The United Nations estimates that as midnight on Tuesday, there have been over 500 civilians killed in Ukraine, 900 injured. Today, U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Linda Thomas Greenfield said, "We`re working with others in the international community to document the crimes Russia is committing against Ukrainian people that constitute war crimes. Two weeks into their invasion of Ukraine, the Russian propaganda narrative about the war has so far been a huge flop. North Carolina Republican Congressman Madison Cawthorn was caught in a video telling a group of his supporters that the Ukrainian president is a thug and his government is corrupt.
JOY REID, MSNBC HOST: Ellison Barbara, thank you. And a reminder, you can see the math there. This is all happening during an ongoing pandemic, double and triple tragedy. Thank you very much. I really appreciate you, Ellison. That is tonight`s "REIDOUT." ALL IN WITH CHRIS HAYES starts now.
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CHRIS HAYES, MSNBC HOST (voiceover): Tonight on ALL IN.
WILLIAM BURNS, DIRECTOR, CIA: This is a premeditated and unprovoked aggression built on a body of lies and false narratives.
HAYES: Civilians under siege in Ukraine.
KAMALA HARRIS, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Any intentional attack on innocent civilians is a violation.
HAYES: Tonight, new calls for an investigation into Russian war crimes as Putin and his top diplomat tried to run the same propaganda play they ran in Syria.
Plus, the latest on the ground. Russian tanks now reportedly 10 miles from the capital Kyiv.
And the last American Ambassador to Ukraine who testified to Donald Trump`s first impeachment joins me live in studio tonight when ALL IN starts right now.
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HAYES (on camera): Good evening from New York. I`m Chris Hayes. We are watching in real-time what is happening in Ukraine, this utterly monstrous human display -- disaster play out in every direction. The United Nations estimates that as midnight on Tuesday, there have been over 500 civilians killed in Ukraine, 900 injured.
Now, that number is surely higher today, as we continue to see the Russian military shelling residential areas near Kyiv as civilians flee for their lives or a children`s hospital in the city of Maria poll that was totally destroyed by a Russian attack.
Today, U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Linda Thomas Greenfield said, "We`re working with others in the international community to document the crimes Russia is committing against Ukrainian people that constitute war crimes. There are attacks on civilians that cannot be justified by any in any way whatsoever.
Now, we are just over two weeks into the Russian invasion of Ukraine. And while the devastation is truly horrifying, Ukrainian military has put up a fight against a Russian military convoy making its way to the capital city of Kyiv. Tonight, we`re learning that a senior U.S. defense officials says Russian forces have made some advances in the last 24 hours and could be as close as 10 miles from the center of Kyiv.
And so, as we continue to monitor that situation, and we hear calls for escalation in various directions, I think it`s important to step back and note, there has not been a land invasion on this scale on continental Europe since World War II. And there has not been an economic response like what we have seen from the US, NATO Allies, the E.U. in the West either.
The U.S. and its allies have taken truly, I mean truly unprecedented steps to sanction and pressure Russia to withdraw its forces. The U.S. has stopped buying Russian oil and gas, they`ve banned transactions with Russia`s Central Bank which is probably the single biggest move. The Ministry of Finance, the National Wealth Fund, they`ve cut off Russia`s banks access to the Swift international payment system. They`ve announced travel bans and asset freezes on Russian oligarchs individually. They personally sanctioned Russian President Vladimir Putin.
And adjacent to that are a bunch of private businesses making similar decisions. International companies like Apple and Visa, and Exxon Mobil have stopped doing business there. There has been again, nothing like this response that we`ve ever seen. And yet, to Ukrainians living through the invasion of a much more powerful adversary, it is clearly not enough.
Their civilians have fled by millions is their country`s being pulverized all around behind them. And despite their incredible resistance to this point, there is a sense and they will say it themselves, that they feel overmatched. And that is precisely why Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has repeatedly asked for U.S. and NATO to do more, to close the skies is one phrase he`s used, to enacting no-fly zone, to provide his military with more fighter jets.
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VOLODYMYR ZELENSKYY, PRESIDENT, UKRAINE: We are speaking about closing the sky. You can decide to close or not to close. You can decide. If you are united against the Nazis and this terror, you have to close.
Not me. Don`t wait me asking you several times, a lot million times close the sky. No, you have to front us to our people who lost their children and say, sorry, we didn`t do it yesterday.
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HAYES: Now, there`s every reason in the world for Zelenskyy to be calling for that. I mean, they`re literally under a bombardment. But again, I just think it`s important to reestablish the context for why those things are not happening. Because in the year 2022, the cold war doctrine of mutually assured destruction seems like some sort of antique relic.
Unfortunately, we`ve got to pull it out of the closet and dusted back off and remember what it is. The Cold War between the U.S. and the Soviet Union lasted more than 40 years and it was called the Cold War for a reason because it was distinguished from the hot wars, the shooting wars that had happened on the continent in World War I and World War II and were also happening all across the world between various proxies of the two sides.
And during this massively destructive period that we know is the Cold War, we came very close to nuclear war several times, most notably during the Korean War, and during the Cuban Missile Crisis. And we all know about the duck and cover drills in classrooms and backyard bomb shelters that got built. And what got built up over this time was this architecture of mutually assured destruction.
The idea is that if either the U.S. or the Soviet Union fire nuclear weapons at the other side, both sides would then fire their full nuclear arsenals, and obliterate all of humanity. So, each side had to avoid engaging in a direct military shooting confrontation, a hot war with the other to avoid nuclear Armageddon.
And so, nearly all the countries of Europe were basically under the protection of one of these two kind of nuclear umbrellas, the U.S. which was NATO, or the Soviet Union which was the Warsaw Pact. And meanwhile, outside of Europe, outside of the continent, where those two world wars had happened, there were these massively brutal, destructive proxy wars playing out all across the world in places like Angola and Nicaragua and Afghanistan and Vietnam, with the two sides arming their proxies and funding different armies and coups and death squads and revolutions and counter revolutions and generally causing enormous amounts of dislocation and human misery.
But during the Cold War, the two sides did avoid nuclear Armageddon, which is why I`m speaking to you here today. I know. This is a weird history to go through. But again, it all existed for a reason. And it may seem remote now, but nothing about the fundamental dynamics of mutually assured destruction has changed as U.S. and its allies once again attempt this delicate maneuver of supporting Ukraine without triggering a shooting war between the U.S. and Russia.
And that is why the U.S. has consistently said no to enforcing a no fly zone over Ukraine. Now, NATO has established them before including in Bosnia and Herzegovina in 1994, when U.S. fighter shot down four Serbian jets. It was the first NATO military action since its founding.
So, if that were to happen on the Ukraine, the U.S. would be shooting down Russian jets. That`s exactly what the U.S. did its best to avoid the entirety of the Cold War. General Mark Milley, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff just got back from a five-day tour of NATO nations. And while he was there, he addressed what a no fly zone can mean.
If a no fly zone was declared, someone would have to enforce it. That would mean someone would have to go -- then go and fight against Russian air forces. Again, what`s he saying there is that would mean U.S. combat against Russian military directly, a hot war. There`s a real danger about this happening because of what we went through during the Cold War.
Now, there`s a lot the American government can do to help Ukrainians. In fact, if you look at the polling, Americans recognize that we are witnessing indeed a grave crime in Ukraine and they want to do more to stop it.
A new Quinnipiac poll this week found 56 percent of Americans say the steps the Biden ministration has taken are not tough enough. 71 percent agree they support a ban on Russian oil, even if it means higher gasoline prices in the United States. There is a strong bipartisan will to do more.
None of that waves away the grim logic of mutually assured destruction, the reality of the nuclear age and the existential risks that come with a shooting war with a nuclear power.
Senator Tammy Duckworth is Democrat from Illinois who serves on the Armed Services Committee, also an Iraq war veteran and Purple Heart recipient, and she joins me now.
Senator, it`s very good to have you. And I have to say, some of the rhetoric that I`ve heard out of elected officials and others out of Washington seems to kind of just forget all of this, this decades built up of the logic of the Cold War, which again, is its own grim, terrible logic that lead to all sorts of awful things, but it is what it is.
Like, do you and your colleagues understand what we`re dealing with here? I guess I want to start out by asking.
SEN. TAMMY DUCKWORTH (D-IL): I certainly understand it, and not the least of which because when I joined the Army, we were still training to fight the Soviets and to defend the Fulda Gap. And in fact, the Illinois National Guard was what -- some of the last uniform U.S. personnel in Ukraine helping train you Ukrainian troops.
California and Illinois National Guards have been the two states providing training to the Ukrainians, and they have -- you know, they`ve really acquitted themselves so incredibly well. But you got this absolutely right, Chris. We cannot risk going to a hot war with U.S. troops firing on Russian troops.
There`s a lot that we can do for the Ukrainians. And I am supporting, doing everything that we can to include transfer of aircraft, to include sending them more missiles and more javelins, all the things that they need, and also more humanitarian aid. But we really have to be very careful about taking that first step towards escalation where you have American and US forces fighting one another.
HAYES: You mentioned the sending of aircraft. This has been sort of, I think, offered. Again, everyone I think is -- all policymakers are trying to deal with a situation in which you can produce costs to Putin`s invasion and outscore it right, to get him to stop, withdraw, negotiate, right, without triggering obviously a hot war.
The idea of transferring Russian-made fighter jets, MiGs, that are in the possession of say, Poland, to the Ukrainians has been an idea floated by the Polish government and the Ukrainians and some American policymakers. I want to play you what Senator Mitt Romney says who supports the plan. Take a listen.
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SEN. MITT ROMNEY (R-UT): Send these MiGs. And the question is, well, why aren`t they being sent? Because we`ve heard now for days that this is something that`s being discussed. Enough talk. People are dying. Send the planes that they need. They say they need MiGs. People say, well, maybe that`s not the ideal weapon for them. That`s what they say they want. They`re there. They have the eyes to determine what they want. They want MiGs. Get them the MIGs.
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HAYES: Now, my understanding of the concern on the part of the ministration are the same concerns about other escalatory steps that this would be a kind of trip wire. What`s your view on this?
DUCKWORTH: Well, I think it would be considered an escalatory step by the Russians, although I`m not opposed to the sending of the aircraft. I do think that there are other weaponry that we can send that would be -- have much more immediate effect. And I think you can see that from some of the footage of the ground battles that you`re seeing of us taking -- the Ukrainians taking out Russian tanks with missiles and anti-tank weaponry.
I think that that might be a good first step to send them more of that type of equipment. I`m not opposed to sending them that MiGs, but it`s not that easy to transfer the MiGs from Poland to U.S. bases in Germany, and then how do you get them into Ukraine? If we can`t fly them into Ukraine, do we fly Ukrainian pilots into Poland to get -- or to Germany to get them? See, it gets very, very, very complicated very quickly.
HAYES: Yes. And I guess, again, the invisible tripwires around this are precisely the architecture I was describing in that a block monologue. I mean, one to keep front of mind here. I think there`s also a question here about the -- about what the sort of -- what the endgame is here. And I know no one knows that, and this is not anyone -- no one can unilaterally control the future. But I`ve been reading some interesting things about what the effect of sanctions are.
What is your understanding of what the sanctions are designed or are going to do in an ideal case? How do you understand their pressure working?
DUCKWORTH: Well, I mean, we need to cut off Russia from their source of income and we are doing that. But part of this was -- is going after the oligarchs. Putin has surrounded by himself by folks who will not say no to him. And you know, we need to start making this so painful not just for -- not just you know, for him but for the people around him, to get them to push him to do something different, to stop this continued doubling down and tripling down that he`s doing.
We have to first and foremost cut off Russia from the funds that they need in order to wage this war. But then we also have to hurt the people around him, the ones that are empowering him to continue to pursue this war. And you know, it`s just been absolutely horrific. You`re watching these footage and you know, they`re committing more crimes in Ukraine.
And we certainly need to do everything that we can to stop them. And in fact, I`m about to head to the floor here, the Senate floor and vote for a bill that includes a $14 billion in aid to Ukraine.
HAYES: All right, there`s a large bipartisan majority that appears in both houses for precisely that provision. Senator Tammy Duckworth, thank you so much. I appreciate it.
DUCKWORTH: Thank you.
HAYES: Still ahead tonight, Russia is losing propaganda fight. Why Putin`s wartime misinformation campaign isn`t gaining traction. Plus, my interview with Marie Yovanovitch, the former ambassador to Ukraine who became a key witness in Donald Trump`s first impeachment. She joins me live just ahead so stick around.
HAYES: Two weeks into their invasion of Ukraine, the Russian propaganda narrative about the war has so far been a huge flop. Part of that is because we have seen these exact same tactics before most notably in Syria, or Russia`s ally, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and Russians twisted every war crime into a false flag operation with crisis actors, that it was staged.
Now, as the world is watching images of destruction out of Ukraine, including yesterday`s bombed-out children`s hospital and flattened residential buildings, Russians are running their own propaganda campaign along identical lines.
Here`s Maria Butina, convicted Russian agent, now a member of Russia`s lower house of parliament claiming against the obvious mountains of evidence that Russia does not target civilians.
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UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I asked you, who fires the bombs, who fires the missile that is killing Ukrainian citizens and forcing millions to flee.
MARIA BUTINA, MEMBER OF THE STATE DUMA: We have tons of evidence Russian army does not touch -- they do not bomb civilian population. Absolutely not. It`s not the purpose. --
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Where? Where is the evidence?
BUTINA: -- of the operation.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Where is the evidence.
BUTINA: We cannot prove with things like this because we just don`t do it.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You just said you had evidence. Where`s the evidence?
BUTINA: We don`t do -- because Russians just don`t do it.
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HAYES: We should know that Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov effectively admitted today that Russia did in fact bomb the Children`s Hospital in Mariupol saying without evidence that it was targeted because it contained Ukrainian militants.
But this is all familiar propaganda territory. It`s been the go-to story Russian propaganda has told about their armies and crimes for nearly a decade now.
Sergei Leshchenko is an advisor to Ukrainian President Zelenskyy`s chief of staff as well as a journalist and former member of Ukraine`s parliament. Inna Borzylo Nelles is a co-founder of the Public Journalism Lab, a coalition of journalists and sociologists. She was living and working in Kyiv and has since evacuated to Germany. They both join me now.
I know that you`ve both worked on this exact issue for a while. Inna, let me start with you. It does seem like this counter narrative really ramped up today. In fact, President Zelenskyy sort of started to talk about it today directly that the kind of Russian propaganda had word to life. What do you make of that?
INNA BORZYLO NELLES, CO-FOUNDER, PUBLIC JOURNALISM LAB: Well, unfortunately, Russian propaganda is superefficient, and it was efficient during the last 20 years. And now, we see that this narrative -- Russian people -- Russian population and level of support is the best evidence.
They were brainwashed for decades. And now they do not understand what is white and what is black. And that`s why they are not feeling on themselves yet the pressure of sanctions. They understand that, OK, maybe it`s something temporarily and we are ready to suffer, but we do support this liberation operation in Ukraine. So, we should just should continue this work.
And Russian propaganda, it was like a poison by (INAUDIBLE). Starting from something small and then twist 180 degrees the opposite from what is going on, in fact. And the narrative that West is the biggest danger for all Russian values is there. That`s why they are covering this war with the lie of a liberation operation. And they appeal to the memory of generations calling Ukrainians Neo-Nazis, in fact, which is not true.
HAYES: Sergei, Inna just mentioned, this sort of black is white, up is down. I thought there was a tremendously amazing stark example that Sergei Lavrov talking about no plans to attack other nations and we did not attack Ukraine. Take a listen to what he said today.
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SERGEI LAVROV, MINISTER OF FOREIGN AFFAIRS, RUSSIA (text): We do not plan to attack other countries. We did not attack Ukraine either. However, we just explained to Ukraine repeatedly that a situation posed direct security threats to Russia Federation.
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HAYES: We did not attack Ukraine. It`s brazen. I don`t think it works outside of Russia, but perhaps it works internally.
SERGEI LESHCHENKO, CHIEF OF STAFF, ADVISOR TO PRESIDENT ZELENSKYY: I agree. This is the typical propaganda of Putin`s regime to say, black on white. And what is most dangerous now that they`re starting to repeat every day on their state propaganda services, and even today by foreign minister that they found out some biological weapons laboratory in Ukraine, and it can predict the purpose for them to bomb Ukraine with a chemical weapon.
And biological weapons can be used against Ukraine in this situation. That is why we are so vocal to provide us with jets. I heard the first part of this talk show and unfortunately, I could not agree with your Senator because we know better what kind of weapons we need here on the ground.
I`m in Kyiv now and I can say that without jets, without the Soviet jets, which our pilots are able to rule, we can lose our skies. And after that, they will destroy our cities like Aleppo. And now, the new Aleppo in Ukraine is Mariupol. It`s not destroyed now.
It`s not just the clinic you saw on the video, it`s totally destroyed city now. And to stop this, we need to either close our skies, which unfortunately, our partners not able to do or provide just weapons which our partners ready to do. But what they need to do, they need just to have approval from the U.S. government.
And I want to call American citizens to stress, to push the pressure -- to put the pressure on your senators, on your government to provide this jets. We know how to use these jets. And it`s not a big problem. Jets are flying. It doesn`t take weeks or months. It just takes few hours to deliver jets from Ramstein military base in Germany to Ukraine. We don`t need to waste the time because every day we lose in life of our citizens. Every day we`re losing population and buildings and infrastructure. Everything is destroyed now in big cities of Ukraine.
If we don`t fix this problem, we can lose our country. And believe me, it will not stop Putin from further escalation because he has a pre scripted plan to destroy Ukraine, to suppress Ukraine, to behead the Ukrainian government and to have Ukraine as a part of Russia. That is why we are calling and we are calling not the first day, we are calling more -- almost two weeks about this. Please let us have this Soviet jet from Poland.
But we need approval from American citizen -- from American government. And we want to have this from American citizens to put the pressure on American government to provide the jets for Ukraine.
HAYES: And I know that you`re in -- you`re in Germany, and you`ve managed to make it there safely. So many Ukrainians have fled, two million. It`s the largest transit of refugees certainly in Europe in a very long time, possibly in the world since Second World War, maybe with the Indian- Pakistan war in the 70s being an exception. I imagine there`s an anticipation among people like yourself that there will be millions more every week this continues.
NELLES: Well, unfortunately, we are not -- it`s not by our goodwill. You know, people are just fleeing the war. And people from the most destroyed war zones like Kharkiv or Mariupol in the -- or Kyiv nearby, there just slaying the war. And unfortunately, the capacity of western regions of Ukraine is also limited. People just do not -- people already sleeping over there on the floors, in churches and in schools and they`re just fleeing somewhere where their kids can be -- can be in security.
And again, these are mostly -- and this is like 95 percent women and kids because man from 18 to 60 are not allowed during the military times to leave Ukraine. They do protect the country in territorial defense units or within our -- within our army.
So, yes, I managed to -- I managed to go to Germany before war because my husband is a diplomat and we were ever created according to security protocols. And we didn`t believe -- we thought it`s just the precautious. We thought that nothing will happen because until the last moment, we thought this is a bluff of Russians like they used to do before.
But unfortunately, the war did start. And yes, even from here, I try to help those -- my friends and those my family who are in need in Ukraine and trying to navigate them to the safe routes, somewhere where they can hopefully stay maybe for a few weeks. And then all of them are planning of course, including me to go back to Ukraine and to -- yes, to go back -- to return to our home, to return to our motherland and to build it again.
So, please help us to come back home quicker. Just help us with all your support you have and we do feel it. We do feel American support in sanctions in weapons. Just help us. Do not weaken this pressure on Russia and do not weaken the Russian sanction. This provides us with the weapons so we can defend us and we can defend European and world`s freedom and democracy and just stop this bloody war as soon as possible.
Inna Borzylo Nelles, Sergei Leshchenko, thank you both very much. I hope you can stay safe. I appreciate it. Thank you.
Still to come, heavy fighting continues in Kharkiv and Russian forces advanced towards the nation`s capital. The latest on the ground in Ukraine after this.
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CROWD: (Speaking Foreign Language)
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HAYES: That absolutely remarkable scene. It comes from the southern Ukrainian city of Kherson this weekend, which is occupied and controlled by Russians, OK, Russian soldiers. And a crowd of protesters confronted those Russian soldiers that now have control of the town in the city`s main square.
For the north and a town just outside Kyiv, Ukrainian soldiers went joyriding today on captured Russian tanks. Tonight we`re learning Russian forces are moving closer to the capital city of Kyiv. And other major cities like Kharkiv and eastern Ukraine are still under siege tonight.
Cal Perry joins us live from Lviv in western Ukraine with the latest. Cal, what are your updates today?
CAL PERRY, NBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT: Yes, so starting in that southern city of Mariupol on the port and then we`ll talk about Kharkiv. The reason we`re doing these two cities is they are emblematic of what is happening across the country. In Mariupol, the deputy mayor there saying at least 1200 civilians are dead though he expects the number to be three, four times higher.
He has there were six separate attempts to get civilians out of that city that failed. Not even getting food into the center of the city has been possible. The Red Cross and Doctors Without Borders are at this point begging for some kind of a corridor. It is distressing that that has not happened yet as we enter week three because of course, it is only the people who can actually physically run from the fighting who have a chance. The elderly people who cannot get out are stuck in these basements.
Now, in Kharkiv, what we`re finally seeing is video that is giving us an idea of what we knew to be true from Ukrainian officials, which is their our bodies in the streets. The bodies of civilians are in the streets. Nobody can get above ground to clear them yet, as are bodies of Russian soldiers, an indication that they`re taking heavy losses there and that there is fierce fighting.
Now, to the peace talks, which really were a failure today across the board in Turkey except for the IAEA. The Director General of the IAEA showing up at these peace talks, pretty shocking there, to try to get access to Chernobyl. We`ve been talking about this a lot.
There`s no power to Chernobyl, they want to get some engineers, Ukrainian engineers, to that site and reconnect the power. The Russian defense ministry saying they will that allow that to happen. We`ll find out tomorrow if that actually does happen, but it`s something that has people here very concerned.
On the very concerned front, we have continued discussions today of a possible false flag attack by Russian troops using chemical weapons. This is something we`ve been hearing from Washington for a long time. But we finally today her directly from the President of Ukraine who reflected what Russian media is saying.
There`s this narrative amongst Russian media that somehow the United States and Ukraine have these biological sites, secret sites here in Ukraine. Of course, DOD, Ukrainian officials all say that that is false, that that is a false narrative. But today, the Ukrainian president saying that people need to prepare themselves for the possibility that Russia could attack using chemical weapons. And he named individual places where that could happen.
It`s an indication here finally, Chris, that they are starting to take this intelligence seriously, and they are very concerned that this could happen in the coming days.
HAYES: Cal Perry who`s been doing phenomenal reporting live from Lviv, thank you so much for staying with us and for giving us that update tonight. I really appreciate it.
HAYES: As Russian attacks on Ukraine continues, the misinformation about Ukraine that led to an impeachment of our last president endures in America. Up next, I will be joined live by one of the central figures for America`s diplomatic frontline, someone we all met during Donald Trump`s first impeachment. Former Ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch joins me right after this.
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REP. MADISON CAWTHORN (R-NC): We sent stinger missile over there so they can defend themselves better, but remember that Zelenskyy is a thug. Remember the Ukrainian government is incredibly corrupt and is incredibly evil, and has been pushing woke ideologies.
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HAYES: Woke ideologies. Ah, yes, the very, very woke nation of Ukraine. That was North Carolina Republican Congressman Madison Cawthorn, telling a group of his supporters, the Ukrainian president is a thug and his government is corrupt.
Now it is unclear exactly when the video was taken, although it talks about stinger missiles so presumably after the invasion had started. We reached out to Cawthorn`s office for more context, they told us he supports Ukraine but said the Ukraine President "recently used false propaganda to entice America into becoming involved in an overseas conflict."
Cawthorn is not alone. For years, that view has been kind of a mainstream Republican talking point. It goes all the way back to Donald Trump. A huge part of the Trump story was the false counter-narrative that it was Ukrainians who sabotage the 2016 election, not Russia.
He used a very real and historic corruption in Ukrainian government as a kind of excuse in his attempts to deflect from his own campaigns engagement with Russian actors, even pushing the fake conspiracy theory totally invented that a Ukrainian company was involved in hacking Hillary Clinton`s emails.
And you saw this through-line in his first impeachment defense that Ukraine with some sort of corrupt non entity, a suspect puppet nation being used to bring him down or pull U.S. into war. And then, on the other side of things, for people like our then-Ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch, she was fired by Trump, pulled out of Kyiv in the middle of night all because of a similar disinformation campaign that she had tried to shield corrupt Ukrainians for prosecution, that she was disloyal to Donald Trump.
Those smears did not stop her. Back in November 2019, during Trump`s first impeachment hearing, Yovanovitch made the case the U.S. should continue to support Ukraine.
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MARIE YOVANOVITCH, FORMER U.S. AMBASSADOR TO UKRAINE: Ukraine, with an enormous landmass and a large population, has the potential to be a significant commercial and political partner for the United States, as well as a force multiplier on the security side.
We see the potential in Ukraine. Russia sees -- by contrast, sees the risks. Supporting Ukraine is the right thing to do. It`s also the smart thing to do. If Russia prevails, and Ukraine falls to Russian dominion, we can expect to see other attempts by Russia to expand its territory and its influence.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HAYES: In her new book Lessons From The Edge, the former ambassador gives a first-hand account of her 34-year career in the Foreign Service, including her fateful last days as ambassador to Ukraine. And Ambassador Marie Yovanovitch joins me now. It`s really great to have you here. Thank you.
YOVANOVITCH: Thank you.
HAYES: How much do you think -- I mean, it`s funny when you go back -- not funny, it`s strange when you go back and look at that impeachment, you look about the axis of debate that happened through all those years. How much Ukraine was sort of at the front of it, and how much this axis of Ukraine and Russia was at the front of it, and in front of a lot of propaganda and disinformation as well? How related Do you think that is to where we find ourselves now?
YOVANOVITCH: Well, I think that you know, one of the things that happens is with Russia, whether it`s a military tactic, or military doctrine, or disinformation, or a cyberattack, they try those things, first in Ukraine. And then they expanded outward to Europe and to the United States. And I think we`ve seen that with meddling in elections, with various disinformation campaigns, and so on and so forth.
And as you rightly pointed out, the false narrative that somehow Ukraine was to blame for the meddling in U.S. elections, I mean, that is straight out of Vladimir Putin`s playbook. I mean, this was the narrative he was advancing, and that somehow caught on in parts of the United States. It`s very dangerous.
HAYES: Well, more than somehow, I mean, it made it -- I mean, it was operating -- I mean, the President of the United States repeatedly said it. He sent his emissary to Ukraine to basically fire you in the middle of the night, because he believed it.
YOVANOVITCH: Yes, it`s crazy. It`s crazy to think back on that and it`s dangerous. And, you know, fast forward to today where I think that the way President Trump handled our relationship with Ukraine, when the transcript was released of the perfect phone call, I think that gave Vladimir Putin a lot of encouragement that the United States was, you know, certainly not the Trump administration was going to be supporting Ukraine.
And I think it gave other bad actors around the world kind of the green light to move forward with, you know, their various schemes because it was evident that this administration was ready to trade our national security for personal favors.
HAYES: You spent 34 years in the Foreign Service, a variety of postings around the world. Obviously, you know, at some level, there`s always some crisis happening in the world. You know, that`s just the nature of human beings on the planet. But this does seem different in its own category. And I wonder, given your long experience in American foreign policy, this feels to you like something new and different in a crisis at a different level.
YOVANOVITCH: It is, I think, a continuation of what we`ve seen in the past, but I think it is new and different in the sense that this is a hinge moment in history. So, this is about Ukraine. I think Putin has had an obsession about Ukraine, an obsession to get Ukraine back into the Empire. And I think other former republics are probably also in line for the same kind of fate if he`s successful in Ukraine.
And I think, moreover, he`s made quite clear that he doesn`t like the international rules based order. That this is something that doesn`t work for him because you have to follow rules like, the concept of sovereignty, the concept of viability, borders, and so forth. And that stands in the way of him getting what he wants.
HAYES: Let me -- I mean, I hear international rules-based order. I understand it in the most charitable sense, an aspirational vision. But honestly, the closest thing I can compare to this is what the U.S. did Iraq in 2003. I mean, we talked about sovereignty. I mean, we just decided to invade a nation while a lot of the world said that`s a terrible idea. You definitely shouldn`t do that. That will be terrible. And we were able to do it because we have nuclear weapons and the world`s superpower.
And a lot of people, I think, when they hear the phrase, rules based international order, what they hear is the U.S. essentially conveniently using a phrase that allows it to do what it wants.
YOVANOVITCH: Well, I`m not going to defend the decision to go into Iraq by any means. But just because one mistake was made doesn`t justify another mistake.
HAYES: Well, certainly no.
YOVANOVITCH: Especially at such great cost to the Ukrainian people. But I - - you know, maybe I`m still an idealist despite everything. But I do believe that the institutions that were set up after World War II, I mean, over the decades, the rules that, you know, sometimes are only observed in the breach, but are mostly observed, have ushered in an era for not just the United States, but have ushered in an era of unparalleled prosperity, security, and freedom. And so, I think that`s a good thing.
And I think if the world starts following the path of Vladimir Putin, we are going to be less prosperous, certainly less secure, and have far fewer freedoms.
HAYES: Yes. I mean, I think a world where lots of people are invading their neighbors all the time and everyone`s cutting off trade, and we sort of drawback --
HAYES: It`s supper horrifying.
HAYES: Yes. I mean, I want to talk a little bit about what the sort of alliances look like now and how that might be brought to bear towards an end game here if you`ll stick around.
HAYES: Maria Yovanovitch who`s got a new book out, stick around, we`ll be right back.
ALI AROUZI, NBC NEWS TEHRAN BUREAU CHIEF: The Ukrainian official said that 400,000 People in Mariupol are essentially being held hostage. Nobody can get in, nobody can get out. The Russians have embarked on a -- on a siege and starvation tactic. That means they`re bombarding civilian areas, no electricity is getting in there, no food, no water is getting in there. So, it`s a horrifying situation. And most people are cut off from their family members. They don`t know what`s going on, especially as of today.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HAYES: That`s NBC News Correspondent Ali Arouzi reporting on what is happening to Ukrainians in that port city of Mariupol in the south. Russian tactic in Ukraine are becoming increasingly brutal, while sanctions are being used to further isolate Russia from the world economy.
And there`s a question just what can possibly done to force Russian President Vladimir Putin to end this war. I`m still here with former U.S. ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch. She spent much of her three and a half decades in foreign service, working to help former Soviet republics emerge from totalitarianism.
Given your expertise in the region, you are not just in Ukraine, you are in other places there as well, what has surprised you, what hasn`t? What -- how has this gone in the last two weeks from what you expected?
YOVANOVITCH: Well, I think the first surprise was how relatively well the Ukrainian military is doing. I think -- you know, I didn`t think it was going to be the cakewalk that Vladimir Putin thought it was going to be. And I didn`t -- I knew he was not going to be greeted with flowers.
But I have been really impressed and I think my military -- my former military colleagues have been as well by how well the military has -- the Ukrainian military has been able to, you know, force the Russians to a standoff. I`ve been surprised by how poorly the Russian military has done in contrast.
And I`ve been not so much surprised but just really gratified to see, you know, despite the brutal tactics that the Russians are using, how the Ukrainian people are standing up for themselves and fighting for their freedom. That`s not something that surprised me. But it`s really inspiring to see.
And I think, you know, President Zelenskyy is leading that effort. He`s uniting the country and he`s inspiring not only these people but the world.
HAYES: Let`s talk about President Zelenskyy. I mean, obviously, it`s a remarkable story. I`m now reading the -- I think it was the New Yorker profiled him, right? Here`s this guy. He was a comedic actor, Jewish in Ukraine --
HAYES: Does this -- you know, does a sitcom, comedy in which a teacher gets caught in a viral rant against corruption, and then gets elected president, and then uses that to launch a presidential campaign because of the actual president. And many people have noted that he has incredible charisma. I mean, he`s literally a performer, has been a crucial part of the moral urgency that he`s conveyed to the world. Have you -- did you see that up closed when you were working in Ukraine? Are you -- did you expect this kind of leadership?
YOVANOVITCH: I think -- so I met him as -- before he launched --
HAYES: As a candidate.
YOVANOVITCH: -- his candidacy and then when he was running for President. By the time he became president, I had already left Ukraine. So, I think that we were hopeful that he would be able to make some movement forward on reforms and the anti-corruption fight, and he was able to do some things.
I didn`t know whether he had it in him to be a wartime president. And I think that he has grown into that role. I mean, the man has met his moment, and he is a hero. I also would say that he has those comedic and communication skills. He`s very good at that. And we`ve all seen that in real time.
But he also has executive skills. I mean, he grew a multi-million dollar media company just based on his own raw talent and his skills. So, he`s got some of the skills necessary to lead a nation.
HAYES: There`s a question now about the calculations Putin is making. I mean, we`ve never been in this territory, right? And I`ve been talking to people in Russia and people who know people in Russia. I mean, just the -- you know, this is a fully 21st-century society, right, Russian society. I mean, everything like Apple Pay, Uber, like, whatever it is, it`s there, and then it`s gone.
HAYES: Do you think that is -- that will be sufficient to pressure Putin away or is or is there no getting through to him on this?
YOVANOVITCH: You know, that is the big question. But if you`re asking me my opinion on this, I think that`s not going to be sufficient. I think that the Russian middle class and above are really scrambling. I think there`s a split in Russian society where the more educated, the people who have internet and so forth, you know, they`re wondering what this is going to mean.
I mean, they`re seeing, you know, no more flights to Egypt for vacation, and all of the things that, you know, they come to take for granted because it`s a 21st century society, and that is going away. But there`s another part of Russia that hasn`t enjoyed the same prosperity. And Putin`s propaganda is pretty strong there. So, I think -- I think it`s going to take more than that to sway Putin.
HAYES: You write this in your book. Putin didn`t want to own Ukraine, but didn`t want Ukraine to be fully independent, either. He had long understood the Ukraine not under Russia`s influence would seek closer association with the E.U. and NATO. And he also understood that neither E.U. nor NATO would have much interest in admitting a dysfunctional, unreformed country, let alone one at war.
The idea here is that there`s a long play to keep Ukraine out of NATO or the EU.
HAYES: Because that`s the sort of existential threat from Putin standpoint. And the idea that even you know, the annexation of Crimea, launching the war, the proxy war in the Donbas as part of this. What do you think tipped him over, right? Because in some ways, that strategy was fairly effective. Like, they`re not going to admit NATO with like a frozen conflict in the east.
YOVANOVITCH: Yes. So, I think there`s probably a lot of things going on. And it`s hard to know what is the most important, but I think, you know, there`s the issue of legacy, of being the man that returned Ukraine to the bosom of the Russian Empire and perhaps even more. I think that he was hoping that this would be -- he believed, no doubt, that this would be an easy, victorious campaign, and it would boost his popularity ratings as he`s starting to go into the 2024 presidential elections.
This is what happened when he took over Crimea. It really boosted his popularity ratings, and you know, he won the presidency again. So I think that`s, that`s a part of it. I also think that he`s been absolutely infuriated by Zelenskyy, who he thought, you know, I can handle this comedian. And it turns out he couldn`t. And through his own actions, he has driven Ukraine further and further to the West.
HAYES: Former ambassador to Ukraine, Marie Yovanovitch. Her new book is called Lessons from the edge. It is out next week. Thank you so much for your time.
YOVANOVITCH: Thank you.
HAYES: That is ALL IN on this Thursday night. "THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW" starts with Ali Velshi right now. Good evening, Ali.