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The Situation Room

Biden Touts Western Unity After Emergency Summits On War; Ukraine Says It Destroyed Russian Warship In Key Port; NATO SECY. General: Putin Made A "Big Mistake" Invading Ukraine; Questions Swirl Over Whereabouts Of Russian Defense Minister; Ukrainian Crew Member Tried To Sink Yacht Tied To Russian Oligarch; U.S. To Accept As Many As 100,000 Ukrainian Refugees; Zelenskyy To NATO: Give Ukraine Just 1 Percent Of Your Planes & Tanks; North Korea: Kim Jong-un Guided Launch Of Most Powerful Missile Test In Almost 5 Years. Aired 5-6p ET

Aired March 24, 2022 - 17:00   ET



PAMELA BROWN, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: He certainly generated gallons of publicity by donating a million dollars worth of gas to help people deal with surging prices. He paid for a similar giveaway of $200,000 worth of gas last week.

Our coverage continues now with Wolf Blitzer in THE SITUATION ROOM in Brussels.

WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: Happening now, breaking news, President Biden declares NATO has never, never been more united after emergency talks here in Brussels about Russia's war against Ukraine.

This hour, we're breaking down new moves by the U.S. and its allies to aid Ukrainians, punish Vladimir Putin and respond if he launches a chemical attack.

Also tonight, Ukraine is claiming a new win against Kremlin forces, saying it destroyed a Russian warship and a key Southern port. This, as new images of widespread destruction are emerging from battlefields across Ukraine.

We have teams of correspondents on the ground in Ukraine here in Brussels for CNN continuing war coverage.

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

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is CNN breaking news.

BLITZER: We're live here in the Belgium capital where President Biden is touting unity among Western allies and warning Vladimir Putin against using some of the world's most feared weapons. CNN Senior White House Correspondent Phil Mattingly is also here in Brussels.

Phil, first of all, lots of dramatic developments happen today. Give us the latest. PHIL MATTINGLY, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, three emergency summits over the course of 12 hours underscoring the highest of stake moments for President Biden and Western leaders. And included in that is palpable concern about the possibility that Russian forces may move towards utilizing chemical weapons. It was something the President addressed both privately at length with NATO and European allies over the course of the day, but also publicly saying for the first time, if Russia were to go down that path, there would be a response.

As to what that response would be, the President did not detail it. Saying only it would match up with the scale of the attack or the use of those weapons. But while U.S. and Western officials are attempting to grapple with President Putin's next strategic goals, it was a strategic miscalculation that the President gave a candid view into. Take a listen.


JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Putin was banking on NATO base split. My early conversation with him in December and early January, it was clear to me he didn't think we could sustain this cohesion. NATO has never, never been more united than it is today. Putin is getting exactly the opposite what he intended to have as a consequence of going into Ukraine.


MATTINGLY: And Wolf, U.S. officials and the President himself made clear today that a primary reason for these emergency summits was a recognition of just how long this is likely to play out, how bloody, how deadly, how horrific. Some of the images will be in the necessity of keeping the U.S. and its European allies together in alignment. They rolled out new sanctions today. The U.S. rolled out over a billion dollars in new humanitarian relief today.

And the President, in an effort to isolate Russia even further, suggested he supported removing Russia from the G20. It's something that's not very likely given the fact members of the G20 include countries like China, Saudi Arabia and India, which has been a little skittish in terms of their response up to this point. But the President also floated behind closed doors a compromise if Russia would not be kicked out, then at least Ukraine should be invited to the next G20 summit.

Speaking of China, Wolf, it's important to note that was also a central element of the discussions. Obviously, the President just a week ago, having that nearly two-hour long call with President Xi Jinping, laying out in blunt terms that the U.S. will respond if China aids Russia in any way militarily or economically. The President saying today, he believed the message got across that China would suffer economically due to its ties to the west if it were to move forward on that front. But at this point, U.S. officials do not have a clear answer one way or the other, worth noting.

The E.U. has a virtual summit with top Chinese officials on April 1. This was a critical meeting to lay the groundwork for that meeting to coming and just the next couple of days, Wolf.

BLITZER: Phil Mattingly reporting for us, so standby, I'm going to get back to you shortly.

But right now, I want to go to Ukraine and the latest on the fighting there, including dramatic video apparently showing the destruction of a Russian warship. CNN Senior International Correspondent Sam Kiley is in Kyiv for us tonight.

Sam, first of all, what are you learning about this extraordinary attack on this Russian warship?

SAM KILEY, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, the Russians would have had every reason to believe that they had total dominance of the sea, by the Azov Sea of the coast of Mariupol and Berdyansk where this attack occurred and also of course in the Black Sea. The Ukrainians have got almost nothing to show for it when it comes to the Navy.


But look at this, a massive explosion against of a Russian warship mod at Berdyansk. It was, according to the Ukrainians, the first Russian warship to have docked at this town port, a very important port city, Wolf, captured by the Russians in the early stages of their assault against Ukraine. And somehow we don't know how the Ukrainians have managed to blow it up.

Not only they blow it up with that very spectacular initial explosion, but they're also claiming that there was secondary detonations. In other words, fuel or ammunition or both have exploded there. They're also claiming that this has resulted in the Russians moving some of their ships out of that poor area to safer areas out further to see.

Very important strike, indeed, both in terms of morale, of course, for the Ukrainians, but also signaling to the Russians that they need to stay nimble and worried even at sea. And that's been really the tactical pattern of the Ukrainians right through this conflict, surprising the Russians using the modern equipment that they've been supplied by NATO to the best effect, hitting hard and then moving on. They've also, of course, have been conducting some more traditional heavy exchanges of artillery.

But this really comes, it's very important strike, Wolf, because it comes so as it does along the Azov Sea where of course the ferocious battle for Mariupol continues.

BLITZER: It certainly does. And I must say the Russians are still pummeling that nearby southern port city of Mariupol. What is the latest over there? What else are you hearing, Sam?

KILEY: Well, the level of destruction in Mariupol is really absolutely gigantic. It will go down in modern history as right alongside Grozny now as the total annihilation of a very substantial city. This is a city that numbered about 400,000 people now. We don't know exactly how many people are still there, but 200,000 people easily. The city's been on a flame. It's been hit by a naval ships, Russian naval ships, from the sea with heavy guns, has been hit by cruise missiles by dumb bombs from aircraft and of course from rocket launching systems. Absolutely hammered.

There have been reports of refugees escaping into Russian held territory. We're still investigating what happens to them when they go into that territory. But above all, these apartment buildings are being torn apart, burned and destroyed. The whole city, anybody living above ground risk being killed, Wolf, and very few people have managed to escape.

BLITZER: Yes, it's totally, totally horrendous what the Russians have done to the city.

Sam Kiley, I want you to stand by as well.

I also want to bring in into this conversation CNN Senior Political Correspondent, Abby Phillip, the anchor of "Inside Politics Sunday."

Abby, how powerful is it to see the President of the United States alongside the NATO allies, the G7 allies, European leaders, in light of the enormous threat Russia poses right now?

ABBY PHILLIP, CNN ANCHOR, INSIDE POLITICS: Well, Wolf, the most important priority for President Biden and for the European leaders for these summits this week is to have a show of unity. It is the entire goal of Putin, according to the President to divide European allies. He talked about how Putin would more likely want to face each of these 29 nations independently rather than all of them at the same time.

And so, the entire point of this is to signal to Putin and perhaps other global adversaries that the NATO alliance is still there, it is still strong and perhaps growing even stronger now that there is a clear and present threat to the global order that has largely kept, you know, kept World War III, frankly, from breaking out since the last Cold War.

BLITZER: You know, Sam, you're there in the Ukrainian capital of Kyiv, do you -- do any of the steps announced today here in Brussels, and they were pretty dramatic announcements, do any of them really change the situation though for Ukrainians who are fighting for their lives on the ground?

KILEY: I think critical for the Ukrainians, Wolf, is the supply of weapons, they have put them to good effect. I think that's why NATO partners, NATO Allies effectively clubbing together sending as much as they possibly can. The United Kingdom, United States, sending large amounts, but also other nations that don't traditionally like to send weapons around the world, notably Germany, arming the Ukrainians because they are scoring the sort of success that you're seeing there on the screen. They are able to make a difference.

[17:10:10] Now the real, real problem for the Ukrainians is going to be if they're getting the supply of weapons, do they get the surface to air missiles that they need to protect their airspace if NATO, which is absolutely clear now is not going to get involved in a banning the Russians from using Ukrainian airspace, they're going to need more surface to air missiles of that. There is absolutely no doubt.

But they're also going to start running short of people. The whole country has been mobilized, there's huge reserve forces here. Every male between the age of 18 and 60 is now subjected to potentially form of conscription. Most people are simply volunteering.

But this is a critical time. It means that for example, the role of Belarus and whether or not they get -- the Russians get reinforced with troops from Belarus could tip the balance against the Ukrainians because the Ukrainians at least believe that they're getting to some extent the upper hand against the Russians in some critical areas, Wolf.

BLITZER: That's a good point.

Abby, is the challenge not keeping the West united as this war drags on now into its second month, at least from now, based on everything I'm hearing from top U.S. and allied officials, they see no end in immediate sight to this Russian assault.

PHILLIP: Yes. I think there's definitely a sense that this conflict could go on for quite some time. And even more so, the sanctions that the European nations and the United States have all agreed to need more time to work. And if that is going to be the case, both Europe and the United States are going to be experiencing quite a lot of economic pain.

So the big question for this alliance is how long can these nations hold out? How long can they take a domestic squeeze and an effort to put the squeeze on Putin as well? And that is still really to be seen. There was a big conversation in Brussels this week about what to do about Europe's dependence on Russian oil and gas. And that is still a major question that's not going to be answered this week. It's going to continue to be a problem that needs to be worked out over the course of many months and perhaps years as well, Wolf.

BLITZER: You know, Phil, we all heard President Biden say if Russia uses chemical weapons in Ukraine, the President then said, I'm quoting him now, the nature of the response would depend on the nature of the use. So how seriously is the White House taking this this threat of chemical weapons?

MATTINGLY: Yes, whatever ambiguity you saw from the President today in terms of what that response may be, that doesn't exist inside the White House. In fact, just four days after the Russian invasion was launched, National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan signed off on a special team of officials to work through contingency plans and potential responses should things escalate. That included bio warfare, chemical warfare, strikes on convoys, incursions into NATO territory, all of that is being gamed out meeting several days a week. There's a recognition that the escalations they've seen up to this point can only grow depending on where President Putin is over the course of the coming days and weeks. And the U.S. needs to be ready to respond. They feel like they are what that will be, however, is still to be seen should Putin cross that line, Wolf.

BLITZER: Phil Mattingly, thanks very much. Sam Kiley, Abby Phillip, guys, thank you very much as well.

There's more breaking news we're following. President Biden saying Vladimir Putin was banking on a NATO split over his invasion of Ukraine. So how isolated though is the Russian president tonight? We have much more of our live coverage from here in Brussels when we come back.



BLITZER: We're live here in Brussels where the United States and its allies are presenting a unified front against Russian President Vladimir Putin's brutal invasion of Ukraine.

Let's bring in our CNN International Diplomatic Editor Nic Robertson. He's in Brussels with us as well.

Nic, there's growing concern as you well know over what Putin may do next as he grows more and more desperate and more and more isolated around the world. What are you learning?

NIC ROBERTSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL DIPLAMATIC EDITOR: Well, there's growing evidence that his forces are committing war crimes, NATO is telling him the G7 is telling him to get his forces out of Ukraine to stop the offensive. There's concern that as he faces more pressure, economic pressure, and we had more of that today, sanctions from the United States from the United Kingdom. Indeed, the German Chancellor as well telling President Putin that his decision to insist that all gas and oil supplies are paid for in rubles is not something that's going to happen. So he is under more pressure.

There's a concern that he might use chemical weapons. He's still talking about the possibility or his officials are talking about the possibility of tactical nuclear weapons still being on the table.

And I was speaking with a Greek Prime Minister today. He said that he finds it hard to fathom that Putin can still be in this frame of mind. He thinks it's saber-rattling, but at the same time exceptionally concerned about the security of all people in Europe at the moment. So this is a point of concern.

And the concern I asked the Prime Minister if he thought President Putin was still thinking rationally, he said it's hard to understand, it's hard to get inside Putin said at the moment. He said he hopes he is.

BLITZER: Nic, I want you to stand by. I also want to bring it to this conversation special guests we now have, Ivo Daalder is joining us, the former U.S. ambassador to NATO. He spent more than four years as the U.S. ambassador to NATO.


You know, Ambassador, that the NATO Secretary General says Putin made a big mistake launching this war. How do you think Putin views the Western response and these summits, three summits here in Brussels today?

IVO DAALDER, FORMER U.S. AMBASSADOR TO NATO: You know, I think he did make a big mistake because he thought that the Ukrainians would greet Russian soldiers as liberators. And instead, they took up arms from your barber to the CEO and the entire country's mobilized. And he thought that the West, which he sees as a decadent declining power was going to fold and be divided. And instead, as we see today, three summits of the three major Western organizations coming together, standing together with the people of Ukraine, saying they're going to provide whatever they need in order to defend themselves to bolster NATO, to strengthen sanctions and to increase the political isolation from Russia.

He must be sitting there in the Kremlin and really wonder how is this going to end and what is he going to do next. And I think one of the issues that they discussed at NATO is the one that Nic raised, it's the possibility of escalating with chemical war or even nuclear weapons. That's how bad the situation is for him and, frankly, how dangerous the situation is for all of us.

BLITZER: And we also saw, Ambassador, of the momentum growing today to force Russia out of the G20, the G20. Is this a fundamental shift? Is Putin sliding from the adversary to international pariah. You heard President Biden say he doesn't want Putin in the G20 anymore?

DAALDER: Yes. And I think that is the attempt clearly. And making Putin a true pariah internationally is something that we spend a lot of time on. And I note that in the NATO Summit, for example, that statement, it pointed out that countries really can't sit on the sidelines, and it's specifically called on the China -- on China and Xi Jinping to condemn what has happened with regard to the Russian invasion of Ukraine and to make sure that they didn't support Russia materially because if they did, there will be real consequences.

So there is this attempt really to try to isolate Russia politically. I think trying to get him out of the G20 is exactly the right thing to do. And we'll see how far we have -- we're going to get. At least the West is united. Now we need to get the rest on board.

BLITZER: We'll see if that happens.

You know, Nic, there's also a lot of growing speculation out there right now about the Russian defense ministry who hasn't been seen or heard from much lately despite his key role in Russia's military invasion. What can you tell us?

ROBERTSON: Yes. And I think it's important when we look at what's happening with Sergei Shoigu, the Defense Minister, to understand that he is an old crony, if you will. A friend of President Putin for more than 20 years now, one of his contemporaries that he grew up with in St. Petersburg. He is a very close and trusted person or has been to President Putin.

The Russian media has been speculating that they haven't seen Sergei Shoigu on television since the 18th of March. And they're speculating that perhaps that was actually recorded on the 11th of March. So, two weeks of not being seen.

The spokesman for President Putin today said that Shoigu was busy. The defense ministry today said that Shoigu had been on the phone today with the Armenian Defense Minister. So, the Kremlin, they're essentially trying to say he's still in play. He was on T.V. again today, but it's hard to know when that was actually recorded. It will be huge if Putin had sidelined him, Wolf.

BLITZER: Yes, that would be significant indeed.

Nic Robertson, thanks very much. Ivo Daalder, the former U.S. ambassador to NATO, thanks for joining us, as well. Appreciate it very, very much.

There's more breaking news we're following here in THE SITUATION ROOM, a Ukrainian crew member now tells CNN how he tried to sink a yacht used by a Russian oligarch to retaliate for the invasion of Ukraine. This is a CNN exclusive and we'll have it when we come back.



BLITZER: Now to a CNN exclusive, a Ukrainian crew member is tied to a Russian oligarch revealing to CNN how he tried to sink the vessel when Vladimir Putin's forces invaded his country. He tells his story to CNN Senior Investigative Correspondent Drew Griffin.



DREW GRIFFIN, CNN SENIOR INVESTIGATIVE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Taras Ostapchuk, a 55-year-old nautical engineer says he spent the past 10 years serving on the Lady Anastasia, an ageing luxury yachts sailing the Mediterranean.

OSTAPCHUK: We had a crew of nine people, including a chef and a waiter.

GRIFFIN (voice-over): He says the yacht current owner and only user is Alexander Mikheev, a sanctioned Putin connected oligarch and the CEO of a major Russian state run company that rakes in 10s of billions of dollars selling munitions, everything from weapons to ammo to aircraft. Yacht engineer, Ostapchuk went from cruising in oligarch luxury to a bunker in Ukraine. Our interview just began stopped by an alert of an incoming Russian attack.

OSTAPCHUK: OK, sorry. See you next time. Bye-bye.

GRIFFIN (voice-over): His life changed in late February when the yacht was docked in Spain and Russia invaded his home country.

(on-camera): Welcome back. Thank you.

OSTAPCHUK: Nice to meet you again.

GRIFFIN (on-camera): So good to see you, my friend.

OSTAPCHUK: Yes. I'm safe here.

GRIFFIN (voice-over): Safe once again. Ostapchuk explain he was spurred to action when he saw this image of a Russian military strike in an apartment building in his hometown of Kyiv.

OSTAPCHUK: Now war started. Yes.

GRIFFIN (voice-over): At that moment, he knew he had to do something to retaliate, sink the Lady Anastasia.

OSTAPCHUK (through translation): Water began to fill up the engine room and the crew space. After that, there were three crew members left on board. I announced that the boat was sinking and that they should leave the ship. I did this on my own.

GRIFFIN (voice-over): The other crew members also Ukrainian didn't want to risk their own jobs, he said. Instead, they sounded the alarm called authorities. He was arrested and the Anastasia staved, although damaged. In court, Ostapchuk denied nothing, instead declaring he would return to Ukraine where he picked up arms and joined the military.

OSTAPCHUK (through translation): Now a war has begun, a total war between Russia and Ukraine. And you have to choose either you are with Ukraine or not. You have to choose, will there be Ukraine or will you have a job? I made a choice. I don't need a job if I don't have Ukraine.

GRIFFIN (voice-over): Back in Spain, Spain's Ministry of Transport has agreed to the provisional detention of yacht Lady Anastasia. While it confirms its real ownership and determines if it falls under European Union sanctions and can be seized. It's one of a long list of suspected Russian oligarch yachts now frozen in European ports in an effort to apply pressure on Putin through his inner circle of oligarchs to stop this war.

Taras Ostapchuk says others working for oligarchs around the world should expose them and their assets. His effort to make the profiteers of Vladimir Putin's regime pay for what they are doing.

OSTAPCHUK (through translation): I think what I did is absolutely 100 percent correct. I tried to sink the boat as a political protest of Russian aggression. Because its owner is connected to the production of Russian weapons. They should be held responsible because they who with their behavior, with their lifestyle, but their unquenchable greed, they precisely led to this.

In order to distract the people from the real plunder of Russia by these rulers, they arranged diversionary wars with other countries that are innocent.

GRIFFIN (on-camera): Is there any message that you would like the people of the United States to know right now?

OSTAPCHUK: Help us, please. Sent guns to Ukraine, please. We must stop with this war. We must win.


BLITZER: That was Drew Griffin reporting for us. And in what appears to be a cynical response from the Russian defense firm, the company says it never comments on the personal lives of its employees or their property that informs CNN if we wanted information about the course of this special military operation to protect the republics of Donbass. And I'm quoting now, we should contact the Russian Ministry of Defense.

Taras Ostapchuk has no doubt that military equipment made by the Russian defense firm linked to his former boss is now being used to kill civilians in Ukraine. The least he could do, he says, was sink his yacht.

Drew Griffin's reporting. Excellent report indeed. Thank you very much, Drew, for that.

Just ahead, millions of Ukrainian refugees have flooded into neighboring countries now. The United States is making a major pledge to take in 100,000 of them. Stay with us. You're in the THE SITUATION ROOM. We're alive from Brussels.



BLITZER: President Biden announced today that the United States will take in as many as 100,000 refugees fleeing Russia's violent, brutal assault on Ukraine. Listen to the President on the human toll of the war.


JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I've been in refugee camps. I've been in war zones for the last 15 years and it's devastated. You see women and husbands and men and women who are completely lost and have no know. You see the look, that blank look on their face.

(END VIDEO CLIP) BLITZER: Let's bring in CNN's Don Lemon. He's joining us now from Lviv in Ukraine. Don, you've seen the faces, you've seen the look, the faces of these Ukrainians fleeing the violence, which is so awful over there. What are the people over there telling you?

DON LEMON, CNN ANCHOR, DON LEMON TONIGHT: I don't know. And I'm saying that to make a point. That's what they're saying to me, Wolf, is I don't know. They're conveying in their -- with their words, and with their emotions and their body language uncertainty, because they don't know. Many of them have lived years and years in the same place and then all of a sudden for no reason they have been displaced, their homes have been bombed.

You can understand sometimes when it is a natural disaster, a hurricane, a storm of some sort, earthquake or what have you, a fire.


But this is for no reason. Someone just decided to bomb their homes and take their loved ones and take everything they own. But I tell you what, Vladimir Putin, Wolf, may indeed occupy physically parts of this country, but he will never be able to occupy the hearts of these people. They don't want it. They're not having it.

They say he's like an ex-lover that won't get the point and won't go away. But they do not want him back. They don't want him. He will never be able to occupy their hearts.

It's a resolve. What I've noticed the most, Wolf, from the folks here is their resolve. And they're saying, no matter what he does, no matter physically what he does, they are not going to accept it.

We spent the day with Jose Andres, the chef on the restaurant tour. He is feeding hundreds of thousands of people a day, a day. So helping these refugees in these displaced people. And also even at the Polish- Ukrainian border, where the President will visit tomorrow, he has a place there helping people. So it's people helping people and the resolve of the folks, that is what's happening here where we are. That's what we're witnessing.

BLITZER: Jose Andres is a really great guy. Don Lemon, thank you very much. Don is going to have much more later tonight on his program "Don Lemon Tonight" 10:00 p.m. Eastern.

As Ukrainians brace for more war at home, those who were able to leave are still facing challenging days ahead. CNN's Miguel Marquez visits a dance class in Romania, where he finds a bit of a welcome stress relief for the youngest refugees and their parents.


MIGUEL MARQUEZ, CNN SENIOR NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Dance therapy for Ukrainian moms and their children fleeing war.

(on-camera): How was the dancing, Igor (ph)?


MARQUEZ (on-camera): You're a very good dancer.

I. LUTSAK: (Speaking Foreign Language)

MARQUEZ (voice-over): The not exactly shy, Igor (ph) Lutsak, 5.5 years old. He and his mom Tetiana are from Kharkiv, Ukraine's second largest city.

Suffering indiscriminate, Russian rockets and artillery attacks since the war start.

(on-camera): How are you doing? How's he doing?

MARQUEZ (voice-over): I'm playing soldiers, he says. His mom adds, yes soldiers. He's always saying air raid.

(on-camera): If me and you were playing air raid now, how would we replay?

(voice-over): Show them how you play, she says. I'm shooting at a tank, he says. Any tank I can hit.

(on-camera): How do you explain what is happening in Ukraine?

(voice-over): He saw everything, she says, and now he's repeating it. I think he'll play regular games when this is over and he calms down, games like cars and trains.

No, no says Igor (ph). It will be the same. I like it. Igor (ph), his mom and godmother are one of dozens of families being housed by Jesuit Refugee Service and the local children's cancer charity Magic Association.

IRENE TEODOR, JESUIT REFUGEE SERVICE: The mothers we see they can be tough when they're with their children. But when they come and speak to us privately, they break down.

MARQUEZ (on-camera): You are a very good dancer.


MARQUEZ (voice-over): Ylena and Sophia Orlova, seven years old, arrived days ago from Dnipro. Russian attacks have been pushing toward and hitting the strategic Dnipro region, the city's population, nearly a million.

Orlova and several of her relatives are now refugees, but not everyone.

My son is 18 years old, she says. He has an injured leg but wasn't allowed to cross the border. My son is in Ukraine. She can barely speak the words.

Today's dance class, a welcome distraction. Today, this was a stress relief, she says. For two days, we didn't eat or sleep. And we're grateful to relax. The dance instructor, a refugee too. He fled war in Cameroon.

I want them to feel joy, he says, because I know how it is to be in their places. It's very hard. It was very hard for me too.

Sofia wanted to dance in Ukraine but was too young. Today, a bit of hope.

My dream she says came true.

A simple activity bringing comfort to moms and kids, refugees far from home.


MARQUEZ: It is so difficult to talk to these kids and see them playing war and soldiers and that's what they know now and that's what they're mimicking.


Look, these are the most vulnerable of refugees in places like Romania are now trying to figure out how they're going to care for them. Hospitals, schools, health care, all those sort of long term needs are now being planned out in places like this because they just feel it's going to go on for months, if not years. Wolf?

BLITZER: What a story. Miguel Marquez, thank you very much for sharing that information. Appreciate it.

There's more breaking news coming up next. We're following all the late breaking developments. We'll be right back.



BLITZER: More now on the breaking news, the Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy addressing the emergency NATO Summit here in Brussels virtually, and employing the leaders to give his country more military aid to fight off the Russian invasion.

Joining us now, the former Ukrainian Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk, is joining us right now. Prime Minister, thank you so much for joining us. As you know, President Zelenskyy pleaded --


BLITZER: -- with the NATO leaders once again today says -- saying he just needs 1 percent of their fighter jets, their tanks. After all these summits today, do you feel that plea is going to be answered or unanswered?

YATSENYUK: There is no other option. We are fighting for our freedom, but we are fighting for the freedom of the entire world. The war that Nazi style President Putin waged against Ukraine, this is the word not just against the sovereign Ukraine. This is the war against the Western world and this is the war against the free world.

So, what's right now at stake? A global democracy is at stake. So I strongly believe that the only option that NATO has is to supply more lethal weapon to Ukraine, to support Ukrainian men and women in the uniform to fight these barbaric Russian Army.

BLITZER: A month into this unprovoked and brutal war, Prime Minister, does Vladimir Putin, do you believe, does he understand the full scope of just how badly this is going for Russia on the ground in Ukraine?

YATSENYUK: That's what he didn't expect, Wolf. He expected that Ukraine will retreat, he expected that Ukraine will fail just in 96 hours, he expected that the Western world will fail to support Ukraine, that there will be no unity among NATO member states, among E.U. member states. So he didn't expect these kinds of strong resolve and these kinds of strong unity and united and concerted actions against belligerent Russian Federation.

So he underestimated mainly Ukrainian nation and Ukrainian people. And he underestimated the Western response. So as of now, he clearly understands that he already failed. And there is another danger that he's cornered or he is trapped. But this is -- it's his fault that he is trapped because he started this unprecedented and unjustified war against Ukraine.

And the reason why I'm concerned about these because these crazy guy can resort to chemical biological or nuclear weapon against Ukraine, and not only Ukraine, even against NATO member states. That's what right now on his table, I strongly believe.

BLITZER: Former Prime Minister of Ukraine Arseniy Yatsenyuk, thank you so much for joining us. I will definitely want to continue this conversation.

YATSENYUK: We will prevail, Wolf. We're going to win this war.

BLITZER: Thank you very much.

YATSENYUK: They'll never win this war.

BLITZER: You're doing -- well, you know, you're doing very, very well right now. And you should be very proud of the Ukrainian people and the Ukrainian military and the President of Ukraine as well, a strong leader. Thank you very, very much.

There's other important breaking news --

YATSENYUK: Thank you.

BLITZER: -- unfolding right now. North Korean state media just reporting that Kim Jong-un himself ordered and guided the test launch of an intercontinental ballistic missile, the company's most powerful such test in almost five years.

CNN Senior International Correspondent Will Ripley is working the story for us. Will, you've been to North Korea several times. Tell us more, first of all, about why this latest missile test from North Korea is so concerning.

WILL RIPLEY, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, because when this thing was unveiled wolf back in October of 2020, analysts looked at the images from the North Korean military parade that month, and said this thing is a monster and it is certainly living up to that description. It's the largest missile and the North Korean arsenal that we know of. It is capable of striking any target in North America, including New York, Washington, Los Angeles.

Some estimates say that it could actually strike up to 95 percent of the world's population if, indeed, it can travel up to 15,000 kilometers. And so, this is, obviously, very troubling for, you know, people who watch this thing. Fly up higher, a higher altitude than we've ever seen before, more than 3800 miles up into space, then back down just off the shores of Japan, off the shores of Japan's northern island of Hokkaido.

The Japanese prime minister met with President Biden there in Brussels where you are, Wolf, he said that this was reckless. This is unacceptable. This launch was also condemned by the South Korean President Moon Jae-in who leaves office in a matter of weeks. He built his administration trying to make peace with the North and now as he's about to be on the way out to see this kind of provocative launch that brings us right back to the last time they were testing ICBMs in 2017. Those were the fire and fury days as you remember all too well.

Now, after all of that diplomacy, the failed diplomacy, here we are almost five years later with a North Korean missile that some analysts say could deliver multiple nuclear warheads anywhere in the U.S. And this missile, Wolf, is functional. It is working.


Maybe they're not 100 percent there but they're getting very, very close. So the big question now, is the Biden administration going to pay attention to this? Are they going to try to engage with Kim Jong- un or is he going to continue this kind of behaviour unabated, Wolf?

BLITZER: And as you point out, North Korea's nuclear power. Will Ripley, reporting the news for us. Will, thank you very, very much.

There's more breaking news that's coming up next. We're live here in Brussels where the U.S. and the Western allies are vowing to harsher punishment against Russia. I'm in serious fears that Vladimir Putin may escalate his attack on Ukraine with weapons of mass destruction.