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CNN TONIGHT: Ukraine Declares State Of Emergency Amid Threat Of Full-Scale Russian Invasion That U.S. Warns Is "Imminent"; Ukraine President: If We Are Attacked, "We Will Defend Ourselves;" U.N. Security Council Holding Emergency Meeting On Russia. Aired 9-10p ET

Aired February 23, 2022 - 21:00   ET



ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST: Stay with CNN, for the latest, from Ukraine.

The news continues. Want to hand it over to Wolf Blitzer, and CNN TONIGHT.


WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: Anderson, thank you very much.

We want to welcome our viewers, here in the United States, and around the world. I am Wolf Blitzer. And this is CNN TONIGHT.

4 A.M., right now, in Kyiv, Ukraine tonight is under a nationwide state of emergency. The country remains on high alert, as the United States warns the Russians are ready, ready, for a full-scale, imminent invasion.

Ukraine's President Zelenskyy told his nation tonight that Russian leadership has approved an incursion. And he tried - he tried to call Vladimir Putin today, but was met with ominous silence.

We are now awaiting an emergency meeting of the United Nations Security Council, an open session tonight, convening at the request of Ukraine. It's scheduled for a half an hour or so, from now, 9:30 P.M. Eastern. And we will, of course, monitor that. We'll go there, once it begins.

Here's the latest assessment from the Pentagon.


JOHN KIRBY, PENTAGON PRESS SECRETARY: Russian forces continue to assemble, closer to the border, and put themselves, in an advanced stage of readiness, to act, virtually anytime now.

We believe that they are - they are - they are ready.

We all hope that we're wrong about this. But every indication we have is that he is poised to attack Ukraine, again and, this time, with what could be significant Military force. (END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: New satellite imagery shows a number of new Russian deployments, particularly in and around the eastern border of Ukraine. One battle group is deployed approximately nine miles east of the border.

Many are within 10 miles of the country, line - lines that continue, for about 50 miles, from the Ukrainian city of Kharkiv. So, that city, in particular, is of great concern, because it's right up against the Russian border, in the northeast.

The Pentagon also believes additional Russian forces are moving into the Donetsk and Luhansk regions, two separatist-held areas, in Eastern Ukraine, recognized as "Independent," by Vladimir Putin, on Monday.

A senior U.S. Defense official tells CNN, Putin has two dozen warships, warships, in the Black Sea. He has cruise missile capability, ballistic missile capability, armor, artillery, infantry, Special Forces, and only he knows the timing of his plan.

But the White House has been trying to get ahead of him, in recent days, revealing information, about his plans, and believes Putin has been improvising, and adopting, as a result.


JEN PSAKI, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: Our assessment is, is that President Putin did not expect the United States, to have the level of information that we have, did not expect us to put out this amount of information that we have put out.

And what we're seeing now, our assessment is that he is improvising, adapting. And we're having to respond and adapt his own actions to - as we are even - as we are responding to him.


BLITZER: The U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman, told me, this evening, Putin is poised to launch a, quote, "War of carnage" that could leave thousands, on both sides, dead. This is clearly a very, very dire moment.

We have global coverage, on another very uncertain evening, right now. We have live reports coming in, from Ukraine, the White House and, of course, the State Department.

And let's begin with our Chief International Correspondent, Clarissa Ward. She's joining us, from Kharkiv, in Ukraine, right now.

Clarissa, how dramatically, how dramatically, has the mood shifted, in Ukraine, tonight?

CLARISSA WARD, CNN CHIEF INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: There's no question, Wolf, there has been a dramatic shift. This really feels now, like a country that's holding its breath. I mean, just earlier today, the Mayor of Kharkiv, put out an announcement, on Twitter, telling people to stay calm, to stay unified, to keep going to work, saying that city services are still functioning.

And yet, when we arrived here, late this evening, we found checkpoints, going into the city. We also saw, on our drive, from Kyiv, a large convoy, of Ukrainian Military vehicles.

But most strikingly, honestly, is the shift in tone, Wolf, from Ukraine's leadership. You heard President Zelenskyy there, switching from Ukrainian, to Russian, and directly appealing, to the Russian people, to try to help avert this catastrophe, saying, "There's nearly 200,000 troops on this border. And your leadership has given them approval, to cross in to Ukrainian territory, to cross in to another country's territory."

And so, clearly, we are in a very different situation now than we were before. As recently as just a few days ago, people here really didn't believe that this could actually happen.


But now, we're learning that the airspace, the Russians have closed the airspace, to certain civilian aircraft, in this part of the country. We know the Ukrainians have closed the airport here, in Kharkiv. They've also closed two other airports.

And, I think, there's a sense now, of people just waiting to see, what's going to happen. There isn't a state of alarm. As you can probably see behind me, it's the middle of the night. The streets are quiet.

But it will be very interesting to see what tomorrow brings. Will you start to see more preparations? Will you start to see people trying to leave the city?

As I mentioned before, up until this point, Ukraine's leaders have really tried to tamp down any sense of panic. We heard President Zelenskyy saying, as recently as last week that they didn't even believe it was possible, to launch a full-scale invasion, with the amount of troops that Russia had amassed, at the border.

There has clearly been a dramatic shift in tone and in the calculations that Ukraine's leaders are making. And so, the question now becomes, is there anything that can be done, to avert this catastrophe, and to try to turn this situation around, Wolf.

BLITZER: It really looks ominous. As I mentioned, Clarissa, you're there in Kharkiv. The U.S. had warned, of particular concern, for the city, that city where you are. What more can you tell us, about what you're actually seeing, right now, on the ground?

WARD: So, on the ground, Wolf, you're seeing, as you can probably see behind me, it's incredibly quiet. It's the middle of the night. But this is a city of 1.4 million people, Wolf. And it is pretty extraordinary, to be in a situation, where we could be potentially, or certainly seems we're closer, to an actual imminent invasion, of some sort, or incursion of some sort.

And we don't yet see any mass panic. We don't certainly even see any evidence of evacuations. We know that there are public bomb shelters, one of them not far from here, everyone very clearly hoping that those will not be needed.

But when you look at those satellite images that you mentioned, just 10 miles on the other side of the border, so the 50 miles from here, let's say, it clearly shows that things are moving in a very ominous direction, indeed. And so, the question now becomes, at what point does Ukraine's leadership start to instate?

We know there's that state of emergency. And we've heard from the Mayor of Kyiv, saying that people shouldn't go out, after a certain time, they should have their documents on them, and laying out a raft of kind of rules and regulations, in the state of emergency. We haven't really seen that playing out here yet.

And given the fact that this city, in particular, seems to be, at least in the view of Intelligence, coming out of the U.S., on a sort of heightened state of alert, it'll be very important, to see how this local municipality, even starts to try to implement some measures, to protect the people of this city, Wolf.

BLITZER: I want you to stand by, Clarissa. We're going to get back to you, as we learn more. Stand by.

Right now, though, I want to check in over at the U.S. State Department. Kylie Atwood is there for us, tonight.

So, what's the word there, at this hour, Kylie?

KYLIE ATWOOD, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Well, listen, Wolf, what we've been seeing, from U.S. officials, over the last few hours, is them describing the alarming current force posture, of Russian troops, right, saying essentially, that they are as ready to go, into Ukraine, as they have ever been.

One senior Defense Department official is saying that Russia has close to 100 percent of the forces that the Pentagon believes that it needs to carry out, a full-blown invasion, into Ukraine, and 80 percent of those forces are in a posture of ready-to-go. So, that is where we are at right now.

U.S. officials are looking at what they see on the ground, and they see that Russia is barreling forth, towards an invasion.

I want us to listen to how the Secretary of State described what Russian forces have been doing, in the last few days.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) ANTONY BLINKEN, SECRETARY OF STATE: Everything we've seen, over the last 24 to 48 hours, has Russia putting the final touches, on having its forces in place, across all of Ukraine's borders, to the north, to the east, to the south, to be ready for a full-on invasion.


ATWOOD: And one thing that we are seeing the State Department do, this hour, Wolf, in real-time, is call out what the Russians are doing with these false flags.

We saw the State Department spokesperson, Ned Price, say that there is no evidence that Ukrainians are going after any of the separatists, in those eastern region, those eastern areas of Ukraine.

Of course, that comes, as the Russians are claiming that the Kremlin has been asked to go, and send forces, into that area, because the separatists need those forces, to defend against Ukrainian aggressions. The State Department's saying that is just plain false.


And they're doing it, in real-time. It is significant, because what they are saying is that we expected this. And now, as we are seeing it play out, we are calling it out, for what it is, disinformation, a false pretext.

BLITZER: Kylie, as you know, we're waiting for this emergency meeting, of the United Nations Security Council, this hour. Can anything come of that realistically, at this late point?

ATWOOD: It's a good question. I think it's a significant moment, for the international community, to come, once again, together, and condemn what Russia is doing here, as they maintain this aggressive force posture, and could potentially carry out this invasion.

But this is more symbolic than it is anything else. It is more political than it is anything else. Because what we could see, from the United Nations, tonight, are a tremendous number of countries, coming out, against Russia.

But there is no indication that as they have done that, over the last few days, in these U.N. meetings, that it has changed anything, about what Russia is planning here.

BLITZER: What is the U.S., Kylie, bracing for, in terms of humanitarian assistance, the humanitarian impact, if Russia were to launch a full-scale invasion?

ATWOOD: Wolf, rest assured, it is going to be an incredible humanitarian crisis.

You heard that, earlier, this afternoon, when you spoke with the Deputy Secretary of State. She was saying that this wouldn't only be a war that was carried out, by Russia's choice, but it would also be a war of carnage. And we know that U.S. Intelligence assessments put the number of deaths, of civilians, in Ukraine, if there is an all-out invasion, at tens of thousands.

We also know of the Deputy Secretary of State talking about this, as well tonight, that there would be a tremendous refugee crisis created that there could be up to 5 million refugees that pour over Ukraine's borders, and into Europe. So, this won't only impact Ukraine, but it'll also impact the rest of Europe.

BLITZER: Yes, millions of refugees that would spill over, first, into Poland, and then other European countries.

Kylie, I want you to stand by, as we await this emergency meeting, of the U.N. Security Council.

Right now, I want to turn over to the White House. MJ Lee is on the scene, for us, over there.

So, what are you hearing, MJ, over there?

MJ LEE, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, there is certainly tonight, a recognition, at the White House, of the real gravity of the situation.

And really, over the last 48 hours, we have seen the urgency, in the tone, from U.S. officials, everyone from the President, on down, incredibly intensifying.

Of course, it started with the President, saying yesterday that an invasion has begun. And then, tonight, from the Pentagon, they said that they are ready to go, referring to Russian troops, and suggesting that a full invasion was imminent.

And since then, we have really seen a rapid rollout of sanctions, against Russia. We have heard White House officials saying that more sanctions could definitely be on the way.

And tonight, we should note that White House officials and U.S. officials definitely took note, of this dramatic speech, from the Ukrainian President.

And one of the reasons that it was so significant is because this is a leader, as U.S. officials know very well, in the past, at times, has been reticent, to even talk realistically, about the possibility of a full-scale Russian invasion, in part because we know, he didn't want to set off panic, among his own people.

So, the tone of his voice, in the remarks that he made, as he essentially sort of pleaded, for peace, and spoke directly to the Russian people? That was something that U.S. officials certainly took note of.

And if you need a sign, of just how much this is, at the top of the President's agenda? We got his schedule for tomorrow. And one of the first things that he will be doing, is going to the Situation Room, and convening a meeting, a virtual meeting, with G7 leaders.

So again, this is a rapidly-evolving situation that U.S. officials are watching very, very closely, Wolf.

BLITZER: Yes, as they should. MJ Lee, at the White House, we'll get back to you, as well.

Once again, we're awaiting this emergency U.N. Security Council meeting, on this crisis, in Ukraine, as we monitor our live signals, from inside Ukraine, right now.

And as we wait, we're going to walk you through what a full-scale Russian invasion could look like, with one of our top Military analysts, standing by.

We'll be right back.




BLITZER: Tonight, Ukraine is bracing, for what could be a full-scale invasion, by Russia. The U.S. believes it's imminent. President Zelenskyy also says Vladimir Putin has ordered an invasion.

Let's go live to CNN's Matthew Chance. He's in the Capital of Kyiv, for us.

The President - President Zelenskyy, Matthew, as you know, said he tried to call Putin, today. Was met with silence. Was this a last- ditch attempt, to avert a full-scale war?

MATTHEW CHANCE, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: I think it was, yes. And it didn't just end with a phone call.

Because Volodymyr Zelenskyy, the Ukrainian President, also posted an address, on social media, in which, for a period of it, he spoke in Russian. And he spoke directly, to Russian people, saying, "Look, you've been told" - and it was very emotional appeal.

He said, "Look, you've been told that Ukrainians need to be freed. But we're already free, in this country." He said "You've been told that we hate your culture. We hate Russian culture. But, of course, how can you hate any culture?" He said that there are differences, between the two countries. But there was no reason for them to be enemies.

And so, it was this, as I say, very emotional direct appeal, to Russia, having failed to speak directly, to the leadership, to get them to call, whatever they've got planned, off. And so, it does indicate how seriously, and how tense, the situation is here.


That's sort of reaffirmed by the fact that a state of emergency has been imposed, inside Ukraine, across the vast majority of the country, obviously not in the rebel provinces that have been recognized by Russia now.

And that means that there's a curfew, from 11 o'clock, at night. It means there's extra security outside key government buildings and transportation hubs.

And it also means that people, who are signed up for the reserves, in the Military, are not allowed to leave the country, in case they're actually needed, to fight what could be an extraordinarily bloody war.

The big concern, at the moment, Wolf, is the region, in the east of the country, of Donbas, where the rebel groups there that have recently been recognized by Russia, have been claiming, there's been an upsurge of shelling, by Ukrainian government Military forces, into that area, particularly into Donetsk, the main, one of the main rebel cities there.

And they've appealed, directly, to Moscow, for Military assistance, to help them defend, as they would characterize it, against that Military attack, by the Ukrainian Military. Of course, the Ukrainians deny there's any such attack, underway, and they deny they're planning to take back that region, by Military force.

But if the Kremlin grants that assistance, it could open the floodgates, to thousands of Russian troops, who are gathered, near the border of Ukraine, right now, to go into that region, and to - for that invasion, that's been widely tipped by U.S. Intelligence, and others, to take place, very soon.

Just, very quickly, we're up on the top of the roof, of the hotel, in Central Kyiv, that we're staying in. And, of course, the U.S. Intelligence has been passed on, to the Ukrainians, is that there could be imminent attacks, occurring, in places, all over the country, including here, in the Ukrainian capital of Kyiv.

And this is the sort of panorama, we've got, from this, this view, from the south to the east, all the way to the north. Of course, Russia is in that general direction there, to the sort of northeast of here. And so, we're keeping a close eye on the situation.

And I can tell you, Ukrainian officials, I've spoken to tonight, are saying that they are also sort of bracing, for the possibility, of there being some kind of attack, perhaps here, perhaps elsewhere in the country, by Russia, in the - possibly in the hours ahead, possibly in the days ahead.

BLITZER: We will stay in very, very close touch with you, Matthew. Be careful over there. As you learn more, we'll, of course, get right back to you.

Right now, Ukraine remains, on very high alert, as Russian forces continue to amass, at its borders. President Zelenskyy now warns an invasion could be triggered at any moment. The latest satellite imagery shows new deployments, northeast of Ukraine, in Russia, just miles, miles, from the Ukrainian border. For the latest, on what these Military moves could mean, CNN Military Analyst, retired U.S. Army Major General "Spider" Marks is joining us, right now.

General, the satellite imagery shows that this new build-up is within only 10 miles, of the Ukrainian border, and less than 50 miles, from the Ukrainian city of Kharkiv. What does that tell you?

MAJ GEN JAMES "SPIDER" MARKS (RET), CNN MILITARY ANALYST, U.S. ARMY (RET): Yes, well, I'd tell you, Wolf, what we're seeing, as a result of the great work, by the CNN correspondents, commercially-available imagery that you've shared, the analysis that the Administration has relieved - released, and then certainly open sources of Intelligence, really shows us that there is a significant build-up of forces, right there.

We've seen the cell phone footage. We've seen the imagery. And what that tells you is there is a real possibility, only 30 miles, from the border, to the second largest city, in Ukraine, of Kharkiv, that forces could come across here, at any time.

And let's be frank, the forces have been available, over the past couple of weeks, could have initiated this. So, what you see President Putin doing is decreasing his risk. He's going through risk mitigation measures, right now, which increases his logistics, his medical supplies, et cetera, and additional forces.

But additionally, we've seen lots of footage of activity, down here, which could provide movement, into this area, which is where the separatists have been, for the last eight years, fighting, alongside Russian soldiers, and here is the rest of the Donbas region.

So one of - here's what I think is going to probably happen. Movement will occur here, if it hasn't already. Additional movement into this area would be significant Military operations. There would be killing. There would be blood. That would be, as a result of these engagements.

Simultaneously, the commander, on the ground, now has an option. To put these Ukrainian forces, in a vice, coming from this direction, and coming from this direction.


But also bear in mind, it gives him an option. This is the second largest city, in Ukraine, as I indicated, which means they've got roads. They've got networks. They've got the ability, to move stuff around. They could come in here, and also threaten Kyiv, because there are also forces, up here, as well.

BLITZER: Yes, there are forces, all around Ukraine, right now. Maybe 190,000 Russian troops.

General, we'll get back to you as well. Thank you very much for that explanation.

MARKS: You bet. BLITZER: Any moment now, the United Nations Security Council will begin its emergency meeting, on the crisis. We're watching for that meeting, to begin. Standby. You're looking at live pictures, coming in from the U.N., right now. There's the U.N. Secretary-General.

Also, only Vladimir Putin himself knows his next move. But we're going to bring in someone very familiar, with how he operates, for some fresh insight, on Putin's thinking. The former U.S. ambassador to Ukraine, there he is, Bill Taylor, he's standing by live.

We will assess, right after the break.



BLITZER: We're waiting for the start of the United Nations Security Council, their meeting and emergency session, right now.

We expect to hear from the U.N. Secretary-General, Antonio Guterres. He will, we're told, open up this session.

We'll also hear from the U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations. The Russian Ambassador will speak, the Ukrainian Ambassador.


We'll have extensive coverage of that. This is a critically important meeting. We'll get a sense of what's going on, right now.

At the same time, earlier tonight, there was an extremely somber message, from the President of Ukraine, Volodymyr Zelenskyy. Watch this.


VOLODYMYR ZELENSKYY, UKRAINIAN PRESIDENT (through translator): We have no need for another Cold War, or a bloody war, or a hybrid war.

But if we are attacked militarily, if they try to take away our freedom, our lives, our children's lives, we will defend ourselves. When you attack, you will see our faces, and not our spines, our faces.


BLITZER: Let's discuss with the former U.S. Ambassador, to Ukraine, Bill Taylor.

Ambassador, thank you so much, for joining us.

The critically-sensitive, very delicate moment, right now, as you heard President Zelenskyy, warning Russia - warning that Russia has ordered an invasion, and that the trigger could come at any moment, now.

How do you interpret this dramatic shift, from the Ukrainian leader?

WILLIAM TAYLOR, FORMER U.S. AMBASSADOR TO UKRAINE: So, Wolf, I think it has become clear, to President Zelenskyy that President Putin could well do what he's been threatening to do.

President Putin has clearly been trying to rattle President Zelenskyy, trying to - trying to intimidate, probably trying to intimidate President Biden, as well. And, as you saw, tonight, President Zelenskyy is not rattled. He's grim. He's determined.

I was in his office, three weeks ago. He was - he was focused, at the time. He wasn't, as grim, and determined, and a bit pessimistic, as he is today. Back then, he was still of the view that there was not enough forces, on his border, to do a major invasion.

Well, there's now enough forces, on the border, to do a major invasion. And that has gotten to President Zelenskyy. He has not folded. He has not conceded. He has not backed down. But he is now worried.

BLITZER: As he should be. This could be very, very bloody.

The U.S. Deputy Secretary of State, Wendy Sherman, a woman you know, I know her as well, she told me earlier tonight that Putin has now closed the door to diplomacy.

First of all, do you agree, has every diplomatic option, for all practical purposes, Ambassador, been exhausted?

TAYLOR: Wolf, it's not impossible that President Putin could have a - could have a change of heart. It's probably unlikely.

But if he wanted to avoid the bloody carnage that you just described, bloody, on the Russian side? It will clearly be terrible for Ukraine, and Ukrainians, Military and civilian. But there will also be many Russian soldiers killed.

Wolf, President Putin has not had to face a large number of Russian soldiers killed, in the previous battles, in the previous operations, in Ukraine. He went into Crimea, in 2014, without firing a shot.

He has been in Donbas, for eight years. And just two nights ago, he went into Donbas, under total Russian control, so he didn't lose anyone there either. He indeed has lost a couple of soldiers, Russian soldiers, during the eight years of battle. But he's suppressed that. He has tried to hide that.

President Putin is worried about Russian soldiers dying. And they will die in large numbers, if they go in and attack the Ukrainian Military. He's got to worry about that. And he could have a change of heart.

BLITZER: We can only hope. What do you believe, Ambassador, as Putin's ultimate goal right now? Does he want, for example, to topple President Zelenskyy? Does he want to occupy the whole of Ukraine? And then what? TAYLOR: Wolf, I don't think he wants to occupy the whole of Ukraine, if he doesn't have to. Indeed, that's probably an impossible task, for the forces that he's got. He needs many more forces, to occupy the entire country, a country the size of Texas. He can't do that with 200,000 soldiers. He can't do that.

What he wants, though? You got the right question. What he wants is control of Ukraine, one way or the other.

He thought he had control, of Ukraine, through the Minsk process, by establishing these little proxy puppets, Luhansk and Donetsk, Donbas, in the body of Ukraine. And from that - from those puppets, controlling the body of Ukraine, he could control Ukraine's foreign policy. That's not working. That didn't work for him.

So now, he has to look for another way, to get that control. His ultimate goal is control of the Ukraine, bringing Ukraine back, under Russian control.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): The 8,970 (ph).


BLITZER: President Biden, as you know, has responded with sanctions, in step with other Western allies. But what more needs to happen, Ambassador, if we see a full-scale Russian invasion?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): Letter dated 28 February 2014 from the Permanent Representative of Ukraine--

TAYLOR: Every sanction in the book, to include sanctioning the Central Bank of Russia. The SWIFT is not off the table. That should - everything - we should seize assets.

Everything that we can do, to cripple that economy, sadly, it has to affect Russian citizens, has to affect people, around Putin. He has to be sanctioned as well. This is a war criminal. He has to be brought to justice, in some way. That is got to be clear to him that this is a bad mistake.

BLITZER: We're monitoring this U.N. Security Council meeting. Once it gets to the gist, to the important part, we'll, of course, have some live coverage of that. So standby, Ambassador.

The U.N. Ambassador is warning that this could create some 5 million refugees, out of Ukraine. What will that mean for Poland, and other countries, in Europe that will have to absorb these Ukrainian refugees?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): --to participate in this meeting.

TAYLOR: Of course, it will be a big challenge. We've seen in the past, where refugees, from other parts of the world, have come into Europe, and caused problems, political problems, humanitarian problems. This will be the same way. This, however, Ukraine is close to Europe. Indeed, it's part of Europe. Ukraine is historically European. Large parts of Ukraine have always been European.

BLITZER: All right, hold on a moment. Hold on a moment, Ambassador.

TAYLOR: So, these will be citizens--

BLITZER: The U.N. Secretary-General, Antonio Guterres, is speaking.

ANTONIO GUTERRES, U.N. SECRETARY-GENERAL: --in the meeting of the general assembly. But, of course, it wouldn't make any sense, to bother you, reading again the same texts that I'm sure you are all aware of.

In between during the day, a number of events took place. And with your permission, Mr. President, I would like to ask Ms. Rosemary DiCarlo to be able to brief you on those events.

But simultaneously, the day was full of rumors, and indications that - of an offensive against the Ukraine was imminent. In the recent past, there were several situations, with similar indications, similar rumors. And I never believed in them, convinced that nothing serious would happen. I was wrong. And I would like not to be wrong again, today.

So, if indeed, an operation, is being prepared, I have only one thing to say, from the bottom of my heart. President Putin, stop your troops, from attacking the Ukraine. Give peace a chance. Too many people have already died.

Thank you, Mr. President.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): I thank the Secretary-General for his introductory remarks.

BLITZER: All right, so there, you have a strong, very strong words, from Antonio Guterres, the United Nations Secretary-General, "Give peace a chance. Too many people have died." He says he was always pretty upbeat that this moment would not occur. He said, "I was wrong." And he said to President Putin, "Stop your troops."

Bill Taylor, you've watched a lot of U.N. meetings, U.N. Security Council meetings. This meeting, with the Secretary-General, opening up, with these strong words, it underscores how dangerous this moment is right now.


TAYLOR: It does, Wolf. It's a very dangerous moment. It is sad that the Security Council can't do anything about it.

A. DICARLO: There are also reports-- TAYLOR: One would have hoped, years ago, when the Security Council, when the U.N., was put together that this organization, would step in, somehow, and stop this kind of war. But it's clearly not.

The Russian is actually in the chair right now. The Russian is in the chair of the Security Council right now.

And so, the U.N. Security Council cannot really do anything, other than just bring attention, to this crime that's about to be committed, by one country, one big powerful country, against its neighbor, against its sovereign neighbor.


BLITZER: I'm anxious to hear what the U.S. Ambassador to the U.N., Linda Thomas-Greenfield, is going to say. She's there. And she's going to be delivering a major statement, on behalf of the United States government, on behalf of President Biden.

We'll be listening, very carefully, to her words, right?

TAYLOR: We absolutely will. The Security Council has met before. She gave a great speech. Secretary Blinken gave a great speech, at the Security Council, as well. They have put the Russians on notice. And yet, the Russians seem oblivious. The Russians seem not to hear.

The Russians seem intent, on controlling Ukraine, on dominating Ukraine, on bringing Ukraine back under their control, without regard to international law, without regard to the U.N. Charter, without regard to any of the commitments that the Russians have made, to the Ukrainians, and to the international community, over the years. Without any regard for that, they seem to be poised to invade.

BLITZER: All right, we're going to continue to monitor this emergency meeting, of the U.N. Security Council.

Rosemary DiCarlo, the Under-Secretary-General for Political and Peacebuilding Affairs, at the U.N., is speaking. We'll monitor what she's saying.

We'll wait for the U.S. Ambassador to the U.N., to address the Security Council.

Let's take a quick break. Resume our special coverage, right after this.




UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is CNN Breaking News.


BLITZER: Major breaking news, we're following, right now. We're monitoring the U.N. Security Council emergency meeting, underway.

We anticipate that the U.S. Ambassador, to the U.N., Linda Thomas- Greenfield, will be speaking, momentarily, outlining the U.S. position, as it unfolds right now, given the fact that U.S. officials believe that the Russians, are now, on the verge, on the verge, of launching a full-scale invasion.

Linda Thomas-Greenfield, the U.S. Ambassador, is speaking.

LINDA THOMAS-GREENFIELD, U.S. AMBASSADOR TO U.N.: --Assembly and for your remarks tonight.

Colleagues, a few moments ago, I spoke to President Biden, who asked me to convey, in the strongest possible terms, his, and our, steadfast support, for Ukraine, and support for the urgent meeting, this Council, has convened, tonight.

Furthermore, he asked me to share that the United States, and our allies and partners, will continue to respond to Russia's actions, with unity, with clarity, and with conviction.

We are here tonight, because we believe, along with Ukraine, that a full-scale, further invasion, into Ukraine, by Russia, is imminent. Tonight, we're seeing the Russians close airspace, move troops into Donbas, and move forces into combat-ready positions.

This is a perilous moment. And we are here for one reason and one reason only: to ask Russia to stop. Return to your borders. Send your troops, and your tanks, and your planes, back to their barracks and hangars. And send your diplomats to the negotiating table. Back away from the brink, before it is too late.

Last week, the United States informed this Council, and the world, about what we expected to see unfold.

We said that Russia would manufacture a pretext for an attack. We have since seen numerous false-flag events staged along the lines of contact in Donbas.

We said Russia would theatrically convene emergency meetings, at the highest levels, of the Russian government.

We all saw this, on Monday, with the state-televised security council meeting, held by President Putin, an orchestrated moment, in which the Russian government decided to recognize as, and I quote, "Independent states," sovereign territory of Ukraine, controlled by Russia's proxies, since 2014.

They literally violated Ukraine's sovereignty and territorial integrity, on live television, before the world.

We said that false proclamations would come declaring Russia would need to defend Russian-speakers in Ukraine. We got that and much more from President Putin's speech, on Monday, and during the speech of the Russian Ambassador, in the General Assembly, today. No one could have predicted just how dangerous, inciting, and far- reaching President Putin's speech would be, with Putin arguing for taking the world back in time to an era of empires and colonies.

Finally, we said the attack would come next. That we could expect communications to be jammed, cyber-attacks to shut down key Ukrainian institutions.

Last week, we attributed to Russia Denial-of-Service attacks against Ukrainian banks, and we saw similar activity, this morning, targeting government sites, as well. And in the last few hours, we have received very concerning reports, of destructive malware, placed on hundreds of computers, and executed on at least some.

After that, we said, would come the bombs and missiles, the soldiers and the tanks. Already soldiers have been deployed to the occupied region of Ukraine.

Ladies and gentlemen, we are here tonight because we believe the rest is imminent.


Now, over the past few weeks, Russia has called our predictions "Hysterical." Russia said we were lying. Russia said we were supplying the world with misinformation. Russia's diplomats even laughed in the face of the human suffering we were sounding the alarm about.

But what we said would happen has come to pass, for all the world to see. So, let us be clear: "All parties" are not culpable here. There is no middle ground. Calling for both sides to de-escalate only gives Russia a pass. Russia is the aggressor here.

Russia's attack on Ukraine is tantamount to an attack on the U.N. and every Member State, in the chamber, tonight.

The Security Council is charged with adjudicating threats to peace and security. Russia is bypassing it entirely, and taking matters into its own hands. And that undermines the institution. It undermines everyone, who participates in it.

The United States, Ukraine, its allies and partners, across Europe, U.N. officials, every other member of this Security Council, we have all repeatedly implored Russia, to engage, at the diplomatic table. Those calls were not heard.

Instead, tonight, Russia has brought its people, the Ukrainian people, and the world to the brink of a conflict that will produce an untold amount of human suffering.

I said it in the General Assembly, this morning, and I'll say it again tonight: everyday Russians should be asking themselves, right now, how many Russian lives Putin will sacrifice for his cynical ambitions.

Responsible members of this Security Council will stand together and we will stand with Ukraine. And we will do so despite a reckless, irresponsible, permanent member of the Security Council, abusing its powers, to attack its neighbor, and subvert the U.N., and our international system.

This morning, in the General Assembly, we saw dozens of leaders from across the globe stand up to defend the U.N. Charter, and Ukraine, against Russia's brazen attacks. We were proud to stand with them.

Today, I had the opportunity to meet with Ukrainian Foreign Minister Kuleba. And many of you were in the General Assembly Hall, this morning, when Foreign Minister Kuleba received enthusiastic and overwhelming applause, after his remarks.

Since he could not be here this evening, I would like to conclude by echoing his words.

This morning, he warned us all that, "No one will be able to sit out this crisis if President Putin decides that he can move forward with this aggression against Ukraine. Your governments and your people will face painful consequences together with our government and our people."

He is right. History tells us that. And we must confront this threat head on, in this Council, in the U.N., and in our capitals. The people of Ukraine are counting on us. Let's not let them down.

Thank you, Mr. President.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): I thank the Representative of the United States, for her statement.

And I now give the floor, to the Representative of the United Kingdom.

BLITZER: Well, we're going to continue to monitor the United Nations Security Council emergency meeting.

But we just heard some very powerful words, from Linda Thomas- Greenfield, the U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations. She did not mince any words. She said that a full-scale further invasion of Ukraine, by Russia, is now imminent. She said this is a perilous moment, indeed.

Fareed Zakaria, is with us. Bill Taylor is still with us.

Fareed, let me get your thoughts, right now. It looks like a full- scale war, if it already hasn't started, is about to begin.

FAREED ZAKARIA, CNN HOST, "FAREED ZAKARIA GPS": Well, that's certainly, the signs are pointing in that direction. And as Ambassador Thomas pointed out, Thomas-Greenfield (ph) pointed out, U.S. Intelligence, in this regard, on this issue, in this period, has been unerringly accurate.


The fact that the Russians have closed down the flight space, is one more sign. What we do not know is what the ultimate aim of this Military intervention will be, this phase of it. Is it to take control of the entire Donbas?

As you know, President Putin recognized these two Republics, and in their constitutional, what they claim, as their constitutional area, which is about twice as large, as the land they actually control.

So, are they trying to do that? Or is this actually a march on Kyiv itself, on the Capital? In which case, in either case, we're in for some very bloody warfare. Or, if it is a march to Kyiv, this is going to be like nothing we have seen, really, since the Second World War.

BLITZER: Yes. It's imminent, she kept saying that, Bill. Ambassador Taylor, she kept saying, "This is imminent." There is the Ukraine - Ukraine, right now, thanks to Russia, is on the brink of war.

TAYLOR: And Wolf, she also said that there's no justification.

President Putin seems to be desperate, to find a justification. He's encouraging these puppet governments, these two LNR and DNR puppet governments that he's recognized, to somehow give him the justification.

So, they've been asking him, to come in and help them. They've been trying to get the Ukrainians, to attack them, so that they can call in the Russian Military, to attack them, and trigger this invasion.

President Putin has nothing to tell the world about why he is invading Ukraine. He has nothing to tell. And so, that's what Linda Thomas- Greenfield, was saying, when she was talking eloquently there, at the Security Council.

BLITZER: If it happens, Fareed, let's say, there is a full-scale invasion, of Ukraine, right now, by Russia, then what happens? Walk us through, what you envisage. Everybody seems to think there would be an enormous number of casualties, civilians and Military, plus millions, potentially, millions of refugees.

ZAKARIA: So, as I said, let's think about it in two stages. First, you imagine they try to recapture the area that they claim is part of these phony independent Republics.

And, I think, Bill Taylor's point is very well-taken. The Ukrainian government has so far showed extraordinary restraint. They have been shelled on. They have been attacked. This ceasefire has been violated, every hour. And the Ukrainian government, so far, has not responded.

But that will not persist. If this new intervention takes place, the Ukrainian army will start fighting back.

Now, the Russian army is the largest land army, in Europe. So, it is an unequal contest. But the Ukrainians have two things going for them, the will to fight, to defend their own country, and a lot of fairly- sophisticated Military hardware that has been given to them, by the United States, over the last few years.

I think you are likely to see a very bloody war. Unfortunately, again, as I said, the Ukrainians are outmatched. The Russians have a very formidable force. But the Ukrainians will fight. They will fight hard. They will fight to preserve their country.

And, most importantly, even if the Russians do, quote, unquote, "Win," if they take a capital, if they take the symbols and seats of power? The Ukrainians will keep fighting. And the Ukrainians will fight it through an insurgency. They will fight through various forms of resistance.

I think that President Putin will be surprised to see that this is not going to be - this is not going to be an easy one, even if, technically, he is able to achieve some Military objectives.

BLITZER: Ambassador Taylor, we've just learned that President Putin has just announced that a Military operation has begun, he says, to protect Donbas, this disputed area, part of Ukraine, controlled, in large measure, by pro-Russian sympathizers, over there, as well as Russian troops.

So, what do you make of this?

TAYLOR: Wolf, President Putin has a fine opening gambit. He is going to be able to push hard. It'll be bloody. But he will be able to overrun, or push through, a determined Ukrainian resistance.

Ukrainian Military does have, as Fareed says, it has sophisticated weapons. But even more important, it's got the will to fight, defend its own country, its own land. But the Russian army will be able to push through. It's a big country. It's the size of Texas.