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U.S. Says, No One Should Be Fooled By Russia's Claim Of Reducing Assault; At Least 12 Dead In New Russian Strike In Southern Ukraine; Refugee Crisis Grows As 3.9 Million Now Have Fled Ukraine; Major Artillery And Rocket Fire Heard In Kyiv; CDC Allows Second COVID Booster Shots For Adults Age 50+; Academy Leaders to Meet Tomorrow, Will Consider Action Against Will Smith Over Chris Rock Oscar Slap. Aired 6-7p ET

Aired March 29, 2022 - 18:00   ET



JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: I'll see you tomorrow.

WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: Happening now, breaking news. As Russia claims it is will scale back its assault on battered Kyiv, the U.S. is warning no one should be fooled by the Kremlin. And we are now getting new, very disturbing reports of major artillery and rocket fire heard in the city. We'll discuss the battle in and around the capital and Russia's military strategy with the top Pentagon spokesman, John Kirby.

Also tonight, Vladimir Putin's forces are pressing on with their brutal bombardment Southern Ukraine. At least a dozen people are dead in an attack that hit and decimated a government building in Mykolaiv. We are also seeing more of the devastation in Mariupol where more than 100,000 Ukrainian civilian remain trapped without power, water or heat.

Our correspondents are standing by in the frontlines on Ukraine, with the refugees in Poland and with top officials here in Washington.

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

This hour, CNN teams are on the ground in Kyiv just heard major artillery and rocket fire. The barrage is likely adding to the skepticism here in the United States about Russia's new claim that it plans to scale back its assault on the Ukrainian capital.

Christiane Amanpour is live in Kyiv, Kaitlan Collins is standing by live at the White House. We'll go to them in just moments. But, first, Alex Marquardt has more breaking news on the war.


ALEX MARQUARDT, CNN SENIOR NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT (voice over): Tonight, new signs that Russia's war in Ukraine may be entering a different phase. The Russian Ministry of Defense announced on Tuesday it intends to drastically reduce hostilities on two fronts, around the capital Kyiv and the northern city of Chernihiv, which has been battered by the Russian assault. It's an acknowledgment, a top Ukrainian general said, that Russia's effort to take Kyiv had failed. So, it is focusing elsewhere. But the Biden administration is warning of more violence to come.

JOHN KIRBY, PENTAGON PRESS SECRETARY: Nobody should be fooling ourselves by the Kremlin's now recent claim that it will suddenly just reduce military attacks near Kyiv or any reports that it's going to withdraw all its forces. Has there been some movement by some Russian units away from Kyiv in the last day or so? Yes, we think so, small numbers. But we believe that this is a repositioning, not a real withdrawal. And that we all should be prepared to watch for a major offensive against other areas of Ukraine.

MARQUARDT: Today in Turkey, a new round of talks took place between Ukraine and Russia, which the Turkish foreign minister suggested had made the most significant progress to date. The top American diplomat, Secretary of State Tony Blinken, expressed skepticism, saying the U.S. has yet to see signs of real seriousness by Russia.

ANTONY BLINKEN, SECRETARY OF STATE: We are focused on what they do, not on what that say. And what Russia is doing is the continued brutalization of Ukraine and its people. And that continues as we speak.

MARQUARDT: An adviser to the Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said enough progress had been made for a possible head to head meeting between Zelenskyy and Russian President Vladimir Putin, which Zelenskyy has been asking for and Putin has been rejecting.

But while officials talk, the Russian bombardment continues. The Russian focus now, according to Russian, Ukrainian and American officials, is Ukraine's south and east. In the southern city of Mykolaiv, an administration building was hit on Tuesday morning, the impact of the blast visibly shaking this camera. At least 12 people were killed, emergency workers say, and more than 30 wounded.

The port city of Mariupol is a shell of its former self. The mayor says, over 150,000 residents are still besieged without water, power or heat.

We had a beautiful life, just beautiful, this woman said. Now, we have nothing, just nothing.

Alex Marquardt, CNN, Washington.


BLITZER: Thank you, Alex. Let's go live right now to the Ukrainian capital. CNN's Chief International Anchor Christiane Amanpour is on the scene for us.

Christiane, you just heard major artillery and rocket fire, I understand, in Kyiv, where you are. How much progress can be made during these talks with Russia as their forces still bombard Ukraine every day? We're hearing those sirens going off. CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CNN CHIEF INTERNATIONAL ANCHOR: Yes, you are as if on cue, those air raid sirens from this side are going off, and they have been all day.


And it has to be said that the Russians have said that whatever they plan to do, this does not amount to a cease-fire, and sure enough, there has not been a cease-fire. But what we have observed over the last few days is that this assault on Kyiv has been stalled. And we understand that the Russian forces are digging in places around Kyiv.

So, the truth is we have to wait and watch and see if there's any significant and meaningful movement away from this capital city. But even if there is -- and you can again hear these sirens going off. Even if there is movement away, the Russians have made it clear that that would just be a shifting, a repositioning because the actual officials have said that they now want to concentrate on the east, on the Donbas region, which they already occupy.

Now, that would entail them trying to solidify that, trying to get the full land bridge, which includes Mariupol in the south and would explain why they are so heavily had engaged there. At the same time, these missile strikes are going to other places, like Mariupol, as we said, and also Mykolaiv, what you just mentioned, that administrative building with so many people killed and injured today. Even in Lviv, in Western Ukraine, there was some more strikes. So, this kind of thing is bound to go on.

But it is the first amount of progress that both sides report at the negotiating table. And we never see cessation of hostilities until there is a final accord. But, again, in this case, you really, really have to distrust and verify, Wolf.

BLITZER: Yes, those sirens are still going off. So, Christiane, if you need to go downstairs to one of the bunkers, please do that right away. Obviously, we're all concerned.

As you mentioned, the Russian assault on the southern part of Ukraine continued big time today. What's the latest there?

AMANPOUR: Well, the latest is that they -- I mean, it's really intense fighting. And particularly there, the most experienced Ukrainian combat units are said to be because they have been engaged in this fight in the east for the last eight years. It never let up. And what the Russians is not just keep hold of what they currently control, which is a small portion of what they call the Donbas and Luhansk area, they want the entire thing. So, that might account for what they are saying in terms of movement.

And in addition, there's going to have to be some kind of negotiation over the territory. The Ukrainians are not just going to give up that portion of east and south. It might take a long time around the negotiating table. They might have to agree to something that then they revisit in several years. But the other big issue from the Ukrainian side is even if there was some kind of as cease-fire now and the Russians have reduced their objectives, at least verbally, no more do you hear about demilitarization, de-Nazification, regime change in Kyiv, no more do you hear that.

But what you want from the Ukrainian side is security guarantees, so that if ever they are threatened like this before as a neutral country, as a non-nuclear country, they want guarantees from their allies, and that's going to be difficult to figure out.

BLITZER: Christiane Amanpour, we'll get back to you. Don't go too far away. Stay safe over there.

Also tonight, President Biden is taking a wait and see attitude about Russia's next moves in Kyiv. Let's go to our Chief White House Correspondent Kaitlan Collins. So, Kaitlan, what's the latest?

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, you can hear those sirens going off behind Christiane. That is likely part of the reason why the White House has heavy skepticism of any Russian claims that there's any kind of scaling back of their military operations underway. This is skepticism, Wolf, that stretches from the president to the Pentagon to the State Department, all raising concerns about whether or not Russia is actually conducting a withdrawal. They seem to think, Wolf, that's not happening.


JOE BIDEN, U.S. PRESIDENT: We'll see. I don't read anything into it until I see what their actions are. We'll see if they follow through what they are suggesting.


COLLINS: You can hear the president there reacting to these claims today when a reporter asked about it. He was very doubtful, Wolf. He also had just gotten off the phone with leaders of France, Italy, Germany and the United Kingdom. He said they maintained a consensus on that call about these claims that they want to wait and see what it is that Russia actually does not just what Russia says. And the president said that in the meantime, they are going to keep those sanctions in place. They are going to continue sending that military assistance to Ukraine.

And you heard this very blunt language from the Pentagon today about what is behind this thinking, what's behind this skepticism, given, of course, Russia has lied about what they have been doing all along. They still won't even call this an invasion. And you heard the Pentagon say today, we believe they are repositioning, this is not a real withdrawal.

So, clearly, Wolf, they want to see stronger signs of de-escalation here the at the White House before they go anywhere near believing that this is actually what Russia is pursuing.


BLITZER: Absolutely. Kaitlan Collins at the White House for us, thank you very much.

Just ahead, we're going to get a new U.S. assessment of Russia's true intentions in Kyiv and why the Kremlin is publicly claiming it has plans to scale back the war. I'll speak with the Pentagon spokesman, John Kirby, that's next.


BLITZER: We're back with the breaking news. We just heard air raid sirens blasting in Kyiv, the Ukrainian capital, amid a new barrage of artillery and rocket fire. This as the United States is warning the world not to be fooled by Russia's new claims that it plans to scale back its assault on the Ukrainian capital.


Just a few moments ago, we got an update from the Pentagon.


BLITZER: Joining me now, Pentagon Press Secretary John Kirby. John, thanks for joining us.

As you know, Russia claim it is will, quote, and I'm quoting Russia now, drastically reduce hostilities around Kyiv. You say nobody should be fooled by what the Russians claim. But is this an admission that Russia simply cannot achieve one of its initial goals, namely capturing the Ukrainian capital?

KIRBY: Yes. We actually do believe that they have failed in that what we believe was their strategic objective to capture the -- or to overtake and to occupy the capital city. Clearly, they have failed to do that. The Ukrainians have kept them out, pushed them back in some places, as a matter of fact. And so, yes, we do believe their failure to move on Kyiv, which was a goal of theirs, is driving this announcement today.

But, look, Wolf, we also said nobody should be fooled by this. We haven't seen a lot of movement by the Russians to leave Kyiv right now. We think this is more of a repositioning, probably to use troops elsewhere in Ukraine.

BLITZER: Because you stressed earlier today that the threat to Kyiv, the capital, is not over by any means. Is that threat now from aerial bombardment or is there any scenario where you think Russia tries to regroup and re-launch a ground offensive to capture Kyiv?

KIRBY: Right now the city is still under the threat of airstrikes and bombard. That's where most of the violence is happening inside Kyiv. We believe that outside Kyiv, the Russians are in largely defensive positions. For the last several days they have not moved closer to the city.

Now, again, we'll see if what they say is true that they are going to withdraw forces. We'll see. We haven't seen that really of any note right now. But could they, with the forces that they still have a raid against Kyiv, could they begin to try to advance, yes, they have enough force out there, that if they wanted to move forward, they could do that. That said, we continue to see the Ukrainians fight back. We believe that we would meet with significant resistance if they tried.

BLITZER: Yes. So far, the Ukrainians have been very impressive.

You say the Pentagon is seeing, and you stressed the word small, small numbers of Russian troops moving away from Kyiv. Is the suspicion these troops are repositioning to attack Eastern Ukraine?

KIRBY: Well, we believe they are going to reposition. We're not convinced that this is a real withdrawal or retreat. Now, look, I mean, we'll see how this plays out over time. We can't tell where if these troops are repositioned exactly where they will go. We don't have insight into the Russian plan to that level of specificity.

That said, Wolf, the Russians have said themselves that they are going to reprioritize the eastern part of the country, the Donbas region. So, it follows that if they are going to reposition troops, that certainly would be one place that we would look for them to do that.

BLITZER: The top U.S. general Europe, General Tod Wolters, told Congress today he believes Ukraine can stall the Russian offenses in the east the same way they did around Kyiv but stopped short of saying Ukraine could push back the Russians completely. What do you expect from this new phase as this war drags on?

KIRBY: It's going to largely depend on what the Russians mean by reprioritizing the Donbas and the east. How much reinforcement do they add there? How aggressive, how offensive in terms of their operations are they going to be?

Now, we have seen just in recent days, Wolf, that they have picked up the pace of offensive operations in the Donbas. We have also seen some indications that they are looking at reinforcing their powers, their forces, their units there. So, we're going to watch this closely, but I agree with General Wolters, the Ukrainians have proven very adept at pushing back the Russians, at stalling their efforts to gain ground and then actually retaking some of that ground.

What remains to be seen what happens in the Donbas, we believe that one of the goals of the Russians is to sort of pinch-off the Donbas area and to try to hold and fix Ukrainian Armed Forces there so that they can't come to the aid of their colleagues further west in the country.

BLITZER: The general, General Wolters, also admitted there could be a gap in U.S. intelligence that led the U.S. to overestimate Russia's capability and underestimate Ukraine. Did the U.S. ever expect that six weeks into this brutal war Ukraine would be launching counteroffensives and regaining control of key cities?

KIRBY: It's a terrific thing to see that the Ukrainians are fighting so bravely and so skillfully with the security assistance in so many countries have give them, with the training that the United States and other allies have given them over the last eight years. It's clear that the Russians overestimated their ability to maneuver, their ability to fuel and to feed and to keep their forces in the field effectively and they underestimated the ability of the Ukraines to fight back as skillfully, as they have.

I think, to some degree, we have all noticed that, that the Ukrainians have been much more effective than I think anyone thought that they would be.

BLITZER: Yes, it's really been a very, very impressive surprise. The Pentagon press secretary, John Kirby, thanks so much for joining us.


KIRBY: You bet. God be with you.

BLITZER: The breaking news continues next. We'll go live to Poland for the latest on the refugee crisis, mothers and children now facing long lines to be processed as they face an uncertain future.


BLITZER: We're following the breaking news tonight, the number of people fleeing Russia's invasion is nearing 4 million. More than half are in Poland right now. They are safe from the fighting but facing new challenges and an uncertain future.

CNN Kyung Lah is in Warsaw for us.



KYUNG LAH, CNN SENIOR NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice over): They fled from Russian missiles, now wait for Polish papers, but all they want is to be in Ukraine.

We have been waiting for four hours, yells this woman out of frustration. I have a special needs child. But every refugee here, almost all of them women and mothers, has needs. The more than 2 million Ukrainian refugees in Poland will have to show document if they want a Polish national identification number for official services.


LAH: You want to work?


LAH: Yulia Isayeva and her two children waited since 3:00 in the morning. Six hours later, they got that national number so she can work.

I wish I could continue my old life, says Isayeva. There, she had a job, family. Her husband now fights in the war. It was taken away, she says, of her life. I have to live here by force.

While she's grate to build a safe life in Poland for her children, I want to go to Ukraine, she says.

You hear the story repeated again and again from the women pulled from their lives, stuck in a purgatory of passing time while a war rages at home.

This is where you live?


LAH: This cot is Irinia Yasinovska's life now.

YASINOVSKA: I work in Ukraine. I'm a police.

LAH: You're a police officer?


LAH: She was. She now grabs a neon vest instead. She's a volunteer at a Warsaw refugee center, where she herself arrived in early march fleeing bombing in Kyiv. Most refugees leave here in days for temporary housing or other countries, but it's been a month and she refuses to, unless it's to go home to her life in Kyiv where her brothers are on the frontlines.

Do you think you'll see them again?


LAH: Yes, she says, they talk twice a week at most. I think everything will be fine, she says. At least I hope for it. Not just my brothers, but everyone.

But life outside the war doesn't stop, even though Yulia Isayeva wishes it would. If I have to, she says, I'll do it. We'll start.


LAH (on camera): The extraordinary thing is in talking to these refugees, they honestly believe that this temporary life that they are building is just that, temporary. They see the news images that you're playing on your show, Wolf. They hear the news. They explain this and digest it with their children, yet they still believe they are going to be able to go back to Ukraine sometimes to destroyed towns and pick up where life paused. Wolf?

BLITZER: We certainly hope that happens. These are truly heartbreaking stories. Kyung Lah in Warsaw for us, thank you very, very much.

Let's discuss what's going on with the UNICEF spokesman, James Elder. James, thanks so much for joining us. Tell us what conditions are like right now for Ukrainian refugees where you are? You're in Lviv. Tell us what they are like.

JAMES ELDER, UNICEF SPOKESMAN: Wolf, unfortunately, things are still vicious here in Ukraine. I wish I had better news. And just a few hours ago, just before curfew started, I was at the hospital here, the children's hospital, sitting with a young girl who had been shot, who, in the last day or two, tried to get out of Kyiv with her father, with her mother, shot in the leg. This young girl, Katya (ph), her father shot in the hand, luckily, they were rescued by Ukrainian medics.

But she's in not in a good way, as I left the hospital, went through a bunker, because we had to go. Again, the air raid sirens, and the stressed, the strained pregnant moms, children in wheelchairs, in a bunker, moms breast-feeding, a good hospital above them, Wolf, but everyone far too terrified to be there because, incredibly and credulously, hospitals and medical centers seem to be continuously targeted in this country.

BLITZER: It's really, really so awful. These folks, they must be exhausted, the ones you're meeting with, after more than a month of war. What's the cumulative effect, James, of all of this trauma especially on the kids?

ELDER: Yes, they really are. Cumulative is dead right. Look, the children -- it's a strain that is sort of building up to a point now where I have seen them in temporary little classrooms, of just kids who are shut down, children who cry out of nothing, children who are well aware of what's going on with parents.


There're things that UNICEF does here and they do make a difference. Online learning, we have a lot of that, whether it's classrooms or songs or folk tales, we have got volunteers living in bunkers where children live, like in Kharkiv, the second city, in the train station, just being with children all night, again, songs, games, anything.

So, there are real things we can do, but we're so concerned as well about those areas we can't reach, those areas where children remain under siege and where humanitarian workers can't get to. So, I'm really pleased that UNICEF, whether it's counselors for those kids who have been under fire or medical services to moms having babies in bunkers, but there's still these cities, Wolf, that are under siege and being suffocated and they keep us awake at night.

BLITZER: I know you have been speaking with these refugees since shortly after the war began. As this invasion drags on and on, what gives them hope that one day, God willing, they will be able to return to their homes?

ELDER: Yes, just the love of this place. I mean, I don't want to sound cliche, but I heard this comment from dozens of people. Their dream is, as your correspondent said there in Poland, either to be back in Ukraine or just to stay here.

I mean, two to three days ago, I sat with a pregnant woman having twins, her first children, so she's about to go through an instant family. And she was a travel agent. So, she travels to other countries all the time. And I said, so are you going to Poland to have these children in safety? She said, no, I don't want to go anywhere. This is my home. It's my dream for my children to live here. Even though her grandparents are in another city, her husband is in another city, it's this mentality, this passion for this new nation, relatively new, I say, given when they got independence, and it's their dream to be here.

Whether they are in Poland, it's their dream to come back for their children to be in playgrounds and schools again here with grandparents here, all for those moms and families to stay here, and to stay, of course, with husbands and fathers.

BLITZER: The UNICEF spokesman, James Elder, thanks so much for what you're doing, thanks for what UNICEF and all of your teams are doing. We are all so very, very grateful. I appreciate it very much.

For information, by the way, on how you, our viewers, can help humanitarian efforts in Ukraine, go to and help impact your world.

There's more breaking news coming up next, the strike on a government building kills at least a dozen people in a key city. We have new video. We'll go back there live to Ukraine, that's next.



BLITZER: The breaking news this hour, very disturbing new video showing a deadly airstrike on a government building in the Southern Ukrainian city of Mykolaiv.

Our Senior International Correspondent Ben Wedeman is on the scene for us. Ben, at least a dozen people died in this attack. Update our viewers.

BEN WEDEMAN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes. This was an attack, Wolf, that took place at 8:45 this morning local time on the regional governor's headquarters, a very large building at the heart of this city, in an area with many residential buildings around it. A missile or bomb slammed into that building, basically creating a massive hole. The latest we have is that 12 people, at least 12 people, were killed, at least 33 people injured.

Now, it looked like it was almost a direct strike on the governor's office. However, he said on his telegram channel that the reason why he wasn't in the office was that he had slept late. Now, we were in the area afterwards and I don't know how many dozens, hundreds of windows were shattered as a result of that explosion. Security was very tight around the governor's headquarters.

And this is a strike that shocked people here because the impression was that even though, for instance, this evening, we heard air raid sirens, we heard what sound like heavy bombardment on the outskirts of the city, the Russian forces have been largely pushed back from this city. And we have seen in recent days life slowly beginning to get back to normal. The other day, we were in a supermarket, which was not only full of people, surprisingly full of products as well. So, as life seemed to be going back to normal, this strike this morning was a huge shock for the people in this city. Wolf?

BLITZER: It certainly was. Ben Wedeman in Mykolaiv, be careful over there. Thank you very, very much.

There's more news we're following right now, including official White House records from the day of the Capitol insurrection, which now show a gap of more than seven hours in phone calls placed to or from the former president, Donald Trump.

Our Senior Legal Affairs Correspondent Paula Reid is working the story for us. Paula, CNN first reported this big gap in the Trump phone records a month ago, but what more are we learning tonight?

PAULA REID, CNN SENIOR LEGAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, we have learned that the House select committee is now investigating that gap in the White House phone records on January 6th and whether former President Trump tried to use backchannels to conceal who he was speaking with as the Capitol was under attack.

Now, as you noted, CNN reported that the records turned over to the committee show no calls to or from Trump for several hours during the insurrection. Today, The Washington Post reporting that gap stretched for just over seven and a half hours.

Now, sources have previously told CNN that Trump had a habit of asking aids to call certain people for him and that the use of private cell phones was common in the Trump White House, and that those calls were rarely tracked or recorded.


Now, all of these revelations, Wolf, adding to the pressure on Attorney General Merrick Garland to pursue investigations or even bring charges against Trump or his allies. Last night, members of the 1/6 committee vented their frustrations with Garland because the Department of Justice still has not acted on the House's criminal contempt referral against former Trump Chief of Staff Mark Meadows.

Now, the full House will vote on the committee's new recommendation to refer two more top Trump advisers who are refusing to cooperate, Peter Navarro and Dan Scavino. Now, one committee member directly calling on Garland to, quote, do his job so they can do theirs. Wolf?

BLITZER: All right, Paula, thank you very much for that update, Paula Reid reporting.

There's more breaking news just ahead. We're going to take a closer look at the reality of life in Kyiv right now, even as Russia claims it's scaling back its deadly offensive.

And growing fallout for Will Smith following the violent Oscars outburst. Stay with us.



BLITZER: More now in the breaking news. CNN crews in Kyiv reporting the sound of major artillery and rocket fire.

CNN's chief international anchor Christiane Amanpour is in the Ukrainian capital where she spoke to a member of the parliament earlier as air raid sirens sounded.


AMANPOUR: (voice-over): Day 34 of war, and the sounds are all around.

LESIA VASYLENKO, UKRAINIAN PARLIAMENT MEMBER: There we go. Yeah. That sort of disturbs your day all the time. But you learn to live with it.

AMANOUR: Ukrainian MP Lesia Vasylenko says after a month of this, she like her president and country folk believe the Russians will never take this city, though fighting does continue in the suburbs. She wanted to meet here at the Maidan square where Ukrainians today up for their rights in 2014 and brought down Putin's wrath and his revenge.

Ukraine's dramatic resistance surprised the whole world, including Vladimir Putin.

VASYLENKO: Three days they gave us, right? Putin thought he would be here in a matter of hours. We are doing this for our very survival, and when the survival instinct kicks in, people can do amazing things. People become superheroes. This is what you're witnessing in Ukraine.

AMANPOUR: Lesia is armed with her guns. The AK-47 is at home, but she shows me her pistol, close to her heart.

Lesia, when we spoke in the first week of the war, before I got here, you said, I've got my machine gun and I've also got my manicures. Your resistance takes many, many forms.

And you're carrying your pistol right now.

VASYLENKO: I am, I am. I have my PM with me. I carry it with me all the time.

AMANPOUR: Did you ever imagine in your life as an MP in 2022 Ukraine, you would be forced to carry a gun around?

VASYLENKO: No, never. Never. I'm actually very much anti-gun. This gun caused a lot of problem for me because in order to recharge it you have to do this thing, and with the nails -- I had very nice, beautiful long nails -- it was impossible to do so. They had to all come off.

AMANPOUR: Just so people are clear, the idea of beauty, self- maintenance, is also resistance.

VASYLENKO: Yes, all jokes aside, it's an important element for all women who are fighting alongside the man folk here. The women still want to be beautiful. They still want to have dignity as women.

AMANPOUR: And to be human.

VASYLENKO: And to be human.

AMANPOUR: He basically said, Putin, that Ukraine doesn't exist as a nation, you don't exist as a people.

VASYLENKO: And we say to him, life goes on. We carry on living. Your war, your fighting against us is in the background now and we'll go on fighting it for as long as we have to, but we'll go on living at the same time.

AMANPOUR: She is still an MP. Parliament is still passing laws.

And since an army marches on its stomach, this too is their fight, their war effort. So the ordinary becomes extraordinary, filling carrots as if they were stacking up bullets. This trendy brunch and bar has turned into a wartime canteen, chopping onions in a frenzy of efficiency and purpose.

Do you feel you're going to win?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Of course. We must destroy the Russian army.

AMANPOUR: You said you must destroy the Russian army? Yeah. So they help turn out 600 meal as day and counting for the army and territorial defense, hospitals and shelters.

Outside, Lesia shows me the pictures of her three young children who she had the send away for their safety.

VASYLENKO: This is my baby from this morning.

AMANPOUR: She's how old?

VASYLENKO: She's going to be 10 months in just a couple of days.

AMANPOUR: It must be painful to be without her.

VASYLENKO: It is, and she's sort of looking at you like, really, mommy? Really, you're going to be away from me?

AMANPOUR: Staying on the front lines with this struggle comes at a huge personal cost, but Lesia has no doubts.

VASYLENKO: I am where I have to be. Things happen for a reason. I'm a firm believer in that. There was a reason I was elected in the 2019. We have a task, we have a duty, and we will complete it, and then we will see where life takes us.

AMANPOUR: Christiane Amanpour, CNN, Kyiv. (END VIDEOTAPE)

BLITZER: Thank you, Christiane.

Just ahead, a new green light for many older Americans to get a second COVID booster shot.

And growing fallout over Will Smith's now infamous Oscar slap.



BLITZER: New developments in the coronavirus pandemic. The CDC following the FDA's lead and giving a green light to a second booster shot for people age 50 and older.

Let's get details from CNN medical analyst, Dr. Leana Wen.

Dr. Wen, should most Americans 50 and older take advantage of a second booster shot?

DR. LEANA WEN, CNN MEDICAL ANALYST: I think most Americans 50 and older should get the first booster shot, actually. I think everyone eligible should do so. And yet only half of Americans who are eligible to get that first booster got it. So that's the first thing.

The second thing is that we know that vaccination plus that first booster still protects you very well including against severe disease.


And so, some people may want to have an additional level of protection if you're over 65. If you have chronic medical conditions and you're over 50, you may want to get that fourth dose. But it's not something that everyone needs to be getting right now.

BLITZER: Because for many people, this would mean getting four COVID- 19 shots in a span of about a year. Is there any down side of getting too many boosters or getting them too often?

WEN: Well, there's a practical down side which is that the additional benefit of that fourth dose over the third dose appears to be pretty short-lived. And so many people may decide to wait until there is a real surge because right now, the case levels in the U.S. of COVID-19 are pretty low. Some people may decide to wait until there is a higher case count before they get that fourth dose.

But on the other hand, if you are immunocompromised, if you have chronic medical conditions, you may still decide that for your health, you want to make that individual decision to get that fourth dose now.

BLITZER: Some people might want to maximize the protection, space out the time between the shots. Can they put off their booster until, or should they get one as soon as possible? That's a lot of people are wondering. WEN: Yeah, I think it really depends on your individual circumstance.

So, if for example, if you'd just contracted omicron, I would wait. If you're vaccinated and boosted, and you had omicron, I wouldn't get that additional dose. On the other hand, if you're vulnerable that you could end up in a hospital if you got any respiratory infection, it's a good idea to get that fourth booster dose.

BLITZER: Always good advice from Dr. Leana Wen, thank you very, very much.

We're also following the growing fallout from the slap that stunned the world. Top officials in the Motion Picture Academy are getting ready to meet to consider taking action against Will Smith.

Our Brian Todd is working the story for us.

Brian, what you are learning?

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, the fallout is considerable tonight and widespread. Major Hollywood players are weighing in. And the key question looms, how will the Academy hold Will Smith accountable?


TODD (voice-over): Tonight, growing questions whether Will Smith also disciplined for this moment at the Oscars.

CHRIS ROCK, COMEDIAN: That was a nice one. Okay. I'm out here -- oh, wow! Wow!

TODD: Two sources with knowledge of the situation tell CNN board of governors of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences will meet tomorrow. Its main priority, discussing possible action and consequences for Smith for slapping comedian Chris Rock. An uncensored Japanese feed shows Smith's response.

ROCK: Will Smith just smacked the shit out of me.

WILL SMITH, ACTOR: Leave my wife's name out of your (EXPLETIVE DELETED) mouth.

ROCK: Wow, dude.


ROCK: It was a "G.I. Jane" joke.

SMITH: Keep my wife's name out of your (EXPLETIVE DELETED) mouth.

TODD: Among the members of the Academy's board of governors, comedienne Whoopi Goldberg and Oscar winner and host herself.

WHOOPI GOLDBERG, COMEDIENNE, HOST , "THE VIEW": There are big consequences.


GOLDBERG: Well, yeah. Nobody -- nobody is okay with what happened.

TODD: Her co-hosts on "The View" say Smith's conduct was violent, childish, toxic masculinity, and inexcusable.

Also 24 hours after the incident, Smith apologized to Chris Rock in a statement saying his emotional reaction to a joke about his wife was inexcusable and unacceptable. Quote: I would like to publicly apologize to you, Chris. I was out of line and I was wrong. I'm embarrassed.

But some voices in Hollywood are coming down hard on Smith, including Jimmy Kimmel.

JIMMY KIMMEL, HOST, "JIMMY KIMMEL LIVE!": Assaulting insulting Chris Rock and then winning the Oscar, it's like storming out of the house after breaking up with your girlfriend and coming back in because you forgot your keys.

TODD: Smith's mother speaking out publicly for the first time since the incident.

CAROLYN SMITH, WILL SMITH'S MOTHER: That's the first time I've ever seen him go off. The first time.

TODD: Smith's wife, actress Jada Pinkett Smith was the target of Rock's joke about her shaved head.

ROCK: Jada, I love you. "GI. Jane II", I can't wait to see it. All right?

TODD: It's not clear if he knew that Pinkett Smith's hair loss results from a medical condition, alopecia. Pinkett Smith's brief message on Instagram today, quote: This is a season for healing and I'm here for it.

What might the Academy do with Will Smith?

ALYSSA ROSENBERG, POP CULTURE OPINION WRITER, THE WASHINGTON POST: They could penalize him. They could say he's not going to be allowed back. They could issue a formal censure. I hope it doesn't get back Ato talking about rescinding the award, which makes no sense.


TODD: Now, while Will Smith's professional future is being closely watched, so is Chris Rock's. He's returning to the stage for a comedy tour and one secondary ticketing marketplace says the ticket sales for Rock's show are hot and getting more expensive, going from a minimum of $46 per ticket to a minimum of $341 a ticket, Wolf. This seems to be helping Chris Rock at least in the immediate.

BLITZER: All right. Brian, thank you very, very much. I'll be back in a half hour on our new streaming service, CNN+ with a debut of the new show called "The Newscast." And at 9:00 Eastern for "CNN TONIGHT".

Stay with us. Lots of news.

Erin Burnett starts right now.