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Biden To Meet With Finnish President On Ukraine Today; Ukraine Accuses Russia Of "Nuclear Terror;" Russian Forces Attack And Take Over Ukrainian Nuclear Plant; Ukraine, Russia Talks Expected To Resume This Weekend; U.N. Agency Says It Has Received "Credible Reports" Of Discrimination At Ukrainian Border; Super Yacht Seized In Oligarch Sanction Squeeze. Aired 2-3p ET

Aired March 04, 2022 - 14:00   ET



ANNOUNCER: This is CNN Breaking News.

HALA GORANI, CNN INTERNATIONAL HOST: Hello, everyone, I'm Hala Gorani, we're live in London this hour. We're expecting to see U.S. President Biden meeting with the Finnish president at the White House to discuss the war in Ukraine. We'll bring you that live when it happens. The Pentagon is also briefing this hour. We'll be monitoring that for you. Meantime, let's get straight to the latest developments out of Ukraine.

And Ukraine is accusing Russia of nuclear terror, saying an attack on a nuclear power plant could have spelled, quote, "the end of Europe". Russian forces now occupy the plant after some fierce fighting. The IAEA says no radioactive material was released, but that it was a, quote, "close call". The U.N. Security Council convened an emergency meeting on the attack and that happened today in New York. The U.S. ambassador addressed Russia directly urging it to quote, "stop this madness".


LINDA THOMAS-GREENFIELD, U.S. AMBASSADOR TO U.N.: 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 withdraw your droops 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.


GORANI: And this is what happened today. Russian forces attacking the western outskirts of Kyiv, hitting a business center in an apparent missile strike. Elsewhere in the Kyiv region, officials tell CNN, some 100 people may still be trapped in the wreckage of a destroyed apartment building. We're also seeing heartbreaking and we warn you, very disturbing scenes from northern Ukraine where another apartment complex came under attack.






GORANI: The woman you heard there is screaming, kids, little kids, as she comes across bodies on the streets. Scott McLean is following the developments tonight from Lviv in western Ukraine. Let's first start on this attack on the nuclear power plant. What can you tell us?

SCOTT MCLEAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hala, it is tough to underestimate the potential threat that we had. I don't think that we should underestimate the level of fighting that actually took place there. The Ukrainian government confirms that three of its troops were actually killed in the fighting with the Russian troops. And right now, as they point out, a check point and also the administration building of that nuclear facility are now under Russian control.

What they are allowing, Hala, is for the employees of the nuclear site to actually go to work, but the operator, the company that operates the site says that they are essentially working at gunpoint, and management does not have a direct line in with them. And so they only know so much, it's about exactly what is going on.

We know that those nuclear reactors were put into the safest mode possible because of what was happening for obvious reasons, but even the company that runs the site says that any shell that hits one of those reactors will lead to a nuclear disaster. Now, the Russian version of events, Hala, reads very differently than the Ukrainian version.

They say that it was Ukrainian saboteurs in their words that fired on Russian troops from the actual building itself from several floors of it, trying to provoke Russia to actually fire back with the idea, again, this is according to Russia, that they could blame Russia on -- of a nuclear contamination.

So, that is the situation right now. But obviously, things are still very -- as the Atomic Energy Agency says, things are very difficult to sustain the way they are right now, and we really are in uncharted territories. Now, earlier today, we heard from two of the negotiators from the Ukrainian side, who actually said that in their two-and-a- half-hour talks with the Russians yesterday, this particular issue came up.

Not this attack because it hadn't happened yet, but the -- this -- what to do about nuclear power sites in Ukraine because there're well over a dozen of them in the country, and they actually claim that they had a proposal. Listen.



DAVID ARAHAMIYA, UKRAINIAN NEGOTIATOR (through translator): At the negotiations, we proposed a conflict-free zone, 30 kilometers around all nuclear facilities. So far, their military have not confirmed this. They said everything is great, we'll manage Chernobyl together and so on. And then immediately, Zaporizhzhia happened.


GORANI: All right, we're going to break away, the U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken is speaking right now in Brussels. He's been speaking with the NATO allies. Let's listen in.

ANTONY BLINKEN, SECRETARY OF STATE, UNITED STATES: To neighboring countries. Millions of people across Ukraine are trapped in increasingly dire conditions as Russia destroys more critical infrastructure. For example, Mariupol's mayor says that most of the besieged city's residents are living without water, without electricity, without heat. Bridges to the city have been destroyed. Women, children, growing nights of wounded civilians cannot get out.

Food and medical supplies cannot get in. The mayor wrote today, and I quote, "we are simply being destroyed. The world has seen Russia use these grizzly tactics before in Syria and Chechnya." Meanwhile, Russia's reckless operation around the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant risked a catastrophe, a nuclear incident.

The Kremlin should immediately cease all attacks around Ukrainian nuclear facilities and allow civilian personnel to do their work to ensure the facility's safety and security as both the IAEA director general and the resolution adopted yesterday by the agency's board of governors have called on Russia to do.

The Ukrainian people and government continue to show remarkable courage in defending their country, defending their freedom, defending one another. We said that if President Putin invaded Ukraine, we would increase our support for Ukraine's ability to defend itself while imposing swift and severe costs on the Kremlin. That's exactly what the United States and our allies and partners are doing.

That was the focus of our ministerial meetings today with NATO allies, with the G7, with the European Union as well as in my discussions with NATO secretary general, with the EU Commission President von der Leyen, with the EU Council President Michel. We want our alliances to be strong enough to meet any threat. That's why from day one, President Biden made re-invigorating and re-energizing our alliances and partnerships the foundation of our foreign policy.

It's why the Secretary of State, I've come to Brussels, home to NATO and the EU, more than to any other world capital. And that's why we invested so much effort in finding new ways and coalitions to bring allies and partners together. Now we're seeing why that work matters. At NATO, we were joined by the ministers of Finland and Sweden, the EU high representative Josep Borrell, the foreign ministers of Ukraine, the United Kingdom and Canada as well as the Secretary-General Stoltenberg also took part in our meeting with the EU. Never before have NATO and the European Union and other partner

nations worked so closely together. This is a new kind of cooperation and we'll bring this to bear, not just in this crisis, but in the -- in the years to come. And our European allies and partners are stepping up to lead in unprecedented ways. For the first time, NATO has activated and deployed parts of its response force. Several NATO allies including the U.K., Germany, the Netherlands, Denmark, Spain, France, have sent troops and aircraft and ships to reinforce the alliance's eastern flank.

Every NATO ally is providing either military or humanitarian aid to Ukraine, most are providing both. For the first time, the European Union is financing the purchase and delivery of military assistance to a country under attack. The bloc swiftly adopted the biggest sanctions package in history against Russia, and the EU has granted immediate refuge to Ukrainians and others who call Ukraine home.

The first time it has invoked this protection mechanism. Individual countries are also taking extraordinary steps. Germany is doubling its defense spending. Poland has opened its arms to more than half a million Ukrainian refugees. Switzerland set aside its tradition to neutrality to adopt the European Union sanctions on Russia. The list goes on. These and other efforts by our European allies to deepen their own capabilities and cooperation. Do not undermine the Trans- Atlantic security alliance, they deepen our collective might.

As recently as a few weeks ago, some questioned whether, if the regional or international's base dollar(ph) came under threat, whether our European allies and partners would be willing to shoulder their fair share of the burden, the risk, the cost to defend it.


In the last nine days, European countries have demonstrated they are more than ready to stand up and stand together. And the United States is standing with Europe pursuing complementary actions and policies in close coordination with our allies and partners. To give just a few examples, we've deployed an additional 7,000 troops to Europe and repositioned our forces already on the continent to strengthen NATO's eastern flank.

We continue to tighten our severe economic sanctions on Russia. Last night, as I think you know, we extended temporary protected status to tens of thousands of Ukrainians living in the United States. And the president has requested an additional $10 billion from Congress to deliver more humanitarian, security and economic assistance in Ukraine and the surrounding region over the coming days and weeks.

Yesterday, President Putin said his so-called special military operation is proceeding exactly as planned. Well, it's hard to imagine that his plan included inspiring the Ukrainian people to defend their country with such tenacity, strengthening the resolve and solidarity of NATO and the EU, uniting the world in opposition to Moscow including 141 countries that the United Nations and unprecedented number of international businesses, associations, cultural institutions that have cut ties with Russia causing the Russian economy to go into free fall, motivating tens of thousands of Russians to protest and countless more to leave the country, and increasingly joining Russia into a pariah state.

If that was President Putin's plan, well, you can say it's working. Russia has never been so isolated, we have never been more united. But let me reiterate one thing, because it's very important. We take these actions not because we oppose the Russian people. We do not. We regret that tens of millions of Russians will suffer because of the dangerous decisions made by a tiny circle of corrupt leaders and their cronies who have consistently put their interests above those of the Russian people, who are doing everything they can to hide their war of choice from the Russian public.

Today's discussion with NATO, the EU, the G7 affirmed that we're fully aligned on our goals, and our determination to meet them. We'll deepen our support for Ukraine's brave defenders and for the Ukrainian civilians suffering as a result of the deepening humanitarian crisis. We'll continue to raise the cost for President Putin and all who carry out and enable his war of choice and the devastation that it's causing.

We'll continue to strength our capacity to defend our collective security and deter further escalation by Russia, including by upholding our article 5 commitment that an attack on one is an attack on all. NATO is a defensive alliance. We've never sought and will not seek conflict with Russia. But as President Biden has said, we will defend every inch of NATO territory. No one should doubt America's readiness or our resolve.

At the same time, we'll keep open the door to dialogue and diplomacy while making clear to the Kremlin that unless it changes course, it will continue down the road of increasing isolation and economic pain. And we'll support Ukraine and its talks with Russia to reach a ceasefire and the unconditional withdrawal of Russian forces, something that Foreign Minister Kuleba and I have been discussing on a daily basis.

In the meantime, we are working urgently with the government of Ukraine, the ICRC and others to create humanitarian corridors that will allow civilians to get out of Ukraine's besieged cities and to allow food, medicine and other vital supplies to get in. Russia's attack created this humanitarian crisis.

Now, all countries have a responsibility to pressure the Kremlin to alleviate at least some of the misery that it has wrought. Of all the consequences of Moscow's unprovoked attack, one of the most unexpected is the spark it has lit in people around the world who have come out to demonstrate for freedom for the rights of Ukrainians.

That includes valiant individuals in places where protesting the Kremlin's war means risking arrest, beatings or worse as thousands of Russians and Belarusians have done. For years, we've seen the dangerous tide rolling back democracy in human rights and undercutting the rules based order, fueled in no small part by Moscow. With this brutal invasion, we, our European allies and partners and people everywhere are being reminded of just how much is at stake. Now, we see the tide of democracy rising to the moment. With that, I'm

happy to take some questions.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Paul Hemming(ph), "FE"(ph). Hi, Mr. Secretary.

BLINKEN: Hi, Paul.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You've -- the West has put unprecedented sanctions on Russia, very punishing, yet it doesn't seem to have slowed the Russian military's advance on Ukraine.


Today, NATO seemed to forswear absolutely putting in a no-fly zone that might protect the Ukrainians. Given that, nothing seems to have slowed this invasion. What can you tell the Ukrainian people who only see things getting worse, seeing a disaster, seeing more suffering and are pleading for more help from the West. And I have a little follow- up, I could ask it now or in a moment?

BLINKEN: Oh, go ahead, please.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The West, NATO has been involved in this in terms of supplying a lot of arms, which you've mentioned to Ukraine. Can't it supply more effective arms, larger weapons, jets has been -- have been talked about, NATO is engaged in this. Can't it do more for Ukraine?

BLINKEN: Thank you. Let me take the second part first. We are in constant contact with Ukraine, with government officials and leaders on their needs and in constant contact with coordination with allies and partners on providing for those needs when it comes to security assistance. We've already been engaged in a remarkable effort, just speaking for the United States with the various draw-downs that President Biden has done, we've provided over the past year and change, more than a billion dollars in security assistance to Ukraine.

The most recent drawdown that was issued by the president of $350 million, we have already sent into Ukraine about $250 million worth of that drawdown. So this is happening every single day, and you're seeing the means that Ukraine needs to defend itself, get into the hands of Ukrainians who are doing that. Having said that, one of the things that we talked about at length today in our various meetings with NATO and the EU, was what more we can do and how to do it effectively.

I would add that, I think as you know, Foreign Minister Kuleba actually came into our meetings by video. We heard from him directly, some of the additional things that Ukraine is looking for, we're working on all of that every single day. We're also a week and change into this horrific war rocked by Russia. The -- we've had already a dramatic impact far beyond I think what anyone would have expected on Russia and its economy.

The ruble is trading at its weakest levels ever. It's worth less than a penny. Russian authorities are expecting exporters to sell at least 80 percent of the foreign currency that they have to prop up what is a rapidly weakening currency. The stock market has been closed for days due to a fear of capital flight once it opens. So, this is the longest stretch of emergency closure since Russia defaulted back in the 1990s.

The CBR has more than doubled their key interest rate, its central bank to 20 percent, the highest in almost 20 years. Capital controls, et cetera. We're seeing -- I have a list, five pages long of all the businesses that have left Russia. But this take -- the impact is there. It's powerful. It's real and it is building. So let's see how Russia responds to that as this really takes hold and takes a grip. Second, as we have been demonstrating by not only what we've been saying, but what we've been doing. The support for Ukraine is real, profound, extensive.

The security assistance we just talked about, that continues to go in, the humanitarian support that we continue to build in response to the humanitarian horror that Russia has wrought as well as our economic assistance. Unfortunately, this is not like flipping a light switch. It takes time. And when you have -- in the case of Russia, and President Putin's Russia, a country that is prepared to go to excessive means to achieve its results, it's -- it is a real challenge.

But not only are we at it every day, I think but the Ukrainian people can see is virtually the entire world united in support of them, in support of their cause of independents, territorial integrity, freedom demonstrated by the meetings we had today, demonstrated by the 141 countries that came together at the United Nations to make that clear. So there's a huge tide of support for Ukraine.


There's a huge weight bearing down on Russia. Let's see what the impact is.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mick McMahon(ph) "Euro News(ph)".


GORANI: All right, Antony Blinken there in Brussels after having met his counterparts, his NATO counterparts in Belgium, updating reporters on what was discussed, no news really being made here. There, reiterating the notion that the NATO countries will continue to support Ukraine and continue to impose punitive sanctions on Russia.

Obviously, one of the demands from some Ukrainians, a no-fly zone over the skies of Ukraine has already and more than once been rejected as an idea by NATO because of course, a no-fly zone is an offensive endeavor in the sense that, if a plane flies into a no-fly zone, it would require those NATO countries to shoot it down.

And obviously, NATO countries now saying they're absolutely not willing to engage on that level with Russia. Let's go to Kylie Atwood who is at the State Department. Well, what -- I mean, what more can NATO countries do now to try to stop Russia's advance? Because that first reporter said, look, your sanctions and everything else, Putin is still barreling in here.

KYLIE ATWOOD, CNN U.S. SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Yes, and I think that that's the key question here. And we may learn more about that in the coming days after the conversations that Blinken had with his counterparts today are then brought up perhaps to the leader levels, to President Biden's desk to look at what more can be done to fortify the defense, not only of those countries in eastern Europe, but of course, additionally to Ukraine itself.

We have seen the Biden administration change its position a little bit in recent days in providing those stingers to Ukraine that previously they had declined to do so. Those are extremely lethal weaponry that they provide to Ukraine next week. So that is significant. And you heard the secretary talking about just the tremendous amount of humanitarian support and continued defensive weaponry that the United States is going to provide to Ukraine.

But I think there is still a question as to how far the U.S. and its allies can go in providing this support to Ukraine without crossing that red line that hasn't really been defined as to bringing them to be a party of this conflict to be seen by the Russians as it escalates -- actually escalating the situation on the ground there.

GORANI: And it was emotional even for the Secretary of State Blinken. Earlier, he choked up a little bit when he talked about a father mourning his dead child. I want our viewers to listen to this.


BLINKEN: He showed us some photographs. One of which I think is also been in the media, shows a father grieving over his dead child, blood is still on the sheet that drapes -- it's a reminder that even as we talk about these weighty issues of war and peace, what this is really about is the lives of men, women, children, hundreds, thousands of individual human tragedies inflicted by Vladimir Putin and his war of choice on Ukraine and its people.


GORANI: So, this was an interesting reflective moment by Blinken. But it will come down ultimately to getting Putin to back away from this war. Is there any possibility that there -- first of all, what channels of communication are still open between the U.S. and Russia, and can anything be done there?

ATWOOD: Well, right now, there aren't any diplomatic channels that are alive and well between the U.S. and Russia. Of course, we have that de-confliction channel that is being run out of the Pentagon between the U.S. and Russia. That was stood up earlier this week, the Pentagon spoke about that.

But that's really sort of a red phone to talk about military matters. That isn't the channel where the United States would potentially propose an off ramp for Russia. And that's something that we really haven't heard explicitly articulated from the Biden administration over the last few weeks or so, after this invasion of course, occurred and has continued going on. What they have said is that Russia needs to pull back.


They need to pull their troops out. But I think the question is, if they were to halt what they are doing now as there's some sort of off ramp, that hasn't been detailed. But significantly, the Secretary of State did say that Russia should cease any attacks on nuclear facilities in Ukraine. And of course, that comes after that attack overnight on the nuclear power plant facility in Ukraine. These are the first remarks from the Secretary of State about that incident.

He said that they should allow in folks to work on that to make sure that, that power plant is up and running safely and securely.

GORANI: All right, Kylie Atwood, thanks very much. Let's get the view from Kyiv, I'm joined by Lesia Vasylenko, a Ukrainian member of parliament, thank you very much for joining us. Obviously, you know NATO and you're very much calling for a no-fly zone over Ukraine. You know NATO has said no to this. Where do you think then the situation stands? Are they doing enough short of a no-fly zone in your view?

LESIA VASYLENKO, UKRAINIAN MP: No, they are not, and literally, by that decision. NATO states have signed a death sentence to the very concept of sovereign states and independent countries and democracy as we know it today. Because to stand by and watch how Ukraine, an independent nation is being torn apart, how 44 million civilians are being bombed and shelled. That is not something that a partner country and partner states do.

GORANI: But you know their argument, which is that if we establish a no-fly zone, we'll have to shoot Russian jets out of the sky, and then essentially, NATO countries are in direct conflict, at war with Russia, and that they do not want to take that step.

VASYLENKO: Do you know when those arguments were also presented? There was a time in history not that far back, that was 1938 and 1939, exactly the same arguments were being presented as the world watched how Hitler and his Nazi Germany first annexed Austria, and then moved on to the Czechoslovakia, and then moved on across the rest of Europe. And eventually got hold of France and all the other countries. And this is how Nazism started being installed in Europe, and this is why we had World War II. Exactly the same --

GORANI: Yes --

VASYLENKO: Thing is happening now.

GORANI: I take your point. The difference being that, of course, Russia is a nuclear power.

VASYLENKO: There are other nuclear powers as well. And at this point in time, Putin doesn't even have to press the red button for the world to be in a nuclear disaster. All Putin has to do is send a missile into one of the five nuclear power stations that are located in Ukraine. He already has hold of two. GORANI: Yes, and what is life like for you? You're a member of

parliament, you're still in the Ukrainian capital. It's an incredibly tense time there just as Russian troops continue to mass around your capital city. What is it like being there now for you?

VASYLENKO: Just an incredibly tense time. Every night, we go to bed thinking, will we wake up in the same country tomorrow? Will we be still standing as an independent country? And every night we fear having a little extra sleep in case we miss the sirens, in case we miss the warnings of missile attacks being launched, and it's the same not just in Kyiv.

It's the same with every Ukrainian, every single Ukrainian goes to bed with the same anxiety and worry. And you know what could save that? A no-fly zone over Ukraine.

GORANI: Would you consider leaving?

VASYLENKO: No, how can I leave? This is my home. This is my country. I was born in Kyiv. I was raised in Kyiv. I know those streets from my very first days of life. I still live in the same apartment in which I was born. I bring up my children there. I want them to have a future in Ukraine. And this is why I stay and I fight because I want my country to be independent. Because unlike all of the NATO allies, I still believe in sovereignty of states and respect of borders and the independence of Ukraine.

GORANI: Did you think Vladimir Putin miscalculated just how much -- how motivated Ukrainians would be to defend their land? That he thought it would be easy, he'd roll into Kyiv, install a puppet government, but instead that there was a real effort to fight back. Do you think that was a miscalculation? And if so, what would -- do you think can make him back down?


VASYLENKO: Vladimir Putin miscalculated big time. He thought that he would be in and out of Ukraine in two hours, and then he would install his puppet government and be ruling Ukraine from Moscow. This is why he gave his soldiers enough food for just two days. But that wasn't the case. Ukraine is still standing, the army is fighting back. The people are strong behind the army and we are fighting back.

But I think that Vladimir Putin is not the only one who miscalculated. I think that the West also thought that this would be a quick loss. And now they are at a loss for words and for action as well as to what they should do because, well, Ukraine is still standing. What a surprise. So technically, they should help. So this is why we're getting the good feedback on sanctions. This is why we get the weapons we asked for. This is all great.

But in order for us to keep standing, we need way, way more weapons coming into Ukraine for us to be able to fight Russia off with our own resources. But that's not happening as we see it now. So if that's not happening, then we -- again, we need that no fly zone, otherwise, it will be on the hands of all the NATO allies of all those governments out there, why 44 million people or 44 million nation will be wiped off from the face of the earth.

GORANI: All right. Well, we wish you resilience and I can only imagine how tough it is for you. Thank you very much, Lesia Vasylenko, a Ukrainian Member of Parliament joining us from Kiev. We'll be right back.


GORANI: So there was an agreement by Russian and Ukrainian negotiators to provide humanitarian corridors for those trying to escape conflict zones. But at the borders, there are new reports about foreigners facing unequal treatment as they try to leave Ukraine.

The International Organization for Migration says it has received credible and verified reports of discrimination at Ukraine's borders and Human Rights Watch says there appears to be a "pattern of blocking or delaying foreigners, many of them students, from boarding buses and trains."


CNN's Sara Sidner is right near Poland's border with Ukraine. And there have been some social media posts of some African students as well. I saw one from a Nigerian student setting -- saying they weren't allowed to go in. They were told to go to the back of the line, et cetera. What are you seeing where you are?

SARA SIDNER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: I can tell you what we saw two days ago because since then, things have changed. Two days ago, we spoke to a Cameroonian woman. And the Cameroonian woman was very clear to us that she had been pushed back off of a train. She had her 6-year-old with her, that another woman was pushed all the way until she fell over backwards off of a train while they were helping up Ukrainians who were Caucasian, she noticed the difference.

She said that there was also a man who was in the back of the train at one point. There's a free train that goes out of Ukraine and takes people to safety and that they -- she actually saw someone put a gun to this black man's, an African's face and made him get off the train. Those were Ukraine security forces. And she was very upset by it.

But since then, we have seen a noticeable change. We have seen people flowing through the border a little more easily. And the border backup isn't as large but the backup was a lot of people of color. A lot of Africans from places like Cameroon, Nigeria. We met a couple of Indians, who were students who said they had some issues trying to get over, and Afghans as well. But that seems to have been cleared up to some point, at least here at this border.

Now, I do want to just mention something to you about what we've been seeing as far as people coming over the border, we are seeing a huge number of mostly women and children. And it's day and night. You don't see them come all at once because there are also buses, taking people trains, taking people cars taking people but you do see people walking over this border here in Medyka, Poland, and it is often mothers with children in mass, like lots of kids and a couple of moms is taking across the border on foot. And it is very, very cold.

But while we're seeing the majority of people there, which is Ukraine, into Poland here at Medyka, Poland, we are also seeing another scene, and that is we're seeing people going into Ukraine. This time, it's men going into Ukraine, and some of them are from other nations.


WALI, FRENCH-CANADIAN VOLUNTEER FIGHTER: We picked up a few guys and we are willing to join the fight. A little sorry, I was a sniper in Afghanistan twice. And I went against ISIS as well in 2015 so it's my second time as a volunteer. And we just met up at the airport. And we need to push a lot of people at the front very quickly.


SIDNER: So he -- his name de guerre is Wally. And he has basically said, look, I am a former veteran. I am with other veterans who are going over to the border to fight in Ukraine's name and they plan to push to the front to try and help fight Russia's invasion. Seeing that not just here on the border, but we saw people at the train station, Americans, people from the U.K., we met a gentleman from Nottingham who had shown up and said like I am meeting strangers and we are all going and what he said to me was this reminds me and my family, because he wasn't alive --

GORANI: All right. We had the image freeze and predictably the audio then died out, but we got a lot there from our conversation with Sara Sidner. She talked obviously to the people who are fleeing Ukraine, mainly women and children, but also a few who are traveling in the opposite direction and who say they want to fight alongside Ukrainians to push out the Russian invaders.

Now Russian assaults on the outskirts of Kiev are intensifying as its forces move to encircle the Ukrainian capital in a village to the southwest, a missile strike killed five people including three children today. That's according to Ukrainian authorities and to the northwest and the town of Borodyanka, these horrific images, I mean, they -- it is very difficult not to compare these, not to remember when you see these images, those horrific images from Aleppo during the war.

Ukrainian Emergency Services say a missile attack on a multi-storey block has trapped as many as 100 people in the rubble. And as you can see here, social media videos appear to show the aftermath of a massive explosion in the Chaika area in Western Kiev. And we have no news on casualties related to that incident in that attack.


The mayor of Mariupol says Russian forces are trying to wipe the city and its people off the face of the earth. He says after five days of constant shelling, the city has no more water, no heat, no electricity, and it is very close to running out of food. The mayor is begging for military assistance and for a humanitarian corridor to allow people to escape. The southeastern port city is in a strategic location, of course, and

British defense officials say it's very likely encircled by Russian forces, but they say for now Mariupol remains under Ukrainian control.

The Russian advance in southern Ukraine could give its troops a land route to the port city of Odessa. A U.S. defense official says there have not been any appreciable moves against that city further to the west for now. But as Nick Paton Walsh reports the people of Odessa are getting ready.


NICK PATON WALSH, CNN INTERNATIONAL SECURITY EDITOR: What you got behind me here is basically a yacht club. This is a desert. This is a peak holiday destination for Russians, frankly, as well as Ukraine in the past. Now it's a barricade factory. Let me show you what we've got happening here. Ordinary locals in a human chain passing down these sandbags -- they're just asking me who we are, what are we doing.

And you can see down here where this all comes from, it's just the banks of the shoreline here. You can see that big excavator pulling out the sand, putting it in piles. And then ordinary young people here, predominately 20s, 30s, shovels filling up the sandbags, a huge pile, someone's just trying to come through here from the left here with empty bags, a huge pile, filled up into the vans, and then taken into the city center.

And we've seen how they form part of the city's defenses here. This is the coastline, which every day, people are concerned they might see a Russian amphibious landing on. It's kind of crazy to imagine that in summer, people were here in their bikinis. In fact, we saw somebody yesterday going for a dip. But this is a holiday destination onto which they're concerned they might see Russian amphibious landing ships at any time.

Now we know that is a crease threat because of information about an Estonian cargo ship off the coast of here that was sunk Ukrainian officials say from Russian shelling. They're trying to use it basically as some kind of civilian shield to allow themselves to approach the coast here.

But you get this sort of feeling of a city United when you see scenes like this, the volume of sandbags almost more than they can get trucks to take away at this point. And it's filling up the city center, it's blockading parts of the center. It's the Opera House, it's dark, frankly, having people of the age we're seeing here in their 20s and 30s, passing around a picture of fortifications of the Opera House in a desert in 1941 and saying to themselves that they're having to do exactly the same thing now.

One man told me he wept when he saw that. Others have said that their grandmothers simply cannot imagine that similar scenes are occurring in 2022 than they saw in 1941 when the Soviets fought off the Nazis and that's the kind of -- it's not irony, it's the dark contrast here between people who are seeing this Soviet aggrandization from Vladimir Putin for their restored sort of broader territory, which seems to be behind this invasion of Ukraine, contrast with the feeling they have that they're having an invasion by the Nazis all over again.


GORANI: All right. That was Nick Paton Walsh in Odessa. Still to come tonight, new sanctions on the assets of Russian oligarchs ramping up. We'll take a look at the measures that Western countries and their allies are taking, including the seizure of a few super yachts. We'll be right back.



GORANI: Back now to the invasion of Ukraine. Just another look at the devastation we are seeing there. This is what's left of a school building 140 kilometers west of Kiev hit by a Russian rocket this morning. The city's mayor says of the attack Russian attackers "do not stop at anything." And Ukrainian emergency services say dozens of people were killed in Thursday's airstrikes on Chernihiv, a city in the northern part of Ukraine near the border with Belarus.

Now the video we are about to show you is disturbing. But it is important to understand what's happening on the ground. Take a look.

The Russians say they're not targeting civilians. Well, they are. "Kids, little kids," is what you heard that woman cry in pain. CNN has geolocated and verified that video you just saw, as well as other videos showing the moment Russian military strikes happened and the damage they caused.

Some countries are now going after the assets of Russian oligarchs. French authorities say they have seized a super yacht that belongs to one of Vladimir Putin's cronies. CNN's Drew Griffin says these luxury boats are obvious but elusive targets of Western sanctions.


DREW GRIFFIN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: The 280-foot yacht Amore Velo features multiple decks, has a swimming pool that turns into a helicopter pad, and boasts of master and VIP suites to accommodate up to 14 guests, and it's just been seized by the French government. It's linked to Igor Sechin, the CEO of Russian oil giant, Rosneft, though the company now says he doesn't own it.

European Union sanctioned Sechin earlier this week, describing him as one of Russian President Vladimir Putin's most trusted and closest advisors. The seizure, part of a coordinated action from Western countries, making it difficult for Russian billionaires to operate and putting pressure on Putin.


BILL BROWDER, CEO, HERMITAGE CAPITAL MANAGEMENT: This is what he cares about. This is what's important to him. This helps because the oligarchs look after Putin's money. We want to punish Putin personally and directly for what he's done. And this is the most direct way of doing that.


GRIFFIN: Another target of coordinated sanctions, the super yacht Dilbar. It's currently being renovated in Hamburg, Germany, and owned by a telephone and mining magnate. It has dozens of cabins and a crew of 96 people. Guests can swim in an 80-foot pool once the largest ever put on a yacht. A CNN review from marine found yachts have been reported to be owned by Russian oligarchs spread out across the world. Some were already on the move towards friendly reports in anticipation of a worldwide crackdown.


CATHERINE BELTON, AUTHOR, "PUTIN'S PEOPLE": The problem is, is that the sanctions have been announced ahead of time so probably right now they're all busy feverishly engineering deals in which ownership changes could be triggered the minute sanctions are handed down, so it's going to be a game of cat and mouse unfortunately.


GRIFFIN: That cat and mouse game may have already begun even with Russian billionaires who are not under sanction. The Galactica Supernova with Florida ceiling marble, an outdoor theater and a waterfall pool, reportedly owned by a Russian oil company executive, left Barcelona on Saturday and crossed the Mediterranean to Montenegro.


The ownership is often hidden behind complicated registries and shell companies, these yachts are a symbol of the cash and prestige oligarchs have built under Putin, luxuries like anti-missile defense systems, bomb-proof doors, and a mini submarine, or a beauty salon and an elevator. One yacht now out of reach of any Western authorities, the Graceful.

German media has speculated the owner is none other than Vladimir Putin himself. Two weeks before the invasion of Ukraine, the yacht left Hamburg, Germany and sped to Kaliningrad, Russia, where no location data has been recorded since.

And it's not just yachts, the U.S. government has sanctioned five ships it says are connected to a Russian bank, oil tankers, and freighters and in a sign, this may be having its desired effect that author Catherine Belton talked to some of these oligarchs, she says they are shocked by what Putin has done. Never thought he would go this far. Drew Griffin, CNN, Atlanta.

GORANI: All right. Well, still to come a -- an up close look at the destruction in Gjakova Leka, Ukraine after the village was bombed earlier this week, we'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) GORANI: We continue with our coverage of Ukraine and want to show you

the moment of a military strike Wednesday right in front of Kharkiv's administrative building. This man was in the midst of talking about distributing monetary donations when the blast took place.

Well, the video obviously shows you how these attacks can happen without warning for people on the ground. And an update now on that bombing from two days ago in Gjakova Leka, Ukraine. That's a village near Kharkiv that locals believe was targeted because Ukrainian soldiers were in the general area of it. You may remember we spoke yesterday by phone with CNN Prima reporter Darja Stomatova. We now have an even closer look at the destruction that that bombing caused.


DARJA STOMATOVA, CNN PRIMA REPORTER: We came back to Gjakova Leka, the little village under the Kharkiv to figure out what actually happened here.


We spoke with locals and you can even see that there is more people than yesterday. People are trying to get out their stuff or to secure their rooftops. And what they told us, actually, the air strike happened at 11:00 p.m. two days ago. And what happened was that the plane was coming from that side that you see right now. And two bombs fall here. Then it went under the Merefa, the city, which is about 10, 15 kilometers from here, and it went back and other two bombs fall on the city and you see the disasters place, how -- what happened here is catastrophic.

Also the locals told us, because we were asking if Russians had any reason to actually destroy this village, and they told us that in the school back there, there was supposed to be about 200, 300, Ukraine soldiers, also the Ukrainian army was passing this city sometime. And that was probably the reason why the attack happened because someone was supposed to tell the Russians that Ukrainian soldiers are here right now.

We can continue. And you can see also how this place looks right now. Also, as what we know, this was an airstrike because the front line is about 50, 60 kilometers, far from here, where the actual fights are happening. But people also here, they are afraid what will happen next, people living in these villages under Kharkiv.

When will be the next airstrike? If the Russians will come in tanks, or anything else will happen. We have also informations from the Balakliia Village, which is about 60, 70 kilometers from here, where Russians already came and what people here who are in contact with their relatives there told us, Russians went there in tanks, and they were robbing the shops, but they were not attacking civilians as what we know right now.

Also the local government in Russians actually surrendered. So right now, the situation is under control of Russians. You can see the disaster in Makiyivka, what happened here. And we have to show the world what is Russian invasion on Ukraine right now. Darja Stomatova CNN Prima News.


GORANI: There you have it, a firsthand look. Thanks for watching tonight. I'll be back after a quick break with more of our continuing coverage.