Return to Transcripts main page

The Situation Room

Ukraine Marks One Year Of War With Anxiety And Resolve; U.S. Unveils $2 Billion Ukraine Aid Package, Vows Long-Term Support; Prosecution Completes Murdaugh Cross-Examination; Alex Murdaugh Denies Killing Wife And Son But Admits He Lied To Police; Ukraine Marks One Year Of War With Anxiety And Resolve; CNN Gets Rare Access Aboard U.S. Military Surveillance Flight Over South China Sea. Aired 5-6p ET

Aired February 24, 2023 - 17:00   ET




BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN HOST: Happening now, Ukraine marks one full year of bloodshed and brutality at the hands of Russian forces. President Zelenskyy defiant telling CNN victory is inevitable. This hour, I'll speak one on one with the Ukrainian ambassador to the United States.

Also tonight, breaking news. The prosecution rests in the Alex Murdaugh murder trial. After two days of dramatic cross examination, did the jury buy his story about why he lied to police on the night of the killings?

Welcome to our viewers in the United States and around the world. Wolf Blitzer is off today. I'm Brianna Keilar, and you're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

We begin our coverage tonight with the latest on Russia's war against Ukraine, now officially one year old. From Kyiv to Moscow, CNN's correspondents are covering the conflict from every angle as the war enters its second year. Let's get straight to our Chief International Correspondent, Clarissa Ward, who is in the Ukrainian capital.

Clarissa, President Zelenskyy is marking the occasion with a speech to soldiers and a news conference with reporters. What's the mood on the ground following his remarks?

CLARISSA WARD, CNN CHIEF INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, I think there had been some anticipation that today could be a bloody day, that there could have been provocations and attacks. It's actually been relatively quiet the first day in quite some time where there's been no air raid sirens.

And the message coming from President Zelenskyy today was also actually, Brianna, quite upbeat. He said that he believes that it's possible that Ukraine would be able to win this war this year. Now, others would say that's maybe an optimistic timeline, given the state of affairs, given how difficult the war is grinding away at a near stalemate in the east. He gave a very long press conference, President Zelenskyy, mostly to foreign journalists who have all gathered here for the anniversary of the invasion. Quite a few questions about China. Obviously, with this new reporting that CNN has about the U.S. being concerned that China would be considering supplying drones to Russia, which of course, have been used to devastating effect here in Ukraine.

He had something interesting to say about his desire for the relationship with China's leader, Xi Jinping. Take a listen.


VOLODYMYR ZELENSKYY, UKRAINIAN PRESIDENT (through translation): First of all, I plan to meet Xi Jinping, and I believe that would beneficial for both our states and for security in the world. China and the Ukraine have a lot of trade turnover, but it's not just a question of war. We are countries who are interested in maintaining an economic relationship.


WARD: CNN's Christiane Amanpour also asked President Zelenskyy at that press conference for more details about this timeline he had given earlier, where he talked about potentially being able to win the war by the end of the year. He was a lot more circumspect in his answer there, though really refusing to be drawn on specifics.

The overwhelming feeling has been up until this point, Brianna, that it's very difficult for Ukraine to win this war in an all-out military victory without the certain types of heavier weaponry that its leaders have been asking for so often. Brianna?

KEILAR: Yes, Clarissa, and if you could just stand by for us, we're going to have you here back in a moment to join us for a discussion on the one year anniversary of this war.

I do want to bring in CNN's Melissa Bell now. She is in Kyiv as well tonight. And Melissa, of course, a lot has changed in Ukraine since Vladimir Putin launched his invasion one year ago.

MELISSA BELL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: So much has changed, so much has happened, Brianna. This was a day of intense emotion for ordinary Ukrainians here inside the country, but also for the world looking on, because when you think back a year, Brianna, to the ferocity of the invasion, to its aims, these were images one year on here in Kyiv that were simply not expecting to see.


BELL (voice-over): Still in power and still in Kyiv. One year after the start of a Russian invasion that intended to force him out within days. President Zelenskyy stood proudly on Friday outside Saint Sophia's, thanking those responsible.

[17:05:16] It is you who will decide whether we are all going to exist, whether Ukraine is going to exist. Every day, every hour, it is you, Ukrainian soldiers, which will decide it.

WARD (voice-over): A stark contrast to his nightly messages that for a year now have kept hope afloat. Victory can be achieved this year, he said repeatedly on Friday. A message aimed at Ukraine and beyond.

The Ukrainian flag unfurled in acts of solidarity around the world. Its most famous landmarks lit up in the colors that have become symbols of Ukrainian resilience and freedom. Yellow and blue on display from Paris to Sydney and painted outside the Russian embassy in London. For the world's diplomats, the one year mark offered pause for thought.

ANTONY BLINKEN, SECRETARY OF STATE: One year and one week ago, on February 17, 2022, I warned this council that Russia was planning to invade Ukraine. Due to fierce resistance by Ukraine's defenders, President Putin failed in his primary objective to conquer Ukraine.

WARD (voice-over): After President Biden's visit to Kyiv earlier this week, the United States announcing a new $2 billion defense package to Ukraine and what it described as some of its most significant sanctions against Russia so far. Allies followed suit. Sweden pledging Leopard 3 tanks, Poland's already delivered.

JENS STOLTENBERG, NATO SECRETARY GENERAL: Some worry our support to Ukraine risks triggering escalation. But there are no risk-free options. And the biggest risk of all is if President Putin wins.

WARD (voice-over): Diplomacy for a while, drowning out the fighting, the shelling, and the sirens, as Europe said it would be giving cautious consideration to China's 12-point proposal for a peaceful resolution, a resolution that, in line with Moscow's Euphemisms, nowhere mentions war.

Yet in Ukraine, it was the price of war that was being paid again. Another day, another funeral, another grieving family, and a message, too, that this must end.

ZELENSKYY (through translation): I'm confident that we'll have this victory. I hope that this will happen this year.


WARD: But despite that optimistic message, of course, at the heart of all that emotion here in Ukraine today, Brianna, that cost. The latest American assessment is that it is about 100,000 Ukrainian soldiers who've lost their lives and about 40,000 civilians. No one in this country has been left untouched, Brianna.

KEILAR: They have not. Melissa Bell, thank you for that report.

And now to Moscow and our Senior International Correspondent, Frederik Pleitgen. Fred, how does Vladimir Putin intend to turn the tide as this conflict is going into its second year? FREDERIK PLEITGEN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Brianna, it's really interesting because it's something that Vladimir Putin, in the past couple of days, has really been talking about how he believes that Russia will persevere in all this and come out victorious. But he really hasn't said how exactly he plans to do that.

One of the things that he did say in a video message, which was directed at Russian troops, obviously, right now, we're in a public holiday here in Russia to commemorate the troops that fought in World War II. But, of course, that also pertains now to those who are fighting in what Russia calls its special military operation.

And there he promised new gear, modern gear, and he promised a lot of gear to those forces. But it seems as though right now, that isn't materializing at this point in time. There's one analyst that I spoke to who's very close to the government here in Russia who said that they've mobilized about 300,000 people late last year, but those people really haven't made a difference on the battlefield yet.

Many of them haven't arrived on the battlefield yet simply because they don't have the weaponry to actually go and take the fight. And it's certainly something that's not going unnoticed here in Moscow either, that the last time that Russia has had a significant victory on the battlefield is really months ago.

There's certain areas where there's incremental gains, and right now, it's really difficult to see how Vladimir Putin plans to turn the tide. But I think one of the things that we do, ascertain especially from the things that he said over the past couple of days, is that he is nowhere near backing down. And certainly right now, there doesn't seem to be much in the way of pressure or public pressure that would be causing him to even consider backing down, Brianna.

KEILAR: All right, Fred Pleitgen in Moscow. Thank you for that report.

Right now, I do want to bring in more of our experts for analysis to talk about this.


General Marks, to you first here, President Zelensky is vowing that Ukraine will win this year, but of course, top U.S. and western officials are expecting this is going to go on longer. What do you make of the daylight between the rhetoric?

MAJ. GEN. JAMES "SPIDER" MARKS (RET.), CNN MILITARY ANALYST: Well, President Zelenskyy has stated all along that all Russians need to depart Ukraine. Whether they can be pushed out or there's some incentive for them to depart, I think that's unlikely. What the Ukrainians have been able to do is quite phenomenal and is inspirational.

But the Russians have the law of large numbers going for them and they can keep putting these young men into the combat. The fact that they're not equipped very well, the fact that they're not trained has been demonstrated to be a real failure on the part of the Russians. I don't see Ukraine having the wherewithal push the Russians out by the end of this year. I think we're getting closer and closer to the realization that a negotiated settlement of some sort is the way that this madness ends this year.

KEILAR: You know, Evelyn, you have a new op ed in the Wall Street Journal where you argue that Ukraine needs F-16s. I do want to quote from part of this here you see. "The Biden administration appears to be concerned about what will happen if the U.S. provides air power to Ukraine. The real worry ought to be what will happen if we don't." What do you think happens if the U.S. doesn't?

EVELYN FARKAS, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, MCCAIN INSTITUTE: Yes, Brianna, I think that if the U.S. doesn't provide air power, doesn't provide the Ukrainians with what they need to take the offensive, then perhaps General Marks will be correct that we will not be able to watch the Ukrainians retake their territory.

But if we do provide them with air power in addition to the tanks and of course there's a timeline here, we have to get the tanks and any air power, any fighter aircraft to them as soon as possible, and that's of course not going to be immediate. But if we provide it to them, it means that the Ukrainians can go in armor against the Russians, break through their lines with air power above them and seize the advantage.

And maybe then because these troops are so poorly equipped, the law of numbers will not prevail and that maneuverability will actually prevail and the Ukrainians can take advantage.

KEILAR: You know, Spider, what do you think of that? And also what do you think of what we're hearing from sources that China is considering providing this lethal assistance to Russia when it comes to Ukraine?

MARKS: Yes. Evelyn's Wall Street Journal op ed with my dear friend Dave Deptula is absolutely spot on. They need more and they need it faster in order to fight a three-dimensional warfare which is air land battle as we've described it, great intelligence, incredible logistics and operational maneuver capability to isolate Russian forces and then reduce them.

So it's possible, but it needs to take place immediately, and then you got to get the training. I don't think to your -- the question that China has any incentive to provide assistance to the Russians. Look, the Russians are losing in Ukraine, and you reinforce success, not failure.

Plus, China wants to have good relations with all the western European economies. They want that to be open. They want that to be vibrant. They don't want to shut that door on that economic benefit that they enjoy right now.

KEILAR: Clarissa, you've been doing just essential reporting across Ukraine, including on the incomprehensible human toll of this war. And I want to show our viewers a portion of your new CNN special report.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) WARD (voice-over): Indiscriminate and nearly constant shelling by the Russians has left a trail of death and destruction throughout this region. The once bustling residential suburb of Saltivka, now a grim memorial to the carnage.

(on-camera): The last time were here in Saltivka, it was just getting smashed by Russian artillery every day. 300,000 people roughly used to live in this area, but since the beginning of the war, it really became the front line. And even now, coming back here, you're just starting to see little hints of life reemerging.

One resident told me this was her first time back to Saltivka since the bombings. Months later, she is still haunted by the violence.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (through translation): Honestly, it makes me want to cry. Anyone who hasn't lived through it won't understand the tear. The dread. And the images can't reflect this. It's very scary. Terrible. I'm speechless, honestly.


KEILAR: Clarissa, we see these Ukrainians revisiting places you revisited places. What stood out to you the most as you were going back to places that you saw many, many months ago.


WARD: I think there are so many things, Brianna, that really strike you when you're traveling this country and absorbing the magnitude of a year at war. The courage, the resilience, the extraordinary creativity, the incredible use of cutting-edge techniques and how helpful that has been for Ukrainians on the battlefield.

But, ultimately, what really stays with you is the cost, Brianna. And I think sometimes it gets a little lost in the conversations about geopolitics and how this is going to work and where the war goes is that underpinning all of this is a tragedy of really epic proportions, with tens of thousands of lives destroyed and lost and millions or billions and billions of dollars in damage and destruction.

And even in these areas that people are living in that have been recently liberated or taken back by Ukrainian forces, this victory is not a beautiful thing. It is grim, it is dark, it is cold and it is tenuous. And I think that that's why when you talk to people here, they believe that one day this war will end. But they have stopped allowing themselves to dream that it's going to happen in the near- term future. They are preparing themselves mentally for a long, hard slog. Brianna.

KEILAR: Clarissa Ward, thank you. Live for us from Ukraine. General Marks, thank you. Evelyn Farkas, we appreciate you being with us this evening.

And make sure to tune in on Sunday night at 08:00 p.m. Eastern for Clarissa Ward special report, "The Will To Win" Ukraine At War", only here on CNN. And coming up, we'll take a closer look at all the U.S. military aid that has been given to Ukraine so far, as well as the equipment still on Kyiv's wish list. Plus, we'll go live to the courthouse in Walterboro, South Carolina, where prosecutors just wrapped a day of intense cross examination in the Alex Murdaugh murder trial.



KEILAR: More US. Military aid is on the way to Ukraine tonight $2 billion worth. But that is just a fraction of the tens of billions in assistance that the U.S. has provided so far. And CNN's Tom Foreman is digging into it for us. Tom, what can you tell us?

TOM FOREMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, I can tell you the United States alone has given Ukraine just under $30 billion worth of weapons, ammunition and training in the year since Russia invaded. The long list but some of the bigger items are 31 M1 Abrams tanks, 45 T-72B tanks, 100 Bradley's, more than that, 300 Striker armored personnel carriers.

A Patriot air defense system to shoot down incoming Russian missiles, more than 1,600 Stinger anti-aircraft systems, more than 8,500 Javelin systems to engage attacking tanks, plus more than 50,000 other anti armor systems. More than 2,500 Phoenix Ghost and Switchblade drones have been sent. The Ukrainians are using these to great effect to hunt down targets from a few miles away and then strike them.

And beyond that, while there are more than 2,500 guided missiles of various types have been provided, artillery, including more than 1 million rounds, mortars, grenade launchers, small arms, and a whole lot more, Brianna.

KEILAR: So I mean, certainly that is a lot.


KEILAR: What's not included here?

FOREMAN: Well, what's not included is what you mentioned a short while ago. The Ukrainians would really like some F-16s and some other more advanced weapon systems to punch up their power on the battlefield. But as you noted so far, that's not happening.

And it's worth noting this too, polls show while a majority or at least a strong plurality of Americans want to keep helping Ukraine, the support at this level, support for that is softening, particularly among some Republicans who say it's just too much. Brianna?

KEILAR: That is very significant. Tom Foreman, thank you for that report.

Let's discuss all of the latest developments with Richard Haass. He is the President of the Council on Foreign Relations. So, Richard, I do want to talk about this new article that you've written here. And part of the quote that I want to read says this, "The war will not end anytime soon. The map of Ukraine a year from now will most likely resemble nothing so much as the map as it appears today. The year ahead promises to be dismal, not decisive, more reminiscent of World War I than of World War II."

You hear President Zelenskyy saying Ukraine can win this war this year. Is he wrong?

RICHARD HAASS, PRESIDENT, COUNCIL ON FOREIGN RELATIONS: Well I'm skeptical. I hope he's right, but I'm skeptical. Russia is fairly dug in to dislodge those troops, will take enormous amounts of human and military effort. Plus, I think there's a big variable, which is what China might do if Russia ever gets hard pressed. So again, I'm skeptical that either side will prevail on the battlefield.

KEILAR: Let's talk about China and what they might do. Right now, China is pushing for Russia and Ukraine to negotiate, as the U.S. is warning that China is moving closer to providing drones and ammunition to Russia. How do you see China's thinking in all of this?

HAASS: I wouldn't say quite the China's pressing that decides to negotiate. They came out with a, quote unquote, peace proposal. It did not call for any Russian withdrawal from Ukraine. So, quite honestly, I don't take it all that seriously. And again, I think China has made a big strategic bet on Russia.

Xi Jinping has very much tied himself to Vladimir Putin. China, as you know, has been buying massive amounts of Russian oil. It will help Russia deal with its deficit, and there's all sorts of dual use technology and the like that it has been providing and can continue to provide to Russia to make sure, again, it doesn't lose.

KEILAR: How do you think that U.S.-China tensions are playing into any of China's calculus here? Of course, the most visible representation of that would be the spy balloon, the Chinese balloon that the U.S. shot down. How is that playing into China's calculus at all?


HAASS: My guess is the Chinese don't see any upside if they exercise restraint. They simply don't believe the United States is prepared to ease sanctions or have an easier relationship. And I think also probably there are some in China who don't mind the fact that the United States is spending and doing as much as it's doing to help Ukraine. That depletes our military stocks and potentially leaves us less well positioned to deal with the crisis should one materialize around Taiwan.

KEILAR: You also heard Tom Foreman's reporting there that support in the U.S. for U.S. involvement here, aid is softening. How much harder do you think it's going to be to keep the west united here as this war drags into the second year?

HAASS: Yes, I'm not particularly worried about it. I think you've got large bipartisan support for it. You've got people on the fringes of both parties. Americans tend never to really like certain types of overseas spending. They want more spent here at home, but there's strong opposition around the country to Russia, even stronger opposition to China. So I'm not sure that I would read those polls that explicitly at this point.

KEILAR: You write about this, of course, but how do you see this ending? What does it look like?

HAASS: I don't see it ending anytime soon, but the day will come, I think, when one side particularly more likely, Russia or Ukraine is prepared to take half or three quarters of a loaf. We're just not there yet. And I don't think we're going to be there for several years.

KEILAR: Certainly not with what we're hearing from President Zelenskyy today. Richard, it's great to have you. Thank you so much.

HAASS: Thank you. Have a good weekend.

KEILAR: All right, you too.

And up next, prosecutors just wrapped a day of intense cross examination in the Alex Murdaugh murder trial. The key questions that they pressed him on. Plus, it's been one year since Russia's unprovoked invasion of Ukraine. I'll be speaking to the Ukrainian ambassador to the U.S. on what this somber day means to the country. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.



KEILAR: Prosecutors wrapped a day of intense cross examination in the Alex Murdaugh murder trial. They zeroed in on Murdaugh's movements the night of the killings and why he lied to investigators about where he was. CNN's Dianne Gallagher is joining us now. So, Dianne, tell us more about this dramatic testimony that we heard today.

DIANNE GALLAGHER, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Brianna, for the first time, the prosecution really got a chance to drill Alex Murdaugh about the details minute by minute, second by second of the night of the murder. They're painting him as a privileged man who has a habit of lying until he's confronted with facts that he simply cannot deny.

And then he comes up with a new lie to explain that away. None of which Alex Murdaugh actually denies. But what he does deny is that he killed his family and he did that repeatedly on the stand today.


CREIGHTON WATERS, PROSECUTOR: So you, like you've done so many times over the course of your life, had to back up and make a new story that kind of fit with the facts.

GALLAGHER (voice-over): Alex Murdaugh under cross examination for a second day, several times getting heeded. ALEX MURDAUGH, MURDER DEFENDANT: You dang right. I'm consistent about that because a very short time before that, David Owens is asking me questions and telling me I'm a suspect in the murder of my wife and my child and asking me about my clothes. You dang right it was important.

WATERS: The only thing you're concerned about is yourself. You're not concerned about giving accurate information to law enforcement.

GALLAGHER (voice-over): As he tries to convince the jury he did not kill his wife Maggie and son Paul.

MURDAUGH: You mean like, did I shoot my wife and my son?



GALLAGHER (voice-over): Prosecutor Creighton Waters pushing Murdaugh hard over his admission of lying about being at the family dog kennels where the bodies were found the night of the murders.

WATERS: Pretty much all of that was lies.

MURDAUGH: The part about me not being at the kennel was a lie.

WATERS: Also, not knowing that Paul went down there, not being sure that was a lie too, wasn't it? I mean, you're putting some detail on this thing, aren't you?

MURDAUGH: No. Everything about me not going to the kennel was a lie.

WATERS: And you're able to just do that so easily and so convincingly and so naturally, don't you?

GALLAGHER (voice-over): And hammering Murdoch on what the prosecution is calling his new story.

WATERS: You never told them all this new story that you've constructed in light of this trial, is that correct?

MURDAUGH: I did not tell them that I went to the kennel. I lied about that.

WATERS: At the same time, you also looked at this jury and tried to tell them that you had been cooperative in this investigation.

MURDAUGH: Other than lying to them about going to the kennel, I was cooperative in every aspect of this investigation.

WATERS: Very cooperative, except for maybe the most important fact of all, that you were at the murder scene with the victims just minutes before they died.

GALLAGHER (voice-over): Also revealed astonishing details we've never heard about just how serious Murdaugh says his opioid addiction was.

WATERS: You're taking 60 a day or something like that, I mean --

MURDAUGH: There were days where I took more than that.

GALLAGHER (voice-over): But the majority of the cross examination Friday focused on what happened June 7th, 2021.

WATERS: So what you're telling this jury is that it's a random vigilante. Your twelve-year-old -- the twelve-year-old, 5'2 people that just happened to know that Paul and Maggie were both at Moselle on June 7th, that knew that they would be at the kennels alone on June the 7th that knew that you would not be there, but only between the times of 8:49 and 9:02 that they show up without a weapon. Assuming that they're going to find weapons and ammunition there.

That they commit this crime during that short time window, and then they travel the same exact route that you do around the same time to Almeda. That's what you're trying to tell this jury?

MURDAUGH: You got a lot of factors in there, Mr. Waters, all of which I do not agree with, but some of which I do.



GALLAGHER: A prosecution even saying that they didn't feel like Murdaugh's explanation for his alibi lie really held water. Something the defense trying to push back on. Believe it or not, Alex Murdaugh is not the defense's final witness, Brianna. We still have more to go when they return to court on Monday, but that means that when that jury goes home this weekend, that all they are going to be able to sit and think about are the past two days of Alex Murdaugh's taking the stand and testifying on his own behalf.

KEILAR: Yes. So dramatic the testimony was. Dianne, thank you for that report for us from South Carolina.

I do want to talk now with attorney and legal affairs commentator Areva Martin about what we've seen here over the last couple of days. Now that the prosecution, Areva, has completed its cross of Murdaugh, do you think they were effective?

AREVA MARTIN, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: They were absolutely effective. We always knew the big issue was going to be how is Alex Murdaugh going to explain away the lie that he told about not being at the kennel? And the prosecutor just hammered him and hammered him on that lie and basically said, look, you lied about one of the most important facts in this case, so why should the jury believe anything that you've said since you've been testifying?

And more importantly, he drew out this issue of this new story. We had a lot of new details that Alex Murdaugh gave today that he had not given to the police, despite saying that he was being very cooperative with them. So I think jurors are going to have a lot to think about. They're going to have to think about whether his testimony was credible. And as we always know, when a defense takes the witness stand and his -- defendant takes the witness stand in his own defense, there's a probability that you will be hammered by a good prosecutor. And I think that happened today.

KEILAR: Yes, they did that. And they were focusing extensively on the timeline of these events the night that his wife Maggie and his son Paul were killed. The discrepancies about Murdaugh's whereabouts. Is that enough to sow doubt in a jury?

MARTIN: It's so interesting, Brianna. You know, you only need one juror to decide that they like Alex Murdaugh. He's a bigger than life character in this town. His son testified, his remaining son, Buster, testified that his dad was distraught on the night that he discovered his wife and son murdered.

And if a juror is sitting there thinking, I don't believe that this man, even though he's a drug addict, and even though he has stolen money, even though he has lied, I don't think he would blow the brains out of his younger son and kill his wife. One juror may be convinced that the fact that the son is testifying on his dad's behalf and saying he was distraught, that might be enough for one juror to be a holdout and you not see a conviction in this case.

KEILAR: I wonder what you think about him admitting he lied. You know, on one hand, he's admitting he lied about something, but he's saying he didn't kill his wife and his son. So he's giving something, right? Is that help -- does a jury look at that and say, OK, that's actually helpful, he's coming clean about something, or do they just say he lied about something? He's definitely lying about other things, too?

MARTIN: It's a double-edged sword, Brianna, to be truthful and to be honest with you, some jurors are going to say, just as you said, well, you know what? He did tell a lie. He didn't come clean when I wanted him to come clean earlier with the police, but he came clean now.

And again, I'm not going to, you know, take from that because he's a liar, that he's also a murderer. But others will say, look, this guy lied about something that was so important and if he really wanted to find out who had killed his wife and his son, he would have been truthful about everything.

And even if in that moment he was paranoid because of drug use, he had ample opportunity, he had 18, 19 months to go back to the police and say, look, I made a mistake. I lied about what I said about not being at the kennel. Some folks are going to hold that against them. They're going to say, look, once a liar, always a liar. We can't believe anything that he said on the witness stand.

KEILAR: Areva, obviously more to come and we'll see how this all shakes out here, but we appreciate you being with us to talk about it. Areva Martin, thank you.

MARTIN: Thank you so much.

KEILAR: Just ahead, I'll check in with Ukraine's ambassador to the United States as her country marks a year of the Russian invasion. And also ahead, blizzards in Southern California, an ice storm in the Midwest and widespread power outages. Millions of Americans are dealing with wild winter weather.



KEILAR: And we're back now with more on our top story. A somber day for the people of Ukraine, now suffering under a full year of Russian invasion. Joining me now to discuss, the Ukrainian ambassador to the United States, Oksana Markarova. Ambassador, thank you so much for taking the time to be with us today. How has this past year of war changed Ukraine and changed Ukrainians?

OKSANA MARKAROVA, UKRAINIAN AMBASSADOR TO THE UNITED STATES: Thank you for having me. And, you know, it's been one year, but literally nine years since Russia attacked us for the first time. Of course, this past one year has been the most difficult one. With full-fledged war, unbelievable proportion of war crimes, atrocities, hardships, it has been very difficult.

But at the same time today, after one year, I think we are stronger. And in a strange way, we feel better than it was on a day when were attacked, because we know that we can win. And we know the whole world, and especially the United States as our strategic friend, number one is with us in this fight.


KEILAR: I do want to ask you about a bit of a difference though in rhetoric because President Zelenskyy vowed today that 2023 will be the year of our victory. That's what he said. You hear President Biden, he says the U.S. will stand by Ukraine as long as it takes. But Western leaders and here in the U.S. they're bracing for this to drag into 2024 and potentially even longer. Do you fear that they doubt Ukraine's ability to win this war outright this year?

MARKAROVA: I don't think so. I think we are on the same page. We all wanted to be one as fast as possible for the sake of Ukrainian lives, for the sake of global security, for the sake of getting back as soon as possible to normal relations between, you know, trade relations and everything else.

Of course, we know that we have to be prepared for any type of scenario so I don't see the contradiction there. I think we all would like to win as soon as possible. We all would like to just peace to return as soon as possible. But if we have to fight longer, we are ready to fight longer and U.S. has been very clear that they will stay with us as long as it takes.

KEILAR: Why is the President so sure this is the year? What is it that makes him believe 2023 in the spring is going to be decisive?

MARKAROVA: During the last year, we have shown that we actually can destroy a majority of Russian plants. They were not able to take us in three days. They were not able to hold half of Ukraine. We were able to liberate more than 50 percent of the territory they initially occupied after February 24th.

And at the day like today when -- from the (INAUDIBLE), United States has announced massive support of securities and defense article to us, $2 billion and that's on top of what has been announced last week but also unprecedented sanctions by the Department of Treasury, Secretary Yellen. Secretary Raymond (ph) announced large package of the import duties and export controls.

All of that, the sanctions, financial support to Ukraine and military support to Ukraine together with our fight on the battlefield will faster get us to the point where we can win. So, you know, we believe in it, we work hard, we will fight 24/7 to get to that date faster.

And plus, let me remind you that everywhere on the territories which Russia controls, people have been killed, tortured. We have seen evidence of that in Bucha, in Kherson, in Izium, in every place which were able to liberate. So every day matters because every day is a chance to save more lives.

KEILAR: Yes, we're seeing the devastation and what Ukrainians have gone through as Russians do leave some of these areas over time. Ambassador, thank you so much for being with us. We really appreciate your time today.

MARKAROVA: Thank you to American people for support.

KEILAR: And we will have much more news ahead.



KEILAR: Right now, tensions are rising in one of the most hotly contested regions on the planet, the South China Sea. From militarized artificial islands to fighter jets and warplanes, China's heavy presence in the disputed region is putting the U.S. and its allies on notice.

CNN got rare access aboard a U.S. Navy surveillance flight and saw firsthand some tense moments with China's military. Here's CNN's Ivan Watson.


IVAN WATSON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): This is a close encounter with a Chinese war plane filmed just off the wing of a U.S. Navy reconnaissance plane flying over the South China Sea.

(on-camera): We're getting a close up look at a Chinese fighter jet. The air crew here identifies it as a J-11, a two-seater that they say is armed with air-to-air missiles. And it's been shadowing this U.S. Navy plane now for about 15 minutes. It is pretty remarkable to see this Chinese warplane operating at such close proximity, just several hundred feet away from our aircraft. (voice-over): The Chinese fighter escort part of a regular routine.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'd say it's another Friday afternoon in South China Sea.

WATSON (voice-over): The U.S. Navy invited CNN to fly on a P-8 reconnaissance plane taking off from a U.S. airbase on the Japanese island of Okinawa.

Along the way picking up fuel from a flying gas station.

(on-camera): We're refueling in midair right now. Flying just about 40 feet away from a KC-135 tanker plane.

(voice-over): The plane is headed past the self-governing island of Taiwan, which China claims as its own, to the South China Sea, which China also claims almost all for itself, ignoring competing claims from countries like Vietnam and the Philippines.

Some 30 miles from the Chinese occupied Paracel Islands, a Chinese voice crackles over the radio.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: American aircraft, this is the PLA air force. You are approaching Chinese airspace. Keep a safe distance or you will be intercepted.

WATSON (voice-over): That's when the Chinese People's Liberation Army fighter jet appears, flying so close you can see the pilots in their cockpit.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: PLA fighter aircraft, this is U.S. Navy P8 on VHF 121 decimal five. I hold you on my left wing and I intend to continue to proceed to the west.


WATSON (voice-over): The Chinese pilot never responds, but eventually leaves when the U.S. plane turns south.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's like oil spots as they build on one reef and then build on another.

WATSON (voice-over): Commodore Will Toraason (ph) shows the network of manmade islands China built on what had been coral reefs claimed by other countries.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Our number one focus here is to ensure that we have continued access alongside all of our allies and partners to international airspace and international waters.

WATSON (voice-over): The U.S. presence here aimed at preventing further encroachment by China.

(on-camera): We're flying at a low altitude 1,000 feet, a little more than 300 meters above sea level east of Taiwan, looking for a Chinese warship currently believed to be operating in these stormy waters. (voice-over): The plane spots a Chinese guided missile destroyer.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: U.S. aircraft. U.S. aircraft. This is Chinese navy warship. You are approaching me. Keep safe distance away from me over.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I am a United States military aircraft and I will remain a safe distance from your unit.

WATSON (voice-over): A cat and mouse game between two rival militaries in one of the most hotly contested regions in the world.

Ivan Watson, CNN, over the South China Sea.


KEILAR: Thank you, Ivan.

And coming up, we'll go live to Kyiv for more on our top story. Ukraine marking one year since Russia's brutal and bloody invasion.