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Russia Makes Strategic Gains As It Squeezes Southern Ukraine; Zelensky As Russia Attacks, The End Of The World Has Arrived; Biden Sanctions Putin's Cronies And Their Family Members; Biden Sanctions "Putin's Cronies And Their Family Members;" Jury Acquits Ex-Officer On All Three Counts Of Felony Wanton Endangerment In Botched Raid That Left Breonna Taylor Dead. Aired 6-7p ET

Aired March 03, 2022 - 18:00   ET




JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: All right. Brynn Gingras, thank you so much.

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Our coverage continues now with Wolf Blitzer in THE SITUATION ROOM. I'll see you tomorrow.

WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: Happening now, breaking news. Russia expands its brutal war in Ukraine with aggressive new attacks on key cities. Kremlin forces making strategic gains at the southern coast, as Vladimir Putin vows to achieve his goals, and I am quoting him, no matter what.

Residential areas are increasingly the target of Russia's bombardment. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky is making another powerful plea for help, saying, and I am quoting him, the end of the world has arrived.

As always, CNN is on the frontlines and in other key locations bringing new global coverage as Russia's war now enters its second week.

We want to welcome our viewers here in the United States and around the world. I am Wolf Blitzer and you are in The Situation Room.

This hour, as Ukrainians face another overnight assault, we are hearing desperate accounts of conditions in the south. That's where Russian forces are putting the squeeze on key port cities, and they are gaining ground.

CNN's Jim Sciutto is in Ukraine covering all the breaking news for us. Jim, there are dire new warnings about this war. The warnings being that the war is about to get worse. What can you tell us about the situation tonight? JIM SCIUTTO, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Indeed, you can say it's already getting worse, Wolf. Days ago, U.S. intelligence assessed that as Russia's initial rapid invasion plan with a rapid invasion plan with a rapid capitulation of Ukrainian forces did not pan out, that Russia's advance would become more brutal, more ruthless, with more powerful weapons and less regard for innocent civilian life. And that's what we are seeing pan out in a number of cities around Ukraine. And, sadly, as that has happened, Russian forces have advanced further.


SCIUTTO (voice over): Russian forces on the march, closing in on cities in Southern Ukraine. The mayor of Kherson says his city is now under Russian control. Ukrainian forces have left, though a senior U.S. defense official says there is still fighting there. Russian forces have also surrounded the city of Mariupol. The deputy mayor tells CNN it has lost water and power.

DEPUTY MAYOR SERGEI ORLOV, MARIUPO, UKRAINE: We have continuous shelling for 26 hours. 26 hours, they are destroying our city.

SCIUTTO: In the north, U.S. says Russian forces are making slower but still devastating progress. The Russian military flattened a residential area near Kyiv and houses in the town of Jakovlinka (ph). It also destroyed an oil depot near Chernihiv, just north of the capital. In Kharkiv, in the northeast, Russian barrages struck at least three schools. The U.S. says Russian forces are staging just outside the city now.

The Ukrainian military is still fighting. They claim to have hit the miles-long convoy that had stalled approaching Kyiv from the north.

DMYTRO BILOTSERKOVETS, ADVISER TO KYIV MAYOR: You need to understand we are a nation of ants, everybody knows what to do. That is why Putin could not win. We will win.

SCIUTTO: Ukraine also claims its forces have destroyed 20 Russian military vehicles near the Gostomel airbase. As the fighting rages, Ukrainian and Russian negotiators met for a second round of talks today in Belarus. As Ukrainian negotiator tweeted that Ukraine's needs are not yet achieved, President Zelensky appealed for direct talks with Putin.

VOLODYMYR ZELENSKY, UKRAINE PRESIDENT: I think I have to talk with Putin. The world has to talk with Putin because there are no any other ways to stop this war. That's why I have to.

SCIUTTO: Zelensky continued with this message for Putin. I don't bite. Sit down with me and talk. What are you afraid of? Putin, however, says his invasion will go on.

VLADIMIR PUTIN, RUSSIA PRESIDENT: The special military operation in Ukraine is going according to plan, in strict accordance with the schedule. All tasks are being successfully carried out.

JOE BIDEN, U.S. PRESIDENT: And the goal was to maximize impact on Putin and Russia.

SCIUTTO: Today, the Biden administration announced new sanctions on Russian oligarchs and their families, part of an effort to keep up the economic pressure on Russia. Direct U.S. military intervention remains off the table. That is not stopped Zelensky from asking for the U.S. and NATO to impose a no-fly zone.

ZELENSKY: If you can't provide a no-fly zone right now, then tell us when.


If you can't give Ukrainians a date to when, how long do you need? How many people should be blown up?


SCIUTTO (on camera): We learned today that the U.S. and Russian militaries have established a de-confliction line, you can call it a hotline, to allow communication between the two forces if U.S. or NATO forces get close to Russian forces to prevent, well, accidental exchanges of fire.

Even though there is no-fly zone, there are no U.S. or NATO war planes flying over Ukrainian territory, there are U.S. bases very close to Ukraine, there are ships nearby, planes in the air. The concern is if they get too close, there could be an escalation. So, they are at least, Wolf, communicating one step to keep this from developing into a broader war.

BLITZER: Jim Sciutto reporting live for us from Lviv in Ukraine. Stay safe over there, Jim. We will get back to you.

I want to go to Ukrainian capital right now, where a full week of attacks by the Russians is clearly taking a toll.

Our Chief International Correspondent, Clarissa Ward is on the scene for us. Clarissa, you visited Ukraine's largest children's hospital that was forced to actually move kids into the basement as the bombing from the Russians closed in. Tell us what you saw.

CLARISSA WARD, CNN CHIEF INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: So, Wolf, one week ago, this was a state of the art children's hospital, the largest in the country. Now, it's a very different story. When we visited, we found ten patients, the sickest children who are in this hospital, who have now been moved into a hallway in a basement for their treatment because it simply wasn't possible to keep moving them up and down, up and down every time there were air raid sirens or explosions.

And so these children are now -- some of them sleeping on the floor. They are getting the best care that the doctors can give them but it's clearly not a sustainable situation, and it is incredibly stressful and painful and frightening for the parents of these children.

We talked to one woman's, Sonya (ph), her three-month-old daughter Milena (ph) has a brain tumor. Take a listen to what she told us. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

WARD: Is this your daughter?

On the floor in one corner, we meet Sonya (ph) and her three-month-old daughter Milena (ph). Milena (ph) has a brain tumor. It is a terrifying situation. We must stay underground and we don't know how long for, she says. I am alone here at the hospital. And my husband is at home with my other kid. For seven nights, she has been sleeping on this floor as the bombing gets closer.

She is saying that the stress of the situation has meant that her milk is dried up so she's now using formula for her daughter.


WARD: And the doctors who are taking care of them are so brave, themselves, Wolf, they have said they are not going to leave that hospital. That they will stay there in oh no matter how heavy the fighting gets. But they are also frustrated and very challenged as well. We spoke to the neurosurgeon there Dr. Dmytro Ishchenko. He is continuing to try to our offer whatever treatment he can but he's very limited in terms of what he can realistically offer at the moment, especially in those conditions. Have a listen to what he told us.


DR. DMYTRO ISHCHENKO, NEUROSURGEON: It is really very challenging and really tough because we don't have good conditions for our patients.

WARD: Is this dangerous for them, this situation?

ISHCHENKO: Yes. And not only because we have a war, this condition is not suitable with brain surgeries.


WARD: We saw another 11-year-old boy who had part of a brain tumor removed. He had huge sutures in his head. They hadn't been taken out yet because there simply -- the fear is that the conditions are not sanitary enough and they are worried about the risk of infection.

But all of this, I think, painting a picture for you, Wolf, of the many secondary, tertiary effects that this war is happening and meanwhile the fighting is getting ever closer to the center, to the capital here. We hear it almost every night.

Tonight, we heard a large explosion just about half an hour ago. But throughout the afternoon and evening, there's been a steady stream of strikes and we have seen the images, horrifying, from just the outskirts of Kyiv, some 20 miles away, particularly in the northwestern suburb of Borodyanka, truly horrifying stuff for all the people living here and particularly for those small, vulnerable children and their desperate parents. This is a petrifying time with far-reaching consequences, Wolf. BLITZER: Yes, so heartbreaking, indeed, and for what, Ukraine represented absolutely no threat to Russia and look what the Russians are doing right now, especially to those women and children.


Clarissa Ward, be careful over there in Kyiv. We will get back to you as well.

Right now, I want to get the U.S. military's newest assessment of the Russia-Ukraine war. We are joined by the Pentagon press secretary, John Kirby. John, thanks very much for joining us.

Let me get your analysis on where things overall stand tonight. And I want to do that. But before we do that, has the first major Ukrainian city now fallen to Russia based on the U.S. assessment? Does Russia control Kherson, for example?

JOHN KIRBY, PENTAGON PRESS SECRETARY: Yes. Certainly, the indications are that they do, Wolf. I want to be careful we don't have eyes on the ground so we can't say with certainty but we have no reason to doubt the reports coming out of there, in fact, by the Ukrainians themselves that the Russians are in Kherson.

Earlier today, our assessment was that it was still being fought over. We are not in a position to confirm specifically but we certainly do see those reports and have no reason to doubt them at this point.

BLITZER: As a military man, you know there is a difference between taking ground and actually controlling ground, especially amid civilian resistance. How will the U.S. determine who actually controls what is going on?

KIRBY: Well, you know, it's really not going to be something that the U.S. will determine. It's really something that the Ukrainians will determine. And they are fighting bravely in the streets and outside their cities. They are fighting very creatively.

And I think, you know, it is a mark of their courage and their skill that here we are a week into this operation and the only city that we can even talk about remotely being controlled or being taken by the Russians is that southern town of Kherson. They still have not really made any appreciable progress towards Kyiv, although it is certainly coming under violent bombardment. Kharkiv as well, a lot of fighting there.

So, they have not made the progress that we believe they had intended to make by this point in their -- in their war.

BLITZER: What is the latest, John, that you can tell us about the stalled Russian military convoy that stretches for miles and miles and miles just outside of Kyiv, the Ukrainian capital? How much longer can the Ukrainian capital actually hold out?

KIRBY: I want to be careful here that we don't speculate about timelines. I tell you Ukrainians are fighting hard for that city and they have done a good job keeping the main advance by the Russians outside of it. As of this morning, we still assessed that advance of the Russian forces were still about 25 kilometers from the city's center. But they are trying to close in and they are still close enough as we have seen with devastating effect. They are still close enough to bombard it with missiles and rocket strikes, and that is happening.

So, they are still outside the city, but we still believe that their intent is to try to encircle Kyiv and ultimately occupy it.

BLITZER: The Russian president, Vladimir Putin, today, said the war in Ukraine, and I am quoting him now, is going according to plan. How does that line up with the setbacks that you are seeing, for example, among Russian troops?

KIRBY: Well again, we don't have perfect visibility into Mr. Putin's planning but our assessment is that the Russians have been flummoxed. They have been frustrated. They have been set back. They have been slowed by a stiff and determined Ukrainian resistance. We also believe that they have stumbled themselves, that they have conducted missteps. They are having logistical and sustainment problems, they're running out of fuel, running out of food for some of their soldiers, that they have been surprised by the manner in which and the effectiveness with which the Ukrainians have been defending their cities and their people.

BLITZER: The Ukrainian president, Volodymyr Zelensky, implored President Biden and the west, for that matter, NATO allies, to establish a no-fly zone over Ukraine. Watch this.


ZELENSKY: If you can't provide a no-fly zone right now, then tell us when? If you can't give Ukrainians a date when, how long do you need? How many people should be blown up? How many arms and legs and heads? How many should be severed so you understand? I will go and I will count them and we will wait until we have a sufficient number.


BLITZER: What do you say to that plea?

KIRBY: Well, First of all, we applaud Mr. Zelensky's courage and his leadership under fire quite literally. I mean, he has been a brave and effective leader. He still has command and control over his forces. I would say, look, the thing act a no-fly zone is it has to be enforced, a key word being forced. And there is no way to do that without putting U.S. pilots right into confrontation with Russian pilots.

And that escalates this conflict to a level that President Biden is simply not willing to do, and he is right, because it could not only be bad for our national security and the security of Europe, in general, it's not going to make anything better or easier in Ukraine. It is only going to make things more bloody and more dangerous. The president is right, U.S. troops are not going to be fighting Ukraine because we don't want to see this escalate. This should not become a war between the United States and Russia.

What we are doing -- so that's what we are not doing, and I get that. What we are doing, Wolf, is continuing to look for ways to improve the security assistance and expedite the security assistance that the Ukrainians are getting so that they can better defend themselves in their country.


BLITZER: What about an iron dome system, anti-missile system like the Israelis have?

KIRBY: Look, again, we aren't going to be fight inning Ukraine. We believe that escalating this conflict only makes it more dangerous for the people of Ukraine. We are going to continue to provide them with security assistance so that they can defend themselves and we are -- we are in communication with them about what that looks like and how that goes. We are accelerating and expediting those shipments as we best we can.

And here is the thing, Wolf, it's not just the United States. Other nations are doing it as well. President Biden has really put a premium on our alliances and our partnerships, and because of or leadership and his leadership, we have been able to marshal the resources of other countries as well to get things in Ukraine as fast as possible.

BLITZER: The U.S. says they have seen Russia move banned cluster bombs, vacuum bombs into Ukraine. Can you confirm if those weapons have actually been used by Russia against civilian targets, which would be a -- which would be a crime?

KIRBY: No, we cannot confirm those reports. We have seen them but we don't have enough fidelity of information to be able to confirm that. Obviously, that would be deeply concerning and you are right, unlawful for them to use those in those environments. We know they have certain systems capable of delivering some of these weapons but we haven't been able to confirm they have actually been used or, in fact, that they are actually inside Ukraine right now.

BLITZER: All right. John Kirby from the Pentagon, thank you very much. We will continue this conversation.

And there is more breaking news we are following next. We are going live to Moscow for the latest on the thousands of Russians arrested for simply protesting the invasion of Ukraine. Is Vladimir Putin losing support for his war at home?



BLITZER: There is more of our breaking news in the Russian war on Ukraine, the White House announcing today new sanctions on Russian President Putin's cronies and family members.

Let's go to Senior White House Correspondent Phil Mattingly, got details for us. Phil, the White House, what, wants to keep pressure on Putin. Give us the latest.

PHIL MATTINGLY, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Wolf. The sweeping and coordinated sanctions have been the central, focal point of the U.S. and its allies' response to Russia's invasion up to this point and President Biden made clear today that effort is only going to continue to expand. Take a listen.


JOE BIDEN, U.S. PRESIDENT: Today, I am announcing that we are adding dozens of names to the list including one of Russia's wealthiest billionaires. And I am banning travel to America by -- by more than 50 Russian oligarchs, their families and their close associates.


MATTINGLY: Now, Wolf, this is the latest in a series of rounds that really kind of underscores the multilayered approach the U.S. and its allies are taking. They have targeted the Russian central bank, number of its largest financial institutions, state-owned enterprises but also going after key individuals, today, slapping sanctions on eight of the country's wealthiest individuals, also hitting a number of companies and information entities as well and perhaps most importantly, targeting their family members.

And this is done as part of a new strategy to try and block different pathways that oligarchs and Russian officials have used in the past to transfer their funds to try and avoid sanctions. Now, one of those individuals targeted, Alisher Usmanov, is one of the richest Russians, more than $19 billion in assets and also targeted along with his personal property is his mega yacht, which is currently docked Hamburg, as well as his plane, which is one of the largest private planes in existence.

This goes to a pathway that both the U.S., the E.U., but also the U.K., Canada, and others are taking to try and target those closest to President Putin, acknowledging that this is not necessarily going to shift his behavior entirely, but as you ramp up the pressure on those around him, those who are critical to almost the Russian economic system as a whole, that perhaps that pinch will be felt and at least start to change or at least give President Putin reasons to consider negotiations, Wolf.

BLITZER: Phil Mattingly reporting from the White House, thank you very much.

Let's go to Moscow right now. CNN Contributor for Russian Affairs Jill Dougherty is standing by. She is formerly CNN's Moscow Bureau Chief.

Jill, has Putin lost support for this war at home?

JILL DOUGHERTY, CNN CONTRIBUTOR, RUSSIAN AFFAIRS: You know, it's hard to say whether he has lost support because, obviously, he is continuing doing what he wants to do, but you can definitely say that those protests are continuing literally on a daily basis. There were more today. I think we have some video to show you from the city of Yekaterinburg. These are, you know, Moscow, St. Petersburg and some of the bigger cities.

And this -- actually, this is from St. Petersburg, kind of an older woman being taken off by the police. There have been arrests. The total so far is about 8,000 and counting that have been arrested since the beginning.

And then, also, the information wars continuing, the two independent outlets, T.V. Rain and Echo Moscow Radio, were blocked and now they both shut down today, in fact and hopefully, they say, coming back online. But tomorrow, which is Friday, the Duma, the parliament, will be considering a new law that would finish fake, as they say, using the word fake information about the military with up to 15 years in prison.

And then, finally, President Putin in a meeting with his security council, which sounded to me, Wolf, kind of Soviet. He said the war is going according to plan. That is kind of an old expression, poplano (ph). And he also called the members comrades and said his intent on de-Nazifying Ukraine.

And that goes along with another conversation between French President Macron and Mr. Putin, in which the source from the Elysee Palace came out and said that after that meeting, after that discussion, President Macron was -- the expectation is the worst is yet to come, and that President Putin is intent on taking over the entire country of Ukraine.



BLITZER: Very disturbing. It looks like it is getting worse and worse. Jill Dougherty in Moscow, thank you.

Coming up, we are going to have live reports from two countries accepting refugees right now from Ukraine. The crisis clearly is worsening right now after more than a million people have fled Ukraine, they fled for their lives.



BLITZER: As Russia intensifies its attack, Ukrainians are escaping their war-torn country in huge numbers. The United Nations now says more than a million -- 1 million -- people have fled.

CNN's Sara Sidner and CNN's Ivan Watson, they are both standing by in two different countries dealing with this enormous flood of refugees. Let's go to Sara first. She's in Poland.

Sara, many of these refugees are mothers and young children, and I know you have been talking to some of them.

SARA SIDNER, CNN SENIOR NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes. We are in Przemsyl, Poland. This is the train station where most of the refugees were coming by train will first get off the train and then try to find their way to other parts of Europe or other parts of Poland.

I do want to give you just a look at the scene because it is so incredibly busy throughout the entire day and night. These are families who have come here to try and find refuge from war. And many of them have come, as you will hear in just a few moments, with nothing but the clothes on their back.


SIDNER (voice over): A Ukrainian family's mad rush to safety, parents' desperate attempt to shield their two children from the terror only war can bring. The family lives just outside of Kyiv. The explosions rattled their bones.

We fell to the ground. We were shielding our children with our bodies. We got so scared. This is beyond words. We ran. We just ran. But the adults will shed no tears here. They have made a pact. Smile and pretend everything is okay even when they had to take the children to a shelter as bombs exploded.

How are you still smiling?

Why am I still smiling? Because it helps us stay alive. My youngest daughter was crying all night long and she asked me why are you laughing, mom? Why are you joking? And I told her, it keeps us alive and keeps us mentally strong. We saw that strength on display by hundreds of mothers traveling alone with their children across the border into Poland. Their husbands left behind to fight.

But not everyone at the Medyka border crossing is coming into Poland. We witness men going the other way to join the fight in Ukraine.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I am Ukrainian going to fight against Russians. They shall not pass.

SIDNER: But for a million other Ukrainians, fleeing is the best option to save themselves and their children. For this family, the husband, though, remains with them even though Ukraine's government has demanded men of his age must stay put. He has been allowed out. His duty is to his family, he says. He is the only breadwinner because his wife's duty is to the children, who struggle with disabilities.

At the train station, their youngest smiles and clutches her most prized possessions, her old fuzzy tiger and a new keepsake, a handful of gravel from who are homeland.


SIDNER (on camera): That little girl took a handful of gravel from her homeland so that she could remember what it felt like to be in Ukraine. All of these families are hoping that they can go back home soon, but when they watch what is happening, and see the devastation, they are just here very unsure about what their future holds. Wolf?

BLITZER: Yes. More than a million people already have fled, simply to save their lives, and as you point out, mostly women and children. Sara Sidner on the border in Poland for us, thank you.

Let's go to Ivan Watson right now. He's in Hungary, also near the border with Ukraine. Ivan, so what are Ukrainian refugees finding when they arrive where you are?

IVAN WATSON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: They're crossing at several border crossings into Hungary, which is taking about 12 percent of the refugees, whereas Poland has more than 50 percent, and it is similar. Women and children at one border crossing, I was at today, either arrive in cars or on foot, and coming in being welcomed by hung Hungarian officials and aid organizations.

And as you travel through the little border towns here and villages, it is striking. I see Ukrainian mothers and their kids at restaurants, in little hotels and guest houses, as they are trying to figure out what to do next. I spoke with one of these mothers, a lawyer, and this is what she told me.


JULIYA RUDA, UKRAINIAN LAWYER: At the first day of the war because of explosion, we take a car. I take my mother and my husband, joined us in Lviv. It was a terrible journey, more than 60 hours.

WATSON: In the car?

RUDA: In the car, yes. And we heard explosions. We stopped somewhere --

WATSON: Explosions, yes?

RUDA: Explosions, yes, we stopped somewhere for a little time.


And then two days ago we crossed in Hungary, yes.


WATSON: And that woman actually is setting up her mother and daughter in a Hungarian capital Budapest. And then she is going to go back into Ukraine to help with the effort of her country in peril. And I have heard that from several other people I have spoken with, women bringing their kids out to safety, with grandparents, and then are going to join their husbands as part of the defense of their nation, Wolf.

BLITZER: Ivan Watson reporting from Hungary, on the border with Ukraine, thank you.

And, by the way, to our viewers, for more information about how you -- how you can help humanitarian efforts in Ukraine, go to and help impact your world.

There is more breaking news coming up next. I will speak about the U.S.' response to Russia's invasion of Ukraine and whether it is enough with the top Republican on the House Foreign Affairs Committee.



BLITZER: The breaking news this hour, Russia expanding its brutal assault on Ukraine, targeting key cities, and purposefully hitting civilian infrastructure, that according to U.S. officials. CNN's Anderson Cooper is in Lviv, in Ukraine, he will be anchoring from there later tonight. He spoke to a man who is gathering and making supplies to distribute to Ukrainian fighters.


ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR (voice over): A week ago, he was a construction worker but then Putin invaded and everything changed.

You have a message to Vladimir Putin, what is it?

What would I tell him, he says? I would tell him he can go (BLEEP) himself.


BLITZER: Let's discuss what is going on with the top Republican in the House Foreign Affairs Committee, Congressman Michael McCaul of Texas. Congressman, thanks so much for joining us.

Moments ago, the Pentagon press secretary, John Kirby, told me the indications are that Russia now controls the Ukrainian city of Kherson. How significant is that, that this first major city has fallen and do you fear other Ukrainian cities could be next?

REP. MICHAEL MCCAUL (R-TX): Yes, it is a very serious situation. That's in the Crimea region, just north, Kherson. Mariupol is being cut off, as we speak. That's one of the major ports, the bread basket, if you will. And there are also amphibious and I think potentially amphibious landings in Odessa, this big port in the west part of Ukraine near Moldova.

Meanwhile, you have this convoy that seems to be resupplying and waiting to go south to Kyiv, where they will basically ride a ring of steel around the capital city and bombard it.

BLITZER: The Ukrainian president, as you know, made an impassioned plea for a no-fly zone today, something that the Pentagon spokesman, John Kirby, told me would only make things, in his words, more bloody and more dangerous. Is a no-fly zone officially off the table, in your view?

MCCAUL: You know, I really think so, Wolf, because it would put us potentially -- it would put NATO aircraft in direct conflict with Russian aircraft. You can imagine the outcome of that. One of the planes will get shot down and then we are in World War III with Russia.

BLITZER: So, what more could the U.S., the Biden administration, do right now, militarily, that they are not doing?

MCCAUL: You know, we really have to get these weapons in. You know, I have been calling upon the administration since last November. I signed off on these weapons packages, to get these weapons into Ukraine, into theater, where these -- you know, these freedom fighters, resistance fighters are very resilient but they are running out of weapons. We didn't put the stinger missiles in there.

Now, they are on their way. But, you know, the Javelin anti-tank ammunition, rifles, these drones that come from Turkey could be very effective. We need to heavily arm, you know, this resistance movement. And, you know, the fact is, Wolf, it's almost too little, too late. We should have been doing this, you know, last November. The buildup started last March.

BLITZER: Yes. The U.S. apparently has delivered hundreds of stinger missiles in the last few days, but the Ukrainians clearly want more.

President Zelensky says if the world doesn't unite around Ukraine, he says countries across Eastern Europe will be next, all the way, he says, to the Berlin Wall. Do you share that fear?

MCCAUL: I do. I do think Putin is isolated as he is, understands Article 5 and what that means, an attack on one, an attack on all, and then, he would be putting himself in a world war. He does want to reclaim the glory of the old Soviet Union. That is his legacy, in his mind. I think his legacy is going to be he is a war criminal.

But I can also see Moldova, that is not a NATO country, and Georgia, quite frankly, being in the bull's-eye once he has completed taking over Ukraine which, by all assessments, will happen. And then we are going to be in a resistance war against the Russians.

BLITZER: Yes. It looks like it is getting worse by the hour. Congressman Michael McCaul, thank you very much for joining us. I know you are traveling to the region in the coming days. Just stay safe over there. We will be in touch. I appreciate it very much.

MCCAUL: Thanks so much, Wolf.

BLITZER: The breaking news continues next with details of new, brand new, just announced, U.S. sanctions targeting what the White House calls Vladimir Putin's, quote, cronies and their family members.



BLITZER: More now on the breaking news. President Biden squeezing what the White House calls Vladimir Putin's cronies and their family members with new sanctions just announced.

CNN's Brian Todd is working this part of the story for us.

Brian, U.S. and other countries are going after the assets of some of those incredibly wealthy Russian oligarchs. BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: They really are, Wolf. Trying to hit

these oligarchs where it might hurt them the most, by targeting some of their prized toys for seizure.


TODD (voice-over): The Biden administration goes after Vladimir Putin's money men, his cronies, the oligarchs, announcing new sanctions today against some of Russia's wealthiest business elites, many of whom got their money through their connections to Putin.


JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The Department of Justice is going after the crimes of Russian oligarchs.

BILL BROWDER, FINANCIER, PUTIN CRITIC: This helps because the oligarchs look after Putin's money. We want to punish Putin personally and directly for what he has done. And this is the most direct way of doing that.

TODD: And the U.S. and its allies are going after the oligarchs' most prized possessions, like their super yachts. Last night, French officials seized the Amore Vero, about 280 feet long, with multiple VIP suites, and a pool that turns into a helipad. French officials say it is linked to Igor Sechin, an oil executive sanctioned by the E.U. this week and one of Putin's closest advisers.

But a company that manages the yacht denied that Sechin was the owner.

NATE SIBLEY, KLEPTOCRACY INITIATIVE, THE HUDSON INSTITUTE: It is sometimes hard to trace ownership and link these people. They're using shell companies. They will own them in the name of family members.

TODD: Other targets for seizure? The super yacht Dilbar being renovated in Hamburg, Germany, worth at least $600 million, according to the U.S. Treasury, with 20 cabins and one of the largest pools ever put on a yacht, 80 feet long. It is believe today be owned by sanction Russian mining magnate Alisher Usmanov, who also possesses what the U.S. Treasury calls one of Russia's largest privately owned aircraft. An Airbus A340 named Bourkhan after his father.

Analysts who track oligarchs say some of them also own some of the most exclusive land properties in the west.

SIBLEY: They own mansions. Oleg Deripaska, someone very close to Vladimir Putin who has been sanctioned in the past by the United States still owns a huge mansion in a swanky part of Washington, D.C. There was a report just recently that four or five of the biggest oligarchs own huge mansions within walking distance of each other right in the heart of New York.

TODD: And Deripaska is one of the oligarchs now seemingly scrambling to unload or move some assets. He reportedly owns the Cleo, one of several yachts connected to oligarchs that have arrived in recent weeks in the Maldives, an island nation in the Indian Ocean, where sanctions don't reach. That is according to the tracking service marine traffic.

And a yacht called the Graceful which German media has speculated is owned by Vladimir Putin, himself, hurried out of port in Hamburg two weeks before the invasion of Ukraine and has since been located in Russia.


TODD (on camera): At least two oligarchs, including Oleg Deripaska, seem to have broken with Putin in recent days and call for an end to the war in Ukraine. But analysts say many of Russia's top oligarchs have lost their influence with Vladimir Putin in recent years and it is unlikely many of them could bring him down at this point.

None of the oligarchs mentioned in this story respond today a request from comment from CNN sent to their businesses or lawyers -- Wolf.

BLITZER: All right, Brian. Thank you very much. Brian Todd reporting. Important development indeed.

We're going to have much more on the crisis in Ukraine, just ahead.

Also, there is more breaking news we are following next. A verdict in the trial of the only police officer charged in connection with the botched raid that left Breonna Taylor dead.



BLITZER: We'll have much more on the Russian invasion of Ukraine, that's coming up in a moment. But first, there is other breaking news we're following. A jury in Louisville, Kentucky, has acquitted the only police officer charged in connection with the botched raid in which Breonna Taylor was shot and killed.

CNN national correspondent Athena Jones is working the story for us.

Athena, the jury took about what three hours to reach this not-guilty verdict on three charges. Walk us through what happened.


The trial lasted about five days. The jury heard from 26 prosecution witnesses, two defense witnesses, including Brett Hankison, himself. That's the former Louisville metro police detective who was acquitted today on all three felony charges of wanton endangerment.

Now as you mention, Hankison was the only officer charged in connection with this -- this botched March 2020 raid that killed Breonna Taylor. And it is important to note he was not charged with killing her, in fact, no officer was. Instead, prosecutors argued that he endangered three of Breonna Taylor's neighbors by blindly firing ten rounds from his gun.

Several of those rounds pierced the walls of that neighboring apartment where a man, a pregnant woman, and a 5-year-old child were all sleeping. In fact, the man, his name was Cody Etherton, when he took the stand, he said at one point he got up to investigate what was going on with the noise and commotion was and that a bullet -- another bullet came through a wall and missed him by only one or two inches.

Now today, the defense -- sorry, the -- the defense spent 25 minutes arguing that Brett Hankison acted reasonably. That he was only trying to protect his fellow officers. He only began shooting after one of the officers was struck in the leg. He was fired upon by Kenneth Walker, Breonna Taylor's boyfriend, he of course they thought they were intruders entering the apartment. They didn't realize they were police, they say.

And so, Hankison's lawyer says he only began firing to -- to help defend his own fellow officers. He also said that these officers were not well prepared for the raid that day. They didn't have a map of the apartment complex and Hankison wasn't even aware there was another apartment where he could put people in danger.

Now, the prosecution took quite some time to refute several of these points. They argue that Hankison was reckless and with all of his years of experience, knowing they were in an apartment complex, he should have known people were going to be in danger.

Bottom line here, this -- Hankison is now facing no jail time at all and his defense attorney says it's good he took the stand in his own defense -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Athena Jones reporting on that story -- Athena, thank you very much.

And to our viewers, thanks very much for watching. I'm Wolf Blitzer in THE SITUATION ROOM.

"ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT" starts right now.