pursue those options. Again, we thank Poland for their incredible level of support and cooperation. Poland is a valued ally

and a very good friend. We look forward to exploring ways to deepen that partnership in this critical moment.

We also know the Ukrainian armed forces, as well as average Ukrainian citizens, are defending their country with great skill and bravery. We will

continue to look for ways to help them do that, knowing full well that that effort is in no way made more effective or less harmful to the Ukrainian

people by steps we take or decisions we make, which lead to an escalation of that conflict.

Might I add that, just before coming out here, the secretary wrapped up a phone call with the Ukrainian defense minister, Minister Reznikov, as one

of his ongoing series of calls with counterparts. We'll have a more detailed read-out of that call later. The call really just concluded so I

don't have much context to provide for you there.

Now on another note, approximately 3,000 U.S. Marines will join some 30,000 military forces from 27 NATO ally and partner nations for the Norwegian-led

exercise, Cold Response, which kicks off Monday, the 14th of March.

This is the ninth iteration of this multidomain extreme cold weather exercise, designed to enhance our collective military capabilities in a

demanding Arctic environment.

This exercise will emphasize and test critical activities, ranging from the reception of reinforcements in interoperable command and control to

combined joint operations in a highly intense combat environment.

In total, approximately 220 aircraft and more than 50 ships will take part in the exercise. U.S. forces began training in Norway in December, as U.S.

Marine units conducted cold weather training and planning in the lead-up to this exercise.

Two Marine Expeditionary Force will be the largest military unit participating this year, some 200 military vehicles, attack and assault

support aircraft and equipment departed Camp Lejeune in North Carolina in January as part of that unit's participation.

And again, we look forward to a terrific exercise, Cold Response. And the exercise will be running through April 1st.

And with that, we'll get to questions.

QUESTION: Thank you, John.

With regard to Polish proposal on the MiG transfers, would it be correct to say that you just closed the door on this transfer, whether it's done

through the United States or through any other NATO country?

And secondly, separately but related, you referenced alternative options you're looking at.

Could you explain that?

KIRBY: Sure, alternatives options are working with other allies and partner nations around the world who may have additional air defense

capabilities and systems at their disposal, who might be willing to provide them to Ukraine. So we're having discussions with many countries right now

about some of those capabilities; surface to air missiles, for instance, that the Ukrainians are more trained and more equipped to operate.

So it could include additional MANPADS as well and certainly antitank, antiarmor -- excuse me -- systems. So we're going to continue to talk to

the Ukrainians about their needs and we're going to continue to talk to allies and partners about how to best fill those needs.

But it's our assessment right now, for all the reasons I gave you, that we don't believe additional aircraft is the most effective answer to meeting

those needs in the conflict.

Now, look, sovereign nations can decide for themselves what they want to do. But this idea, the proposal of transferring these jets to our custody,

then transferring to Ukraine, that is something we are not going to explore right now -- Jen.

QUESTION: Talking about providing S-300 missile defense systems?

KIRBY: I'd rather stay away from the actual systems themselves, Jen. We'll continue to look at a broad swath of capabilities that the Ukrainians could

use effectively. Some of them, they already are. And maybe they need replacements but I'm not going to get into individual systems.

QUESTION: What's the difference in providing Javelins and Stingers to the Ukrainians versus MiGs or fighter jets?

Why is that more provocative from an intelligence perspective, why is that seen as more provocative?

It seems like you're splitting hairs there.

KIRBY: No, there's no splitting hairs, Jen. I think we take seriously the intelligence community's assessments and their views, based on the

information that they have available to them.


And it's their assessment, one of which the secretary concurs, that the transfer of combat aircraft right now could be mistaken by Mr. Putin and

the Russians as an escalatory step.

And as I said at the very end of my opening statement, we need to be careful about every decision we make, that we aren't making the potential

for escalation worse.

Because that's not only not good for NATO and it's not only not good for the United States and our national security, should this conflict escalate

even further, but it's certainly not going to be good for the Ukrainian people, to have what is already a destructive and terrible war get even

more destructive and terrible, given the fact that Mr. Putin has other capabilities at his disposal.

QUESTION: Thank you, John. I have two questions.

The first one is on this whole issue of MiG-29. As you know, this -- the prospect of delivering MiG-29s to Ukrainians was raised by President

Zelenskyy and, based on the assessment that you just told us, this is not the most effective way.

Are the Ukrainians now on board with the assessment or they're still insisting -- have you been in communication with the Ukrainians on this

issue exactly?

KIRBY: I just told you that the secretary just finished up a call with Minister Reznikov. I don't have a read-out for you right now. He literally

finishing up as I was walking here to the podium.

So we'll have a read-out for you. I doubt seriously that that read-out is going to ascribe the sentiments of the Ukrainians; that is for them to

speak to. And I will -- obviously, we defer to the Ukrainian government to speak to this on their own.

QUESTION: And on this issue of military biological labs in Ukraine that the Russians keep raising, can you basically explain to us what type of

relationship, if any, there was from the Pentagon and the Ukrainian side on any biological labs?

What was the last cooperation and what do you have to say about these Russian accusations?

KIRBY: The Russian accusations are absurd. They're laughable. And, you know, in the words of my Irish Catholic grandfather, a bunch of malarkey.

There's nothing to it. It's classic Russian propaganda. And I wouldn't, if I were you, I wouldn't give it a drop of ink worth paying attention to.

QUESTION: Yes, but, can you explain to us what -- has there been any relationship between --


KIRBY: We are not, not developing biological or chemical weapons inside Ukraine. It's not happening.


QUESTION: Any concern that Russia is actually doing this because they're planning some sort of a biological --


KIRBY: Again, not being perfectly inside the minds of the Russians, we have seen one of their playbooks is to accuse the other, that which you are

doing or that which you plan to do and to create a narrative that -- of victimhood and blaming somebody else for something you are, in fact, going

to do.

I have no evidence of that, I am not suggesting that that's in the offing right now. I have no intelligence indicators that that type of weaponry is

in Ukraine and being planned to be used.

So I want to be clear. But it is of a piece of the Russian playbook to blame others for that which you are about to do or you're considering

doing. They've done that plenty of times before.

QUESTION: And then on intelligence, since you said the U.S. intelligence assessment is that the transferring of the combat aircraft was considered

high risk, is there -- what was the assessment of transferring Javelins and Stingers?

Was it also high risk but the calculus was the Ukrainians needed them, so it was worth it?

KIRBY: Without getting into specific inventory issues, the short answer to your question, Court, is yes. I mean, as we make the decisions to provide

support, from the very beginning, even before the invasion but certainly since, we go through that calculus and to make sure that we are giving them

what we believe can be best suited to their needs.

And we see that they're using them -- I mean, they're using it with great effect. But also, keeping in mind, as we must, the potential escalation of

the conflict. So it's a calculation we do routinely, iteratively (ph), every day.

QUESTION: So it's not uncommon that the Stingers, the Javelins or let's say antiarmor, antiair equipment that the U.S. has been providing to them,

some of those have been considered high risk but the calculus is --

KIRBY: I wouldn't say everything that we're sending we considered to be high risk.


And without characterizing something as high or low risk in particular on the other inventory items, I would just tell you that we go through that

calculus with every shipment that we send, what is best needed to the fight and with a mind that we obviously don't want to needlessly or heedlessly

escalate the conflict to a level where it's actually more dangerous for Ukraine, not less.

Yes, Travis --

QUESTION: Thanks, John. The soldiers deployed to Poland, 82nd, they've been helping small numbers of Americans who have been coming across the

border from Ukraine. And you mention the massive refugee flow coming in now.

I'm wondering if their mission, if it has -- or if you're looking at potentially expanding that to a wider humanitarian mission.

And is that something that maybe you discussed with Poland?

KIRBY: There hasn't been any active discussions of expanding their missions to something wider in terms of humanitarian assistance. But I can

assure you that the secretary will want us to be as responsive as possible, should there be a need for that.

But we're not tracking a request to expand the mission set for the 82nd right now. They certainly have that capability, should they be needed and

we certainly would want to pitch in and help. But we're in constant discussions with Polish authorities, as well as the State Department.

And again, should there be a need for that, you can bet the United States military will chip in and help. And I would add -- and I don't want this to

at all sound gratuitous -- but the Poles have been doing an amazing job harboring, welcoming and taking care of now more than a million Ukrainians,

that have fled across that border.

And that's only, I guess, by the U.N. estimates, about half of the total that have left the country. But the Polish government and the Polish people

have just been superb, just absolutely spectacular. And again, if they need our help in that regard, certainly the United States military would be

positively disposed to look at those requests.

QUESTION: Thank you. (INAUDIBLE) Poland, a Defense official said that Russia had launched more than 710 missiles in Ukraine since the war began.

Have any of those -- or how close have those missiles come to the Polish border?

KIRBY: What I would tell you, Carla, without getting into too much detail here, the -- almost all of the missiles that have been fired from either

inside Ukraine or from outside Ukraine have been targeted at sites in the eastern part of the country.

If you were to draw a line from Kyiv down to Odessa, a straight line, almost all those strikes are occurring to the east of that line. So nothing

close that we've seen to Poland or even in Western Ukraine, quite frankly.

QUESTION: And then a quick follow-up on the humanitarian corridors that keep, you know, trying to be established and then failing.

Does the Pentagon consider it a war crime to establish a humanitarian corridor and then bomb it?

KIRBY: Yes, the Pentagon's not making judgments on war crimes. We'll leave that to the experts. What I would tell you is that, short of stopping the

invasion, which is really what needs to happen here, short of that, we want to see that innocent civilians are given safe passage and not being harmed.

And they ought to be given safe passage. Again, they shouldn't have to have a safe passage. But if they're going to, it ought to be to places inside

their own country, inside Ukraine, not aimed at their north and to Belarus and Russia.

I think the Ukrainians can be forgiven for not wanting to flee into the very countries that have invaded them. And so we would obviously like to

see, if there is going to be safe passage, that it's truly safe passage inside their own country and unmolested, by the way, from Russian attacks,

which has not always been the case in the last few days.

Calling for a safe passage, calling for corridors and then hitting people while they're trying to use those corridors, killing people in the midst of

evacuating -- again, I'll leave the legal scrutiny to others.

But clearly what we want to see is for the destruction and the death to stop. And short of that, to be observed, the humanitarian concerns to be

observed by the Russian military.

QUESTION: Are you actually discouraging the transfer of fighter jets to Ukraine?

Or is it the position that the U.S. won't be part of this and it remains a Polish decision?

And then separately, have you assessed the Russians' use of thermobaric weaponry in Ukraine?


KIRBY: No indications that thermobaric weapons, no evidence of that that I can speak to.

And, look, what I'm talking about today is this particular proposal about the MiG-29s. As I mentioned to Bob, sovereign nations unilaterally are

deciding to make decisions about providing security assistance to Ukraine. And they have that right to do that. And it's not our place to speak for

them or what they may want to do.

We just felt it was important, since this proposal involved a transfer to U.S. custody, that we believed it was important to lay flat our concerns

about that. And that's what we have done here.

Yes. David.

QUESTION: So the order to deploy Patriots into Poland, Defense official said this morning that Secretary Austin had ordered that. I would have

thought that kind of internal movement was ordered by General Walters.

So, one, why was it ordered by Secretary Austin?

And, two, what changed to convince him that he should put Patriots forward in Poland?

Was there any kind of aerial incident?

Was there a failure of the deconfliction line?

Was there another intelligence community assessment, that the risk was higher?

I mean, what changed from before he ordered the Patriots until now?

KIRBY: No one thing precipitated this move. And we have been talking now for weeks about our willingness and our capability of moving assets around

in theater, given the conditions the ground, given then what was a looming invasion and now what has been a quite destructive invasion in Ukraine.

And the secretary has never been one to take off the table options to relocate our assets, as he believes is best suited to defense of NATO

territory. This was one of those decisions.

It wasn't precipitated by one single moment or one single issue or one single act by the Russians but rather by a constant and routine

consultation with our NATO allies -- in this case, Poland -- about the needs and the capabilities that would best suit our obligations to Article


And as for the orders given, I mean clearly, General Walters gave the order. They are in his theater. And you're right, he absolutely has that

authority and he made that order.

But he did it at the direction of the secretary, based on the secretary's consultation with our allies and partners. I mean that's -- that's not

unusual at all. That's very typical, how things are done here. Matt.

QUESTION: Hi, John, I saw the Ukrainians claimed a maternity and children's hospital in Mariupol was hit directly by a Russian strike.

Do you have anything on that or any of the other civilian casualties that you're seeing at this point?

KIRBY: I'm afraid I don't. I've seen those same reports you have. But we're not in a position to be able to independently verify that.

Obviously, that's a horrific outcome, regardless of whether it was intentional or not. And if it's true -- and we have no reason to doubt that

it's true; we can't just independently verify -- it's just another indicator of the supreme sacrifices that the Ukrainian people are making

and that they shouldn't have to make.

You know, we're talking, you know --

GORANI: The Pentagon spokesperson, John Kirby there. The top line is that the U.S. does not support the idea of transferring additional fighter jets

from Poland to Germany in order to provide them to the Ukrainian military, considering this to be an escalatory move.

Kylie Atwood, the U.S. is making it quite clear they're not on the same page as Poland, on this one at least.

KYLIE ATWOOD, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Yes, that's right. This is the first time they've said it so explicitly, saying that the United

States does not believe that it is the right time. They don't support the additional transfer of fighter jets to the Ukrainian air force.

And as you said, the Pentagon spokesperson there explained why that's a position of the United States right now.

First of all, they believe that that move could be viewed as escalatory and, secondarily, they don't believe it would provide operational benefits

to the Ukrainians.

And even if it did, would come at a high risk.

GORANI: All right. Kylie Atwood, thanks very much, at the State Department, reiterating what we heard from the Pentagon spokesperson. Not

on board with a Polish proposal to transfer more fighter jets to Ukrainians via Germany.

These were MiG-29 Polish jets and that plan explicitly rejected from the United States. That's QUEST MEANS BUSINESS.