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Biden Visits U.S. Troops In Poland Near Ukrainian Border; Russia Signals Major Shift In Strategy Amid Ukraine Setbacks; Biden On Frontlines Of Ukrainian Refugee Crisis In Poland; Sources: 1/6 Committee Debating Questioning Ginni Thomas. Aired 6-7p ET

Aired March 25, 2022 - 18:00   ET



WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: And we're also following President Biden's visit here in Poland after rallying U.S. troops. He's preparing to meet with Ukrainians who fled the war and get an up close look at the worsening refugee crisis.

CNN correspondents are on the frontlines, in Ukraine, on the ground here in Poland for our live, global coverage Russia's war against Ukraine.

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

We're coming to you live from Warsaw right now for President Biden's visit to Poland. It's as close as he's likely to get to the warzone in Ukraine. The president is here as we're seeing an apparent shift in Russia's military strategy.

Let's go right to our Senior White House Correspondent. Phil, President Biden met with U.S. troops today. He drove home the stakes of this war in Ukraine.

PHIL MATTINGLY, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, when the president landed just less than 60 miles from the Ukrainian border, he showed up to send a message to allies of reassurance, also send a message of deterrence given the U.S. force posture in NATO territory to anybody who may challenge that. But he also had a broader message to deliver.


JOE BIDEN, U.S. PRESIDENT: What you're doing is consequential, really consequential.

MATTINGLY (voice over): Tonight, President Biden landing in Poland with a clear message on the stakes for the world.

BIDEN: The question is who's going to prevail? Are democracies going to prevail and the values we share or autocracy is going to prevail? That's what's at stake.

MATTINGLY: Russian forces around Kyiv are now digging in to defensive positions and to, quote, stop any interests in ground movements towards the capital, according to a senior U.S. official. And as Ukrainians continue a string of counterattacks, the U.S. assessing Russia is running low on air-launched cruise missiles, indications their forces are refocusing on eastern Ukraine around the Donbas region.

Russia also adding reinforcements, moving troops currently stationed in Georgia into Ukraine, according to U.S. intelligence. Biden addressing members of the 82nd Airborne Division in Rzeszow, roughly 60 miles from the Ukrainian border, pointing to the ongoing conflict is just one piece of the dramatic series of events.

BIDEN: What you're engaged is much more than just whether or not you can alleviate the pain and suffering of the people of Ukraine. We're in a new phase. Your generation, we're in an inflection point.

MATTINGLY: The town, a key hub for military assistance and NATO forces, the tip of a spear that has grown substantially in the last two months.

BIDEN: There are a hundred thousand American forces here in Europe. We haven't had that in a long, long time.

MATTINGLY: The gravity of Biden's message and the moment not getting in the way of time to share his gratitude.

BIDEN: Thank you, thank you, thank you for your service.

MATTINGLY: Or a slice of pizza. One day after a three summit, 12-hour diplomatic sprint, Biden's arrival in Poland underscoring the marathon ahead, as Russia's indiscriminate strikes show no signs of easing, officials now weighing significant and permanent increases to NATO deployments on the eastern flank and grappling with a refugee crisis of catastrophic proportions.

BIDEN: 10 million people have been displaced, 3.8 million people to other countries, including more than a million of children.

MATTINGLY: Biden saying he wanted to see the crisis on the ground, something rejected for security reasons.

BIDEN: Quite frankly, part of my disappointment is that I can't see it firsthand, like I have in other places. They will not let me, understandably, I guess it, cross the border and take a look at what's going on in Ukraine.

MATTINGLY: But pledging continued U.S. support just one day after a $1 billion humanitarian commitment.

BIDEN: We must have to continue to scale up that assistance.

MATTINGLY: While his national security adviser made clear that this remark --

REPORTER: If chemical weapon were used in Ukraine, would that trigger a military response from NATO? BIDEN: It would trigger a response in kind.

MATTINGLY: -- did not mean the U.S. could consider its own chemical weapons use.

JAKE SULLIVAN, NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISER (voice over): The president said publicly a couple of weeks ago that there will be a severe price if Russia uses chemical weapons. And I won't go beyond that other than to say the United States has no intention of using chemical weapons, period, under any circumstances.


MATTINGLY (on camera): And, Wolf, tomorrow here in Warsaw, the president will keep the spotlight on those refugees. More than 2 million have flown into Poland over course of the last month. But he will also give what his aides are calling a major address, an address designed to hit at the urgency of the moment, the stakes that are currently at play here, trying to get the message out to the world that western unity, which we've seen over the course of that last four weeks, must be maintained for the weeks and months ahead, Wolf.


BLITZER: Most certainly must. All right, Phil Mattingly reporting for us, thank you very, very much.

We're watching all of the developments. I want to go live to the Ukrainian capital right now. CNN Senior International Correspondent Fred Pleitgen is on ground for us in Kyiv.

What are learning, Fred, about his halt, apparent halt by the Russian military on the Ukrainian capital?

FREDERIK PLEITGEN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, we certainly see it in the past couple of days already, Wolf, that the Russians seem to be having trouble around the Ukrainian capital, that the Ukrainians themselves were going on at least limited counteroffensive. So, it certainly seems to have been more difficult for the Russians to try to press any sort of offensive operations here in the capital.

That doesn't mean that the situation here in Kyiv is not one that remains dangerous. There certainly were still a lot of air siren alarms today, a lot of outgoing of what we believe to be surface-to- air missile activity also.

But if you look, for instance, towards the east or of the Ukrainian capital, the video that we're seeing actually right here is a village that's about 35 miles east of the Ukrainian capital of Kyiv. And the Ukrainians now say that they've won that area back. And that's a pretty big victory for them because that pretty would make it impossible for the Russians to circle the capital.

And the same is also true on the northwestern side of Kyiv, where they Ukrainians say they still control about 80 percent of that suburb of Irpin, even though they are being shelled there by Russian forces. So, on the whole, the Ukrainians believe right now, Wolf, that they have the Russians here in Kyiv at least on the back-foot and that indeed the Russians right can't make any offensive moves toward the Ukrainian capital.

Nevertheless, the Russians still threatening the area around the capital. We have, for instance, was the Russians saying that they hit the biggest fuel depot that the Ukrainians still have left with a cruise missile, big plumes of smoke seen south of Kyiv, Wolf.

BLITZER: Yes. We'll watch that very, very closely.

We're also getting, Fred, the first video from inside that Mariupol theater, where hundreds of people were simply sheltering from Russian attacks. They were actually targeted in a brutal airstrike. So, what are you learning about their fate?

PLEITGEN: Yes. I mean, it is really a terrible strike. First of all, I want our viewers to look at this. Look at the people who are trying to escape from that building after that strike took place. A lot of those people that you see on that video now are women and children. Of course, we know from the authorities there in Mariupol that a lot of people who hunkered down in that place were indeed women and children.

And the numbers that they give out is they believe that 300 people were killed in that strike. They weren't on the scene themselves to verify that. They just talked to a lot of witnesses and a lot of people who knew what was going on there. And they say, in the end, they believe around 300 people were killed, 600, they believe, who were hunkering inside that theater survived that bomb attack. They say that mostly the people who were hiding on upper floors were killed because, obviously, the upper floor had got more of that ordinance (ph) that was dropped on that building and saw more destruction. But in total, of course, a horrific incident.

And one of the things that we always point out when we talk this incident is that satellite images clearly showed that that theater, that building had the words, children, in Russian language in very large letters written both in front of the building and behind the building very clear for any Russian pilot flying over that building to see, Wolf.

BLITZER: Yes. Clearly, they didn't care if there were children there.

Fred, stay with us. I want to bring in the former NATO supreme allied commander, CNN Military Analyst Retired General Wesley Clark. Also with us, CNN Contributor for Russian Affairs Jill Dougherty.

General Clark, the suspicion was Russia would try to topple the capital of Kyiv, it would try to get rid of President Zelenskyy. Is this a major revision to Russia's military goals and acknowledgement that Putin hasn't achieved what he wanted?

GEN. WESLEY CLARK (RET.), CNN MILITARY ANALYST: Well, look, that's right. He hasn't achieved it thus far. And they are going not paint the best picture they can and they'd like to deceive us. But, Wolf, in war like this, we've got to be very careful about listening to what the enemy says. We've got to be careful about looking at the situation on the ground.

Here is the way I'm seeing it. The Ukrainians have counterattacks successfully. They pushed the Russians back. The Russians are still dug in. They still got artillery. They are still reinforcing themselves. They can't advance. How much more power do the Ukrainians have to finish the job against those Russians? Can they surround them and annihilate those Russian forces north and northeast of Kyiv? Can they then go to Kharkiv and force the Russians out of Kharkiv area?


That's what it's going to take to succeed. So, we're a long way from being done in there. And some of the best Russian forces are in Donbas.

BLITZER: Yes, I think you're right on that. Jill, Russia says the main thing now is to, quote, liberate Eastern Ukraine. How do you interpret this? Is Putin so desperate to claim any sort of victory regardless of the reality on the ground?

JILL DOUGHERTY, CNN CONTRIBUTOR, RUSSIAN AFFAIRS: You know, Wolf, I think that it could be Putin trying to make the case to the Russian people that he has won the war. Because if you look at Russian T.V., that is the only war that the people in Russia are seeing. It's that conflict that is in the eastern part, in the Donbas region.

And Putin made the point early on, the reason we're going in is to protect those Russian-speaking people in the Donbas region from attack by Ukrainians. So, I think, if you say, okay, we have done that, we're protecting the people in the eastern part of the country and you forget about the other entire side of this, which Russians aren't seeing, which is exactly what Fred was showing, pictures of devastation, civilians killed, et cetera, Russians don't see that. They see Eastern Ukraine. So, if you can make that case, we have protected them, then I think Putin could make the case to his own people that he won. Of course, I don't think it's going to convince anybody else but maybe his own people.

BLITZER: That's a good point. General Clark, Ukraine says, and this Ukraine, Ukraine says it's going on the counteroffensive but Russia is apparently bringing in reinforcements from Russian controlled parts of Georgia. How do you see this playing out in the coming days?

CLARK: It's a seesaw battle, Wolf, and to battle reinforcements. And we've got to do everything we can to sustain the Ukrainians in this fight because this is a battle about, really, the future of the world, whether you believe in international law and the security of countries and their borders, the sanctity of their borders, or whether it's just the most powerful can take what they want. Ukrainians are -- they're fighting for us.

Now, I know there are some who would want to sacrifice those eastern provinces in Ukraine, say, let's just stop the fighting, stop the fighting, give up those provinces, maybe Russia will stop. So, it's not going to work out that way. The Ukrainians want their territory back. The Russians are not going to give in on this easily. So, this battle is going to continue for a while.

And the Russians will throw more material and people into it. We've got to continue to support the Ukrainians. They need more support. They still need aircraft. They need air support in there from their own aircraft. They need the Stingers. They need the Javelins. They need the advanced air defense systems. And I think they're going to need some armored vehicles and even some more artillery. This is a different phase of the battle now. They've got to push the Russians out all across Ukraine.

BLITZER: Yes. And that's not going to be easy by any means.

Jill, I want to play a bit more of that video, that bombed out theater in Mariupol, once again, and it's really painful to see it. Clearly, Putin has no qualms about taking civilian lives, does he?

DOUGHERTY: Apparently not. I mean, I was watching Russian T.V. just a few minutes ago when they were showing a statement by a Russian official who said, we're being very careful. We're destroying only the military targets, not civilians. But this is so obviously not the case. So, they can make that point but, really, it's devastating.

I think that's one reason obviously that Russians at home watching state T.V. are not seeing it, it's because they don't know that their relatives are being attacked in Ukraine.

BLITZER: Yes, good point. Guys, thank you very, very much.

Just ahead, what Ukrainian refugees are now saying as President Biden vows to welcome as many as 100,000 of them into the United States. We're live here in Poland and you're in THE SITUATION ROOM.



BLITZER: We're back with our live coverage from Poland, President Biden visiting with U.S. troops here in Poland today, highlighting the growing Ukrainian refugee crisis, as source of incredible concern.

CNN National Correspondent Miguel Marquez is joining us right now from neighboring Romania. That's another country taking in Ukrainian war refugees.

Miguel, the U.S. says it will now admit up to 100,000 Ukrainian refugees fleeing the country. You've been talking with refugees arriving where you are in Romania. Tell us what you're hearing from them.

MIGUEL MARQUEZ, CNN SENIOR NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: That will be very, very welcome news to them. We've talked to a lot of refugees who say that they would love to apply for visas to the U.S. and so far have been rebuffed. So the days ahead, I'm sure they are going to be redoubling that. That said, we have been here for several weeks now. And when we first got here, there was a sense that this would go on for days, weeks, maybe months, but they would certainly return home in the foreseeable future.

Now, we're talking to refugees who have sort of accepted the fact that this is going to be a much, much longer process. We spoke to one woman from Kharkiv. This is a 61-year-old artist. She teaches art and she's sort of sensitive soul. She is now applying for a visa to Canada. But she still cannot believe this war is happening.



LYUBOV BEIZMENOVA, UKRAINIAN WHO FLED UKRAINE: I don't understand why Kharkiv, which is Russian, must be destroyed. We are Ukraine. Kharkiv is Ukraine, Russian-speaking but Ukraine. How can you be an older brother for 70 years and then beat your own? I don't understand. I don't understand.


MARQUEZ: So, the other thing that they are seeing here is a slight increase in the number of Ukrainian refugees coming over the border. There is a massive number of refugees who are internally displaced. It's not clear if they are just tiring of where they are and starting to move into places like Romania or if those humanitarian corridors are opening up, allowing more refugees to come to Romania.

But the city of Bucharest, the country of Romania is now sort of prepared for another wave of refugees that we may be beginning to see that start up. Wolf?

Miguel Marquez in Romania for, Miguel, thank you very much for that report.

Joining us now, the Polish -- from the Polish embassy, I should point out, in Kyiv, the Polish ambassador to Ukraine, Bartosz Cichocki. Mr. Ambassador, thank you so much for joining us. Thanks for all that you and the people of Poland are doing to help these Ukrainian refugees.

What obligation does Poland feel to help these Ukrainians fleeing the violence and what support does Poland need right now to take in more than 2 million refugees within a month?

BARTOSZ CICHOCKI, POLISH AMBASSADOR TO UKRAINE: Thank you for having me, first of all. It's a pleasure, sir. Secondly, well, we feel this is about our security as well. We are a country that President Putin in mid-December said should be downgraded to the second class NATO member. The elite four (INAUDIBLE) is on the security system of the democratic community (INAUDIBLE) in the end of the cold war. So, we feel a responsibility, an obligation, as it stands, to receive refugees, to support Ukraine and to support sanctions on Russia. This is our fight for our state. This is first class NATO member. It's a sovereign country, free to make decisions on our foreign and security policy of our domestic corps (ph).

BLITZER: The president, President Biden, he is now here in Poland. It's Poland, a key NATO ally. Yesterday, Biden met with all 30 leaders, all 29 other NATO leaders in Brussels. Are Ukraine and Poland, both the countries, Ukraine and Poland, getting what they need from President Biden militarily or do you want to see more?

CICHOCKI: We very much appreciated the visit by president of the United States. It's yet another demonstration of the unity of the understanding that this is not a local crisis, this is a an issue, this is a challenge to the whole family of the western democracies.

I believe the U.S. is the leader both on assistance to Ukraine on sanctions on Russia, but, of course, Ukraine desperately needs more support now these days, these hours, both humanitarian, both supplies in food and medicines and defense systems.

And I believe that President Zelenskyy and the government of Ukraine will further request both anti-aircraft, anti-missile defense system, ammunition, They are fighting bravely but they are running out of supplies both military and civilian. And I believe they very much look forward to the resolve, decisions taken after this visit in Warsaw.

BLITZER: Ambassador Bartosz Cichocki, thank you so much for all you're doing. Thanks so much for joining us. We really appreciate it. Stay safe over there in Kyiv.

Coming up, what do shifting tactics signal about Putin's next moves? We're going to break it down with the former NATO supreme allied commander. Stay with us. We're live here in THE SITUATION ROOM, we're live from Poland.



BLITZER: As a senior U.S. official is saying, Russian forces have stopped ground movements toward Kyiv, at least for now. We're getting new insight into how this war is playing out on the battlefield.

I want to bring CNN's Brian Todd. Brian, you're taking a closer look at some new powerful, sometimes brutal video from this ground war. What are you learning from this footage?

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, we are getting new insights into the ferocity of these battles, especially near the capital, Kyiv. What is extraordinary about some of this new footage is that it's from ground level, where we can see the tactics and danger up close.



TODD (voice over): New on-the-ground footage of the combat and carnage in Ukraine showing how Ukrainian forces may be holding off the Russians, including in the territory east in the capital, Kyiv. When this video begins, there's gunfire all around, a soldier seen crouching. Seconds later, an explosion and a cloud of smoke, the person taking the video runs toward it, a man comes into view running toward the camera with a shoulder-fired missile launcher. He appears to be handed a missile from the person taking the video as he runs past.

This intense footage is of a fire fight at a train station in a village 18 miles northeast of Kyiv published by a Ukrainian politician. CNN has verified its authenticity. After a soldier moves back to be handed another missile, he loads the launcher standing in the open by the track. Bullets firing all around, he fires.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: this is close infighting. And when they do this, they are literally killing people as this happens.

TODD: Analysts tonight are praising the Ukrainians tactics as heavy fighting continues near Kyiv.

GEN. PHILIP BREEDLOVE (RET.), FORMER NATO SUPREME ALLIED COMMANDER, EUROPE: The Ukrainians are fighting this wonderful, skirmishing rear attack ambush kind of fight that frustrates the military advance of Russia.

TODD: Here in a social media video geolocated by CNN, ground-level footage of the aftermath of heavy fighting in the settlement of Lukyanovka, some 35 miles east of Kyiv. Ukrainian troops are shown with a captured Russian tank. In that same village, this Ukrainian soldier on another captured tank claims victory.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The operation has been a complete success. We decisively repelled the enemy.

TODD: There's no way to verify the soldier's claims. These battles exacting a dreadful civilian toll. This drone footage from Iprin, bordering Kyiv to the west, shows fires raging amid a tangle of burned out abandoned homes. The mayor telling CNN, the town had come under heavy rocket fire.

A senior U.S. defense official saying tonight Ukrainian forces are pushing the Russians back in places like Chernihiv, where buildings are seen on fire in this footage. How might the Russians change tactics?

LT. GEN. BEN HODGES (RET.), FORMER COMMANDER, U.S. ARMY FORCES IN EUROPE: I feel like we're just within days of the Ukrainian really being able to get the momentum.


TODD (on camera): Today, the Russian Ministry Defense said about 1,350 Russian military personnel have been killed so far in Ukraine, but U.S., Ukrainian and NATO estimates put those Russian losses much higher. Two senior NATO officials say this week estimating the number of Russians killed to be between 7,000 and 15,000. Wolf?

BLITZER: Brian Todd reporting for us, thank you, Brian, very, very much.

I want to bring in Retired Admiral James Stavridis, a former NATO supreme allied commander. He's also the co-author of the book, 2034, A Novel of the Next World War. That book is now out in paperback. Admiral, thank you so much for joining us.

In the early days of this war, the fear was Russia could capture Kyiv, the capital, topple Zelenskyy within a matter of a few days. How significant is it that the ground advance on Kyiv by the Russians has now, for all practical purposes, stopped and Russia is saying their focus is simply on Eastern Ukraine?

ADM. JAMES STAVRIDIS (RET.), FORMER NATO SUPREME ALLIED COMMANDER: It's an extraordinary moment and it, first and foremost, tells you in war, you never know. When you start a war, you're kicking a door open into a very darkroom. You have no idea what's going to be inside that room. The United States learned that in Iraq and Afghanistan.

And let me tell you something, Wolf, just to go back to those casualty figures, let's say, for example, that the casualties are 14,000 killed in action, pretty credibly. That is twice as many as the U.S. loss killed in action in 20 years. So, to say that Russia has lost 14,000 of their soldiers in a month is extraordinary. And let me tell you something, it will put a spike in the heart of the Russian army that will linger for a generation.

BLITZER: You're absolutely right. The Ukrainians say they're going on the counterattack right now, but Russia has still, sadly, brutally bombarding major cities in Ukraine, killing a lot of people. Even if Ukraine takes advantage of this momentum that they apparently have right now, is there any winning, is there really any winning in this devastating war?

STAVRIDIS: Let's look at planning. So, plan A from the Kremlin was sweep across the country, we'll be greeted with bottles of vodka.


Guess what, they were greeted with bottles of gasoline with rags stuffed from the top called Molotov cocktails. They were not greeted as liberators. They are not ever going to sweep across the country. So, plan A is gone. Plan B, which we're seeing now, is terrorize the population, 15th century warfare, pound a series of cities into dust and hope the Ukrainians will crack under the strain.

I got to tell you, Wolf, I don't see a lot of cracking in the Ukrainian mentality right now. And their leader, Zelenskyy, is, I would say, Churchillian in his stamina, his communicative abilities and his sense of inspiration for the people.

So, can they turn this all around and drive the Russians back to Moscow? I don't think so. On the other hand, they can certainly drive the Russians back into the Donbas. That becomes a point at which we can have a negotiation. I think that's where this one is headed.

BLITZER: As the former NATO supreme allied commander, Admiral Stavridis, how concerning is it that the top military officials here in the U.S. haven't had any direct contact with their Russian counterparts for weeks now, not the secretary of defense, not the chairman of the Joint Chiefs? They have reached out to their Russian counterparts but they get a busy signal. They don't hear anything back.

STAVRIDIS: Very concerning. And believe me, I know both Secretary Defense Lloyd Austin, former general, contemporary mind, General Mark Milley, are superb, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, someone who was on my team in Afghanistan. I know them well. They are smart. They want to reach out to the Russians. They want to maintain open communications because, Wolf, that's how you can deescalate an incident which might otherwise lead to a real confrontation between nuclear powers. So, the fact that they can't reach out is very concerning.

I'll close by saying when I was supreme allied commander of NATO for four years, if I wanted to talk to General Nikolay Makarov, my opposite number, supreme commander of the Russian Armed Forces, he was a phone call away. We had a good relationship. It is concerning to me that my successors, if you will, on the U.S. side and I would suspect also General Tod Wolters, the current SAC here, can't reach out, that ought to worry all of us.

BLITZER: Yes, I agree. Admiral Stavridis, as usual, thank you very much for joining us. We really appreciate it.

Just ahead, children wounded in war, they find shelter in medical care in a Southern Ukrainian hospital. We're going to take you there. That's coming up next.

Stay with us. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM and we're live from Warsaw.



BLITZER: We're live here in Poland, where President Biden is preparing to meet with refugees from the war in Ukraine. The United Nations says half all of the Ukrainian children who have been displaced by the fighting, half of them are refugees right now, for all practical purposes.

CNN Senior International Correspondent Ivan Watson takes us inside a children's hospital in Southern Ukraine.


IVAN WATSON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice over): 11- year-old Milyena Uralova (ph) lies in a hospital, recovering nine days after Russian soldier shot her through the face. Horribly wounded and yet quick to show awe how she can count in English.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: One, two, three, four, five, six, seven.

WATSON: She can't speak loudly, her mother, Elena, explains. She has a bullet wound to her jaw and the base of her tongue, she says. The bullet was lodged in her throat near her carotid artery.

Milyena (ph) does gymnastics. She's going to show me a couple of videos.

This was Milyena (ph) her before Russia invaded Ukraine, flipping and dancing. But now, she can barely walk.

We met Milyena (ph) here in a makeshift bomb shelter in the basement of the children's hospital.

The nurses here say six or seven times a day and night, due to air raid sirens, they have to bring these newborns, who all have medical complications, in and out of this room for hours at a time for their safety.

The windows protected by sand bags.

On March 16th, Elena her two daughters and mother-in-law fled from the Ukrainian port city Mariupol after enduring weeks of Russian bombardment, jumping into the back of a car with two strangers to escape. They navigated many Russian military checkpoints. And then, at around noon, Elena says, they made a turn towards a town of Vasylivka and stumbled across Russian soldiers who opened fire on the car without warning.

ELENA URALOVA, DAUGHTER SHOT WHILE FLEEING MARIUPOL: We started turning and that's when they started firing at us from submachine guns. After that, of course, the driver stopped. We started opening our doors, walking out with our hands up, after which they were shouting something. We did not know what, and that is when we saw what happened to my daughter, the younger one. We took her out of the car as she was wounded.

WATSON: her mother says, realizing their mistake, the Russian soldiers gave her daughter first aid and sent her to a nearby hospital in the Russian-occupied town of Tokmak. A Red Cross vehicle brought her to this hospital for life-saving surgery.

The hospital has treated nine wounded children in the last two weeks.

What injuries are you seeing now?

DR. IVAN ANIKIN, ANESTHESIOLOGIST: Different injuries, different trauma.


It's head trauma. It's amputation, traumatic amputation. It's bullets trauma.

WATSON (voice-over): Dr. Ivan Anikin says Melena (ph) is now stable and will live, hopefully without long-term physical disabilities.

ANIKIN: But she has not so good psychological status. She worries, she cry, she afraid different sounds.

WATSON: Melena's mother has a message for the Russian soldiers who shot her daughter.

ELENA URALOVA, DAUGHTER SHOT ESCAPING MARIUPOL, UKRAINE (through translator): Go back home. Why are they here? They are mercenaries who don't care about us. Don't care about the situation in this country or this war. They don't care who they are shooting at.

WATSON: As for Melena, she shows photos of her cats, Musha and Pusha (ph), and looks forward to one day going back to doing gymnastics.

Ivan Watson, CNN, Zaporizhzhia, Ukraine.


WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: What the Russians have done -- what the Russians have done to these children is so, so horrendous. Awful.

For information about how you can help humanitarian efforts in Ukraine, go to and help impact your world.

The breaking news continues, Live from Warsaw. We'll have the latest on the war in neighboring Ukraine.

Also breaking right now, we're getting some new information about the House January 6th Select Committee said to be debating whether to question the wife of U.S. Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas.

You're watching THE SITUATION ROOM. We're live from Warsaw.



BLITZER: We're back live from Warsaw. The breaking news on the war in Ukraine will continue in just a few moments. But there is also other breaking news we're following tonight.

The House January 6 Select Committee said to be debating questioning the wife of U.S. Supreme Court justice, Clarence Thomas, about text messages she exchanged with former White House chief of staff mark meadows.

Our congressional correspondent, Ryan Nobles, is working the story for us.

Ryan, what is the latest?

RYAN NOBLES, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, it seems as though the story is moving ahead on two separate tracks. There is the track involving the sitting Supreme Court justice, Clarence Thomas. And then there's the track that involves the January six select committee and their investigation.

And I am told that members of the committee right now were having an active discussion, as to how to handle this information, the 29 text messages that they have between Ginni Thomas, the wife of Clarence Thomas, and Mark Meadows, the former White House chief of staff. And Thomas's relentless efforts to try to convince meadows to continue the push to try and upend the election results, and keep Donald Trump in office.

That is just part of the discussion that will continue next week. Committee members are concerned that bringing Thomas forward may not necessarily be relevant to their overall mission, and could lead to a sideshow that will just distract from their overall work. And then, of course, there is this how it impacts Justice Thomas, and whether or not it is a contemplate of interest for him to be weighing in on issues related to election matters, both in 2020, and in 2024. There are Democrats in Congress, Wolf, calling on him to resign, outright resign. Or just accuse himself from any matters related to January six -- Wolf.

BLITZER: All right, Ryan, thank you very much. Ryan Nobles reporting from Capitol Hill.

Let's get some analysis. Our chief legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin is joining us right now.

So, Jeffrey, the Senate minority leader reacted to this controversy just now with a statement saying, and I'm quoting, let me put it up on the screen. Justice Thomas is a great American and an outstanding justice. I have total confidence in his brilliance and impartiality in every aspect of the work of the court. What's your reaction?

JEFFREY TOOBION, CNN CHIEF LEGAL ANALYST: Well, as we saw on the hearings this week, Democrats and Republicans see the Supreme Court very differently. And that certainly goes for Justice Thomas. The texts that Ginni Thomas sent to Mark Meadows have to be seen to be believed. They are so extreme, so outrageous, calling for Joe Biden and his family and his supporters to be sent to prison in Guantanamo.

I mean, that's the level of anger. But, Ginni Thomas it's a private citizen. She's entitled to say whatever she wants. What is extraordinary about this story is that here, you have the wife of a Supreme Court justice deeply engaged in the January 6th aftermath. At the same time, the Justice Thomas's ruling on cases that involve the election controversy.

And that's the heart, that's what's really matters about all this. The problem for resolving this is that the Supreme Court has exempted its justices from the code of conduct that applies to all federal judges, so there's really nothing to do except for impeachment, and that's not going to happen.

BLITZER: Yeah, good point.

All right, Jeffrey Toobin, our chief legal analyst, thank you very much.

And we'll have more news, right after this.


[18:59:04] SUZANNE MALVEAUX, CNN HOST: I'm Suzanne Malveaux in Washington. We're having some technical difficulties with Wolf Blitzer tonight.

We're getting a painful look at how death and destruction are spreading across Ukraine. The casualties so staggering, people are resorting to burying the dead in their backyards. In this video you can see wooden crosses marking graves next to an apartment building in Mariupol.

One woman who buried her stepfather near a playground is sharing her story. He died after the car he was in was bombed while a doctor was trying to get him to the hospital.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (through translator): When the doctor was taking our stepfather to the hospital, we found the doctor in the nearby building and this guy took a seat in the car instead of me and they blew him up in this car. It could have been me.


MALVEAUX: The U.N. says more than 1,000 civilians have been killed in Russia's war in Ukraine. May their memories be a blessing.

Wolf will be back again tomorrow live from Poland throughout the day, including a special Saturday edition of THE SITUATION ROOM from 5:00 to 7:00 p.m. Eastern.

Erin Burnett starts right now.