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The Situation Room
New Russian Attacks On City Rocked By Brutal Hospital Strike; Heavy Fighting In Multiple Locations Around Kyiv; NATO Surveillance Flight Detects About A Dozen Russian Planes Idling In Belarus; Interview With Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA), Chair, House Intelligence Committee, On Ukrainian President's Plea For No-Fly Zone; Thousands More Ukrainian Refugees Escape To Romania; Russian Warship Launches Five Strikes Near Odessa; U.S. Gas Prices Jump 7 Cents A Gallon In One Day; Russian Targeting Civilians As Barbaric War Enters Third Week; Ukraine Firing U.S. Missiles To Fight Off Russian Invasion. Aired 6-7p ET
Aired March 10, 2022 - 18:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST (voice-over): Happening now, breaking news: fierce new fighting just outside the Ukrainian capital. Russian forces moving closer and closer to the city, even as Ukraine says it defeated a column of enemy tanks. Kyiv now described as a fortress in this third week of the war.
Also breaking: new attacks in the same city where Russians brutally bombed a maternity and children's hospital. The outrage is growing. And the death toll rising, with local officials now forced to dig mass graves.
CNN correspondents are on the scene, covering this war from key locations in Ukraine, in Europe and here in the U.S.
We want to welcome our viewers here in the United States and around the world. I'm Wolf Blitzer and you are in THE SITUATION ROOM.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE (voice-over): This is CNN breaking news.
BLITZER: Tonight, U.S. officials say Russian forces are making new progress in their slow but punishing push toward the heart of Ukraine's capital. We will get a live report from CNN's Clarissa Ward -- she is in Kyiv -- in just a moment. But first, CNN's Oren Liebermann has other breaking news on the war.
OREN LIEBERMANN, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Russia's siege on the Ukrainian city of Mariupol is only growing more devastating. Massive craters from Russian attacks, the city digging mass graves for what the deputy mayor says are at least 1,300 civilian deaths.
The Red Cross says hundreds of thousands are without food, water, heat, power and medical care. Russian forces shell civilian infrastructure, like this maternity
hospital, which Russia denies. Local authorities accuse Russia of bombing a humanitarian corridor out of the city. The U.S. ambassador to the U.N. now saying this unequivocally about Russian actions.
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)
LINDA THOMAS-GREENFIELD, AMBASSADOR TO THE U.N.: They constitute war crimes. They are attacks on civilians that cannot be justified by any -- in any way, whatsoever.
(END AUDIO CLIP)
LIEBERMANN (voice-over): A high-level diplomatic meeting between the foreign ministers of Russia and Ukraine failed to bring results.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DMYTRO KULEBA, UKRAINIAN FOREIGN MINISTER: I came here with a humanitarian purpose, to walk out from the meeting with the decision to arrange a humanitarian corridor in and from Mariupol. Unfortunately, Minister Lavrov was not in a position to commit himself to it.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LIEBERMANN (voice-over): The diplomacy has done nothing to stop the war. the Russian foreign minister today even making the extraordinarily false claim that Russia did not attack Ukraine, as the invasion enters its third week.
Ukraine is claiming a victory in the north, these images showing what they say a defeated Russian tank regimen northeast of the capital, Kyiv. The local government says there is heavy fighting around the city and a senior defense official says Russian forces have drawn about 3 miles closer to the capital.
On the Black Sea, the port city of Odessa is preparing for a fight. The regional military accuse a Russian ship of firing in the sky over the city.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): I can see what's happening in the country. And I don't want Russian troops to take our city. We are trying hard to set up a force to resist them.
LIEBERMANN (voice-over): Russia pushing the debunked conspiracy theory that the U.S. is funding bioweapon labs in Ukraine. The U.S. intelligence community says they have seen no evidence of Ukraine developing any weapons of mass destruction.
AVRIL HAINES, DIRECTOR OF NATIONAL INTELLIGENCE: This influence campaign is completely consistent with long-standing Russian efforts to accuse the United States of sponsoring bioweapons work in the former Soviet Union.
LIEBERMANN (voice-over): The U.S. and some NATO allies warn that such accusations by the Kremlin may indicate Russia plans on using the weapons themselves.
LIZ TRUSS, U.K. FOREIGN SECRETARY AND MINISTER FOR WOMEN AND EQUALITIES: There is now talk of the use of chemical weapons. We have seen Russia do that before.
LIEBERMANN (voice-over): Vice President Kamala Harris is now in Poland, after the collapse of a potential deal to ship MiG-29 fighter jets through U.S. bases to Ukraine. Harris announcing additional humanitarian funding for civilians affected by the war.
KAMALA HARRIS (D), VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The United States is absolutely prepared to do what we can and what we must.
LIEBERMANN (voice-over): Oren Liebermann, CNN, at the Pentagon.
BLITZER: Oren, thank you.
Now to the battles raging just outside the capital city, Kyiv. Our chief international correspondent, Clarissa Ward, is there in Kyiv for us.
Clarissa, so what are you learning about this Russian advance that is moving closer and closer toward the capital city?
CLARISSA WARD, CNN CHIEF INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: So, Wolf, we had seen a lot of fighting to the northwest and also to the west of the city over the last 10 days or so.
WARD: But an alarming development today, which is a real uptick in Russian activity to the east of the city, beyond a suburb called Brovary. We saw some very heavy fighting there, also saw a large column of Russian tanks come under fire.
In this extraordinary drone video, which appears to show Ukrainian forces firing anti-tank missiles, like those Javelins that the U.S. military has supplied them with, and basically picking off tanks in that Russian convoy.
And there's a voice heard over this video, apparently the voice of a Russian soldier in that tank unit, saying that his commander has been killed.
So while the Ukrainians are fighting hard to defend that position, it is certainly of grave concern to everybody here in this city that the Russians appear to be making a real play pushing east and then, potentially, of course, pushing downwards. Presumably the goal would be to totally encircle the city.
And meanwhile, so many civilians, Wolf, are still pinned down and trapped under heavy fighting. We saw a tweet today from the foreign minister Dmytro Kuleba, where he denounces essentially President Putin's claims of demilitarizing and denazifying this country and shows the true cost of this, which are the children, who are so often the victims in this war and posted some dramatic video that was shot during an evacuation in a town called Vorzel, again, to the northwest of an orphanage.
A young child -- a toddler, Wolf, one of two very sick children, being ferried out of that orphanage, looking, frankly, completely unconscious. The people in this suburb have had no access to water, to medicine, to food, to gas, to heat, to electricity.
It has been a completely traumatic experience. And rescue workers still struggling to get into these hardest-hit areas and get Ukraine's most vulnerable citizens out -- Wolf.
BLITZER: So heartbreaking, indeed. That Ukrainian foreign minister met with his Russian counterpart earlier today. But the talks apparently went absolutely nowhere.
Do the Ukrainians actually believe the Russians are sincere in these diplomatic efforts?
WARD: The vibe that we are getting from Ukraine's leadership, after that meeting, which, of course, was, you know, a huge disappointment, to the extent that there were any expectations around it, is that the Russians are not being sincere about wanting to go through this diplomatic process.
You heard the foreign minister, the Ukrainian foreign minister, Dmytro Kuleba, joking basically that he didn't even think that foreign minister Lavrov actually has the authority to call for a cease-fire, even if they could agree upon one.
And we saw, again, a tactic that we have seen so many times from Lavrov, where he basically deflected away from the central issue, saying that this was not even the format to talk about a cease-fire, that that would have to be discussed in these separate negotiations and talks that have been going on between the Ukrainians and the Russians in Belarus.
And also, reiterating very ominously, Wolf, this demand from the Russians, this demand for demilitarization and denazification. Some of the other areas that Russia's demands have focused on, there are potential points of conciliation between the two sides, where concessions could be made, compromises could be made.
But on those two issues, those sort of expansionist maximalist demands, it is impossible to see how there can be any diplomatic solution found to this crisis, Wolf.
BLITZER: Clarissa Ward in the Ukrainian capital, Kyiv.
As I say to you every day, please be safe over there, Clarissa, thank you so, so much.
The breaking news continues, next. A CNN crew on a NATO surveillance flight that detects Russian warplanes entering Ukrainian airspace. Stand by. (MUSIC PLAYING)
BLITZER: We are following the breaking news of Russia's unprovoked and increasingly brutal attacks on Ukraine. CNN White House reporter Natasha Bertrand was on a NATO surveillance flight, monitoring Russia's movements today.
Natasha, tell us what you witnessed on this surveillance mission.
NATASHA BERTRAND, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Wolf.
So as evidence of just how important Belarus has become to Russia's operations inside Ukraine, we learned today on that NATO surveillance flight that NATO has actually been able to see on their radar, on a fairly regular basis, Russian-made aircraft entering into Ukrainian airspace via Belarus.
They are using Belarus as a launchpad, essentially, for a lot of their military operations, a lot of their air operations inside Ukraine. And this is something that they have been seeing, up to 10, 20 flights a day, coming from Belarus into Ukraine. Take a listen to what one NATO technician told me today.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We do see activity coming from -- from Belarus, going into the Ukraine. But we cannot distinguish whether these are Russian aircraft or the Belarusian aircraft.
Sometimes, there are some -- some certain periods on the day, which are not on a regular basis, where we do have a lot of activity getting in, like, a larger package with 10 to perhaps 20 aircraft coming in from the Belarusian airspace into Ukraine.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BERTRAND: So, interestingly, Wolf, it has been very difficult for NATO to actually differentiate these aircraft, because they are Russian made but Belarusians also use those Russian aircraft.
BERTRAND: So it could either be aircraft that is operated by the Russians, flying into this Ukrainian airspace, or by the Belarusians flying into that airspace. And, of course, the Belarusians have been supporting the Russians in a very substantial way throughout their military operation in Ukraine.
But it would obviously be a new development if the Belarusians were also flying into Ukrainian airspace. For now, all they can definitively tell via this radar, by this sophisticated radar they have on this plane, is that there is Russian- made aircraft flying from Belarus into Ukraine pretty regularly -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Is the intelligence from these flights, like the one you were on today, Natasha, is that intelligence actually being shared with Ukraine?
BERTRAND: It is not being shared directly with Ukraine, Wolf, and this is something that we pressed them on repeatedly. And they declined to get into detail about how that intelligence is actually shared except to say that it is shared in near real-time with NATO members, with NATO allies.
So this intelligence is being disseminated virtually in real time to these NATO member countries and then it is at their discretion whether or not they want to share it with Ukraine.
So NATO is not willing at this point to stay that they are providing any kind of intelligence or weaponry to Ukraine. However, they are hinting here that, of course, if the intelligence goes to those NATO member countries and they want to share it with Ukraine, then that is at their discretion -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Very interesting, indeed. All right, Natasha, thanks very, very much. Natasha Bertrand reporting from Germany tonight.
Let's get some more on all the breaking news. The chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, Democratic congressman Adam Schiff of California, is joining us.
Mr. Chairman, thanks so much for joining us. Let me start with your reaction to the White House now raising new concerns about the potential for a Russian biological or chemical attack in Ukraine.
Have you seen any evidence the Russians are actually planning such an attack?
REP. ADAM SCHIFF (D-CA), CHAIR, HOUSE INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE: I can't comment on the intelligence, Wolf. But I think that this is, all too tragically, a part of Russian tradecraft.
When they start talking about an adversary using biological weapons, using chemical weapons, it may be their way of creating this false flag operation, this pretext, this propaganda, that they are going to use to justify their own use of these weapons.
So it's deeply alarming. Obviously, we are keeping a very close eye out to see whether the Russians, in fact, go forward and use this kind of a false flag approach. It's another escalation by Putin and another tragic sign that Putin is doubling down, after suffering such heavy battlefield losses.
BLITZER: Do you have any doubt, Mr. Chairman, that Putin would actually be willing to use chemical or biological weapons at some point?
SCHIFF: I don't doubt it at all, tragically. I mean, he's already demonstrated his willingness to do that. Of course, he has used chemical weapons to poison people on foreign soil. So it's not at all beyond his evil capacity to use these in these conflicts. Someone who is bombing maternity hospitals is going to stop at nothing.
BLITZER: The Russians have made some -- some gains in their push toward Kyiv, the capital, in recent days. U.S. intelligence was initially wrong, apparently, about how quickly the capital, Kyiv, would fall to the Russians.
Is there an updated assessment, as far as you know, as to how long the capital can actually hold out?
SCHIFF: Well, you know, I think one of the difficult things for intelligence agencies to assess is the will of a people to fight. And of course, this was a big issue in Afghanistan very recently.
But what we are seeing in Ukraine is there is a tremendous will among the Ukrainian people to fight. And for that reason, they are holding off the Russians and, in doing so, beyond our expectation.
I think also we've been surprised by how incompetent much of the Russian military seems to be, their basic logistical problems, their failure to coordinate. So these have been surprises that inure to the benefit of Ukraine.
But It's always been, I think, this estimate that Russia has overwhelming military superiority. And if they are willing to press it long enough and hard enough, they will overtake Ukrainian defenses. But that doesn't mean they win.
It just means they get further bogged down. And this is the terrible tragedy of what's going on in Ukraine, which is there's no apparent exit ramp for Vladimir Putin. He's headed for a strategic defeat but at the cost of so many civilian lives.
BLITZER: Yes, that's the key point, a lot of civilians, men, women and children, are going to be dying in Ukraine over the next several days, as the Russians attempt to move closer and closer toward Kyiv.
The U.S. and NATO, as you know, Mr. Chairman, they continue to refuse Ukraine's desperate pleas to establish what is called a no-fly zone over Ukraine.
BLITZER: Do you worry the United States could look back, let's say, a year from now, and wish that the U.S. had done more and done it sooner?
SCHIFF: Well, you know, it's heartbreaking to see what is going on. And I understand the fervent desire of Ukraine, that we impose a no- fly zone. And I think many Americans watch those images and it's just heartbreaking. I worry more, honestly, Wolf, though, of getting into a shooting war
with Russia and that the incredible tragedy that that would represent. And so I think the administration is trying to help Ukraine in every way it can.
We, in Congress, are doing the same without crossing the line and getting into a hot war with Russia between the United States and Russia, two nuclear powers. I think probably the most pressing need that we can fill is trying to help Ukraine with its air defenses.
And I have been urging the administration as others -- and I know they are acting on this -- to try to find the munitions that Ukraine needs to shoot down Russian aircraft. I also favor a way of finding a way to get those Polish aircraft to Ukraine and elect to see us solve that problem and do so quickly.
BLITZER: Yes, the Ukrainian leadership, President Zelenskyy and others, they are -- they are pleading and pleading for that kind of assistance. Congressman Adam Schiff, as usual, thank you so much for joining us.
Adam Schiff, the chairman of the Intelligence Committee.
Coming up, we will take you into a safe haven for some of the Ukrainians fleeing this war, as the number of refugees is climbing higher and higher, now above 2 million.
BLITZER: The United Nations now estimates that more than 500 civilians have been killed in Russia's war against Ukraine. The city of Mariupol forced to dig mass graves as the bodies pile up, including victims from the attack on a maternity and children's hospital.
And as the attacks continue, we are seeing more and more Ukrainians desperate to flee the bloodshed, escaping to neighboring countries, including Romania. CNN's Miguel Marquez is in Bucharest for us.
And, Miguel, how is Romania handling this huge influx of refugees?
MIGUEL MARQUEZ, CNN SENIOR NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, it's been amazing to be here the last couple days. The Romanians and the European Union are getting much better at moving this mass number of people around.
But as the Russians continue to use that indiscriminate force across Ukraine, the crisis here only getting worse.
MARQUEZ (voice-over): The refugee crisis deepening.
ANNA LEUKINENKO, UKRAINIAN REFUGEE: Just thinking of what I need in maybe about two hours.
MARQUEZ (voice-over): Anna Leukinenko from Mykolaiv in southern Ukraine, a city hammered indiscriminately by Russian rockets and artillery. She had two hours to pack up her two kids, her mother and her children's godmother, two hours to pack. No idea if she will see her husband, grandparents or country again.
LEUKINENKO: I said I think that Ukrainian will be free and everything will be OK.
But who knows when?
MARQUEZ (voice-over): She's trying to get from Bucharest to friends in Poland, one story of millions. Families now being torn apart in Ukraine and across Europe.
DR. RAED ARAFAT, STATE SECRETARY, ROMANIAN MINISTRY OF INTERNAL AFFAIRS: We will see people who are without capabilities, without possibilities, financial possibilities, who are running from war. They are running for their lives, taking just a very few things with them and sometimes, even without documentation.
MARQUEZ (voice-over): The speed at which Ukrainians are transformed into refugees, increasing exponentially as Russia continues punishing attacks on civilian and military targets alike.
COSMINA SMILEAN, GENERAL MANAGER, DIRECTORATE FOR SOCIAL SERVICES, BUCHAREST: We don't know what is coming and how many people are coming to Bucharest. As far as we know, the people coming here are only in transit. A few of them remain in Romania.
But we don't know how many people will come so we need to be prepared.
MARQUEZ (voice-over): Romanians not just waiting to receive Ukrainian refugees. Now they are collecting and organizing massive amounts of humanitarian supplies, all to be shipped directly to Ukraine.
MAYOR NICUSOR DAN, BUCHAREST: They need drugs and we have a specific list of what kind of drugs. They -- they need medical kits. And they need food that can be preserved.
MARQUEZ: Did you ever think you'd be in this situation?
DAN: No, I mean, a war in 2022, it's unbelievable.
MARQUEZ: Now in total, Romania has taken on about 360,000 refugees, so far. They have come through the country; most of them are moving on to other countries. About 85,000 are staying. But that number is growing, which is a concern to Romanians, because they don't have a lot of space here. Here in Bucharest, they have now opened up their biggest indoor public
space that will soon start taking refugees. They can hold about 2,000 there -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Miguel, Miguel Marquez in Bucharest for us. Miguel, thank you very much.
Let's go to another critical battleground right now in this war against Ukraine, the southern Ukrainian port city of Odessa. CNN international security editor Nick Paton Walsh is, of course, on the scene for us.
Nick, a Russian warship actually fired over the skies of Odessa, we're told.
How are the people there preparing for a Russian assault?
NICK PATON WALSH, CNN INTERNATIONAL SECURITY EDITOR: Yes, obviously, we have seen intense barricading here over the past weeks. And I have to say when roughly we think that ship fired those shots.
WALSH: Local Ukrainian security officials think it was about trying to see how the air defenses here would react. We were standing in the street. It was littered with tank traps, extraordinary iron girdles (ph) basically being welded together. And that is across the whole of this city.
So central tourist district, deserted, covered in sandbags. And so, I think that moment certainly left people more anxious than we've seen in past days, that we may be seeing sort of Russian probing of the defenses of this key port that Russia really has to have influence over if it wants to influence Ukraine's full economy.
After that, on the skyline behind me, around about dusk, there was a couple of bursts of what sounded like heavy anti-aircraft fire. And it's been a relatively quiet night. But I think there is a slight increase in the anxiety of people in Odessa.
Adding to that, too, we are seeing, along the Black Sea coast, Wolf, increased sense of Russian military activity; although, the key port city of Mykolaiv, the regional head there, has been quite bullish in the last 24 hours, suggesting that although they have lost people on checkpoints, in fact, Russian armor has suffered losses through airstrikes -- Wolf.
BLITZER: So how is the pressure mounting over there in Mykolaiv?
WALSH: Yes, I mean, we have seen, over the past couple of days, this sort of back and forth around the outskirts of the town, where, clearly, Russian bids to get into the city have been repelled. That's evident.
But there have been losses, too, amongst the Ukrainian forces. We saw actually the regional head, who is very popular on Telegram, put out a strange cheat sheet to Russian soldiers.
He said the prisoners they have taken, he claimed, having all suggested they were in fact thinking they were on a training exercise here in Ukraine. And we have heard that from other officials, too.
This was how they could potentially surrender. Also signs of extra Russian armor being brought into the next port city of Kherson via rail but, fear, I think here, that we are seeing slow momentum building toward Russia eventually pushing down on this key city of Odessa, Wolf.
BLITZER: Yes, it's heartbreaking to hear those reports. The potential for disaster is enormous right now. Nick Paton Walsh, on the scene for us in Odessa, thank you very much.
An important to note to our viewers, for information about how you can help humanitarian efforts in Ukraine, go to cnn.com/impact and help impact your world.
There is more breaking news just ahead. Russia's invasion of Ukraine helping push U.S. gas prices even higher. Now to another new record. We are taking a closer look at how high prices could actually go. That and a lot more, when we come back.
BLITZER: Breaking news: the Russian invasion of Ukraine helping push U.S. gas prices to yet another record high. CNN business and politics correspondent Vanessa Yurkevich is with us right now.
Vanessa, a 7 cent jump in just one day.
Just how high could the prices actually go?
VANESSA YURKEVICH, CNN BUSINESS AND POLITICS CORRESPONDENT: Well, if three days of record-setting gas prices are any indication, they are going to keep climbing and much higher.
We are at $4.32 a gallon nationwide. That is up 7 cents from yesterday's record and up almost 80 cents since the Russian invasion of Ukraine, which was on February 24th.
Now this is all coming on the heels of really high inflation that Americans had been experiencing. That's been pushing gas prices higher. Now according to Moody's Analytics, if gas prices stay about where they are right now, American families can expect to spend $1,300 more on gas this year, compared to pre-pandemic times.
And new tonight, AAA reporting that 60 percent of Americans say that, if gas prices crossed $4 as the national average, they would have to make changes to their driving, either carpooling or pulling back completely.
We've obviously crossed that threshold. And 75 percent of Americans, Wolf, say that, if gas crosses $5 for the national average, they are going to have to change their driving habits.
According to analysts that we have spoken to, that could be in the very near future, maybe about a month or so from now. We could see $5 as the national average.
So Wolf, with inflation, with this invasion of Ukraine and with spring break and summer driving coming up, it's going to be a very painful couple of months for Americans at the pump -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Yes, in some parts of the country, it is about $5 already, out in California and on the West Coast. CNN's Vanessa Yurkevich in New York, for us, thank you, Vanessa.
Gas prices are just one of the factors pushing U.S. inflation now to a 40-year high. Our White House correspondent MJ Lee is working this part of the story for us.
So MJ, walk us through these numbers. A lot of things families rely on are getting more and more expensive.
MJ LEE, CNN POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Wolf. The bottom line is that practically everything feels more expensive for American families across the country. Take a look at some of these numbers in terms of how much more things cost today compared to about a year ago.
Gasoline prices, up 38 percent; used cars, up 41 percent compared to a year ago; groceries cost 8 percent more. And apparel, more than 6 percent up than a year ago.
This, by the way, is why we have seen the White House have a hard time selling some of the more positive data points in the economy that they have seen, like wage growth, jobs growth, the GDP number, when everyday Americans are going to the store, going to the gas pump, as we saw Vanessa reporting on, and seeing that prices have gone up.
All of these data points I just talked about -- those become a little harder to sell, Wolf.
BLITZER: The White House is trying, as you know, MJ, to sell this as a, quote, "Putin -- Putin's price hike."
But that's not necessarily quite the case, is it?
LEE: That's right, the White House has practically made Putin's price hike a new slogan in terms of talking about inflation. And the point that they have been trying to make is that, since the Russia invasion of Ukraine, energy prices in particular have really taken a hit.
But of course, this is not the full story. As we know very well, even well before the Russian invasion began, there have been issues with inflation; gas prices already going up because of the pandemic, because of some of the issues that we saw related to COVID, like worker shortages, supply chain issues.
We've seen some of the ports at our countries becoming blocked and exacerbating all of those issues.
So the question that the White House is facing now is how long is this going to last?
And interestingly, White House press secretary Jen Psaki said today that gas prices being high should be temporary and not long-lasting. I have a suspicion that this is going to be something that she is going to continue getting asked about.
And also, just the question of what are you going to do to deal with it?
Of course, the White House knows very well the reality, that this is not an issue they can fix overnight.
BLITZER: Certainly isn't. MJ Lee, at the White House, thank you very much.
The breaking news continues next, with a closer look at how U.S. weapons are actually helping Ukraine hold off Russia's unprovoked invasion.
BLITZER: More now on the breaking news. Russia targeting civilians in Ukraine as its unprovoked war on the country enters its third week.
Let's bring in CNN's Brian Todd.
Brian, Ukraine is facing much larger and better equipped army but has made some remarkable progress in its defense, thanks at least in part to U.S. weapons.
BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Wolf. These weapons have taken a remarkable toll on the battlefield, killing Russian soldiers, destroying columns of tanks and in at least one case, a direct hit on a low-flying aircraft.
TODD (voice-over): A Russian helicopter flying just above the tree line blasted out of the sky by what analysts say is likely a Stinger anti-aircraft missile.
THOMAS KARAKO, CENTER FOR STRATEGIC AND INTERNATIONAL STUDIES: If you are a Russian helicopter pilot, you never know where this is -- this is going to come from.
TODD: This video posted by the Ukrainian military, CNN is unable to verify when this happened. The stinger, a heat-seeking anti-aircraft missile with a range of 5 miles and 11,000 feet, a weapon so smart, it can distinguish enemy aircraft.
MAJ. GEN. JAMES "SPIDER" MARKS (RET.), CNN MILITARY ANALYST: It starts to squawk friend or foe. It looks for targets that it is supposed to hit. So if you fired a Stinger at a U.S. F-15, it probably missed. But when you put a Russian-made aircraft in the air and you use a U.S. Stinger, you're going to have contact.
TODD: U.S. officials tell CNN the U.S. and NATO have sent the Ukrainians thousands of stingers.
LT. GEN. SCOTT BERRIER, DIRECTOR, DEFENSE INTELLIGENCE AGENCY: Weapons like Stingers have moved in and they have been used with effect and I think the Ukrainians will continue to be able to use those, in small unit tactics with -- with great effect.
TODD: And the West has sent Javelins, and anti-tank guided missile system, shoulder fired with range of over 8,000 feet.
KARAKO: It fires a weapon that goes up in the air, and comes back down hitting a tank or vehicle from above. It does so because it's got less armor on the top generally is more vulnerable.
TODD: The Ukrainian military has put out several videos showing its lethal dexterity in using these Western-made weapons against the Russians.
This video shows a destroyed Russian tank on fire. There is aerial footage of a Russian tank column getting slammed with missiles.
Javelins and Stingers, crucial to the Ukrainians analysts say partly because they are so-called fire and forget weapons.
MARKS: Fire and forget. So you can fire it, and then the person who fires it can scoot.
TODD: The Russians experts say have their own very effective weapons in Ukraine, Iskander and Caliber missiles and light mobile T-72 tanks. But they are also accused of using cluster bombs and preparing to use so-called vacuum or thermo baric bombs that are not supposed to be used in civilian areas.
MARKS: Thermo barics are horrible. They explode and then they have a secondary explosion that sucks the air out of the -- out of the immediate proximity.
TODD: Analysts say the Ukrainian success with their shoulder-fired missiles is being aided by sometimes sloppy Russian tactics.
MARKS: They are lining their tanks and their armored personnel carriers, you know, nose to fanny, nose to fanny, going down the street. And there is no security, flank security, to the left or the right. And so, they become sitting ducks.
(END VIDEOTAPE) TODD (on camera): As effective as these weapons are, CNN is told that U.S. officials have not given the Ukrainians the newest versions of weapons, like Stinger missiles out of concern that somehow on the battlefield, some of them might fall into the hands of the Russians, who then might steal that technology, Wolf.
BLITZER: That's important points as well.
Brian Todd, reporting, thank you very, very much.
Let's dig deeper right now. Retired Admiral James Stavridis, the former NATO supreme allied commander, is joining us. He is also the co-author of the book "2034" -- there is the cover -- "A Novel of the Next World War". Out in paper back right now.
Admiral, thank you so much for joining us. Are these the best possible weapons the U.S. can provide Ukrainians right now? Or are there other more sophisticated weapons that you think the U.S. could offer?
ADMIRAL JAMES STAVRIDIS (RET.), FORMER NATO SUPREME ALLIED COMMANDER: I think there's more to come from our side to include higher altitude.
You heard correctly that the Stinger goes up to about 10,000, 11,000 feet. That won't get after the Russian jets that are operating at a higher level. So we've got better missiles we can offer our Ukrainian friends that will get up into that zone.
And then ultimately, Wolf, although we are kind of going through a little bit of logistic challenge I would call it with getting these Polish fighters, these MiG 29s into the hands of Ukrainians, that would get into the top of the air stack, would become a real asset, for example, going after that big convoy that stalled north of Kyiv. What a target. A MiG or two could make light work of that.
We've got more to send Vladimir Putin's way and we should.
BLITZER: Yeah. Well, that hasn't happened yet. Why is the U.S. comfortable, Admiral, providing some weapons to the Ukrainians but fears others like fighter jets, for example, could actually trigger an escalation with Russia? What's the difference?
STAVRIDIS: Well, it's all a matter of degree, Wolf. If you think of it as a spectrum that runs from, we just sit back and watch to the other end of the spectrum with the 18th Airborne Corp goes into Ukraine and cleans up the Russians, which believe me they could, you need to find a balance only because Russia has 6,000 nuclear weapons.
So, the debate right now is, how far do you go? How much risk do you take? Personally, I think the administration has done generally a good job of finding that middle point, getting Javelins. As you just heard, getting Stingers into the fight.
Now, it's time to take a bit more risk, more higher altitude missile systems, continue to work the problem of getting the jets into the fight. All of this means we are going to be helping the Ukrainians push back on the Russians on this illegal war criminal invasion.
BLITZER: The director of the Defense Intelligence Agency, the DIA, says a no-fly zone would not necessarily offer Ukraine significant protection against many of the weapons that the Russian forces are already using right now.
Do you share that assessment?
STAVRIDIS: I do. I know Avril Haines extremely well. She's one of our sharpest minds, focused on this. Here is the point. What she is saying correctly is that we can put a lot of tools in the hands of the Ukrainians to let them build a Ukrainian no-fly zone over their own country. It has been quite heartening to watch the Ukrainians do so, even with relatively low level weapons like Stingers.
My view, let's give them a little bit more. Let's continue to ratchet up the pressure on Vladimir Putin.
BLITZER: The White House is warning that Russia could potentially -- potentially use chemical or biological weapons in Ukraine. But they are refusing to draw any red lines or offer any specifics about a U.S. response.
So, what do you think? What kind of response would a chemical or biological attack by the Russians against Ukraine, what kind of response would that warrant from the U.S.?
STAVRIDIS: Let's begin with the probability or not of a chemical or biological attack. I think it's unlikely Russia is going to pull that particular dirty trick out, because what they're trying to do here is put that back on the Ukrainians, on the United States. I think that's more about their attempt to control the narrative than a serious attempt to use that against our forces.
BLITZER: Admiral James Stavridis, thank you so much for joining us. I would love to stay in touch with you. Appreciate it very much.
STAVRIDIS: You bet.
BLITZER: Just ahead, a young Ukrainian woman describes the terror of being attacked by Russia and her gut-wrenching decision to flee her home and the fighting.
BLITZER: Finally tonight, the horror of the war in Ukraine through the words and the pain of one young resident of Kharkiv. Listen as she shares her story with ITN of being under attack and finally deciding to evacuate.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIPS)
ANASTASIA PARASKEVOVA, KHARKIV RESIDENT: Last night was probably the most terrifying night of my life. Kharkiv was terribly bombarded last night. Air strikes all over the city. Dozens of buildings destroyed. Civilian buildings where people live.
I'm not going to take much because I'm hoping I will return soon enough. My sister says it's like going on a trip. But an awful one, I guess.
So, as my parents can no longer withstand it, the constant bombing, especially after last night, which was truly a terrifying thing, we are going to leave if we live that long, of course.
So I don't want to leave. And I won't be leaving Ukraine. We will be moving to somewhere just farther away from Russian border.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: So heartbreaking indeed.
To our viewers, thanks very much for watching.
"ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT" starts right now.