Return to Transcripts main page

The Situation Room

Ukrainian President Tonight Saying Not Hiding, Not Afraid Of Anyone; Russia Ramps Up Brutal Tactics, Widens Assault On Civilians; United Nation Says, More Than 400 Civilian's Deaths In Ukraine Since Start Of War; Gas Tops $4 A Gallon For First Time Since 2008; WNBA Star Brittney Griner Arrested And Detained In Russia. Aired 6-7p ET

Aired March 07, 2022 - 18:00   ET




JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST You can follow me on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and the TikTok @jaketapper. You can tweet the show @theleadcnn. If you ever missed an episode of the show, you can listen to "THE LEAD" wherever you get your podcast. It's all right there, just listen.

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

WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: Happening now, breaking news, a new and defiant message from Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy. It's the first time we've seen him in his office since Russia invaded Ukraine 12 days ago.

Tonight, he says he's refusing to hide, declaring he's not afraid of anyone. This as Russia ramps up its brutal tactics and widens its assault on innocent civilians, including families with children simply trying to evacuate. The mayor of bombarded Kyiv suburb says Kremlin fighters aren't an army, they're quote, animals.

CNN correspondents are in key locations in Ukraine, across Europe and here in the United States with up to the minute war coverage.

We want to welcome our viewers here in the United States and around the world. I'm Wolf Blitzer and you're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

Let's get right to all the breaking news out of the Ukraine including President Zelenskyy's newest show of courage and defiance against the Russian invading forces. CNN's Chief National Security Correspondent, Jim Sciutto is on the ground for us in Ukraine. Jim, for the first time since the war broke out, we're seeing President Zelenskyy in his office. Tell us more about his message that just came out tonight.

JIM SCIUTTO, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Well Volodymyr Zelenskyy has been target number one from Russia -- for Russia from the beginning of its invasion of Ukraine and perhaps in response to that, the Ukrainian president returning to his office this evening and issuing this defiant message saying that I'm not afraid of anyone. I remain in my office.

But also, sadly, another target of the Russian advance appears more and more to be the Ukrainian people. We're seeing that every day in multiple cities and I want to warn our viewers as we go to our story today, that many of the images are disturbing.


SCIUTTO (voice over): Russia is closing in on the Ukrainian capital, Kyiv. Russian tanks on the streets Irpin just west of the capital with heavy fighting all around the city. This video captures the moment a Russian airstrike hits Kyiv.

When the smoke clears, the devastation becomes clear. The air strike killed an entire family. Two adults and two children. The New York Times showed the horrible aftermath on their front page. For the world to see.

In the south, Russia is assaulting the port city of Mykolaiv. NATO says Russia is using cluster bombs, a weapon widely banned due to risk of civilian casualties when used in populated areas. This rocket landed and exploded in a zoo.

In the town of Mariupol, which Russian forces have now surrounded, citizens lined up for water. Their homes cut off from utilities for more than a week.

SERGEI ORLOV, DEPUTY MAYOR, MARIUPOL, UKRAINE: We're absolutely sure that the aim of Putin and the Russian army to kill as much citizen as possible.

SCIUTTO: Today, the U.N. has confirmed more than 406 civilians killed in Ukraine since the start of the invasion while emphasizing that the real figures are considerably higher. Still, the U.S. military is pointing to problems Russia is having with its advance.

JOHN KIRBY, PENTAGON PRESS SECRETARY: The Russians continue to get frustrated and slowed down and they really haven't made any noteworthy progress in the last few days, with the exception of down south.

SCIUTTO: Ukrainian leaders are trying to inspire and strengthen their people. The mayor of Kyiv posted this video of his visit to a maternity ward.

MAYOR VITALI KLITSCHKO, KYIV, UKRAINE: Life goes on. 82 kids were born just in this hospital since the beginning of the war.

SCIUTTO: Russia says the third round of talks with Ukraine did not meet its expectations, as Ukraine's president, in a new interview with ABC News, invited the Russian President Putin himself to come to the table.

VOLODYMYR ZELENSKYY, UKRAINIAN PRESIDENT: What needs to be done is for President Putin to stop talking, start the dialogue, instead of living in the informational bubble without oxygen. SCIUTTO: The U.S. and NATO allies have accelerated the flow of weapons into Ukraine. A senior U.S. official tells me they have sent 17,000 anti-tank missiles, 2,000 anti-aircraft missiles. The U.S. and Poland are now considering sending fighter jets from Poland to Ukraine, according to a White House spokesperson.


Though the office of Poland's prime minister tweeted, quote, Poland won't send fighter jets to Ukraine.

Polish officials say publicly they're worried such a transfer could make their country a target for Russia.


SCIUTTO (on camera): Part of the Ukrainian president's strategy throughout has been to show the Ukrainian people but also Russia that he is still standing strong, doing so defiantly. Here are the words that he had this evening for the Russian president.


ZELENSKYY: Yes. I'm staying here on Bankova. I'm not hiding and I'm not afraid of anyone.


SCIUTTO: Another message he had was about these continuing negotiations to establish, quote/unquote, humanitarian corridors, saying that while Ukraine and Russia have agreed to those corridors, he says, and we've seen evidence of this, by the way, Wolf, that Russia has continued to target civilians perhaps deliberately in those corridors, perhaps deliberately targeting the paths that these civilians are trying to flee the cities from the fighting.

I spoke to the deputy mayor of the city of Mariupol in the south again today for the second time in the last few days and said that the evidence he's seeing, and it's not isolated to Mariupol, is that civilians who try to use those corridors end up targets.

BLITZER: Yes. President Zelenskyy, clearly a very courageous leader. Jim Sciutto on the scene for us in Ukraine, thank you very much.

CNN is also getting a firsthand hand look at the horrors that civilians are enduring in Ukraine, including residents struggling to flee for their lives.

Our Chief International Correspondent Clarissa Ward is joining us from Kyiv right now. Clarissa, tell us about the desperation you personally witnessed earlier in the day.

CLARISSA WARD, CNN CHIEF INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, over the weekend, we were watching on that bridge, it coming from the suburb of Irpin, people who had been pinned down by heavy fighting for days on end. That flow of humanity continuing despite the mortar shells flowing all around.

And today, we went to the train station, the central train station here in Kyiv. That's where those people, those fleeing their homes and the violence are being taken on yellow buses. They don't even know where they're going to end up, but that is where those yellow buses take them once they are safely evacuated.

We found the train station overflowing with people, just frantic scenes, everyone desperate to get out of the city. A lot of confusion as to which track the next train would go from. And then when the train would arrive, you would have this sort of intense scene of people pushing and shoving, desperately trying to get some space on that train. We saw one elderly woman who had, in her exhausted state, actually fallen off the platform on to the track and everybody ran down to try to pick her up and get her to safety before the train arrived.

But it was really dramatic and moving scene, Wolf. A lot of people saying good-bye to their families, many of the men staying here to keep fighting and saying good-bye to their loved ones, their wives and children, sending them on to a safer place.

And we spoke to one woman called Ala who was there with her family. She was evacuated this morning from Bucha, which is a Kyiv suburb that has been absolutely devastated by these sort of strikes coming from the Russians, constant shelling artillery. And she told us that she had had to evacuate early in the morning leaving behind her 81-year- old grandfather. Take a listen to what she said.


WARD (voice over): He didn't want to come with us. He decided to stay, she says. He's old and can't run very fast and we had to leave so quickly this morning. I don't know what's happening there now. It's so scary.

I don't understand how you can shell peaceful people. We never wished harm on anyone. We were friends with Russia. We have relatives in Russia, she says. They just want to erase Ukraine from the face of the earth.


WARD: You hear those words, Wolf. They just want to erase Ukraine from the face of the earth. This is what it feels like for so many of the civilians who have been stuck underground with limited food, water, electricity for days and days. We're only just now starting to emerge. And, by the way, many thousands still remain hunkered down, unable to get out to safety.

Now, there is a report. The Russian media is saying that the Russians are offering a cease-fire tomorrow starting at 10:00 A.M. Moscow time, that's 9:00 A.M. this time.

[18:10:00] We've seen cease fires violated before. We will, of course, be out there on the scene trying to assess whether this one actually holds and whether some civilians, some more civilians, I should say, are finally able to get out of these hardest hit areas, Wolf.

BLITZER: All right. We shall see. Clarissa Ward, stay safe over there. We'll be in touch. Thanks very, very much.

Also this hour, we have a new Pentagon assessment of the Russian military setbacks in Ukraine.

Let's go to our Pentagon Correspondent, Oren Liebermann. Oren, the U.S. military now says Russia is encountering problems in its invasion of Ukraine and believes it's actually seeking, what, Syrian fighters to come over and help them out?

OREN LIEBERMANN, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Over the past 24, 48 hours, the Pentagon says it hasn't seen Russia make any great advances and this multipronged attack that we saw from basically three sides of Ukraine has pretty much stalled.

The Russians are having some success from the south, where they came up out of Ukraine in a fork attack in different directions. That's where they're experiencing the most success. But in other parts, including crucially that convoy that we've kept an eye on coming out of Belarus, coming from the north, that remains stalled.

The Russians are encountering a number of problems, according to a senior defense official, and that includes morale issues, food shortages, fuel shortages and more. Perhaps in an attempt to try to bolster their forces and try to plug those shortages, U.S. now says, or believes, rather, that Russia is looking to bring in foreign fighters, particularly Syrians, to add to their already massive force that they've moved into Ukraine.

Here's Pentagon Press Secretary John Kirby.


KIRBY: We do believe, as I said to Jen, that they are having morale problems. They're having supply problems. They are having fuel problems. They are having food problems. They are meeting a very stiff and determined Ukrainian resistance and we still maintain that they are several days behind what they probably thought they were going to be in terms of their progress.

We do believe that the accounts of them, the Russians seeking Syrian fighters to augment their forces in Ukraine, we believe there's truth to that. So, it's interesting that Mr. Putin would have to find himself relying on foreign fighters here.


LIEBERMANN: Not the first time we've heard of Russia using forces other than their own. A defense officials say they believe that Russia is using some elements of the mercenary Wagner group in Ukraine and that they we're looking to bring in 1,000 other mercenaries sometime last week, so, over the course of the next few days.

So, this is a pattern we're seeing and we'll certainly keep an eye on it, Wolf.

BLITZER: Oren Liebermann, reporting from the Pentagon. Thank you.

There's more breaking news just ahead on Vladimir Putin's war strategy and whether he's living in an information bubble, as President Zelenskyy now claims. Is the Russian leader cut off from the reality that his troops are facing on the ground?



BLITZER: Breaking news, the Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy declaring he's not afraid of anyone in a new video just released that showed him in his office for the first time since Russia invaded. He's suggesting that Ukraine's resistance is a nightmare for Vladimir Putin's forces. We're back with the breaking news.

Joining us now, the former director of National Intelligence, James Clapper, He's a CNN National Security Analyst. Dr. Clapper, thanks so much for joining us.

So, you heard President Zelenskyy saying Putin is living in an informational bubble without oxygen. That's a direct quote. You agree that Putin is completely cut off from realistic information about the situation on the ground in Ukraine?

JAMES CLAPPER, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: Well, I do. I think that's been a problem with Putin for some time. He's been in an information bubble and the information that he does receive, I would guess, is pretty filtered and he's not getting a lot of bad news. And in this situation, that's particularly critical, so I think President Zelenskyy has got a point.

BLITZER: Yes, I think so, too. What would it take for that bubble to burst? Is there anyone in Putin's inner circle who can actually get through to him with some serious, realistic information?

CLAPPER: Well, I doubt it. I think the government people that are in positions of influence that are in part of his inner circle, the national security adviser, minister of defense, they're long time cronies of Putin. And I think it's very unlikely that, at this point, they're going to bring him any bad news.

I think the vulnerability here though for Russia, which we need to find ways to sort of exploit, is, in general, getting information, first to the Russian citizenry. And I also think that perhaps oligarchs will coalesce perhaps and at least try to get to him. I think, personally, there's a better prospect of that than there is what the government functionaries that are close to him.

BLITZER: You know, it's really fascinating. President Zelenskyy is really a courageous man. For the past 12 days, he's been saying he's target number one, as far as Putin and the Russians are concerned. And you know, we've seen him in videos. We didn't know where he was, but all of a sudden tonight, he shows up in his office and he says he's not scared, he's not afraid of Putin. What does that say to you that he's telling Putin and the Russians exactly where he is?


CLAPPER: Well, who would have thought that someone of his professional background as an actor, comedian, would rise to the occasion as he has? And it's almost like he's in the information sphere, poking Putin in the eye, almost daring him.

He's obviously been a tremendous inspiration to his own people. I think he has, to the extent that's possible, stiffened their resolve even more. So it's really quite remarkable, but I think he is attempting to message Putin directly.

BLITZER: He's a very, very impressive 44-year-old leader of Ukraine right now and very courageous as I keep saying. Director Clapper, thanks so much for joining us. We'll, of course, continue this conversation down the road.

There's more breaking news were following tonight with the latest on the refugee crisis and a truly alarming warning that the E.U., the European Union, could see as many as 5 million people flee Russia's invasion of Ukraine



BLITZER: There's more breaking news in the refugee crisis, heartbreaking news sparked by Russia's brutal invasion of Ukraine. The United Nation's now says more than 1.7 million people have fled the fighting and some fear that number could grow almost threefold.

CNN Senior International Correspondent Ivan Watson is in Moldova for us. Moldova shares a border with Ukraine. Ivan, as we've seen elsewhere, the refugees arriving there are overwhelmingly women and children.

IVAN WATSON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: That's true. And, you know, Vladimir Putin, the Russian president, he claims that the Russian military is in Ukraine to fight neo-Nazis and fascists, in his words, but in these border regions all I see are women and children fleeing the invading Russian army.


WATSON (voice over): The fastest growing refugee crisis in Europe since World War II spilling across the borders of the former Soviet Union, more than 1.7 million Ukrainians leaving everything behind and now relying on the kindness of strangers, people like this grandmother who says a Russian strike destroyed her family's home in Mykolaiv on Friday.

I never thought the day would come when we would have to run away with these little kids, she says, holding her four-month-old granddaughter.

Nearly everyone here left their husbands, fathers, and sons behind to defend their homes, mothers with young children now on their own in a foreign country.

Imagine if you had to pack up your children, your pets, your belongings into a single suitcase and flee your home and your country. On a moment's notice. That is what has happened to all of these people.

Moldova, a small relatively poor former soviet republic, opened its doors to the refugees providing free transport, hot meals, and shelter to tens of thousands of Ukrainians says the country's prime minister.

NATALIA GAVRILITA, MOLDOVAN PRIME MINISTER: So about three-fourth of the refugees are actually staying with families. A lot of Ukrainians have friends or relatives in Moldova, but also regular people have just taken in Ukrainian families and invited them into their homes.

WATSON: Complete strangers?

GAVRILITA: Yes, absolutely.

WATSON: This woman is traveling alone. She says she came from Kyiv and it took nine days to get here. She has family waiting in Moldova.

The woman is headed to meet relatives here in an arena in the Moldovan capital.

This is one of the consequences of Russia's invasion of Ukraine, hundreds of Ukrainians who have taken shelter in a stadium in Moldova.

This, a temporary stop, a place to pause and process their new reality.

These women tell me they still can't believe the Russian military would shell and bomb their home city of Kharkiv, a city where almost everyone speaks Russian.

After all, Putin claims he's protecting Russian speakers from Ukrainian nationalists. They say, look, look at where the Russian speaking people are. They are all sleeping here. This observation echoed at the border by 65-year-old grandmother Techana Patriciona.

We watched the Russian T.V. channels and they have it all backwards, she says. They say the Russians are heroes defending us. Look here how they're liberating us. Is this a liberation, she asks, if I'm running away with a little baby like this? She joins the crowds lining up into waiting vans, one of tens of millions of Ukrainians now facing a very uncertain future.


WATSON (on camera): Now, Wolf, the movement of these hundreds of thousands of refugees is complicated when they get to the Moldova by the fact that Moldova's airspace is closed. On the first day of the invasion, the Russian government asked the Moldovan government to shut down its airspace and the Moldovan government has done that, stopped all, most all commercial airline traffic, fearing that planes could be hit by Russia's military operations next door.


It's an incredible infringement on this country's sovereignty and so people have to leave here over land to try to leave. And it's not just Ukrainians who are fleeing, some Moldovans, anecdotally, are also leaving because this tiny country is so vulnerable to the giant war next door.

BLITZER: I know people in Moldova fear they could be next. It's a really scary thought. Ivan Watson, joining us, Ivan, thanks for that report.

It's a very similar crisis, by the way, but on a much larger scale what's going on in Poland, which also shares a border with Ukraine.

Let's go to our Senior National Correspondent Sara Sidner. She's there for us. Sara, so what are you seeing on the border now?

SARA SIDNER, CNN SENIOR NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: I want to give you a sense of just how many people are coming over this border in particular, but borders, all of the borders of Ukraine, 100 people per every minute. Multiply that time 60, that's 6,000 people per hour. And if you do that 24 hours a day, it's a 144,000 people per day that are coming over the borders outside of Ukraine, leaving that war.

Here in Poland, they have more than a million people. So they have the vast majority of the 1.7 million refugees who have left Ukraine coming over to border here. There are two crossings here. One is for cars, trucks, and all the vehicles.

This one is for pedestrians and again, this has changed from a couple of days ago. There are so many more people on foot who are walking across that border with very little. You have buses coming up. This one's taking them to Przemysl the closest town and the closest train station, about 20, 25 minutes away.

Every single one of these massive buses are filled to capacity and beyond and what you will see in the crowd is almost exclusively women and children.

We'll walk around this bus to give you a sense of what happens when these buses just one by one drive up. Remember, it is now 1:30 in the morning and this has been constant all day long. Wolf?

BLITZER: Heartbreaking to see that. Give the Polish people a lot of credit for accepting a million refugees already in these first 12 days. Sara Sidner, thank you very much.

Meanwhile, there's graphic new video underscoring the true horror of Russia's attack on Ukraine. Viewers may find this video disturbing, but we think it's important for you to see it. It shows a Ukrainian soldier standing outside a building on the street near Kyiv. Suddenly, there's an explosion sending debris raining down. When the dust clears, a family of four, two adults and two children, that family is found dead, killed by the strike.

There's the family, you can see that picture. Horrible, horrible situation. My heart goes out to them.

Let's discuss with the UNICEF spokesman, James Elder, who's joining us right now, he's in Lviv, in Ukraine. James, thank you, thanks for joining us. Thanks for all you and UNICEF are doing right now for the kids.

For people who may not fully understand, James, can you just explain how dire the situation is for children and their families in Ukraine right now?

JAMES ELDER, SPOKESMAN, UNICEF: Yes. Hi, Wolf. Look, we've never faced a refugee crisis of this speed and scale as you saw there, children have been killed last night. Today, dozens of children are now killed. Many more I imagine.

Civilian facilities -- key civilian facilities are coming under attack leaving millions without water, critical infrastructure. And as you saw there, we have almost a million children who are refugees, a million kids refugees. In under two weeks. This is unprecedented globally. It's harrowing. It's happening as we speak and it will continue unless we see a cessation hostilities and this bombing to stop.


Otherwise, we will keep seeing lives, as we just saw there, shattered.

BLITZER: As you know, the European Union today said they could see more than 5 million, 5 million Ukrainian refugees in the coming days and weeks, many of them, of course, children. Is the world, James, prepared to deal with such a massive humanitarian crisis?

ELDER: Look, Wolf, on the back of the sheer weight of numbers that we've never seen so fast in human history -- well, at least in modern day history, in the last 100 years, the idea that children keep being killed, the idea that homes, schools, orphanages are under attack, all in the backdrop, Wolf, of a COVID crisis we were trying to come through, of a climate crisis. No, the world is not prepared. But whether it's the everyday citizens your viewers or seeing from here in Ukraine across the neighboring countries or my United Nations colleagues, there's a passion, there's a drive, there's a commitment to prepare and to stay and deliver.

BLITZER: Despite the escalating brutality of the Russian invasion, many parents are actually choosing to stay in Ukraine with their kids. What needs to be done to keep them safe?

ELDER: Look, the surest and fastest way to keep those people safe, to keep the millions of children whose lives are being shattered right now is to stop the bombing, for a complete cessation of hostilities, which the United -- which UNICEF take you directed forward just now. That's the surest way.

That's not going to happen if we going to keep having schools hit and playground hit and places where children get medical help under fire, then we need the immediate establishment of humanitarian corridors that these people to come out of and for agencies, like UNICEF, to take support into.

BLITZER: The UNICEF spokesman, James Elder, once again, thank you so much for joining us. Be safe over there and thanks for all that UNICEF is doing.

An important note to our viewers, for information -- this is important, for information how you can help all these humanitarian efforts in Ukraine, go to and help impact your world. It's so, so critical.

Coming up, the Pentagon now says Putin's military hasn't made any significant progress in days. Just ahead, we'll have a closer look at the battlefield.



BLITZER: Right now, we want to take a closer look at the state of the war in Ukraine and where the Ukrainians are resisting Russian troops.

CNN's Brian Todd is joining us with the Retired Brigadier General Peter Zwack. Brian, this is really important to see what's going on.

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Right Wolf. In just a short time ago, the Pentagon Spokesman John Kirby said that Vladimir Putin has all the combat power that he has assembled inside the country right now, and yet, General Zwack, we see intense battles for Mykolaiv in the south, the port city, for Mariupol. Where are the Ukrainians giving them the most stiff resistance right now?

BRIG. GEN. PETER ZWACK (RET.), U.S. ARMY: Brian, first of all, I think the Russians are meeting unexpected resistance across the whole board. They're making progress, but it's been bloody. Let's go south to north. Very, very quickly. Yes. They have succeeded just about Mariupol to connecting, if you will, the Crimea to Russia. Remember, they have a bridge here they built. They're going to do that. They captured Kherson. They're pushing through Mykoliav, they want Odesa and with Odesa, they're going to come in and do likely an amphibious operation were reading about that too, Kharkiv, Belgorod access city of 1.5 million people.

The Russians, I don't believe, have enough forces to storm the city. In fact, the Russians are spread out. That's the major, then the main effort.

TODD: Kyiv, let's go to Kyiv close up here. What are they doing? They've got forces assembled here and here.

ZWACK: Right. The main effort is here. They want to take the capital. This convoy coming down from 373 has been a fiasco. About ten days. They still remain stacked up. We've, they are trying to move south to cut the roads and of course you've got movement up here, but Kyiv right now is a really thorny proposition and Irpin it's ugly.

TODD: That's right, we've got tanks there. We've got video of tanks. They have settled in, they're taken positions between apartment buildings in Irpin. What are they doing?

ZWACK: This looks like a blocking position. It's sort of almost like a siege, starved, and shell, and intimidate what's going on there because Russians have realized you put troops into a -- or even into a small urban area, you're going to lose a lot of people against this fierce resistance.

TODD: Quickly now, the U.S. and NATO have sent 17,000 anti-tank missiles, 2,000 stinger missiles, like the kind that brought down this helicopter. Is that enough for the Ukrainians?

ZWACK: It's never enough, but this is in my mind the key fight, not the high out sort of the air fight. This, you have thousands now of, you probably have 100 to 200,000 Ukrainian troops or home guard out there. You put -, you put RPG's, you put stingers, you get this is going on all over the country. And I don't think 250,000 or whatever the number the Russians have, to sustain this.

TODD: It may not, but again, Wolf, when you're seeing this weaponry that the Ukrainians now have, the Russians are going to counter it. Just about everybody believes now, heavy bombardment in these cities that they have not been able to capture yet. Mariupol, Mykoliav, those cities in the south.

BLITZER: Very important information. Thanks. General Zwack, thank you very much. Brian, thanks to you as well.

Coming up, gas prices are closing in on an all-time high. How bad could it actually get if the U.S. bans Russian oil imports?



BLITZER: U.S. gas prices, which were already high before Russia invaded Ukraine, are now topping an average of $4 a gallon for the first time since 2008.

CNN's Pete Muntean is working this part of the story for us.

Pete, gas prices are just pennies away from an all-time high here in the U.S. How bad could this get?

PETE MUNTEAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, I was talking to a customer who filled up here earlier. She said she felt like just the other day, she spent $3 a gallon on gas.

And in the way, she's kind of right about that. The national average according to AAA for a gallon of regular, $4.07, a six-cent increase just overnight.


It was $3.61 only a week ago.

You know, it's really driving these prices are the cost of oil going up because of the Russian invasion of Ukraine. We know that the cost of oil is really on a global market. And even though there's a pinch in Europe and Asia, it's also causing a price increase here.

We've seen a 50-cent increase for a gallon of regular on average nationwide since that Russian invasion of Ukraine started about 11 days ago. We are getting so, so close as you mentioned to the all-time record, $4.11 back on July 17th, 2008. And experts say this bubble might not burst for a while, maybe $4.25, maybe even $4.50 by the time all is said and done.

And commuters headed back to work are really going to pay for it, Wolf.

BLITZER: Certainly.

Our Pete Muntean reporting for us, thank you very much.

And against the backdrop of its attack on Ukraine, Russia has arrested WNBA star and two-time Olympic champion, Brittney Griner, on drug charges.

CNN's Rosa Flores has reaction from Griner's hometown of Houston.


DEBBIE JACKSON, BRITTNEY GRINER'S HIGH SCHOOL COACH: It's hard for anybody, I'm sure, that knows Brittney.

ROSA FLORES, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Emotions are high as friends and family of WNBA star Brittney Griner grappled with Griner's arrest last month, by Russia custom officials, who alleged Griner had cannabis oil in her luggage at Moscow's main international airport.

What's your biggest fear?

JACKSON: My biggest fear is that this will become -- that she'll be a political pawn.

FLORES: Griner's high coach Debbie Jackson says the current Phoenix Mercury center, two-time Olympic gold medalist and seven-type WNBA all-star has the skills to overcome this episode.

JACKSON: She is going to fight to the end, no doubt. She'll be determined to keep on fighting.

FLORES: Griner's wife taking on Instagram today saying: My heart, our hearts, are all skipping beats every day that goes by. I miss your voice. I miss your presence. There are no words to express this pain. Griner who plays with the Russian team during the WNBA off-season

remains in custody. The statement from Russian custom officials not saying how long she's been detained, nor the conditions she's being held in.

CHRISTINE BRENNAN, CNN SPORTS ANALYST: I've talked to a couple sources and they say it's been a couple weeks that this has been going on.

FLORES: U.S. officials today providing few specifics as well.

JEN PSAKI, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: Of course, we obviously do everything we can when there are any reports of Americans who are detained through the State Department and through diplomatic channels.

FLORES: As U.S. officials work behind the scenes, some celebrities are coming out in support including Chef Jose Andres who tweeted, "We stand with you." And NFL quarterback and fellow Baylor grad RGIII posting, "Get her home".

Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee who represents Griner's home city of Houston, also calling for her release.

REP. SHEILA JACKSON LEE (D-TX): Anyone that is killing and attacking and destroying Ukraine, their neighboring country that is not bothering them, has no right to hold Ms. Griner, period.

FLORES: If convicted on the drug charges, Russian officials say Griner could face up to ten years in prison.

If she by any chance watches this story, what would you tell her?

JACKSON: I would tell her, please know that you are loved by so many people. You've always had a true resolve and grit to get to the finish line and know that you will get to the finish line. A lot of people here care about you.


FLORES (on camera): An online petition is growing for the safe and swift return of Brittney Griner. Now, that online petition, wolf, started with a few signatures. Now it's in the thousands. The call of action for Americans is to call elected officials so that Brittney Griner can come home -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Let's hope she comes home soon.

Rosa Flores, thanks very much.

We'll be right back.



BLITZER: Amid all the horrible and frightening images of Russia's war on Ukraine, a very different kind of video is touching hearts around the world. It shows a little girl named Amelia singing "Let It Go" from the animated movie "Frozen" inside a bomb shelter in Kyiv, moving so many of us to tears.


BLITZER: So beautiful indeed. Thank you, Amelia.

And thanks very much for watching.

"ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT" starts right now.