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The Situation Room
Ukrainian Battlefield In Flux As Finland Makes Moves To Join NATO; White House Officially Marks 1 Million U.S. COVID Deaths; January 6 Committee Subpoenas Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-CA), Four Other GOP Lawmakers; Russia Vows Retaliation As Finland Moves To Join NATO; Biden Speaks With Manufacturers As Baby Formula Shortage Grows. Aired 6-7p ET
Aired May 12, 2022 - 18:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
JAKE TAPPER, CNN ANCHOR (voice over): 1 million Americans gone, so much lost.
TAPPER (on camera): I'm so sorry, may the memories be a blessing.
Our coverage continues now with Wolf Blitzer in THE SITUATION ROOM.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Happening now, the battlefield in Ukraine in constant flux tonight as Vladimir Putin's historic miscalculation comes into sharper focus. Finland just took a key step toward joining NATO. Ukrainian President Zelenskyy's chief of staff will join me to discuss this hour.
Here in the United States, President Biden marks a heartbreaking milestone, 1 million Americans dead during the COVID pandemic. 1 million died from COVID. I'll speak live this hour with Dr. Anthony Fauci.
And there are major new developments in the January 6th investigation. The select committee issuing subpoenas just now to five Republican lawmakers, including the House minority leader, Kevin McCarthy.
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.
We begin our coverage tonight with the latest battlefield developments in Ukraine. CNN's Nick Paton Walsh is standing by in Kharkiv, where Kremlin forces are in retreat, and CNN's Nic Robertson is in the Finnish capital of Helsinki, as that country moves one step closer to joining NATO.
First, let's go to Nick Paton Walsh in Northern Ukraine. Nick, Putin's troops are falling back toward the Russian border where you are and you got a firsthand look at the carnage they left behind. NICK PATON WALSH, CNN INTERNATIONAL SECURITY EDITOR: Yes, Wolf. Startling, frankly, to imagine that now, what, three weeks into this supposed second phase Russian reset of his campaign in the east, to the north of Kharkiv, a Russian-speaking city so close to its actual borders, they are rapidly in retreat and leaving behind them some devastatingly ugly scenes.
WALSH (voice over): The quiet pines around the east of Kharkiv are slowly revealing their trauma. The Kremlin is being pushed back so fast we are only nine miles from their border. But being closer to the mother land that Russia absurdly claims it is offered no mercy to these civilians.
As they liberate village after village, pushing Russian forces back towards their own border, this sort of atrocity, frankly, that they keep coming across. This car hit by a tank shell as the convoy fled. The troops from the Kharkiv city territorial defense tell us the intensity of the fire no match for the innocence of those on board.
A 13-year-old girl and three adults killed by Russian troops here in early May, said Ukrainian officials.
Are you saying the concentration of bullets is on the driver's side and the passenger door behind showing gunmen who knew what they were doing?
Just up the road, two Russian corpses that lay here now buried, but for days, they sat with their prayer books and sleeping bags and grenades in the spring sun. Their aging armored derailed by a single rocket propelled grenade, we're told.
This fresh convoy fleeing of village of Ravishne up the river further evidence Ukraine is pushing towards Russia's fragile supply lines from across the border.
Up on the hill, a rare sight, a modern Russian T-90 tank. These drone images show its destruction.
One of Russia's newest tanks, kind of the pride, really, of this invading force, what was left of it. But the big concern here is they're hearing a drone above us. And while we don't know if that's Ukrainian or Russian, we got to keep moving.
You could not be much closer to Russia here. Yet still these tiny pine idles feel brutalized, trapped in an endless fight. Some of those who remain seem unaware of the details of their occupation and liberation. That does not mean they are unshaken.
Disbelief here that Russian savagery from across the border now eclipsed by how fast it has retreated back towards it.
(END VIDEOTAPE) WALSH (on camera): Now, Ukrainian official said today what we saw evidence of there and those people fleeing that they have reclaimed villages further north of where we were standing, further northeast, in fact, towards vital parts of Russia's supply line into its troops into Ukraine.
Conversely, I should point out, too, that Ukrainian officials have said further south in the east, they are losing territory in some areas to Russia. But, frankly, this is not the big successful reset Putin was hoping for by any stretch of the imagination. In fact, the progress is devastatingly slow if not nonexistent in most of its front lines here. And yet more bad news today, Snake Island, from where the phrase, Russian ship go yourself, which has become so common amongst Ukrainians here, emerged the defiant statements against a Russian ship that initially obliterated that Ukrainian naval outpost has been overtaken by Russians.
More than bad news, though, Ukrainian officials claiming that a Russian supply ship there, the Vsevolod Bobrov, has been seen on fire and is now being towed to Sevastopol. Remember, that's all part of the broad pattern of devastating blows it seems against Russia's naval forces there. Although they're unclear at this stage what's happened to that particular ship.
But, Wolf, this is not a successful reset, and certainly north of Kharkiv, Russia is being pushed back fast towards its own border where, frankly, its resupply and replenishing resources should be so easy. Wolf?
BLITZER: Nick Paton Walsh on the scene for us in Kharkiv, in Ukraine, Nick, thank you very much.
Let's go to CNN's Nic Robertson right now. He's on the scene for us in Helsinki, Finland. Nick, the Finnish president and the Finnish prime minister, they both announced their support for joining NATO today. This move by Finland and potentially Sweden as well would be a major expansion of the NATO alliance. Russia says it's a threat and Russia says it's vowing to retaliate. Give us the latest.
NIC ROBERTSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL DIPLOMATIC EDITOR: Yes. What the prime minister and the president said today was that if Finland joins NATO, that makes -- gives Finland more security, that when Finland joins NATO, that will give greater strength to NATO and that the government should move without delay. And the government is expected to recommend to parliament on Sunday that the parliament goes ahead and votes. So, this is very much this huge geopolitical shift under way.
Russia is threatening to watch the military moves Finland makes along the border and is vowing to take retaliatory action, military action if they feel the need to do that. The president of Finland has said, however, that what Vladimir Putin is witnessing happening in Finland, this move towards NATO, is something of its own making. This is how the Finnish president framed it.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) SAULI NIINISTO, FINNISH PRESIDENT: Well, if that would be the case that we join, what my response would be that you caused this. Look at the mirror.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ROBERTSON: Well, one of the M.P.s, the members of parliament in the prime minister's party told us yesterday that if the 200 parliamentarians who will get to vote, next week, he expects more than 180 to vote in favor of joining NATO. So, this seems very much a foregone conclusion and Sweden expected to follow in very short order as well. Indeed, the Finnish president is going to Sweden on Tuesday and the announcements could come from both countries on the same day, Wolf.
BLITZER: Very significant developments, indeed. Nic Robertson on the scene for us in Helsinki, Finland, Nic, thank you.
Just ahead, a milestone that one seemed unimaginable. We'll speak one- on-one with Dr. Fauci about the White House today marking 1 million American COVID deaths here in the United States. We'll be right back.
BLITZER: Just a short time ago, the House speaker, Nancy Pelosi, led 15 House Democrats along with staff in a moment of silence marking 1 million American deaths from COVID.
Let's discuss this grim milestone, the chief medical adviser to President Biden, Dr. Anthony Fauci, is joining us. He's the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases. Dr. Fauci. Thank you so much for joining us.
Did you ever think you'd see this moment, the flag at the White House flying half-staff marking 1 million Americans dead from this virus over the past two years?
DR. ANTHONY FAUCI, DIRECTOR, NATIONAL INSTITUTE OF ALLERGY AND INFECTIOUS DISEASES: Well, the answer to that, Wolf, is, no. I mean, this is really unimaginable but unfortunately true. You know, back about a year or more ago when we were talking about the potential for this catastrophic pandemic, I had mentioned that I was concerned that we would have 200,000 deaths. And I was being criticized for being too alarmist at the time. And now look at that, we have five times that and that's a landmark that is really truly tragic.
BLITZER: Yes. These are mothers and fathers, brothers and sisters, sons and daughters, grandparents. It's so heartbreaking to think about this. And what's also still very heartbreaking, Dr. Fauci, more than 300 Americans are still dying every day from COVID. The risk of dying is about five times higher, we're told, for the unvaccinated. But there are still growing numbers of deaths among people who were vaccinated but not boosted.
Is it time for the CDC to officially change the definition of fully vaccinated here in the United States to three shots, not two?
FAUCI: Well, Wolf, the one thing that I can say for sure, whether you change the definition or not, that everybody should get the booster shot. I mean, if you've had two doses of an mRNA, absolutely, no matter who you are, whatever your age, if you're eligible for it, you should get it.
You know, you talk about the difference in deaths among unvaccinated versus vaccinated people and now as vaccination immunity is waning, the need for a boost is even more compelling. You know, what is estimated, Wolf, that we would have had about 250,000 less deaths had people gotten vaccinated who should have been vaccinated.
We have got to hopefully make this terribly sad and tragic landmark spur us on to realize that there is no reason not to get vaccinated and if you are vaccinated, to get boosted if your time comes up. We can avoid deaths by vaccination.
BLITZER: We certainly can. People have to get vaccinated. They have to get boosted. We've been saying that for so long, yet there are some out there who still refuse to do so and it is so, so dangerous.
CNN has learned, Dr. Fauci, that the White House projection from the COVID coordinator, Dr. Ashish Jha, took some other officials by surprise. As you know earlier in the week, he projected 100 million new COVID cases this coming fall and winter. First of all, do you agree with that assessment or is it too early to say that?
FAUCI: You know, well, first of all, it's difficult to agree or disagree with it because it's a projection based on modeling. One of the things that we have learned is that models are only as good as the assumptions that you put into the model. And those assumptions can change.
It was not unreasonable for Dr. Jha to make that kind of projection as long as we realize, which he absolutely does, that that could be the worst case scenario and it could be much less. That's the point. I think we've got to be careful. You try to model out to make a projection. The bottom line of it all, Wolf, is the point he was trying to make, and that's something we should emphasize, is that we need to be prepared. We can't let our guard down.
You know, during the massive omicron surge, it was estimated that about 30 percent of the population got infected. So, we know what these variants can do. We know how it can spread so rapidly. So, to the point Dr. Jha was making, more than just the number was that we've got to be prepared and we can't leave our guard down.
And in that regard, I have to say it, Wolf, we do need the resources which we don't have to better prepare ourselves with more vaccines, with vaccines trials to get us a better booster, whatever that booster might be. We need drugs. We need to get drugs that we already have available and we need to develop even better antiviral drugs. We can't do that without resources that we need.
BLITZER: A lot of parents are really worried about their kids five and under. When are they going to start getting vaccine?
FAUCI: Well, I can assure you of one thing, that the FDA is not going to delay the decision on this. Once they get all of the data from the companies who have submitted it for the application for an emergency use authorization, they'll analyze the data as quickly and expeditiously as possible and then we'll get a decision. I think we've got to disabuse people to think that the FDA is just hanging on to data, they're not making the decision. When they get the data they need and time they need to make that decision, they will make it in a timely fashion.
BLITZER: Dr. Anthony Fauci, as usual, thanks so much for joining us and thanks for all the critically important work that you and your team are doing. We really are grateful.
Coming up, as Russia and Ukraine each claim success on the battle field, who has the upper hand right now? We're taking a closer look with President Zelenskyy's chief of staff. He's standing by. We'll discuss when we come back.
BLITZER: Tonight, Russia and Ukraine are both claiming strategic victories with Kremlin forces making gains in the east and Ukraine retaking territory near its northern border.
And joining us now, Andriy Yermak, the chief of staff to Ukrainian President Volodymry Zelenskyy. Andriy, thank you so much for joining us. We know how busy you are.
Let me get first to the state of the battlefield in Ukraine tonight. Where is Ukraine making the most progress and where has Russia seen advances recently?
ANDRIY YERMAK, CHIEF OF STAFF TO UKRAINIAN PRESIDENT ZELENSKYY: Yes. This situation in the front is still very difficult and -- but we really have some success especially in the Kharkiv region.
Then our army is pushing the enemies back but this battle continues especially in the east south region in Donbas, in Luhansk, in Donetsk, and, of course, we still have the terrible, catastrophic situation in Mariupol, when thousands of people blocked in Azovstal plant and the rations they have.
I'd like to use this opportunity to say the world of our great appreciation of United Nations and personally Mr. Guterres, who is, after meeting President Zelenskyy personally, and they have the opportunity to create some group of these civilians, but still bound (ph) our military and still the military, it's blocked. They have non- stopping bombing in the plants and, of course, we now using all our opportunities speaking with many world leaders and try to supply our people. For us, it's very important and President Zelenskyy personally, 24 hours, seven days, working for this issue.
BLITZER: As you know, Andriy, Finland today announced plans to join NATO. Is it hard to see Finland promise what's called a smooth and swift process when Ukraine, your country, has been trying to join NATO for more than a decade?
YERMAK: Yes. I get this information that Finland decided to change its decades-long neutral status and join NATO to the Russian aggressions against Ukraine. And we consider that this situation, it's a test of alliance.
We are very happy for our friends in Finland. And, of course, it's absolutely logical steps, but in the same time, it shows the double standard of the alliance because all the world now see how long period of time Ukraine decided to go to the alliance, but we still have not any concrete answer.
And, of course, now our brave and heroic nation showed to all the world that participation and membership of Ukraine in NATO absolutely will strengthen this organization because we show that it's possible, not afraid. It's possible at practically 80 days, fighting against one of the biggest, one of the most strongest army in the world. And, of course, it's -- once again, it's a test.
BLITZER: Does the United States need to impose even more sanctions against Russia right now?
YERMAK: Yes. Yes, you're absolutely right, because, logically, if this war, terrible war continues, and every day the Russians killed Ukrainians and continue to destroy our city, its existing sanctions, it's not enough. It's why we're working with our partners and insist it's necessary to continue the sanction policy.
It's why sometimes ago, based on the initiative of President Zelenskyy, we created the group, which now called like group (INAUDIBLE) in the large least of the international and Ukrainian experts who is working, analyzing of existing and already issued sanctions and making proposals for the new sanctions.
We made it -- this group made already some very detailed documents the plan, the recommendation. And a couple of the days ago, the group issued the energy sanctions map, because we consider and we assure that especially full embargo in the energy of the oil, first of all, of Russia, it will be very strong instrument.
These sanctions issued by United States and, of course, by European Union, because from the moment of the starting of this war, Russia received by the official figures, about $65 billion. It means its cost, its contribution for military machine of Russia continue this terrible war in Ukraine. BLITZER: I know you've got to run Andriy. One final question before I let you go. When you hear Putin say he's sent troops into Ukraine to fight Ukrainian Nazis, what's your message to Putin?
YERMAK: You know, I think that what Russia done, especially Russian- speaking city, in Kharkiv, in Mariupol, what happened in Babi Yar, in Oman (ph), I think that and absolutely everything which happened in Ukraine (INAUDIBLE) of the Ukrainian nation. And we appreciate that we saw how many parliaments started and recognized this war like it cannot see.
I think the picture of Bucha, of Irpin, of Mariupol, it's absolutely clear answer who is continuing Nazi practice from the Second World War and who defends the lands, our country and we will fight up to our victory.
And I'm absolutely sure, I'd like to say very great thanks to the administration of President Biden and for American people because this support shows that we are friends, we are strategic partners, we never forget how Americans helped Ukraine, and it will be -- I'm sure it will be our mutual victory because Ukraine defends not just Ukraine but democracy in all free worlds.
BLITZER: Andriy Yermak, thank you so much for joining us. Good luck to you and good luck to all the people of Ukraine. We're grateful to you for joining us today. Thank you very, very much.
YERMAK: Thank you, thank you.
BLITZER: Just ahead, the house minority leader, Kevin McCarthy, among five Republican lawmakers who have just been subpoenaed by the House select committee investigating the January 6th insurrection.
BLITZER: A major new development tonight in the probe into the January 6th insurrection, the House select committee investigating the Capitol Siege has just issued subpoenas to five Republican lawmakers, including the House minority leader, Kevin McCarthy.
CNN Special Correspondent Jamie Gangel is here with me in THE SITUATION ROOM. She's been working this story. Certainly a very bold move by the select committee, Jamie. Tell our viewers what you're learning.
JAMIE GANGEL, CNN SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT: It's really unprecedented, Wolf, It is a political tsunami for members to do this to other members.
Let's go through the five. You mentioned Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy of California, they were all asked voluntarily. They refused. He had conversations, as we know, with Donald Trump on January 6th, and others at the White House. Congressman Andy Biggs of Arizona, the committee wants to hear about his discussions in planning meeting at the White House. Congressman mo Brooks of Alabama, he spoke at the rally on January 6th. Congressman Jim Jordan, staunch ally of President Trump, he spoke to Trump that day also in planning meetings. And congressman Scott Perry of Pennsylvania, his text messages to Mark Meadows really show pushing conspiracy theories. He's also considered to be the person who was pushing the White House to make Jeff Clark acting attorney general to help overturn the election.
These are all firsthand fact witnesses who know Trump's state of mind, the planning that was going on and talked to him throughout.
BLITZER: Do we know why it took so long to issue these subpoenas to these members of Congress?
GANGEL: I don't think this was an easy decision. I'm told they debated it for months. It's never been done before in this kind of a situation. And they knew it was going to have political ramifications. That said, I'm told they felt it is so important to the hearings and to history that they had to lay this marker down.
BLITZER: Yes, thanks for the reporting, Jamie Gangel here in THE SITUATION ROOM.
Let's dig deeper right now with CNN Political Analyst Maggie Haberman, the Washington Correspondent for The New York Times.
Maggie, how do you expect these Trump alleys to react to these congressional subpoenas? Any chance any of them will actually appear?
MAGGIE HABERMAN, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: I think, Wolf, there's certainly a chance that they will negotiate some kind of voluntary appearance, but I think it is not likely. I think that we're much likelier to see them either ignore the subpoenas and then have the committee go to court and try to get them enforced then run out the clock and/or the court won't weigh in. Because as we have seen increasingly during this committee process, you have a number of witnesses who have decided they're not going to comply, they're going to force the committee to go to court and that has dragged things out.
I don't expect anything to be different, I think especially for McCarthy in the wake of the tape by my colleagues, Alex Burns and Jonathan Martin, that was made public of Kevin McCarthy talking about possibly asking Donald Trump to resign after January 6th. I think that McCarthy is going to have to dig in here politically in his mind. He -- McCarthy clearly knows a lot and he doesn't want to talk about it and I don't expect a lot of voluntary cooperation.
BLITZER: This certainly does put Congress in some uncharted territory. As Jamie just said, it's unprecedented what they're doing. Will the select committee have to make some very tough choices about how hard to pursue their testimony?
HABERMAN: I think they will, Wolf. I think they're going to have to, you know, look at whether they want to try to keep fighting if these guys resist these subpoenas, which, again, I anticipate is the likeliest outcome. It's not definite but it's the likeliest outcome. If these guys decide to dig in and not comply with subpoenas from their own colleagues, the own body they serve in, then the committee is going to have to decide how hard they want to push it.
As Jamie said, this was not a decision that was reached lightly. We know that it took the committee a long time to get here. But I think you are seeing across several fronts, this committee as well as the Department of Justice, you are seeing a slow ratcheting up in processes that we might not have seen previously. And I think that goes to the unprecedented nature of the moment we're in and of the things that people around Donald Trump and that Donald Trump are alleged to have been involved with.
BLITZER: You have some important new reporting tonight, as you often do. Is the Justice Department, Maggie, potentially going after former President Trump for the classified documents found at his Mar-a-Lago estate down in Florida?
HABERMAN: They are certainly looking at what documents were taken. They are talking to people who were working in the White House and the Justice Department is talking to people who were working in the White House and who would have visibility into how the documents got into the residence, how they got taken out of the White House. Those are two of the questions that they are trying to ask.
Whether it ends up ultimately impacting former President Trump remains to be seen, but, certainly, I think some of the questions they're going to be asking and have asked are going to relate to him, and that's an open question where this goes.
BLITZER: Important new reporting from Maggie. Thank you very much, Maggie Haberman, for joining us.
Coming up, with the shortage of baby formula here in the United States growing worse and worse, does the Biden administration have a plan to help parents feed their infant children?
Stay with us. We've got new important information here in THE SITUATION ROOM.
BLITZER: Tonight, Russia is vowing to retaliate against Finland after that country took a major step today towards joining NATO.
Let's dig deeper right now with retired Air Force Colonel Cedric Leighton, He's a CNN military analyst.
Colonel Leighton, Finland shares, as you know, an 800-mile border with Finland. Tell our viewers why today's move by Finland and NATO potentially could be so historic and significant.
COL. CEDRIC LEIGHTON (RET.), CNN MILITARY ANALYST: Yes, Wolf. It is really a big deal because when you look at the border, it's an 800- mile long border between Russia and Finland. One of the key things that you have to look at here is exactly where this border is.
These are the northern reaches of one of the old Soviet Union and now modern day Russia. This peninsula right here, and this peninsula is responsible for a lot of the naval activity that the Russians have, especially their submarine fleet as well as their missile fleet. So this is a very big portion of this.
It also gives NATO an intelligence window on to this area and it ties up potentially a lot of the Russian forces that are stationed right here, which is St. Petersburg, Russia's second major city.
BLITZER: You know, it's very interesting because instead of weakening NATO, which, of course, was Putin's goal, he thought by invading Ukraine, that would divide the NATO alliance, it has actually strengthened NATO, hasn't it?
LEIGHTON: It has, Wolf. And that's what's really interesting about this. Because when you look at the entire map of NATO, you see that Finland is right here. Not yet a NATO member, but it's right next to Sweden, which is also a potential NATO member and then it has, we have the Baltic states right here, with Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania right here. All of these are former members of the Soviet Union, these three countries.
We have Ukraine right here, which is, of course, where all the fighting is going on that we're talking about over the last few months. Then you have the NATO countries. Once you add Finland and Sweden, it really strengthens the capacity of NATO to guard against the northern areas and it also may have significant impact on the Arctic, which is also an area of contention between NATO and the West.
BLITZER: A lot of analysts as you know, Colonel, believe that Finland's military would bring a very significant boost to the NATO alliance from a military point of view.
LEIGHTON: It certainly would, Wolf. Here's one of the things I'd like to show you. This is a, these are some videos from exercises that the Finnish military has engaged in. They also do combined exercises with countries like Estonia, United States, Germany, Great Britain, all of the NATO countries.
So the Finns have interoperable equipment. They fly the FA-18, which is an American Navy aircraft which they fly for their air force and they're picking up the F-35. So the Finns are ready to join NATO. They're extremely compatible and are ready to go this almost in a way no other country is. That gives you an idea of how important the Finnish equation actually is to NATO and to the rest of the alliance.
BLITZER: Bottom line, this is a pretty bad day for Russia right now.
LEIGHTON: It is, absolutely, Wolf. And this is -- as you said at the top, this is one of the key things that Putin was trying to avoid, now it is coming into fruition and it's really making it very difficult for Russia to achieve its goals and to achieve any other aspects of its war aims in Ukraine.
BLITZER: Good point, Colonel Leighton, thank you very, very much.
The frontlines in Ukraine are shifting once again tonight, as Russian forces are pushed out of the north and intensify their assault on the east.
Our senior correspondent Sam Kiley has the latest from the eastern Ukrainian city of Kramatorsk.
SAM KILEY, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, the air raid sirens, once again, on here in Kramatorsk. That's following a day in which there was quite a lot of aviation in the sky above us, and, of course, surface to air missiles being fired up at their aviation, as the rumble of artillery continues in the near distance, with the Russians continuing their efforts to breakthrough the Ukrainian lines, almost constant now thudding in the distance of those artillery exchanges.
But for now, the Ukrainians are holding the Russians back on this front. Neither side is advancing significantly. It's different around Kharkiv, to the north, where Russian forces have been on the back foot, to such an extent that there have been attacks against Ukrainian forces from inside Russia. And they are now within Russian artillery range from the Russian motherland itself.
And this is coming at a time when the Ukrainian defense ministry is now drawing world attention to something in a sense more sinister, with echoes of the 1932 and 1933 famine in Ukraine, with the effect of huge amounts of grain from Ukrainian farmers that had been captured by the Russians. The Ukrainian Ministry of Defense claims that half 1 million tons of grains have been stolen.
Certainly, CNN has tracked one Russian ship from Sevastopol to the port of Alexandria in Egypt, where it was turned away. And we know that it has been docked now, offloading grain illegally in Syria. That is grain has been stolen from Ukrainian farmers. It was the theft of grain from Ukrainian farmers back in 1930s that resulted in the famine that killed millions here, Wolf. So, that is a bitter echo of history here in Kramatorsk -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Sam Kiley, reporting for -- Sam, thank you very much.
Coming up, a nationwide shortage of baby formula here in the United States is getting worse right now. We will get expert advice for parents who are growing increasingly worried about feeding their infants.
[18:57:08] BLITZER: The Food and Drug Administration says it is, quote, doing everything in its power to make sure there is enough baby formula available for people who need it here in the United States. But tonight, millions of parents are scrambling as the shortage worsens.
CNN's Brian Todd is joining us with the latest.
Brian, I understand this is a problem across the entire United States.
BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It really is, Wolf, and tonight, the White House is involved as well. We've got new information on the crisis, how it developed, and what new parents can do to deal with it.
TODD (voice-over): Jusstine Ne has searched far and wide on Oahu for formula for her 7-month-old son.
JUSSTINE NE, NEW MOM IN HAWAII: I wasn't able to breastfeed, you know, depending on the formula to feed babies, it's very stressful.
TODD: About 4,000 miles away, in Ankeny, Iowa, new mom Emma Fynaardt had similar problems, finding formula for her four month old daughter, Poppy.
EMMA FYNAARDT, NEW MOM IN IOWA: I never imagine I would have to look high and low for formula. I never imagined this.
TODD: Millions of families in America confronting that same crisis tonight, a nationwide shortage of baby formula that has just gotten worse. In recent days, more than 50 percent of formula was out of stock in eight states. Nationwide, the out of stock rate is is 43 percent. That's according to Datasembly, an agency that tracks how much product is on store shelves.
BEN REICH, DATASEMBLY: We have never seen numbers like this, let alone in such a critical category like baby formula.
TODD: The reasons for the shortage? Supply chain problems stemming from the pandemic, historic inflation and devastating recall. In February, the company Abbott Nutrition recalled three brands of its formula after some infants got sick from a bacteria and two died.
What should parents do now?
DR. MEGAN RANNEY, ASSOCIATE DEAN OF PUBLIC HEALTH, BROWN UNIVERSITY: Worried parents should go out and buy formula, even if it's not the same formula brand that your baby is used to. Your baby will transition to another formula brand over a day or so.
TODD: Experts say don't stress out the formula you've already got by adding water or something else, that can cause illness, and don't do what many parents reportedly tried, making their own formula.
RANNEY: Formula is a complex mix of nutrients, vitamins, minerals, it is nearly impossible to get the proportions right doing it at home. There are also concerns about bacterial contamination.
TODD: How long will new parents have to deal with the shortage? Datasembly didn't want to estimate weeks or months.
REICH: We don't see this letting up, the issues that have caused this out-of-stock crisis continuing to factor into stocking issues.
TODD (on camera): The Biden administration just announced it's working with manufacturers to get more baby formula on the shelves faster but in the meantime, new parents have to deal with limited purchases. Chains like CVS, Walgreens, Target and Walmart are limiting the number of cans customers can buy in each transaction, Wolf. It's going to be tough for a while.
BLITZER: It's very tough. It's heartbreaking to even think about it.
BLITZER: Thanks very much, Brian Todd, for that report.
And to our viewers, thanks very much for watching.
I'm Wolf Blitzer in THE SITUATION ROOM,
"ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT" starts right now.