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Kyiv Under Curfew As Russia Steps Up Deadly Airstrikes; Biden To Join Extraordinary NATO Summit On Ukraine; Zelenskyy To Address Congress Tomorrow, Plead For More Help; Anti-War Protester Fined For Disrupting Russian TV Newscast; COVID-19 Cases In the U.K. Up 48 Percent Over Previous Week. Aired 6-7p ET

Aired March 15, 2022 - 18:00   ET



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Our coverage continues now with one Mr. Wolf Blitzer in THE SITUATION ROOM. Thanks for watching.

WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: Happening now, breaking news, the devastated Ukrainian capital under curfew as Russia steps up its deadly air assaults on residential areas and other civilian targets. We are getting new reports of children dead, residents trapped and widespread destruction across the country.

As this humanitarian crisis deepens, NATO is now set to convene a truly extraordinary meeting in Brussels that President Biden will attend. This hour, I'll ask the secretary of state, Antony Blinken, how much more the U.S. is willing to do to combat Vladimir Putin's aggression. Stand by for that exclusive interview.

And our correspondents are on the frontline and around the world for CNN's continuing live coverage Russia's war against Ukraine.

We want to welcome our viewers here in the United States and around the world. I am Wolf Blitzer. You are in THE SITUATION ROOM.

An expanded 35-hour curfew is now in effect in the Ukrainian capital. Residents are hunkering down for another series of bombardments by Russian forces. CNN's Sam Kiley is standing by in Kyiv. We'll have a live report from him in just a few moments.

But, first, we have a full report on all the breaking news on this, more from CNN's Oren Liebermann.


OREN LIEBERMANN, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT (voice over): Ukraine's capital city is burning. Russian strikes overnight smashed apartment buildings in Kyiv and killed at least four people, according to city's mayor. Ukrainians picking up the pieces before the next attack. Despite Russia's unrelenting assault on Kyiv and a 35-hour curfew, the city is holding.

MAYOR VITALI KLITSCHKO, KYIV, UKRAINE: We defend our children, family, our buildings, our cities and our future, future of Ukraine.

LIEBERMANN: More than 3 million people have fled Ukraine since the beginning of Russia's invasion, according to United Nations. Russian strikes have threatened evacuation corridors, the U.S. and Ukraine say, even the act of leaving can be a difficult and dangerous proposition.

In the southern city of Mariupol, the situation is even more dire. A local official says at least 350,000 are trapped in the city. The deputy mayor accuses Russia of holding people captive at a hospital.

SERGIE ORLOV, MARIUPOL DEPUTY MAYOR: The Russian army use doctors and patients as hostages in this building. So, we do not have any access to them.

LIEBERMANN: Nearly three weeks into a war that Russia sparked, NATO is growing more united, the prime ministers of Poland, Slovenia and the Czech Republic arriving in Kyiv by train to meet President Volodymyr Zelenskyy. The Ukrainian leader pressed Canada for more help in a virtual speech.

VOLODYMYR ZELENSKYY, UKRAINIAN PRESIDENT: Please expand your efforts to bring back peace in our peaceful country.

LIEBERMANN: Zelenskyy is scheduled to meet the U.S. Congress on Wednesday. President Joe Biden announcing he will travel to a NATO emergency meeting on the war next week as the U.S. slaps new sanctions on Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko, a key Kremlin ally who gave Russia a launching pad for the invasion. NATO warning Russian President Vladimir Putin may use chemical weapons in a false flag operation.

JENS STOLTENBERG, NATO SECRETARY GENERAL: They claimed they did not plan to invade Ukraine, but they did. They claimed they were withdrawing their troops, but they sent in even more. They claim to be protecting civilians, but they are killing civilians.

LIEBERMANN: It's not just Ukrainians who have paid the highest price in this war. Fox News Cameraman Pierre Zakrzewski was killed outside Kyiv when his car was struck by incoming fire. Ukrainian Journalist Oleksandra Kuvshynova was also killed as they worked to show the real cost of Russia's war.

Oren Liebermann, CNN, at the Pentagon.


BLITZER: Thank you, Oren.

Also tonight, as President Biden is preparing planning to travel to that truly extraordinary NATO summit next week, he is also getting ready to deliver a response to the Ukrainian president, Volodymyr Zelenskyy.

Let's go to our Chief White House Correspondent Kaitlan Collins. Kaitlan, so what will President Biden say tomorrow after President Zelenskyy addresses this is really significant joint session of the U.S. Congress?

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Yes. We will hear from President Biden tomorrow after President Zelenskyy makes this speech, this speech, Wolf, where we know the Ukrainian president is expected to ask for more assistance from the United States, something that he has highlighted and thanked President Biden for in the past but has still said he needs more of.

And President Biden has said it has become exceedingly difficult to get that assistance into Ukraine as this invasion has now stretched into day 20, though he says they are still able to do so.


And tomorrow, he is expected to layout what other assistance they plan to send to Ukraine.

But, Wolf, there are two areas that we know Zelenskyy plans to ask about tomorrow that the White House has said they are still a firm no on. That's the creation of a no-fly zone over Ukraine and also sending more fighter jets to the Ukrainian air force. The president has said he believes it's too risky to do that when it comes to the no-fly zone. He says it could entangle the United States into a third world war. And the White House has said they've analyzed the cost benefit of sending fighter jets to Ukraine and they think it's just too high a risk at this time.

So, we'll see what President Biden says tomorrow about those requests from President Zelenskyy. And, of course, Wolf, all of this comes as President Biden, himself, is preparing to go to Brussels next week for this extraordinary meeting with NATO leaders, though it still remains to be seen if he is also going to go Poland. We believe they are planning for that to, of course, meet with the millions of refugees who have fled from Ukraine as this invasion has gone on.

BLITZER: 3 million refugees so far have fled Ukraine. Thanks very much, Kaitlan, for that report.

Let's discuss what's going on with the U.S. secretary of state, Antony Blinken. Mr. Secretary, thank you so much for joining us.

So, as you well know, obviously, the president will attend this truly extraordinary meeting of all NATO leaders next week in Brussels. Is this purely a show of NATO strength, NATO force or will they take new, concrete steps to stop the Russian aggression?

ANTONY BLINKEN, SECRETARY OF STATE: Wolf, it's a continuation of what we have been doing all along, which is bringing allies and partners together in support of Ukraine in very concrete ways and to exert maximum pressure on Russia, to stop the aggression that it's committed. And so the president has been in constant contact with his counterparts from throughout Europe, NATO leaders, the European Union, et cetera, and around the world, but this is an opportunity to have everyone in the same room in the same place to continue to map out the strategy, the strategy that has, as I said, exerted incredible pressure on Russia as well as showing incredible support for Ukraine.

BLITZER: I assume all 30 leaders of NATO will be there.

Just moments ago, President Zelenskyy signaled that Ukraine won't join NATO any time soon, saying, and I am quoting him now, saying, for years, we have been hearing how the door is supposedly opened to NATO membership, but now we hear that we cannot enter and it is true and it must be ac knowledged. That's a quote from President Zelenskyy. Is that a direct concession to Putin?

BLINKEN: I don't think that's a concession. I think, first of all, it's a reflection of the reality that even before this aggression by Russia. Ukraine was not going to get into NATO tomorrow, all the more reason why as we've seen when Putin was saying that their concerns about Ukraine centered on its admission to NATO. That was wrong. That was a lie. What this is about, what Putin has demonstrated it is about is denying Ukraine its independent existence. But what we've done in support of Ukraine is to provide extraordinary assistance that continues, as we speak, to make sure that Ukraine has the means to defend itself.

BLITZER: As the risk of miscalculation though grows, the U.N. secretary general says the prospect of nuclear conflict is now, and I'm quoting him nose, within the realm of possibility. How real is the risk of this spiraling into nuclear war?

BLINKEN: Well, President Biden has been very clear that one thing that is for sure is that we are going to avoid getting into any kind of conflict with Russia and certainly avoiding anything that brings us to World War III. Some of Russia's loose talk about its nuclear weapons is the height of irresponsibility and goes against everything that we said, including that Russia said over many years, about how a nuclear war is not winnable, something that was reaffirmed as recently as the meeting between President Biden and Putin back in the summer in Geneva.

So, we watched this very, very, very carefully. There is a lot of bad, loose talk and bluster. At the same time, I have to tell you, we have real concerns that Russia could use a chemical weapon, another weapon of mass destruction. This is something we are very focused on. Unfortunately, we've seen them use or acquiesce to its use before in Syria, with Syria and these weapons, using them itself, trying to assassinate its opponents, including in the United Kingdom. So, this is something we are very focused on.

BLITZER: Well, if they do use chemical weapons, what will the U.S. and the NATO allies do?

BLINKEN: We have been very clear, including with Russia, with others, that there would be a very serious response, not just from us but from the international community. I am not going to spell it out here but the consequences would be severe. BLITZER: Russia is also targeting civilians.


They're attacking hospitals, schools. Why is the White House, so far, refusing to come right out and say what the Russians are doing right now, that that's a war crime?

BLINKEN: We are documenting everything we seen. We welcome the efforts that have been made, including investigations conducted by NGOs and institutions to look at this, to put everything together, to determine whether the acts that Russia has engaged would constitute a war crime. We are looking at whether there are deliberate attacks on civilians. There is certainly very credible reports and evidence of that. But what we are doing is putting it altogether, documenting it and the appropriate institutions will make that judgment.

BLITZER: The U.S. Believes China has signaled some openness to providing military support to Russia. What is your message, Mr. Secretary, to China as it weighs how much support it will actually provide to Putin?

BLINKEN: Well, Wolf, there are two things. First, there is the rhetorical support or at least the absence of clear rhetorical denunciation by China of what Russia is doing. And this flies in the face of everything that China purports to stands for, including the basic principles of the U.N. charter, including the basic principle of respect for sovereignty of nations. And so the fact that China has not denounced what Russia is doing in and of itself speaks volumes. And it speaks volumes not only in Russia or in Ukraine, it speaks volumes in Europe and in other places around the world.

Second, we are concerned at the prospect of China providing material support to Russia or undermining the sanctions that we put in place with countries around the world, something that we have communicated directly to China, including just this in the past 24 hours when the national security adviser, Jake Sullivan, met with his Chinese counterpart, Yang Jiechi.

BLITZER: So, if the Chinese do provide military support to the Russians, what will the U.S. do?

BLINKEN: Again, without going to specifics of what we will do, we've made very clear that that's not something that we're going to take sitting down.

BLITZER: As you know, Putin is making truly outlandish and very, very offensive claims that he is de-Nazifying Ukraine. You and I both have family who survived the Holocaust, President Zelenskyy does as well. Do you think the U.S. will look back on this time right now and wish the west had done more to stop Putin?

BLINKEN: Wolf, it's hard to project into the future. I can tell you a couple of things though that I am confident of. First of all, there is going to be a Ukraine, an independent Ukraine, a lot longer than there's going to be of Vladimir Putin, one way or the other. Ukraine will be there, and at some point Putin won't.

The real question is how much death and destruction is wrought by Russia's aggression in the meantime, and that's what we are working as hard as we can to limit, to stop, to put an end to this war of choice that Russia is committing. And we're doing that through the support we are providing to Ukraine every single day. We are doing that by the pressure we are exerting against Russia every single day. And my hope is that we can end this sooner rather than later so that death and destruction doesn't continue.

But I can tell you how this is going to end, ultimately. It's going to end with an independent Ukraine and, at some point, it's going to end without Vladimir Putin.

BLITZER: So, what is your message to Vladimir Putin right now?

BLINKEN: Mr. Putin, end this war. Stop this war that you are committing. End the aggression that is unjustified, unprovoked. We've looked over many months of giving President Putin appropriate off- ramps to end this before the aggression, since the aggression started. Unfortunately, each and every time, he's pressed the accelerator. It's time to stop with the accelerator. It's time to stop the war. Stop the killing. Stop the destruction. That's the message.

BLITZER: Sadly, he is showing at least so far no sign of that but we will hope and pray. Secretary Blinken, thank you so much for joining us.

BLINKEN: Thanks, Wolf, good to be with you.

BLITZER: Thank you.

Just ahead, we are going to get a live update from the Ukrainian capital of Kyiv, where a new curfew is now in place amid relentless Russian bombardment of civilian targets.



BLITZER: More now on the breaking news, the Ukrainian capital under curfew right now as Russia steps up its deadly airstrikes on Kyiv. The United States now saying almost 1,000 Russian missiles have rained down across the country.

CNN's Senior International Correspondent Sam Kiley is joining us live from Kyiv right now. So, what's the latest in the capital there, Sam?

SAM KILEY, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, about four hours ago now, Wolf, it's about an hour or so, actually more or less as the curfew went in, there was a lot of very heavy fighting or at least sounds of heavy fighting, artillery exchanges from the west of the city, somewhat unexpected not because the west of the city hasn't been a hotspot now since they started attacking Kyiv, but that there has been an anticipation that it would be the east that was likely to come under pressure and that that might explain why the Ukrainians have imposed this curfew, which is a day and night curfew through to Thursday.

But at the moment, the pressure seems to be continuing to come in the west. It has gone relatively quiet now. But earlier on in the day, again, in the west this morning, there you can see on the screen, there was a very substantial attack against a large apartment building, 16-storey apartment building. Four people were killed there. There were also attacks in the northeast and southeast of the city as well.

So, clearly, the Russians trying to maintain the pressure whilst they are also appearing at any rate to be taking perhaps a tactical pause ahead of an anticipated further push against Kyiv, but it's getting very difficult for people to read (ph).


And, of course, this all coming today, Wolf, on a day when we've had four prime ministers of European countries come into the Ukrainian capital in an expression of solidarity visiting with President Zelenskyy, and Zelenskyy continuing his calls on the international community to close the airspace over his country to the Russians that is, of course.

BLITZER: Yes, significant developments. You look at those pictures of those buildings that have been destroyed, residential apartment buildings bombed out. It is so, so disgusting. Sam Kiley, thank you very much. As I always say, stay safe over there, very, very dangerous times.

I want to get some more on this Russian onslaught. Joining us now is CNN Military Analyst, retired Air Force Colonel Cedric Leighton and CNN's Brian Todd.

Brian, first, update us on what you're seeing in Kyiv.

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, a short time ago, a U.S. defense official told journalists that the Russian forces have basically made no progress in the last few hours toward Kyiv. They remain roughly 12 miles, we think, Colonel, to the northwest and to the east of Kyiv.

Talk to us where they are around Kyiv, how will they try to take the city and will this be some of the worst urban combat we've seen in modern times?

COL. CEDRIC LEIGHTON (RET.), CNN MILITARY ANALYST: Absolutely, Brian. Well, here's what's happening right now. So, we have Russian forces in this area and right here, the northeast and eastern part of the city, but as Sam just mentioned that they are also probably in this area, so to the west of town. So, what we are seeing here is a classic move to go down this way, in other words, surround the city perhaps from both sides, although it appears that the eastern movement is a lot slower than the western movement at this point.

TODD: Let's take a look at some of the images here. This is a suburb of Kyiv, about 15 to 20 miles to the north of Kyiv. We see indiscriminate shelling. What does this tell you? These are buildings on fire and it looks civilian areas hit again.

LEIGHTON: Absolutely. If you look here, you can actually see the flash of the fire, and over here as well, Brian. And you also see some areas here that probably had impact from ordinance right in this area and, especially in here. This is all burned out. These are civilian areas. There is not a single military target in this area at all.

TODD: Incredible. Let's talk about a piece of the weapon systems that we have not seen before, this is, according to The New York Times, today, they used this on the Iskander-M missiles that they are firing, these short-range ballistic missiles. Colonel, it is a decoy, The New York Times said an American official, those missiles putting off these decoys about a foot long shaped like a dart with a white body and orange tail. How do they work?

LEIHGTON: Well, basically, what this is, is it's designed to actually pull the missile that is going after the Iskander that is trying to shoot it down, pull it away from that. So, all heat-seeking missiles are actually diverted to this missile to shoot it down. It uses a mechanism within this tube right here to actually signal the missile that it's a heat-seeker and/or attracts a heat-seeker, I should say. And then, as a result of that, it pulls the missile in so it shoots down this instead of the actual Iskander missile.

TODD: Got it. So, it looks like NATO forces probably have their hands on this assessing it as we go. Thank you very much, Colonel Leighton, we appreciate this.

Wolf, it looks like Colonel Leighton and I were talking, despite the Russian setbacks and the stalling, we believe they're reassessing as they go. They are very good at that. And they'll reassess on the fly and make continued pushes on some of these cities in the south and towards Kyiv. So, don't look for them to be stalled that long.

BLITZER: In the meantime, they are killing a lot of the men, women and children in Ukraine. Guys, thank you very, very much, Colonel Leighton and Brian Todd reporting for us.

Coming up, the Ukrainian refugee crisis surges past yet another awful milestone, more than 3 million innocent civilians, mostly women and children, now on the run from Putin's invasion, even though some make the heart-wrenching decision actually the return to their devastated homeland.



BLITZER: The Ukrainian refugee crisis has crossed yet another alarming milestone. The United Nations now says more than 3 million people have fled since Russia invaded Ukraine. But some are making a surprising decision to return home.

CNN's Ed Lavandera reports.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) ED LAVANDERA, CNN SENIOR NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice over): The rail line from Ukraine ends at platform five at the train station in Przemysl, Poland. After refugees walk off, this same train will go back. For weeks, it's mostly been men returning to join the Ukrainian fight against Russia. But in front of the sign reading, train for Ukraine, women are waiting hours for a ride back into the war zone.

Near the front of the line, we found Tatiyana Veremychenko. She came to Poland three days ago to bring her two adult daughters to safety. Now, the 40-year-old is going home to a town in Eastern Ukraine near the Russian border.

Ukraine is equally important for men and women, she says. We're the real Ukrainians. Women have the strength and will and the heart as well.

By our count, women accounted for about half of the passengers in this line waiting to cross the border back to Ukraine. Irina Orel brought her grandchildren to Poland. She is returning now to be with her family in Odessa.

How worried are you about your safety?

I'm anxious, she says, but the feeling has become dull over time. I just want to be next to my family.

Do you feel like this is a way of fighting for your country?


Of course, she says, we have all become united during this time, each one doing what they can to help our military. Women are doing it and men as well.

Standing with several women, we met Mariia Halligan. She is going to Kyiv to be with her husband and family to fight, in her words, Russian terrorists.

MARIIA HALLIGAN, UKRAINE RESIDENT: If you know what you need to do, it's impossible to feel nervous over something like this. If I have to do this, I will do it, for my country, for my relatives, for my friends.

LAVANDERA: And what stand out to me in this line of people going back to Ukraine is that there are so many women, why do you think that is?

HALLIGAN: I'm not man, I can't kill, I'm a woman. And my work, keep balance and help and be kind and care about relatives, family, friends all we can. But now, I feel that all Ukrainians are my relatives.

LAVANDERA: Before she leaves, Mariia shows us a heart-shaped Ukrainian flag given to her by Polish children to protect her.

Those returning walk past a carriage that reads, safety above all but the train leaving platform five disappears into a war zone where safety is a dream. (END VIDEOTAPE)

LAVANDERA (on camera): And, Wolf, what is striking about watching that train return back to Ukraine is that, as you see so many, thousands, tens of thousands of people who have been showing up here at the train station as refugees, the platform where those people returning to Ukraine is on the far back side of this train station and it doesn't go back full. There are still many empty seats on those trains back to Ukraine. Wolf?

BLITZER: Ed Lavandera on the scene for us, Ed, thank you very much.

Let's talk to a local official in Western Ukraine right now. That's where Russia is expanding its war. We are joined by the deputy mayor of Lviv, Serhiy Kiral. Mayor, thank you so much for joining us.

As you know, the Russian strike on a Ukrainian military base was just, what, about 30 miles outside of Lviv. You now say your city is preparing for the worst. What are you bracing for? How are the people there preparing?

SERHIY KIRAL, LVIV DEPUTY MAYOR: Yes. Thank you, Wolf, for having me. Yes, indeed, this was the first outrageous strike just about 40 kilometers from Lviv, but only about ten miles from the Polish border. We have been in the last weeks quite a calm city and you know that many diplomatic missions and embassies relocated that are international organizations and the city has been very busy with the thousands, in fact, hundreds and thousands of refugees coming from the combat zone.

And, of course, we were prepared. I wouldn't say it was something out of the, you know, snow, out in the summer. We have been preparing for all kinds of extraordinary situations since six months ago with the help of the British embassy and the British government. We have been building the resilience and trying to put together all the agencies regardless whether the municipal or the state-owned agencies in order to build a platform and to create different scenarios and different action plans.

And this is what is helping us, as the city, to respond in an organized way to the situation, the unprecedented situation which we found ourselves in, with hundreds and hundreds of thousands of refugees and tens of thousands, which you just demonstrated, crossing just the train station on a daily basis. Most of them going, of course, to the west, to the Polish border, and we are grateful to the authorities in Poland for welcoming the Ukrainians and providing them with all of their needs and accommodation, but many stay in Lviv. And this is where we are effectively responding in cooperation with volunteers and international organizations as well.

BLITZER: Lviv Deputy Mayor Serhey Kiral, thank you so much for joining us. Good luck to all the people not only in Lviv but throughout Ukraine. We will stay in touch with you, for sure.

An important note to our viewers right now, very important, for information about how you can help humanitarian efforts in Ukraine, go to and help impact your world.

Just ahead, does the U.S. Need to do more to help Ukraine fend off the Russian invasion? Democratic Senator Joe Manchin is standing by live. He will join me here in THE SITUATION ROOM. We've got lots to discuss.



BLITZER: More now on the breaking news, the death toll climbing and climbing in the Ukrainian capital of Kyiv as Russia strikes residential areas of what was a city of almost 3 million people but so many have left already. All this as Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy is scheduled to address a joint session of the U.S. Congress tomorrow.

Let's discuss that and more with Democratic Senator Joe Manchin of West Virginia. Senator Manchin, thanks, as usual, for joining us.

SEN. JOE MANCHIN (D-WV): Hey, Wolf, good to be with you.

BLITZER: Thank you. We expect President Zelenskyy to renew his call for fighter jets when he addresses congress tomorrow. How much support is there rate now on both sides of the aisle to grant President Zelenskyy those plans?

MANCHIN: Well, let me just say what we have done today. The president -- I was over the signing at the White House, the president signing a $13 billion aid to Ukraine. That was up from the requested $10 billion. So, everyone has jumped in. This has been a bipartisan effort.

Everybody has a thought that basically we'd love to give them everything we need, be able to do this in a way hopefully not to cause World War III or instigate that.


But on the other hand, you can't take anything off the table. We have to be prepared to use everything that we have.

I'm not going to second guess the president and I think he has done a great job as far as understanding how to bring the NATO allies together and basically the support that we have given and the success that basically Ukraine fighters have. They're just brave people and fighting for everything they have and doing a magnificent job. The NATO alliance that basically has been supplying all the hardware they need and I think we will do whatever.

The jets is another story and I don't know enough on the intel end of it. I know the concerns we have and I know the threat. But I don't take Putin's threat basically saying we are not going to stand by and do nothing. We are doing everything humanly possible. The drones have been very effective, very effective, and they can even do more.

BLITZER: And the anti-aircraft missile is very effective too. MANCHIN: Yes.

BLITZER: The Biden administration has ruled out establishing what's called a no-fly zone. But your colleague, Republican Senator Lindsey Graham, says he would support a no-fly zone if Russia were to use chemical weapons in Ukraine against civilian targets. Do you share that view?

MANCHIN: I'll tell you one thing. That's a whole another red line. That's a whole another line in the sand or a red line to cross. You cross that, the genocide we see going on now to inflict more punishment, more pain on innocent people is intolerable. And to use chemical weapons and say we're going to will stand by and watch this happen, I think that could be a red line and it should be a red line.

But right now, like I said, these people are fighters. They are tremendous, brave fighters. Let's give them everything they need and basically try to prevent this Third World War. We have to do everything possible.

You and I have been (INAUDIBLE). We talked about this. We remember the Cuban missile crisis and there was only two world powers at that time or two superpowers that had nuclear weapons. Think of all the countries that are now and what this could turn into. That's what is alarming to all of us.

BLITZER: I know, Senator, you support President Biden's position to ban imports of Russian energy. It's a subject close to your heart. But what do you want to see from the president right now so that the U.S. doesn't have to increase reliance, let's say, on other countries, like Saudi Arabia or Venezuela or even Iran, for that matter?

MANCHIN: Well, let's make it very clear, Wolf. Basically, this is a Putin war. This is a Putin energy war. He has weaponized energy. And when a person weaponizes something against you, against your allies, you better have a weapon just as good, if not, better, and we do have that. We have enough energy here to keep ourselves independent and be able to backfill our alliance who need it, our allies around the world.

We should be doing everything humanly possible and let me tell you the reason why. I will not, in any way, support us basically going to Venezuela or going to Iran and using their oil or taking and lifting sanctions if they can go back into the market. They're putting the dirtiest oil, they're putting more pollutants into the atmosphere, and as far as global climate, they do more harm than anybody else.

So, we keep those products off, backfill what Russia was putting in there, so we keep Russia's dirty energy off. And I can guarantee you, we will help the global climate, but it also is what the world is depending on the leader of the world, and that's us, let's do our job. Let's basically provide the energy this country needs also the world depends upon.

BLITZER: Yes, good point. The president is also blaming the high gas prices right now and the inflation, he's blaming Russia, labeling it Putin's price hike. Can the White House really though claim Putin is solely responsible, because prices, as you know, have been rising long before the Russian invasion?

MANCHIN: Well, no doubt about it, that's made a great increase, as far as in the price of fuel at the pump. But the inflation is what's killing all of us. I can tell you, inflation is hurting Every West Virginian. And everybody that goes to the store or drives to work, or whatever, and seeing it directly affecting their decisions they are making and how they're providing for their family, inflation is the one killer. It is a tax. Inflation is a tax no matter how you look at it.

And you got to get your financial house in order. You got to have a tax code that works. You got to fight the high cost of prescription drugs. And we've got to also -- we can walk and chew with our climate positions in our country by basically making sure we are energy independent, we have the cleanest fossil fuels, we produce them clean to anybody and also we have the ability to invest in the new technology and the cleaner technology that we need for a better climate. We can do it all.

BLITZER: Yes. Inflation right now is as bad as it's been in 40 years. It's pretty serious. Do you believe inflation and gas prices for that matter, Senator, are only going to get worse before they get better?

MANCHIN: I don't see them regressing at all. I called this a long time ago last year. Wolf, everything that I saw and everybody that I talked to that I believe had the know-how and knowledge to explain to me and show to me the graphs we were in unchartered territory. And when everybody was saying it was going to be transitory, it will go away in a month or two, there was no way that I saw what they were showing me that that would happen.


And I said, before you go down the path and spend another $3 trillion, let's take a pause. Let's look at what we're doing, because we don't know what inflation is going to do, we don't know what COVID is going to come back. And we don't know basically the geopolitical unrest.

Well, guess what? Inflation came back and is now basically here and is growing. We're at 7.9 percent. And ten you have the COVID. We had the omicron come, that was absolutely devastating.

And then on top of that, we had the geopolitical unrest that turned into a war, an unconscionable war, Putin's war on Ukraine. These innocent people, what they're facing now is just unbelievable. So, we have to basically be stable and make sure we take care of ourselves, be strong to help our friends and neighbors.

BLITZER: Senator Joe Manchin, thanks so much for joining us.

MANCHIN: Thank you.

BLITZER: Coming up, we're learning new information right now about that Russian protester who crashed a Russian-state TV newscast with an anti-war sign.

Stay with us.



BLITZER: A Russia journalist has been fined for her dramatic protest against the invasion of Ukraine during a live TV news broadcast.

CNN international diplomatic editor Nic Robertson has the latest.


NIC ROBERTSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL DIPLOMATIC EDITOR (voice-over): These are editor Marina Ovsyannikova's last moments before arrest, bravely protesting Russia's war in Ukraine.

Her banner: No war. Do not believe the propaganda. They tell you lies here. Seen live by hundreds of thousands of Russians on the state's prime propaganda channel, Russia 1.

In court the following day, found guilty of an administrative offense, organizing an unauthorized event, fined 30,000 rubles, about $280 -- an apparent reference not to storming the set but to a video she posted on social media shortly prior, calling for protest.

MARINA OVSYANNIKOVA, EDITOR, CHANNEL ONE: Go to the rallies and do not be afraid. They can't arrest us all.

ROBERTSON: Russia has banned all antiwar protests, but they continue. More than 900 arrested this past weekend, almost 15,000 since the war began. According to an independent human rights group, most getting a beating, a fine, and overnight detention. Unclear if the Kremlin is trying to minimize Ovsyannikova's extraordinary prime-time protest or if she'll face stiffer charges later.

Initially, state media reported investigators were considering charges under Russia's new draconian laws that prohibit what it calls disseminating false information about Russian forces and can carry a maximum 15-year jail sentence.

Ovsyannikova, whose father is Ukrainian and mother Russian, appears to be expected to be silenced. Her prerecorded social media post pulling no punches.

OVSYANNIKOVA: What is happening now in Ukraine is a crime, and Russia is the aggressor country, and the responsibility for this aggression lies in the conscience of only one person. This man is Vladimir Putin.

ROBERTSON: The question for some now is her protest an indication that Putin's propaganda machine is faltering.

STANISLAV KUCHER, RUSSIAN JOURNALIST: No matter where whether she had spent, you know, days preparing for that, or hours, it definitely shows a change in the mood of those working on Russia state TV. (END VIDEOTAPE)

ROBERTSON (on camera): Now, there has been one other senior Russian journalist from, again, a prime state media organization, again a station full of propaganda. She has quit. The anchor has quit. She's left the country. She told a blogger that she was afraid about her situation.

As for the other journalist, Wolf, when she was locked up and her lawyer couldn't find her, she was held for 14 hours without access to her lawyer, without access to her family. The Kremlin may have given her a lighter sentence but not making her detention any easier -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Nic Robertson reporting for us, thank you.

We'll be right back with more news.



BLITZER: Tonight U.S. officials are closely watching a new rise of COVID-19 cases in the United Kingdom and other parts of Europe.

Let's discuss with our chief medical correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta.

Sanjay, based on what we're all seeing in the Europe and the U.K. right now, are we on the brink of a new surge in the U.S. as well?

DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: I think -- I think we have to pay attention to this, Wolf. I mean, you know, both with delta and omicron, we sort of thought things were very much in a lull and even sort of heralding the end of the pandemic and we got surprise and blindsided.

Take a look at what's happening in Europe overall, and sort of going back several months. You can see how closely the United States in orange tracks the European Union, starting to tip up that white line, which the European, still much lower that the omicron peak, but that's what they're watching.

And if you look at U.K. specifically, Wolf, just over the last couple weeks, there's been close to 50 percent, roughly, increase in cases, and also an increase in hospitalizations, Wolf. It's not clear exactly how closely those are linked, because typically hospitalizations follow cases. But yeah, I think we have to keep an eye on this and be ready, you know? So we're not surprised again.

BLITZER: Some indicators, as you well know, are already showing these signs, as you point out, of these increasing coronavirus trends here in the U.S.

Do you think we'll see mitigation measures have to be put back into place? GUPTA: Well, I don't know, Wolf, but, you know, there are these early

warning systems that we now have. We've learned a lot through the pandemic, so, for example, wastewater analysis. That's something that is looking at large samples of people. It doesn't give you case counts per se, but as an early warning sign.

Take a look, you know, back in the middle of February, February 10, about 16 percent of sites reported an increase in overall coronavirus in the wastewater. That's more than a third, 38 percent. So, what this leads to ultimately in terms of mitigation measures, I don't know.

And that's obviously a question that's science and then the policy and it may be different in different areas around the country. Again, we have to pay attention to these signs and what's happening in Europe.

BLITZER: We certainly will. Dr. Sanjay Gupta, as usual, thanks very much for watching. And to our viewers, thanks for watching as well.

"ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT" starts right now.