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CNN Live Event/Special
Russian Forces Attack, Take Over Ukrainian Nuclear Plant; U.N. Security Council Meets On Nuclear Power Plant Attack; U.S. And Finnish Presidents Meet At White House; Odessa Shores Up Defenses Against Russian Forces; U.S.: Russia Targeting Infrastructure, Residential Areas; E.U. To Give Ukraine Refugees Temporary Protected Status. 3-4p ET
Aired March 04, 2022 - 15:00:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
ANNOUNCER: This is CNN Breaking News.
HALA GORANI, CNN INTERNATIONAL HOST: Hello everyone.
We continue our live coverage. I'm Hala Gorani in London. Welcome to the second hour of our breaking news special out of Ukraine.
Western leaders are condemning Russia's takeover of Europe's largest nuclear power plant inside Ukraine, saying it could have triggered a catastrophe not just for the country, but for the entire world.
Russian forces now occupy the plant after fierce fighting. The IAEA says no radioactive material was released, but that it was a quote "close call."
At an emergency U.N. Security Council meeting today, the U.S. Ambassador urged Vladimir Putin to quote "stop the madness."
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
AMBASSADOR LINDA THOMAS-GREENFIELD, UNITED STATES AMBASSADOR TO THE UNITED NATIONS: By the grace of God, the world narrowly averted a nuclear catastrophe last night. We all waited to exhale as we watched the horrific situation unfold in real time.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
GORANI: Well, Ukraine's U.N. ambassador also spoke at that meeting and made some troubling remarks. He says several employees responsible for maintaining nuclear security at this site in Zaporizhzhia have reportedly been killed by Russian soldiers and says there has been no rotation of personnel since yesterday morning.
Ukraine's President is accusing Russia of nuclear terror.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
VOLODYMYR ZELENSKY, UKRAINIAN President (through translator): Russian troops attack the biggest nuclear plant in Europe Zaporizhzhia, it could have been six Chernobyls. The Russian tank, people knew what they were shelling. They were shelling this at close range.
This was terror at a new level. Ukraine has 15 nuclear plants and the Russians, Russian military have forgotten Chernobyl and this world's tragedy.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
GORANI: Well, CNN's Scott McLean joins we now live from Lviv with more. Talk to us first about -- because there was a lot going on today. There was of course, that attack on the nuclear facility, Europe's largest, but also Russian troops continuing to pound cities in the south and encircling Mariupol.
SCOTT MCLEAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, you're absolutely right, Hala, look, they are working right now to try to establish some kind of a humanitarian corridor for places like Mariupol, because it is a miserable place to be right now, lacking basic services, running out of food.
The Ukrainians say that there are some 200,000 people that would very much like to get out of that city right now.
You mentioned the nuclear situation as well at that power plant, Zaporizhzhia. In addition to what you have reported, that same Ukrainian Ambassador says that changes in radiation at the site have not registered and that the radiation monitoring system right now is not working.
The company that is operating that nuclear power station also says that they have had no contact with the staff, they don't have a direct line into them. And also that if a shell were to hit that site, you would have a nuclear disaster.
Now, the Russians see this whole situation very differently. What they claim is that it was actually the Ukrainians that fired on the Russians provoking them to fire back at the Nuclear Power Station in their telling of the story. They believe that it was the Ukrainians who wanted to blame Russia for nuclear contamination.
Now, all of this could have been avoided. Yesterday, we know that the Ukrainians and the Russians sat down and talked at the border just inside the border with Belarus for about two and a half hours and the Ukrainians claimed that one of the things that they brought up was the need to maintain a 30-kilometer radius around all of the nuclear power sites in Ukraine, a radius of basically a conflict free zone.
The Russians kind of brushed that off, though, and now we have the situation that we saw developing overnight, the Russians for their part, though, Hala, are not commenting.
GORANI: What about these talks were the two sides technically agreed on the establishment of humanitarian corridors, but we're not seeing those in, you know, take shape on the ground. MCLEAN: You're right. So in principle, they agree on them. The
problem is actually getting them worked out on the ground because as the Ukrainians will point out as they did today, that you can't just walk up to a Russian soldier on the ground and start negotiating. They simply do not talk.
So instead, the Ukrainians and the Russians are working through an intermediary and that's the International Red Cross trying to get them to be the coordinators on the ground to make sure that you can get food, medicine, supplies into those areas and then people out of those areas, but we are working with two sides that have a lot of mutual distrust of one another.
And earlier today, the two of the Ukrainian negotiators held the press conference and I asked them about the mood in the room, because these are two sides that are at war. These are two sides that really hate each other at this moment and the answer that I got from the Ukrainians was that things were constructive. That was not good enough, though, for the some of the Ukrainian reporters in the room who were asking how they could possibly be seen to be shaking hands with killers.
And the Ukrainians said: Look, of course, I can go into those negotiations, call them killers, and that might satisfy the Ukrainian press for a moment, but it is not going to save lives and a lot of lives depend right now on Ukrainians and Russians actually working together to try to get something done -- Hala.
GORANI: But when we see images of these apartment blocks targeted by missiles, where we see clearly civilians losing their lives in these Russian attacks, and Russia continuing to claim that it is not targeting civilians and civilian infrastructure, it's very hard to believe that line coming from Moscow.
MCLEAN: So, take the example of Chernihiv. This is an area about 90 miles or so north of Kyiv. In that area, we saw those horrific images from yesterday afternoon of this missile strike, series of missile strikes on an apartment complex, a residential neighborhood of that city.
It is extremely graphic, it is extremely difficult to watch. Thirty- three people killed, 18 injured, those numbers are very likely to rise. And as you said, the Russians continuing to insist that look, they're only looking for military targets. But the local government in that area says there simply are none there.
This is a residential area, there are kindergartens there. There are schools there. And in fact, just about a thousand feet from where those strikes took place, a children's hospital -- Hala.
GORANI: All right, Scott McLean, thanks very much. He is reporting live in Lviv.
Well, the Presidents of the U.S. and Finland are meeting right now at the White House. The two men spoke to the press moments ago. Let's listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JOE BIDEN (D), PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: You know, we've been in regular touch for some time now, and coordinated a united transatlantic response to the Russian -- and holding Russia accountable for the unprovoked and unjustified aggression against Ukraine.
And we agreed, it is not only attack on Ukraine, it is an attack on the security of Europe and the global peace and stability. And Finland is a critical partner in the United States, a strong defense partner as well, a partner to NATO, especially in strengthening security of the Baltic Sea area, and we're committed to helping Ukraine defend itself and in support of the humanitarian needs of the Ukrainian people.
And we are coordinating on everything from sanctions to export controls, and broader global issues of energy security, climate, and human rights.
So, I want to thank you for making the trip, Mr. President, our bilateral relationship is vitally important. The United States and I think you see it the same way. And this is another opportunity for us to further strengthen that relationship.
So thank you for being here. Welcome to the Oval Office and the floor is yours.
SAULI NIINISTO, PRESIDENT OF FINLAND: Thank you, Mr. President. Thank you very much for the opportunity to have this discussion with you. We are really living very difficult times.
I want to thank you also for the leadership you have showed, we need it now. Our thoughts today, undoubtedly are with the Ukrainian people who are fighting bravely for the country, and we do our best to help.
Like you, Mr. President said, we have a long lasting partnership. Very good relations, and I hope that during this meeting and discussion, we can strengthen them more between the United States and Finland and the Nordic countries altogether.
Thank you, Mr. President.
BIDEN: You know, my predecessor who sat in this seat, President Obama used to say we'd be all right if we left everything to the Nordic countries, we would be fine.
NIINISTO: We usually don't start wars.
BIDEN: Well, thank you very much. Thank you all for being here.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
GORANI: The U.S. President hosting the Finnish President Niinisto visiting the White House today. [15:10:05]
You'll remember, obviously, that Finland is not a member of NATO. But this Russian aggression on Ukraine, maybe changing minds inside of Finland that really has historically remained neutral in the sense that it has not joined NATO, the military alliance, and it appears as though at least according to some polling, public opinion inside of Finland, maybe shifting a bit because of the concern that the Russian invasion of Ukraine is raising -- raising, not just concern, but the temperature in that neighborhood, among Baltic countries, among Nordic countries.
Sweden as well as one of those countries that is not a member of NATO, but where there has been some discussion that perhaps they could be pushed closer to NATO because of this Russian action.
Now, earlier, the U.S. Secretary of State Blinken met with European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen in Brussels, speaking to the media, Blinken gave an emotional description of a disturbing photograph that was shown to him during the meeting.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ANTONY BLINKEN, U.S. SECRETARY OF STATE: A father grieving over his dead child. Blood is still on the sheet, the 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.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
GORANI: Well, that picture, you can look it up. I tweeted, it is -- it is absolutely devastating.
The number of those individual tragedies increases with every hour. The village of Yakivlivka near the Russian border was hit by four Russian airstrikes earlier this week.
ITN's Dan Rivers reports on the aftermath and we want to caution you, Dan's report contains very graphic images.
DAN RIVERS, ITV NEWS CORRESPONDENT (voice over): At first glance, it appears a peaceful sanctuary, which is why those bombed out of Kharkiv sought refuge here.
But a closer look shows the village of Yakivlivka was anything, but safe. It was devastated by what locals say were four Russian airstrikes, and this was the result.
The body of Viktor lies in front of the home where he perished as firemen search for that of his wife, Oksana, still buried under its ruins.
RIVERS (on camera): What we're seeing here is the true face of this Russian invasion. President Putin doesn't seem to care for the civilians are caught by his shells and rockets. He is not liberating this country, he is destroying it.
RIVERS (voice over): There is no hearse for the bodies. One week on in this war has already robbed the dead of their dignity, and left the living seething with fury.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (Speaking in foreign language.)
RIVERS (voice over): "Putin, you should die," he says.
In Natasha's garden, they are sifting the rubble for anything worth salvaging. She was sheltering nine people in her home, including several young children. Their car had been shot as they ran the gauntlet from the city.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: (Speaking in foreign language.)
RIVERS (on camera): And two children were here.
RIVERS (voice over): He showed me where they were sleeping when the first missile hit. The shockwave ripped through every room, lacerating them all with glass.
The children escaped without major injury.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: (Speaking in foreign language.)
TEXT: It's so scary. War is very scary and there are all these mothers who don't understand, who don't have information ...
Their children are being killed. They are being used as cannon fodder. They are cannon fodder. They are cannon fodder.
We have to have peace. People have to be able to live and have ...
Where can we live? How can we live? It's very scary.
RIVERS: I'm sorry.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: (Speaking in foreign language.)
RIVERS (voice over): Across the street, a garden hewn apart by the impact, the blast so powerful, it overturned cars, the crater so deep, you could bury one inside it.
People are left sifting through what's left without the support of any aid agencies wondering what will come next.
(voice over): As the shelling continues to echo across this shattered community.
There is no obvious military targets here, just a village which tried to offer shelter to those in need. Dan Rivers, News at 10, Eastern Ukraine.
GORANI: Tough to watch.
Still to come tonight, new sanctions could be coming for Russia. We will tell you the next steps that the E.U. is discussing if Russia does not stop its invasion of Ukraine.
We'll be right back.
GORANI: So the European Union is readying more sanctions against Russia. The E.U. Commission President, Ursula von der Leyen says additional sanctions will be put in place if the Russian President Vladimir Putin does not stop the war.
She also announced that more than 40 countries are now partially or completely aligned with the sanctions Russia already faces.
There are signs that the existing sanctions have already made some of Russia's oligarchs reconsider the war in Ukraine. They haven't made Putin reconsider the war, but maybe the oligarchs have.
Lukoil, who's chairman and CEO, is one of the country's richest men has called for it to end as soon as possible, and two other of those oligarchs, a bank chairman and a billionaire who has been personally sanctioned by the U.S. before have also broken ranks with the Kremlin.
Now, a longtime critic of Russia's oligarchs and the Kremlin and a former Russian oligarch himself is speaking out.
Mikhail Khodorkovsky talked with Nina de Santos about where Russia and its elites stand now.
MIKHAIL KHODORKOVSKY, PUTIN CRITIC (through translator): I've been fighting him for almost 20 years, and 10 of those years in prison. I don't want to imagine what he is thinking about.
I'm absolutely convinced though that he is the enemy of humankind.
So this is a man who took the decision that he can kill people and bomb towns with some interest of his own. He is my personal enemy and I think he is the enemy of any normal human being.
NINA DOS SANTOS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: What frame of mind do you think he's in?
KHODORKOVSKY (through translator): Of course, we can see that in the clinical features of paranoia. We can see a man who is afraid of his own entourage, but doesn't mean to say that he's not dangerous anymore. [15:20:07]
DOS SANTOS: Has Vladimir Putin bitten off politically a lot more than he can chew at this point?
KHODORKOVSKY (through translator): I think Putin thought he would be met flowers in Ukraine and that he would convince people that he was there to liberate him from the so-called Nazis he keeps going on about.
Putin is firmly convinced that people themselves can't fight for freedom themselves. There must be some Americans forcing him to do it and so today, he is shocked.
DOS SANTOS: Do you think that we'll see Vladimir Putin and members of his entourage in The Hague facing war crimes?
KHODORKOVSKY (through translator): To me, by invading Ukraine, Putin became a criminal.
DOS SANTOS: Do you think that there's a sense, this is the end of Putin's time in office?
KHODORKOVSKY (through translator): I'm convinced that Putin hasn't got much time left, maybe a year, maybe three. But what he's done in Ukraine has significantly reduced his chances of remaining in power much longer.
Today, we are no longer thinking in terms of his being around another decade, as we thought a week ago.
DOS SANTOS: So these sanctions, seizing yachts, bank accounts, potentially expensive houses here in London, is this going to be enough?
KHODORKOVSKY (through translator): At the moment, I don't want to even think about the effect that the sanctions will have on Putin's inner circle in a year or two from now. That is totally irrelevant at the moment.
What is important now is the next couple of days or even hours and stopping the war. We have to deprive Putin's regime of any financial oxygen.
I'm never wanted sanctions against Russia, but now, we have to stop the war. There is no price too high to pay to stop this war. Why these sanctions only covering 70 percent of Russian banks? Any payments in favor of Russia are in the interest of Putin's regime and must be stopped.
For that, all Russian bank accounts, all accounts that belong to oligarchs, all of whom act as Putin's wallet, it must be really painful for all until the war stops.
DOS SANTOS: Do you think Vladimir Putin would press the nuclear button? Do you think he would use nuclear weapons? KHODORKOVSKY: Now, I see he can do anything. Today, we have chance to
stop him. We must do it.
I think he can cross any alliance, if we will -- if we will try to talk with him, we look like weak. We, you, we, Ukrainians must stop Putin now, 24 hours, 48 hours. It's that time. We must decide. We stop Putin now or we stop Putin later in the war between our countries.
DOS SANTOS: What's your message to Vladimir Putin right now?
KHODORKOVSKY: There is only one. Stop.
GORANI: Mikhail Khodorkovsky there. Well, Danny Glaser is a former Assistant Secretary at the U.S. Treasury Department. He joins me now from Washington, D.C. Thanks for being with us.
The sanctions are -- I mean, they are unprecedented in many cases, those imposed on Russia, but they are not stopping Putin. What's it going to take?
DANNY GLASER, FORMER ASSISTANT SECRETARY AT THE U.S. TREASURY DEPARTMENT: Well, first of all, thank you for having me here. I think it's important to remember when we talk about sanctions that these are part of a long-term pressure campaign that's intended to change the calculation of the Russian leadership.
Sanctions don't and never have turned around tanks. When tanks are rolling, only military opposition to those tanks are going to turn them around. That said, the sanctions that are being imposed are imposing catastrophic costs on the Russian government, on the Russian economy, on the Russian financial system.
I think these are costs that go far beyond what the Russian leadership had expected, and it is amazing how they've been increased over just the past week, really over a weekend, when days ago, we were talking about a measure, a package of measures that were identical to what the West did in response to Crimea.
And over the weekend, they were increased to the point that a G-20 country like Russia is being systematically disconnected from the international financial system and you have the United States and its allies in Europe, specifically saying that their goal is to crash the ruble, to not let the Russian Central Bank prop up the ruble.
This is a catastrophe for Russia.
GORANI: Sure. It is an economic catastrophe. Oligarchs are getting their yachts and their planes seized and their assets frozen and the rest of it, but you say sanctions don't turn around tanks, only military action does.
So what will you have in the end, a completely demolished Russian economy and Vladimir Putin still sending war planes over Ukraine? What is the point of them at this stage, because my understanding was they wanted Vladimir Putin to do a 180 and then they'd stop imposing more sanctions.
GLASER: Well, I think that they would stop imposing more sanctions if he did a 180. I think the goal of the sanctions is to give leverage is, to raise the costs, is to deter future action, and to put the West and the Ukrainians in a position where they could persuade the Russian leadership, I think over time, that they're going to need to turn this around.
You know, again, I don't want to compare --
GORANI: You say, over time, but you're seeing what this Air Force is -- this Russian Air Force is doing to civilian targets in southern Ukraine, and there is not much time here we can play with?
GLASER: Absolutely. It's an absolute tragedy what's going on in Ukraine. If the decision is going to be that we're going to rely exclusively on sanctions to oppose that, then we're going to have to -- we're going to have to understand that these measures are going to increase pressure on Russia over time.
And as has been pointed out a few minutes ago, we are increasing pressure on Russia right now, but again, if these sanctions -- sanctions are a vital part of what our overall policy needs to be with respect to Russia. The sanctions aren't a silver bullet, and sanctions alone are not going to be sufficient in order to prevent the conquest.
GORANI: So what else needs to happen? What else needs to happen?
GLASER: Well, I'm not a military expert. I could talk to you about how sanctions could be increased. And I think that over time, if the West stays united, if the international community stays united on these sanctions, it will raise the costs for the Russian leadership beyond what they are willing to bear.
I don't think that they counted on this level of sanctions. I think they counted on a level of sanctions, which are much more commensurate with what was being discussed last week.
So I do think that these measures are going to make the Russians recalculate.
In the meantime, there's a tragedy going on, people are dying in Ukraine. And, you know, and sanctions are not going to prevent that.
GORANI: And also energy isn't sanctioned. I mean, this is the biggest moneymaker for the country and it is intact, pretty much, right? Even the banks that handle these transactions haven't been kicked out of SWIFT.
GLASER: Well, so energy sales is the way that the Russians make hard currency, the Russian government makes hard currency. What the United States and the Europeans are trying to do is allow those sales to continue, however, apply sanctions against the Russian Central Bank that prevent it from actually using those funds, so they will be able to have hard currency, but they will not be able to do anything useful with it like buying things or most importantly, propping up the ruble.
That's the tightrope that the U.S. and Europe is trying to walk right now, continuing to purchase energy, paying for that energy, but not allowing those funds to be actually usefully used by the Russian government.
It's a very clever -- it's a very clever strategy, and I think it may actually work. But you are correct, the step in all of this would be to actually start decreasing the amount that's been purchased of the energy.
GORANI: Danny Glaser, thanks so much. Pleasure talking to you. Danny is in Washington.
And still to come tonight, Odessa, or we should say was a popular vacation city in southern Ukraine and now its residents are pulling out all the stops to defend it from invaders, next.
GORANI: So, Russia is laying siege to southern Ukraine, large parts of southern Ukraine working to capture the key strategic area along the Black Sea. So far, they're pressing on Mariupol and fighting for control of other cities in the region. Russian control of those areas could create a route to Odessa which you see there on the map. That is Ukraine's third largest city and an important seaport.
But residents in Odessa are not waiting around for that to happen. They are working to shore up their defenses to keep the Russian invaders out. Our Nick Paton Walsh is in Odessa this evening for us with more. Nick?
NICK PATON WALSH, CNN INTERNATIONAL SECURITY EDITOR: Hala, we saw part of a number of moves we've seen across the city over the past days. How local residents are pulling together to do what they can specifically down sort of surreal Saturday Yacht Club that would normally be a vacation spot for rich Russians, other Ukrainians. The sands there are being dug out by an excavator and then a variety of civilians just giving up their time to fill up sandbags forming a human chain to throw them onto trucks and then bring them into here.
The city center where they're forming barricades, the likes of which locals haven't -- say haven't been in place, particularly on the opera house here on Odessa since the 1940s when the city as a Soviet city fought off the Nazis. Odessa is deeply on edge concerned about the possibility of an advance from Russian forces inside the country, possibly even Russian, "Peacekeepers" that are in a breakaway region of Moldova to their West and also the greater fear about an amphibious assault.
That fear got a bit more currency yesterday when an Estonian flag cargo ship was sunk. Ukrainian officials say it was shelled by Russian forces that were trying to use it as a civilian shield to launch some kind of nefarious landing. But Hala, we've seen a pattern across the Black Sea Coast here. Starting out in the east in Kherson where we saw the fierce fighting, now turning into a sort of clumsy Russian occupation.
But today began to build what locals call to me the kind of fake narrative. We've seen social media video of aid truck turning up in the central square there. Part of this bid to sort of let Russia film it being the solution to its own humanitarian catastrophe, that which its own invasion has caused. And these videos show that aid truck coming into the town and then the Russian camera man filming locals going up to these trucks.
And frankly, hostile reaction from the locals who don't want this aid. It's what we've seen in Crimea in 2014, in Donbas in 2015. And it's been depressing to see that sort of clumsy playbook reverse where rather than it being used to justify military action, to have it sort of after military action used to justify a broader occupation.
Some different news though for the Ukrainian military there -- key official in the Mykolaiv region says that around the main port city of Mykolaiv they have managed to push the Russian forces out of its center to the outskirts.
Which seems to have changed some of the balance around that town that's been under heavy bombardment for the past days. But all eyes, Hala, on Odessa now. Third largest city key port, and deeply on edge as to whether Russia has a main move to play a game said at some point in the days ahead, Hala.
GORANI: All right. Nick Paton Walsh, thanks so much. A week into this conflict. Russia's military strategy in Ukraine is becoming just a bit clearer. While the invasion seems to have stalled in the north, the Russians are making headway in the south. You see it there on the map taking the city of Kherson, bombarding the key port city of Mariupol, besieging it. Infrastructure and residential areas have been targets as the U.S. Secretary of State explained last hour.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ANTONY BLINKEN, UNITED STATES SECRETARY OF STATE: 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 cities residents are living without water, without electricity, without heat. Bridges to the city have been destroyed. Women, children growing ranks 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."
(END VIDEO CLIP)
GORANI: Retired four-star army -- a U.S. Army General and former Supreme Allied Commander in Europe, Wesley Clark. He's a CNN military analyst. And he joins me now. Thanks for being with us. So, I spoke with a member of Parliament Lesia Vasylenko. She's in Kiev. And she said, you know, the sanctions are not doing it. We are basically getting demolished from the skies. We need to prevent Russian fighter jets from bombing us.
What are the options that Western and NATO allies have to do this?
WESLEY CLARK, CNN MILITARY ANALYST: Well, the first thing is we get more anti-aircraft missiles in. Now those Javelin missiles that are good against tanks, you need Stinger anti-aircraft missiles against aircraft. Some of those have been supplied. More need to be supplied. You have to put in a lot more anti-aircraft missiles than there are aircraft coming after you. So got to keep that supply line open and move them in.
Second thing that needs to be done is, spare parts for whatever aircraft are flying for the Ukrainian Air Force. And they need to be brought in. The third thing is I think we have to look realistically about this situation, Hala. Ukraine is an independent state, and we recognize it legally. If it asks for assistance and asked us to come across its borders, we have every right to do so, whether by ground or air.
Now the first thing that needs to be done is there needs to be humanitarian corridors put in on the ground, and they're going to be landing sites for humanitarian airlift coming in. That airspace does not belong to Russia. Russia is an invader. So, we need to be able to put aircraft in there. And if the Russians tried to attack our aircraft, then that's their problem, and we'll make it their problem. So, I think you have to think realistically about.
GORANI: I was going to say that creates a potential scenario in which you have a U.S. war plane, taking down a Russian fighter jet or a French war plane doing the same to it. Wouldn't that really then open up a very dangerous potential scenario between nuclear armed nations? I think that's fundamentally what the concern is here.
CLARK: I think you have to look at it the opposite way. This is Russia, who is the aggressor. Russia has crossed international borders, and we have every right legally to be there if Ukraine invites us. We have every right in a humanitarian sense to provide assistance that can be coordinated through the United Nations. Russia has no right to be there, none whatsoever, if they attempt to interfere with us that's on them.
And we have certainly all the means that are required. Now, Mr. Putin doesn't respect these matters now, why would he respect it later? So, I think, Hala, this is a (INAUDIBLE) moment. We know from history that if you appease an aggressor, his appetite grows. Mr. Putin thinks he's got us afloat and that we can't do anything right now. But he's wrong. We have to think about the correct way, not get lost in the terminologies of NATO, and no-fly zones.
NATO is a defensive alliance. It's not an -- alliance and it shouldn't be. No-fly zone is a peacekeeping concept. It requires us to do things that -- that's not what this is about.
This is about providing assistance to a neighbor that's in trouble. It's like this. If your neighbor's house was on fire, you can call the fire department. But does that mean you shouldn't do anything to help him until the fire department arrives? Absolutely not. Our neighbors of Ukraine should be something to help.
GORANI: I want to ask you about how much more weaponry you think the Ukrainians need to confront some of these fighter jets that have been clearly dropping bombs on civilian infrastructure. How much war is needed here? Because they -- the all the Ukrainians I've spoken with have said they don't have enough. They need more.
CLARK: Yes. We don't -- I don't know where I'm standing right now how much. Is it a thousand more Stingers? Is it 10,000 Stingers? Do we need to bring them in by air? Can we drive them in by ground? Do they have to be brought in by mule train through the Carpathian Mountains? I mean, these are technical questions that the experts have to answer. But at the strategic level, we have to see this problem the right way.
Russia is an aggressive state, it's violated international law. People are raising it as a war criminal state. Mr. Putin is the head. He's the chief, likely war criminal at this stage. Why should we defer to him because he's there? It's not his airspace and the motion of it is not even (INAUDIBLE) do you know what I'm saying?
GORANI: I think it's because of the -- I know, I understand what you're saying. I think there's this notion that the madman will do mad things. Right? So, France's Emmanuel Macron for instance, who spoken on the phone with Putin many times. He had an hour and a half long conversation a couple of days ago. Even he's saying he's, "Extremely concerned by nuclear safety." And he's calling for an emergency U.N. Security Council meeting.
There. Is that kind of always just hovering above us, that concern that could it really escalate to a nuclear disaster that would take out tens of thousands of people.
CLARK: Yes. And that is a concern. And we have to work against that in multiple ways. And I would encourage top leaders like President Macron did to call Mr. Putin and tell him back off in no uncertain terms. But if he is determined to oppress and conquer Ukraine, we have to be equally determined to assist it. It's just -- it's the most important step right now to preserve the rules based international order.
We can't let it slide away. President Biden has said President -- Secretary Lincoln has said we're going to do everything to support it. Let's do it. But you got to think about it the right way. Not a no-fly zone, or war with Russia. This is an independent state. It's requesting our assistance. We've always done this in the past. Let's do it.
GORANI: General Wesley Clark, thank you very much for joining us this evening. Appreciate it.
CLARK: Thank you. GORANI: A lot more to come tonight. The U.N. says millions of people might end up leaving Ukraine. Hundreds of thousands of refugees have already crossed into Poland. We will be live at the border.
GORANI: Well, many Ukrainians are trying to get out of Kiev. A massive Russian military convoy is now within 24 kilometers of the Capitol, and some believe this is their last chance to get out. The U.N. says this word could drive 10 million people from their homes. That includes four million people who may seek refuge in neighboring countries. And that's on top of the million people who've already left Ukraine in just the last week.
About half of them are children according to UNICEF. It warns that Europe could be facing its largest refugee crisis since World War II. Sara Sidner is standing by in Poland, just across the border with Ukraine. What are you seeing Sara?
SARA SIDNER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: We are seeing a lot of children, mostly women and children. And so, those numbers seem to be exactly what we are witnessing here. We are seeing cars and buses filled with people. People are taking trains, they're also able to walk across the border. We've seen quite a few very small children with their -- with their mothers walking across this border in frigid temperatures.
We should also mention that over the past 48 hours, there were a lot of complaints by black and brown people, mostly people who are from countries like Cameroon, countries like Nigeria, India, Afghanistan, who felt that they were being stopped from going over the border. And indeed, that is the vast majority of the huge backup. Those people sitting and waiting to go across the border and being kept from being able to cross. That has changed.
But we asked the European Commission on crisis management, one of the commissioners came to this border and talked a little bit about the issue of discrimination. Here's what he said. And here's how we responded to what he said after speaking ourselves to some of the people who are stuck and left behind.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JANEZ LENARCIC, EUROPEAN COMMISSIONERS FOR CRISIS MANAGEMENT: Members of European Parliament for Poland assured us it is a fake news. That this is not true. And honestly, we have not been able to corroborate that. Those kind --
SIDNER: I have corroborated that. I have talked to Africans and Indians who have both said -- they said that they were being pushed off trains that they were being left behind. These are women and children.
LENARCIC: Any discrimination, any discrimination among people who are fleeing the conflict on the basis of any personal characteristic, including citizenship or skin color is completely unacceptable.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SIDNER: So, you heard him first say that this sounds like fake news. And then he said this is unacceptable. We now know that the E.U. has noticed that that was an issue at one point. But they have taken great pains to try and deal with that issue. We know that we are not seeing the same kind of numbers of people who have been stuck, who haven't been able to get over the border or to leave further into other places of Europe or Poland.
I can also tell you that there is an interesting reversal of those coming out. You -- we are still seeing people go in. The people that we're seeing go in about a dozen men so far have gone into Ukraine from other nations. They are French Canadians, they are people from the U.K., they are people from America. They say they are going in to fight with Ukraine against Russia. Hala?
GORANI: All right. Sara Sidner, thanks very much at the border. Now the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies is appealing for more than $100 million dollars to help some of the millions of Ukrainians in need right now. The group Secretary General Jagan Chapagain joins me now live from Warsaw. Thanks for being with us. What are their primary needs because we see all these just absolutely just helpless people with small children, sometimes with babies crossing the border. Where do they go? How are they being taken care of right now?
JAGAN CHAPAGAIN, SECRETARY GENERAL, INTERNATIONAL FEDERATION OF RED CROSS AND RED CRESCENT SOCIETIES: You are absolutely right. And the millions of people are in the latest statistics we have. It's around 18 million people in Ukraine have been directly affected by the -- by the events there.
And so far around 1.2 million people have crossed the borders to different countries. And of course, Poland being the country which has received the most number of people. So -- and you are absolutely right. It's mostly women and children who are crossing the border. Those people who are arriving here, of course, they are -- they are received in the reception center.
And once that is done, they are then sent to the hosting families, or the places that authorities have organized for them to be accommodated. So, they are actually sent to different parts of -- different parts of the country. And the -- and the Red Cross volunteers are actually supporting authorities in that effort.
GORANI: And --
GORANI: Oh, sorry, I thought -- I thought you were done with that thought. But I just -- I just actually wanted to ask you, obviously, this is a short-term solution. It's not a long-term solution. We've seen with refugee populations in the Middle East, for instance, where for years, they struggle. They can't go back home, and then they struggle to find adequate shelter and schooling and medical care and the rest of it.
What could the plan be for this many Ukrainians in neighboring countries longer term if the war drags out?
CHAPAGAIN: Absolutely. And I think there are a number of experiences also from other parts of the world, how to actually handle this type of situation. So, it will be extremely important for the -- for the hosting countries to make provision so that people can be actually be integrated in the -- in the society. It's very important that the citizens are allowed to go to the school. It's very important that the families are allowed to get to the existing health systems.
And in the meantime, organizations like ourselves can actually help those population actually survive in the beginning and settle in and actually be the part of the system. If we are to keep this population in a camps or separate settlements, it will be extremely difficult to sustain those type of settlements in the -- in the -- in the long run. So, it will be very, very important for the hosting countries to actually offer them the facilities that is available to the local population.
GORANI: Yes. So this $109 million you're appealing for, what would it be -- what would it be used for?
CHAPAGAIN: This has a portion to support, of course, some of the needs within Ukraine and do that, of course, the immediate needs of the food, water and the medicines. A majority of the funding is actually going to the neighboring countries which are receiving now, you know, 1.2 million refugees, which, of course, is expected to grow significantly in coming days. And here, the -- our status is actually to get cash into people's hands.
So, once people get cash, they actually use it to buy stuff which are needed the most. Some might -- some might buy cloth, some might buy medicines, some might buy milk. So, it's really we want to support the people with cash grants so that they can use the money in the best way they see fit. That's really the strategy we are working on. And part of the studies will also be to support the hosting families.
You know, a lot of the families are hosting some of the Ukrainian population that are moving to these countries. In the long run there will also be a huge (INAUDIBLE) on the host families. So, we will also like to support the host families with the -- with the cash grant.
GORANI: Yes, absolutely. They've been so generous. Some of the people have driven all the way across their country just to provide shelter or free room to a family running from this horrible conflict. Thank you so much, Jagan Chapagain. The Secretary General of the Red Cross. We'll have more on the breaking news from Ukraine after this.
GORANI: A reminder of our top stories tonight. Russian forces attack to the western outskirts of Kiev, hitting a business center and an apparent missile strike, northwest of the capital. Officials say some 100 people may still be trapped in the wreckage of this apartment building.
Russian troops have taken control of a nuclear power plant in southern Ukraine after fierce fighting. Western leaders are condemning the move saying it could have triggered a catastrophe.
Now the E.U. is threatening more sanctions if Russia doesn't stop the war. The President of the European Commission Ursula von der Leyen said the West is ready to make, "Putin pay a price for his war." Russian and Ukrainian negotiators have agreed to provide humanitarian corridors for people trying to escape the fighting. We haven't seen those materialize. At the borders there are new reports about foreigners facing unequal treatment as they try to leave Ukraine.
Thanks for watching tonight. Stay with CNN. "THE LEAD" with Jake Tapper is next.