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Pentagon Says, Russia in Early Stages Of New Offensive In East; Zelenskyy Says Tens Of Thousands Dead In Mariupol; Russia's Butcher Of Syria Taking Over War Against Ukraine; WNBA: Brittney Griner Is Safe "But We Want To Get Her Home"; Awaiting Official Update On NYC Subway Shooting Investigation; Sources; Prosecutors Nearing Charging Decision In Giuliani Case. Aired 6-7p ET

Aired April 12, 2022 - 18:00   ET



JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: The lead author or the study published in the Medical Journal, JAMA notes, that's the Journal of the American Medical Association, says the spike is not coming from more team's using drugs but from drug use becoming more dangerous because of fentanyl.

I'm going to be back at 9:00 P.M. Eastern for CNN Tonight with more from Lviv and from our reporters who are on the frontline of this bloody invasion.

Our coverage continues now with Wolf Blitzer in THE SITUATION ROOM. I'll see you in a few hours.

WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: Happening now, breaking news, sources tell CNN a suspect has just been identified in the terrifying New York City subway attack that left at least ten people with gunshot wounds. We're standing by for an official update on the urgent manhunt.

Also breaking right now, for the first time since Russian troops invaded Ukraine, President Biden calls the atrocities emerging from the warzone, and I'm quoting the president right now, genocide. This as a defiant Vladimir Putin declares peace talks are, quote, at dead end, vowing the war will go on while Kremlin forces prepare for a renewed assault in the east.

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

And we begin our coverage right now with the breaking news out of New York City. CNN's Brynn Gingras is standing by with us in Brooklyn with all the latest developments in that brutal subway attack.

Brynn, we're waiting for an update from investigators who are about to hold a news conference. What more can you tell us?

BRYNN GINGRAS, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes. And, Wolf, it will be interesting to see if they actually name the suspect asking for the public's help in searching for that person because we're now more than nine hours into when this incident happened, and still that person is not in custody.

We know that local, state, federal law enforcement are teamed up together trying to search for this person, chasing down leads. We know a number of things from sources that they know. They have a picture that they were able to get of this suspect from an eyewitness' video taken with their iPhone or their camera phone. We also know that a credit card that was dropped here at the scene believed to be of the suspect to help authorities identify who this person is.

Again, though, the big thing is where is that person right now? We know that a u-haul van that they were searching for has been located about three miles from where we are right now, and the bomb squad is there making sure there is no -- not any devices in that, that will detonate, but, again, they are looking for this person who terrorized the subway system during the morning commute.


GINGRAS (voice over): Panic aboard a New York City subway train in Brooklyn this morning. As shots rang out and smoke filled the car, witnesses say --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Those people screams for medical assistance. It was just a scary moment.

GINGRAS: Authorities swarming the scene.

COMMISSIONER KEECHANT SEWELL, LNEW YORK CITY POLICE: An individual on that train donned what appeared to be a gas mask. He then took a canister out of his bag and opened it. The train at that time began to fill with smoke. He then opened fire striking multiple people on the subway and in the platform.

GINGRAS: Ten shot, five of them in critical but stable condition with many more people injured, according to the FDNY, as photos from the scene show blood on the floor of the subway situation.

SEWELL: This is not being investigated as an act of terrorism at this time. We can also report that although this was a violent incident, reportedly we have no one with life-threatening injuries as a result of this case.

YAV MONTANO, ON BOARD TRAIN DURING SHOOTING: We were stuck in the train right about to get to reach to the stop, and then, thank goodness, the train moves within a minute. Or I don't know what would have happened if we were stuck there for longer.

GINGRAS: The attack leading to a massive manhunt in the city with a suspect still on the loose.

SEWELL: He is being report as a male black, approximately 5'5 inches tall with a heavy build. He was wearing a green construction-type vest and a hooded sweatshirt. The color is gray.

GINGRAS: A gun, multiple high capacity magazines, fireworks and gun powder have been recovered in the station, law information sources say, and they believe the gun jammed during the shooting. Investigators were looking for the u-haul cargo van with an Arizona license plate in connection with the subway shooting, according to internal police emails.

New York Mayor Eric Adams, who was isolation recovering from COVID-19, telling CNN it's too early to dismiss the subway attack as not terror- related.

MAYOR ERIC ADAMS (D-NEW YORK CITY, NY): This is terror of someone attempted to terrorize our system. They brought in what appears to be some form of smoke device. They discharged a weapon, and so I don't want to be premature in identifying if this was or was not.


I think at this time the investigators are going to do their due diligence to properly identify what happened here.

GINGRAS: While the New York Governor Kathy Hochul on scene today calling for an end to New York's recent wave of violent crime.

GOV. KATHY HOCHUL (D-NY): And we say no more. No more mass shootings. No more disrupting lives. No more creating heartbreak for people just trying to live their lives as normal New Yorkers. It has to end and it ends now.


GINGRAS (on camera): And, again, multiple scenes right now being processed by authorities, Wolf. There is where the u-haul was located, there is where we are right now, where the shooting actually happened, and, of course, there are investigators working to look for this person, and at the same time working to identify any social media that this person has, where they possibly have connections to outside of the city, so, so many threads that are still being worked at this hour.

Of course, we have that news conference coming up in just about ten minutes. We hope it will start. It will be interesting to see if the NYPD does release a name asking for the public's help in trying to locate this person. Wolf?

BLITZER: All right. Brynn Gingras, on the scene for us, Brynn, thank you very much.

And once again, we will have live coverage when the law enforcement investigators in New York City come forward and give us an update in a few minutes, take questions from reporters amid an urgent manhunt for the suspect in this morning's subway attack. That's coming up live in a few minutes. Stand by for that.

Let's get an update right now on the breaking news coming out of Ukraine. I want to go to our Chief International Correspondent Clarissa Ward. She is in the Ukrainian city of Dnipro. Clarissa, what's the latest on the Russian advance in Ukraine? CLARISSA WARD, CNN CHIEF INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: So, one Ukrainian military official, Wolf, is saying that they believe this offensive could start any day now, potentially even as soon as tomorrow. And the reason they're saying that is that they are seeing images of heavy equipment being pulled towards the frontlines by Russian forces.

He also said that one thing that could potentially help Ukraine is that there are heavy rains scheduled for the next few days. Those heavy rains could potentially mean that those Russian tanks would have to use roads instead of being able to get through fields. If they use roads, of course, it is much easier for Ukrainian forces to attack them and defend using those anti-tank missiles and those Javelin missiles that the U.S. has been providing them with.

But meanwhile, we are seeing a continuation of heavy shelling in some of these areas, particularly in the region of Luhansk, hearing reports as well that morgues in some of these frontline towns are now at full capacity. They do not have electricity. They cannot keep up with the flow of the dead. They have had to create new de facto cemeteries inside these towns because it's not possible to access their normal cemeteries. They are using essentially backhoes to try to dig out trenches and bury as many people as they can.

One other important note today, Ukrainian officials now say they estimate in the southeastern port city of Mariupol, which has been the site of relentless heavy bombardment since this war began, they believe as many as 22,000 people could be dead there, Wolf.

It's important to emphasize that we cannot confirm those numbers. There are no impartial observers on the ground. Journalists cannot get into those areas, but still a very startling figure all of which contributes to a sense of grim unease as people in this region prepare for this renewed offensive from Russia in the east. Wolf?

BLITZER: Men, women and children, thousand killed in Mariupol.

And speaking of Mariupol, as you know, Clarissa, there's new concern right now that Russia may actually have used chemicals in an attack on that southern port city. What's the latest? What are you hearing?

WARD: So, Wolf, there's very little information to really ascertain how reliable this claim is. It came from the Azov Battalion, who are the fighters on the ground who are trying to defend Mariupol. They said that some kind of a poisonous substance led to respiratory problems with several of their fighters.

It's a claim that the Ukrainian government is looking into very closely. Although at this stage they are saying that they cannot be sure. The deputy defense minister said that it's possible that phosphorus munitions were used. That would also be, of course, a violation of international law.

The Pentagon has also saying that it doesn't know exactly what has happened because obviously it has no people on the ground here, but they take the claim seriously. They are looking into them. And we've also heard from the international watchdog for chemical weapons, the OPCW, that they are concerned by the reports and also trying to get more information to glean what exactly happened.


But as I explained before, Wolf, given the situation in Mariupol at the moment, it is very difficult to do that, Wolf.

BLITZER: Clarissa Ward in Dnipro for us. Be very careful over there. Clarissa, we'll get back to you.

I want to go to Brussels right now where CNN International Diplomatic Editor Nic Robertson is standing by for us. Nic, Putin just made it abundantly clear his brutal onslaught in Ukraine will continue. What's the latest.

NIC ROBERTSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL DIPLOMATIC EDITOR: Yes, we got a look into Putin's mindset at the moment and the way that he's framing the war, Wolf. He called it noble, which is perhaps an indication and acknowledgement that he's been losing troops because when you frame it as noble rather than, let say just a duty, you're sort of elevating it, something worth sacrificing yourself for.

Putin did something else that we've seen and done so many times, invert the reality, invert the facts, by saying Russia's pullback of troops around Kyiv in the north of Ukraine. Was in essence a gesture towards peace which is saying again, an inversion of the facts, he's saying that the Ukrainian authorities have rejected this overture towards peace, they are not taking it. And for that reason Putin said that the peace talks with the Ukrainians were right now at a dead end.


PRESIDENT VLADIMIR PUTIN, RUSSIA: We have again returned to a dead end situation for ourselves and for all of us. The military operation will continue until it's fully completed and the objectives that were set at the beginning of this operation are achieved.

We are helping people. We're saving them from Nazism in the first place, and on the other hand we're protecting Russia, taking measures to protect Russia's security, and it's obvious that we had no choice. It was the right thing to do, and I have no doubt the objectives will be achieved.


ROBERTSON: What Russians are hearing and another piece of the sort of inverted Putin narrative, if you will, sort of turning truth on its head.

For the Russian alleged war crimes in Bucha, he said, this was a Ukrainian provocation, just spinning reality to fit the message that he wants to sell to the Russian people. But by elevating the war to a noble cause, he's taking it up a level. He's saying it's a sacrifice, something worth dying for, Wolf, and we haven't heard that yet.

BLITZER: Yes, good point. It's brutal what he's saying. Nic Robertson on the scene for us in Brussels, thank you very, very much.

Right now, I want to go to the White House. Our Chief White House Correspondent Kaitlan Collins is joining us.

Kaitlan, President Biden is now citing genocide by a dictator, a clear reference to Putin. The White House has largely avoided that specific word at least until this point. What are you learning?

KAITLAN COLLINS, CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: It's significant, Wolf, because it is the first time that we have heard President Biden use this label to describe what is happening in Ukraine. Of course, this is something that Zelenskyy has said he believes is happening. It's something that the Polish prime minister said they believe is also happening inside Ukraine, but, so far, the administration here at the White House has stopped short of using that word until today, when President Biden was in Iowa talking about inflation, talking about higher grocery prices and, of course, higher gas prize which the administration says is in part fueled by this invasion. And the president was talking about a budget when he also brought up what he believes is a genocide happening in Ukraine.


JOE BIDEN, U.S. PRESIDENT: Your family budget, your ability to fill up the tank, none of it should hinge on whether a dictator declares war and commits genocide half a world away.


COLLINS: Now, Wolf, that's notable. Obviously, we'll have questions for the White House about the president using this term for the first time given they had stopped short of using it earlier as other officials have said they did believe it was a genocide.

Remember, Republican Liz Cheney said on the Sunday shows that she believes the White House should start using that word describing what is happening in Ukraine. So far, they have said they had seen war crimes, they had not seen genocide yet.

And, Wolf, we should note, this come as they are also still evaluating whether a chemical weapons attack was conducted by Russia in Ukraine. That, of course, claim has been made, but the White House and administration have said they've struggled to actually identify it as that and make that declaration because, in part, the biggest challenge that they are facing, Wolf, is that they don't have any U.S. officials on the ground in Ukraine to help identify that, to help make sure that that is what they want to call it.

And so that is still something that they are still evaluating, according to Secretary Blinken and other defense officials who spoke with reporters today about those claims of a chemical weapons attack in Ukraine.

BLITZER: Yes. It's a big deal indeed. Kaitlan, war crimes one thing, but once you start using the word genocide, that raises it dramatically indeed. Today, the president did exactly that. Kaitlan, thank you very, very much.

The breaking news continues. Next, we're standing by for an official update on the investigation into the violent and shocking New York City subway attack and the urgent manhunt for the suspect.


Plus, Russia using a brutal new tactic against Ukrainian civilians to ensure that the devastation of their attacks last far beyond first impact. We're going to discuss it with retired U.S. Army General David Petraeus who is standing by live. We'll be right back.


BLITZER: The breaking news, we're moments away from an update on today's horrifying subway attack in New York City. We're going to bring you that official briefing live as soon as it begins. It's supposed to begin momentarily. Stand by for that.

But also breaking right now, we're learning more about a brutal new tactic Russia is using in Ukraine, dropping land mines from the sky that detonate on their own hours later that potentially can kill a lot of people.


Our Chief International Investigative Correspondent Nima Elbagir is in Kharkiv.


NIMA ELBAGIR, CNN CHIEF INTERNATIONAL INVESTIGATIVE CORRESPONDENT: This is the central market area in Kharkiv and this is the site of most of last night's strikes. We've come here with emergency service first responders because Russians have come up with new tactic to ensure that the devastation of their attacks last far beyond first impact.

Lieutenant Colonel Igor Ovcharuk is the head of the bomb disposal team.

LT. COL. IGOR OVCHARUK, HEAD OF PYROTECHNIC GROUP, EMERGENCY SERVICES: The mines explode by themselves and cause damage. These elements can detonate between and forty hours later. So, we have to detonate them remotely to avoid damage to the civilian population.

ELBAGIR: There are unexploded mines all over this area so they can't get too close. What they do is they wrap plastic explosives around a wire, link it to a detonator. That's then placed next to the unexploded ordnance, they retreat then they blow it up. A brutal new tactic leaving death to lie and wait for unsuspecting civilians.

Nima Elbagir, CNN Kharkiv.

(END VIDEOTAPE) BLITZER: Let's discuss what's going on. Joining us now retired U.S. Army General and former CIA Director David Petraeus. General Petraeus, thank you so much for joining us.

Lots to discuss, but let me first get your reaction to the news that President Biden today for the first time is now using the word genocide to label what Putin and his military are doing in Ukraine. What's your reaction to that?

GEN. DAVID PETRAEUS (RET.), FORMER CIA DIRECTOR: Well, it's another statement that escalates what we have describes done before. They have rightly described what's happened in the past as war crimes, violations of the Geneva Convention and, of course, this use of mines as your reporter just described is really unspeakable. It's horrific. It's the kind of thing that the Soviet army used to do in Afghan days when they would put booby traps inside toys so that children would pick them up and be blown up.

So, again, this is an escalation. It is another statement, again, of how serious Russia is doing in Ukraine, is and I think it will amp up the international response overtime. There's -- at some point, I wonder, Wolf, if there's going to be, in a sense, Srebrenica moment here, where the outcry over the outrageous that the Russian army have perpetrated in Ukraine are just so very substantial that there's a taking of the gloves off in certain respects in what we provide to the Ukrainian forces and perhaps at some point what we do ourselves as well.

BLITZER: And this comes, as you well know, General Petraeus, as Russia is ramping its assault on the eastern parts of Ukraine right now, and you think this is potentially a turning point in this war. Is that right?

PETRAEUS: Well, I think the war literally hangs in the balance over what happens in the next few days whenever this Russian offensive kicks off. It's hard to say it if they will hold up because of the reins that are expected there, as Clarissa Ward explained very, very important, whether or not there's traffic over terrain off the road. If they are stuck on the road, the Ukrainians obviously can stop them much more easily.

I've been in that area when I went down to the area of the Donbas several years ago. It's much more open. There are far fewer woods. There are far fewer built-up areas. Of course, that's what helped the Ukrainians stop the Russians north of Kyiv and then also east of Kyiv. So, this is much more difficult terrain for a defender.

And if the Russian armor that's really being massed very substantially here and all underneath a single commander for the first time, General Dvornikov, who is the Bucher of Syria, is his reputation from the brutal campaign. He oversaw that basically depopulated Aleppo is the only way to describe the destruction that was visited on that city.

So, if they can just line up the armor hub to hub and push, they don't care about casualties, it doesn't appear, they have been horrific already, vastly greater already than what they sustained in nine or ten years in Afghanistan, that's very worrisome. And this is the moment if there's anything left that we can shake out of the Eastern European countries that's compatible with the artillery, the multiple launch rocket systems, the tanks and so forth, the air defense that Ukraine has, we need to get it in there as quickly as we can because this could be the penultimate battle.

Putin clearly not interested in negotiations, as you described earlier, clearly wants to achieve objectives on the battlefield that he can hold out at the 9 May Victory Day parade for World War II that they conduct in Moscow every year and say this was worth this enormous sacrifice, colossal sacrifice and loss and soldiers and also in weapons systems.


BLITZER: General David Petraeus, as usual, thanks so much for your expertise, thanks so much for joining us.

PETREAUS: Thanks, Wolf.

BLITZER: And for information, this is for our viewers, about how you can help the humanitarian efforts in Ukraine, go to and help impact your world. It's so important.

Coming up, more breaking news we're following. Police are urgently searching for a suspect after an attack at a New York subway station, left at least ten people with gunshot wounds.

Stay with us. We're expecting an official news conference and update from law enforcement in New York in just a moment. We'll have live coverage. We'll be right back.



BLITZER: We're following two major breaking stories this hour, the war in Ukraine and the manhunt for the suspect in a terrifying New York City subway attack that left at least ten people with gunshot wounds.

We're standing by for an official update from law enforcement in New York. We'll have live coverage as soon as it begins.

But right, now let's go to CNN's Brynn Gingras. She's in Brooklyn working the story for us. Brynn, give us an update. I understand you have some new information.

GINGRAS: Yes, Wolf. You know, we are waiting for that news conference to start so we expect to get more information of exactly the events that took place today, but also it's possible we might get the name, identification of the person that law enforcement is combing this city right now looking for.

We've learned from sources that a credit card that was dropped at the scene of this incident where I am here in Brooklyn that is tied to the suspect, according to the source, was used to rent a u-haul. We know from sources that u-haul has been located about three miles from where we are right now in Brooklyn alongside the highway.

That suspect was not inside. The bomb squad responded to that scene to check it out, make sure that there were no devices that could be detonated, of course, because there was a device that was detonated, a smoke bomb of some sort on the train early this morning.

So, again, we know from law enforcement that they have a name. They have someone that they are looking for. The question is will we get an update in this news conference of who that person is asking the public's help to find them?

Of course, at this point the investigation is widespread. Not only on the streets here of New York City but also combing through social media, combing through camera footage all across this city, looking to see if there's any way to actually locate this person.

So, I think we'll learn a lot from the news conference. Certainly, the biggest thing we all want to know is not only who this person but where are they, and we'll be waiting and standing for that.

BLITZER: Yes. It's about to begin, we're told, very, very soon. Brynn Gingras in Brooklyn for us covering the story, we'll get back to you Brynn. Thanks so much.

Let's discuss what's going on with CNN Law Enforcement Analyst Charles Ramsey and CNN Counterterrorism Analyst Phil Mudd.

Chief Ramsey, as you heard, investigators apparently have now identified the suspect after finding a credit card at the scene, among other things. They have also located this u-haul van connected to this shooting, somehow.

How close do you think they are to actually narrowing in on the suspect, because, normally, if they have a suspect, they have a name, they immediately release a picture so the public can help potentially in finding this individual.

CHARLES RAMSEY, CNN SENIOR LAW ENFORCEMENT ANALYST: Well, I think they are close, and sometimes you don't because you're so close that you don't want to cause, you know, too many people getting in the way of being able to apprehend the individual, so the fact that they have got this credit card, the fact that they have been able to trace it now. They probably have a fairly good photo.

If they know where he rented the van, you can't rent a van without a driver's license and other I.D. so it probably have addresses and everything else that they are working right now and surveillance and so forth. So, I think they are close. I think they are very close.

BLITZER: Yes. That's the assumption that we're getting, very close. We'll find out momentarily at this news conference with law enforcement that's about to begin.

Phil Mudd, what's happening behind the scenes right now in this manhunt?

PHIL MUDD, CNN COUNTERTERRORISM ANALYST: You've got to think about avenues of investigation. First, if you have a license plate off a vehicle, obviously, you want to learn where that vehicle was rented. If you have a driver's license, that's incredibly valuable. You not only learn the identity of the individual, you learn the address. You might have devices. Do those interest fingerprints, do those have serial numbers that you can look at?

You look at interviews of individuals there. You look at the driver's license. Do the interviews of the individuals match what the driver's license says? I agree with Chief Ramsey, if we don't have this person by tomorrow morning, Wolf, I will be really surprise.

There's too much data out there about who they are, what car they rented, what driver's license they had. There's too much information to suggest that this person can go free. I don't buy it.

BLITZER: So, you believe, Phil, they will release the name and maybe even a photograph of this suspect?

MUDD: Absolutely not, Wolf. I would disagree with that.

BLITZER: Really?

MUDD: If the more information that you have the more likely it is that you can identify this individual and not indicate to his circle of potential friends, maybe supporters that you know who it is. You don't want to tell those people that you're on to them because if you go in for an interview, you don't want those people to be forewarned.

When you put out a name, when you put out a photo, that's when you say, we're not quite certain where you are. I think the fact that there hasn't been a name or a photo indicates, as Chief Ramsey suggested, that we're closer, not farther, Wolf.


BLITZER: Really? That's interesting.

MUDD: Yes.

BLITZER: You know, Chief Ramsey, when you look at all these details that have emerged, high capacity magazines, fireworks, gunpowder, all found on the scene, what does that tell you about this attack?

RAMSEY: Well, he very well could have been planning an event much larger than what actually took place. If it's true that the gun jammed, then that would explain why and even though ten people were shot, that's an awful lot of people, but it could have been a lot worse if that gun had not jammed.

So it indicates to me that he had a lot on his mind in terms of the number of people that he could seriously injure or kill, and it's really scary. BLITZER: All right. Guys, I want you to both stand by for a moment. CNN's Miguel Marquez is on the scene right now where they found the u- haul truck. What are you learning, Miguel?

MIGUEL MARQUEZ, CNN SENIOR NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes. I can tell you, and I've just arrived here but this feels like a much busier scene than a scene where they had just found the u-haul truck. The road here, King's Highway is blocked off for six blocks. This is the Bensonhurst-Gravesend area of Brooklyn.

I want to show you what's going on here, just a massive response by police, fire, ambulances, a huge, huge response. Six blocks down King's Highway. What you're looking at is King's Highway. Six blocks, they have that blocked off right now, and all of the side streets as well back one block almost every single street.

There are police helicopters up above. And then look at the crowd here. I mean, you have people -- they have blocked off these sort of major intersections here, so the people here are just either waiting to get home, watching to see what's going on.

BLITZER: I think we've lost our connection with Miguel. We'll try to reconnect with him.

Let me get Chief Ramsey, first of all to you. What's your reaction to what he's reporting? They've located this u-haul truck that was obviously part of the suspicion connected to the suspect.

RAMSEY: Well, first of all, they have to make sure it's safe, that there're no explosive devices inside, but they also have to get a search warrant. Because once you find evidence or you've got the van, whatever evidence you want from the van, you want it admissible in court.

So you're not talking about an individual who killed himself immediately after the mass shooting, which often happens. You've got a suspect that's out there on the loose. Hopefully, they can catch him alive. But regardless of that, they need to do it right. They need to do it properly.

So, they are going to cordon everything off until they are sure it's safe. see somebody walking right by it now. So, apparently, they are fairly comfortable there's nothing explosive in there, but they do need a search warrant before they can go any further.

BLITZER: Usually they would have robots to check it out, right, to make sure there are no bombs inside. Is that right, Chief Ramsey?

RAMSEY: Yes, yes. I mean, NYPD, FBI, ATF, listen, they got all the tools they need right there. So, they have already checked this now and are pretty comfortable that it's safe, but they do need to secure a search warrant. So, once they go inside they are going to be looking for evidence.

BLITZER: Do you agree, Phil? MUDD: I do. I think there's an additional piece that's really critical. That is as soon as you have that license plate confirmed on the van, you have a name. Who rented that, that is not only a name, that's an address. What's the address obviously of the person that rented that? You go to the address. Are there additional explosive devices? There's a lot of information you can get from the van that's really critical, Wolf.

BLITZER: All right guys. Stand by. We're expecting officials to give us an update on the New York City subway attack at any moment now, looking at live pictures coming in from the police department, the city of New York. We'll have live coverage of that momentarily.

Also ahead, we're getting new information about Americans being held by Russia and deep concern about how Moscow's invasion of Ukraine is complicating efforts to get them released. Stand by. Much more of our special coverage coming up.



BLITZER: We're following breaking news. Officials in New York City are about to brief the public on today's brutal subway attack that left at least ten people with gunshot wounds. We'll bring you that news conference, that update live, as soon as it begins. It should begin momentarily.

Also breaking tonight, President Biden dramatically ratcheting up his rhetoric against Putin as the Russian president vows that his bloody, unprovoked war against Ukraine will go on. Mr. Biden twice today using the term genocide. Listen.


BIDEN: I called it genocide because it's become clearer and clearer that Putin is just trying to wipe out the idea of being able to be even Ukrainian. And the evidence is mounting. It's different than it was last week, the more evidence that's coming out of literally the horrible things as the Russians have done in Ukraine. And we're only going to learn more and more about the devastation. And we'll let the lawyers decide internationally whether or not it qualifies, but it sure seems that way to me. Thank you.


BLITZER: All right. Let's get some more. Joining us now, the former U.S. ambassador to Ukraine, William Taylor. Ambassador Taylor, thanks, as usual, for joining us.

This is the first time, as you know, that we've actually heard President Biden call Russia's actions in Ukraine genocide. How significant is this?

WILLIAM TAYLOR, FORMER U.S. AMBASSADOR TO UKRAINE: Wolf, I think this indicates the seriousness with which the U.S. government takes this attack, this invasion, this horror. It is clear. It is -- I think President Biden is right. Pesident Putin has made it very clear that he didn't think of Ukraine as a nation. He wants to wipe it out. Anybody in Ukraine who doesn't agree with him who is not part of the Russian nation is, by definition, a Nazi, as far as Putin is concerned, and he wants to wipe them out. That's genocide, Wolf. That's genocide is.

So, I think that's right. And it will steel.


It will further motivate the international community, but even more important the Ukrainians to fight against this genocide.

BLITZER: The president of Ukraine, President Zelenskyy, just responded, praising President Biden and Zelenskyy tweeting, and I'm quoting him now, true words of a true leader @potus, meaning the president of the United States. Calling people by their name is essential to standing up to evil. We are grateful for U.S. assistance provided so far and we urgently need more heavy weapons to prevent further Russian atrocities, a direct quote from President Zelenskyy.

Does this raise the moral stakes, Ambassador, for the United States to act more decisively right now in providing more military equipment to help the Ukrainians?

TAYLOR: It's never been more important, Wolf. It's never been more important to provide those heavy weapons to the Ukrainians as President Zelenskyy has been asking for and indeed as the U.S. government has been moving in the past couple of weeks to do, together with its allies, the Slovaks are providing tanks.

The Germans are prepared, I hope, to provide the tanks. The Australians are providing armored vehicles. So this is coming. It needs to come now.

This big invasion, this big attack, this big foundation that the Russians are making against -- against the Ukrainians is comes soon, and those weapons need to be there now. So, this designation of genocide heightens the determination and urgency on all sides to defeat Putin now.

BLITZER: Yeah, as General Petraeus told us this is potentially a turning point, a critical moment in this war right now, a very, very significant moment indeed.

As you know, ambassador, Putin made a rare public appearance today claiming Russia is, quote, helping people, saving them from Nazism. Is he doubling down on this war and his own ridiculous propaganda?

TAYLOR: His own ridiculous propaganda, that's exactly right. No one outside of Russia takes that seriously at all, helping people, trying to save people, he says, when he's killing tens of thousand, when it's genocide, when it is war crimes. He's helping people. He's saving people. No one takes him seriously, Wolf.

BLITZER: You're absolutely right. Ambassador Taylor, as usual, thank you very much for joining us. We really appreciate it.

Meanwhile, the Russian invasion of Ukraine is further complicating efforts to secure the release of Americans being held by Moscow.

CNN's Brian Todd is working this story for us.

Brian, I understand we're learning new information tonight?

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Right, Wolf. New information tonight on the condition and legal status of two Americans in particular, basketball star Brittney Griner and former U.S. marine Trevor Reed.

Now, in addition to the new information, there are new concerns that the tensions with Vladimir Putin may lead him to hold these two Americans and one other even longer than originally feared.


TODD (voice-over): After spending nearly two months in a Russian jail, serious conditions tonight about the condition of star American basketball player Brittney Griner, concerns voiced by the head of the WNBA players union on ABC.

NNEKA OGWUMIKE, WNBA PLAYER AND PLAYERS ASSOCIATION PRESIDENT: We're really most concerned about her health and safety, especially her mental health. We're hearing that she's, in that respect, she's okay.

TODD: The WNBA commissioner says Griner jailed on allegations she was carrying cannabis oil at the Moscow airport is safe and is getting access to her legal team in Russia.

CATHY ENGELBERT, WNBA COMMISSIONER: We're trying everything that we can, every angle working through with her legal representation, her agent, elected leaders, the administration.

TODD: Griner has been able to see her representative in Russia twice a week and is able to receive letters and correspondence, sources tell ESPN, but Vladimir Putin's war in Ukraine could dash any hopes for a speedy release.

EVELYN FARKAS, FORMER DEPUTY ASSISTANT SECRETARY OF DEFENSE: He's not going to release anyone that he has in custody. He's going to try to use it as he has been probably behind the scenes all along as a bargaining chip to get something from us.

TOM FIRESTONE, FORMER RESIDENT LEGAL ADVISER, U.S. EMBASSY IN MOSCOW: There's very little the U.S. government can do right now. We have very limited leverage over Russia for very obvious reasons right now given the political situation.

TODD: One former U.S. official believes Putin has strong motivation to keep holding Griner, the fact that she's a U.S. Olympic gold medalist.

FARKAS: Remember, she was seized in February right after the Olympics when Russia was roundly embarrassed yet again for doping of its Olympic athletes, and so this might be also a way of getting revenge at the U.S. Olympic Committee.

TODD: Another American held in Russia, Trevor Reed, today had a court appearance by video where his appeal was kicked back to a lower court. His parents are worried he may have tuberculosis.

PAULA REED, MOTHER OF TREVOR REED: He looks terrible in that shot that they had on the tweet, and we're really concerned because he really looks thin.

TODD: U.S. officials openly concerned about Reed's health.

NED PRICE, STATE DEPARTMENT SPOKESMAN: We do believe that he needs urgent treatment to prevent any further deterioration in his medical condition.

TODD: Reed was sentenced to nine years for allegedly endangering the lives of Russian police officers while drunk which his family and U.S. officials deny.


Today, Reed's father made a bold statement about his son's situation.

JOEY REED, FATHER OF TREVOR REED: They are taking him for trade, and that's what they want, and he's not coming home unless they get that.

TODD: Could Brittney Griner, Trevor Reed or the other American detained in Russia, Paul Whelan, be traded?

FIRESTONE: They're extremely rare, and in the current political situation would be especially difficult to arrange something like that. Not impossible but extremely difficult in the current conditions.


TODD: The analysts we spoke to say it's a risky strategy for family members and others to speak out so often on behalf of these detainees in Russia, especially now given that it might irritate Vladimir Putin even more.

And recently, WNBA superstar Lisa Leslie said that people in the women's basketball world were told not to make a fuss about Brittney Griner's case out of concern that she may be used as a pawn while this Ukraine war is still going on, Wolf.

BLITZER: All right. We'll stay on the top for the story for our viewers. Thank you very much. Brian Todd reporting, appreciate it.

Once again, we're standing by for an official update by law enforcement on the manhunt for the suspect in that shocking New York City subway attack.

Stay with us. The breaking news continues next right here in THE SITUATION ROOM.



BLITZER: The breaking news we're following, officials in New York City are about to give an update for a manhunt in today's subway attack.

Our senior national correspondent Miguel Marquez is joining us from New York. He's got new information.

I understand sources are telling us, Miguel, that investigators have now identified the suspect but he's still very much at large.

MIGUEL MARQUEZ, CNN SENIOR NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yeah, they identified the suspect, and they believe the van that may be connected to this shooting as well is in this neighborhood right here. This is sort of in Brooklyn, the Bensonhurst Gravesend area of Brooklyn, down Kings Highway.

They have a massive area of Brooklyn cut off here and cordoned off by police. Bomb squad is here, tons of detectives from New York City police department, fire department, and many, many ambulances are here as well.

It feels to me, Wolf, like this is a much bigger scene than just the van being located here. I can tell you detectives are going door to door at all the businesses along this block here looking to see if they have a video, security video, and watching that video right now try to put together pieces of where this individual may be and if he's still in this neighborhood or if he's gone somewhere else, but just a massive effort right now.

Helicopter -- the police helicopter overhead as well. Just a massive effort going on here right now to figure out where this individual is and to figure out if there is any danger in that van they believe they have in this neighborhood -- Wolf.

BLITZER: All right. Stand by, Miguel. Stand by.

I want to bring in Chief Ramsey, our law enforcement analyst, former D.C. police commissioner, Philadelphia police commissioner.

Chief Ramsey, so, what will you specifically be looking for as we await this news conference from law enforcement in New York?

CHARLES RAMSEY, CNN LAW ENFORCEMENT ANALYST: Well, I believe we'll get some more information. Whether or not we get the actual picture of the individual or name of the individual remains to be seen, but they've got a lot of things they're working right now. They've got the van, they know the name of the person who rented it, they probably have surveillance taking place on a couple locations where this person may be, or known to frequent. So there are a lot of things they've got going on right now.

So they're going to play it a little close to the vest at this point in time, but we'll learn more than we knew before. You should pick up a few new pieces of information.

BLITZER: I want you to stand by. I want to get your analysis after we get the update from law enforcement in New York. We're standing by for that. That's momentarily, we're told, it will begin.

Right now, I want to go to another breaking story as we await this news conference. Sources now tell CNN that federal prosecutors investigating New York -- former New York Mayor Giuliani could be nearing a charging decision, an actual charging decision.

Our senior legal affairs correspondent Paul Reid is on the story for us.

So, what could this decision mean for Giuliani, Paula?

PAULA REID, CNN SENIOR LEGAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, it's been nearly a year since federal investigators raided Giuliani's home and office as part of a years-long federal investigation into his foreign lobbying efforts in Ukraine.

Eighteen electronic devices were seized during those raids, but sources familiar with the investigation tell CNN that investigators were unable to get into five of those devices until recently. In recent weeks, Giuliani actually met with investigators and helped them open three of those locked devices and he also provided passwords for the other two, but it's unclear if those passwords worked.

Now, Giuliani has also appeared for a separate interview with investigators despite the legal risk that making any false statements to federal agents is a felony punishable by up to five years in prison. Now, since last year's raid, a court appointed special master has been reviewing materials on Giuliani's devices to protect any materials covered by attorney/client privilege. He was, of course, serving as a personal attorney for former President Trump during much of his administration.

But now, that more than several sources are unlocked, sources familiar with the investigation tell CNN that could speed up the review and ultimately lead to a quick decision over whether the former mayor of New York will face criminal charges.

So, unless new information comes to light that leads to new roots for authorities to pursue, federal prosecutors are likely, Wolf, to decide whether to bring charges as soon as all the review on these devices is complete.

BLITZER: Significant development, indeed.

Paula Reid with all the latest information. Paula, thank you very much. I appreciate it very, very much. We'll stay on top of this story.

I'm Wolf Blitzer in THE SITUATION ROOM.

"ERIN BURNETT OUFRONT" starts right now.