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CNN Live Event/Special

France Says "Worst Is Yet To Come" After Putin-Macron Call; Dozens Killed In Ukraine In New Russian Attacks; Volodymyr Zelensky: If Ukraine Falls, Other European States Are Next; Biden Holds Cabinet Meeting As Russia Escalates Attack On Ukraine; Ukraine's Jews Scoff At Putin's "Denazification" Claims; Village South Of Kharkiv Devastated By Bombing; Dozens Of Ukrainians Killed In New Russian Attacks; U.S. Imposes New Sanctions On Russian Oligarchs. Aired 2-3p ET

Aired March 03, 2022 - 14:00   ET



ANNOUNCER: This is CNN Breaking News.

HALA GORANI, CNN INTERNATIONAL HOST: Hello everyone, I'm Hala Gorani, we're coming to you live from CNN in London. We are expecting the U.S. president to speak any moment at the White House this hour as he meets with his cabinet to discuss Ukraine. We've already heard from the presidents of Ukraine and Russia just a few hours ago. We'll tell you what they said. Let's get straight to the latest.

The worst is yet to come. That is the grim assessment of France after a phone call today between the French President Emmanuel Macron and Vladimir Putin of Russia. Here, he now believes that Russia intends to go all the way and take all of Ukraine, according to the French president. Meantime, here's a look at what's happening on the ground. Apocalyptic scenes on the ground today appear to match those chilling words.

This is a town outside of Kyiv. You remember those images from east Aleppo a few years ago? It looks very similar. Further north, buildings in another city are still smoldering after Russian air strikes this time. Ukrainian Emergency Service say at least 33 people were killed, a car dash-camera captured this terrifying moment. Take a look.




GORANI: Well, this is happening in Europe in 2022, with some of the most intense fighting is happening today in the south of Ukraine including the very strategic port city of Mariupol where residents are trapped, they have no heat and they have no power. President Volodymyr Zelensky says the world came too late to help Ukraine. He is again appealing for a no-fly zone over his country, warning about what could happen next if his country falls to the Russians.


VOLODYMYR ZELENSKY, PRESIDENT, UKRAINE (through translator): If we see strikes like this, God forbid. Latvia will be next. Remember this meeting, Latvia, Lithuania, Estonia, Moldova, Georgia, Poland, and all the way to the Berlin wall. Believe me. The world must show its strength.


GORANI: Well, there you have it, Volodymyr Zelensky. Let's bring in CNN's Scott McLean, he's in western Ukraine in Lviv. First, let's talk about Mariupol under siege, air strikes intensifying in Kyiv. Let's just put this Russian advance in perspective, especially in the south.

SCOTT MCLEAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Sure, Hala, yes. Things not looking good at the moment. The Russians have essentially surrounded the town of Mariupol, and as you mentioned, authorities there are calling this a humanitarians catastrophe. We are talking about a place that has no power, no water, this morning, they had natural gas, but then the mayor said earlier today that they no longer have any heat.

And that seems to no longer be the case. And here's what's even more terrifying. It would be difficult to drive out of that city considering that it is surrounded, and for many people, as we've seen here in Lviv, the train is a lifeline, but the tracks have been damaged, the stations have been damaged. And so, there is no easy way to evacuate women and children there. The deputy mayor said this morning that the town had been shelled for well over 24 hours.

They are trying now to establish some kind of a humanitarian corridor. As you mentioned, there have also been air strikes in and around Kyiv. New images showing apartment building looking like they are completely bombed out. Late last night, we also got a word that what appeared to be a cruise missile struck down by Ukrainian defenses actually ended up striking a train station in central Kyiv.

Again, a critical life line for people to get out, in that case, it's a miracle that no one was actually killed. There are also issues in some other places. Kherson is a town in the south of Ukraine where it is under Russian control. The mayor there says that some armed men, as he calls them, came to the city administration office and essentially said that they are going to set up an administration similar to the one that they have in Luhansk and Donetsk, even though that it's going to be under the Ukrainian flag for now.

But the mayor urging people not to mess with the military that is there. Not to go the military in order to keep that Ukrainian flag flying. But people, it seems, don't really want to -- don't want to lay it down there.


We have already seen images of people flying the Ukrainian flag, defiantly in front of a row of tanks and soldiers. And here's what's even more terrifying, Hala. In the south central Ukrainian town of Enerhodar, it is known to have one of Europe's largest nuclear power plants, right now, it is surrounded by the Russians. The local people there are trying to keep them out, putting up barricades, putting up tires, blocking the road with trucks, whatever they can do. But at this stage, it is not clear who exactly has control of that power plant. Hala?

GORANI: All right. So, there's a lot of activity in the south. Some Russian advances that we'll discuss with one of the top Ukrainian officials in a moment. Thanks very much for that, Scott McLean is in Lviv in western Ukraine, even as his military forces bombard Ukrainian cities and villages, and clearly in some cases targeting by the way, civilian areas. This is forcing more than 1 million people to flee the country. That's the latest count.

The Russian President Vladimir Putin is insisting that Russians and Ukrainians are one people. Mr. Putin made the comment today while presiding over a security council meeting at the Kremlin. And despite western assessments that some of his army has stalled specifically outside of Kyiv, he also claims that Russia's military action is meeting its goals. This is the view of the conflict from Vladimir Putin. Listen.


VLADIMIR PUTIN, PRESIDENT, RUSSIA (through translator): Dear comrades, I would also like to say that the special military operation in Ukraine is going according to plan, in strict accordance with the schedule. All tasks are being successfully carried out.


GORANI: OK, international diplomatic editor Nic Robertson is in Moscow for us on this. And obviously, we know that on the ground, this is not going according to plan in many areas. You have a 40-mile-long column of armored vehicles apparently stalled outside of Kyiv. The Russians have taken one major city, but no other. Is Vladimir Putin living in some sort of parallel universe here when he makes those comments?

NIC ROBERTSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL DIPLOMATIC EDITOR: Well, certainly, his narrative for war that he's not gone to war is that he's not starting a war, it's stopping a war, he's doing it because of years of Ukrainian aggression towards Russia. All of it is kind of inverted. But I think there are two takeaways from his speech today. One of them you mentioned there, him saying that everything is going according to plan.

But you know, that speech didn't go according to plan. He stopped at what seemed to be the end, paused, got up, then sat back down and finished it off. That's very unlike the Vladimir Putin that I think most people have come to know. When he's in front of the cameras, he's pretty controlled. It's his show and you know, he doesn't make what appear to be unforced errors like that.

And the other thing that he was doing in his big speech today, was telling families of soldiers who have been killed, and we know according to the Russian version, there are 498, have been killed. The Ukrainians say the figure is closer to 5,000. Russians saying 1,597 injured. Putin said that for any of those families who had lost a loved one, they would get $65,000 for those soldiers injured, they would get $40,000, that would be additional insurance for soldiers.

Not clear what he meant by that, but is it a -- is it -- you know, some kind of medical insurance or sort of support while they're in war? But the bottom line here is, his message about the money and medals for some of those dead soldiers was about keeping the nation on track, supporting his war in Ukraine. And partly because, it isn't going as well and as quickly as he expected. He's had a lot of soldiers killed. We're a week into the war, he's handing out medals and announcing big payouts to bereaved families, that doesn't normally happen that way, Hala.

GORANI: Yes, and let's talk about some of remarkable footage that's coming to us from Russia, specifically, St. Petersburg. This is the home town of Putin. And you see Russian officers in riot gear detaining quite an elderly woman protesting the war in Ukraine. Let's take a look if we have this video. Here it is. At least, 350 protesters were arrested yesterday in this city, Russia's second largest, according to a local monitoring site.

So, you know, the Kremlin is trying to control the message. State TV is telling Russians everything is going according to plan. This is about the denazification of Ukraine, that's been their line from the beginning. But then it doesn't -- that's not resonating with everybody. People are aware, at least those in the streets, that this is not what's going on.


ROBERTSON: So true. You know, incredible that a lady of that age who some people there in St. Petersburg had been in that city when it was under siege, the heavy siege, during the Second World War, as you say where President Putin grew up, and he has a legacy of that siege. But so apparently does that lady, you know, and she came out to protest and it took several riot cops, and I saw more floating around to pull her into one of their trucks.

When the state is trying to silence a lady like that, and use his heavily tooled-up police to do it, you know that something isn't quite right. And the Kremlin is worried about this message, and it is trying to shut it down and has shut down two independent media stations here, and it is threatening people with very heavy consequences for showing up. More than a 1,000 people have been arrested today since the war began.

The government isn't able to shut down that message. And I talked to people on the street today, often, younger people were telling me that what the government is telling them on state TV is lies. They don't believe it. They're talking to friends in Ukraine or friends who have gone to Europe, who are telling them what they're seeing. They're using social media. Putin grew up in an era where state TV controlled everything. And he controls state TV today, but that's not the entirety of the message.

A generation of people here, yes, still tune into state TV, still get Putin's message through state TV. And I spoke to them on the street today as well. And yes, they buy what the government is saying, not a war of their choice, Ukraine made them do it, NATO was backing Ukraine, all those tricks the government uses, you'll find those on the street, but more in the older generation.

There are those who are thinking outside of the state media, and the real question is, will that number grow and what does it mean? And too soon to say on that, Hala.

GORANI: Right, and we know young people don't even watch TV anymore. They get their news completely on their mobiles, on their devices. So, certainly, that's probably more effective, as you mentioned with the older population. Thanks very much, Nic Robertson, live in Moscow.

A few hours ago, the Ukrainian President Zelensky was asked about reports that Vladimir Putin may want him assassinated. This was his response.


ZELENSKY: I am a living being, and as any living person, we all want to live. And I think if someone is not afraid to lose their life or the lives of their children, then I think that's not a healthy person. So, if you're sending somebody to war, as is happening in that other country, and you're not thinking that these people may die and you're not afraid, you don't have any emotion, you don't feel any emotion about this, I don't think that's normal.

So, as any living being I am, I fear for the lives of my family, but as my own life goes, I am president of the country and I have no right to be afraid.


GORANI: Well, I want to bring in Mr. Zelensky's senior foreign policy adviser, Igor Zhovkva, joins me now live from Kyiv. Thanks very much. We spoke a few weeks ago before this war started. And first, I want to ask you, how are you doing? How are you holding up?

IGOR ZHOVKVA, DEPUTY HEAD, OFFICE OF THE PRESIDENT OF UKRAINE: Well, Hala, thank you. Thank you for asking. We're doing fine. We're struggling. We're surviving. We are fighting to the end. We're doing our best to bring peace to my country. Me personally, since I am responsible for the diplomatic activity and doing all my best to attach the -- as far as possible the greater international support in these hectic times and these hard times for my country.

GORANI: And what about President Zelensky? What's his state of mind?

ZHOVKVA: Well, you saw him today during the interview. He's a very brave and courageous person. He's a symbol. He's a symbol for all the world of how to struggle for your country or how to survive in hard circumstances or how to be practical sometimes alone against a very big and barbaric addresser. So, he's doing fine. He's in very high spirits and all the people of Ukraine and all of the people of the world are looking at him. GORANI: All right, and Vladimir Putin told the French President

Emmanuel Macron, he's going to go all the way. He's not going to back down. Macron is now quite pessimistic. He said he believes that it will get much darker and much more violent. What's your reaction to that conversation? Macron is trying his best, it seems, to get to Putin, but it's not working.

ZHOVKVA: Well, we know this assessment of President Macron because immediately after talking to President Putin, President Macron talked to my president, and he shared his -- you know, evaluation of this talk. Macron may be pessimistic, but we should be optimistic, because if you're not optimistic, you will not be able to win the war. So, we are, again, like I told you in the beginning, we are looking for every possibility to have our country surviving in these hard times.


So we are thankful to President Macron as we are thankful to all --

GORANI: Yes --

ZHOVKVA: The other world leaders who are talking to my president, who are searching the international support for my country. Whether we have had enough support, not really. But, again, every support matters.

GORANI: So how much more support do you want? What kind of support do you want? Because western countries have been quite clear, they will not support the idea of a no-fly zone because it would mean direct engagement possibly with Russian fighter jets, and they don't want to have to shoot them down. They've been quite clear. Even though I know that President Zelensky and others in his cabinet want this. What would you like now to see international countries do to support Ukraine's effort to repel the invader more?

ZHOVKVA: Look, Hala, let me remind you. Last time, we talked, you might remember, I was talking about, for instance, preventive sanctions.


ZHOVKVA: If those sanctions which the West and the rest of the world is imposing on Russia would have been introduced at least a month ago or even three weeks ago, believe me, we could have been living in another condition. I mean, the war might not have started. So, now, you see the sanctions, I mean, introduced, not enough. Not enough. We're talking of SWIFT for instance, let's implement SWIFT on all Russian banks and on Belarus as well.

We're talking about defensive and defensive weapons. Let's have it more and more. We're talking about no-fly zone. Yes, we hear the position of the world leaders, the position of President Biden, Prime Minister Johnson and, there, so it is about the unwillingness to do it now. If not now --

GORANI: Yes -- ZHOVKVA: Then tell us when? Because the next countries, you heard my

president today, will be countries of the North Atlantic alliance and the European Union. So, think a little bit ahead rather than react, please.

GORANI: Right. So, you want more sanctions against Russian interest and Belarusian interest as well as more support with defensive and even offensive weapons or defensive weapons in the sense that obviously. What specifically are you asking for that you still need that you think you're not getting?

ZHOVKVA: Look, the list of the demands are in every Ministry of Defense of our partners, obviously not reveal here in the open air about concrete needs, but you see what we are lacking. We need more air defense. We need to --

GORANI: Yes --

ZHOVKVA: Have more air capacities like jets, so with our -- again, we have our army. We do understand that these will be only Ukrainian soldiers who will fight on the territory of Ukraine. We understand no boots on the ground. No foreign boots on the ground. We are absolutely realistic. But if you have this equipment, if you give these military components installed to Ukraine, that are marching many more chances that we will win and that we will survive.

GORANI: I need to ask you for your assessment of where you think this Russian invasion stands? Because in Kyiv, where you are in particular, we saw terrible attacks on residential buildings, but it was 30, 40 kilometers away from the center, and we're seeing it here. It was in Borodyanka, outside of Kyiv, just absolutely a scene of devastation. But then, we have this very long column of stalled Russian military vehicles that are just sitting outside the capital.

What do you think is going on with the Russian military effort? Do you think that Putin thought he would take Kyiv quickly, and now he's kind of stuck with --


GORANI: These vehicles?

ZHOVKVA: Yes, they originally --

GORANI: Yes --

ZHOVKVA: Yes, well, the original idea as we understand it was a very quick blitzkrieg, not only Kyiv, but you mentioned Kharkiv today, there are some big cities in south and east of Ukraine. So this plan failed. In my knowledge be changing the tactics. But the ultimate goal for him is to remain the same, yes, he wants to capture Kyiv, to encircle Kyiv in order to have armed forces of Russia in the capital of Ukraine.

Yes, he wants to capture Kharkiv, a very symbolic city in the east of Ukraine, was struggling. Yes, he wants to capture southern Ukraine. How far he will go --

GORANI: Yes --

ZHOVKVA: Well, it's only one person who can give an answer to this.

GORANI: Can you tell me there in southern Ukraine as well, you have Kherson that apparently is now under Russian control. Other cities, Mariupol besieged now by Russian forces. What do you think is going on there? Has Vladimir Putin been able to, his army able to create a continuous control of a certain portion of Europe, the southern part of your country here?

ZHOVKVA: Yes, that's a problem for him. You may capture the city or even encircle it, but it will be much harder to, you know, take it under control, because people will be -- will be fighting until the last drop of their blood.


GORANI: Yes --

ZHOVKVA: Very important now is the survival of the people. This humanitarian corridor you are talking about is green corridors. We are talking about these corridors for already several days, we're talking with the Red Cross, last Red Cross to talk to the Russian federation. There is a small progress during today's negotiations which were taking place between Russian and Ukrainian delegation.

The only practical result was -- by the way, about this humanitarian corridor. So, the agreement was reached as I understand that those cities and villages which are temporarily encircled, there will be a possibility to have this green corridors installed in order for people to -- will be evacuated, and during this evacuation, the ceasefire regime should be carried out. So, we are putting much hope that, you know, there will be no humanitarian disaster on the territory of Ukraine.

GORANI: Your president is asking Putin for some direct talks. What's the thinking behind that now? Because one of the requests from your side is a ceasefire before any negotiations continue.

ZHOVKVA: Well, obviously, I mean, a ceasefire, and that's what usually happens when you start talks. I mean, it was promised to us that during the first round of talks, the ceasefire would be implemented. Unfortunately, not the way my president talked several times and he just reiterated today, he's ready to talk to President Putin directly. He is ready to talk on all spectrum of issues.

Obviously, the ceasefire and the withdrawal of Russian troops will be one of the first issues, but he's ready to talk because he is not afraid to talk. He's willing to talk. He wants people not to die on the territory of Ukraine, neither the Ukrainians --

GORANI: Yes --

ZHOVKVA: Nor the out soldiers. So we -- my president is ready to talk and hopes for these talks to be happening.

GORANI: All right, Igor Zhovkva, thank you very much, I hope -- are you able to get any rest? Are you -- are you -- are you satisfied --

ZHOVKVA: Well --

GORANI: That your family is safe? Personally, what's it like?

ZHOVKVA: My family is safe, thank you for asking. We will have some very good rest after we win.

GORANI: Igor Zhovkva, thank you very much. Joining us live from --

ZHOVKVA: Thank you --

GORANI: Kyiv, he is the deputy head of the Office of President Zelensky in Ukraine. The American President Joe Biden has called together his cabinet secretaries at this hour for a White House meeting. But it looks more like a Ukraine war cabinet, every person around the table from Vice President Kamala Harris to Attorney General Merrick Garland to of course, the president himself are directly involved in some aspect of supporting the Ukrainian war effort against the Russian invaders.

This comes as the White House has just announced new sanctions on Russian oligarchs, and we want to get perspective from this top level meetings. CNN politics senior reporter Stephen Collinson is in Washington, and our White House reporter Natasha Bertrand is at NATO headquarters in Brussels for us. Natasha, let's start with you. So, some European countries are starting to seize the assets of oligarchs. Tell us more.

NATASHA BERTRAND, CNN WHITE HOUSE REPORTER: That's right, Hala. So, just earlier today, we saw that France announced that they had seized the yacht belonging to Igor Sechin; who is the CEO of Rosneft, he's a very close Putin ally, has been with him for decades.

And then earlier today also, Germany announced that they had seized a yacht belonging to another Putin-linked billionaire, who coincidentally or not, was also sanctioned by the United States today as part of this new round of sanctions on Russian oligarchs, deemed to be enabling the Kremlin and its decision-making when it comes to Ukraine.

But this has been a top priority for the U.S. and Europe in recent days going after these oligarchs and holding them accountable for supporting Putin's foreign policy decisions, and particularly, of course, the war on Ukraine. The U.S. actually announced earlier this week that they're setting up a new taskforce that the Justice Department called Klepto Capture, which is going to be hunting down the assets of these oligarchs and seizing them systematically, basically enforcing these sanctions that the U.S. and the West feel that the oligarchs have been able to get away with for far too long.

The EU has been stepping up as well and actually been leading the way on sanctioning these Russian oligarchs. The U.S. has just followed today, sanctioning the Russian Press Secretary for Vladimir Putin, Dmitry Peskov as well as that troll farm leader, Yevgeny Prigozhin who we saw was very instrumental during the 2016 election. His company spreading disinformation with regard to the U.S. elections, and now --

GORANI: Yes --

BERTRAND: Being accused by the United States of supporting Putin's war --


GORANI: Natasha, we've got to go to the White House where -- we've got to go to the White House where Joe Biden is chairing that cabinet meeting. Let's listen in.

JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: At least it's in the middle, it will drop in the middle.



The severe economic sanctions on Putin and all those folks around him, choking off access to technology as well as cutting off access to the global financial system. It's had a profound impact already. And the goal was to maximize the impact on Putin and Russia, and minimize the harm on us and our allies and friends around the world. Our interest is in maintaining the strongest unified economic campaign that -- on Putin and all history.

And I think we're well on the way to doing that. In the State of the Union address, I announced that the Department of Justice is going after the crimes of Russian oligarchs, attorney general spoke to that earlier, and who line their pockets with Russian people's money, and while Ukraine and the people are hiding in subways from missiles that are being fired indiscriminately in Russian cities.

Today, I'm announcing that we're adding dozens of names to the list, including one of Russia's wealthiest billionaires, and I'm banning travel to America by more than 50 Russian oligarchs, their families and their close associates. And we're going to continue to support Ukrainian people with direct assistance. I had a meeting this morning with the -- with the quartet down in southeast Asia including India and Japan, and we're going to continue to support the people with direct assistance.

And on Tuesday night, at the capital, we saw Americans unite in support of Ukraine, and our work to hold Putin accountable. And now, to today's meeting, we're going to discuss how we're going to keep the economy growing by bringing costs down for the American people as well as we know that people are feeling the pinch, and we're going to do everything we can to make every day things more accessible and more affordable for the American people.

And we're also going to discuss the unity agenda I announced, and it was broad bipartisan agreement trying to end the opioid epidemic, ending cancer as we know it, providing support for veterans and mental health especially for children. Response as you all know because I've read your polls, have been overwhelming on all four of those issues and because they're of great concern to the American people.

And today, I have progress to announce on two of them. Just this morning, house passed a bill to provide health care to veterans suffering from toxic exposure like burn pits. And 34 Republicans joined the Democrats to make bipartisan project -- bipartisan progress on this project. Keeping our sacred obligation, we have the veterans who when we send them to war and they come home, we care for them.

And when it comes to the mental health of our children, today, I'm instructing the Department of Education, Health and Human Services to develop initial guidance to schools that will help them provide mental health support for students in our schools. And this is going to include enabling schools to use Medicaid funds and to deliver those important services. And because to me, the State of the Union was more than a speech to me.

It was an action plan. An action plan to lower costs, to address our critical needs, and it's for the American people, because they're confused out there understandably. The world has changed so rapidly and we have a lot to cover in this meeting today, but I'm going to invite my friends in the press, in the department -- but the bottom line is, I meant what I said when I said I'm optimistic.

I'm optimistic if we -- if we use the kind of ability to unite the country I think that exists, and I think we saw it at the State of the Union, I don't think there's anything we can't do. I really don't. We are on those inflection points in world history where we have an opportunity if we act swiftly and we act with courage, we can change the dynamics of the world we're moving into. If we don't, we're going to be in real trouble.

And I am -- but I think it presents an opportunity as well as a problem. Like I said, my mother used to always say, out of everything bad, something good if you look hard enough for it. And we're looking hard and I think we found some answers. So, any way, thank you all for being here and we're going to get on with the meeting.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Guys, out the door, let's go! Thank you, guys!

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He didn't say, action.



GORANI: The U.S. president there not taking any questions shouted by reporters, surrounded by his cabinet ministers. And you saw Janet Yellen to his right and the U.S. Secretary of Defense to his left. Let's bring in CNN Politics senior reporter Stephen Collinson. He's in Washington with more. So he was talking about domestic issues at one point but clearly

Ukraine front and center for this American president, because it has become, really, one of the big priorities of his presidency, just a few months before the midterm election.

STEPHEN COLLINSON, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Hala, of all crises the president inherited, including the pandemic and other international issues, he didn't have a major great power showdown with Russia on his agenda.

But that is what he's got and it looks like it's going to dominate not just the next few months but the next few years of foreign policy.

I think what you're seeing there is the president creating multiple fronts of pressure on Vladimir Putin, politically inside Russia, militarily inside Ukraine, with U.S. missile shipments to the Ukrainian armed forces.

Internationally, the president spoke to the Quad leaders of the Asia Pacific countries this morning to build that diplomatic pressure; specifically announcing there these new sanctions on oligarchs.

This is part of the effort to punish President Putin for the invasion of Ukraine, trying to build some pressure around him, discontent for the most influential people in Russia, who have had this kind of alliance with President Putin during the 20 years he was in power.

These sanctions not just sanctioned prominent oligarchs, by going after their yachts, jets, luxury apartments, their assets, not just in the United States but all over the world; they also are targeting family members, these oligarchs' wives, children, extended family, to try and stop them moving these assets, to try and get them away from U.S. and other authorities.

So if the United States cannot reverse the invasion of Ukraine with these measures, at least it is punishing Vladimir Putin much more strongly. And ultimately it's becoming clear that what the United States is trying to do, if it hasn't said so specifically, is make Putin's long-term political position a lot less secure in Moscow.

GORANI: Stephen Collinson, thanks very much.

Still to come tonight, 1 million refugees have had to leave Ukraine in just seven days. It is the largest humanitarian crisis to hit Europe in decades.

We'll be right back.




(MUSIC PLAYING) GORANI: The Russian president Vladimir Putin claims his full-scale

deadly invasion is an attempt to "denazify" Ukraine. That's more than a little ironic to the country's Jewish population and, in fact, to the country's Jewish president, it has to be said.

They're hiding from shells, seeing monuments damaged and facing a threat to their lives that hasn't happened since World War II. To them, it is clear: Putin is the one acting like Hitler. Sam Kiley is in Uman, Ukraine, where the Jewish community is visibly suffering from this aggression.

What did you see today?

SAM KILEY, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Hala, there are two major justifications made by Vladimir Putin for the invasion of this country. The first is to come to the rescue of the Russian- speaking -- that's the Russian, as a mother tongue, speaking population of Ukraine.

Now that claim has been roundly smashed to pieces with the civilian shelling, civilian shelling -- shelling of civilian areas in Kharkiv, hasn't it, with the use of multiple rocket launching systems to the aerial weapons designed to slaughter anything over a wide area, in a town that's three-quarters Russian-speaking as the mother tongue.

The other is the denazification. Now here in Uman, this is a center of Hasidic Jewish pilgrimage. Every year, tens of thousands of Jews come and they are treating the claim of denazification with a sense of contempt. And this is how it looks today.


KILEY (voice-over): Air raid sirens in Uman, civilians seeking shelter from Russian bombs in what Vladimir Putin says is partly a campaign to rid Ukraine of a Nazi leadership.

The absurdity of this claim lost on no one, here heading to the basement of a synagogue.

KILEY: The Jewish population of Ukraine has suffered terribly over the last few hundred years. It's had pogroms that have been inflicted on it by the tsarist regime. It suffered miserably under Stalin. And, of course, the Jews here were murdered en masse by Hitler.

KILEY (voice-over): The tomb of Rabbi Nachman of Breslov is a pilgrimage site for thousands of Hasidic Jews and has flourished under Ukraine's recent governments. Now the streets of its Jewish community are almost deserted, the result of Putin's so-called denazification program.

A military site in the town was bombed on the day one of the Russian campaign against Ukraine.

KILEY: Do you think the Ukraine has a government of national socialists or Nazis?

That is what Putin says.

YEHUDA TURGIMAN, WORSHIPPER IN UMAN, UKRAINE: No. I think in Ukraine -- you see that Ukraine, in the last year, they give us to come to Rabbi Nachman. They don't make us a problem.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I have been living here seven months and it's been amazing, very loving and very caring to the Jewish people.

KILEY (voice-over): Putin has called on Ukraine's military to rise against the government, which he says is a gang of drug addicts and neo-Nazis, who settled in Kyiv and took the entire Ukrainian people hostage.

On Tuesday, Russian bombing of Kyiv's radio tower also damaged a Holocaust memorial at the Babyn Yar, where more than 30,000 people were murdered in 1941. Many tens of thousands were murdered later.

Now Ukraine's Jewish president suggested that Putin is following Hitler's lead.

He said, "This kind of a missile strike demonstrates that, for many people in Russia, our Kyiv is absolutely alien. They don't know anything about our capital, about our history.


KILEY (voice-over): "But they have an order to erase our history, to erase our country, to erase all of us.

In Uman, the synagogues underground the mivkeh bathing complex is a bunker for Jew and Gentile alike.

DASHA BORSCHT, UMAN RESIDENT: I know that Uman is Jewish but exactly this place where we are, I just know that it's a bomb shelter. It's safe to be here. That's why I am here.

KILEY (voice-over): Like many people in this town, Dasha and her family are joining an exodus out of Ukraine. For those left behind, there's little but the promise of a long, hard winter.


KILEY: Now, Hala, today, Vladimir Putin once again reiterated the whole denazification justification, principally, I think, in order to motivate not just the population behind Russia, behind his invasion of Ukraine but the military. Not all elements of the military can be comfortable with invading a neighbor let alone smashing a city like Kharkiv, with multiple rocket launchers or being associated with a denazification program which is simply absurd.

I think there is going to be a great deal of pressure on Putin, notwithstanding the heavy amount of sanctions that are being put on him.

The question then for Ukrainians is, does this make him more or less dangerous? GORANI: Thanks very much for that, Sam Kiley.

We're seeing more of the absolute devastation caused by Putin's war on Ukraine.

These images taken by our Czech affiliate CNN Prima News. They show a village just south of Kharkiv destroyed by bombing overnight. It is just hard to take in the amount of destruction, to be honest with you here.

A reporter, Darja Stomatova, saw the damage firsthand. There she is. You see her on your screen. She joins me now on the phone to talk to us about what she witnessed.

Talk to us about this, this town in Ukraine, Yakivlivka, and what you saw.

DARJA STOMATOVA, JOURNALIST: Yes, hello. Thank you for having me. (INAUDIBLE) sounds close to the Kharkiv. It's south from the Kharkiv and about 600 people was there before.

But during the night Russian planes came there and they were bombing all village. About eight bombs fall on this village. And basically right now we know that about four people died and also locals told us that they even found a body of woman, a basically nobody (INAUDIBLE).

So the doctor was crazy (ph) if you saw it on your, on the video that we sent to you. So you can imagine.

GORANI: Did they bomb from the air or was this artillery?

STOMATOVA: No. It was air bombing. And what we heard from locals, it was air bombing. And they came around the sides (INAUDIBLE) and -- yes. There was about eight bombs that fall on this city.

GORANI: Why would they target this village?

Is there any strategic reason they would do that?

STOMATOVA: That's actually the question that we were also asking ourselves, because, when we came there, we didn't see any military, no (INAUDIBLE), no (INAUDIBLE) are built for military.

So what locals told us, that it may be possible that some Russians were in the roads before and they maybe saw some army coming across from the city to the other city. And they said the bombing should be coming here.

And then the bombing happened but actually, at that time that the bombing happened, no Ukrainian army was in this village. So also we have a series of maybe they were targeting the PBS (ph) towers for the mobile signal. But it's all just speculation right now.


And what about ground forces or any armored vehicles in the aftermath of that aerial bombing?

Was there any movement on that front?

Or did they just bomb from the air and that was it?

So they left it at that for now?

STOMATOVA: Well, we believe it was only bombing from the air. Actually, this way, it's about 50 kilometers from the (INAUDIBLE) place where the fights are happening. That's quite far.

And afterwards, when we went, it was today, during the afternoon. we haven't seen any Russian military, no Ukrainian military, just people who are trying to rebuild some stuff, who are trying to save their things from these houses, which were completely destroyed.

GORANI: Yes. And around the Kharkiv area, where obviously there is some major fighting going on, what's the latest with the Russians' efforts to take Ukraine's second largest city?

Because you're close to that city right now.


STOMATOVA: Yes. What we heard in the morning, that many people were actually trying to leave Kharkiv, there were, like, huge, on the road, a lot of cars, even the city. Also -- yes. Actually that's the thing.

Right now you still can go from the Kharkiv but the people east (ph), there are still some ways. There are lots of checkpoints that you have to pass to get out. But many people go to Poltava; many people go to Dnipro. And actually we've been in Poltava and some people were from Kharkiv and -- who were on the phone with their relatives, who were still in Kharkiv, trying to get out.

So that's the situation. We haven't heard about the things that Kharkiv is right now surrounded completely by Russian military but of course they are getting much closer now.

GORANI: So they're not in the city center yet; they're bombing from the air and potentially around Kharkiv, is what you're hearing?

STOMATOVA: Yes. That's what we're hear from the locals that are cooperating with us right now.

GORANI: All right, well, I really appreciate you joining us on the phone. Obviously take care of yourself and stay as safe as possible. Darja Stomatova, she's a Czech journalist who went to that village outside of or very close to Kharkiv and saw complete and utter devastation, reporting aerial bombardments. At least eight bombs falling on that village with some questions outstanding about why.

Why bomb that village?

There was no troop movement or any kind of armored vehicle activity. And the aftermath of that aerial bombing and people were just trying to salvage whatever they could from their destroyed homes. Darja is with CNN Prima News (ph), one of our affiliates.

We'll be right back.




GORANI: There was no breakthrough in those talks between Russians and Ukrainians and no letup on the ground. People in the Ukraine city of Mariupol are trapped without power, heating or water as they come under siege by Russian forces, who encircled that strategic city.

Shelling is intensifying there and in other parts of the south, such as the town of Enerhodar, home to one of Europe's largest nuclear power plants. These are images being shared on Twitter. Let's speak with military analyst, retired Brig. Gen. Mark Kimmitt.

He's live from Virginia.

Your thoughts first on that military column outside of Kyiv, are they stalled?


GORANI: What's going on?

I mean, what does it tell you, you have this 40-mile-long column going nowhere right now?

BRIG. GEN. MARK KIMMITT, U.S. ARMY (RET.): Well, you're right, Hala. They are stalled. But I expect them to start moving pretty soon. I would suspect that is the supply logistics for the upcoming siege around Kyiv.

But I'm glad to see you're noting about what's happening in the south. Candidly, that's far more important than a stalled truck convoy.

GORANI: Definitely. We'll get to that, obviously. I was going to get to that.

My other question regarding Kyiv, before we get to the south is, why not hit a convoy like that?

Kyiv is the main prize.

Why just leave it there sitting?

KIMMITT: It's very simple: the Russians enjoy air superiority. They're not going to let any type of aircraft near that. As you remember, in the first Gulf War, Americans were able to interdict a 20-mile-long column going back into Iraq, which we called the highway of death. The best way to go after that in large numbers is with aircraft.

GORANI: Right. All right. Let's get to the south. We see the siege of Mariupol. We're seeing the taking over of one city in the south, getting closer to Odessa.

Are you seeing Russian forces joining territory they're starting to control?

And what does that tell you about that effort in that part of the country?

KIMMITT: Well, I think from Crimea to the northeast, they're trying to build and connect that land bridge, which they talked about for some time, to Russia. And on the southeast -- southwest, they're trying to connect Crimea through Kharkiv over to Odessa and by doing that effectively close off Ukraine from the sea.

Much of their revenue is earned by export of agricultural product through the sea. And if they can take Odessa and continue along the shoreline, the Russians will control the entire south of Ukraine and the economy that is dependent upon those seaports.

GORANI: Yes. But after a week, they've still taken one city only. I'm sure they were expecting to blitz their way through Kyiv quickly. They haven't.

What does that tell us?

KIMMITT: Well, I think, through either serendipity or strategy, the focus is now on the south for the Russians. And they're doing quite well there. They're making a lot of progress. Obviously, Kharkiv is about to fall as well as Mariupol.

In the north, though, that blitzkrieg they hoped for, to get to Kyiv, is stalled now. What worries me is, as they were trying to take a ground assault, a quick ground assault into Kyiv, they've been stalled.

So they're using the old Russian tactic of starting to fire their rockets, their missiles and their artillery into Kyiv to start a siege and then do a ground assault into some really, really tough urban combat.

GORANI: Sure. It's a city of 3 million people. We see what they're doing 20, 30, 40 miles away from Kyiv and perhaps this is what their strategy will look like down the road. But as you know, mounting an assault and holding terrain are two very different things. Thank you so much for joining us, Mark Kimmitt. We really appreciate it.

We'll be right back.





GORANI: Moments ago, the White House unveiled new sanctions on Russia's oligarchs. The White House says the target, in its words, "Putin's cronies and their family members."

Here in the U.K., billionaire Roman Abramovich is perhaps the best known of those, owning Chelsea Football Club. But that's about to change.


GORANI: I'll be back after a quick break for more of our continuing coverage of the war in Ukraine.