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The Situation Room

Biden Increases Pressure On Putin As Russian Attacks Intensify; U.S., Allies To Suspend Normal Trade Relations With Russia; Romanian Family Hosts 31 Ukrainian Refugees Under One Roof; Interview With Lisa Yasko, Ukrainian Parliament Member & Rep. Eric Swalwell (D-CA) On Russia Invasion Of Ukraine; War Hits Close To Home For Ukrainian- Americans; NYC: Two People Stabbed At Museum Of Modern Art; Surging Gas Prices Create Record Profits For Oil Industry. Aired 5-6p ET

Aired March 12, 2022 - 17:00   ET




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

Ukrainians showing defiance as Russian forces creep closer and closer to Kyiv. Vladimir Putin's troops suffering setbacks but their offensive has not stopped, now just miles from the center of the capital.

And as bombs continue to fall on cities across Ukraine, more civilians are being forced to make incredibly tough decisions. Take up arms to fight the Russians or flee to safety across the border. The number of refugees now exceeds 2.5 million.

And we're getting a brand-new look at the extent of the damage in the southern city of Mariupol. This video shows the burned out remains of residential areas that followed these Russian strikes.

Ukraine's former president telling CNN that Putin's invasion will mean, in his words, the end of the Russian empire while Ukraine's current president pleads for help, saying some small villages simply don't exist anymore after coming under relentless assault from the Russians.

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.

Tonight, the Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy says his country's forces are inflicting the biggest blow to Russia's army in decades even as Putin's troops are now on the doorstep of the capital Kyiv.

CNN's Arlette Saenz is standing by live at the White House for us. She's got the late breaking developments on this war.

So Arlette, update our viewers.

ARLETTE SAENZ, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well Wolf, it is clear that Russia is intensifying its campaign in Ukraine, devastating areas throughout the country. But the U.S. and allies are trying to surge assistance into Ukraine as they are hoping to help the resistance in fighting against Russia.


SAENZ: With the war in Ukraine in its third week, U.S. President Joe Biden ramping up the pressure on Russia.

JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Putin is an aggressor -- he is the aggressor. And Putin must pay the price.

SAENZ: Today, the president directing the State Department to draw down $200 million in defense services for Ukraine. An administration officials saying this will include anti-armor, anti-aircraft systems and small arms. As Russia warns the U.S. that convoys of foreign weapons would be considered legitimate targets. Biden sending a warning of his own to Russia.

BIDEN: Not going to speak about the intelligence, but Russia would pay a severe price if they use chemical weapons.

SAENZ: The president remained adamant American troops will not fight in Ukraine on the ground or in the skies.

BIDEN: We will not fight the Third World War in Ukraine.

SAENZ: The leaders of France and Germany today speaking with Russia's Vladimir Putin, urging an immediate cease-fire.

But Russia's bombardment of Ukraine is not letting up. Russian forces are closing in on Kyiv with the British intelligence assessment finding the bulk of Russian ground forces located about 15 miles from the capital.

30 miles west of Kyiv, the village of Makariv sustaining wide damage -- a gaping hole in this apartment building from apparent Russian air strikes. Several hundred feet away, the roof of a kindergarten caved in. Smoke seen billowing from the building.

Russia also intensifying its attacks. Heavy shelling around the southern city of Mykolaiv. Here, a man seen staring at the sky as explosions are seen nearby.

Up north, the head of Chernihiv Region Administration showing the destruction in his city. But the resolve of Ukrainian leaders including the country's former president, remains strong.

PETRE POROSHENKO, FORMER UKRAINIAN PRESIDENT: We are not giving up. We are not forgive the Putin these type of things and I am absolutely confident that we will fight in every single house, every single street and every single war.

SAENZ: Ukraine's current president still pushing NATO to impose a no fly zone over his country, while warning his entire nation has become the front line of the war. VOLODYMYR ZELENSKYY, UKRAINIAN PRESIDENT (through translator): This

war, a difficult war, has truly united her nation. If you are asking me how the situation on the front line. There's a front line everywhere.



SAENZ: Now as President Zelenskyy pushes for that no fly zone, the U.S. and NATO have been insistent that that is a nonstarter. And over the course of the past 24 hours, President Biden really stressing how adamant he is about not sending U.S. troops into Ukraine warning that any direct conflict between the U.S., NATO, and Russia, would essentially lead to a Third World War, Wolf.

BLITZER: Arlette Saenz at the White House for us. Thank you very, very much.

Let's head up to Capitol Hill right now with a massive government funding bill passed. Billions -- billions of dollars in U.S. aid is headed to Ukraine. Now Congress is set to work out President Biden's call to strip Russia of its Most Favored Nation trade status.

Our senior Washington correspondent Joe Johns is joining us now live from Capitol Hill. So Joe, does this have bipartisan support?

JOE JOHNS, CNN SENIOR WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: In fact, it does, Wolf. This is permanent, normal trade relations. If a country has it, it means low tariffs. If a country doesn't have it, it means high tariffs which would translate into more pressure on the Russian economy. Even before the president gave the green light on this, there were a number of members of the House and Senate both Democrats and Republicans who were pushing for it, but the White House at first told them to hold off.

That was because they wanted to gin up more support among the allies. The reason for that, pretty simple. If, for example, the United States goes it alone on this issue of revoking most favored nation status for Russia, it would have a moderate effect on the economy. But if you throw in the U.K., the E.U., Canada, Japan, all of these different countries, it makes much more of a statement.

So the House of Representatives now is pushing hard to try to get this thing through on that side. By this time next week, not clear if the United States Senate is going to be able to move quite as fast.

Meanwhile, speaking of the Senate, there is a senate congressional delegation in eastern Europe tonight in Poland in fact. A number of United States senators -- again Wolf, a bipartisan group and that would include among others Richard Blumenthal, Roger Wicker, Amy Klobuchar. This congressional delegation is being led by Rob Portman.

Back to you.

BLITZER: All right. Joe Johns up on Capitol Hill, thank you very much. Meanwhile, the numbers are truly, truly staggering. The U.N. now estimates more than 2.5 million Ukrainians have fled their country of Ukraine since Russia invaded. Millions more are homeless refugees inside Ukraine right now.

After a long and dangerous escape, those who managed to get out, they are experiencing something unexpected after they cross the border -- an abundance of kindness from strangers.

CNN's Miguel Marquez is joining us from Bucharest in Romania. You've witnessed all of this unfold firsthand. So what are the folks doing to help?

MIGUEL MARQUEZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes. Look, in Romania and across Europe, you are seeing people open up their homes, open up their lives to try to help these refugees; every single one, their own story.

We met 31 of them and we got a few of their stories for you to hear.


MARQUEZ: 31 refugees from Ukraine under one Romanian roof. All different ages, all nationalities, all staying free of charge.

I want to show people this first. This says so much. What is this?

ALINA GREAVU, HOSTING UKRAINIAN REFUGEES: This is the shoes of our refugees and volunteers. For the moment, I think some of them are out in the city, so there might be even more shoes.

MARQUEZ: It's a lot of everything. From laundry to home cooked borsch. Alina Greavu and her husband Adi (INAUDIBLE) and a whole bunch of volunteers in their rural Romanian home so far have hosted more than 60 refugees from Ukraine.

Yelena Petrunina (ph) from Kharkiv has cancer. "I was diagnosed with cancer," she says. "I was supposed to have the operation and was prepared to have it on February 24th." The day the war started.

Her surgery in Ukraine canceled. She now has it planned for Romania and is getting the support she needs from her new Romanian hosts.

19-year-old Nigerian Iman Odejobi (ph) was studying medicine and playing soccer in Ukraine. He's here waiting for a flight to reunite with his family in Qatar.

IMAN ODEJOBI, NIGERIAN: I didn't expect people like this. Especially Europeans. I don't want to say anything like contradicting, but like I didn't expect them to be this like welcoming to like me.

MARQUEZ: Because you're African?

ODEJOBI: Yes. That is one. That is one.

MARQUEZ: We've all heard the stories of Africans and Indians being treated differently on the border, but you're -- [17:09:58]

ODEJOBI: This is all completely different. All completely new and like I'm very, like proud of them and I'm very appreciative of what they've done.

MARQUEZ: Olga Batochka (ph) and her daughter Alona from Kharkiv are here waiting for a flight to Portugal to stay with relatives. Their town being pummeled by Russian rockets and artillery. Some of her Russian friends don't believe it.

OLGA BATOCHKA, UKRAINIAN REFUGEE: I know him from four years old and he call me and what is happened? I say, I'm in underground now. I can't tell you it's awful. We have bombs on our houses. Oh, it's can't be. Go home.

MARQUEZ: From Kyiv, Sasha Nichmilov, his wife and five kids have nowhere else to go.

How do you explain the war to your children? "The older kids understand what's happening," he says. "The younger ones don't, but even when our windows broke from the bombing, I told them it was an earthquake."

He says the war will end but can't say when or what that end will look like.

For now, refugees, volunteers, strangers --

GREAVU: We help each other no matter our race, sex, sexual orientation, color of the skin and so on.

MARQUEZ: -- trying to make the uncertain world a little less strange.


MARQUEZ: Now look, every single one of these stories is different. Most of the people that we have met over the last week are moving on to other places -- Poland, Germany, Portugal, all over the place.

But as the Russians push their offensive, it is going to be more dire. There's going to be more refugees and that's going to be harder and harder for people to take. Not only are homes opening up here across Romania but the cities, the counties and all across the country of Romania they are opening up everything they can for the days ahead. They expect it to get much worse, Wolf.

BLITZER: Yes. I'm sure it will. And I want to thank all the folks in Romania for doing what they're doing. Really important, critically important, life-saving work. Miguel Marquez in Bucharest for us. Thank you very much.

Up next, I'll speak to retired U.S. Army Brigadier General Mark Kimmitt about the threat of chemical weapons being used by the Russians in Ukraine. How Ukraine can deter Russia and defend against any possible attack. Plus, as Russian forces are inching closer and closer to the capital of Kyiv, a member of the Ukrainian parliament standing by live to join me. What she says her people need from the United States and NATO.



BLITZER: The Ukrainian president said Russia is making false claims about chemical weapons in Ukraine to try to intimidate and potential create a false flag as a pretext for their chemical attack against the Ukrainian people. Listen.


VOLODYMYR ZELENSKYY, UKRAINIAN PRESIDENT (through translator): We are getting scary signals from Russia when they say something about chemical weapons they are finding here. And I think so that they may be using chemical weapons.

These signals are not an accident. They are trying to scare people. But there is one problem. With this scary tactic out of these messages of intimidation, some may become reality.


BLITZER: Joining me now to discuss, retired U.S. Army Brigadier General Mark Kimmitt. General thanks for joining us.

How serious is this threat of Russia potentially using chemical or biological weapons in Ukraine?

BRIG. GEN. MARK KIMMITT, RET. U.S. ARMY: Well, I think we've got to take it seriously. I think it's a higher probability that it will be done as a false flag operation than an actual tactical operation. It messes up the battlefield for both sides so I think the Russians would not want to use it as part of their military operations.

BLITZER: Explain to our viewers what you mean using it as a false flag operation.

KIMMITT: What that means is Russia has been trying to justify to its own people the invasion. And what they're suggesting is if chemicals were used by the Ukrainians against Russian forces or their own people, then that would give Russians the justification to be seen as liberators and a cause to conduct this invasion in the first place and continue this invasion.

BLITZER: And to use chemical weapons in the process. What do we know about Russia's arsenal of chemical or biological weapons?

KIMMITT: Well, in the case of chemical weapons, they declared, they, the Organization for Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, declared Russia free of chemical weapons in 2017. But then this Novichok showed up against some opposition leaders and former agents in 2018. Plus they were involved, they, the Russians, were involved in pulling chemical weapons out of Syria. So even though there's very little documentation or direct proof of it, I think everyone in the intelligence community suspects the Russians still maintain a significant amount of chemical weapons, if not biological weapons as well.

BLITZER: What would be, in your opinion, the U.S. And western allies response to a Russian chemical weapons attack against Ukrainians?

KIMMITT: Well, Wolf, we've seen that picture before. President Obama in 2015 drew that red line in Syria and when that red line was crossed and has subsequently been crossed a number of times since then, we did nothing.

I'm not certain what the response would be. We have painted ourselves into a corner by saying we don't want to put ground troops into Ukraine. We've used sanctions almost to the maximum, so I'm not sure what other tricks we have up our sleeves.


BLITZER: Yes. President Biden said Friday there would be a severe response from the U.S. but he didn't elaborate.

Now, the Biden administration as you know has warned about Russia using these so-called false flag operations in the Donbas region, some of that disputed area in eastern Ukraine as a pretext for an invasion. It turned out to be pretty accurate.

How concerned are you that Putin will use that same strategy to launch a chemical attack?

KIMMITT: Well first of all, let's be very clear. The administration and NATO has been very good about calling out these false flag operations ahead of time so the free world certainly understands that these are indeed just that.

His audience for these false flag operations are his own people. And as you can see from the last hour, the number of Zs that were all over vehicles and all over the country, which is a Russian for support, he's trying to continue the support.

So I don't see any reason why he would not conduct a chemical operation against the Ukrainians for the purposes of blaming it on them. Particularly if things slow down much more for him.

BLITZER: As you know, the U.S. State Department has now said that American citizens who travel to Ukraine and fight with Ukrainian forces are at greater risk of mistreatment if they're captured by the Russian forces after the Kremlin said they would be treated as quote, "mercenaries".

What would you say to U.S. veterans thinking of going over to Ukraine and fighting the Russians? KIMMITT: I would say exactly that. You will be treated as a mercenary.

You have no Geneva Convention protections. You should have absolutely no belief that either the United States is going to save you or even going to help you. That's beyond our remit and you're doing this at your own risk.

BLITZER: General Mark Kimmitt, as usual, thanks so much for joining us.


BLITZER: Up next, new satellite images show how much damage Russian forces have inflicted on the city of Mariupol. We're going to show you some truly shocking pictures.

And then I'll speak to Democratic Congressman Eric Swalwell and a Ukrainian member of parliament. What the U.S. can or should do to help Ukraine right now.



BLITZER: We have new satellite images just coming in to CNN right now that show the level of destruction in the city of Mariupol. This is the before and after of the maternity and children's hospital that Russian forces bombed last Wednesday. You could see the extensive damage to the roof.

And this next image shows an industrial area on fire after extensive shelling. The city is now completely surrounded by Russian forces and people still there say they're simply running out of food and water. They are clearly desperate right now.

Also tonight, the Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy is once again slamming NATO countries for not implementing a no fly zone over Ukraine. He says they're showing and I'm quoting him now, "a lack of courage".

So besides giving Ukraine weapons and other assistance, what more should the U.S. and its allies be doing right now to help the people of Ukraine?

Joining us now to discuss, Lisa Yasko, she's a key member of the Ukrainian parliament. Also with us, Democratic Congressman Eric Swalwell. He's a member of the House Intelligence Committee. They met previously on a congressional trip to Europe. They've kept in touch since then.

To both of you, thanks so much for joining us.

And Miss Yasko, the war is now in its third week, shows no end in sight. Lots of people sadly are getting killed. First of all, how are you holding up?

LISA YASKO, MEMBER OF UKRAINIAN PARLIAMENT: Well, honestly, it's very hard because it's the 17th day of war and unfortunately, we don't see any light.

We see that the bombings continue. The killings continue. And Putin is getting crazier and crazier in using the tools and the reasons and the arguments that he's telling to all the world to kill Ukrainians.

And it's very hard to see so many families that are now in such a big tragedy. It's very heartbreaking.

BLITZER: Certainly is. And my heart goes out to all of you.

Congressman, President Zelenskyy, he continued including today to plead for a no fly zone over Ukraine. President Biden and NATO, they are equally adamant that that doesn't happen. They fear it could lead to World War III. The president was very blunt in saying that again yesterday.

Is there any scenario though in which you believe that you would support a no fly zone?

REP. ERIC SWALWELL (D-CA): Yes. Wolf, I don't think we should ever take options off the table because if Russia you know were to kill U.S. troops or were to attack a humanitarian convoy that we were assisting with, I'd like to have all options available.

By the way, it's nice to see that Lisa's safe. She's such an inspiration for lawmakers all over the world.

But I don't think we can do enough militarily to help them. So I'd like to see us make sure that we do give them MIGs that they can fly to protect their own country and that we give them drone technology that they could use to take out convoys.

And then also that the rest of the private sector can keep stepping up to completely isolate Russia to make sure that the goal of making sure Putin fails is ultimately achieved.

BLITZER: Miss Yasko, where do you stand on this issue? Does a no fly zone need to be enforced? Should the U.S. and the NATO allies be engaged in this no fly zone?


YASKO: We are grateful for that support that is already provided by the United States, all of the sanctions and the military assistance, of course.

For us, it's very important that no-fly zone really comes because it would prevent killings. And they'll be less that children and that families. Of course, it's very important for us.

But we understand if there's a concern and argument of not extending the war, then it would be some other alternatives.

But I want to warn that the concern about provoking Putin, that's more. Because Putin decides and invents reason, reasons to invade and to make that aggression. You know that he was actually justifying an attack on maternity ward

in Mariupol because he said that the chemical weapons together with Ukraine and NATO partners were in process of developing there so they had to open the fire and against the maternity ward.

Is that a sign of any value of humanity in the human life? Of course, not. So Putin is going to invent any reason to continue bombing and also even invading and doing aggressions to countries.

So I think we shouldn't take any of the options from the table because now it's very real and we need to save more lives right now.

BLITZER: Congressman, President Biden announced that the U.S. will move to strip Russia of normal trade relations, the most favored nation trade status.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi says the House will take up the legislation next week to formalize this revocation. It's likely to pass with a bipartisan vote. Everybody agrees.

How long do you think this bipartisan spirit though will persist in Congress when it comes to Ukraine?

SWALWELL: We need it because unity is the anecdote to an anti-Democrat ruthless tyrant like Vladimir Putin.

So we have in just two weeks, through our unity here in the United States and across the world, with U.S. leadership, we have taken the head off the Russian economy.

If you're a Russian, you cannot travel outside of Russia. You can't export your gas to Germany that you had planned on doing.

You can't download the latest "Batman" movie. You can't use Apple Pay. You can't go to a Starbucks or a McDonald's. There's a price to pay. And we have to keep ratcheting that up.

The more we're unified, the more we're able to press this case inside Russia against Putin. And outside with the aid that we can put inside.

But, Wolf, I will say I am concerned though that Donald Trump and Marjorie Taylor Greene and Madison Cawthorn and others in the Republican Party are soft on Russia.

And they keep calling Zelenskyy a thug and they're sympathetic to what Russia is doing.

That type of discord makes it hard when President Biden needs to ask all Americans to unite around democracy in Ukraine.

BLITZER: You know, Ms. Yasko, President Zelenskyy also said today that Ukraine is more united than ever. And that the Ukrainian forces have inflicted the biggest blow to Russia's army in decades.

What does that tell you about the resilience and strength of the Ukrainian people? YASKO: Well, the spirit of Ukrainians is very inspiring right now. We

are definitely -- we are very united, politically and on every level. In a civil society, in every village, people are helping each other. It's incredible.

But I want also to add what is important and what we're asking from the West right now is really to stop the trade and to impose more economic measures so that we actually don't have any resources that are financing Putin's terrorism and war crimes.

So it's very important that what is planned to be done from the United States is going to come into this full force and talking here about embargo different economic new sanctions that is going to stop war crimes or at least to make them less possible.

BLITZER: Lisa Yasko, good luck to you. Good luck to all the Ukrainian people right now in the midst of this war.

Eric Swalwell, the congressman, thanks to you also for joining us.


There's more breaking news we're following here in our special edition of THE SITUATION ROOM. A doctor here in the United states now says he's working 18 hours a day to send medical supplies to Ukraine.


DR. TERAS MAHLAY, INTERNIST SENDING HOSPITAL-GRADE MEDICAL SUPPLIES TO UKRAINE: I'm going to bed around 12:00, then get up at 5:00 because I can't sleep.


MAHLAY: Well, people are dying.


BLITZER: And it's not just hospital supplies. Ukrainian-Americans are working tirelessly to get food, clothing, and money to the people in Ukraine. Their stories and a lot more when we come back.


BLITZER: Russia's war in Ukraine may be unfolding a continent away but for communities like Parma, Ohio, with a Ukrainian-American community of nearly 43,000, towns like Kyiv and Mariupol, they are much more than names on a map. They are the homes they remember from childhood.

CNN's Evan McMorris-Santoro went to Ohio to hear their stories.



UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: My husband's entire family is there now. UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We have family that's in eastern Ukraine.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I have two friends who are in their 60s who said we're taking up arms.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: My brother, his family. My nieces, my nephew.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: My girlfriend. She's actually in Lviv right now.

MAHLAY: I call them almost daily and sometimes you hear the bombs.

MCMORRIS-SANTORO (voice-over): Cleveland is nearly 5,000 miles from Kyiv. But in these suburbs, the war feels close.

MAHLAY: These are a compilation of different --

MCMORRIS-SANTORO: Dr. Taras Mahlay is an internist. But these days, he's running a frantic effort to send plane loads of medical supplies to Ukraine.

(on camera): In your daily life, how much time are you spending on this now?

MAHLAY: Eighteen hours. I'm usually going to bed around 12:00 then get up at 5:00 because I can't sleep.

MCMORRIS-SANTORO (on camera): Why not?

MELE: Well, people are dying.

MCMORRIS-SANTORO (voice-over): His fluent Ukrainian is put to use taking supply requests directly from the nation's embattled Ministry of Health.

MAHLAY: These are the leads that they sent me.

MCMORRIS-SANTORO: And translating them into donations from local hospitals.

MAHLAY: They're already asking for wound beds. I don't know if you know what a wound bed is.

MCMORRIS-SANTORO (on camera): What's a wound bed?

MAHLAY: Once you have a gigantic wound and it's draining and gets infected, you put this apparatus on there and it keeps it clean and helps it heal.

MCMORRIS-SANTORO: Like if I were shot or hit by shrapnel?

MAHLAY: Correct. Now they say they need hundreds of them and it's only been two weeks.

MCMORRIS-SANTORO (voice-over): There's an urgency to every facet of life here now.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: -- chemical weapons.

MCMORRIS-SANTORO: At this family bakery, buying perogies is now a way to do your part.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: There's the gentlemen waiting for a dozen. From 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 a.m., everything we sell are going straight to Ukraine.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: If you want to help buy them ammunition.

MCMORRIS-SANTORO: She's in constant communication with a cousin who's five months pregnant and fled Ukraine to Poland, leaving her husband behind to fight.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: That's them just directly after the war.

MCMORRIS-SANTORO: There are thousands of homes here like this one --

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: That's my mom. That's my dad.

MCMORRIS-SANTORO: -- where connections to Ukraine run deep.

(on camera): What is it like to grow up as a Ukrainian-American in this part of Ohio?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I mean, it's funny. I don't know any other way. We went to Ukraine school every Saturday, from age 5 to 17. I didn't speak English until kindergarten.

Cousins were not blood relatives. But you know, the people you went to church with, the people you were in organizations with, the people that lived up the street that spoke the language, that knew the traditions.

MCMORRIS-SANTORO: How is it that there are so many Ukrainians in this part of Ohio?

ANDY FEDYNSKY, DIRECTOR, UKRAINIAN MUSEUM-ARCHIVES IN CLEVELAND: Well, the first Ukrainians came here during the Industrial Revolution. So a lot of people came here to save some money, go back and buy land.

But inevitably, you're here. You need a church. You need a bakery. You need a butcher shop. You need a bar.


FEDYNSKY: And so there was infrastructure collection down here.

MCMORRIS-SANTORO (voice-over): A feeling for the history of this place. And these days. Something else, too. Deja vu.

FEDYNSKY: So they were in the field from 1942 to about 1950.

MCMORRIS-SANTORO (on camera): The history of the last insurgency.


MCMORRIS-SANTORO (voice-over): With each conflict, another wave of Ukrainian families came to Ohio.

The mayor of Parma is already working with state and federal officials to once again make his city the home for the newly displaced.


MCMORRIS-SANTORO (on camera): Why would this be the right place?

MAYOR TIM DEGEETER (D-PARMA, OH): Because Ukraine is part of our fabric here.

Our primary job here is to plow snow off the streets, fix holes. But with this international event that's happening that's unfolding up and down, because of that deep-rooted connection with Ukraine, it's the right thing to do and we're stepping up.


MCMORRIS-SANTORO (voice-over): In the sanctuary of this church, people gathering tonight to pray for a quick end to this war.

But in the same building, they're planning for a long fight, packing thousands of pounds of supplies to send to the motherland.

(on camera): Why do you come here every night?

SOLOMIA BIDA, VOLUNTEER SENDING SUPPLIES TO UKRAINE: So I don't cry. I'm not watching the news when I'm here. I'm packaging, I'm running, I'm doing something.

MCMORRIS-SANTORO (voice-over): For these Americans, daily life has been changed by an ongoing war half a world away.

BIDA: So we don't go to sleep until like 2:00 in the morning because that's when the sun goes up in Ukraine. Sun goes up, OK. We can get a couple of hours of sleep and keep on going.

MCMORRIS-SANTORO (on camera): Because they made it through another night.

BIDA: Yes.


BLITZER: Evan McMorris-Santoro is joining us now live.

Evan, a very moving piece, indeed. This area is obviously mobilized. What are they hoping to accomplish with their efforts, at least in the short-term?


MCMORRIS-SANTORO: Well, I hope I captured the urgency of what life is like in that part of northeast Ohio right now.

The bake shop mentioned in that piece raised $10,000 just today that they're hoping to send to Ukraine to try and help with the war over there.

These people, they know about the places on the map. They know about people of the Ukraine. And they really hope that they can actually turn this tide, help this war get won and Ukraine stay free.

It's an amazing place to be. You sit there and as you interview people, their phones ring with Ukrainians calling and saying this is what's going on right now, this is how I'm feeling right now.

This war is right there in these people's lives every minute -- Wolf?

BLITZER: Please thank them for all they are doing.

Evan McMorris-Santoro, thank you very much for that report.

An important note to our viewers. CNN has also compiled a list of respectable charities. If you'd like to help Ukrainian refugees in need of food, water and shelter, go to You will impact your world. It's very, very important.

Coming up, a dire warning from Ukraine's president saying some small towns in the country, and I'm quoting now, "simply don't exist anymore."

Much more of our special coverage on the war in Ukraine. That's coming up in this special edition of THE SITUATION ROOM.



BLITZER: Much more on the breaking news coming out of the war in Ukraine in just a moment.

But we do have some other breaking news we're following right here in the United States. The NYPD now confirms that two people have been stabbed, stabbed at the Museum of Modern Art in New York City.

CNN's Polo Sandoval is joining us now.

I understand nearby businesses have also been told to shelter in place. What are you learning?

POLO SANDOVAL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Initially, as a precaution, Wolf, this is a significant incident there as an evacuation was prompted at the Museum of Modern Art.

It was just under two hours ago that investigators say there was a stabbing that occurred at the museum. You see some of the pictures, some of the video that was captured when many visitors, dozens were asked to evacuate from the museum here in midtown Manhattan. Right now, we know there were two people who were stabbed. Their

injuries appear to be non-life-threatening. Investigators saying they are in stable condition.

It's also unclear exactly what led to this to begin with. And the police not saying much about a person who may be in custody. We're trying to find that out.

But this is significant. It is an iconic museum. It hosts millions of visitors from around the world every year here.

And today is a particularly wintry day here in New York City. So there isn't much to do outside. So you can imagine the many tourists, many locals would certainly turn to some of the museums obviously to spend their weekend here.

But at this point, based on what we're hearing from investigators, the situation is contained right now. Those two people who were injured are in stable condition.

And right now, we're still trying to find out more about a suspect in this case after a stabbing only about two hours ago at New York's MOMA Museum.

BLITZER: We'll stay in touch with you Polo. Thank you very much for that update.

Back to the war in Ukraine. It's impossible to understate the horrors of the war. It's a terrible, terrible war. So many civilians are being killed, men, women, and children.

But far from Ukraine, that conflict is also having a global impact on everything from airline routes to gas prices, and the increase in prices is impossible to ignore.

Here's CNN's Gabe Cohen.


GABE COHEN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Karissa Warren's gas tank has been nearly empty for two weeks.

With record prices, she's only adding enough fuel to get to and from her job and her daughter's daycare.

KARISSA WARREN, MARYLAND RESIDENT: Because if we were to fill our tanks, we wouldn't have enough cash for the rest of the week to cover the rest of our bills for that week.

COHEN: And that squeeze is getting tighter after President Biden banned Russian oil exports. Gas could now cost families an extra $1,300 a year.

WARREN: We like to be able to splurge from time to time. It's not an option. We're considering not doing a birthday party for our daughter this year because we can't afford to. COHEN: Economists say price hikes are the expected result of shrinking

oil supply and surging demand.

But while that squeezes people like Karissa, oil companies are making record profits.

A watchdog report found last year, as gas prices surged, 24 of the world's largest oil companies made $127 billion in profits.

KYLE HERRIG, PRESIDENT, ACCOUNTABLE.US: Americans were paying more at the pump and executives were getting richer by the day.

TYSON SLOCUM, ENERGY PROGRAM DIRECTOR, PUBLIC CITIZEN: When your ability to sell your product is more than double what your costs are to produce oil, you're going to experience massive profits. That's exactly what we're seeing right now.

COHEN: Democratic senators are now proposing a windfall profits tax for the oil industry, which would compare their new profit to the years before COVID and tax half of that excess revenue.

SEN. SHELDON WHITEHOUSE (D-RI): The prices have gone through roof because of an international cartel that drives so much of oil pricing.

COHEN: And while President Biden has vowed to investigate price gouging by oil and gas companies --

JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: This is no time for profiteering or price gouging.

COHEN: -- oil and gas producers are calling on Biden to relax regulations to make it easier to ramp up production, which crashed in the 2020 because of the pandemic.


But some economists claim some oil producers are strategically stalling to keep gas prices high. They're currently sitting on more than 9,000 unused drilling permits for U.S. land.

JEN PSAKI, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: So, the suggestion that we are not allowing companies to drill is inaccurate.

COHEN: The U.S. Energy Information Agency projects U.S. crude oil production will reach a record high but not until next year.

WARREN: And that's even more frightening because we don't know when it's going to stop.

COHEN: For hard-working families like Karissa's, little trips are now draining, like visiting her mother who is about to have surgery.

WARREN: It's eating out of my food budget now.

COHEN: And it doesn't sit well that corporate pockets are getting deeper as her wallet takes a hit. WARREN: It's just not fair.


BLITZER: Gabe Cohen, reporting for us. Gabe, thank you very much.

Up next, Ukraine's president is demanding the release of the mayor of one town after a reported kidnapping by Russian forces.

And also today, an unelected official was actually installed as the new so-called acting mayor. Could this be a preview of the Russian playbook for what's going on in Ukraine right now?