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Hala Gorani Tonight

Ukrainian Forces Making Gains West And North Of Kyiv; Ukraine: Russia Pounding Mariupol Into "Ashes Of A Dead Land"; Kremlin Spokesman Denies Russia Targets Civilian Objects Despite Evidence To The Contrary; Pentagon Says Ukrainian Forces "Going After Russians"; Some Russian Soldiers Have Frostbite, Lack Proper Gear; Italian Prime Minister Says Ukraine Wanted In E.U.; Chinese State Media Says No Survivors Found From Flight 5735 Crash; Republican Senators Grill SCOTUS Nominee; Millions Of Refugees Cross Into Poland. Aired 3-4p ET

Aired March 22, 2022 - 15:00   ET



PAULA NEWTON, CNN INTERNATIONAL HOST: Hello and welcome, I'm Paula Newton at CNN Center. After enduring weeks of brutal attacks, Ukraine says its

forces are now going on the offensive in key areas around Kyiv. Now, Ukraine says it has retaken the heavily-damaged town of Makariv, west of

the capital. Now, this is crucial if true.

Kyiv regional police forces in fact released this video, you see it there, and CNN confirms through geo-locating that it does show Makariv and its

surroundings. Ukraine forces are also making gains to the north, thereby impeding Russia's attempts to encircle Kyiv. A lot of explosions meantime

were heard in the capital today as smoke billowed over the horizon as the Russian advance stalls. The U.S. and NATO meantime warn that combat units

from Belarus now could soon join Russia's war.




NEWTON: Meantime, that, from southern Ukraine. Officials say Russia is continuing to pound Mariupol into the ashes of a dead land. One rights

group describes the situation there, as quote, "a freezing hellscape riddled with dead bodies and destroyed buildings". In fact, a lot of the

eye witnesses CNN spoke to outside of Mariupol describe an absolutely desolate and desperate situation. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy

meantime talked about Mariupol when he addressed Italy's parliament today. Listen.


VOLODYMYR ZELENSKYY, PRESIDENT, UKRAINE (through translator): Russian missiles, artillery, is not stopping. The bombing of our cities. Some of

them have been almost destroyed completely. Mariupol, our city near the Azov Sea where half a million had their home there. Just imagine, and

there, in Mariupol, is nothing left, just ruins. Like Armageddon.


NEWTON: Like Armageddon. Now given that, in the last hour, Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov told CNN the Russian president has not yet

achieved his goals in Ukraine. He spoke exclusively to our chief international anchor, Christiane Amanpour. She asked him how long this war

will go on and what will happen next? Listen.


DMITRY PESKOV, SPOKESPERSON, KREMLIN: Of course, no one would think from the very beginning about a couple of days. It's a serious operation with

serious purposes. And I think if we -- if we try to remember those purposes, those main goals of the operation, it's to get rid of the

military potential of Ukraine and -- actually, this is why our military are targeting only military goals and military objects on the territory of

Ukraine, not civil ones.

Russian military are not hitting civil aims, civil targets. Number two, is to ensure that Ukraine changes from entire Russian center to a neutral

country. And in this sense, let's remember that after the collapse of the Soviet Union, actually the neutral status was fixed in a declaration of

independence of the country. Number three, to get rid of the nationalists, battalions, the nationalist regiments who are now -- actually, who are now

opposing Russian troops who are now trying to cover themselves under the shield of civilians. Thus, paving a way for civil casualties.


PESKOV: And also -- and also, I beg your pardon, if you let me, and also, to ensure -- to ensure that Ukraine acknowledges, acknowledges the fact

that Crimea is also an untakable part of Russia, and that Peoples' Republic of Luhansk and Donetsk are already independent states, that Ukraine

actually has lost them after the coup that happened in 2014.


NEWTON: And Christiane joins us now. Christiane, I have to tell you, it was fascinating, but also unnerving in so many ways. What were your key

takeaways from what really was an in-depth interview for nearly a half an hour?


AMANPOUR: Yes, I mean, it was great that we got that time. It's really hard to get actually to speak to them, and it was -- it was -- it was

really important to do so. And also, obviously, to challenge all the obvious, you know, counter factual positions. But I thought in terms of,

you know, obviously, the big issue is civilian casualties, this is out of the Russian playbook. We've seen it everywhere from Grozny to Syria, you

know, we've seen it as it's unfolding now in Mariupol and other places.

And most analysts believe that it's because -- partly because their ground defensive is stalled, they're not going well as you just described at the

beginning of the program, with Ukrainian forces saying that they're taking back and pushing back Russian forces from certain areas. And given the fact

that it's nearly 4 weeks since this invasion, they've only really got one major city, Kherson, and even there, they don't have the people on their

side because Ukrainian people continue to protest, wave the Ukrainian flag and this and that.

So, you know, he did say that he didn't want to acknowledge that there was anything wrong with the offensive or how it's being carried out, but that

it hadn't achieved its aims yet. Thereby, really telegraphing that this is going to go on for a while. And you saw that there seemed to be no movement

on President Putin's maximalist demands.

NEWTON: Yes, and I think also unsettling was the fact that you asked him directly, by my count, three times if Putin would go to the nuclear option



NEWTON: And he equivocated. I want you to listen to that bit now.


AMANPOUR: I need to ask you this because the world is afraid, and I want to know whether Putin intends the world to be afraid of the nuclear option.

Would he use it?

PESKOV: President Putin intends to make the world listen to and understand our concerns. We've been trying to convey our concerns to the world, to

Europe, to the United States for a couple of decades, but no one would listen to us.


NEWTON: And clearly, the intention there, Christiane, is that he's going to make the world listen.

AMANPOUR: Well, absolutely. And you know, you understand that this idea of a confrontation with Russia and a potential nuclear component is what keeps

the West and NATO out of a more robust defense of Ukraine, such as a no-fly zone and the rest. They do not want to engage with Russia head-on, they

don't want a wider war, they say.

But you know, it was instructive, I mean, at one point, he kind of said, you know, nuclear option is not in our -- we only have a certain

existential reason ever to use it, but I didn't get a clear answer. And the fact of the matter is, that also does appear to be out of President Putin's

playbook because he has spoken to, certainly, the president of Finland who I interviewed, who knows him very well, and he without saying nuclear, when

he was directly asked by the president whether he would use a nuclear option, Putin responded, you know, if anybody tried to interfere with him

in Ukraine, there would be, you know, very bad things would happen.

And we all know that his speech before the invasion also said, and warned people not to interfere because they would face the worst kind of

consequences ever witnessed in history. So that is being put out there, presumably, to keep, you know, he whole world on tenterhooks and to be

afraid just as he's done to internal dissent, putting out the idea of -- you heard what he said the other day, you know, if there's any dissent,

these are -- these are not patriots, these corrupted by the West, he said they're like gnats that fly into our mouth and we have to spit them out.

And then he used the word self-cleaning, and this has terrible echoes back to the Stalin times of the purge, the -- you know, executions, and that

kind of thought. So scaring internally and trying to scare externally as well seems to be part of the tactics of Putin's strategy for Ukraine.

NEWTON: Yes, clearly, and also dehumanizing even Russians --


NEWTON: Themselves, for those that he claimed would be traitors. Fascinating interview as I said, Christiane, it will be online, and I

encourage everyone --


NEWTON: To go to to see more of it. Christiane, again, thank you, I appreciate it.

AMANPOUR: Thank you.

NEWTON: Now, we want to get to the latest on the situation on the ground with our Fred Pleitgen. You have been in the capital, Kyiv, for so many

hours now, listening to what seems to be renewed fighting just on the outskirts. What are you hearing this hour?.

FREDERIK PLEITGEN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Hi there, Paula. Well, that fighting really continues, and it really continues a very

heavy form. In fact, right now as I'm speaking to you, I'm hearing those thuds still coming from the area just north of Kyiv, and you know, I'd say

about half an hour, maybe 45 minutes ago, we had another air raid siren alarm.


Those have been pretty much going on regularly throughout the entire day. It's unclear whether or not the Russian air force is really operating here

or how it's operating here, but certainly, those air raid sirens keep going off. One of the things that we had today is that the Ukrainians said that

the Russians fired a pretty heavy missile at the Ukrainian capital, that, that missile was shot down and then landed in the Dnipro river, at least,

the remnants of that missile, of course, the big river that runs through the city here.

You can see on your screen right now, just one of those hits sort of in the north of Kyiv and also northern outskirts of Kyiv, we have been seeing a

lot of that, we've been hearing a lot of outgoing fire it seems from Ukrainian forces, and of course, for us, from our vantage point here.

Right now, the Ukrainian authorities really aren't saying very much, it's difficult to tell what exactly is going on there, whether the Russians are

trying to make a new push to try and move forward or whether this is a counter-offensive possibly by the Ukrainian forces trying to possibly push

Russian forces back or even trying to encircle some of those Russian forces, pretty large concentration of course, in the northwestern part of

Kyiv in the districts of Bucha and also are fighting for Irpin as well.

And so that certainly seems to us where a lot of those booms are coming from and where a lot of that smoke is also coming up from as well. So

throughout the entire day, really, Paula, there has been one that saw very intense fighting, certainly a lot more intense than anything that we've

seen in the past couple of days, Paula.

NEWTON: Yes, which is bound to be terrifying for everyone who is in the capital right now as they've been waiting for this for days. I have to ask

you, we had the -- you know, the Ukrainians say that Makariv now possibly was in the hands again of Ukrainian forces. I mean, how much creditability

do you put in that? And if they are in charge there again, what does that say to you?

PLEITGEN: Well, it certainly seems to be the case and the Ukrainians seem to be there. We saw that video of Ukrainian forces apparently driving

through Makariv and also were able to geo-locate and find out that, that is exactly where they are or at least where that video came from, and it's a

big deal for the Ukrainians. We can see on our map right there, it's about 35 miles west of the capital, Kyiv, and if the Ukrainians have Makariv or

retook Makariv, it means that the Russians can't encircle Kyiv.

It means that the Russians can't get around and can't do that pincer move where they're trying to move in from the northeast and encircle the capital

from here, and from the northwest. Certainly there, it seems as though their forward progress seems to not only have been halted, but indeed

pushed back with the Ukrainians now holding that town.

Although, our understanding is that, apparently, there are still some contested areas around Makariv, but certainly getting that town back is a

very big deal for the Ukrainian forces, but of course, also coming at massive cost, some of the things that we're seeing right now from that

video with a lot of buildings destroyed, completely flattened.

Obviously, some really heavy fighting taking place, that took a toll on the people there, obviously took a toll on the infrastructure there as well,

but nevertheless, the Ukrainians are saying that is a really important small sort of tactical victory for them, and certainly, something that they

say they hope to build on. Ukrainian officials are saying they now want to go and also launch counter-offensives in other places as well, Paula.

NEWTON: OK, 9:00 p.m. hour there in the evening in Ukraine, in Kyiv, as that fighting apparently continues on the outskirts of the city. Fred,

we'll continue to stay in touch with you. Appreciate it. Now, one adviser to Ukraine's president says it could be in fact, relatively easy to find

common ground with Russia on some issues on the ongoing talks meant to end this brutal war. But he says any mention of giving up Ukrainian territory

is in his words going nowhere.

Alexander Rodnyansky joins me now from Berlin. Really glad to have you here, especially as we see the ongoing battle in Ukraine. We want to know

how this is going to inform any kind of negotiations. Is there an outline of the deal, and what would it look like, given Russia is still brutally

subjecting cities like Mariupol to those punishing assaults, how much more will it take?

ALEXANDER RODNYANSKY, ADVISER TO UKRAINIAN PRESIDENT: Well, that's exactly right, like you said. So, there is no outline of a deal at this point.

Russia is clearly trying to improve its bargaining position by military means still. It's hard to say that there is any peace talks at the same

time when we see there's real fighting and when they escalate the whole time. So these two things are inconsistent. As you correctly mentioned my

quote from before, certain issues we could potentially discuss, but certain other issues for which -- on which they are very adamant, there's obviously

not going to be any agreement on.

NEWTON: Yes, and the issue there, the red line obviously is giving up any territory for, you know, Ukraine's point of view. But are you concerned

that Russia just continually and so aggressively is continuing its punishing campaign on the ground?


And that civilians really, are having a timeline that is not playing in their favor whatsoever?

RODNYANSKY: Yes, well, that's the Russian war method, we've seen it before, we've seen it in Syria, we've seen it in Chechnya 20 years ago. At

this point, it's clear that they're incapable of taking the cities without large losses to either their troops or the civilian population. So, they

have to basically destroy them.

The targeting of civilians is also military tactics on their part, they want to subvert Ukraine, subvert our resistance, break it by any means

possible. It's just a dehumanizing, completely perfidious way of conducting a war, and that's what they're doing.

NEWTON: And yet though, is there anything that can be done at that negotiating table that Ukraine could give so that some of this bloodshed

would stop?

RODNYANSKY: Well, look, we're trying our best. From our end of course, we're interested in peace, that's why we're still conducting these peace

talks. We think they're just using these peace talks to avert further sanctions to signal to the world, look, to sort of deceive the world that

they're interested in peace, and therefore further sanctions are unnecessary. But we have to give it a try. And as I said before, we're

happy to discuss a neutrality status as long as there are concrete security guarantees, unlike in the Budapest memorandum.

Because basically, NATO has said no to us, so we've heard that, and then there's Russia, and also we have war, so we're able to -- we're willing to

consider any sort of compromise there. But the other issues, that's just going to be very hard.

NEWTON: You know, the issue of NATO is off the table, but now we have Mario Draghi, President Zelenskyy spoke to the Italian parliament, and he's

saying, look, he's been blunt, Italy wants Ukraine to join EU. Is this not though, an escalation on the part of Ukraine? Doesn't this make any kind of

peace deal with Russia even more unlikely, by even entertaining this EU membership?

RODNYANSKY: Well, the EU membership is obviously has signaling value, has a political sort of value to it, there's a symbol behind it, but that

doesn't happen overnight, of course. Now, whether that really antagonizes Russia further or not is hard to say. They have already escalated this war

as far as possible. There's a risk that they'll use severe, you know, weapons of mass destruction. So I don't think the fact that there's an EU

enlargement issue here potentially, somewhere down the road, and that's going to take years, has any bearing on this.

NEWTON: Yes, unfortunately, I'd be willing to bet at that at the table, Russia would say otherwise. in fact, they have said otherwise. You're in

Germany right now, President Zelenskyy has said that look, if Europe continues to buy more Russian energy, they're going to spill more Ukrainian

blood. What more are you asking Germany and the European allies to do?

RODNYANSKY: Well, that's exactly right. So, right now we're really pushing hard for oil and gas embargo such that Russia can't sell or export its oil

and gas to Europe. They're basically financing their war efforts with these sales at this point, especially, given that prices are still very high and

have risen over the last year. So we have to -- Europe has to stop doing that, because obviously, they're trying to help us on the one hand, but on

the other hand they're financing this war.

So, we're really asking for support when it comes to that. And it's feasible for Europe to do that in terms of how much economic pain there's

going to be, it's actually not that much if you look at recent studies. And the other part of course is military. We still need military support, we

haven't received a no-fly zone, but at least, we need -- we need the capabilities and the air defense systems such that we can replicate a no-

fly zone by ourselves.

NEWTON: OK, Alexander, we'll have to leave it there for now, but I just appreciate you bringing us up to date on those diplomatic efforts. Thanks

so much --

RODNYANSKY: Thank you.

NEWTON: Still to come for us tonight, Vladimir Putin's war on Ukraine isn't going as planned. U.S. worries he's getting desperate. What they're

warning about, next.



NEWTON: In Russia itself, a leading Kremlin critic has just been sentenced to nine more years in prison. Alexei Navalny was found guilty of fraud in a

case that his supporters say is a sham. He says he will appeal the verdict and likened his situation to that of U.S. TV show, tweeting, "nine years."

Well, as the characters of my favorite TV series "The Wire" used to say, you only do two days, that's the day you go in and the day you come out.

I even had a T-shirt with the slogan, but the prison authorities confiscated it, considering the print extremist." Navalny had already been

behind bars for crimes he says he didn't commit. Our Atika Shubert has been following this case, and very true to form, Alexei Navalny there and his

supporters being quite sarcastic. But I want to point to some content here in terms of that tweet went on to say, "the best support for me and other

political prisoners is not sympathy and kind words, but actions.

Any activity against the deceitful and thievish Putin regime, any opposition to these war criminals." I mean, Atika, in terms of the

significance of this, which is obviously something that Alexei Navalny was expecting, right?

ATIKA SHUBERT, CNN CORRESPONDENT: He was clearly expecting it. I mean, there was a video link to where the sentencing was conducted remotely, and

you could see him looking quite thin actually and quite gaunt. But he was completely unfazed, when the sentencing was read out, he was just shuffling

through court papers. It was clearly something that he had expected, He's already faced these charges -- these sort of fraud charges brought by the

Russian state before in previous trials that were not considered free or fair, according to the European Court of Human Rights.

And so for him, this was a repeat of what he had seen. I think what made the difference this time was that the sentence was quite long, that's a

nine-year sentence in a maximum security penal colony. These are very harsh conditions. But you know, true to Navalny's form, he also put out a

statement as you read out on Twitter that was very defiant, kept a sense of humor, but also urged people to continue to support the anti-corruption

foundation founded by Navalny.

And urging people to fight back against Russian state censorship. And I think it's interesting that despite the fact that he's been in prison

already, serving another sentence for two and a half year sentence already, his foundation has continued to operate independently of him. And I think

that's a strategic decision by the foundation so that even if he is in prison, if it's more difficult for him to coordinate things, they continue

to operate.

And while the war in Ukraine has been raging, the anti-corruption foundation has been unveiling a lot of the corruption at the Russia's

highest levels, even more so, and now fighting against that censorship in Russia. So, I think he remains defiant and the anti-corruption foundation

is likely to continue whether or not he's in prison.

NEWTON: Yes, and the issue is how much influence, especially given recent laws and actions that he can continue to have within Russia. Atika, good to

have you on the story, appreciate it. Now, the White House is concerned that Vladimir Putin may be willing to use cyber attacks as he becomes more

and more desperate about his war in Ukraine. CNN cyber security reporter Sean Lyngaas joins me now from Washington.


I mean, in terms of what you're hearing, Sean, you have some new information about perhaps what Russia's already been up to?

SEAN LYNGAAS, CNN CYBERSECURITY REPORTER: That's right, Paula. I mean, for months, U.S. officials have been warning about this possibility that Russia

could use cyber attacks to lash out over tensions over Ukraine, and as western sanctions begin to bite. And yesterday, President Joe Biden made

this -- the clear statement yet, and he's saying basically, he thinks that it will happen. And the reason why -- part of the reason why this is being

taken so seriously is because U.S. Intelligence agencies have been pretty much spot-on leading up to Ukraine.

So, you know, every prediction, you know, is pretty much panned out. Now, we should say that there's cyber activity going on all the time, and every

day, you know, both U.S. and Russian Intelligence agencies are propping each other's networks. But this warning is a little bit more stark and a

little bit more clear to U.S. critical infrastructure organizations to say, be prepared, be vigilant. We reported just today that the FBI sent a

warning on March 18th to U.S. energy companies, saying that suspected Russian hackers have been scanning their networks, poking around, looking

for anything vulnerable.

This could be part of a psychological signaling on the part of Russian entities, but it could also be a prelude to more disruptive hacking should

the Kremlin decide to use it, Paula.

NEWTON: Yes, and we should say this space becomes more complicated as volunteer hackers also come in on both sides. Sean, I appreciate the

update, thank you. Still to come for us tonight, Ukraine's counter-attack around Kyiv, we'll talk with a military analyst about the intensified push

to keep Russian forces from encircling the capital.


NEWTON: And welcome back. The Pentagon says Russian forces are running out of fuel and food, describing them as frustrated and stalled as they fail to

advance on Kyiv. Now Ukrainian forces are actually re-taking some territory around the capital, as they say they are pressing ahead with a counter

offensive. Pentagon spokesperson told CNN that Ukrainian soldiers are very much in this fight.


JOHN KIRBY, PRESS SECRETARY, DEPARTMENT OF DEFENSE, UNITED STATES: They are going after Russians and pushing them out of places where the Russians have

been in the past. So we've seen this now increase over the last few days. And it's a real testament to their ability to fight, to plan, to adapt and

to, again, try to push Russian forces back out.


NEWTON: So tempering that assessment though is a new warning from the U.S. and NATO that Belarus could soon come to Russia's aid and join the war.

CNN's Ivan Watson is in central Ukraine to tell us about some of the casualties of this conflict.


IVAN WATSON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: This military cemetery brings home the stark reality Ukraine has been living with for

years. All of these crosses, they mark the graves of Ukrainian service men, who have died fighting against Russian-backed separatists in the Donbas

region since 2014.

And on this side, we have new graves. And they're devoted to casualties from Russia's invasion of Ukraine that was launched on February 24th of

this year. One of the fallen is Mikhail Zediraka (ph), born in 1997, just 25 years old.

And if you come over here, you see something else, which is a reminder of how grim this conflict is. The authorities have dug dozens of additional

graves, anticipating the likelihood of more casualties in this terrible conflict.

This refrigerator truck represents another side of this war. It's parked outside a city morgue. And city officials say that it is partially filled

with the bodies of some 350 Russian soldiers.

There is another refrigerator truck, they say, that is parked in another part of the city with around 400 Russian corpses.

And when you come to this side here, you can smell the stench of cadavers. Ukrainian officials say that they are conducting DNA tests of the Russian

dead and that they are then going to send these bodies to the Ukrainian capital, to eventually be returned to Russia and to the families for proper

burial -- Ivan Watson, CNN, Dnipro, Ukraine.


NEWTON: I want to bring in CNN military analyst now, retired Col. Cedric Leighton in the U.S. Air Force.

Pretty stark what we heard from Ivan, we heard earlier from Fred Pleitgen in the capital where the fighting continues.

What do you make of the Ukrainian forces saying they have retaken Makariv?

What do you think that tells you about how the military campaign is shaping up?

COL. CEDRIC LEIGHTON (RET.), CNN MILITARY ANALYST: Well, Paula, I think the fact that the Ukrainians are very consistent with their assertions

about retaking Makariv and the fact that there's video associated with it, I think that does indicate they have made a lot of progress.

And I believe that what we're seeing here is a concerted effort by the Ukrainian forces to pull back the Russian advance. And that Russian

advance, of course, stalled for a very long time in relative terms.

And what they seem to be doing is bringing things kind of to a -- you know, I wouldn't say it's a stalemate yet. But it seems they're actually trying

to gain momentum in a way they haven't had before. So there's, in that part, significant progress for the Ukrainians.

On the other hand, of course, the whole country is still at risk. There is still a lot going on, especially in places like Mariupol and in, of course,

in the other parts of the south. So the Russian advance in those areas may not have stopped yet.

But the fact of the matter remains that the key prize is still Kyiv. And the Russians have, I think, a long way to go before they can encircle that


NEWTON: Yes, and yet, certainly, the bombings continue and we're running out of words to describe the indiscriminate and savage assault on Mariupol.

There is increased bombardment there as well.

You know, we keep throwing around the word -- and you say it's not a stalemate.

And I'm glad you put that out there because, from a tactical analysis, does a stalemate even matter?

The fact Russia is pummeling places like Mariupol into submission, that will translate into territorial grab, wouldn't it, anyway, in the south?

LEIGHTON: Yes, exactly, Paula.


LEIGHTON: And if they do get Mariupol, that basically completes their land bridge from Crimea to the Donbas separatist regions and then on to Russia.

So that was a military goal the Russians have been very open about.

And if they do that, they're about three-quarters of their way to encircling -- or at least taking the southern coastline of Ukraine, both on

the Sea of Azov and a large portion of the Black Sea.

The next thing they'd want to do, based on everything we've seen so far, would be to turn left; in other words, west and go to Odessa and to take

that, because that's the major port city.

So if they do that, they would transform Ukraine into a land-locked country, which would have significant economic consequences and it's

something the Ukrainians really can't afford to have happen. They are clearly trying to avoid that fate. But Mariupol, I'm afraid, is in very

dire straits.

NEWTON: Yes, and continues to be, as President Zelenskyy described it, as Armageddon. And the survivors there, it's really unspeakable what they've

had to go through, which brings us to what could possibly NATO and allies do.

You know, they've been warning a lot about perhaps even a cyber war here and how that could change the character of the conflict.

But do you think it would actually force NATO and its allies and the United States, of course, to be dragged into this conflict further?

LEIGHTON: It's certainly a possibility. When you look at U.S. military doctrine, when it comes to cyber war, we have reserved our right, the U.S.

has reserved its right to go in and respond in not only in cyber, in the cyber realm to a cyber attack, but if it has consequences beyond just the

I.T. infrastructure, it could potentially result in a kinetic response.

So if the Russians mounted a cyber attack against the U.S., there could very well be a kinetic response to that -- not that anyone wants that. But

that is something that is very much in the realm of possibilities and the Russians would be wise not to do something like that.

NEWTON: Yes, it is interesting, many people have said they need to know why Russia hasn't started any kind of cyber attack on the United States yet

or the NATO allies. And you might be right, that might be the reason. They realize it might cross a red line. Colonel, we'll have to leave it there.

Thank you.

LEIGHTON: You bet.

NEWTON: From the military developments to diplomatic ones, President Zelenskyy says he would welcome mediation from the Vatican after a phone

call with the pope. He said Pope Francis understood the importance of self defense as well as the urgency of reestablishing peace in Ukraine.

Zelenskyy telling the pope the mediating role of the Holy See in ending human suffering would be appreciated. This as Italy's prime minister has

said his country wants Ukraine in the E.U.

The bloc has started the lengthy process of examining its bid for membership. Watching all of this is our Nic Robertson. He is in Brussels

for us right now, ahead of a very diplomatic week.

Nic, I want to ask you, though, about Zelenskyy talking there about the pope's, perhaps, you know, involvement. And yet the audience he needs is

not with the pope but it's with Putin. And he does not seem to be willing to come to the table at all at this point.

What could the week ahead tell us about where this conflict could be going?

NIC ROBERTSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL DIPLOMATIC EDITOR: I think it's going to tell us how much unity there is among NATO allies, among the E.U. nations

and at the G7. The push is going to be to ramp up sanctions against Russia.

But we've heard from the U.S. national security adviser, Jake Sullivan, today that it wouldn't just be about new sanctions but essentially plugging

the holes in existing sanctions.

And there is a feeling within the E.U. that there should be a sort of a pause to see how the current sanctions are working. And the German

chancellor Scholz today said the sanctions were having some effects already. So there's this -- so you might see, this week, a unified message.

But if you don't see big headline sanctions, don't be surprised. But there certainly will be nations here around the table at NATO, at the E.U., who

would like to see that.

You know, President Zelenskyy's appeal to the Italians today and others, of course, to increase the speed with which Ukraine can be sort of formally

accepted and get on track for membership to the E.U., that's not a view that's sort of shared equally by all European partners.

The Irish, the Latvians, Lithuanians, Estonians, the Polish, the Slovakians, the Czech Republic, the Slovenians, Croatia as well, the

Bulgarians, they all want to see that happen and have actually agreed amongst themselves that they want to see that happen.


ROBERTSON: Ukraine's tracking toward becoming an E.U. member, have that speeded up. But again, there are others within the E.U. who don't want

that. And I think that's what this week will look like behind the scenes.

But again, there will be this effort to present unity. The E.U., just yesterday, announced another $551 million for aid, security military aid,

for Ukraine, as well as humanitarian aid.

You may get some more -- we may hear some more figures of what that sort of support can be for Ukraine, particularly in the security context. But it

really is going to be about making sure that there's unity and there's a strong, unified message, rather than sort of getting into some of the

differences that may appear behind the scenes -- Paula.

NEWTON: OK, understood. Nic, good to have you on the ground there for us this week, appreciate it.

Still to come for us, a difficult search for answers following China's worst air disaster in more than a decade. We'll have the latest on that

China Eastern airline plane crash.




NEWTON: Chinese state media says no survivors have been found from Monday's China Eastern Airline crash. Rescuers managed to reach the plane

wreckage in the mountainous region in the south of the country, 132 on board that flight. Will Ripley following the story.

You know, the video we've seen is so tragic of that plane apparently dropping nose down in essentially a death dive.

Would that give us some clues that perhaps this wasn't a mechanical failure, just because it was so abrupt?

WILL RIPLEY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It's too soon to say in this stage of the investigative process, at least publicly, what theories they're looking at.

I will say I've spoken with some airline safety inspectors and investigators, who say that one scenario that could cause a plane to

vertically drop like that would be, for example, if one of the engines went out and the pilot turned toward the weak engine instead of the functional


That could send the plane in an irreversible tailspin. Of course, pilots are trained repeatedly how to handle a scenario like that. And we don't

know if one of the engines went out on this Boeing 737-800, which is one of the most widely used workhorses for global aviation.


RIPLEY: There are more than 4,500 of them in service around the world, in flight right now as we speak, Paula. So to have one of these things fall

out of the sky and no visible smoke plume during the descent -- and witnesses corroborated what we saw in that horrifying video, of this plane

plummeting some 7 kilometers in less than three minutes.

Undoubtedly a terrifying experience for those in the aircraft as it was hurtling toward the ground. But no smoke plume to indicate an explosion or

disruption in midair, no inclement weather conditions, the sky was clear, visibility was clear, the bad weather hit after the plane went down.

And there was that explosion and debris everywhere and rescuers are having a hard time getting to these areas because of how remote it is. You're

talking about a crash site surrounded by mountains on three sides, basically only accessible by one narrow pathway, according to the fire


And because of the bad weather and all the plane pieces so small and scattered across such a wide area, they haven't even been able to identify

anybody on board, certainly not publicly identify anybody. They're finding charred wallets and pieces of ID cards, ripped clothing.

But as you've said at the beginning, there, Paula, no evidence that anybody survived or could have possibly survived such a violent impact.

It's devastating for the families who were gathered at the Guangzhou International Airport a few miles away. There were videos of people on

social media just slumped in their chairs crying.

We've covered so many of these plane crashes and every single time, your heart has to, just aches for these families who initially think maybe

there's some hope, maybe some people survive. And as the reality sets in, not only are there no survivors, it might even be impossible to recover and

identify a lot of the remains.

NEWTON: A lot to deal with there, especially the family members, just thinking of their loved ones' last moments, really tough to think about.

Thank you Will, for saying on the story.

Now the U.S. president's Supreme Court nominee is defending her judicial record on day two of her nomination hearings. Democrats are praising Judge

Ketanji Brown Jackson as a deeply qualified, fair and experienced jurist.

But Republican senators are critical and in some cases angry, portraying her as a judge activist. But Jackson is saying that's not her process at



JUDGE KETANJI BROWN JACKSON, SUPREME COURT NOMINEE: I believe that judges are not policymakers, that we have a constitutional duty to decide only

cases and controversies that are presented before us and, within that framework, judges exercise their authority to interpret the law and not

make the law.


NEWTON: CNN's U.S. Supreme Court reporter Ariane de Vogue joins me now from Capitol Hill.

I was able to catch some of the hearings and obviously an incredibly accomplished and composed individual there, as she's undergoing this kind

of questioning.

But you followed this so closely, what stuck out to you so far?

ARIANE DE VOGUE, CNN SUPREME COURT CORRESPONDENT: Well, she's been here now for hours, answering questions. And today is the first day able she's

been able to respond to some criticism.

And in the most part, as you saw just there, her answers are educational, they're very measured. But there have been two areas where she's pushed

back a little bit at Republicans. And this is Republicans trying to portray her as being soft on crime.

For instance, one Republican senator has looked at a handful of cases from when she was a judge and said she was too lenient in her sentences for drug

offenders. And so finally today, she was able -- she was asked about it by a Democrat.

And he said how did that make you feel, to be characterized that way?

And she said, as a mother and a judge, she said, nothing could be further from the truth. And then she took the issue from the victim's perspective

and said, as a judge, unlike most of the politicians in the room, she'd actually seen the evidence in these cases that she called so horrific.

And then she gave her legal response, which is that, as things stand right now, the guidelines for judges are outdated. So she has, in fact, departed

from the regular guidelines. But so has many judges across the country.

So she wanted to make that point. And in another area, Republicans asked her about the fact that she was a federal public defender. That's something

she chose to do early in her career. And as a part of that, she did represent a terrorism suspect, held at Guantanamo Bay.

And we have seen two or three Republicans really grill her about that. And again, she looked at it from the victim's standpoint in her answer. She

talked about 9/11, she talked about that her own brother went ahead and served and she said that, there, she was being a lawyer. She was doing what

lawyers do.


DE VOGUE: So neither of those charges really seem to land on her. But it was interesting to see her push back here.

NEWTON: Yes, and push back that that is, you know, constitutionally, you have a right to that defense and that she was obviously participating in

that. I know you'll continue to watch this for us. It's been fascinating. Thanks so much, appreciate it.

DE VOGUE: Thank you.

NEWTON: Still to come for us, millions of refugees are leaving Ukraine, facing the challenge of a lifetime. And so are the countries that are

taking them in. That's ahead.




NEWTON: It is really hard to fathom the carnage unleashed by Vladimir Putin that has led to so many civilian casualties, now with the most

innocent children paying the highest price of Russia's invasion.

A 2-year-old boy laid to rest near the capital, Kyiv, after he was killed last week by Russian shelling. His father spoke about the unimaginable



OLEN SHPAK, FATHER OF MURDERED CHILD (through translator): I don't know if there is a God.

What is all this for?

For what?

A 2-year-old child, who hasn't experienced life yet; a 2-year-old child, who died for nothing. Mom called him "Little Kiss." Now, there's no one.


NEWTON: Yes, and think about it. His father said, when they did pull him out of the rubble, that little boy still had a heartbeat and,

unfortunately, died on the way to the hospital.

OK, the U.N. Refugee Agency says more than 3.5 million people have already fled Ukraine. Many of them have crossed the border into Poland. Our Melissa

Bell is there, showing us how the refugees and the volunteers are coping.


MELISSA BELL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: We're here at the medical crossing, where people cross on foot from Ukraine. They've continued to arrive the last few

days and again, today, they come through the day, come in the evening.

It is women, often traveling with their small children that continue to arrive. Now Poland, as you know, has really taken in the largest proportion

of those Ukrainians who fled the violence back home and have sought refuge abroad.

More than 2 million people who have now crossed into the country and, of course, all the strain that represents on Poland itself. Now here at the

medical crossing, to give you an idea of what has been set up over the course of the last more than 3.5 weeks now of this war, NGOs that have

gotten organized.


BELL: Children are greeted here with candy to try to comfort them. They're given toys. People have food, tea to provide to anyone who's coming over

the border, again, arriving on foot, carrying small children, the piece of luggage they were able to flee with, sometimes a family pet as well.

And all, of course, carrying with them the profoundly traumatic experiences they've been seeing. What we've been seeing the last couple of days are

people fleeing Irpin, Chernihiv, Kharkiv, Sumy, the areas with particularly bad spikes in violence.

You see a couple of days later at this particular border, with the dreadful symmetry of what's happening on the ground in Ukraine, reflected in the

people seeking shelter, refuge, across this Polish border.

And what we've heard consistently from all the women we've spoken to today, with their small children is, whilst they're glad to be here in safety,

what they really want to do is get back across that border as quickly as they can.

In fact, one of the big challenges for Poland is how they're going to be able to accommodate so many of these refugees that intend to stay close to

the border. Germany now calling for humanitarian hubs to be set up throughout the European Union to help with relocation within Europe.

The fact is that almost everyone we've spoken to really wants to stay here, to get back across as quickly as they can, Paula.


NEWTON: Thank you, thanks to Melissa there.

I want to thank you for watching tonight. Stay with me, we'll be right back with "QUEST MEANS BUSINESS" in a moment.