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Critical Week in War as Russia Makes Gains; Mariupol's Last Defenders Under Relentless Russian Attack; FDA Advisers to Meet in June on Vaccines for Young Kids; CNN Obtains New Text Messages Showing Sean Hannity Advising Trump White House and Seeking Direction. Aired 6-7p ET

Aired April 29, 2022 - 18:00   ET



JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas and Republican Governor Asa Hutchinson of Arkansas, that's Sunday morning at 9:00 Eastern and noon on CNN.

Our coverage continues now with one Mr. Wolf Blitzer in a place I like to call The Situation Room. I'll see you Monday.

WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: Happening now. Heavy shelling right now, in eastern Ukraine, as Russian forces make new gains at this -- the close of a critical week in the war.

To the south, in Mariupol, the city's last defenders are under -- they are under relentless attack right now. The besieged Steel Plant, where hundreds of civilians are also trapped, including babies. We are following an urgent push to evacuate and strong fears of a new attempt by Russia to storm the complex.

Also, tonight, we are learning more about the first-known American killed fighting in this war, alongside the Ukrainians. How many other U.S. fighters are risking their lives in Ukraine right now?

Our correspondents are standing by on the ground in Ukraine, with refugees in Poland and with President Biden over at the White House.

We want to welcome our viewers here in the United States, and around the world. I'm Wolf Blitzer. You are in The Situation Room.

Tonight, Russia is making slow but alarming new progress in this, the tenth week, of its brutal war against Ukraine. Officials in Kyiv, Moscow and here in Washington, they are now digging in for this bloody conflict potentially to last three years.

CNN's Anderson Cooper is standing by in the Ukrainian capital for us. Kaitlan Collins is over at the White House. We will go live to them in just moments. But, first, there is growing concern about the fate of the last holdouts in the besieged city of Mariupol, as CNN's Jim Sciutto reports from the war zone.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) JIM SCIUTTO, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL SECURITY CORREPONDENT (voice over): Hundreds of civilians, including children, still trapped in a Mariupol steel plant tonight after Russia blocked Ukraine's latest attempt to rescue them. The plant is the last Ukrainian military holdout in the embattled city and an official says that Russian have closed off an area near the complex for now, potentially ahead of another attempt to storm the plant.

SERGEI ORLOV, DEPUTY MAYOR OF MARIUPOL, UKRAINE: There is lack of everything, lack of water, food, lack of medicine, lack of any social help. So, they need to be humanitarianly evacuated as soon as possible.

SCIUTTO: Mariupol's mayor now claims more than 600 people in total injured after a bombing Wednesday night that hit a makeshift-military hospital inside the complex. A Military commander inside the plant spoke with CNN.

MAJ. SERHIY VOLYNA, COMMANDER, UKRAINE'S 86TH SEPARATE MARINE BRIGADE: The situation is critical. It is beyond the humanitarian catastrophe. We cannot tell you for sure how long we can hold on for. That all depends onto enemy' movements and also on luck.

SCIUTTO: Humanitarian corridors for Mariupol were one of the items U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres lobbied for in his visits with Presidents Putin and Zelenskyy this week. But while he was meeting with Zelenskyy Thursday in Kyiv, several Russian missiles struck.

The attack shattered the relative calm in the capital. One blast killed a Ukrainian journalist in her apartment. Ukraine's foreign minister called it, quote, a heinous act of barbarism.

Russians are now making incremental progress in Eastern Ukraine. This video shows extensive shelling of an important railway hub and supply line for Ukrainian troops, a key railway bridge destroy as well. U.S.

intelligence see's Russia making improvements to fix some of the problems that plagued the military in the early weeks of the invasion.

JOHN KIRBY, PENTAGON PRESS SECRETARY: They are trying very hard to overcome the challenges they had in the north by making sure logistics and sustainment can keep up with the movement of troops, but the Ukrainians are fighting back hard and making it hard for them to make any progress.

SCIUTTO: A fuel depot was attacked overnight in the Donetsk region controlled by Russian-backed forces. And Ukrainian officials say a town in the northeast near Kharkiv has been recaptured.

Jim Sciutto, CNN, Lviv, Ukraine.


BLITZER: Jim Sciutto, thank you very much.

Let's go live right now to Kyiv still reeling from the first Russian strikes on the city in weeks. CNN's Anderson Cooper is in the Ukrainian capital for us.

Anderson, you are joining us now live. I know you interviewed the mayor of Kyiv earlier today. What did he tell you about yesterday's strikes by the Russians and the continuing threat to the Ukrainian capital?

ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: He was a little less diplomatic. And the Ukrainian official whose tweet you just showed there. He said that the strike that took place here in Kyiv yesterday while the secretary here, was essentially a middle finger by Vladimir Putin to not only the secretary-general but to the international community and to Ukraine.


As you know as, Jim, was reporting, one person was killed in that strike, as many as ten were injured. It hit near an apartment complex. The first two stories of that building engulfed in flames. It took rescuers about an hour to put out. But it is a reminder I think to everybody here in Kyiv that the danger, even though that the phase -- called phase two of Russia's invasion is happening really in the east, the danger here in Kyiv, and really anywhere in Ukraine remains, Wolf.

BLITZER: It certainly does. Anderson, I know you had a chance to finally meet face-to-face with a mother who has been speaking to you throughout all of this conflict. She is in a basement. She's been sheltering there. What was that like?

COOPER: Yes. Her name is Olena Gnes. She is a mom of three. Her husband joined territorial defenses here in Kyiv. And she has been trying to take care of her kids. She has been, pretty much every night, in a basement shelter.

Even now that Kyiv is not under direct attack as freakily as it was before, she still goes to the shelter every night. But we visited her in her apartment where she spends the days and then goes to the shelter at night. Here is some of what she told me about she and her kids have been through over this last two months.


OLENA GNES, UKRAINIAN SHELTERING IN KYIV: Now in the first weeks, I put many phone numbers on their bodies. Like I put my phone number, my husband's phone number, my sister's phone number. And then --

COOPER: You would actually draw it on their skin?

GNES: Yes. I just wrote this on the bodies, on the hands, (INAUDIBLE) from the hands. Like okay, if I die, then okay, if Sergei die, okay, have another phone number of my sister. My sister is in Kyiv. Okay, so who else can take care of them? Okay, I will put like their grandmother. She's in Odessa, maybe she will survive.

COOPER: You had to think about that?

GNES: I -- and this is what many mothers did here. BLITZER: Do you feel safe now?

GNES: No, I don't. Of course, I am not like crying all the time anymore. I can sleep right now at night. I can eat food, which I couldn't in the beginning, but I do not feel safe right now because the sky is not closed. And this air attack can happen at any time, in any place of Ukraine, so there is nowhere safe in Ukraine.


COOPER: Nowhere is safe here. And as you know, Wolf, people are being encouraged to limit the use of cars to save on gasoline, to make sure that there is enough gasoline for the military whenever they need it, Wolf.

BLITZER: Anderson Cooper in Kyiv for us, Anderson, stay safe. We will be in touch. Thank you very, very much, another heartbreaking story, indeed.

Let's go to the White House right now, where top officials are bracing for the possibility of a face-to-face showdown between President Biden and Vladimir Putin.

Our Chief White House Correspondent Kaitlan Collins is joining us right now. Kaitlan, the Russian leader just accepted Indonesia's invitation to attend the upcoming G20 Summit in Indonesia, in November. What are you learning?

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: It is raising so many questions for the White House, Wolf, because it puts them in this position of what do they do. Now that Putin today has accepted this invitation to go to the massive summit with other world leaders hosted in Indonesia, by Indonesia. So, of course, they are still extending that invitation and have not rescinded it despite this ongoing invasion of Ukraine.

And President Biden has said he wants Putin and Russia kicked out of the G20. He says though, he will still attend, if Ukraine is invited and goes. They've been invited, of course, Wolf, it is not clear whether or not Ukraine will actually attend this summit but it raises so many questions fort president and his team about what do they do given the possibility, of course, in just a few months from now if Putin and President Biden being in the same room together.

And so they say that they have not made a decision on that yet. They say it is still six months out before they have to make a decision about whether or not President Biden is actually going to attend or whether or not he boycotts the G20 summit.

Though we should note, Wolf, that we have been talking about this request for Congress to aid Ukraine, to fund them and give them more weapons. That's for the next five months. But it gives you an indication of how long the White House does expect this invasion, this war in Ukraine to continue going on.

And we should also note it comes, Wolf, as the Pentagon is getting more and more blunt by the day in how they are talking about Putin and what he is doing in Ukraine.


KIRBY: It's difficult to look at the -- sorry. It's difficult to look at some of the images and imagine that any well-thinking, serious, mature leader would do that. So, I can't talk to his psychology but I think we can all speak to his depravity.


COLLINS: Those are strong words, Wolf, from John Kirby who you know very well does not get emotional often when talking like that. He did today.


He later apologized for the emotion that it was in his voice. But it's clear, of course, how he feels and that echoes with so many people here at the White House feel about what is happening in Ukraine. And that is why it makes questions about whether or not Biden is going to go to this G20 summit that Putin says today he will attend in November makes them just that important, Wolf.

BLITZER: Yes. I have known Retired Admiral John Kirby for a long time. He certainly does not need to apologize for showing some emotion. It is so, so heartbreaking just to see these stories unfold. Thanks very much, Kaitlan, for that report.

Just ahead, a former-U.S. Marine becomes the first-known American to die fighting in this war in Ukraine. Stand by. We have got new information for you.



BLITZER: Breaking news tonight, President Biden just speaking out moments ago about the first-known death of an American fighting in this war in Ukraine. The president is saying, and I am quoting him now, it's very sad, he left a little baby behind.

CNN's Brian Todd is working the story for us. Brian, his name is Willy Cancel. He is a former U.S. Marine. What other information are you learning about him?

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, Willy Cancel's mother spoke to CNN and said he was killed Monday. We have new details tonight on the circumstances surrounding this young man's deployment to Ukraine, some of which are still a mystery.


TODD (voice over): He is a 22-year-old American and leaves behind a wife and seven-month-old baby. Former-U.S. Marine Willy Joseph Cancel killed on the battlefield in Ukraine. That is according to Cancel's mother, who spoke to CNN. Neither Cancel's mother nor U.S. officials, could provide information on how or where Cancel was killed.

JEN PSAKI, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: We know a family is mourning. A wife is mourning. And our hearts are with them.

TODD: Cancel's mother tells CNN he was working a full-time job as a corrections officer in Tennessee when he signed up to work for a private military contracting company shortly before the Ukraine war broke out.

When the conflict began, she says, Cancel agreed to go. He flew to Poland on March 12th and crossed into Ukraine shortly thereafter. She says he was being paid while he was fighting there.

DOUGLAS OLLIVANT, FORMER ARMED CONTRACTOR AFGHANISTAN: That is a horse of a different color than his being directly in some kind of Ukrainian-foreign legion. And that begs the question, who is the client of this private contracting company? Is it for the government of Ukraine?

TODD: No immediate answers to those questions tonight. And U.S. officials say they don't have an exact count of how many Americans are fighting in Ukraine. A Ukrainian defense official told CNN in early March, that at that time, more than 20,000 people from more than 50 countries had express a desire to join the fight.

CNN has interviewed some Americans who volunteered. Former T.V. Analyst Malcolm Nance described fighting in a special Ukrainian unit called the International Legion.

MALCOLM NANCE, JOINED UKRAINE'S ARMED FORCES: It is not just people running around, grabbing rifles and going on the battlefield. It is a unified force that is a component of the Ukrainian army that is deployed on the battle front.

TODD: But another American fighting there, James Vasquez, told CNN he was moving around loosely.

JAMES VASQUEZ, U.S. COMBAT VETERAN FIGHTING IN UKRAINE: Right now, I am pretty much a ghost. Me and a British soldier, him and I, have been kind of like going unit to unit, where we are needed the most.

TODD: Tonight, U.S. officials are again warning Americans don't go to Ukraine to fight.

KIRBY: This is an active war zone. This is not the place to be traveling to.

TODD: State Department officials say Russian forces could single out Americans fighting in Ukraine. One official warning that captured Americans could be subject to, quote, heightened risk of mistreatment.

OLLIVANT: And it is not hard to imagine a situation, in which a captured American is tortured, is executed on the battlefield or is just sent back to Moscow to be some type of pawn for political exchange.


TODD (on camera): At the time she spoke to CNN, Willy Cancel's mother said the people who notified her of his death said his body had not yet been found. She said the men who were with him were trying to recover Cancel's body but that it was simply too dangerous. Wolf?

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

And joining us now, the State Department counselor, Derek Chollet. Derek, thanks so much for joining us.

Fist, I just want to get your reaction to the death of this 22-year- old American, a former U.S. Marine, who was fighting in Ukraine against the Russians. What is your reaction to that?

DEREK CHOLLET, CONSELOR TO THE U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE: Well, this is very, very tragic, Wolf. It is a terrible loss of life. It's a reminder that Ukraine -- this is a war. It is a very dangerous place. Understand the altruistic motives of this person who went to go fight in Ukraine but this is something that Americans should not be doing.

American citizens should not be going to Ukraine. It is very dangerous. There are other ways that Americans can contribute to this effort. But our thoughts are very much with his family and his friends and we are standing by to assist him in any way possible here at the State Department.

BLITZER: Yes. And he obviously wanted to do good but, sadly, he got killed in of the process.


BLITZER: President Biden, as you know, rejects the idea that Ukraine has become what is called a proxy war between the U.S. and Russia but could Putin seize on Americans fighting in Ukraine to make that case?

CHOLLET: Well, I think Putin is going to seize on any pretext he can to try to justify any unjustifiable and brutal invasion. President Biden has been very clear that we, the United States government, will do whatever we can to support the Ukraine in people and support the government of Ukraine in this fight.

That's why President Biden just yesterday asked Congress for another $30 billion in assistance for Ukraine. $20 billion of that will be for security and defense needs. So we are standing by and prepared to do whatever we can to support Ukraine.


And I think the American people also are standing up and supporting Ukraine, Ukrainian refugees, and also the Ukrainian humanitarian needs which are profound at this moment.

BLITZER: They certainly are. If you just look at the video, look at the pictures. It is heartbreaking to see what is going on over there. CHOLLET: Absolutely.

BLITZER: Putin, as you know, Derek, has now accepted a formal invitation to attend the G20 Summit in Bali, Indonesia in November. Can President Biden participate in the G20 when he is called for Russia to actually be ousted from the G20 altogether?

CHOLLET: Well, Wolf, as you said, President Biden made very clear several weeks ago that he believes that it cannot be business as usual with Russia and that Vladimir Putin should not be able to attend the G20.

Now, this is not the United States' call to make alone and President Biden made that clear. And he said if President Putin were to attend the G20, that President Zelenskyy should also have the opportunity to attend as well. As you said, this is some ways off. This is a summit in November, but President Biden remains clear that it should not be business as usual with Russia given the brutality that we are seeing every day that they are conducting Ukraine.

BLITZER: And we know the Indonesians have invited President Zelenskyy as well to attend. If President Zelenskyy goes, do you think the president of the United States should attend?

CHOLLET: Well, all I can say, Wolf, is what the president himself has said, which he believes that President Putin shouldn't be able to attend. That if President Putin were to attend, the Indonesians as the hosts can decide this, that President Zelenskyy of Ukraine should be able to go. Again, this is a summit in November so it is a ways off. So, we've got a lot of time, between now and then.

BLITZER: NATO has been forced in recent days to scramble fighter jets multiple times, in fact just over the past four days alone, to intercept Russian' aircraft flying near NATO airspace. The longer this war goes on, Derek, is there a risk that -- the risk growing of a direct U.S.-Russia confrontation?

CHOLLET: Well, Wolf, this is war and there are many, many risks involved. Russia is pushing the envelope every day, and we have seen errant missiles flying around, hitting various -- missing their targets in Ukraine, hitting civilian areas in Ukraine.

And NATO has been very clear, very steadfast throughout this crisis, and the United States has been very clear and steadfast, that we will defend every inch of NATO' territory. President Biden has been clear from the outset that we will do so.

The United States has flown a significant amount of force into the eastern flank of NATO to help support and bolster NATO, about 100,000 U.S. troops there now. There is an important NATO summit coming up in June, in Madrid, which will be I think another demonstration of NATO solidarity and unity and, again, we will defend every inch of NATO territory.

BLITZER: State Department Counselor, Derek Chollet, Derek, thank you so much for joining us. CHOLLET: Thanks, Wolf, for having me. I appreciate it.

BLITZER: I appreciate it very much.

Coming up, forensic experts are heading to Ukraine as part of an investigation into alleged war crimes. I will speak, live, with the chief prosecutor of the International Criminal Court. That's next.



BLITZER: This hour, we are getting new accounts of the damages, the injuries, the anger in Kyiv after Russia attacked the capital city of Ukraine during the U.N. secretary-general's visit there earlier this week. The Kyiv mayor likening the attack to Russia giving Ukraine the middle finger. Survivors of the new missile strikes are also sharing their personal stories.

Here is CNN's Matt Rivers in Kyiv.


MATT RIVERS, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice over): It had been weeks of relative quiet in Kyiv but a couple bangs and a plume of black smoke quickly changed that. Ukraine and Russia both confirming cruise missiles were fired into a central district of Kyiv on Thursday evening, near miles a0way from where the U.N. secretary-general had just wrap pd up a meeting with President Zelenskyy.

Rescuers worked through the night, and in the morning, a clearer picture emerged about what happened. With this apartment complex shredded by shrapnel, leaving those in the neighborhood shaken.

This wall saved my life, she says. Otherwise, it would have been the end. There was a lot of fire. I could see everything was burning. I was so scared, it was horror. She said she only survived because she wasn't sitting next to the window.

Her son, Alexei's hands bloodied. He says a clap, a blast, then panic. That's it. I didn't see it, until later, I saw my hand was covered in blood.

The mother and son survived, while others affected by the strike did not. A 54-year-old Vera Girich, a Ukrainian journalist, lived here, having just returned to her home about a week ago. No one had heard from her all night, so friends kept trying to call her. Her ringing cell phone led rescuers to her body this morning.

I have no words, says this friend, no tears left, I have no energy to cry. Only a few days ago, she was asking how she could help me because my house burned down. And now no one can help her.

Russia's Ministry of Defense says they were aiming for a factory right nearby here that is one of Ukraine's top producers of air-to-air guided missiles, as well as aircraft parts. We can't show you that factory due to Ukrainian law.

The factory was damaged in the strike but so was the apartment complex just behind it, yet another example of Russia targeting places with supposed military relevance but killing ordinary civilians in the process.

Vera's body was taken out of the building mid-day on Friday.


The victim of an attack President Zelenskyy said proves, quote, one cannot relax yet. One cannot think that the war is over. We still need to fight.


RIVERS (on camera): And, Wolf, President Zelenskyy acknowledging the death of that journalist, saying she is the 23rd member of the media that has been killed during this war.

Meanwhile, as people continue to come back here to Kyiv, and those numbers have increased the past several weeks despite Ukrainian authorities saying that it is not quite safe enough to return, you have to wonder if these missile strikes will give people pause as they wonder whether to return home to Kyiv after fleeing in the earlier part of the war. Wolf?

BLITZER: Matt Rivers reporting from Kyiv, stay safe over there, Matt.

Thank you very much. Outside of Kyiv in Bucha, investigators are gathering evidence of potential Russian' war crimes. A Ukrainian prosecutor shared these graphic and very disturbing photos with CNN taken in real time during mass killings in Bucha earlier this year. Multiple organizations are looking into atrocities in Ukraine.

Joining us now, the Chief Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court, Karim Khan. Karim, thank you so much for joining us. Thanks for all your doing.

I know you have been meeting with top officials here in the United States, as well as at the United Nations. Sharing the information you have gathered in Ukraine and Bucha and elsewhere. But your messages to Russia, I understand, have gone completely unanswered. What would you say to Putin as these atrocities clearly mount?

KARIM ASAD AHMAD KHAN, CHIEF PROSECUTOR, INTERNATIONAL CRIMINAL COURT: Well, what I will say to all sides is that there are basic principles of law, international humanitarian law, that are not optional, that all sides, all parties to a conflict must comply with. And the cost of not compliance, of course, are human casualties, destruction of property, massive insecurity and trauma but also, there is a criminal jurisdiction involved, namely International Criminal Court.

And I am open to speaking with all parties but there are these basic parameters of conduct that we have to adhere to.

BLITZER: I am told, Karim, that next week you will be deploying some 30 forensic experts to Ukraine. What exactly is their mission?

KHAN: Well, there's 30 forensic expert, forensic scientists, crime scene experts, technological experts, and others, and they have, in fact, been provided by -- to my office, by the Kingdom of the Netherlands.

So, it is this partnership that we are building trying to use resources across the various situation of the court and to gather evidence. Because as I said, previously, Ukraine is a crime scene, and we can't establish it by interviews or by utterances, we need real evidence, ballistic evidence, testimonial electronic evidence, satellite evidence and other evidence that can be obtained on the battlefield and soon thereafter.

So, we want to collect it, analyze it and see what actually is shown. And if there are crimes committed within the court's jurisdiction to find out who is responsible and then present that evidence to independent judges for juridical determination.

BLITZER: You've just said Ukraine is a crime scene right now, but how do you try to investigate potential war crimes, Karim, in places like Mariupol, for example, where there is essentially zero access?

KHAN: Well, you're absolutely right. I mean, Mariupol is inaccessible. But still with satellite evidence and other evidence, even some of the pictures that coming in from the ground. Evidence may be preserved and what is being received can be, again, subject to evidential scrutiny for authenticity and the like.

But there are places that we can access. I have been twice already to Ukraine, to Lviv, to Kyiv, I have been to Bucha, Borodyanka. The forensic experts and my team on the previous missions have been to other locations. So, everything is interconnected. It is about breaking it down, seeing what happened, why it happened and who is responsible. And we will get to other areas, I am sure, in due course.

But the basic principle has to be, Wolf, that, you know, there is basic norms that have be complied with. And this is not about politics. That's the important point. And it is not about east and west. It is about do we value, collectively, these -- the rights of women and children not to live in terror for civilian objects and not to be targeted?

And if we don't, things are going to get worse and I think, for me at least and I think for the office. The law is more relevant now than ever. And that's been evidenced by the really significant support within 48 hours of my invitation to states to refer the matter to the court. We had 39 states. We have 43 in total now. 43 states all parts of the world, Asia, like Japan, from Chile, Costa Rica, Colombia, have referred the matter to the court, as well as most European countries.


And I think now, more than ever, we need to cling onto the law to make sure that these basic principles are not viewed as the preserve of lawyers in our gowns in The Hague or judges but they are the common heritage of mankind and are valuable and meaningful to the people who we see on the streets, women whose apartments have been bombed, or children that are shivering in subways or people -- refugees, this caravan of humanity that are going to Poland and other locations uncertain about what tomorrow will bring.

And if we can mobilize the law and make it relevant now, hopefully, it can mitigate the worse horrors that are yet to come. And if not, at least we've done our job to look for accountability so that the right to life and the right for human dignity are not confined to council chambers in New York or to courts in The Hague but actually rendered ever more effective and that must be the aim.

BLITZER: It certainly must be. Karim Khan, thanks so much for joining us. Karim is the chief prosecutor of the International Criminal Court working on the alleged war crimes being committed by the Russians right now in Ukraine.

And stay with CNN later tonight for a close look at a behind-the- scenes situation unfolding in Russia. The CNN film Navalny takes viewers inside the investigation into the brazen assassination attempt against the Russian-opposition leader, Alexei Navalny. That is tonight 9:00 P.M. Eastern only here on CNN.

Just ahead, the reality of life as a refugee that millions of Ukrainians are now facing in Poland.

Plus, COVID vaccines for young children could be just a few weeks away. We have got new information. We are getting details from Moderna's chief medical officer who is standing by live. We will be right back.



BLITZER: The United Nations is now reporting that almost five and a five and a half million people have fled Russia's totally-unprovoked invasion of Ukraine, and the majority of those refugees are now in Poland. CNN Anchor and National Correspondent Erica Hill is in Warsaw for us tonight.


ERICA HILL, CNN ANCHOR (voice over): From coffee to clothes, laundry to day care, two months into this crisis, refugee shelters like this one outside Warsaw have found their rhythm, offering a place to rest and regroup, while people try to determine what and where is next.

We will go back to our home of Melitopol, this dad tells me, if it is under the Ukrainian flag. They left two weeks ago, making their way to Warsaw, to Crimea and Russia.

You were able to leave with your family. Do you want to go fight for Ukraine?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, I left with my family, but to fight? I don't know. It's a difficult question for me. I can't answer.

HILL: There is so much that can't be answered, including how long this will last. The need is massive. There are volunteers working in this space 24/7 to deal with all the donations but if needed, they could push all this back to accommodate more beds and as many as 6,000 refugees.

Currently, they're averaging 3,000 people a night, but officials say there is no way to know what the numbers will be from one day to the next.

Alla, fled with her mother and two young daughters at the start of the war. Now, she is one of several psychologists volunteering to help those who just arrived. Increasingly, they are from the hardest-hit areas.

ALLA LYKOVA, PSYCHOLOGIST, UKRAINIAN REFUGEES: There are no easy stories here. Either, you spent a month in the basement or ran from shelling, or don't know when you can go back. You don't have anything here.

HILL: Making simple moments all the more important. The goal is to make this space as comfortable as possible. Yet the truth is no matter how warm or welcoming, no one wants to be here. They'd rather be back home.


HILL (on camera): The reality is no one knows, Wolf, how long the shelter will be needed but just to give you a further sense of the scale of this operation. You saw the washing machines that were brought in. Showers were brought in, as well. In a month, they get to six tons of toilet paper and half a million coffee cups, Wolf.

BLITZER: Amazing what the Polish people are doing and receiving all these Ukrainian refugees. Please say, dziekuje, thank you, to them on behalf of all our viewers. We are all grateful. Thanks very much, Erica Hill reporting from Warsaw.

Coming up, COVID vaccines for the youngest Americans could get a green light in a matter of only a few weeks from now. We are going to talk about it with the chief medical officer of vaccine maker, Moderna, when we come back.



BLITZER: American children under age 5 could be eligible for COVID-19 vaccinations as soon as June. The FDA announced today that its advisers are scheduled to meet to discuss updates to the emergency-use authorizations of both the Moderna and Pfizer vaccines.

Let's get some more now from Moderna's chief-medical officer, Dr. Paul Burton, who is joining us live. Dr. Burton, thank you so much for joining us. As you know, there --

there was some worry regulators would wait until they could give -- give the green light to, both, Moderna and Pfizer, basically at the same time. Has Moderna been given any assurances that the authorization that you are seeking won't be postponed?

DR. PAUL BURTON, MODERNA CHIEF MEDICAL OFFICER: So good evening, Wolf, thanks for having me. Look, we have heard the comments from Dr. Marks this week. There is clearly unmet need here, public health need. The FDA will do a very thorough review as they always do and move quickly. So I am confident that that he will -- they'll move fast here.

BLITZER: So, for the parents who have been waiting for this news, how well will this new vaccine that you are seeking emergency-use authorization for protect these kids? And what are the side effects, potentially, that parents should be aware of?

BURTON: Yeah. So, Wolf, when we looked at safety in this study, it was very reassuring and the effect of safety events in this age group, 6 month old to 6 year olds, was even lower than we see in 6 to 11 years.


Injection site pains and some fever were common side effects but rates of high fever over 104 degrees only seen in 0.2 percent of the kids here, typically we see rates of 1 percent for other vaccines. And when we look at effectiveness we looked at antibody levels and wanted to see if we could get antibody levels in these kids to the levels we see in 18 to 24-year-olds and that's exactly what we found so when you take all the data together, Wolf, it's such a positive result.

BLITZER: Because we're told the Moderna vaccine is 51 percent effective among kids six month to see two years old, but only 37 percent effective among kids two to five. What do you say to parents who see those numbers and wonder if it's still worth it to get their kids this vaccine?

BURTON: Yes, absolutely, look, it's a great question. So what we found is vaccine effectiveness against symptomatic COVID was as you say, about 50 percent. First of all, that means that this vaccine will half your child's risk of getting symptomatic COVID.

When we look at vaccine effectiveness, data came out in adults in the United Kingdom yesterday, it comes out every week, at the same time point about 10 weeks after the second dose, against omicron, we see vaccine effectiveness of about 50 percent for symptomatic disease so exactly what we saw in this study. But what we also see, wolf, is vaccine effectiveness against hospitalization but between 85 to 95 percent.

So the number of 50 percent vaccine effectiveness against symptomatic disease because we're up against omicron, but we still see 85 to 95 percent protection because of that excellent antibody level for hospitalization. So that's very reassuring.

BLITZER: We know you're proposing a two dose Moderna vaccine regiment but suspect ultimately, kids will have to get another booster.

BURTON: I think the natural history with this virus throughout the pandemic has been the additional doses will need to keep antibodies level up so I would predict we will need something either in the winter of this year or even early next year, even from these youngest kids and we're certainly studying that as well now.

BLITZER: I know you are.

All right. Dr. Paul Burton, thank you so much for joining us. Good luck with this new vaccine, for these kids. We know a lot of parents are anxious to get their kids vaccinated. Thank you so, so much.

Up next, newly revealed text messages now show Fox's Sean Hannity advising the Trump White House in seeking direction. We have a CNN exclusive report when we come back.



BLITZER: Now, a CNN exclusive, newly revealed text messages showing Fox's Sean Hannity communicating directly with White House chief of staff Mark Meadows dozens of times in the wake of the Trump election defeat.

CNN special correspondent Jamie Gangel is here in THE SITUATION ROOM with her exclusive reporting.

Jamie, what are you learning?

JAMIE GANGEL, CNN SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT: They actually texted 82 times. So, Sean Hannity was a frequent texter and what it really shows you is a glimpse behind the scenes of two men who are so close to Donald Trump and what they're saying in real time. After the election, leading up to January 6th.

On Election Day, Hannity is all-in. He texts Meadows, you know, where do you need to get out the vote? Meadows gives him a couple of states and Hannity replies, yes, sir.

But by December, Hannity sounds worried. Worried the White House counsel may resign. He's worried about what's coming with January 6th and he's also worried about what he calls, quote, the fringe, fighting for Trump.

Here's a section of a text, December 22nd, Sean Hannity, hey my friend, how are you doing, mark meadows? Fighting like crazy, went to Cobb County to review process. Very tough days but I'll keep fighting.

Sean Hannity, you fighting is fine, the f'ing lunatics is not fine. They are not helping him. I'm fed up with those people.

You see, in real time what they think about, what's going on, with the fringe and Trump and also they're moving on.

BLITZER: What was Sean Hannity's message as the January 6th attack on the U.S. Capitol was unfolding?

GANGEL: Right. So like many of Trump's inner circle's staunchest allies, Sean Hannity is reaching out to meadows to try to get Trump to stop the violence, right? Here we go on January 6th, Sean Hannity, can he make a statement? I saw the tweet. Ask people to peacefully leave the Capitol, Mark Meadows on it, Hannity, what, WTH, what the heck is happening with the POTUS? It's one of the few mentions of Pence.

I just want to underscore, peacefully leave the Capitol, the word leave. I'm told that is critical to the January 6th committee for their investigation that all this time Trump would tell people to leave, Wolf.

BLITZER: Very excellent reporting as usual.

GANGEL: Thank you.

BLITZER: Jamie Gangel reporting for us, thank you for that exclusive. Appreciate it very much.

And to our viewers, thanks very much for watching. I'm Wolf Blitzer in THE SITUATION ROOM.

"ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT" starts right now.