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Ukrainians Desperate To Flee Attacks, Destruction; Russian Military Opens Fire On Protesters; Putin: Sanctions On Russia Equivalent To A "Declaration Of War"; Waves Of Ukrainian Refugees Crossing Border Into Poland; Polish Ambassador To The U.S., Marek Magierowski, Discusses Dire Ukrainian Refugee Situation & Israeli P.M. Meeting With Putin; Ukrainian Capital Holding Off Russians; Mother Stays In Kyiv Despite Destruction From Russian Strikes Around City. Aired 5-6p ET

Aired March 05, 2022 - 17:00   ET




WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: Happening now, breaking news.

Ukraine's president is trying to rally his battered people to keep fighting as Russia targets civilians. Vladimir Putin is making disturbing new threats.

We're watching all of this unfold, including tonight Vladimir Putin not only making disturbing threats but going even further. We're seeing dramatic new examples of Ukrainians fighting back including video of a Russian helicopter being shot down in northern Kyiv.

And protesters in eastern Ukraine braving gunfire by Kremlin forces to stand up against Putin's aggression.

Our correspondents are on the front lines and in other key locations for CNN's continuing live coverage of Russia's War against Ukraine.

We want to welcome our viewers here in the United States and around the world. I'm Wolf Blitzer and this is a special edition of THE SITUATION ROOM.

The president of Ukraine is making an urgent appeal to his people tonight, urging them to keep up their resistance, even as Russian forces are making gains, and brutally targeting civilians.

We're following all the breaking news out of Ukraine. My colleague Anderson Cooper is on the ground. He's joining us live from Lviv right now. he'll be joining us, by the way, throughout the next two hours.

Anderson, Ukrainians are fighting a valiant fight right now.

ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: Yes. I mean they certainly are and they have been all this past week. We are witnessing remarkable strength by a people under assault. CNN's Clarissa Ward is standing by in Kyiv for us tonight where residents from the outskirts of the city in their homes and residential (INAUDIBLE) and wiped out in many cases.

First, we have a full report on this tense night of the war from CNN's Arlette Saenz.


ARLETTE SAENZ, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Would be considered as -- tonight's new images emerging from the battle front. Ukrainian armed forces releasing this video of the moment they say they shot down a Russian helicopter.

The fire engulfed-aircraft hurtling towards the ground. Here another Russian aircraft, a fighter jet falls from the sky after reportedly being taken down by the Ukrainian military.

Smoke billowing in its wake as it crashed into a residential neighborhood about 90 miles from Kyiv. The Ukrainian emergency services says these are the remains of the jet. Bombs undetonated, mere steps from homes.

The scenes of war -- a war Ukrainians continue to fight with limited help from western allies.

In a Zoom call with U.S. lawmakers, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, calling for greater military assistance including the transfer of fighter jets from eastern European countries and the establishment of a no-fly zone.

The U.S. And NATO still resisting such a move, warning it could prompt a full-scale war in Europe.

REP. RUBEN GALLEGO, (D-AZ): A no-fly zone might be just a bridge too far. Not wanting to take that right now. U.S. planes shooting down other Russian plane or vice versa is something that could really escalate into a nuclear war.

SAENZ: Russian President Vladimir Putin declaring that any country or organization implementing a no-fly zone would be considered as participants in the conflict.

And as Ukraine pushes for more sanctions, Putin stating the sanctions already imposed on his country are equivalent to a declaration of war against Russia.

On the ground in Ukraine a show of solidarity from the U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken side-by-side with the Ukrainian foreign minister on the Polish border.

ANTONY BLINKEN, U.S. SECRETARY OF STATE: As to the pressure on Russia, not only is it unprecedented, not only is it producing very, very concrete results in Russia, but that pressure, too, will not only continue, it will grow until this war -- his war of choice is brought to an end.

SAENZ: Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett today also speaking by phone with Zelensky after a face-to-face meeting with Putin in Moscow. Meanwhile, NATO and U.S. officials now fear Russia is ready to bombard cities into submission. A senior western intelligence official saying Russia is poised to deploy a thousand more mercenaries in the near future.


SAENZ: But with the war in its 10th day, stories of Ukrainian bravery in the face of Russian aggression continue to spread. Watch as a man jumps on top of a Russian armored vehicle waving a Ukrainian flag.

And the sound of gunfire in a small town in eastern Ukraine. Unarmed protesters stood their ground while according to a Ukrainian official, Russian soldiers fired their weapons to disperse them.

In this chilling video a man in the front of the crowd appeared to the shot in the street. Another video shows protesters scattering as a barrage of gunfire rings out. Tonight's Ukraine's foreign minister with a message for Putin.

DMYTRO KULEBA, UKRAINIAN FOREIGN MINISTER: Putin, leave Ukraine alone. You will not win this war.

SAENZ: Arlette Saenz, CNN.


BLITZER: Arlette, thank you.

Let's go live to the Ukrainian capital of Kyiv right now. Our chief international correspondent Clarissa Ward is joining us. Clarissa, you've been following the plight of citizens. Average Ukrainians simply trying to escape the damage on outskirts of the capital. What's the latest?

CLARISSA WARD, CNN CHIEF INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: that's right, Wolf. Well, we have heard another fiery speech from Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelensky this evening, in which he praises his citizens for continuing to resist Russian aggression.

He calls on them to go on the offensive. Go on the streets. We need to fight every time we have an opportunity. And he goes on to commend their faith and the protests that have been ongoing. But listen, Wolf, there is no question that this war is taking a heavy toll on the Ukrainian people. And we saw that firsthand for ourselves when we finally got access to a Kyiv suburb called Irpin' (ph) where people have been under heavy bombardment seven days and only just managing to flee to safety. Take a look.


WARD: For seven days, the Kyiv suburb of Irpin' has been pummeled by Russian strikes. And you can see it in the faces of those leaving. Exhaustion, fear, and gratitude to the soldiers helping them flee.

This bridge was downed by the Ukrainians to prevent Russian forces from getting in to the city center. Now it's yet another hurdle people must cross.

There has been a steady barrage of artillery since we got here just over an hour ago, and a never-ending stream of people just desperately trying to cross to safety.

Natalya tells us says she was injured just a couple of hours earlier. We tried to get some stuff out of our apartment, she says, and a shell or something hit and I got hit by shrapnel. Still in shock, she dismisses the pain and walks away unaided.

Others need more assistance. Soldiers carry a makeshift stretcher to ferry an elderly woman to safety.

President Putin has said his army is not targeting civilians. But the exodus from Irpin' tell as different story.

Everyone steps in where they can, including us. An elderly woman calls out for help, clearly confused by the chaotic situation. I take one of her bags.

So people are obviously incredibly -- affected by this situation. They're frightened. They're exhausted. They're on edge.

They leave behind whatever they cannot carry with no sense of when they will return.

A woman approaches completely overcome. She said, "I'm afraid." For what? She cries. For what? This is just one suburb in one city. It has felt the rock of Russia's onslaught -- artillery, missiles and fighter jets.

The planes were flying, and I just covered my ears, Olga Kudlai (ph) tells us. She's saying that now she doesn't even know where she's going to go next.

She has lived in Irpin' for 45 years. It was so beautiful, and now it's destroyed, she says. What are they trying to achieve? To bring us to our knees?


WARD: But against all odds, ten days into this war, Ukraine is still standing. A woman waits to be evacuated, trembling. She's Brazilian.

We will overcome everything, she says. For the people of Irpin', the journey is just beginning. They're loaded on to buses to the train station. From there, they don't know where they will go.


WARD: Now, Wolf, just to give you an idea of what these people are dealing with. Yesterday they had been evacuating them primarily using trains, using the railway, but last night according to Ukrainian authorities, Russian saboteurs actually attacked the railway, blew it up. Meaning those trains can no longer move back and forth and that's why you're seeing this kind of bottleneck happening at various bridges in this area as people desperately try to flee, Wolf.

BLITZER: So powerful. So awful, indeed. Clarissa, I want you to stand by.

I want to bring Anderson back in. Anderson, Clarissa's reporting clearly shows the desperation of these people simply trying to escape. I know you spent a lot of time speaking to Ukrainian citizens.

Just how strong is their resolve in the face of this enormous crisis?

COOPER: I think Clarissa's report shows, and we've just seen that resolve. A woman who's breaking down crying and yet says, we will overcome this in the end. But the other woman, Clarissa said that she spoke to saying, for what? For what? And I think that's a sentiment we hear a lot from people here. I mean for what is all this happening?

Just one man's desire to take over and break the back of this country. Lviv has not seen scenes like that, thankfully. It's in the far west of the country. this is where the where those trains often come to and at the train station here which is not far from where I am, hundreds of thousands of people have just pored through and they continue to come every single day trying to move on to points farther west -- to Poland, to Romania, to other countries.

And there's no sign that that -- I mean, if the trains now are targeted, that is obviously going to be a tremendous blow to the effort to try to get women and children to some semblance of safety.

BLITZER: You're absolutely right. And Ukraine everyone knows represented absolutely no threat to Russia at all. But now, this is day ten of this brutal Russian assault on the people of Ukraine.

Clarissa, Russia has continued to strike these corridors that people are using to flee, going back on his word for what was supposed to be a temporary cease-fire. So what danger do civilians face as they're simply trying to get to safety?

WARD: Well, simply put, Wolf, there is no real safe place at the moment. Even for the people I saw. Ok, they were leaving Irpin', which was being steadily hit constantly as you could hear throughout my story there, but where do they go next? Where is safe?

The capital Kyiv where we are, it's still not safe. Right? This is just grades or shades of real danger. But the fighting is encroaching. The Ukrainians are defending as best they can. They've had some success in pushing the Russian forces back but the Russians are slowly but surely beginning the process of fully encircling this city with the ultimate aim rather of laying siege and potentially engaging in even more severe bombardment.

So really, the illusion or the idea that you're passing to safety is an illusion. It's a temporary reprieve for a moment. And then the next question becomes where do you go next? And how can this country with its infrastructure keep up and cope with this huge swell of more than a million people forced from their homes? It's simply not sustainable, Wolf. BLITZER: Yes. More than 1.3 million have already fled for their lives

to neighboring countries according to the United Nations.

Clarissa, thank you very much. We'll get back to you. Obviously Anderson is sticking around for the next two hours.

There's more breaking news we're following.

Russia increasingly targeting civilians in Ukraine including protesters. We're going back live to Kyiv when we come back.



COOPER: Breaking news tonight. Ukrainian civilians coming under continual attack from Russian forces. We've got some video that Ukrainian officials say shows Russian troops firing on anti-war protesters.


COOPER: CNN senior international correspondent Matthew Chance is with us now in Kyiv. Matthew, what are we learning about that? because we've seen, you know, scenes of unarmed protesters going up to Russian forces trying to just physically stop vehicles, but increasingly we are seeing either shots being fired in the air. We saw one where a man was wounded most recently.

MATTHEW CHANCE, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes. That's right. We have seen scenes of these kind of civilian defiance, really, up and down the country in the areas where Russians are taking control of these population centers.

And for the most part, even though the scenes have been often quite angry, you know, we're now starting to see the Russian forces perhaps lose some of the patience that they've been exhibiting to these kinds of angry crowds in the past few days.


CHANCE: Take a look at this. The astonishing moment in which angry protesters in the northeastern town of Novopskov, which is a Russian- speaking area, filled with ethnic Russians remember. Take a look at how these protesters are, you know, shot -- for want of a better way of describing it -- by the Russian forces they confront. Take a listen.


CHANCE: Yes. So, just awful, that person shot. I don't know the extent of his injuries, but we know from the local sort of governor that at least three people were injured in that way.

And there are, you know, the voices coming over saying people must leave the area, you know. The soldiers are telling people to get out of the way. But they're not listening because after those shots were fired, more shots were fired in the air.

You know, the people of that town did not run away for the most part. They stood there and they hurled abuse in defiance at the Russian troops just across the road. Just take a look at that scene.


CHANCE: Pretty astonishing, isn't it, Anderson? It just underlines, you know, the amount of defiance that there is in this country when it comes to this Russian invasion.

If the Russians thought that these people were going to back down easily and capitulate and welcome them, then they were, you know, very badly mistaken.

COOPER: Yes. Matthew Chance thanks so much. Appreciate it.

Wolf, it's a defiance as Matthew said and a desire to do something even if you don't have a weapon to just stand in the street, face the Russians, just to yell at them that we've been seeing in a lot of places, Wolf, all over Ukraine.

BLITZER: You're so right, Anderson. It's so awful that these Russian troops are doing what they're doing to these innocent Ukrainian civilians.

Stand by for another moment.

want to bring in Democratic Congressman Jim Himes of Connecticut right now. He's a key member of the House Intelligence Committee. Congressman, thanks so much for joining us.

I know you met along with many of your colleagues today remotely with President Zelensky earlier this morning.

I want you to take us inside that conversation. What message was President Zelensky trying to send to the United States?

REP. JIM HIMES (D-CT): Well Wolf, it was a remarkable videoconference. You know, President Zelensky who presumably hasn't slept much in the last eight days or so just looked remarkably in command, remarkably collected and -- as to your questions very clear-eyed.

He said I need planes. I need planes. He was sort of asked, well, aren't stinger missiles enough? And he said no. They are not. I need planes.

He acknowledged that the concept of a no-fly zone is complicated that obviously involves an open war with Russia. He acknowledged that. he said that if you can't do that, I need planes, and by the way, stop purchasing their oil.

And so when I get back to Washington on Monday, Wolf, I imagine there's any number of things we can do to turn up the pressure further on Russia beyond the remarkable sanctions that are in place right now. But imagine it's a question of bringing up the (INAUDIBLE) to allow those eastern European countries that have the planes that Zelensky's pilots can fly, will be first on the agenda.

BLITZER: Yes, you're absolutely right. I'm sure it will be. It's being reported, Congressman, that President Zelensky also told you and the other lawmakers, this could be, in his words, "the last time you see him alive". Can you confirm he did say that?

HIMES: You know, it was a long and emotional teleconference that also involved questions from a bunch of senators and members of Congress. I don't recall that exact moment. You know, we certainly remember that from just over a week ago when he was talking to the European Union.

I don't are recall that particular moment that he was -- I will tell you he wasn't focused on himself. He was focused on making sure that we understood, and of course we do, thanks to the reporting like that reporting that you just showed us. He was really focused on making sure that we understood the very real suffering that is happening in his immediate environment right now.

And that was, of course, where the emotion came into the call.

BLITZER: I also want to get your thoughts, Congressman, on the very, very disturbing escalation in rhetoric we're now hearing from Putin who says economic sanctions are equivalent to a declaration of war. Is he bluffing or do you worry he's actually looking for some sort of excuse to start a direct conflict with the U.S. and its NATO allies?


HIMES: Well, let me start by observing that Vladimir Putin is in no position to accuse somebody of making a declaration of war when he did something that we haven't seen in Europe since the 1940s by rolling tanks over innocent people in a country that was guilty of nothing but being a free democratic republic. So I don't even want to hear from Vladimir Putin what he thinks is a declaration of war.

But look, we know that he's isolated. We know that he and his people and the oligarchs must be absolutely shocked by the near unanimity, and I say near unanimity, because there's a couple of exceptions, of the world standing against him, including his own people, by the way.

You know, when there is political dissent in a place like Moscow where political dissent can get you killed, that makes you nervous. And sadly, and this is of course, really where an awful lot of concern enters into the calculus.

He has two choices, he can turn up the turn up the heat which he appears to be doing by targeting civilians or he can back down. But it's sort of hard to imagine that this bloody, violent dictator is going to see his way to backing down from the position that he's put himself into.

BLITZER: Absolutely right. Congressman Jim Himes, thank you so much for joining us.

There's more breaking news here in our special edition of THE SITUATION ROOM. Coming up. We'll have the latest on the rapidly growing refugee crisis. More than 1.3 million refugees, Ukrainians, mostly women and children, have now fled Ukraine. Many of them to Poland.

We're going there live, when we come back.




BLITZER: Breaking news. We're getting some deeply disturbing new images of the terrible human toll in Ukraine.

Viewers may find these images disturbing.

They show the parents of an 18-month-old badly injured by shelling. Rushing him to a hospital in Mariupol in a blood-soaked blanket carried by his father and frantic mother on their heels.

Medical workers desperately, desperately tried to save his life but we're told they could not. So heartbreaking, indeed.

Let's go back to Anderson in Lviv -- Anderson?

COOPER: It is a sickening reality what's happening here.

More than 1.3 million people now fled the Russian invasion in Ukraine. The largest mass migration of people on the European continent since World War II officials say.

And we're seeing waves of people flooding into neighboring Poland, the biggest destination for many, but also Romania and Moldova.

CNN senior national correspondent, Sara Sidner, is on the boarder in Poland near the border.

Sara, you're at a shelter for refugees. Walk us through what you've been seeing today because you've been there all week and the people keep coming.

SARA SIDNER, CNN SENIOR NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: They do. You know what I noticed today different from the beginning of the week, is that there are more people, more mothers, more children, many more.

We noticed the buses are coming more frequently. There's a lot more people.

And then there are a lot more volunteers to try and help. They are bringing all manner of things.

This is the first time we've seen a huge box of toys. And we've been watching children come one by one to pick up the toys. These two were just digging through their trying to find something they liked. Because as you might imagine, when people leave their houses they simply can only carry basically one bag. That's what we've been seeing.

Just very, very few pieces of luggage. Each person has something small. Sometimes just a paper bag.

Something else we've noticed, it is really cold. You've been seeing frigid temperatures here.

These kids are so tired, so, so sleepy, that they're parents lie them down on a hard wooden bench and try to cover them the best they could.

Putting over, you see that metallic -- you see that metallic material. You often see that when firefighters show up and it's freezing.

You see the little girl's hand just trying to pull it around her, because it is so cold, but they're so tired, they're able to fall asleep sitting and slumped over there.

Here as adults mill about trying to figure out where they're going to go.

One after the other -- I want to give you a look at the buses, Anderson. These are not just small vans. These are huge buses that would often -- might be used for tourism, and they are filled with brand new refugees.

You said something that I thought really struck a chord. That all of the people you are seeing here, that do not have those signs, the people that are there trying to help.

But all of the people sitting here waiting on buses, they had homes and jobs, and they had school, and they had lives, and they had a place to be and a country to be in.

And more than seven days later, all of a sudden, they have very little or nothing. We have seen people coming over the border with just the clothes on their back.

And again, we're talking about more than 500,000 people have come to Poland alone because they're taking the brunt of the Ukraine war refugees.

This has been a really, really disturbing but also touching scene here with all the volunteers trying to help -- Anderson?

COOPER: Yes. And every person you see at that border has left one or two or many more people behind in their family, their husbands, their partners, boyfriends, fathers, whatever it may be, or are fighting or who just can't make the difficult journey.


It is a personal tragedy as well as a tragedy for Ukraine, writ large.

Sara Sidner, thanks for being there.

Wolf, back to you.

BLITZER: Thank you, Anderson.

Thanks to Sara as well.

Let's get more on the breaking news right now. Joining us, Poland's ambassador to the United States, Marek Magierowski.

Ambassador, thank you so much for joining us.

How dire is the refugee crisis on the ground --


MAREK MAGIEROWSKI, POLISH AMBASSADOR TO THE U.S.: Thank you very much for the invitation.

BLITZER: Thank you.

Is Poland prepared to start receiving, over the next few weeks, even months, thousands and thousands, tens of thousands, of Ukrainian refugees crossing the border into Poland? The numbers are enormous.

MAGIEROWSKI: First of all, I would like to correct you. It's always about 800,000 refugee who have crossed the Polish border since beginning of the hostility a few days ago.

I have to tell you frankly that this is probably the first such migration crisis in Europe's history in which the host country does not even need to build refugee camps.

Because all of those nearly 800,000 refugees have already found or will find safe shelter in Polish homes and Polish boarding houses, student dormitories.

This eruption of solidarity, sincere sympathy towards the Ukrainian people is really something extraordinary. It is a commendable joint effort of the state authorities, thousands of volunteers, ordinary citizens, municipalities.

And today, I have to confess, also for the first time in my life I am so proud of two nations at the same time, mine and Ukraine.

BLITZER: Poland deserves an enormous amount of credit. You're right, 1.3 million overall going to Poland. And 1.3 million overall going to Poland and the other neighboring countries.

And thousands, maybe hundreds of thousands, more in the next few days will be fleeing what is going on in Ukraine right now.

As you know, Ambassador, NATO has been deploying reinforcement, military troops to Poland over the last several weeks. Thousands of U.S. forces have now been sent to Poland, a NATO ally.

Is that enough, do you believe, to deter Putin, or are you worried the conflict, god forbid, could spill over into Poland?

MAGIEROWSKI: I don't think this conflict will spill over into Poland or into other countries, which are NATO members. Putin fears a military confrontation with NATO.

On the other hand, of course, we have to be very clear about that. Ukrainians are fighting not only for their freedom and independence but also for ours.

Therefore, we have to deploy all means at our disposal to repel the aggression, to deter Russia.

However, also take into account the fact we should not engage in a direct military confrontation between NATO and the Russian Federation.

BLITZER: The Israeli prime minister, Naftali Bennett, flew to Moscow today to meet with Putin. They met for a few hours.

You and I met a few days here in Washington and you told me you served as Poland's ambassador to Israel until a few weeks ago. You spent the last few years in Israel.

What role do you think the Israelis potentially could play in trying to mediate some sort of ceasefire?

MAGIEROWSKI: I believe all diplomatic efforts, especially at this stage of the confrontation, are valuable.

And I believe Israel is one of the few countries in the world which tries to maintain good relations both with Russia and with Ukraine.

Of course, it's risky to negotiate with Mr. Putin right now. But I believe we have to leave open all possible avenues to explore.

BLITZER: And I know the U.S. supports that position and the Ukraine President Zelensky as well.

Mr. Ambassador, thank you so much for joining us. We'll continue this conversation down the road.

MAGIEROWSKI: My pleasure. Thank you very much.

BLITZER: Marek Magierowski is the Polish ambassador to the United States.

And an important note to our viewers. For more information about how you can help these humanitarian efforts in Ukraine, go to and help impact your world.


The breaking news continues next with the latest on the Russian invasion of Ukraine and a closer look at why Vladimir Putin's forces, so far, have not been able to take the capital.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) BLITZER: We're following breaking news. The United States and NATO warning they believe Russia is ready to, quote, "bombard cities into submission in Moscow's effort to conquer Ukraine."

Let's take a closer look at the situation.

Joining us now, CNN military analyst, retired Colonel Cedric Leighton, and CNN's Brian Todd.

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, the dynamics for key cities in Ukraine changing by the hour.

Colonel Leighton, we update our maps constantly. One thing we're struck by, when updating the map, how close Russian forces are to the eastern flank of the capital city, Kyiv.

Looking at the battle for Kyiv, what do you make of that and how close they are?

COL. CEDRIC LEIGHTON, CNN MILITARY ANALYST: Brian, this is really important. Right here, this is very close to the northeastern suburbs of Kyiv. And notice how close they are to the actual city line.

This means that the Russians are coming in this way. Plus, they're also looking at this area right here. Because this will be an area of approach for them as well.

TOOD: Why have they not advanced from the West further into the city?

LEIGHTON: The main reason is they ran into logistical problems. There's the possibility. We know they have fuel and food problems.

But there's also the possibility of mutinous behavior and disciplinary issues within this column.

TODD: Let's go to the overall troop map and look at the battle for these cities.

We know Mikalya, to the south, Kherson has fallen to Russians. Mariupol is surround. Kharkiv is surrounded. Kyiv we believe is surrounded. So these cities are surrounded. Kherson has fallen.


What happens next, especially here in the south?

LEIGHTON: Brian, if they have capacity to subdue the cities, what I think will happen next, the Russians will move this way, to Dnipro, both from the south and the north.

They'll use Dnipro as an area to really consolidate their forces. And then possibly, they can do that successfully, move their forces up this way.

We should also note this was the scene of a nuclear power plant taken over by Russians, south of here. TODD: All right. Possibly moving up the Dnipro River toward Kyiv?

LEIGHTON: That's right.

TODD: Let's take a look at some of this helicopter video. This is the video of a Russian helicopter shot down, posted by the Ukrainian military. CNN has not been able to verify when this took place.

But does this kind of a thing give the Ukrainians -- possibly Stinger missiles used to bring this down, we believe.

Are they getting more of an advantage now in situations like this?

LEIGHTON: Absolutely. Because this is the kind of thing that really becomes extremely important from the Ukrainian air defense perspective.

Stinger missiles like this probably was, very important to actually get rid of Russian aircraft of every type, whether fixed wing or rotary wing like this one was.

TODD: Let's look at the NATO map overall. A lot of talk about no-fly zone around Ukraine. The Ukrainian president, Zelensky, wants it. The NATO secretary-general, the U.S. secretary of state and the president of the United States have said, no, will not happen.

Could it happen? What happens if it does?

LEIGHTON: Well, it could happen. But there's some real significant issues with having a no-fly zone. First, you need make sure you have complete control of the skies. The Russians won't give that for free.

The other thing, you need to not only have a no-fly zone but this an artillery war.

TODD: Right.

LEIGHTON: The fact it is an artillery war means they will have to go after artillery. That's the key thing. It's very difficult to do this.

TODD: Artillery battle doing a great deal of damage tonight.

Wolf, that's the latest look at the battlefield. Again, these dynamics changing by the hour.

BLITZER: Yes, this war is moving.

Guys, thank you very, very much, retired Colonel Cedric Leighton and Brian Todd.

The breaking news continues next. We're going to hear from one Ukrainian mother who has been in a shelter in Kyiv more than a week with her three children and refuses to flee the fighting. We'll be right back.


COOPER: We've been following the breaking news. Russia's increasingly brutal assault on Ukraine prompting NATO to warn of what it calls more death, more suffering, more destruction ahead.

Even though more than 1.3 million people have fled Ukraine so far, millions more remain in the country. Tens of millions more.

I spoke yesterday to a mother who's been in a shelter in Kyiv for more than a week with her three kids. One is just an infant. And her husband is fighting to defend the country.

I asked about her decision not to leave the capital.


COOPER: Can you talk about that decision? I mean, that's obviously an incredibly difficult decision to make.

And I know -- I've received a lot of emails from people or messages from people saying that they hope you will leave with your children.

Can you explain your thinking on this?

OLENA GNES, UKRAINIAN CIVILIAN: You're right that this is a very difficult decision, of course. Because obviously, I'm risking. But I feel, if I turn my back toward the enemy and they will -- I will never stop running.

I do not want the West to have -- the world to have the wrong feeling that everybody left Ukraine. I mean, even if one million people left Ukraine, there are 43 million people who stay.

And I'm not the only mother with children. We have other children in the shelter. We have other women and children in this neighborhood. And life of each of us is -- means something.

And because like you are talking to me over there from CNN, you are showing my story. And I am one of very few Ukrainian women who is eager to speak, and can speak English, can talk to you.

Yes, I just want you guys to know that we are here. We, Ukrainian people, we are civilians, and we stay here in our native land.

And we have our Ukrainian army that protects us, and we need help. We need no-fly zone here for Putin not to kill us all. And we still need help.

We are strong, yes, we try our best, but we need more help, please.

COOPER: Years from now -- your daughter is 3 months old. When she -- years from now, what will you tell her about this time, this time that she lived through but won't remember?

GNES: I will tell her that she was the cutest baby ever. And she played a very important role because she is relief for everyone in this shelter.

And now like everyone is so stressed and there's lot of fear, anxiety. But when people take her, her hands, they feel -- it's like a piece of light here, something very kind.

And it helps us through the darkness and the bad things happening right now to Ukraine.

COOPER: Well, if she doesn't believe you, you can have her call me, and I will confirm that she is the cutest baby in the world.

GNES: Thank you. Thank you.


COOPER: I mean, my baby's pretty cute, too. But your baby is beautiful. And as you are and your family.

I appreciate you talking to us tonight again. Thank you.

GNES: Thank you very much. You give me hope.


COOPER: Olena Gnes in a shelter in Kyiv.

The breaking news continues with the latest on the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

And the growing attacks on civilians sparking an exodus that's threatening to become Europe's biggest refugee crisis since World War II on the mainland.

You're watching a special edition of THE SITUATION ROOM.



BLITZER: Happening now, breaking news. More and more civilians in Ukraine are trapped right now. They are under attack, desperate to escape Russia's escalating war of destruction.