tv Andrea Mitchell Reports MSNBC February 28, 2022 9:00am-10:00am PST
and good day, everyone. this is "andrea mitchell reports" in washington. where president biden is hosting a secure call with u.s. allies, monitoring the ukrainians resilience against russia's invasion, contrary to expectations that vladimir putin's overwhelming numbers would take kyiv in two days. ukraine's forces continue to hold all major cities with president zelenskyy saying today his government and his people are standing firm in the face of russia's attacks. with nearly 75% of putin's pre-staged combat power previously amassed around ukraine now into the country. talks in belarus between delegations from ukraine and russia on the border with ukraine, ended in the last hour.
putin sending a low level cultural delegation, so there is widespread skepticism of any concrete discussions to end the conflict. global condemnation of russia is spreading with historically neutral switzerland joining europe's anti-russian sanctions and israel not sending weapons to ukraine, but israel at least joining a u.n. resolution, a general assembly resolution condemning ukraine. the u.n. general assembly is voting in a rare emergency session on a resolution condemning russia, despite objections from moscow. russia is suffering severe financial consequences from president putin's actions with their stock market shut down for the rest of the week, the russian ruble crashing to an all time low, interest rates in russia skyrocketing to 20% and new u.s. sanctions on russia's central bank ramped up again today. all the financial pressure and military setbacks have put the global spotlight on putin as the world wonders what will he do in
response to all the new pressures, including spreading protests at home. joining us now, nbc chief foreign correspondent richard engel in ukraine, and nbc's national correspondent in moscow. richard, "the washington post" is reporting russia is striking kharkiv with suspected cluster munitions. devastating munitions with ukrainian officials claiming dozens are dying in these strikes. what are you hearing, what is the latest from one of the hot zones? >> reporter: so i'll start with where i am and then go east to kharkiv. so here in kyiv, things were relatively calm today. the people were out after a weekend of curfew, they were stocking up on supplies. but then just a few minutes ago we heard the air-raid sirens in this city and heard several loud explosions to the south. now, russian forces, the reason i mention to the south, is it's potentially significant. russian forces until now have
been concentrated to the east, and there was a fear that if fighting intensifies to the south and if they move closer to the south, they could take one more step toward encircling the city before a potential invasion into it. in kharkiv, we saw, which is the second largest city in the country of a population of about 1 1/2 million, we saw yesterday a small incursion into the city, a limited number of russian forces in armored vehicles entered into neighborhoods on the outskirts of the city, got out of their vehicles, and there's very clear video of the russian dismounted troops, but after staying in the city for only several hours, they were forced to retreat. what happened today was a much more significant standoff assault with what appeared to be grad missiles and potentially cluster munitions fired at the center of kharkiv, and there is video of bodies on the streets and videos of significant damage
there. and it is a different tactic. it is a tactic of just shelling a civilian city after having tried to penetrate it, potentially to break the city's resolve and to break the ukrainians' will. also considering on the tour further south near mariupol, russian forces were able to capture the city center of a port city with a population of 100,000. they did not appear to have enough troops to occupy or pacify the population because as the russian troops took up their position and moved into some of the local buildings, the people came out and started jeering them. they were yelling at the russians, go home, we don't want you here. they were waving flags, so just entering into a city and taking some of the government buildings is clearly not enough to stop what is proving to be a very determined ukrainian resistance.
>> richard engel, thanks to you and to cal perry, you've seen so much in just the last few days as ukrainian citizens do what they can to stay alive, whether it's taking up arms or sheltering in place or heading west to flee the country and the men signing up, tell us what you're seeing now. >> reporter: and it really seems like an effort being led from the top, by president zelenskyy who continues to put out daily messages, reminding people that they're fighting for their freedom, fighting for their homes, and it is contagious on the ground, certainly where i am and the city of lviv, this is a staging area for troops headed east from where i am to where richard is to head to the fighting in the east, and a staging area for refugees now trying to head west, towards poland finish they can get there. and we're hearing harrowing stories as people try to leave kyiv, getting stuck for 12 hours in their cars, some people
giving up, others coming on foot. i had a chance to talk to a group of teenagers in the city of lviv, they had recently fled kyiv. >> without home, this is very bad. putin will stop this. this is very bad. this is very difficult. this is very bad. my friend in lviv, and i don't know what to do next. >> reporter: this group of teenagers was spending the day walking around the city looking for a place to help. they wanted to help the refugees, they said there was an overflow of volunteers and so they found a nearby place where they were able to make molotov cocktails and i was struck by this group of teenage girls and their enthusiasm about making weapons of war, and them telling me how easy it was to make molotov cocktails and they hoped these weapons would head to the
east as soon as possible. andrea. >> it's just remarkable, the way the population has responded and the way zelenskyy is leading them. keir simmons, we saw president putin briefly earlier today. he had a meeting. he called western nations an empire of lies, he said, because right now he has major domestic economic problems, though, with these western sanctions because there's been -- they were underestimating, i think the world was underestimating what sanctions on the central bank of russia as well as the sanctions on the oligarchs would actually do. >> yeah, andrea, we're seeing historic moments falling like dom -- dominos. we're seeing the tissues, the fabric of the connections of russia. keep in mind, the 11th biggest economy in the world by gdp being torn, the fabric being torn at in order to build, really, a new iron curtain between russia and the west.
and the impact is quite striking, just to give you one example. you mentioned the top, andrea, switzerland, neutral switzerland, saying it will join the sanctions for oligarchs and wealthy russians. if you can't trust that your finances are safe in switzerland, where can you have faith that your money is safe. we were talking today, and yarks -- andrea to a group of women, musicians here in a mall, and they were telling us -- one of them told us that she studied at m.i.t., and they don't know whether they will get visas to europe. talking about friends who have savings, where the savings are is collapsing. they wanted to buy a house, they're not able to buy that house. here's a crucial point, i think, andrea. if you think back decades to the cold war, there was this complete isolation between the soviet union and the west. the two sides really didn't know each other. that is not the case now. this part of russia, in particular, moscow, st.
petersburg, these main cities are interconnected with europe in the west in a profoundly different way, and the fundamental question is it going to be possible for russia to survive this economic collapse, if you like, this economic freezing out without the middle classes of russia frankly revolting. now, on the other hand, you mentioned that meeting between president putin and his finance ministers and his central bank. what's stunning about that meeting is once again, he is sitting on a long table, a huge distance away from them, and that happened again when he was sitting with his defense minister and announcing that change in nuclear posture. again, a huge distance away from them, so here is the question, there is no question that the russian society is shaking right now. is president putin noticing? >> and keir, i just want to point out something else because
zelenskyy has now posted a picture on his telegram account of him officially applying for eu membership. so there were two threads in the initial opposition, you know, that putin had said. one was nato, of course, the military defense force, military alliance, but the other was the european union that offended so much his belief that ukraine belonged to russia. and this is very much, you know, in the face of what russia -- what putin is doing, is it not? >> reporter: yeah, that's exactly right, and i think one moment, one point of caution and richard has made this point earlier today and it was a very good one. we should not forget what looks like a success or win, if you like for the west is a loss for president putin, and the real danger could be that president putin's back is against the wall, clearly militarily, and
economically and diplomatically, and does he lash out. >> that's a perfect segue to our next guest. i'm joined by retired four star army general and former cia director david petraeus. thank you very much for being with us. let's begin with the situation on the ground. i know this is preliminary, it's the opening days and we see long lines, columns now of belarus forces that are heading, you know, heading down towards kyiv, but are you surprised that the ukrainian forces, civilian and military have been able to hold the line and defend their nation so far? >> well, i think everyone has to acknowledge that they're incredibly impressed by what the ukrainian forces, partisan units and above all, the civilians have done, and frankly what their president has done. let's keep in mind that he was a comedian that played the president on television, very successfully. he ran for office, won the office, and he's in the role of a lifetime.
he is providing the example, energy, inspiration, and direction to the country at a time when you couldn't need it more. he refused to leave kyiv. remember he said i don't need a ride i need, you know, ammunition or what have you. this is t again, extraordinary leadership at the very top level, and it permeates down and the people are responding magnificently. i cannot imagine a more challenging, horrible context to be an invader than this. i was part of an invasion force, as you will recall, as commander of the 101st airborne division into iraq, the fight to baghdad. we had about 20,000 forces overall, and 254 helicopters and so forth. the people were applauding us. everyone's forgotten that now perhaps, but they didn't love saddam hussein, his murderous sons and so forth, they were happy to see that kleptocratic
regimes go, it was later that there was an insurgency of extremism arose. invading a country in which everyone hates you, and most of the adults are willing to kill you is chilling. no route can be secure. you can never stop, rest, pull maintenance, rearm, refuel, without enormous security around you, and it also as seen today, you can get into a city even, but you're not going to be able to hold it because urban combat above all is impossible under these circumstances, unless you do, and i fear that we will see more of this, and you mentioned the use of grad rockets and so forth. i fear that we will see out of russian frustration, and so forth, and an inability to make progress, they will really start to rubble areas. let's keep in mind what they did to grosny, what they did to aleppo in syria.
i think there's enormous destructive capacity but clearly they have failed in their campaign, seven axis of advance, each have to be logistically supported which again is very difficult if the routes are not secure, committed their forces piecemeal, didn't take advantage of the first day or two when the ukrainian forces didn't have the obstacles and fortifications and all the rest because the mobilization was declared just 24 hours prior to the invasion because the president understandably didn't want to steer the people. they failed to await the main effort, the attack on kyiv, which is, after all, that's the objective is to topple zelenskyy and his government and replace them with a pro-russian force, combined arms effects of infantry, armour, and artillery, all of this, and they certainly haven't been successful in performing adequate logistics operations either. so you know, andrea, it's not impossible that this could be
worse for russia than afghanistan was for the soviet union where you recall at the end of which, at least they withdrew in an orderly fashion, general going across freedom bridge and hugging his son at the other end, leaving a soviet supported regime in kabul, which stayed in charge, at least of kabul, for another two years until the soviets cut the funding, and then you saw the civil war. so this is really a very very difficult situation. i think that you put that together with the fact that what vladimir putin has done has united the entire world just about against him. and prompted, you know, a country like germany to take an action that is complete not historic for them, in terms of, you know, $100 billion single expenditure on defense, you know, a one time supplemental commit to go 2% of the gdp on defense immediately. they weren't even at 1.5%, and
weren't projected to get to two for a number of years. the nord stream 2 certification on and the provision of lethal weapons and supplies for ukraine, having earlier provided as you recall, kevlar helmets, so again, that's just exemplary, and you noted the challenges for russia in the financial system, president biden said give it a month and see how it works. it is days because the stock exchange can't even open under these circumstances. the ruble has collapsed in the economy very quickly feeling all kinds of shocks in it, and of course as you noted, the demonstrators on the street, despite the fact that they have been told that they will get criminal charges if detained, and treated very very roughly in physical terms as well. so this is quite an extraordinary moment. i do expect that russia will try
to use the sheer weight of what it has to do again, an enormous difference, and as i said, destroy parts of cities, depopulating them in some respects if they have to, but we actually now need to start to figure out how is it that we're going to help president zelenskyy negotiate and find a way out and he has to be very careful not to, you know, spike the football or start doing high fives, prematurely or in a way that could, you know, you don't want a madman backed into a corner with nothing to lose, especially if they madman has nuclear weapons, and he's rattled the nuclear saber as you know. >> yeah, i want to ask you about that concerning, first of all, you've got -- we've got satellite photos now, public photos showing two big columns of troops hitting from belarus, they're belarusian troops 40 miles from kyiv, last report, a
cluster of munitions being used to devastating effect on the civilian populations, and two days in a row, this nuclear threat could be a bluff but you don't want any kind of bluff with nuclear weapons. you don't want them backed into the corner, there's a careful balancing act there. >> that's exactly right, and by the way, i fear we'll see these really terrifying thermal barrack munitions on rockets launched. you know, they literally suck the oxygen out of a room or an area in which they explode including out of the lungs of the people who are in those areas. they're arguably against the law of land warfare. in any event, again, this is a very very sensitive moment. and there's going to have to be real thought given to how is it that we try to find some way out. i know sympathy for vladimir putin who's the one who roled the iron dice, as bismarck referred to the decision to go to war. you never know how they're going to come up.
as we were doing the war game, michelle foreignier and others, isn't one we gave high percentages of coming to pass. >> we thought it would be two days into kyiv, and might be toppling the government. thank you so much, general petraeus, your experience, your knowledge is just invaluable. >> always a privilege. >> thank you. and the financial instability in russia is having rippling effects. the dow has been down throughout the day. stocks are off the lows that we saw at the opening bell. msnbc markets correspondent dominic chu joins us now. what do you think we aren't seeing? why aren't we seeing a bigger dip so far today? >> we did see a bigger dip earlier on, and markets here in the u.s. have largely recovered because over the last several days, including day one of the invasion back on thursday, what you have is a situation where
investors say geopolitical risks they do abound, and they tend to ease over time. general petraeus mentioned some of the historic levels of financial market turmoil that have happened in russia. i mean, the words being used are, again, historic, collapsed, unprecedented, all of these things, especially when it comes to the currency. that russian ruble weakens to its worst level on record, at one point today, it cost around 110 rubles to buy just one u.s. dollar. to give you some context at the beginning of the year, it cost around 75 rubles to buy the same dollar. that's how weakened the currency has gotten, and it's that quick and massive depreciation that led the russian central bank to more than double interest rates to 20% from 9 1/2%, i mean, here we're talking about some of the turmoil that's being caused by the fed, looking to raise rates by 1/2 of 1%. all in an effort to stop the selling pressure on the ruble, and try to encourage people and
companies to keep their holdings, and the russian markets, we know, they're shut down. no trading on russian stocks to avoid a fire sale. just to give an idea of how bad it is now, there are funds and instruments in the u.s. that trade, they're trading in the u.s., some of those funds, andrea, have lost about a quarter of their value just today. it would be like the dow losing 8,000 points. the russian turmoil is having an effect on the economy and people. >> dominic chu thank you so much for your help on the economic front, on wall street and the global stock markets as well, and vladimir putin's nuclear threat raising alarms with his military confirming today they have been put on high alert following putin's order. president biden down playing putin's move, not responding with a higher status by u.s. forces. joining us the former director national security agency, and
spoerp for the national council on election integrity. the admiral rogers, the dog that hasn't marked in cyber. there were some, you could call them pinprick denial of service attacks on key ukrainian ministries, defense, foreign ministry over the last several days. nothing like turning off the lights. he's done that before. what do you think is going on there? >> i think he hoped as he would have as general petraeus highlighted, i think he hoped he was going to have much quicker success on the ground, and the cyber element didn't have to be quite as visible, quite as aggressive. i think the challenge, and you have highlighted this to our audience already in the broadcast, he is behind time line on the ground, so he's resorting to a much more aggressive, much more destructive approach now. he, i think, is dealing with significant and unattended in his mind, economic pain.
i think that means he is going to be looking for what tools does he have to apply pressure to those nations that are executing the sanctions against him, and how can he bleed off some of this increasing domestic pressure. the cyber element, and the disinformation piece becomes very attractive. in the coming days and weeks you're going to see a more aggressive use of cyber coming out of russia. >> what is your reaction to his announcing that he's putting his military command, his nuclear deterrent forces on high alert. do you think he's bluffing? >> always concerned because that is a significant set of capabilities that you would hope never are used. i think you saw the reaction from the united states and others. we're trying to be very measured here. just because you choose to potentially escalate in the nuclear dimension, we will not go down that route. let's hope that he is trying to use this as a means of signaling to the west, look, i have a whole broader set of capabilities, some of which are among your worst nightmares, and
you need to be mindful as you continue these economic aggressive and political actions directed against me, you need to be mindful i have this capability. let's hope it's just a signal but doesn't intend to use these capabilities. >> we have had our cyber expert go to nato in recent weeks. nato has been urged to improve their cyber defenses. ukraine as well was getting help from us, supposedly, how well defended are we even here at home. you look at solar winds and how late we were to even discovering what was going on? >> we need to be mindful, the metric has to be, look, if the metric or the view in people's minds is any penetration, that means that the opponent, in this case, the russians have succeeded. i would argue what we need to demonstrate is our resiliency, and we can deal with cyber challenges as we acknowledge there could be pain or disruption for potentially short
time periods. we will continue to function, and demonstrate the resiliency to show the russians aggressive cyber actions are not going to achieve the effect that you want, they will not weaken our political will, they will not cause our domestic populations to place pressure to do away with sanctions. you're seeing a big focus on the moment, ensuring basic fundamentals of cyber hygiene and cyber defense are in place, and we're also thinking about the challenges associated with resiliency. one thing i would also highlight, i think we are going to find from a cyber perspective that the events associated with the russian invasion of the ukraine will prove to be a water shed in the history of cyber. it is amazing to me. you are already seeing third party patriotic hackers on both ukrainian and russian side. you are seeing third parties in the form of enormous, for example, entering this. you have a whole host of actors in cyber here, much well beyond just the quote nation state
between russia and the ukraine. >> and ukraine as a country and ukrainian individuals are pretty sophisticated about this? >> oh, yeah. and general petraeus highlighted this. when we think of insurgency, we often tend to think of kinetic use of weapons and explosives. i would argue you are likely to see not only that element in ukraine but the cyber capabilities that the ukrainians have i think it will be a really interesting cyber element to a potential insurgency that will grow as the russians increasingly assume control of the territory and functions within the ukraine. >> admiral radiologies, thank you so much. thanks for being with us. >> thank you very much, andrea. and the state of the union, last minute speech rewriting with ukraine front and center. the expectations and evolving backdrop for the president's big address to the joint session of congress tomorrow. this is a special edition of "andrea mitchell reports" only on msnbc. "andrea mitchell reports" only "andrea mitchell reports" only on msnbc
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that needs to be confirmed and quickly, president biden is going to deliver his first state of the union address to congress tomorrow. the president hoping to fire up his base ahead of the midterms amid a divided nation and security concerns prompting fencing to go back up around the u.s. capitol for the first time in months. but ukraine is certainly now going to be a major part of the speech as white house press secretary jen psaki told kristen welker and peter alexander today at 11:00. >> certainly what we're seeing on the ground in ukraine, the fact that the president has built a coalition of countries around the world to stand up to russian aggression to stand up to president putin, to put in place crippling sanctions, that is part of what people will hear in the space. that wouldn't have been the case three months ago. >> joining us now, former obama white house press secretary robert gibbs. former republican national committee chairman, michael steele, usa today's washington bureau chief susan page, and first tv appearance as nbc
correspondent, yamiche alcindor. robert gibbs, first to you, how does the president tackle ukraine with the speech tomorrow instead of the domestic priorities, should it become the major focus, is he the foreign policy leader, does he pivot, what does he do? >> andrea, i think he's got to walk and chew gum at the same time, and likely talk about both of them. i tend to believe still, the economy is the biggest focus in this speech. if you look at the public polling out this weekend, it is the economy that's the biggest challenge that he has. i do think you can twin these together because in reality, the american people are likely to see their food prices and their energy prices go up as a result of what's happening in ukraine and europe. and i think this is a moment for joe biden to speak plainly and simply to the american people about what's at stake in ukraine, why it matters, and why americans are going to almost certainly have to be part of the
sacrifice in order to push putin back. and so i think it's a unique moment. it's the biggest audience he's likely to speak to this year. that's always true for a state of the union. and i think he has to use that moment to not just talk about that, but really dig into inflation and the economy. again, that's what's driving his disapproval rating up and his approval rating down. >> and yamiche, domestically, he has, you know, low poll numbers. people not having confidence in his leadership. and he has to show his empathy that he really understands the struggle of people that are going through covid, but inflation, inflation, inflation. >> that's right. and it is -- he is the kind of president who is focused on being an empathizer and chief. he is someone who came into office, really thinking about how does he connect to every day people. this, of course, as you said with his sliding poll numbers is really a test for him. not only is this foreign policy-wise one of the most important speeches by an
american president since the cold war. he has a domestic agenda that is stalled. you think about voting rights, you think about policing rights, you think about all of the different things he wants to do, infrastructure when it comes to the build back better act. he really has to go forward and say i have an agenda, here's sort of the way forward for me to get that done on top of the fact that he has to talk about what's going on in eastern europe, and how that's going to affect us here at home with record high inflation. there's a tall order there, and based on my conversations with white house officials, they are revising, they are making sure that this is a speech that speaks to the moment, meets the moment but also a speech that directly impacts every day americans lives and can really sort of talk to them about how he sees them and how he really feels their pain in this moment. >> michael steele, let's talk about what the president is facing politically. with the midterms not that far off, we just saw what happened at c-pac over the weekend where the far right wing of the
republican party is really going after him on every front. >> right. well, yeah, i mean, that's to be expected. i would be surprised if they didn't. even if it was a, you know, the right wing takeover of the gop driving the narrative, you know, the traditional old line gop would be driving the narrative to robert's point about the economy and what yamiche was saying about how all of this kind of fits together. the reality for the president is he's got two roads in front of him that he's got to merge, and he's got to make that messaging very effective. the noise from the right is going to be noise from the right, you cannot break up against that and think you're going to change that sound. that bell is going to clang no matter what. what you've got to do is create a call moving the population in a different direction. the speech is important. don't get me wrong, but what the
messaging is after the speech becomes triply important because then you got to take that and translate it across a country and neighborhoods in communities that weren't necessarily watching the speech last night but did see poll numbers showing the president at 37% do feel the pinch of high gas prices and inflation. so the speech is an important moment to set. and reset. set the narrative around global affairs. reset the narrative around the economy, and then go out into the country and deliver that message at kitchen tables and gas stations, and as the polls open for primaries, president go stand in the line with voters, and show the impact and the importance of voting in the country, so he has the opportunity to do it. the question i have, and maybe robert can answer this is his
political team capable of doing those kinds of strategies? >> and can he do it in a wartime setting when he's having all of these conference calls and has to show his leadership on that, and not show he's focusing too much on politics and going out to the country. susan, let's talk about the new "usa today" suffolk poll that shows inflation, not surprisingly, though, is a major problem for the president, 67% disapproving. >> a big challenge for the president. there's a different agenda from even a month or two ago. it's not covid, it's not how to pass the build back better bill. it's how to deal with inflation, and also in just the past few days there's going to be a focus on russia and ukraine. big challenge for biden, also a big opportunity because the most damaging single number in our poll is by two to one americans say they do not see joe biden as a strong leader, and leadership on the foreign stage with an event as cataclysmic as we're
watching now in europe is one that could enable him to come back and change that reputation about whether he's a strong leader, andrea. >> and robert gibbs, your take as well, and you've got the iowa governor, she's going to give the republican response. how do you see tomorrow night shaping up, and also, rashida tlaib is going to have a response from the progressive part of the party. >> yeah, and look, this is one of those moments where in reality, there's 535 responses that will come sometime tomorrow and tomorrow evening from capitol hill. but i think he's got to focus on what does this speech lay out for not just the next week or six days but the next six months, right, this has to be a document that is looked at as a north star for this administration in what they're going to be working on between now and election day. that's the big focus. >> robert gibbs, michael steele,
susan page, and nbc news washington correspondent yamiche alcindor. >> so excited to be here with you. >> we are all thrilled. the whole bureau is. thanks for starting out with us today. and coming up, from comedian and actor to putin's enemy number one, a look at the unlikely hero, ukraine's president zelenskyy. this is a special edition of "andrea mitchell reports" only on msnbc. "andrea mitchell reports" only "andrea mitchell reports" only on msnbcs reduces stroke risk better than warfarin and has less major bleeding than warfarin. eliquis has both. don't stop taking eliquis without talking to your doctor may increase your risk of stroke. eliquis can cause serious and in rare cases fatal bleeding. don't take eliquis if you have an artificial heart valve or abnormal bleeding. while taking, you may bruise more easily or take longer for bleeding to stop. get help right away for unexpected bleeding, or unusual bruising. it may increase your bleeding risk if you take certain medicines. tell your doctor about all planned medical
ukraine's president zelenskyy has surprised the world with his courage and defiance, starting with his fiery speech in munich on february 19th, pleading for weapons from nato and the u.s. and the eu. he's become a hero at home for staying in the capital and putting his life on the line, as well as taunting russia in daily videos. nbc's erin mclaughlin is in ukraine with a look at the
unlikely leader standing up against vladimir putin. >> for many it's a profile in courage. ukrainian president volodymyr zelenskyy holding his crown in the face of extraordinary danger, choosing to remain in ukraine, declining a reported u.s. offer of safe evacuation. telling the world through a tweet shared by the ukrainian embassy and britain, the fight is here. i need ammunition, not a ride. the 44-year-old drawing global praise for his messages of resolve shared on social media, telling the world, we're still here and inspiring ordinary ukrainians to join in the fight. >> zelenskyy, he keeps me confident. >> reporter: ukrainians like 35-year-old natasha who is making molotov cocktails for ukrainian forces. >> for me, zelenskyy is a real fighter for the democracy worldwide and for the peaceful future of our children. >> reporter: a former adviser to
president zelenskyy paints a picture of a man saddened by ukrainians suffering but determined. >> i think this is the first time in ukrainian history that we have a truly ukrainian president. he's pretty much a direct reflection of what ukrainian people are thinking, feeling and how they are. so he's one of us. >> reporter: zelenskyy is married with two children. he's also jewish. a descendant of holocaust survivors. before winning the presidency in 2019, he found fame playing a president on tv. in the ukrainian television series, servant of the people. and won hearts while competing on ukraine's "dancing with the stars," a pop culture icon, now president, emerging as a global hero. his resilience against imminent threat ultimately resonating across social media.
one viral tweet writing i just really want this guy to live through this, as the threat to his life becomes graver by the day. >> russia's main objective is to physically eliminate him. and, you know, and he hasn't left so that kind of tells you what kind of man he is. this nation is rock solid, and that kind of gives me a lot of optimism. >> erin reports that the support from zelenskyy's inner circle is absolutely critical. his family is also still in ukraine in another location. and battlefield talks, delegations from both ukraine and russia trying to find a diplomatic end to the conflict. will putin back down? this is a special edition of "andrea mitchell reports" on msnbc. rea mitchell reports" on msnbc.
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your doctor gives you a prescription. “let's get you on some antibiotics right away.” we could bring it right to your door. with 1 to 2 day delivery from your local cvs. or same day if you need it sooner. but aren't you glad you can also just swing by to pick it up, and get your questions answered? because peace of mind is something you just can't get in a cardboard box. that's how healthier happens together with cvs. delegations from kyiv and moscow met today in belarus on the border, but the fighting continues and ukrainian president zelensky is not hopeful the talks will achieve much as russia shows no sign of de-escalating. joining me is "new york times" pentagon correspondent helene cooper and michael crowley.
the talks have concluded and one of president zelenskyy's advisers tweeted out: >> it seems to indicate they're not ready for a cease-fire certainly. these talks are not being held at a very high level. i think zelenskyy is clearly one to show he's willing to engage in talks through his delegation, but not real hope for this. >> no, andrea. this strikes me largely as theater. both sides here have an interest in trying to demonstrate they are looking for some kind of diplomatic option. it doesn't cost the ukrainian government all that much to see whether it's possible the russians are going to show a little mercy. the russians have been going through the motions of diplomacy
as some sort of p.r. effort to insulate itself from the world's reaction. as you know, on friday the state department spokesman declared flatly that the russian diplomatic talks that took place this winter were all pretense, essentially said it was all a sham. and at this point whatever modicum of trust is gone. >> reporter: it's being reported that zelenskyy's adviser is pressing to a no-fly zone. jen psaki put that down saying that could risk nato involvement and obviously i'm not a member of nato and don't have any nato
protection under article 5. can you see any give on that? i don't see it at this time. >> hi, andrea. thanks for having me. crowley, i feel like i've seen you five times today on zoom. >> i know. >> i think, andrea, you're completely right. nato does not want to get into a hot fight with russia and a no-fly zone is sort of -- would be a huge opening toward a hot fight with russia. you're right i think about this not changing any time soon but i think going forward at some point, if we end up in a situation where russia really ramps things up and you see we start seeing images of civilians killed on the streets of ukraine, if things go the direction that we're all afraid that it's going, it's hard to say what happens then when you
start having people -- you may start having people calling on nato and the united states and the west to do something more than they've done so far. but that's the last thing right now that president biden wants or that the nato leadership wants. so it's a tough road for them. i see them sticking to it for now, but who knows what happens -- what the future might hold. >> and i want to ask you about these cluster munitions because they can be devastating weapons against civilian populations. we're already seeing that now in kharkiv. >> yeah, that's a -- as far as military strategy goes, that's viewed very much as a no-no. but that said, the united states used them in iraq and using them on a civilian population is a huge deal and that can be devastating. and that again gets back to russia has the potential to do a
lot more. they have a big, huge military that dwarves ukraine by far and they can make this a lot more ugly than it already is. that said, the ukrainian forces continue to fight ferociously and it is something to note that we still don't have any populations having fallen yet. that might increase frustration on vladimir putin and you might see other means being employed. >> very, very briefly, michael, the fact that switzerland has now joined, in 20 seconds, the world has coalesced now on these sanctions. >> very symbolic of what i think has been a surprising reaction for vladimir putin, probably to some degree for the biden administration. there are a lot of skeptics europe was going to really unify and come down hard on putin. when you see a country with
historic neutrality like switzerland, it illustration what put and has on his hands right now. >> tomorrow at noon tomorrow, speaker of the house nancy pelosi. but first much more on the special extended edition of "andrea mitchell reports" so stay with us. allies taking a stand at a rare emergency session of the u.n. general assembly and the ambassador from a key baltic state. plus more than half a million refugee flee ukraine and so many others are just desperate to find a way out. stay with us. find a way out stay with us on our jackets? -denied. -can you imagine?
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welcome back to our continuing coverage of the russia invasion into ukraine. i am andrea mitchell in washington. here are the top stories at this hour. russian troops are being met with strong resistance from ukrainian forces but ukraine is now bracing for an expected second wave, an onslaught. belarus and that country's military joining the fight. and president zelensky linking ukraine to the west by normally applying for member to the european union. president biden spoke with