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Ukraine PM: This is a "Declaration of War"; Get Ready for More Snow

Aired March 2, 2014 - 07:00   ET


VICTOR BLACKWELL, CNN ANCHOR: We got a lot still ahead on -- NEW DAY SUNDAY starts right now.


BLACKWELL: Troops moving in, violent protests in the streets, world leaders consulting in a 90-minute phone call. Is Russia on the brink of starting a war in Europe?

CHRISTI PAUL, CNN ANCHOR: A powerful storm is pushing east today, folks. It's dumping heavy rain, lots of snow, possible ice. Still in California, too, creating a muddy mess.

BLACKWELL: You know, the big night, Oscar night. It's astronauts versus con artists, power brokers versus pirates, as nine films vie for the best picture of the year.

Your NEW DAY continues now.

PAUL: Listen, you don't even need to get out of bed. Jut kick your feet up, grab your coffee, we've got so much to tell you this morning. And we're grateful for your company.

I'm Christi Paul.

BLACKWELL: I'm Victor Blackwell. Seven o'clock here on the East Coast, 4:00 out West.

Welcome to our viewers here in the U.S. and around the world. This is NEW DAY SUNDAY.

ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

BLACKWELL: And, of course, the breaking news we're starting with this hour, Ukraine. And Ukraine says that Russian troops surrounding its military bases amounts to a declaration of war. The Ukrainian prime minister is demanding Russia pull back its troops.

PAUL: Yes, earlier, Ukraine deployed troops across the country, itself, even as the nation's defense minister said Ukraine doesn't have the military might to resist Russia.

BLACKWELL: And take a look at this huge crowd -- this morning, hundreds of people gathered in Ukraine's capital for peace and to pray and to tell Putin to keep his hands off Ukraine.

PAUL: Now, yesterday, violence erupts during a massive protest. Look at these pictures. This was in eastern Ukraine. Thousands of protesters rallying there, and crowds attacking there in this piece a pro-European Union group and dozens of people were reportedly injured.

BLACKWELL: Ukrainian officials say that 15,000 Russian troops are now on the Crimean peninsula in Ukraine. It's where Russia has a military base, of course.

PAUL: In the meantime, evidence is growing that the armed men in unmarked uniforms patrolling Crimea since Friday are, indeed, Russian troops. The thing is, Russia is still not admitting that.

BLACKWELL: And international tension escalated yesterday as Russian parliament approved the use of military force in Ukraine. That is defying President Obama's warning.

PAUL: Yes, President Obama and Russian President Vladimir Putin did speak over the phone yesterday for 90 minutes. This was a long call. In it, President Obama warned of consequences, but Russia defended its actions.

BLACKWELL: And the head of the U.N. also called Putin and told him it was critical to restore calm.


BAN KI-MOON, U.N. SECRETARY GENERAL: It is crucial to restore calm and proceed to immediate de-escalation of the situation. Cool heads must prevail and dialogue must be the only tool in ending this crisis.


BLACKWELL: Well, CNN has correspondents covering the crisis overseas and here at home. CNN's Phil Black is in Moscow. Diana Magnay is in St. Paul, Crimea, Ian Lee is in Kiev and CNN's White House correspondent Michelle Kosinski joins the CNN family for the first time this morning from the White House.

Let's start with Phil Black.

PAUL: Phil, we're hearing -- let's talk about this alert now from the prime minister in the Ukraine saying this is a red alert, this is not a threat, this is actually a declaration of war to my country. Any reaction from Moscow?

PHIL BLACK, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: No, not so far, Christi. But, it's no surprise that it made this declaration, I guess, because they've been talking about aggressive Russian actions over the last couple of days.

And while Ukraine may interpret this as an act of war, they are not fighting it as one, and that's probably because of a very simple military reality. They know that if they attempt to defend themselves against these forces that are almost certainly Russian, that the response from those Russian forces will be much greater. And there is no way that the Ukrainian military can hold them off, let alone reverse that course of action.

So, it leaves the Ukrainian government with just one simple option to appeal to the international community and to apply pressure to Russia diplomatically in the hope it that would persuade Russia to pull back. So far, that's not really working.

BLACKWELL: Phil, everyone we have spoken with said every military resolution would be an absolute disaster. Do we know what this diplomatic pressure and these sanctions and what would be enough to get Putin to pull the Russian troops back?

BLACK: It's difficult to say what possibly could be done to persuade him to pull back. He knows he's doing this in defiance of international opinion. (AUDIO GAP) there will be a response. But the reality is that there is little that can be done at such a level that would persuade him to back off, that he believes the president of Russia would believe is greater than any domestic political price he would pay for being seen to bow to the west.

That's a factor in all of this. There's a reason why President Putin likes is to stand up to international community and international demands. And that is because it doesn't -- it looks good here in Russia playing to a domestic political crowd. That is certainly part of the motivation, as is the fact that so many Russians viewed this Ukrainian territory as really part of the Russian motherland.

PAUL: All right. Phil Black, thank you so much. We appreciate the insight there.

BLACKWELL: All right. From Moscow, let's go to the Crimean peninsula. The region is semi-independent from Ukraine, but still a part of that country and fiercely loyal to Russia.

PAUL: Diana Magnay is in the region's capital of Simferopol.

So, Diana, we just heard obviously these powerful words from Ukrainian prime minister. Let's listen. You're going to hear English from his translator here.


ARSENIY YATSENYUK, ACTING UKRAINIAN PRIME MINISTER (through translator): This is the red alert. And this is not the threat. This is actually the declaration of war to my country. And we urge President Putin to pull back his military and to stick to the international obligations.


PAUL: So, Diana, let me ask you, what can you tell us about this latest statement?

DIANA MAGNAY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, the people here in Simferopol believe that there is no real concerns, worries about war.

I was just talking to a lady who said, why is there so much international concern? We are all calm here. And I said, well, what about these troops, these Russian troops. She said, I don't know but they're keeping the peace.

The fact of the matter is that here in Simferopol, in Crimea, certainly in the south, there's a large majority of ethnic Russians who do not feel their rights are not represented by the situation in Kiev, by the new Kiev government.

And here, and I'll just actually go pan over a bit, you can see that they are actually now replacing the flags here in the main square, taking away the Ukrainian flag so that you just have the Russian and the Crimean flags flying, and there are demonstrations here with plenty of people waving Russian flags.

And I've asked them what would you vote for at the referendum at the end of the month? Do you want to stay a part of Ukraine or do you want your own independent state? They said they will want their independent state. We want to stay a part of Ukraine, but we want more rights.

And I think people here, especially the ethnic Russians, are extremely worried that, for example, they won't be able to continue in a country using the Russian language and that Kiev has basically forgotten about them and is acting unilaterally without incorporating the needs of the whole country. That is the big fear here.

As Phil was saying to these people, to the ethnic Russians here, President Putin is a strong man. They like the sense that he has their backs and perhaps that's why they're not concerned at all. In fact, they feel protected by the presence of this military presence on the streets of Crimea.

PAUL: OK, Diana Magnay -- thank you, Diana, very much.

BLACKWELL: We know the big crisis in Ukraine is spilling over into another political arena. This upcoming G-8 summit. President Obama released a statement yesterday announcing the U.S. will not participate in prep meetings.

PAUL: Yes.

BLACKWELL: Of course, the G-8 meeting scheduled for June in Sochi.

PAUL: A boycott of that June summit could be a major blow to the Putin administration. Russia is hosting it, as he said, in Sochi.

But in the meantime, pro-Ukrainian protesters lined up outside the White House yesterday, demanding that Russia leave the sovereign nation.

BLACKWELL: And officially joining our CNN family this morning with the latest White House developments on the crisis is veteran, political and foreign affairs correspondent Michelle Kosinski. She's CNN's new White House correspondent.

First, welcome, Michelle.

PAUL: Welcome to the family, Michelle.

BLACKWELL: Good to have you here with us.

MICHELLE KOSINSKI, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Thank you so much. It's great to be here, instead of Buckingham palace. Just a little similar from this angle but it's great to be here. Thanks so much.

What we're seeing right now is President Obama and administration officials coordinating the U.S. response to all this, that we've been watching unfold overseas. What should the U.S. do right now and what should be the message that we send not only to Russia but to the rest of the world in that response?

Yesterday, there was a very high-level meeting, and the president's security team met, including the director of the CIA, joint chiefs, director of national intelligence, the defense secretary, looking at policy options, and we could very well see another similar meeting today.

Now, as you mentioned, what has been decided, what came out of that, is that the U.S. would not participate in the preparatory meetings leading up to the G-8 in Sochi. So, they have not boycotted the G-8 at this point, but the president said they will not participate in those meetings.

Canada, after a call with President Obama, has decided to do the same thing. Also yesterday, we saw President Obama take a call with Russian President Vladimir Putin. Interestingly, neither side would say who called whom, but that call lasted 90 minutes. Nearly an hour and a half of discussions and the White House put out a summary of what exactly went on.

Here's what they've said, "President Obama expressed his deep concern over Russia's clear violation of Ukrainian sovereignty and territorial integrity. The United States calls on Russia to deescalate tensions by withdrawing its forces back to bases in Crimea and to refrain from any interference elsewhere in Ukraine."

President Obama told President Putin that if Russia has concerns about the treatment of ethnic Russian and minority populations in Ukraine, the appropriate way to address them is peacefully through direct engagement with the government of Ukraine and through the dispatch of international observers.

Now, repeatedly, we heard President Obama call this a violation of Ukraine sovereignty. Well, Secretary of State John Kerry used different language yesterday, calling what Russia has been doing an invasion and an occupation. We expect to hear more from him today, as well.

Back to you, guys. PAUL: Michelle, do we know if there is any plan for Kerry to go speak maybe not, obviously, with anybody from Russia, but other, you know, G-8 leaders because if it's not going to be a military response, what is the response going to be? The U.S. has said that there will be a consequence.

KOSINSKI: Right. And, in fact, Republican leaders have been calling for the president to really articulate what are those costs and consequences? They're asking for a tougher response. Some even are calling for immediate sanctions like the freezing of visas.

As for the secretary of state, yes, we know military action is off the table. Nobody is talking about that. These are policy options that are beginning to be discussed. It seems like the White House wanted to do something immediately.

So, what was decided was to say we're fought going to participate in those meetings leading up to the G-8.

Also yesterday we know that Kerry spoke to the acting president of Ukraine. We know what was said, they were able to put out a statement saying that Kerry has commended Ukraine for not responding militarily to Russia's incursion.

BLACKWELL: All right. Michelle Kosinski at the White House, it feels good to say. Again, thank you so much for the report this morning and welcome to CNN.

KOSINSKI: Thank you so much.

PAUL: You're welcome, Michelle. Glad to have you here.

All righty. While we monitor obviously the crisis in Ukraine, we do want to give you a heads up on some really wicked weather that is moving across the U.S.

BLACKWELL: One out of every three Americans could be in the storm's path. This thing is huge. Every one of those people could see either snow or ice, maybe even tornadoes. Details, next.


BLACKWELL: Strong waves. Look at this, tossing around a boat off the coast of California. The state is finally seeing rain and a lot of it after its worst drought in 100 years, way too much rain.

PAUL: And absolutely. Speaking of too much rain -- take a look at what's going on in Chicago. This is North Avenue Beach. You can see the ground, obviously, already covered in snow. Live pictures here for you.

The Midwest and Northeast waking up there this morning and another blast of winter weather is coming at you. More than 100 million people is who this is going to affect. You could all be shivering in the path of this. They're calling it a raging snow storm. BLACKWELL: Yes, Karen Maginnis joins us from the severe weather center.

Karen, Chicago is just that the edge of this, people who are a bit further south, they're going to see the worst of it.

KAREN MAGINNIS, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Yes, they are going to see the worst of it in the form of not just snow, not just the cold temperatures, and we're expecting a couple inches of snowfall for a lot of these areas, but it is the ice. Jefferson City in Missouri, they are saying an inch and a half of sleet already on top of a layer of ice. That pushing across southern Missouri right now, but the entire state very dangerous travel conditions extending into southern Indiana and Illinois, through the Ohio River Valley and you are not left out across the mid-Atlantic and portions of the Northeast.

In New York City, already we're going to start to pick up some icy conditions later on tonight, it will change over to snow. Also, the same for Washington, D.C. Washington, D.C., three to six inches of snowfall and here's where all our warnings and watches are. Almost 100 million people could be affected.

We'll keep you updated. Back to you guys.

PAUL: What a mess. Karen Maginnis, thank you very much.

BLACKWELL: Still to come on NEW DAY, Ukraine on the brink of disaster. Dire words coming from the country's prime minister.

PAUL: Will those words be enough, is the big question to prompt action from world leaders.


BLACKWELL: This is new video coming in this morning of clashes between pro-Russia activists and supporters of Ukraine's new west leaning interim government. Twenty thousand people joined this protest and a mostly Russian speaking region of eastern Ukraine. You can see, clearly, with all the blood dripping down the men's faces how this got out of hand quickly.

PAUL: This morning, the Ukrainian prime minister said Russia's aggression in the Crimean Peninsula is a declaration of war. These are strong words. And international tensions are rising as you saw there and the U.S. now speaking out against Russia accusing it of breaking international law.

BLACKWELL: And Secretary of State John Kerry issued this statement this morning. It says, "The United States condemns the Russian Federation's invasion and occupation of Ukrainian territory. This action is a threat to the peace and security of Ukraine and the wider region."

PAUL: Also yesterday, we knew President Obama spoke to Russian President Vladimir Putin for 90 minutes. That's a long phone call and Obama warned there would be consequences. On the phone now, CNN chief international correspondent Christiane Amanpour.

Christiane, thank you so much.

Now, OK, if there are going to be consequences and they are not going to be military, a lot of people are asking, what can we do? What are those consequences going to be?

CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CNN CHIEF INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (via telephone): Well, there's a huge amount of diplomacy in process right now. As you say, there's no question of NATO or the U.S. responding militarily, nonetheless, there's an emergency meeting of NATO ministers in Brussels right now to talk about the situation. The British Foreign Secretary William Hague, obviously, a key ally of the United States, is traveling to Kiev to talk to the new authorities there. Canada has done so far the stiffest of the penalties and that is recall its ambassador from Moscow.

Meantime, the Russian embassy here in London has issued a statement reiterating the Russian position, but also adding that President Putin wants to resolve this politically, if possible.

However, contrast that with what the interim Ukrainian prime minister has just said at a press conference, talking about red alerts, talking about Ukraine and Russia being on the brink of disaster and saying that what Vladimir Putin has done is essentially declare war on Russia and urging Putin to withdraw and de-escalate.

Meantime, anecdotal evidence reporters suggesting that they're seeing more Russian troops, including, according to "The A.P.", Russian troops building trenches or digging trenches on the Crimea border. We don't know the full details of that.

But, clearly, this is a situation that could escalate beyond the point of control and, therefore, very intense diplomacy is needed right now to pull all sides back from the brink.

In that phone call that you mentioned between Presidents Obama and Putin, it appears, according to the read out, that President Putin, again, restated and reiterated what he believes is Russia's right, but also said that Russia's move, next military move would depend on those made by the Ukrainian interim government in Kiev. To that end, I'm sure there's going to be a lot of persuading going on to make sure that the Kiev authorities don't make any military maneuvers. Don't try to go on the offensive against Russian or engaged Russians militarily.

BLACKWELL: So, that leads me to this question, Christiane. When we see Ukrainian troops going into the eastern part of the country, will they extend all the way to the coast, all the way to Sevastopol or Simferopol, or will they stop there I guess would be the edge of an area where those who are -- we have the map up here. Those that find affinity for Russia, that ends, kind of that yellow area for people looking at the map. AMANPOUR: Well, if they do that, that would be escalating it by the Ukrainian government and the problem, of course, is that, (a), that would be a disaster. But, (b), the Ukrainians have absolutely zero possibility of confronting the Russian forces. That's according to all the analysts, Ukraine's military is not strong enough to even make a dent into the Russian forces, which is, obviously, much, much stronger and there are Russian military maneuvers, which are taking place and have been doing so all this week with something like 150,000 troops, hundreds of tanks, dozens of aircraft and other military hardware.

And Ukraine does not have the kind of weaponry or manpower to confront those Russian forces.

Ukraine has said that they want to defend their own bases and we'll see where this goes. But, clearly, if Ukraine does something that is considered militarily provocative, even though they may say it's defensive, it could escalate the situation.

Many in the Ukrainian political firmament have said to me that they believe, this is even before this latest crisis that even after the fleeing of Yanukovych, the former Ukrainian president, they believe that Russia would see any pretext to intervene.

So, the one thing Ukraine does not want to give Russia is any further pretext to intervene any further there.

PAUL: All right. Chief international correspondent, Christiane Amanpour -- Christiane, thank you very much.

BLACKWELL: All right. Still to come on NEW DAY: the weather is the big story for at least 100 million people in the country.

PAUL: You say you haven't seen enough of this yet? Well, I'm sorry to tell you, please don't beat the messengers, but all you waking up in the Northeast and the Midwest, get the shovels ready, yet again. And heavy snow and dangerous ice.

We'll tell you more.


PAUL: Good morning to you. Twenty-nine minutes past the hour right now. Just want to make sure you're on time if you've got anything to do. I'm Christi Paul.

And let's talk about Ukraine's prime minister because he says the country is on the brink of disaster.