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The Situation Room
Biden Says, We Would Respond If Putin Uses Chemical Weapons; Ukraine Says It Destroyed Russian Warship In Key Port; Intense New Combat Reported North Of Kyiv; January 6 Committee: Wife Of Justice Thomas Exchanged Texts With Mark Meadows About Overturning 2020 Election; North Korea: Kim Jong Un Guided Launch Of The Most Powerful Missile Test In Almost 5 Years. Aired 6-7p ET
Aired March 24, 2022 - 18:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN THE SITUATION ROOM: Happening now, breaking news. President Biden and U.S. allies draw a new line against Russia, vowing NATO would respond if Vladimir Putin uses chemical weapons in Ukraine.
After emergency talks here in Brussels, the president is touting western unity and promising that increased pain on Putin will stop him in the end.
Also breaking right now, a new set back for Russia's attack from the sea. Ukraine says it destroyed a Kremlin war ship in a key southern port, this as the battleground around Kyiv, the capital rages on, we're getting new reports of intense fighting just north of the capital.
CNN correspondents are on the frontlines in Ukraine at key locations here in Brussels as Russia's unprovoked and brutal war enters a second month.
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.
We're coming to you live from the European Union headquarters here in Brussels after a very, very intense and busy day of emergency summits. President Biden standing together with U.S. allies against Vladimir Putin and his aggression in Ukraine.
Let's go right to our Senior White House Correspondent Phil Mattingly. Phil, four weeks into this brutal, awful war, the president of the United States wanted to send a message to Putin and to the world.
PHIL MATTINGLY, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Yes, no question about it, Wolf. A senior U.S. official describing the mood behind closed doors where leaders gathered as sober, resolute, a group keenly aware of the historical nature of this moment, but more than anything else, a group that's unified.
(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) JOE BIDEN, U.S. PRESIDENT: 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 (voice over): Tonight, President Biden marshaling the full weight of the world's democracies to isolate Vladimir Putin.
BIDEN: The single most important thing is for us to stay unified and the world continue to focus on what a brute this guy is and all the innocent people's lives are being lost and ruined.
MATTINGLY: one month to the day since the start of Russia's unprovoked and increasingly escalating invasion of Ukraine, Biden pressing the urgency of the moment and directly ordering Putin against potential chemical attacks.
BIDEN: We would respond. We would respond if he uses it. The nature of the response would depend on the nature of the use.
MATTINGLY: And backing an effort to remove Russia from the group of 20.
BIDEN: If Indonesia and others do not agree, then we should, in my view, ask to have basically Ukraine being able to attend the G20 meetings and observe.
MATTINGLY: On a day Ukrainian President Volodomyr Zelenskyy twice used virtual appearances to plead for more action from western leaders.
VOLODYMYR ZELENSKYY, UKRAINIAN PRESIDENT: You can give us 1 percent of all your planes, 1 percent of all your tanks, 1 percent.
MATTINGLY: As the Ukrainian military continues to surpass all expectations in a fight that is now in a stalemate.
ZELENSKYY: Please, never again tell us that our army does not meet NATO standards. We have shown what standards we can reach. We have shown how much we can give to the common security of Europe and the world.
MATTINGLY: But that battle field success also driving palpable concern about what Russian President Putin will do next, driving Biden to launch a high stakes and increasingly urgent diplomatic sprint, with back-to-back-to-back emergency summits designed to keep unprecedented alliance of democratic nations united and secure commitments for new action.
JENS STOLTENBERG, NATO SECRETARY GENERAL: We are determined to continue to impose costs in Russia to bring about the end of this brutal war.
MATTINGLY: The U.S. slapping sanctions on 328 Russian lawmakers, as well two oligarch with close Putin ties, while also continuing the assault on the Russian central bank, making clear its gold reserves are subject to sanctions, all as Biden announce the U.S. will welcome a 100,000 Ukrainian refugees through a full range of legal pathways and dispersing another $1 billion in humanitarian aid.
BIDEN: This is an international responsibility. The United States is a leader -- one of the leaders in the international community has an obligation to be engaged.
MATTINGLY: But with no end game in sight, Biden, he can clear the true goal of the day and months ahead.
BIDEN: The reason I asked for the meeting, we have to stay fully, totally, thoroughly united.
MATTINGLY (on camera): And U.S. officials believe this is a crisis that will continue for months, if not longer, will be brought into sharp focus on Friday. Tomorrow, the president will meet with the leader of the E.U. to announce a longer-term energy agreement to try and move the E.U. away from reliance on Russian energy. He will also travel to Poland, Wolf, where he is expected to meet with refugees underscoring what the president said today that the U.S. is a quote, major piece of the puzzle when it comes to caring for and providing humanitarian aid for those hundreds of thousands, if not, millions of refugees that have departed the country. Wolf?
BLITZER: Yes, lots going on indeed. Phil Mattingly reporting for us, thank you very much.
And now to the breaking news from the war zone, Ukraine, now saying it has destroyed a large Russian warship at a key southern port.
CNN Senior International Correspondent Ivan Watson is in the region for us. Ivan, first of all, what are you learning about this extraordinary attack on this Russian warship?
IVAN WATSON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, the Ukrainian government has claimed that it has destroyed this Russian navy landing vessel called the Orsk, which was docked at the port, the Russian-occupied port of Berdyansk. And we know that there are pretty dramatic social media videos that have emerged from that port showing just a massive in inferno engulfing the bow of a ship and then two Russian warships, as fast as possible, pushing off from the dock and trying to pull away and both of them also have smoke coming from those vessels as well. And the Ukrainian government is claiming that they not only destroyed the Orsk, but also damaged two other Russian ships and hit a fuel depot there.
We don't know what kind of weapon they used for this attack, but we do know about the presence of the Orsk because Russian state media had T.V. reporters on the bow of that ship and on the dockside, basically boasting about how it had come into this Ukrainian port and how it was off-loading Russian armored personnel carriers and its capacity to carry up to 20 tanks and 40 APCs and hundreds of troops. And there are some Ukrainian officials who are even kind of somewhat joking, suggesting that it is Russian state T.V. that effectively helped paint the bull's eye on the ship for this Ukrainian attack.
Now, further up the coast from this port is a much larger Ukrainian city of Mariupol, which has been the scene of this horrendous modern day siege where the Ukrainian defenders there are vastly outnumbered by the Russian military forces.
That said, they are remaining defiant, they say they're going to fight street by street, house by house. Take a listen -- I interviewed one of the Ukrainian defenders of the city. Take a listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ELI SAMOILENKO, MARIUPOL DEFENSE STAFF OFFICER: It's urban combat. So, yes, there's the street to street, building to building. Enemy trying to block us in the city blocks, we are pushing them back. The enemy is -- the enemy has a very, very serious casualties. We are -- basically, we're not counting them anymore. We need the heavy anti-air systems first. We need aircrafts. We need artillery pieces and we need anti-tank guided missiles.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WATSON: But, Wolf, while this devastated city is a battleground, we just don't know how many Ukrainian civilians are trapped in the middle of this vicious urban conflict, and we know that there are a growing number of Ukrainian civilians that are becoming casualties of this terrible battle. Wolf?
BLITZER: Good point, important point indeed, Ivan Watson, thank you very, very much.
I want to bring in right now CNN Senior International Correspondent Fred Pleitgen. He's reporting from Kyiv, the Ukrainian Capitol, also with us, our Military Analyst, Retired Lieutenant General Marl Hertling, and CNN's Chief Political Analyst Gloria Borger.
Fred, Ukrainians can't afford to wait on NATO leaders. They're keeping up the fight. What's the latest that you're seeing on the ground in Kyiv?
FREDERIK PLEITGEN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Hi there, Wolf. Well, it's quite interesting. As we're speaking right now, we actually have air raid sirens that are currently going off here in the Ukrainian capital in Kyiv, and, of course, that's something and unfortunately is all too common occurrence here on the ground on Kyiv. You can hear it right now. It doesn't necessarily mean that there's an air raid imminent but it certainly means that the Ukrainian defenders of the city are seeing something in the air that they believe could be dangerous.
And it was really it was that kind of day once again here in Kyiv, Wolf, as we had a lot of kinetic activity, we have a firefight that was actually fairly, or seemed fairly close to where we are right now.
However, the Ukrainians are saying that they are making some headway, that they're able to push the Russians back, certainly in the northwest or toward the northwest of Kyiv, where you have a suburb called Irpin. And in that suburb, they say control 80 percent of that right now. The Ukrainians saying that they're still shelling coming from the Russians coming towards their position, so obviously still contested area.
And then one of the new things is that the Ukrainians saying that, to the east, they've also made headway, apparently taking back a small town there and encircled some Russian forces. So, by and large, if you look at the front here, it's a very complex front around Kyiv, because you have several sort of places where there is fighting going on, the Ukrainians feel pretty confident right now that they can hold the Russians at bay and even push the Russians back. It's certainly what they're trying to do here, what they say they have at least limited success doing, Wolf.
BLITZER: Well, you know, I keep hearing those sirens, those air raid sirens, Fred, going off, three or four times in a row, maybe more. So, what happens? Do folks immediately go down to these shelters, these -- you know, when there's a siren like that going off? There's bunkers obviously all over the place and there's some more.
PLEITGEN: You know, here in the city center, most people will probably stay in their houses. We've had very little in the way of airstrikes in the city centers. But if you go especially toward the sort of more area of the outskirts, especially the north of Kyiv, people there are already in bunkers, Wolf. We've spoken to a lot of people. We've witnessed a lot of people there who are in subway stations, others in the sort of basements of their houses, especially if it's sort of larger residential buildings, they all spend the night there because there has been so much activity, so much shelling in those areas. And, certainly, when they hear the sirens, obviously, it's even more unnerving for them.
But for us here, it's definitely obviously a cue that you have to be inside when these sirens go off, but especially for the folks more towards the area where the combat is taking place, they are already in shelters and if they're not, definitely there now. But in any case, now, the capital is under a curfew from 8:00 P.M. every evening, so we're well into that already. People are all inside, but certainly now, being warned that there could be obviously aircraft in the way or on the way towards the Ukrainian city or possibly already above it, Wolf.
BLITZER: Well, just be careful over there. Stay safe, Fred Pleitgen, I appreciate it very much. We have courageous journalists on the scene.
General Hertling, President Biden says NATO has never been more united. How much of a message does today's summit here in Brussels actually send to Putin?
LT. GEN. MARK HERTLING (RET.), CNN MILITARY ANALYST: Well, it's a very big message, Wolf, because we're talking about what were Mr. Putin's strategic and operational objective. He is currently stalemated on the battlefields in the east and south of Ukraine, and as Fred just pointed out, the battle in the north, around Kyiv, was Mr. Putin's primary objective. Take the capital city, replace the government. He has not been able to do that in four weeks when he planned for it in three days.
A term we're going to need to get used to, Wolf, is the Fuka (ph), Irpin, Kyiv pocket. The Ukrainian forces have the Russians surrounded, in fact, the 35th combined arms army surrounded in that area and they are without supplies in the north. The Russians can't go anywhere. They are going to continue to be attrited by the Ukrainian force as long as the Ukrainians continue to get supplies.
In the south, that sinking of the ship was critically important because that was a resupply ship. This will come down to Ukrainians attriting the Russians and the Russians attempting to get resupply, which they have not been able to do.
So, when you talk about the president saying NATO is more united than they've ever been before, that was another strategic objective of Mr. Putin, was to further divide NATO. So, he has not taken the capital of Kyiv, he has not done the things he wanted to do in the south and east of the country, he has not divided NATO and the United States has not divided either. So, all of those things contribute to Mr. Putin probably being very upset.
BLITZER: Yes, you're absolutely right.
Gloria, how far does President Biden's leadership today go as the world watches this war drag into its second month?
GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, I think it goes a long way, as we've been just saying. This is a president who was trying to strengthen an already hamstrung NATO alliance and I think they've surprised themselves in many ways by how united they have become. But we're just a month into this. This could drag out. And there are lots of decisions that need to be made.
And there were questions asked today that there are no answers to, at least not that we know of, for example, what if the Russians were to decide to use some form of chemical weapon? What would the alliance do then? That's a very difficult question.
The United States, for example, doesn't depend as much on Russian energy, as some of the members of the NATO alliance do. Can the alliance keep it together and try and figure out a way to wane the E.U. off of Russian energy?
So, there are lots of decisions that need to be made and every country comes at it from a different place. But at this point, NATO has been unanimous.
BLITZER: Very impressive indeed, what NATO has done today and what they have been doing. Guys, thank you very, very much.
Just ahead, will increasing the pain on Vladimir Putin stop him as President Biden promises? I'll get reaction from a U.S. war veteran and a key member of Congress. We're live here in Brussels and you're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
BLITZER: We're live here in Brussels where President Biden and U.S. allies spent hours and hours today on urgent talks on the war in Ukraine. Let's get some insight into what they did not and did not necessarily accomplish. We're joined by Congressman Jason Crow. He's a key Democrat who serves on the Armed Services and Intelligence Committees. He's also a veteran in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Congressman, thanks for joining us.
This was certainly, and I'm here in Brussels, a real show of force from the west, but how much does this really change the situation for Ukrainians who desperately need help and they need it immediately?
REP. JASON CROW (D-CO): Well, it certainly was a significant meeting, announcements that came out of the last 24 hours, President Biden announcing the United States will accept 100,000 refugees is a significant announcement, and it shows the United States is willing to step up and lead here.
But just the visuals of the NATO alliance coming together, the leaders in the various countries, the defense ministers, our secretary of defense visiting and showing solidarity, working together, is something that just a couple years ago, there were questions whether we could ever really do that. So, it is significant. It shows the world that western democracies are strong, that we're willing to work together. But now, we actually need to translate that to additional action.
What we've done so far has been significant. The Biden administration stepped up in a very, very big way with Ukraine but the needs are growing. Ukrainians can win this but they can't win it just with what we've provided so far. We have to do more. We have to move fast.
BLITZER: President Biden says what will stop Putin is maintaining the sanctions and increasing the pain on Putin. Do you agree or do you fear Putin will only grow more dangerous the more isolated he becomes?
CROW: Well, I do agree with that, but I think there is an additional component to it that I believe the administration and the president also agrees with from my discussion, is we have to make sure that the Ukrainians can win this war. So, we don't just do one thing. We're not putting all of our eggs in one basket hoping that economic pressure, diplomatic pressure is somehow going to change Putin's mind or result in the oligarchs or civil resistance within Russia to, you know, overturn Putin's rule.
We have to also count on the fact that Putin might continue to press this regardless of what happens in Russia, and we have to equip the Ukrainians with what they need to win.
I actually think Ukrainians can win. There weren't many people a month ago who thought that, I actually may have been one of them that thought the Russians had overwhelming combat power and would have won this by now. That hasn't happened. Russians have performed poorly. Ukrainians have performed superbly. The international community is rallied around Ukrainian. They could actually win this militarily if we give them the right weapons and if we do it quickly.
BLITZER: You got to give the Ukrainians a lot of credit. Congressman Jason Crow, thanks so much for joining us. We obviously want to continue this conversation down the road.
Coming up, the Pentagon's top spokesman on U.S. military strategy against Russia following the big NATO emergency summit and the prospect of Putin's using chemical weapons. Our live coverage from here in Brussels continues right after the break.
BLITZER: We're back with our live coverage from Brussels on President Biden's emergency talks with key U.S. allies about the war in Ukraine. He' now making it clear that NATO respond, quote, in kind, if Vladimir Putin uses chemical weapons in Russia.
Before President Biden's remarks, I spoke with a top pentagon spokesman, John Kirby, here in Brussels.
BLITZER: We're here at NATO headquarters, inside, 30 NATO allies, the leaders are meeting right now, they've got a lot on their plate right now. This is a critically important moment. Give us the big picture. What do you see unfold?
JOHN KIRBY, PENTAGON PRESS SECRETARY: Big moment, obviously a critical time here to get the leaders together like this. There's going to be a lot on the agenda, not the least of which is what's the force posture? What does the alliance look like going forward? I mean, no matter how the war ends and, obviously, we want to see it end today, the security environment here in Europe has changed and will likely be different going forward, again, whatever that looks like.
And so one of the things that alliance leaders are talking about today is, well, what should it look like? I mean, here in the United States, I mean, we had, before the war, 80,000 troops in Europe, we now have 100,000.
Now, those are on temporary deployments. I'm not saying that that's going to be the future footprint but we are in the Pentagon looking at what that future footprint ought to look like to make sure that we can bolster particularly NATO's eastern flank.
BLITZER: Because I look at these numbers as a former Pentagon correspondent myself a lot very closely. Along the Ukrainian border, the Eastern European NATO allies, the number of troops, NATO allies troops, have gone from 20,000 to 40,000 within a matter of a few weeks.
KIRBY: That's right, and you make a really good point, Wolf. It's not just the United States contributing to the eastern flank's security.
It's so many of the other allies. They're hosting battle groups. We were just in Bulgaria last week. They're hosting a battle group there. They're leading battle groups, like the French and Romania, they're all chipping in. I mean, it truly is an alliance effort.
Now, again, how long the battle groups are in existence and exactly what they're doing over the long-term, we don't know yet. That's part of the discussion going on today. But it is important the alliance stay unified. And, frankly, Wolf, having in a naval officer for 30 years, I've never seen the alliance more resolved and more determined than it is right now.
BLITZER: It's so impressive when you speak to the NATO allies right now. They are all unified and they all hate what the Russians doing in Ukraine right now.
Under normal circumstances, when a secretary of defense or the chairman of Joint Chiefs of Staff calls his NATO -- his Russian counter parts they immediately take the call, they talk, they discuss, they may disagree, but at least they're communicating. That has stopped, hasn't it?
KIRBY: We have not had a successful attempt to talk to Defense Minister Shoigu, Secretary Austin's counterpart, or General Gerasimov, who is the chairman of Joint Chiefs, General Milley's counterpart. Now, we've tried on several occasions in the last week or ten days and we just haven't been able to reach out to one of them.
I do want to stress, though, that we have still have communications with the Russians. We have the defense attache in Moscow, at the embassy, who can speak with his counterparts.
BLITZER: Lower level.
KIRBY: Lower level. And we also have a de-confliction line that, again, we're only using it right now to make sure that it works, we haven't actually used it to deliver content with respect to airspace confliction problems. But there are still mil to mil, military to military communications with Russia.
BLITZER: Well, tell our viewers what a de-confliction line means, because it is so important.
KIRBY: Well, it's not unlike in a way what we're doing in Syria. You've got the United States and Syria still going after ISIS and you have the Russians and Russian military still in Syria. And so because we would have the potential for U.S. aircraft being in the same airspace as Russian aircraft, we wanted a de-confliction line, a phone line, so you can pick up the phone and say, hey, we're doing such and such in an area, you need to stay clear.
Well, we've set up a similar kind of line here in Europe. It's housed at the European command headquarters in Germany, in Stuttgart. They check it once or twice a day. It's done at, as you said, a lower level, tactical level, just to make sure that when we pick it up, the Russians are actually answering. So far, they are.
We haven't used it to de-conflict any airspace issues because the Russians haven't flown their aircraft close to NATO airspace, there haven't been any close calls with NATO aircraft. But it's nice to know we've got that line, and so far, it's still working.
BLITZER: Our Chief White House Correspondent Kaitlan Collins is reporting right now, and I think this is also pretty significant if you see what's going on, that there are at least some discussion at a very, very serious level, what does the U.S. military, what do the Biden administration do if the Russians were, God forbid, to use chemical, biological or nuclear weapons? There's a whole group out there that discusses this all the time, right?
KIRBY: I think, look, you know, you covered the Pentagon. We're a planning organization. Our job is to think about contingencies, to think about the hypotheticals. And I wouldn't be very smart for me to get into speculating right now, we haven't seen any indications that the Russians are preparing to use weapons of mass destruction inside Ukraine.
But you've heard President Biden talk about his, Wolf. If that were to happen, there would be a significant response not just from the United States but the international community. And I think it's better if we don't speculate about what that response would be. We haven't seen the indications now. And, again, we continue call on Mr. Putin to do the right thing right now, which is end the war. He can end it right now.
BLITZER: And just ahead, CNN talks to the mayor of Kyiv and his brother. Their defiant message to Russia in an exclusive interview, that's next.
This is THE SITUATION ROOM. We're live from Brussels.
BLITZER: We're live here in Brussels where there were urgent NATO talks on Russia's war against Ukraine, today. And only moments ago, you heard it live here on CNN, air raid sirens sounded in the Ukrainian capital of Kyiv.
CNN's Fred Pleitgen now has an exclusive interview with two brothers in the embattled city, both former boxing champions. One is the current mayor. He insists this is not a fight he's ready to lose. (BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)
PLEITGEN (voice over): As Vladimir Putin continues his assault on Ukraine, the U.S. believes taking the capital, Kyiv, remains Russia's main goal. But the city's mayor, former world boxing champ Vitaly Klitschko, vows Putin's troops will not enter this town.
We met the mayor and his brother, Wladimir Klitschko, himself a former boxing champion, in a secret building in Kyiv.
Do you think you have what it take to fend them off completely and that the city will not taken by Russia?
MAYOR VITALY KLITSCHKO, KYIV, UKRAINE: This is our hometown. We never go to the knee. We don't want to be slaves. We don't want back to USSR to live in dictatorial totalitarianism. We see our country as modern, European, democratic country.
PLEITGEN: The Klitschkos are on the move 24/7, visiting residential areas shelled by the Russian army, sometimes getting emotional when seeing the after math of Russian attacks.
REPORTER: Putin says he's only targeting military targets.
V. KLITSCHKO: Bullshit. Sorry, where is military target?
PLEITGEN: Comforting those affected by the war and overseeing the effort to train those looking to confront Russian forces.
You've really stepped up and really have organized the defense of the city. How did you manage to do that, learn that so quickly, learning on the fly?
V. KLITSCHKO: We don't need to organize. I meet people in (INAUDIBLE) with very peaceful profession, artists, musicians, doctors, never ever had idea to take the uniform and take the weapons in their hand.
But right now, they are in the street and ready to fight.
A few days ago, that apartment's building destroyed from rocket. One man, around 60 years old, come to me and ask what I have to do right now? I give him proposal to evacuate him to my city zone, to west Ukraine. He told, Mr. Klitschko, my mayor, I don't want to leave my hometown. Please give me weapons. I am ready to defend my family, my lovely Kyiv. Instead, the panic, instead, the demoralization, the people motivated so much and have spirit to defend our future.
PLEITGEN: But they're up against a strong and better-equipped foe. As President Biden visits Europe to meet NATO allies, the Klitschkos' messages are tougher on Putin.
What are your demands? What do you guys need to continue this fight?
WLADIMIR KLITSCHKO, KYIV BRIGADE OF UKRAINIAN DEFENSE FORCE: Because our will is strong, and it's better and stronger than any army and any weapon. But we definitely need to close our sky. Our civilians and our cities are getting destroyed and it's continuing while we're getting this interview, speaking about it. The fights are still going on. We need supply of the defensive weapons.
And you guys just need to stop any economic relation with Russia. This way, we will isolate him, make him weaker and just show that international law cannot be broken.
Oil, obviously, the world needs oil and gas, but it's better to pay higher price than to pay with lives for that oil.
PLEITGEN: And so you guys obviously want a no-fly zone, I gather, and aircraft, anti-aircraft systems and the like to beat the Russians in the skies. That's one of the most important things, right?
W. KLITSCHKO: If you supply us with defensive weapons, we're going to close the skies on our own. We have enough men and women that are going to stand for the country and will defend it as strong, as much as possible. And we're going to close the sky on our own. We just need the defensive equipment for that.
PLEITGEN: Vitaly Klitschko knows Joe Biden well. The two met both in Washington D.C. and Kyiv when Biden was vice president and the U.S. front man for Ukraine policy in the Obama administration.
What's your message to Joe Biden as he comes to Europe?
V. KLITSCHKO: Stay with Ukraine. Thank you very much for support, support Ukraine. With our friends, we're much stronger. It's our future. It's our freedom. We are ready to fight for that but we need support for whole democratic world.
PLEITGEN: The Klitschkos are international celebrities with massive fan bases in both the U.S. and in Europe. And yet but they say, for them, there is no other place they want to be than in Kyiv despite the dangers.
You are some of the prime targets for the Russians. They're out to get you. Why do you do it? What motivates you?
V. KLITSCHKO: It's our homeland. It's our parents here, we've grown up. It's our country. It's our home. And it's a simple answer. We have to be here.
Do you know this expression of roots? Our roots are here. Our father that was one of the Chernobyl survivors, and he was one of the liquidators that buried him in Kyiv and he's a Ukraine as he could be. Our relatives, our friends, every single street reminds us some memories in life. And that's something that gives you so much strength because the truth is on our side. This is pretty much reminds me like in a fairytale, the fight between the good and the evil.
What a story. Fred Pleitgen reporting for us, Fred, thank you, very much.
And this is important. For information about how you can help humanitarian efforts in Ukraine, go to cnn.com/impact and help impact your world.
Coming up, another breaking story we're following. We're just learning about text exchange between the wife of U.S. Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas and former Trump White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows involving the 2020 elections.
Stay with us for that. THE SITUATION ROOM continues. We're live from Brussels.
BLITZER: Other breaking news coming into THE SITUATION ROOM right now involving the January 6th investigation.
Our congressional correspondent Ryan Nobles has the story for us.
So, Ryan, what are you learning?
RYAN NOBLES, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, we have learned today, the January 6th Select Committee has in its possession a series of text messages between Ginni Thomas, the wife of Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, and former White House chief of staff Mark Meadows.
There are 29 text messages in total that took place early November through the end of January, shortly after the 2020 election and in these text messages which CNN has now been able to review, you see an exchange between Thomas and Meadows where Thomas implores the chief of staff to encourage the former president and his administration to vigorously fight the attempts to certify the 2020 election.
I'll give you an example of just one of those texts. For instance, on November 10th, Thomas wrote to Meadows, quote: Help this great president stand firm, Mark. You are the leader, with him, who is standing for America's constitutional governance at the precipice. The majority knows Biden and the left is attempting the greatest heist of our history.
Thomas also suggested to Meadows that he'd encourage Sidney Powell, the conservative lawyer to continue with her efforts to find voter fraud and use questionable legal theories to try and upend the election and then, of course, there was January 6th herself, Ginni Thomas admitted she was at that speech at the ellipse but left before any activity happened here at the Capitol. But she did text Mark Meadows shortly after that day, on January 10th, just four days after the January 6th in insurrection.
She wrote: We are living through what feels like the end of America. Most of us are disgusted with the VP and are in a listening mode to fight with our teams. Those who attacked the Capitol are not representative of our game time of patriots, for DJT. Amazing times. The end of liberty.
Now, Wolf, Ginni Thomas has not been asked to appear before the committee. The committee did not comment on the context of these text messages but it is clear that this is now a part of their investigation -- Wolf.
BLITZER: All right. Ryan Nobles reporting for us, thank you very, very much.
And we'll have more news right after this.
BLITZER: We're following another breaking news story. North Korean state media not confirming that the country launched its first intercontinental ballistic missile in almost five years.
CNN's Brian Todd has details for us.
Brian, North Korean state media also says Kim Jong-un himself directed it. What are you learning?
BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Wolf. We'd just a got word that Kim did personally command this test firing. We've also just received new pictures of the launch and according to official release from North Korea. This is the missile that analysts feared the most.
TODD (voice-over): North Korea's 38-year-old supreme commander ramps up his aggression toward the west and missile capability, Kim Jong- un's regime has conducted what's believed to be its first test of intercontinental ballistic missile in more than four years. It flew for 71 minutes before splashing down off Japan's West Coast.
Analysts say this could be the longest range missile ever test-fired by North Korea.
JEFFREY LEWIS, THE MIDDLEBURY INSTITUTE: Missile went more than 6,000 kilometers above the earth and on a normal trajectory, it would have gone 12,000 kilometers, enough to hit anywhere in the United States.
TODD: Kim, personally commanded the successful launch and this was the Hwasong 17, first unveiled in 2020 at this military parade, and displayed again last fall, next to Kim on a red carpet, a larger, more ominous missile than anything he's tested before.
This is North Korea's 11th missile test this year, which came after an extended period when Kim had refrained from those launches. Experts say he could be getting more aggressive now to recapture some of America's attention from the war in Ukraine. DEAN CHENG, THE HERITAGE FOUNDATION: He is reminding the United
States. You should not ignore me. You should probably make concessions to me if you want me not to go even further.
TODD: While the U.S. and South Korea are condemning the North Korean missile launch, the South Koreans went a step further, test firing their own missiles, specifically in response to the North Korean test. The first time they've done that in more than four years, and making a point to say publicly what their missiles are designed to do.
KIM JOON-RAK, CHIEF OF PUBLIC AFFAIRS, SOUTH KOREAN JOINT CHIEFS OF STAFF (through translator): We have the ability and readiness to accurately strike the origin of the missile launch as well as command and support facilities at any time when the north launches a missile.
TODD: One analyst believes that counter firing is a dangerous move from South Korea.
JEFFREY LEWIS, THE MIDDLEBURY INSTITUTE: Ultimately, what the South Koreans are signaling is that they are preempt Kim Jong-un, kill him before he gives an order to retaliate so what that is going to do is push him to think about using those weapons earlier.
TODD (on camera): Another reason analysts say tensions could ramp up on the Korean peninsula in coming months, this missile test coming a couple weeks after the election of a new South Korean president, Yoon Suk-yeol, expected to take a hard position against Kim Jong-un's regime than the previous Moon Jae-in.
BLITZER: This is a significant development indeed. Brian Todd reporting for us, Brian, thank you very much for that report.
And to our viewers, thanks very much for watching. I'll be back tomorrow, tomorrow, I'll be reporting live from Poland -- yes, Poland, that's President Biden's next stop here in Europe.
Until then, thanks very much for watching, I'm Wolf Blitzer in THE SITUATION ROOM.
"ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT" starts right now.