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Transcript: The Rachel Maddow Show, 2/28/22

Guests: Hillary Clinton, Alexander Prokhorenko

Summary

Interview with former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. MSNBC`s continuing live coverage of the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

Transcript

BETSY WOODRUFF SWAN, MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR: It`s clearly not something that`s strength of mine for him. To the extent that he talks about it, he talks about it to complain about his own political faith.

CHRIS HAYES, MSNBC HOST: Betsy Woodruff Swan, as always a pleasure. Thank you very much.

That is "ALL IN" on this Monday night.

THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW starts right now with my old friend, Rachel Maddow.

Good evening, Rachel.

RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST: Good evening, Chris. Welcome back. How is your time away?

HAYES: It was amazing. It was sublime. It was warm, and I was with my family and it was strange that this awful thing was happening in the background of it, which I was obviously paying attention to.

MADDOW: Yeah.

HAYES: It feels sort of proper and invigorating in a weird way to be able to try to do some useful work here. So, I`m glad to be back, but it was -- it`s always lovely to be with the family.

MADDOW: Having seen, you know, snapshots from you and having been in touch with you a little bit while you`re away, I am profoundly grateful that you got that time away. I am profoundly grateful that you are back.

Part of this is that I feel like when this happened late last week, you know, a lot of a sprang into action and all sorts of different ways. It`s been a really intense five days since having you here with fresh eyes and fresh legs is a blessing because this is going to come on for a while. So, it`s good to have you back, my friend.

HAYES: Thank you. Good to be back.

MADDOW: And thanks to you at home for joining us. I`m really happy to have you with us.

It is a city on the southeast coast of Ukraine. It`s not far actually from Mariupol, which is the city where NBC`s chief foreign correspondent Richard Engel has been for these first few days of the war. You can see there on the map, Mariupol on the right and just to the southwest of it, right there on the coast, this other port city. It`s a town of about a hundred thousand people, it`s got a small naval base there, Berdyansk. Berdyansk, that`s how you say it. Forgive my pronunciation, I can`t get it right but closest I can get is Berdyansk.

This time last night, the mayor of Berdyansk, the mayor of that town made a public announcement that the town was now under the control of Russia. He said, quote, some time ago, armed soldiers entered the executive committee building and introduced themselves as soldiers of the Russian army. They informed us that all administrative buildings were under their control and that they were taking control of the executive committee building.

The mayor told all residents of that little port town that they needed to hide in shelters. He says the Russian soldiers told town officials they should stay at work. They should keep conducting their work but he said that he and other town employees did not want to do that. They did not want to stay in town office buildings, working under the control of armed soldiers from a foreign government and so they left.

But again, that was this time roughly last night, the mayor of Berdyansk in Russia telling his town that they`ve been taken over. That now, Russian soldiers are running the place, that was last night.

Then this was today.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CROWD (chanting): Berdyansk is Ukraine!

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MADDOW: Even if you`ve got even less language skills, fewer language skills than I do in this circumstance, you can understand what they`re saying there. Berdyansk is Ukraine, Berdyansk is Ukraine, and they are yelling, and the visual here is important. They are yelling that right in the face of these Russian soldiers who are indeed occupying their town.

Turns out the people of Berdyansk, they do not intend to stay in shelters like their mayor advised. They are out in the streets. This is today screaming in the faces of the Russian soldiers, hey, this is Ukraine, you need to get out. You`re in the wrong country.

Regular civilians, which is astonishing to see, but it`s the kind of bad news/good news, kind of good news/worrying news that we are getting out of Russia`s war in Ukraine today. I mean, you do sort of just at a human level, you want to get up and cheer for those really angry moms who are out there unafraid yelling in the face of those Russian soldiers that really they need to leave they are in the wrong country. This is Ukraine buddy, get out of here.

You want to cheer for them right there`s something in us that recognizes that and thinks god I wish if that were in my town, wouldn`t I?

And at the same time there`s a professional, up-armed, mechanized army in control of the most devastating weapons on earth standing against those people. And I`m not talking about the, you know, hopefully unusable weapons that Russia has like nuclear weapons. I`m talking about the stuff they have dragged with them over the border into Ukraine, just the missiles and the rockets and the munitions that they very well can`t shoot at civilians and they`ve started to.

Angry civilians not taking it and saying no. In this kind of a context, it is the type of heroism and personal civilian bravery that we are just wired for. And yet, a 200,000 strong modern army bearing down on even the bravest civilians that is a story that has an apocalyptic ending, not a happy ending, and that`s where we are. And part of how we`re trying to understand how to look at this now.

It is day five and, frankly, U.S. officials said at the outset of this war that the Ukrainian capital city of Kyiv would fall maybe as early as day one of the war. At the outside, the best case scenario, they said maybe Kyiv could hold on until day four. Well, it is day five today and Kyiv is still standing. And Russia actually holds no major population centers in Ukraine.

Russia hasn`t even achieved domination of the airspace over Ukraine, something we believe they thought they could maybe do in day one or maybe day two. It`s day five and Ukraine still has aircraft of its own. They still have considerable anti-aircraft power to use against Russian aircraft.

I mean, whatever Russia thought it was going to do with its ground forces - - well, this is what some of them look like right now Ukrainians have been making the most including making the most publicity possible out of Russian military vehicles that have had to be abandoned by Russian troops. Russian military vehicles that have run out of gas or the Ukrainians have disabled them or they`ve blown them up.

One "Reuters" photographer today climbed inside a destroyed Russian all- terrain infantry mobility vehicle. This is in the city of Kharkiv. Look at this shot. Can we drop that lower third there so you can see that full shot? Look at that, he got inside to show what it`s like destroyed. That`s a Russian vehicle destroyed on the streets of Kharkiv.

And if you are watching this in terms of the Ukrainians as David standing up against Goliath, right, that is heartening. But then there`s this, outside Kyiv, today, a convoy of Russian vehicles. This is today, bumper to bumper, see all those little blips, those things that look like little ants, little Chiclets there, that`s a convoy of Russian military vehicles that stretches 17 miles long outside Kyiv.

If this is David versus Goliath, we are wired as humans to cheer for David and to believe in David but David is going to need help against a military like this, the Western world is trying to help and is doing more together and more quickly than I think anybody believed was possible, in a way that dovetails with the Russian people`s own pronounced anger and dissatisfaction over what their government is doing.

The number of Russian citizens arrested for daring to protest inside Russia against the war has reportedly already topped 6,000 -- 6,000 Russians willing to be arrested in their own country in order to protest this war, even as their government threatens that they`ll be treated as terrorists and rioters they`ll be locked up for years, anybody arrested protesting the war will have their entire lives ruined. The Russian government is using language like that to threaten people not to protest, 6,000 Russians have already been arrested protesting and it keeps going on every day.

Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny criticizing the war from prison as they try to lock him up for another 15 years. The opposition movement that supports him which Putin has declared illegal, today calling for civil disobedience, mass civil disobedience in Russia to show the world that Russia doesn`t want this war, in the sense that the Russian people don`t want this war. It`s just Putin. It`s just the dictator who runs that country.

That said, he doesn`t have to listen to the people of Russia because he is a dictator and therefore whatever they do, he`s happy to stand against them. There will be no consequences for him, the Russian`s people dis -- Russian people`s dissatisfaction.

That said, the distance between Putin and his people had a crowbar shoved into the scene today when the financial sanctions against Russia got turned up to 11. Putin knew in advance he was going to do this. He has been laying the groundwork for this for a long time. He knew there would be economic sanctions against him if he did something like this.

One of the ways he tried to make Russia sanctions proof in advance of this invasion was by building up a huge pile of foreign currency in the Russian central bank. Basically, it`s a rainy day fund, something that the Russian government could live off of for a long while until the rest of the world calmed down and let them resume business as usual. They built up a reserve currency fund of like between $600 billion and $700 billion.

Well, today, Russia lost access to its rainy day fund, when new sanctions targeted not just more individual Russians, not just more individual Russian banks and institutions. Today, new sanctions hit the Russian central bank which never happens sanctions are never that steep. But that means in immediate order, Russia`s got no access to its cash reserves.

And sure, they`ve still got rubles. They`ve still got their own currency. But as of right now, a ruble is basically worthless. The ruble crashed today, down nearly to zero, a ruble right now is worth less than a penny. Their national credit rating is downgraded officially to junk.

Russia has basically one industry, oil and gas. But their oil and gas technology is terrible, in part because their companies are terribly run by Putin cronies who run them like organized crime families. They basically run them like gangsters. Russia`s oil and gas industry is the one industry they`ve got, but they need Western oil companies in order to competitively operate their one industry, in order for it to actually function in a modern sense. Well, say goodbye to that.

As of today, BP, the single largest foreign stakeholder in the Russian economy pulled out -- they pulled out of their giant multi-billion dollar stake in Rosneft. In short order, Shell pulled out from their joint operations with Gazprom as well. Exxon`s apparently still there, though someone should perhaps check on that. Ask me again in the morning. But BP and Shell pulling out of the Russian oil and gas industry?

Rather than see what was going to happen on the Russian markets today, Russia actually disclosed them all together. Literally, they didn`t allow their stock market to open because they knew what it was going to look like.

And again it`s sort of good news/nightmare news, heartening news/worrying news, right? It is heartening for Ukraine, it must be to see the whole Western world act with alacrity to act in a unified way to stomp on Russia economically so fast. I mean, even Switzerland -- famously neutral Switzerland got in on the sanctions today. They never do that. You can imagine all the Russian oligarchs and kleptocrats who might have been worried about sanctions anywhere else in the world, they were surely comfortable in the knowledge that whatever else they had to get out of elsewhere in the world, their Swiss bank accounts at least would be safe.

Sorry, their Swiss bank accounts as of today are frozen, with no warning. And again, Switzerland never does that. So it`s not like they would have anticipated it was going to happen and move their stuff out before they could get hit.

That kind of surprising action, that unified face of the Western world, that has to be heartening if you are Ukraine or if you support Ukraine given what they`re going through. But the other side of that is this desperation this may create on the part of Putin, on the part of the madman who started this whole nightmare. I mean, he`s not winning in Ukraine the way U.S. intelligence says he believed he would, his people manifestly hate this no matter how much he threatens them to stop speaking out against it. They won`t stop.

He is officially cratering his economy. The ruble went to zero today. He is cratering his economy and not for the long run, but catastrophically and for today. He`s now personally sanctioned in a way he`s never been personally sanctioned before. He`s now personally sanctioned the same way the leader of North Korea is, and that`s not something you come back from.

Even before it got this bad for him economically today, he was already threatening this weekend that he was going to maybe use his nuclear weapons. Well, the economic sanctions that so freaked him out to that point this weekend, they basically tripled today. What does he threaten next? What does he do next?

Questions, right? I mean --is there any military help coming for David facing that Goliath? Is there any military help coming to Ukraine? Can there be military help that doesn`t set off a wider war but rather helps Ukraine stand up for longer and perhaps indefinitely?

Is Putin`s nuclear threat, is that just crazy talk? Or is it crazy talk that needs some kind of response?

Speaking of crazy, when U.S. intelligence and diplomatic sources expressed concern that Putin might actually have gone crazy, like he might be around the bend, how does that affect the world`s realistic options in pushing him back right now? In terms of how to not just punish Putin but help Ukraine - - well, today, Ukraine`s president asked for the European Union to admit Ukraine as a member. He said, I know you don`t usually do it this way, but I think we`re a special case.

Please admit us. He made a formal application for that today. That is something that takes years, months. I mean, not even months. It takes years, if not decades. He wants that now.

Should the European Union do that? In terms of the international cards here, in terms of the international options here who might help Russia? Will China be an escape hatch for Russia in terms of evading sanctions and in terms of helping them weather all this appropriate from the Western world?

It`s day five now. There are heartening things happening -- yes, if you`re Ukraine. The fact that they have made it to day five of this war is heartening, but there are also nightmare apocalyptic scenarios on the very near horizon that are realistic.

[21:15:03]

I have a lot of questions. I also I`m happy to say have a good person to ask them.

Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton just published a new piece in "The Atlantic" with Dan Schwerin. It`s called "A state of emergency for democracy". In it, she argues that Putin`s war on Ukraine is, quote, part of a long-running shadow war to destabilize free societies and discredit democratic institutions around the world. She argues, quote, we need a strong democracy in the United States to win the global argument with autocracy.

Joining us now live is former Secretary of State, first lady, Senator, presidential nominee Hillary Rodham Clinton.

Madam Secretary, thank you so much for making time to be here. I really appreciate you accepting our invitation.

HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON, FORMER U.S. SECRETARY OF STATE: Happy to talk with you tonight.

MADDOW: First, let me just ask you if you think we`re asking the right questions here.

When you look at this war, when you look at these past five days, what do you think is the most important thing for the American people to understand?

CLINTON: Yes.

I think all of your questions are really important. But I would put a big umbrella over them, Rachel, for the American people, really for citizens of all democracies, that this may at first be somewhat confusing for those who are looking at it from the outside.

But make no mistake, this is not just an unprovoked, aggressive invasion by Russia. It is an effort by Putin and those who prop him up and enable him to really wage war on the rule of law and democracy, on freedom.

And it`s critically important that, as we have seen in the last days, that democratic governments and people rally to support Ukraine in this struggle, because it`s also our struggle.

MADDOW: In terms of the Western response, I will not be the first observer to note that the speed and unanimity of the Western world`s response has been a surprise.

The idea that the Russian sanctions at this point would be multilateral, that even banking sanctions would involve countries like Singapore and Switzerland, of all places, that the Russian Central Bank would be sanctioned, that countries like Germany, which, for very good historical reasons, don`t send weapons abroad, would be sending weapons directly into Ukraine to help them, that the European Union would be sending in weapons, I think it is a remarkable show of single purpose by the Western world to help.

It also feels like -- while it simultaneously feels like more than we can imagine, it also feels like not enough. How do you view the Western response thus far?

CLINTON: Well, I agree with you that it is remarkable.

I give President Biden and the Biden administration a lot of credit for leading the world to this point. The strategy of disclosing intelligence to demonstrate very clearly that Putin was trying to do once again what he had done before, use disinformation, false flag operations in order to try to justify an unjustifiable invasion was incredibly smart, unprecedented.

And it seems to have really woken up so much of the world and stymied Putin, and bringing not just Europe, but, as you say, countries as far- flung as Singapore, even Japan and others, to understand that this threat was global. It certainly is a direct threat to Western democracies right in the heart of Europe. But to let an autocrat do what Putin decided to do is something that everybody has a stake in trying to stop.

So, up until now, the kind of economic pressures that have been brought to bear, I think, are not only remarkable, but seem to be really biting.

And the second point you make, providing necessary weapons to Ukraine has begun. It needs to be accelerated. The Ukrainians need Stinger missiles to shoot down Russian aircraft. They need Javelin missiles to stop tanks. They need a lot of ammunition. They need as much support as they possibly can be given, because it is a two-prong approach now.

The president, Zelensky, who has been extraordinary and deserves the thanks and gratitude, appreciation, admiration of all of us, is trying to operate on two levels. He`s trying to continue to rally his people to fight the Russian invaders.

[21:20:03]

But he`s also saying: Look, I will talk to you. I don`t know what can come of it, because that is a possible way out.

If the Ukrainians, with our help, can impose enough economic pain on Putin, and, sadly, the Russian people, combined with providing weapons, that that might be the only way that right now I can see us getting to a stalemate that might save the Ukrainian people from even greater tragedy.

MADDOW: Madam Secretary, one of the things that`s happened in recent days is that people who have spent time with Putin, who have sat across the table from him at negotiations and talks over the years say that, as much as they might have either disliked or thought that Putin was ruthless before, he seems different. He doesn`t seem like himself. He seems like there might be something wrong with him, that he might be nuts.

We have heard that from people who have been in diplomatic negotiations with him before.

I wanted to get your take on that, both as somebody who has spent time with him, but also your take on whether or not that should factor in to how we strategize against him now.

CLINTON: Well, it`s a difficult question to answer from afar, obviously.

I think the reports coming out suggest both his temperament, his paranoia seems to have increased dramatically. His vindictiveness, his dictatorial approach to the people around him, including his own military leadership, seems to have gone further and deeper than anybody had ever seen before. People have also suggested that, maybe physically, he`s facing some health challenges.

I think it`s important for leaders, intelligence agencies to get the best information they can. But, ultimately, the people closest to Putin, those who have to deal with him, those who he`s keeping at the end of 40-foot tables while he issues bizarre orders, they`re the ones who need to act. They need to act for the good of Russia. They need to stop him.

Whether or not this has turned into some kind of physical or mental problems that he either had or has, in some way, come down with, we don`t know, but his behavior is dangerous. And it`s dangerous to the future of Russia.

So, my hope is that the people who are watching him, those who get close enough to see in person his behavior, which is so erratic, that they can try to prevent him from doing things that will not only be tragic for Ukraine, but tragic for Russia too. This should be stopped for Russia`s sake.

MADDOW: Madam Secretary, I have a couple other questions I`d like to ask you about, in part because I feel like, the last time we spoke, you were raising a red flag about a security concern that people were not paying enough attention to in this country that might actually be a real escape hatch for Russian President Vladimir Putin here.

I`d like to ask you about that and a few other things on the other side of the break, if you could stay with us.

CLINTON: Sure.

MADDOW: All right, we will be right back with Hillary Rodham Clinton right after this.

Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[21:27:37]

MADDOW: Joining us once again now is former Secretary of State, first lady, Senator, presidential nominee Hillary Rodham Clinton.

Madam Secretary, thank you again for being with us tonight.

I wanted to ask you about something sort of remarkable, something from a different era that was announced by the Ukrainian government. They now say that they`re going to set up essentially the equivalent of a Foreign Legion, inviting anybody from anywhere to come fight with them against the Russian military.

Of course, 1938, the United States as a country wasn`t ready to go fight Hitler. But, in the Spanish Civil War, anti-fascist Americans went to Spain themselves and fought the fascists there as individuals. It sort of seems impossible that we`d be back to that as the only way Ukraine can get foreign military help.

But I want to get your reaction to that. And I wanted to ask if you do think that there are any other countries, even other NATO countries, who ought to be sending in troops to help the Ukrainian military.

CLINTON: You know, Rachel, the idea of a Lincoln Brigade for Ukraine, I know, has been discussed. It may well be that some people will go into Ukraine to help fight the Russians.

I don`t think it`s a good idea for that to be a government-sponsored effort. And I think people who go should be made aware that they are going on their own.

It is heartbreaking to see Ukraine standing alone against Russia, although they`re doing so far an amazing job in rallying their citizens. I don`t think you will find any country right now that will do that.

But, remember, the Russians invaded Afghanistan back in 1980. And although no country went in, they certainly had a lot of countries supplying arms and advice and even some advisers to those who were recruited to fight Russia. It didn`t end well for the Russians. There were other unintended consequences, as we know. But the fact is that a very motivated and then funded and armed insurgency basically drove the Russians out of Afghanistan.

[21:30:09]

Obviously, the similarities are not ones that you should bank on, because the terrain, the development in urban areas, et cetera, is so different.

But I think that is the model that people are now looking toward. And if there can be sufficient armaments that get in -- and they should be able to get in along some of the borders between other nations and Ukraine -- and keep the Ukrainian, both their military and their citizen volunteer soldiers supplied, that can continue to stymie Russia.

Now, let`s be clear that Russia has overwhelming military force. But, of course, they did in Afghanistan as well. They also brought a lot of airpower to Syria. It has -- it took years to finally defeat Syria, in terms of the insurgencies, the democratic forces, as well as others who battled the Russians, the Syrians and the Iranians.

So, if you`re fighting for your homeland, you`re fighting for your family, you`re fighting for your ideals, that`s far more powerful than sending in these poor young Russian soldiers who didn`t even know where they were going until they crossed the border, and people were screaming at them, and they realized they were in Ukraine.

So, I think we have to watch this carefully. We have to provide sufficient military armaments for the Ukraine military and volunteers. And we have to keep tightening the screws.

You have seen, in the last few days, some of the so-called oligarchs beginning to speak out, actually criticizing the move into Ukraine. I think that kind of pressure from the highest levels of the Ukrainian -- of the Russian military, the Russian financial kleptocracy is certainly important as well.

So, right now, we`re, what, five, six days into this. It`s very unpredictable. But the steps that the West has taken, under the leadership of the Biden administration, I think are where we can be right now. And let`s keep ratcheting up the pressure. And everybody should ratchet the pressure.

I was disappointed to see that some of the so-called crypto exchanges, not all of them, but some of them, are refusing to end transactions with Russia from some, I don`t know, philosophy of libertarianism or whatever. Everybody -- and if there has to be legal or regulatory pressure, everybody should do as much as possible to isolate Russian economic activity right now.

That pressure will absolutely impact Putin.

MADDOW: The last time you were here, Madam Secretary, you raised that point.

You said -- I hadn`t asked you about it at all, and you said you wanted to put a sort of spotlight on the need for regulation of the crypto markets, specifically for national security purposes, so that they couldn`t serve as an escape hatch in the case of multilateral action to try to lock people out from specific currency for national security reasons.

In this case, crypto is looking like it could potentially be an escape hatch, as even the Russian Central Bank is sanctioned and as we have seen these otherwise, multilateral actions.

CLINTON: Right.

MADDOW: I have to ask, after you have -- since you have been raising those concerns, have you seen the Biden administration or even, indeed, other governments around the world start to take that seriously, in terms of how the crypto markets could be undermining in national security environments like this one?

CLINTON: Well, I think they`re starting to take seriously the need to figure out the market and to provide guardrails, as you definitely should with any kind of large financial market like this has become.

I think, in this specific case of Ukraine, I do think that the Treasury Department, I think the Europeans should look hard at how they can prevent the crypto markets from giving an escape hatch to Russia, both governmental and private transactions in and out of Russia.

And I would hope they would do that, because it it`s so ironic, Rachel, because, for people who -- who live to make money, if they`re making it legally, if they`re not just a device or an excuse for money laundering, they should not want this invasion by Russia to stand.

They should figure out that we don`t need to be descending into some kind of global conflict, where dictators can decide that they`re going to try to take over countries just because they wake up one morning, no provocation at all.

[21:35:14]

So, it`s really in the interest of everyone who wants to do legitimate business to try to end this conflict as quickly as possible. And one of the two pillars that we can rely on right now is the economic pillar.

So, I would hope somebody at the Treasury Department is trying to figure out how they`re going to rein in the leaky valves in the crypto market that might allow Russia to escape the full weight of the sanctions.

MADDOW: Hillary Rodham Clinton, former secretary of state, presidential nominee, senator, first lady.

Madam Secretary, it is a real pleasure. Thank you for making this much time to be here. I appreciate it.

CLINTON: Thanks, Rachel. Thanks for being back for this. It`s important.

MADDOW: I appreciate it. Any time.

Well, it shouldn`t have to take World War III, but any time.

All right. Much more to get to tonight. Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[21:40:08]

MADDOW: It is now very early Tuesday morning in Ukraine. The Russian attack was concerted and terrible on Ukraine`s second largest system, Kharkiv today. Kharkiv is close to the Russian border.

The Russian forces didn`t succeed in taking Kharkiv today, even though they attacked it including civilian areas. Russian forces haven`t taken any major city in Ukraine as of this point. The capital of Kyiv is clearly in the sides. This was the view in Kyiv in the overnight hours, continuing to see explosions, large explosions, smoke rising over the skyline.

This is less than 100 miles northeast of Kyiv, the aftermath of heavy shelling there today. Ukrainian government said that this Russian attack hit residential buildings and a central market, a kindergarten, again, less than 100 miles north of Kyiv.

These are images we showed you before from a private satellite firm that show a miles long convoy of Russian military vehicles heading towards the capital city of Kyiv. They`re heading in from the northwest. In the capital, we continue to see Ukrainian civilians arming themselves with small arms and homemade Molotov cocktails. Preparing whatever they can to fight the Russians as civilians, once those additional Russian troops arrive.

Joining us now from Kyiv is NBC News chief correspondent Richard Engel.

Richard, thanks for staying up with. I know it`s very early, tell us about the decision to move from Mariupol into Kyiv and what the nights been like in Kyiv tonight?

RICHARD ENGEL, NBC NEWS CHIEF FOREIGN AFFAIRS CORRESPONDEN: Well, it`s snowing. So, that sort of nice, in a way. It`s supposed to snow all week.

But there is a lot of fear here. The city hasn`t seen that much violence thankfully thus far. There have been airstrikes, there were few airstrikes today. But what this city is bracing for is a whole different level of violence. With that 17 mile long convoy to the north of here that is heading this way, 17 mile long that`s hundreds of armed vehicles, artillery pieces, tanks and presumably thousands and thousands of soldiers.

It is a convoy that is designed to do one thing, to put a city under siege and do potentially topple it. So, people here are very, very nervous about that.

The move from Mariupol, which is a city that`s also now under siege and facing attack and the powers has gone was frankly because of the population. I think I got this war wrong. I thought Putin was going to go for the smaller option.

I thought he was going to take a piece of Donbas, I thought maybe he would go for a land corridor. And I placed myself in Mariupol because I thought that was the best strategic place to cover that kind of conflict.

But he decided not to. He decided to take down the whole government and attack from everywhere. So, after staying in Mariupol in a few more days, and it became clear that Mariupol is just part of the story. That the real objective is here, is to decapitate the government, to get Zelenskyy, to do nazify this country, which is by the way not run by Nazis.

So, then, we had to come across country and travel hundreds of miles across the entire breadth of this nation. And got in here, luckily before it is completely surrounded by Russian military, the next phase could be a very dark one.

MADDOW: Richard, what do you make of this sort of thing we`re seeing in both sides of it at the same time. One, the incredible threat of the Russian military both in terms of the scale of their ambitions, which you are describing. They`re not going for the smaller option, they`re going to try to come to the capital city there attacking everywhere all at once.

The size of that convoy, the amount of military personnel that have that they`re bringing to bear, and on the other hand, five days have been ineffectual given what U.S. intelligence says with their expectation and their goal throughout the first few days have gone. They both seem incredibly fearsome. They have apocalyptic intentions. And it seems like they haven`t been very good at what they`ve done thus far.

How do you balance this?

ENGEL: Well, I think the Russians -- first of all, no, they haven`t been very good at what they`re trying to do thus far, and they seem to have tried a very sophisticated modern military technique, which is to use precision airstrikes to go after military targets and then to -- for some bizarre reason, not saying all other forces in at once, just sending small units into combat, to carry out the small forays into cities, and small unit tactics in which Russian forces had the overwhelming majority in terms of numbers and technological spirit, weren`t taking advantage of it.

[21:45:19]

They were just sending -- little column of tanks or soldiers, or armored vehicles into a city, they would face fight against Ukraine and in some cases, Ukrainians destroy them. And they were forced to come back.

So, they try to do this technique which hasn`t really worked for them. They had logistical problems. They`ve had supply issues, especially when it comes to fuel especially colder getting lost and now, unfortunately, it seems like -- we saw this in Kharkiv today. And with this convoy, it`s quite clear that they`re going back to a more traditional Russian approach, more of the Grozny approach, which is go enforce, put your troops in a line, attack from the front, attack from the back. And just siege and attack.

So, the more sophisticated approach seems to have been something of the past for now. So, I don`t know exactly why they did it. Clearly, Vladimir Putin isn`t happy the way things are going so far.

MADDOW: NBC News chief foreign correspondent Richard Engel in the Ukrainian capital of Kyiv, Richard, it is good to have you here, my friend. Stay safe. Thank you.

When Richard describes the Grozny approach, he`s talking about the Russian approach to the than breakaway Chechen republic when Putin sent in -- at the sort of start of his reign, sent in Russian forces to the capital city Grozny in Chechnya, and essentially leveled it, essentially razed it. If that`s the plan for Kyiv, that is a -- you know, Kyiv is a metropolitan area of 4 million people. That would be apocalyptic, to say the least.

More ahead here tonight. Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MADDOW: We heard a lot from our viewers about a man we talked to on Friday`s show. Resident of Kyiv, a restaurant owner named Alexander Prokhorenko, he told us he was still in the capital city, but it is actually planning to leave after the show, after we spoke with him.

He was not able to leave. His family can`t get gas for cars. Also, the trains are just packed. For those got to stay like Alexander and his neighbors, they`ve been forced to adopt over these last few days to make sure they`re ready for what they think may be coming. This is some new video he sent us on the very cold underground parking garage where he and his numbers have been spending their nights.

He tells us they did pick up some weapons this weekend, the ones that the Ukrainian government has been handing out. Neither he or any of his neighbors have any military training, but Alexander said they are teaching themselves. They`re now taking turns guarding their building. His turn started today at 3:00 a.m.

They`re also making rounds to try to find food. Alexander says he decided to get a special permit allow him to move around Kyiv. When you got that permit, the government with these yellow markers on his car to alert authorities that he`s clear to trouble, that he`s not a threat.

Still, though, people manning checkpoints aren`t again the chances. He has been stopped and checked repeatedly. In this case, he thanked armed forces left stop them, he took a photo with them, call them my guys.

Alexander is using his ability to crush drive in Kyiv to drive neighbors of the train station, buying groceries, going to a nearby cafe to pick up food to donate. You can tell that not a lot of people have gone permits to move around, or not a lot of people have stayed if they can leave. The streets, as he showed us here, are empty. Of course, that`s the thing that the shots the silence are the sirens and bombs.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ALEXANDER PROKHORENKO, KYIV RESIDENT: They are attacking Kyiv. We hear big explosions. We had a huge one.

Yes, we have to run because of their strikes. They just run up to the apartment to get some rest because there wasn`t any bombing but you have to go no.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MADDOW: Alexander and his neighbors are still in that freezing underground parking garage, protecting themselves, trying to protect their building on trying to stay safe. They`re keeping a couple of guns they have and a few bullets they have nearby. That doesn`t mean they want this fight.

Joining us again is Kyiv resident, restaurant owner Alexander Prokhorenko.

Mr. Prokhorenko, I`m happy to see you. I`m sorry you`re still there. Thanks for being with us.

PROKHORENKO: Hi, Rachel. Hi.

MADDOW: How have the last 72 to 2 hours been?

PROKHORENKO: Well, it`s been -- it`s been hard, because every time, you know, the bombs are closer, the shops are closed. We heard the gunfire every night. The mass media is always telling us that there will be an airstrike again, and again, and again. But stone, we got used to it.

And the thing is, we all became more united. We became together, and we supported each other, and this is so good. Our nation has never been stronger than before the now.

And, as you told previously, yes, I want yesterday, and there were huge queues to buy some food. And we couldn`t. We want our restaurants, we took some food that we had there, and my friends also from the restaurant business, we all walked together. And we have some food. We prepared some food for the kindergartens, for the hospitals, for the army.

So, basically -- you know, and this time, I would say I don`t want to leave.

[21:55:07]

This is our land, and we don`t want to run away, because, this is where we belong to, this is our homeland. This is Ukraine, this is Kyiv.

MADDOW: Are you worried about access to basic supplies, to water, to food, or even ammunition? It seems supply lines are in there, so what you`ve got you`ve got.

PROKHORENKO: Yes, we are worried. But I hope and believe that our president and our major will cope with that. Because, that will be a problem because yesterday, even to the drug stores and supermarkets, I couldn`t -- my neighbor`s got in because we were a divided what we each have to do, but we managed to get some food for the next week. We`ll see what will happen in a week, but there`s a lot of garbage on the streets because there is no cleaners.

And the city looks like a mess, but people, we strongly believe because of our President Zelenskyy. He gives us so much hope because he talks to us, and every time he is saying what he did and how he did. And, you know, we`ve never been stronger than before. I would say, let`s NATO join us, not us join NATO. So --

MADDOW: I think that sentiment is something that a lot of people can identify with right now.

Alexander, I know it`s 5:00 in the morning right now, and this is a stressful time, but I`m going to warn you right now that we`re going to keep asking you to come back so you can update us on you and your friends. Godspeed, good luck, thank you.

PROKHORENKO: Thank you very much. Thank you.

MADDOW: All right .We`ll be right back. Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MADDOW: President Joe Biden will deliver the first State of the Union Address of his presidency tomorrow. Our special coverage will start 8:00 Eastern before the speech. I`ll be there along with Joy Reid and Nicole Wallace, and Steve Kornacki, a cast of thousands. We`ve got White House chief of staff Ron Klain join us, one of our guests interview.

Again, special coverage starts, State of the Union, tomorrow night, 8:00 p.m. right here on MSNBC. I will see you then.

Now, it`s time for "THE LAST WORD WITH LAWRENCE O`DONNELL".

Good evening, Lawrence.