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CNN International: UNSC Emergency Meeting; Russian Ambassador Addresses U.N. Security Council; Russian Invasion's Intensifying Attacks; Interview with Ukrainian Resident Who Fled Kharkiv; WFP: Humanitarian Aid to Ukraine; Sec. Blinken Visiting NATO Allies Across Europe to Deter Putin. Aired 12-1p ET

Aired March 04, 2022 - 12:00   ET



BECKY ANDERSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL HOST: Right, I want to get you back to the United Nations to New York, it's a busy hour. You've just been listening to the Head of the IAEA describing the events of last night at what is the biggest nuclear plant in Europe explaining that a projectile hit a building close to part of that nuclear plant that houses the reactors.

That meeting being held at the UNSC and the IAEA Chief was briefing members of the U.N. Security Council. I want to bring in our Senior or Senior Correspondent at the U.N., Richard Roth.

You've been covering these meetings for longer than you will care to remember. Can you remember the last time that the members of the U.N. Security Council gathered to listen to the head of the nuclear agency talk about how a plant was hit during a war?

RICHARD ROTH, CNN SENIOR U.N. CORRESPONDENT: No. No, I also have trouble remembering my name some days. But to show the urgency, Fabio Garosi, the Director General of the IAEA briefing the Security Council from a plane and they had some technical problems. That does not happen often.

And talk about double trouble, he's headed to Tehran, he said, probably to go over nuclear program gaps on inspections and things like that even through negotiators say they're making progress. They may get the gang back together again of all of these countries with Iran on a nuclear deal.

So while there may be progress on one major nuclear front we see here that Russia, a permanent member of the Security Council, has attacked a nuclear power plant. The IAEA Director said, "No security systems were compromised." But he said, "They had been in touch with Russian officials."

Let's listen to the U.S. Ambassador here to the U.N., Linda Thomas Greenfield.

ANDERSON: Yes, we're going to bring in the U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations. Apologies, Richard. Let's listen in. LINDA THOMAS GREENFIELD, US AMBASSADOR TO UNITED NATIONS: I applaud the ability of the Ukrainian operators to keep all six reactors in safe conditions while under attack and to report as they were able to to their nuclear regulator. Moreover we appreciate the state nuclear regulatory inspector of Ukraine for his continuous updates to the IAEA and to the international community.

We are gravely concerned that the Ukrainian operators are now doing their jobs under extreme duress.

Russia's attack last night but Europe's largest nuclear power at grave risk, it was incredibly reckless and dangerous and it threatened the safety of civilians across Russia, Ukraine and Europe.

As a first step we call on Russia to withdrawal its troops from the plant to permit medical treatment for injured personnel. To ensure operators have full access to the site and are able to communicate with nuclear regulators. And to allow the operators to conduct shift changes to ensure the continued safe operation of the plant.

Ukrainian firefighters and nuclear engineers must have full access to the nuclear facility to assess damage particularly to water intake piping and mitigate a further deterioration of the situation if needed.

Nuclear facilities can not become part of this conflict. Reliable electricity is vital for the nuclear facility as are backup diesel generators and fuel. Safe transit corridors must be maintained. Russia must halt any further use of force that might put at further risk all 15 operable reactors across Ukraine or interfere with Ukraine's ability to maintain the safety and the security of its 37 nuclear facilities and their surrounding populations.

The United States remains highly concerned that Russian military forces controlling the Chernobyl site have not permitted operators there to have a shift change since last week. This is highly irresponsible behavior and causes grave concerns for continued safe operation of both sites.

And we call on all countries to support IAEA Director General Garosi in his efforts to find arrangements going forward to ensure nuclear safety and prevent a nuclear catastrophe in Ukraine.


Over the past nine days we have witnessed the devastating impacts of President Putin's war of choice on the Ukrainian people. Yesterday the U.N. reported that Russia's invasion had turned half a million children into refugees.

Russia has killed thousands of Ukrainians and sacrifice a thousand more Russian soldier's lives in the process. Russia is destroying critical infrastructure which is denying people drinking water to stay alive and gas to keep people from freezing to death in the middle of winter. The humanitarian impact of this destruction will be significant. A

hundred forty-one nations across the world have called loudly and clearly on President Putin to stop this brutal unjustified, unprovoked attack. Not only has he not listened, we have just witnessed a dangerous new escalation that represents a dire threat to all of Europe and the world.

To my Russian counterparts, this council needs answers. We need to hear you say this won't happen again as our U.K. colleague just stated. We call on you to withdrawal your troops and weaponry from Ukraine. We call on you to respect Ukraine's borders, its people and the U.N. charter. We call on you to respect your own troops enough not to send them into an unjust war or on a suicide mission against a nuclear power plant.

We call on Russia to abide by its international law obligations. The world demands that Russia abide by international humanitarian law which prohibits intentionally targeting civilians and civilian infrastructure. And allow humanitarian agencies full and secure access to people in need of aid.

The United States and our partners have called for a briefing this Monday on the humanitarian situation in Ukraine. We support the urgent work by humanitarian organizations on a humanitarian pause to allow for safe - for safe passage and the delivery of humanitarian supplies.

President Putin must stop this humanitarian catastrophe by ending this war and ceasing these unconsciousable attacks against the people of Ukraine. Mr. Putin must stop this madness and he must stop it now.

Cooler heads must prevail. Russian forces are now 20 miles and closing from Ukraine's second largest nuclear facility. So this imminent danger continues. We narrowly avoided a disaster last night. The international community must be unanimous in demanding Russia's forces, stop their dangerous assault.

And as I've said before, the people of Ukraine are counting on us and we must not let them down. Thank you.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I thank the Representative of the United States for her statement. And I now give the floor to the representative (inaudible).

ANDERSON: The United Nations Security Council holding an emergency meeting following Russia's attack on a Ukrainian nuclear power plant. You just heard from the U.S. Representative who said Vladimir Putin must not send his troops on a suicide mission against a nuclear power plant.

And called on Russia to avoid putting the nuclear plants in Ukraine at-risk, saying nuclear facilities cannot become part of this conflict. And she went on to say Mr. Putin must stop this madness.

The U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations throwing her support behind the IAEA Director in his efforts to ensure nuclear safety and prevent nuclear catastrophe in Ukraine. And she echoed the words of the British Representative who said this must stop. Who called on Russia to end their violence, withdrawal their troops and enter into serious negotiations.


We did hear a little earlier from the U.N.'s nuclease agency Chief who was actually on-board a flight to Tehran in Iran where he will be discussing there the nuclear power program that is of course part of the JCPOA talks which are ongoing there.

Let me bring in Richard Roth who I was talking to when I - Richard, sorry, really interrupted you because we need to get to the U.S. Representative to the United Nations. What did you make of what you heard?

ROTH: I mean like many despots (ph) dictators and those who will disobey international law do they really take the Security Council seriously anymore. So many have disregarded council pronouncements. And when you hear the U.S. Ambassador say we can't have a repeat at what at that nuclear power plant, I mean is President Putin sitting with his legs up smoking a cigar watching this meeting?

They just can't enforce all of these strong words. And that's been a big time problem on the global scene with this U.N. and the Security Council. For those who don't know, Russia has veto power yet sits on the Security Council. The composition established after World War II.

Certainly Russia lost a lot of people in overthrowing the Nazi regime of Adolf Hitler. But now it's tanks are rolling into a U.N. sovereign country, it's neighbor, Ukraine. And nobody knows what's really going to happen now. But he certainly, Putin has not shown any regard for words and statements including the security council and the general assembly which overwhelmingly this week, as you know, voted against what Russia is doing.

ANDERSON: Richard Roth, in New York. Richard, thank you.

Well the U.S. is deeply concerned about potential Russian intentions when it comes to their control of that largest nuclear power plant in Europe. That is according to a Senior U.S. Defense official.

Let's be quite clear here, the Ukrainian nuclear operator says that Russian forces are now occupying this facility and the manager are quote, "Working at gunpoint". A fire broke out after the plant in southeastern Ukraine was hit during fighting earlier on Friday. The flames are now out and officials stress radiation levels are normal.

CNN's Phil Black has more on what it a dangerous new development in Russia's war on Ukraine.


PHIL BLACK, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Flares light up the sky over Europe's biggest nuclear power station. There was fighting nearby and fire broke out in a training facility outside the main reactor complex. The Russian government claimed a Ukrainian provocation triggered a firefight around the plant. And claimed Ukrainian forces deliberately set the fire.

Ukraine says the plant came under attack from Russian troops blaming their shelling for the fire.

VOLODYMYR ZELENSKY, PRESIDENT OF UKRAINE: (translated) The Russian tanks knew that they were firing with the direct fire at the station. That is terror of an unprecedented level.

BLACK (voice-over): The fire quickly fueled fears of a Chernobyl-like disaster but nuclear experts tell CNN there's no evidence of that at this stage.

GRAHAM ALLISON, PROFESSOR AT BELFER CENTER, HARVARD UNIVERSITY: Not all fires to that power plant have catastrophic consequences.

BLACK (voice-over): One expert says Zaporizhzhia's reactor design is inherently much safer then the one which failed at Chernobyl in 1986. The International Atomic Energy Agency says Ukrainian officials report safety systems for the plant's six reactors have not been affected.

And there has been no release of radioactive material. But the agency's Director General says he remains gravely concerned.

RAFAEL MARIANO GROSSI, IAEA DIRECTOR GENERAL: We have to know that this is an unprecedented situation. What we have is a situation which is very difficult to sustain. And what has happened tonight or last night is proof of that. I have been saying for a few days now I'm extremely concerned this is something which is very, very fragile, very unstable as a situation.

BLACK (voice-over): The fire was extinguished within hours. The company that runs the plant in southeastern Ukraine says, management there are now quote, "Working at gunpoint". As Russian troops occupy the facility.

The incident triggered more international condemnation of Russia's actions.

JENS STOLTENBERG, NATO SECRETARY GENERAL: This just demonstrates the recklessness of this war and importance of ending it and the importance of Russia withdrawing all its troops and engage in good faith in diplomatic efforts.

BLACK (voice-over): Ukraine has requested help safeguarding its 15 nuclear reactors which are dotted throughout the country. Russian forces quickly seize control of the Chernobyl site in Ukraine's north last week.

ALLISON: The radioactivity that was released in '86 from the Chernobyl crisis or tragedy, you know, spread all over - I mean not just Ukraine but all over Western Europe and into Russia as well.


So the Russians understand the risks that are associated with a nuclear power plant. The Ukrainian professionals do too. So I'm sure they're both, you know, working to try to avoid the worst. But nuclear power plants are dangerous.

BLACK: Especially dangerous when the nuclear facilities are being fought over in a war zone. Phil Black, CNN London.


ANDERSON: Well America's top diplomat is once again slamming Russia's assault on Ukraine, calling it unprovoked and unjustified. U.S. Secretary of State, Antony Blinken, arrived in Belgium earlier today for talks with NATO allies. He says, Putin's war of choice, as he calls it, is already having horrific consequences for Ukraine's men, women and children.

And he added that the very principles that the world established after two world wars are at-stake.


ANTONY BLINKEN, US SECRETARY OF STATE: If we allow those principles to be challenged as Putin is doing now with impunity that will open a Pandora's Box of trouble for not just us but quite frankly for the entire world. So the stakes are high but because we're doing this together I am very confident that we'll succeed.


ANDERSON: Speaking alongside NATO allies today. Well NATO's Chief has said that a no fly zone over Ukraine is off the table categorically.

My next guest doesn't agree with that. CNN Military Analyst and retired U.S. Army General Wesley Clark is in favor a no fly zone over Ukraine. He served as NATO's Supreme Allied Commander and the Commander-in-Chief of the U.S. European Command. He joins us tonight from Little Rock in Arkansas.

General Clark, it's good to have you. You are calling for a no fly zone over Ukraine no matter how Russia might respond. Why is that?

WESLEY CLARK, CNN MILITARY ANALYST: Well I'm actually not calling for a NATO no fly zone. A no fly zone is a peace keeping artifice that we put in during a no fly zone, we keep all other aircraft out of the air.

But here's the point, Ukraine needs air support and somehow we have to give it the resources it needs to survive. I don't believe that's a NATO mission and I'm not calling for a NATO mission to do that. NATO is an entirely defensive operation so I have to be very clear on this.

But, as Secretary Blinken said, we want to do everything we can to help the people in Ukraine. What I'm asking is that we -


ANDERSON: Can I be quite clear then? So, yes, how would you enforce a no fly zone? Who would enforce that? CLARK: Well there have been various different means. For example, I think we're going to have to look very carefully at how we take care of refugees. What if we have five millions Ukrainian refugees coming in? Can they all be absorbed by Poland? Should there not be someplace in Ukraine like let's say Lviv that's set up as a U.N. protected area so that Ukrainians can stay in their own country.

There are a number of things that could be done to help the situation humanitarianly wise and also to help Ukraine maintain its territorial integrity and sovereignty. So I'm just asking that we think through this. It's not NATO's mission, it's the mission of the states around the world to ensure that the international system of rules based order is maintained.

ANDERSON: But I do want to - to - to just press you on this because it is - it's such an important point; the Ukrainian President, other Ukrainian lawmakers, Ukrainians themselves asking that the skies above Ukraine are closed from the sort of assault that at present we are seeing being conducted by the Russians on Ukraine.

We saw the attack on the nuclear facility just last night. So I ask you again, if you are suggesting that it is correct or the right thing to do to effect a no fly zone how would that be enforced?

CLARK: Now what I'm saying is I'm not -- a no fly zone is a legal construct. NATO is a legal organization. So within the confines of NATO it's not going to do a no fly zone. And if you read what I wrote, I didn't call for a NATO no fly zone. What I'm calling for is that we work together to find a way to stop this conflict. And stopping that conflict means stopping Mr. Putin, that's the key.

Now right now Ukraine's bearing all the brunt of this. Other nations say they're going to provide support, they're going to provide ammunition and so forth, that's good, let's do that.


Let's do whatever can be done. One of the problems Ukraine has is its Air Force and air defense is relatively weak. So can something be done to augment that? I'm not inside the system right now, I don't have access to the resources or the intelligence needed to make that prescription. But I have been around enough of these operations to know that something can be done, perhaps it is being done, we don't know that.

But it's not a NATO no fly zone. It's just that we're not going to, as Secretary Blinken said, we're not going to stand back and let this happen, we're going to help Ukraine.

ANDERSON: Wesley Clark, Russia is now in control of the largest nuclear power plant in Europe. Just how concerned should people be and what do you believe to your mind this possibly says about Russians' intentions going forward?

CLARK: Well it's not possible for me to know at this point whether this was a sort or normal run of the course military operation that's like, hey, there's a big facility up there let's go capture it. Oh, it turns out to be a nuclear reactor, so what we'll take it. Whether that's some Russian Officer that said that or whether this is an operational scheme to seize control of Ukraine's power supply.

This plant provide 25 percent of Ukraine's electricity. So far was we've been able to determine right now it's still providing that electricity. But that electricity could be turned off, the grid could be destabilized or even the plant could be sabotaged, it could even create a nuclear hazard for hundreds of square miles around the plant, if that was the plan of the Russians.

So it's a very, very reckless act to attack it and it has unforeseeable consequences right now.

ANDERSON: With that we'll leave it there. We thank you very, very much indeed for joining us. Wesley Clark on the show for you tonight.

We're going to take a very short break. Back after this.


ANDERSON: All right let me get you back to the floor of the chamber at the U.N. Security Council where the Russian Representative is now speaking following Russia's attack on a Ukrainian nuclear power plant.

VASILY NEBENZIA, RUSSIAN AMBASSADOR TO THE UNITED NATIONS: (translated) And they are assisted in this by their western backers. The speaker's asking is there is interpretation. I apologize, Madam President. Today's meeting - the speaker is not working, says - and the microphone doesn't work, says the speaker.

My -

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (OFF-MIKE): Let's try another one. Can you speak, can you try?

NEBENZIA: (translated: Madam President, Madam President. That's fine. Today's meeting is another attempt by Kyiv authorities to condole artificial hysteria around what is happening in Ukraine.


And they're being assisted in this by their western backers. Today we have once again heard lies about how Russian troops attacked these Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant. And this is all part of an unprecedented campaign of lies and disinformation against Russia.

You are trying to present the situation in such a way as though the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant was allegedly shelled by the Russian military as a result of which a fire broke out. This - these statements are simply untrue. The city of Enerhodar, the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant or ZNPP and the adjacent territories were taken by the Russian Army under its control back on February 28th.

As a result of negotiations with the management of the power plant and agreement was reached to place it under the guard of the Russian military. The goal is to prevent the Ukrainian nationalist or other terrorist forces from taking advantage of the current situation to organize a nuclear provocation.

The goal was also to ensure the security of the station and prevent interruptions in power supply to the population of Ukraine and European consumers. At present the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant and adjacent territory are being guarded by Russian troops.

In order to this personnel has been brought in with relevant experience including experience in operating the engineering and technical facilities that the nuclear power plant is equipped with. A similar situation is - the situation is currently similar in the area of the Chernobyl power plant.

The security of its facilities is being insured jointly by the Russian armed forces and the Ukrainian operators of the nuclear installation and are service men are not interfering in the work of the operators of the Ukrainian power plants. They are limiting their objectives (ph) merely to ensuring their security.

As we were informed by the Russian Ministry of Defense, on the night of March fourth while patrolling the protected area but not the area of the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant itself rather the adjacent territory, a Russian mobile patrol was attacked by a Ukrainian sabotage group.

In order to provoke return fire on the building there was heavy small fire - small arms fire that was opened on Russian troops from the windows of several floors of the training complex that is located just outside the territory of the nuclear power plant.

The Russian patrol returned fire on the firing points of the Ukrainian saboteurs in the building of the training complex and suppressed their fire. As they were leaving the Ukrainian sabotage group set fire to the training facility.

Let me emphasize, once again, that this building is not located on the territory of the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant.

The fire brigades that arrived were able to extinguish the fire on the premises. At the time of this provocation none of the regular employees of the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant were present in the training building. At present the personnel of the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant, which was not injured, as we were assured by the permanent representative of the U.S. continues to work normally and is maintaining plant facilities and monitoring the radiation situation.

The background radiation levels in the areas of the nuclear power plant are normal. All the nuclear power plant facilities are under the control of the Russian military. Their security has been fully ensured and the station continues to function normally in accordance with technological requirements.

The power units of the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant were not damaged.


Their condition is as follows; the first has been disconnected for repairs, the second and third have been temporarily disconnected by the decision of the station's management, the fourth is operating at 690 megawatts. And the fifth and sixth are being cooled.

According to the assessments of IAEA Leadership which were set out in the press statement dated March 4th, the operation of the nuclear power plant continues normally. Nothing threatens the safety of the six power units. The radiation monitoring systems at the station are fully operational. And there is no threat of a release of radioactive material.

I would like to remind you that in 2014, Ukrainian nationalists already tried to destabilize the situation at the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant and in the City of Enerhodar. Western States ignored this egregious case back then and it could have potentially led to disaster. And at the time, we drew attention to this serious incident.

Now, when the Russian military's doing everything to ensure the safety and security of Ukrainian nuclear facilities a Russian -- a massive anti-Russian propaganda campaign is unfolding based on absurd allegations that Russia is allegedly trying to create a source of radioactive contamination. And I urge you to think what would be the point of us doing this.

We are the best positioned to be aware of -- and on top of the situation, we're the most interested in maintaining nuclear and general security in Ukraine, physical and nuclear security, to be properly maintained and ensured in Ukraine. We are Ukraine's neighbors. And together with the people of Belarus and Ukraine, we lived through the tragedy of Chernobyl. And so, we are more interested than most in maintaining a normal radiation situation throughout the territory of Ukraine.

I would like to emphasize, once again, that the danger to the civilian population of Ukraine is not emanating from Russian troops. It is coming from Ukrainian nationalists who are holding the civilian populations of a number of large cities hostage and carrying out acts of sabotage and provocations, one of which is what we are now discussing. After that, they attempt to blame Russia for all of it.

Yesterday's incident at the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant is a clear illustration of this. And your reaction to this incident and your attempts to blow it into a global scandal, my dear Western colleagues, leave no doubt that the radicals and extremists in Ukraine were and are under your close guardianship and protection. They have a sort of carte blanche from you.

For the sake of your Ukrainian project, you're ready to forget about the future and well-being of ordinary Ukrainians, just as for eight years you tried to ignore the systematic shelling of the civilians of Donbas by the armed forces of Ukraine. We urge you to calm down your mentees, who, in the worst traditions of esoterrorists and their adlib associates are hiding behind civilians placing heavy weaponry and multiple rocket launchers in residential areas. In Mariupol, nationalists have detained 60 citizens who were on their way to the humanitarian corridor that was established and forcibly transported them to the 34th local school, which has been mined. Now, these terrorists are using civilians as a human shield and blackmailing the advancing forces of the Donetsk People's Republic with their readiness to blow up a school full of hostage. These terrorists are preventing those civilians wishing to leave the cities. From doing so, this practice is affecting not only Ukrainians but also foreign citizens.

The number of foreign nationals who are being forcibly held by Ukrainian nationalists is shocking. In Kharkiv this includes 3,189 citizens of India, up to 2,700 citizens of Vietnam, 202 citizens of China. In Sumy, this includes 576 Indian citizens, 101 Ghanaian citizens, and 121 Chinese citizens. In Chernihiv, there are nine citizens of Indonesia being held. Yesterday in Kharkiv, nationalists fired on a group of Chinese citizens who were trying to independently leave into Russian territory, and two of them were injured.


The Russian military is doing everything to ensure the peaceful evacuation of foreign nationals. Thus, in the Belgorod Region, at the Nekhoteyevka and Sudza checkpoints, as of 6:00 a.m. today, 130 comfortable buses were standing ready in order to leave for Kharkiv and Sumy to rescue Indian students and other foreign citizens.

Checkpoints have been equipped with temporary accommodations, rest facilities and hot meals. Mobile medical stations have been deployed with stocks of medications. The evacuees will be later transported to Belgorod and subsequently brought home by air.

I would like to draw your attention to another egregious episode regarding which we would like to hear clarification from the secretariat's rapporteur. The telegram channel of the so-called, Territorial Defense of Kramatorsk, published a message about the requisitioning of cars of U.N. mission personnel. And if the secretary is not aware of this, we are ready to provide the relevant materials. And that message states and I quote, "Sorry, but the goal justifies the means. We have requisitioned U.N. vehicles as we need them now."

According to the nationalists and I quote again, "There is full understanding on the part of the U.N. There were no official statements or protests from the U.N." We are extremely concerned that U.N. mission vehicles could end up in the hands of -- or could have already end up in the hands of terrorists and be used for terrorist purposes. If the secretariat is really aware of this situation, as the nationalists claim, then we would like to receive an explanation of why the U.N. did not inform member states of this. Thank you.

LANA NUSSEIBEH, UAE AMBASSADOR TO THE U.N.: I thank the representative of the Russian Federation for their statement. And I now give the floor to the Representative of India.

(END VIDEO CLIP) ANDERSON: We've been listening to the United Nations Security Council holding an emergency meeting following Russia's attack on a Ukrainian nuclear power plant. And you've been listening to the Representative of Russia. Today's meeting, he said, is another attempt to create artificial hysteria around what is happening in Ukraine assisted by its Western backers. He said the -- this is a campaign of lies and disinformation against Russia. He said, Russia's presidents -- presence is actually there to secure this -- the Ukrainian facility that was attacked overnight and other nuclear facilities secured by the Russian military and being operated by Ukrainians.

The conceit of this statement, quite frankly, folks, was to suggest, at least, or claim that the Russian military is there having taken over these facilities, these nuclear facilities in Ukraine to effectively ensure the stability of energy supplies going forward, not least for Europe. That was the representative's argument. And he calls the allegations absurd that Russia is trying to cause some sort of radioactive contamination.

Let me bring in Richard Roth, our senior correspondent there at the U.N. And Alex Marquardt, who is standing by in Kyiv for us this evening.

Let me just get to you, Richard, very briefly, your thoughts on what you just heard.

RICHARD ROTH, CNN SENIOR U.N. CORRESPONDENT: Well, you gave a good sum-up there. The Russian Ambassador Nebenzia saying, hey, it's not us. Despite accusations, before he spoke, from a range of Western countries, from the United States, Norway, also Albania, UK, France. He's saying, the Russian nationalists are doing it. These are the similar Russia presentation following the Syria story that it was always going to be terrorists that were attacking Russian soldiers or keeping people down, and you don't know. But that's what they're saying.

The Russians are isolated, which is what the U.S. and others wanted. But it doesn't matter as much here since there's no enforcement power with a Russian veto in the meeting. Becky.

ANDERSON: Yes, absolutely. This is the U.N. Security Council. You are right to point out that Russia holds the power of the veto over that meeting and therefore very little will come out of it. But it is an opportunity for other members to say their bit and to condemn what happened overnight.

Alex, you are in the Region of Kyiv, just outside of Kyiv. Obviously, the last 24 hours has been dominated by the projectile missile, the attack on this Ukrainian nuclear power plant. And the other fighting and assaults that have been going on around the country. Just get us up to speed on where we are at this point.


ALEX MARQUARDT, CNN SENIOR NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Well, I think, you know, we have also been focused, Becky, on the flurry of activity down in the South that's, you know, very dangerous, you know, aggression by the Russians moving closer and closer to Odesa on the Black Sea. Encircling Mariupol on the Sea of Azov. Really, taking more and more territory on that Southern Coast and perhaps well on their way to building that land bridge between Crimea and Western Russia.

Up here, in and around Kyiv, we've also seen a lot of fighting. Not just in the past 24 hours but of course in recent days. And the Ukrainian Ministry of Defense says that the primary objective of the Russian forces now is to encircle -- is still to encircle Kyiv and to break through the Ukrainian resistance. We're seeing some confidence in this statement. They say that they've managed to keep the Russians at bay and keep them about 40 miles or 60 kilometers to the West of here. They think the main forces there, they managed to beat them back. We have seen evidence of that. You know, convoys of Russian forces that -- and their vehicles that have been torched West of the city in an area called Bucha.

But obviously, you know, the Russians are still coming. There's still a lot they can throw at this city. We're watching very closely that convoy coming in from the North. Again, they have been hit by Ukrainian resistance. They've also been hit with their own logistical issues. Inability or difficulty to fuel and to feed the troops there.

The Pentagon believes that that column is at a standstill. It has not made much progress. And that the Russian forces there are reassessing where they are but that they will continue to come towards Kyiv. We should caution that, you know, with all the talk of the Ukrainian resistance and how well they're doing against the Russian forces, the Russians have a lot in reserve whereas the Ukrainians certainly do not. The U.S. believes that some 92 percent of the prepositioned Russian power is already in the country and that the vast majority has not been used yet.

So, this is why you see the Ukrainian's calling on all kinds of people to come and help them join in the fight, because they know that despite the fact that the Russians have not made their way into the capital yet, that there is -- that there are many -- that there's still quite ways to go. There's a lot of Russian strength that has not been used just yet. Becky.

ANDERSON: Absolutely. You make a very good point. Thank you very much indeed. Alex and Richard, your reporting is very important to us, of course. Thank you. We're going to take a very short break. Back after this.



Well, as fighting intensifies across Ukraine, one mayor says that Russia is intentionally trying to eliminate Ukrainian people. The Mayor of Kharkiv tells CNN that his city is coming under really intense bombardment and that residential buildings are being hit by Russian strikes. Kharkiv is Northeastern Ukraine. It's the country's second biggest city. And we are seeing images of debris and ruined buildings. Many families are fleeing the town. We're going to focus now on one man's journey out of Kharkiv. Oleksii Zavrazhnyi packed up everything he could and fled the city with his wife, his daughter and his cat. And they join me now live from a neighboring city. And I see you there with your little baby and your wife. We're glad that you are safe at present. Tell us more about your journey, the decision that you took. Many hundreds of thousands, of course, have made that same decision. Why? And just explain what happened.

OLEKSII ZAVRAZHNYI, UKRAINIA WHO FLED KHARKIV: Yes. A few days, we were under bombing and hiding in a vault. But then I realized it's unsafe to stay in Kharkiv anymore. And we decided to leave it and drive to Poltava, which is 180 kilometers from Kharkiv. And we spent almost 10 -- eight hours on the journey staying in 20 kilometers traffic jams because of block posts. And then we had a night in Poltava. And today we drove to Kremenchuk, which is central Ukraine. It's safe. There is no (INAUDIBLE). And no bombing, no aviation.

And today at supermarket, we were scared, multiple times, for during 30 minutes because of different noises. You know, normal life noises and we thought it's either aviation strike or bomb exploded, you know, somewhere. So, it's scary.

ANDERSON: I'm so pleased to see that the little one is OK. And we obviously wish you the best. It must be absolutely terrifying for you and the family. What's your plan at this point?

ZAVRAZHNYI: For a moment, we think we will stay three, five days in Kremenchuk, see what's going on because today -- this evening we saw on the map of invasion that Russian military -- Russian army moves closer from South and probably they will try to also invade in Kremenchuk. So, probably we will try to move somewhere on the West to Karpat, to Lviv. I don't know.

So, I have no idea. All major cities, all original cities, they are not safe because they all have military bases, Ukrainian military bases, which would be attacked by Russia, I am sure. They could attack them with ballistic rockets, with wing rockets. And it's too dangerous. And that's why we'll probably move to a small town.

ANDERSON: Oleksii, have you got money? Have you got work? I mean, what's your setup compared to this time, for example, last week?

ZAVRAZHNYI: I haven't working since February 24th. And currently I'm working as freelancer on app work -- including app work. But having done any minute of work -- I haven't spent any minute on work. And a couple of my customers, they are patiently waiting for me and I -- hopefully tomorrow I would be able to start working to earn some money. But many of my friends, they lost their jobs because everything was local. They had no chance to start working remotely outside of Ukraine. And I have no idea where they will just, you know, find some money for food, for living. I just have no idea. That's crazy.


ANDERSON: Well, listen, we'll let you go because of the little one. It's not easy to keep a little one so quiet during an interview. And we wish -- you've done brilliantly, by the way. Amazing. Giving up on it, at this point.

ZAVRAZHNYI: Yes. She wants to sleep already. It's 8:00 p.m.

ANDERSON: Yes. She needs to go her sleep. Listen, thank you for joining us.

ZAVRAZHNYI: Yes, she needs to go to sleep.

ANDERSON: We wish you, your wife, and your child the best. And please stay in touch.

ZAVRAZHNYI: Thank you.

ANDERSON: Thank you.

I'm Becky Anderson. We're taking a very short break. Back after this.


When you are forced to flee your home abruptly, not knowing when you'll ever come back, the chances are you are running with nothing but the clothes on your back. And in the middle of a harsh European winter that is nothing less than brutal. Millions are, right now, freezing and starving. So, the Ukrainian government has turned to the United Nations World Food Programme for help. And on Monday, the agency announced it was launching an emergency operation to provide food assistance to both people within Ukraine and those who have fled to neighboring countries.

David Beasley, the head of the World Food Programme, and his team have just arrived in Ukraine to begin that operation. And we managed to establish contact with him just as he crossed over from the Ukrainian- Polish border where thousands of people were attempting to make their way out of Ukraine. Here's what he had to say about the situation on the ground.

DAVID BEASLEY, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, WORLD FOOD PROGRAMME: You know, the one million that have fled may very well be the lucky ones. You've got now 40 million people inside Ukraine that are going to need support, they're going to need help. We're going to try to reach three to five million of them immediately. Obviously, we don't know how this is going to play out about supply chains, commercial activity, trucks and distribution points. That remains to be seen.

ANDERSON: He's right. The circumstances are extremely volatile and unpredictable. Even more so for those inside Ukraine, particularly in besieged Southern cities like Kherson. Now, residents have been describing the situation there as a humanitarian catastrophe as they suffer from severe lack of food and medicines. So, how will the World Food Programme manage to get aid in in the midst of a Russian invasion? David again.

[12:55:00] BEASLEY: Yes, Becky, right now, what we're doing is scaling up. We're bringing food from all over the continent. As you can imagine, different sides of Ukraine, from Romania to Poland. Whatever it takes. And we're putting together teams of operations inside Ukraine. We're housing that were putting into place. We're also putting together the teams necessary to move food and supplies into the cities that may be besieged, like Kyiv and other places, as we're trying to assess where the most desperate places needing food as we speak. It's a massive operation. We plan to scale up the three, four, five million people over the next few days and weeks.

ANDERSON: And on Thursday, delegations from Russia and Ukraine, remember, did agree to create humanitarian corridors for civilians in need, though no major breakthrough or cease-fire as of yet. So, the question is, will these corridors genuinely facilitate access for aid agencies?

BEASLEY: Well, I'm hopeful and prayerful that everybody, especially the Russians, will give us the access we need for safe passage, to do what we need to do. We are impartial. We are neutral. We will do everything we can to reach everyone in Ukraine in need. We have people on the ground, as we speak, talking with the different sides to make sure that we can reach and do what we need to do. This is going to be an ongoing, you know, very fluid situation, Becky. As you can imagine. Because the frontlines are changing. The war zones are moving by the hour. And so, we're doing everything we can to reach the people, preposition food where we can, but at the same time reach the people in need wherever they may be. And so, we need the Russians and everybody to do what they can to give us safe passage so that we can help the people in need. I'm begging everyone to cooperate with us.

ANDERSON: David Beasley from the World Food Programme. Well, finally, a very touching human moment in the midst of what is this crisis.

That's pianist, Davide Martello there playing John Lennon's peace anthem "Imagine" for Ukrainian refugees arriving in Poland. He traveled from Germany to bring cheer to those displaced by the invasion. Martello was later joined by a Ukrainian woman and together they performed Queen's, "We Are the Champions." More than 600,000 Ukrainians have fled to Poland, according to the United Nations.

I'll leave you with that. I'm Becky Anderson. Thank you for joining us. Stay with CNN. More for -- with CNN formal continuing coverage of Russia's invasion of Ukraine.


JACQUELINE HOWARD, CNN HEALTH REPORTER: They may look similar, they may taste similar, but sweet potatoes and yams have some differences. These root vegetables are not even related. True yams are native to Africa and Asia. Most yams today, 95 percent, are harvested in West Africa. While many of the yams sold in the U.S. are typically grown and Caribbean countries. And yams are closely related to lilies and grasses. While sweet potatoes are native to the Americas and are part of the morning glory family. Now, when it comes to your health, both of these root vegetables are low in calories and high in nutrients. One half of a large sweet potato has just 81 calories. And the flesh of a medium baked sweet potato has enough vitamin A, that's in the form of beta carotene to meet your entire recommended daily amount.