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Transcript: The Rachel Maddow Show, 3/3/22

Guests: James Acton, Tikhon Dzyadko, Philip Breedlove, Inna Sovsun

Summary

Europe`s largest nuclear power plant is under attack by Russian forces. MSNBC`s continuing live coverage of the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

Transcript

AYMAN MOHYELDIN, MSNBC HOST: Hey, good evening, Chris. And yeah, it is a busy night with that breaking news out of Ukraine.

[21:00:01]

We`re going to follow that. Thank you very much, my friend. Greatly appreciated you.

And thanks to you at home for joining us in this hour.

As we mentioned, we are going to start with this late breaking, and what I would know it is a dangerous situation that is unfolding right now in Ukraine. This, on your screen right now, is a live video from a nuclear plant in Ukraine, in a city called Enerhodar.

It is not only the largest nuclear plant in Ukraine, but let`s be clear, it`s actually the largest nuclear plant in all of Europe. And according to Ukraine`s minister foreign affairs, tonight, Russia, right now is firing on all sides of that nuclear power plant in Enerhodar. The mayor of the city says that the plant is currently on fire.

This video was caught on the security camera earlier this evening, appearing to show some kind of projectile being fired at the plant. The International Atomic Energy Agency, which as you know, works to promote a safe use of nuclear power around the world says they are aware of reports of the shelling outside this plant that is taking place in Ukraine. They say they are in contact with Ukrainian authorities about this situation.

Now, we actually talked about this plant last night, because yesterday, you may recall hundreds of the plant workers, people from the nearby city who live around it, they actually formed kind of a human shield in the road leading up to the nuclear power plant. Russia, as we have noted throughout this program, and others, have already seized the site of the Chernobyl nuclear disaster. And the fear is that Russia will try to seize other active nuclear power plants in Ukraine, which supply most of the nation`s electricity.

And so, the people who live around this particular plant, yesterday, tried to block access to it. Try to stop Russia from having an easy time from taking it over.

Tonight, according to Ukrainian officials, Russia is firing on all sides of this power plant. Again, you`re looking at a live video that`s been broadcast by the plant, and I should note, that this is the middle of the night in Ukraine. And the number of people watching this static, grainy black and white security camera feed of a power plant is not exactly must- see TV right now. But right now, in this very moment, thousands of people are doing just that, out of fear of what could happen next, because the potential for a catastrophe here is just unparalleled.

It`s one thing for Russia to seize energy production in Ukraine, to cut off electricity, to kind of put the cities under blackout. But doing it by force, doing it with live ammunition is just unfathomably dangerous. Like I said, officials say that the planet was already on fire. And the fire alone can affect the plant`s cooling system, causing the reactors to overheat and meltdown, which is what happened in Japan in Fukushima back in 2011.

And it`s, in some ways, a slow-moving nuclear disaster. And then, of course, with fire and meltdowns comb the potential explosion. More than 50,000 people live in the city around this nuclear plant. It is about 250 miles from Ukraine`s second largest city, a little over 400 miles from Kyiv.

And if we learned anything from the Chernobyl disaster, radioactive nuclear waste can travel far, it can travel fast in an explosion. Ukrainian foreign minister saying this tonight: Russians must immediately seize the fire, and allow firefighters to establish a security zone if the plant blows up, it will be ten times larger than Chernobyl.

Joining us now is James Acton. He is the co-director of the nuclear policy program at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.

Mr. Acton, thank you so much for being here tonight.

I think I and a lot of people around the world, certainly people watching this program, have a lot of questions about how exactly to process what we are learning this evening coming out of Ukraine. Instinctively, a lot of people are going to be concerned.

What threat does a fire like the one we just heard about post to a plant like this?

JAMES ACTON, CARNEGIE ENDOWMENT FOR INTERNATIONAL PEACE NUCLEAR POLICY PROGRAM CO-DIRECTOR: Thanks for having me on this evening. And this is a serious situation.

The first thing that I want to emphasize is that radiation levels around appear to be normal right now the problem`s own website measures radiation levels, they put data in real time. The website crashed just before we went on air, just because of the sheer number of people trying to get access to it.

But the last time I was able to get access to the website, last time, and the most recent information we have from Ukrainian authorities is that radiation levels are normal. The big concern, though, is the one that you highlighted, which is the possibility that fire could disrupt power supplies to the system. Without which, there is -- without which fuel inside reactor would melt down.

[21:05:06]

Now, I have no knowledge of the status of those cooling systems, and the particular status of the power supplies of the cooling systems, but that is the most important concern in the situation.

MOHYELDIN: And the first thing that comes to mind, obviously, is being able to protect the cooling system, and to try to put that fire out. That is just what instinctively appears to me to be the first cause of action, I should say, course of action. From your expertise, what needs to happen now to mitigate the potential damage here. What can be done to prevent a potential catastrophic event?

ACTON: You`re absolutely right. The key here is to extinguish the fire, and thus, to prevent damage to the power supplies for the cooling system. The concern that I always have, or had since the beginning of this war, is that in the event that there was an accident to this nuclear power plant, such as fire, that firefighters wouldn`t be able to get to the plant, partly because they`re so busy in other activities, I`m sure there`s other priorities for them.

But they can literally be shot by Russian forces while trying to get to the plan. Ukrainian authorities have said that that has happened. So, I very much hope that firefighters have been able to get to the plant, and have been able to extinguish the blaze. I have no information on the status of the blaze at the moment, but you`re absolutely right, it is getting firefighting equipment, and the firefighters to the plan, that is the most immediate priority in the situation.

MOHYELDIN: Just because you have much more, you know, information and understanding of how this works, good an attack like this have the potential to drain the pools in which the spent fuel is stored at these plants. Can you tell us why that would be so dangerous, and with the potential damage could be here?

I mean, we are the Ukrainian foreign minister described this plant by saying, it could be ten times worse than Chernobyl. Can you put that in perspective for us? I`m not sure if you are aware about this plant and in terms of its output, just how realistic that would be?

ACTON: So in terms of -- people are naturally going to Chernobyl as an example here for obvious reasons. The more relevant example is Fukushima. That is, that will be a very, one of the worst case scenarios from here. I`m not predicting that we`re going to end up with a Fukushima-like accident, but that was a meltdown caused by a complete loss of cooling the plant. And that case, it was a tsunami that caused a loss of cooling in the plant.

In terms of fuel, I think it is extraordinarily unlikely that the kind of weapons that are being used around the plant would have the capability to damage the fuel ports. But if hypothetically, any of those sports where to be damaged, or were to drain, you have a pretty large amount of spent fuel sitting in those polls, from the time of reactors being in operation.

Without cooling, there would be a serious risk, if that fuel melting down, potentially releasing extremely large amounts of radiation. I would emphasize here that nothing I have seen tonight, in terms of the report to the weapon we used around the plant, makes me think there`s any likelihood of an accident. Rather, my bigger concern here is about the fuel currently inside the reactors, and keeping that cool.

MOHYELDIN: And I`m very appreciative that you`re able to provide that perspective and context for us about what concerns you. I think some people who are watching this are going to be asking a similar question to what we asked just a couple of days ago, when Russia was advancing on the side of the Chernobyl nuclear disaster, which is what would happen if Russia seized Ukraine`s power grid, and was able to cut off this nuclear power plants access to it.

Is that something that you are worried about? Because the assumption that is made by some analysts is that Russia wants to control the power that runs throughout the entire country as another pressure point to apply to the people of Ukraine, in being able to, for a lack of better word, get their surrender in this conflict.

ACTON: There is a very serious risk there. Nuclear power plants are not isolated islands, or they`re not entirely self-contained. They require, in this case, five hardest to be able to get there. The cooling systems, the reactor is cramped, if a reactor is shot down, and I assume that the three reactors that are operating today are cramped as a result of this accident, they require power to cool themselves.

[21:10:11]

Ideally, that power comes from and efficient electricity grid. One of the concerns about a fire, it can break power connection into the plant, it is possible that shelling, if it`s correct that the plans have been shelved, I`m not entirely clear what`s the specific -- but it`s possible that shelling could break the great connection.

It`s possible that Russia could deliberately attack electricity grids, as for example, name two did during the 1999 possible conflict.

So, there is absolutely a dangerous to the plant, if the electoral electricity is cut. Now, there are back-ups supplies within all plants. They typically provide by diesel. I believe that is what this plant is outfitted to, but again, in the worst-case, a fire could disrupt the working of those diesel generators, especially a fire and it gets onsite.

MOHYELDIN: I just want to shame, while you and I were speaking, we`ve got a statement from the Ukrainian president, Volodymyr Zelenskyy, about this specific topic. And a short while ago, he posted a video on the telegram channel that he`s been communicating with the public. I`m going to be the part of it here.

It says: Europe has to wake up now. That NPP is on fire now. Europeans wake up police, it is time to wake up.

So, again, clearly, significant news coming out of Ukraine at this hour, and now the reaction is coming both from Ukrainian leadership as well, as we mentioned, the International Atomic Energy Agency. We also understand that the White House, the president has been in touch with President Zelenskyy. We try together we know that phone call when we have it.

James, there are obviously more nuclear power plants across Ukraine can anything be done preemptively here to lower the risk of catastrophe, if Russian forces hit them? I`m not familiar with the nuclear lay out of that country, but what other plans, what other areas of concern are you tracking this evening?

ACTON: Well, the first and most important thing is Russian forces should stay away from those nuclear power plants. Obviously, Russia should get out of Ukraine entirely, but the most important thing is to avoid any repeated incident, Russian forces should keep any operations faraway from nuclear power plants.

There are four nuclear power plants in Ukraine. I believe there are 15 separate reactors, six of those reactors on the planned, we would be talking about this evening. Ukraine is a very difficult situation but. In an ideal world, you would shut down all of those reactors, now, as a precaution. Those would still need cooling, just because shutting them down stop calling the reactors.

The fuel inside is intensely way to active and requires continuous cooling. The reality is that last year, 50 percent of the electricity inside Ukraine came from nuclear power. If it shuts down all its nuclear power plants, then it`s going to have, I would assume, a blackout. You know, just to add to the abject misery that the Ukrainian people are facing right now.

So, Ukraine is an exceptionally difficult circumstance with these power plants, and the single best thing it can do is Russian forces need to seize all operations around, and I apologize for the pronouncing a shin here, the Zaporizhzhia. And secondly, they need to stop all operations around any other nuclear power plants in the country, like in the country entirely.

MOHYELDIN: Yeah, again, the statement from President Zelenskyy, calling on Europeans to wake up. He added to the statement, part of which I read, the biggest NPP plant is on fire. This moment, the Russian tanks are firing at nuclear blocks. We`re talking about tanks here. So they have thermal imagers, meaning, they know where they are shooting out. They were prepared for it. I`m addressing all Ukrainians in all Europeans, all those who know the word Chernobyl, who knows how many victims there were, it was a global catastrophe.

So a readout from President Zelenskyy on the developing situation that`s taking place there inside Enerhodar, after news reports that Russia fired on a nuclear power plant, causing a fire to break out.

James Acton, co-director at the nuclear policy program at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, greatly appreciate you joining us, and helping us make sense of this, I would consider, a very scary frightening situation that is playing out. Thank you so much, James.

We`re going to continue tomorrow that situation as it unfolds this hour, and come back to it as soon as we have new information.

But I do want to turn now to the situation actually inside of Russia, because even as Vladimir Putin has reigned death and destruction and terror down on the citizens of Ukraine, over his past week, he has also begun a swift and brutal crackdown at home.

[21:15:11]

There`s no doubt about that. Over 8,000 people have been arrested, and anti-war rallies in Russia. This, according to the Russian human rights group, OBD info. Russia`s last independent television statement, TV rain, shut down this week.

Echo of Moscow, a popular radio station. It was actually founded in the 90s by soviet dissidents. That, shut down as well today. The longtime editor of the independent Russian newspaper, Novaya Gazeta, who actually won the Nobel Peace Prize, just a couple of months ago says that his paper could be on the verge of shutting down as well. In fact, he tells "The New York Times," quote, everything that is not propaganda is being eliminated.

And one of the main drivers of these media outlets, shutting down, as you can imagine, is that the Kremlin has banned them from describing what is happening inside Ukraine as a war, or even as an invasion. They are literally telling them, do not use the words war or invasion. The Kremlin prefers that euphemism, special military operation. And Russian lawmakers are now considering 15-year prison terms for anyone who breaks these rules.

Meanwhile, the education ministry scheduled if you listen to be showed in schools nationwide today, that describes the war against Ukraine as a liberation mission. Vladimir Putin seems to be very, very concerned that the Russian people may not see this invasion for what it is -- already, a grinding bloody war. Four days, the Kremlin did not even acknowledge that Russian troops were actually fighting, and dying in Ukraine. Yesterday, they put up their first casualty figures, seeing that 490 Russian soldiers have been killed.

That is far less, far less than the thousands of Russian troops that Ukraine claims have died in the conflict. But even if that 490 casualty figure is correct, that would be the most Russian soldiers to die in a military conflict in 20 years.

And Vladimir Putin himself acknowledged the deaths of Russia`s soldiers for the first time today, speaking on a national TV network. But his description of what is happening inside Ukraine, with actually taking place, the war, sounded more unhinged than ever. He described Ukrainians and Russians as one people. But said that Ukrainians have been brainwashed by Nazis running their country, and that the Nazis when Ukraine are using Ukrainian civilians as shields.

We have to say this again, Ukraine`s President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, who is not only not a Nazi, but is himself Jewish, spoke to reporters today from his office building, which is now a fortified bunker.

NBC News chief foreign correspondent Richard Engel was there.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

RICHARD ENGEL, NBC NEWS CHIEF FOREIGN CORRESPONDENT: Vladimir Putin has so far not been willing to meet with you. Do you have a message for him now that Ukrainian cities are under attack, his city is under attack, a convoy is on its way here. Is there a way to prevent this war from escalating even further, now?

VOLODYMYR ZELENSKYY, UKRAINIAN PRESIDENT: It`s not about I want to talk with Putin. I think I have to talk with Putin. The world house the top with Putin, because there are no other ways to stop this war. That`s why I have to.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MOHYELDIN: All right. So there`s no meeting between Zelenskyy and Putin that is on the horizon as far as we know as of this hour. Russian forces are making some headway in Ukraine`s east and south. The bombardment of cities there has increased horrifically. We`ve seen the footage you see there on your screen.

But the giant miles-long convoy that is headed from Kyiv from the north still appears to be stalled miles from the capitol. And Ukrainian government keeps releasing videos of wood claims demoralized, confused Russian soldiers that they have captured -- soldiers who didn`t even know that they were being sent in to Ukraine. They thought they were participating in military training exercises.

Ukraine`s defense ministry says this video shows rushing vehicles destroyed by Ukrainian forces today in battles outside of Kyiv. And the realization that Russia is now engaged in a deadly, likely protracted conflict, a sinking in, in Russia, just as Russian citizens are starting to feel the bite of economic sanctions imposed by the West.

Ordinary Russians seen their trips canceled, airlines are canceling flights. They are lining up at ATMs to get cash. They are watching the value of the ruble, their lifesavings plummet. There are stocking up on foreign medications fearing that that might soon become unavailable.

And many Russians who can, are fleeing the country. Trains from St. Petersburg to Helsinki in Finland have been packed to the gills for days. Among those fleeing are journalists, after Russia blocked its last independent TV channel, TV Rain, and the network made the decision to shut down.

[21:20:07]

Several of its leaders fled the country, fearing for their safety. The stations finally broadcast today, though staffers remain in the studio, gathered for a farewell at the anchor desk. While others wave goodbye over Zoom, the broadcast included an emotional farewell from TV Rain`s editor in chief who told his colleagues, quote, we are on the right side of history.

This is TV Rain`s editor-in-chief just a week ago interviewing top America`s State Department official Victoria Nuland on his network. Now that network, bringing information to people inside of Russia, is shut down. And he has been forced to flee Russia for his safety.

Joining us now is Tikhon Dzyadko, editor in chief of TV Rain, Russia`s last independent TV station.

Mr. Dzyadko, thank you so much for joining us and being here with us, especially under these difficult circumstances and conditions.

I know that you and your colleagues at TV Rain have left Russia because you felt that staying there post a personal safety risk for you, your team, your families. We know that the Kremlin has severely restricted media freedom in Russia this week, but had there been specific threats made against you and your colleagues at TV Rain that you can tell us about?

TIKHON DZYADKO, TV RAIN EDITOR-IN-CHIEF: Well, yes, that`s correct. A few days ago me and to my colleagues, we started to receive threats in texts on our phones, and the messages on social media. This is something which has been happening through the years when your phone number is published somewhere. And usually, you don`t get a lot of attention, because it`s some part of information war, I would say.

But now, in these circumstances, it is completely different. In this atmosphere, you start to think differently about it. So, yeah, I consider these texts pretty serious.

MOHYELDIN: Can you describe, you describe the texts and already taking them serious, but can you tell us about the last week in terms of working as a journalist in Russia? Can you describe for us the kind of environment than you and your team were working and specifically after Putin launched this war against Ukraine?

DZYADKO: Well, last Thursday, the world changed. I was heading to the office because I had a show in the morning. But on my way to the TV station, my producer called me and told me that Vladimir Putin announced that he started a war.

So, everything changed after that. We changed our normal programming so we became almost nonstop on air shows, and we have been working 24 to 7 as normal journalists. We had journalists in Ukraine.

We were talking to them. We were talking to politicians in Russia, in Ukraine, in the West, et cetera. But then, the situations started to change.

First, there was this huge problem with the military censorship in Russia. It is a very interesting situation. The Russian government does not admit that there is a war, the Russian government even for bids to use the word war. It`s a shock to use words, special military operation. But at the same time, there is no war, but there is military censorship.

So, first, we, I mean, TV Rain, and other medias, we got a warning from the Russian government that we have to use only official information from the Ministry of Defense, and of course, it`s impossible if you use only this information.

MOHYELDIN: Right.

DZYADKO: You become part of the state propaganda.

And, and several days after, our website was blocked, website, as you mentioned, the website (INAUDIBLE) and some other medias, just two days ago, just two hours ago, the website of Medusa (ph), a very popular independent website was blocked as well.

MOHYELDIN: Yeah.

DZYADKO: And I saw that Facebook`s blocked as well in Moscow.

So, as you mentioned, it is one of the strongest crackdown on independent media and independent blind in Russia, it`s terrible.

MOHYELDIN: It is terrible, it is frightening to see this information blackout is being imposed. I just want to ask you, quickly, your thoughts, with your maestro staff, you said that no matter how bad things get, and how many people might be pleased to see your station stop broadcasting, your channel will still win.

How? How will you win? What does victory look like for you?

DZYADKO: Well, if you -- maybe you saw that in Russia, we saw the numbers that 62 percent of Russian citizens support the war. I do not trust these numbers, and I know that these numbers are false, which is not true.

I know that not a lot of people and Russian support the war. And I know that even in the government, not a lot of people support the war, which tells me that somehow, one day, the situation will and. Somehow, one day, Russia will become a normal country, because Russians want to live a new normal, civilized country. A civilized country means that it has normal media such as TV rain.

So, I am completely sure that Russian people, they have requests to normalize, and they will finally, one day, they will get it.

MOHYELDIN: I`ve made this point time and time again, the Russian people are not the Russian government. They are not Vladimir Putin.

Tikhon Dzyadko, editor in chief --

DZYADKO: That`s correct, that`s correct.

MOHYELDIN: -- of TV Rain, thank you so much, sir. Russia`s last independent TV channel, greatly appreciate your time and your insights. Stay safe.

Here again is Europe`s largest power plant currently on fire in southern Ukraine after an attack from Russian forces,. We`re going to keep our eyes on this very ominous situation. It is developing. We`re going to bring you more updates, next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[21:30:45]

MOHYELDIN: We are still monitoring this developing situation at a nuclear power plant in eastern Ukraine, after it was reportedly shelled by Russian forces. We have a new statement from Ukraine`s emergency services. They actually say that the fire broke out in a training building, outside the plants perimeter. It says the fireproof condition at the nuclear power plant is okay.

This comes as Russian forces continue their assault on Ukrainian cities. This is drone footage of a small town, Borodyanka, about 40 miles northwest of the capital, where some buildings were reduced to rubble after heavy shelling. You see there on your screen.

Today, also continued heavy fighting in the suburb city, the port city of Mariupol, which now has no electricity, no heat, no water. And in the hard hit city of Kharkiv, Russian air strikes hit more civilian targets today, bombarding at least three schools. Ukraine officials say at least 34 civilians have been killed.

Again, all eyes this hour are on that fire at the nuclear power plant in Enerhodar. We just got this read out from President Biden`s call with Volodymyr Zelenskyy, the president of Ukraine.

In part, it reads, President Joseph R. Biden spoke with President Volodymyr Zelenskyy of Ukraine this evening, to receive an update on the fire at Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant. President Biden joined President Zelenskyy in urging Russia to cease its military activities in the area, and allow firefighters and emergency responders to access the site.

President Biden also spoke this evening with undersecretary for nuclear security of the U.S. Department of Energy and administrator of the National Nuclear Security Administration, to receive an update on the situation at the plant. The president will continue to be briefed regularly.

So that is the readout of the statement that we just got from the White House, after the president concluded his phone call with Volodymyr Zelenskyy, following this developing news.

For all of the latest on Russia`s military movements now inside Ukraine, I want to bring in Clint Watts, research fellow at the Foreign Policy Research Institute, and of course MSNBC national security analyst who was at the board for us.

Clint, walk us through your read out of the situation in which you`re seeing play out in Ukraine, militarily?

CLINT WATTS, MSNBC NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: Ayman, thanks for having me. Lots to talk about today. The first thing I think we want to talk about is what`s going on in Zaporizhzhia.

Right now, at the nuclear power plant, everyone is worried about this fire fight. Earlier, it looked like some of the Twitter footage that was there, there was some sort of firefight going on there. You could see bullets moving off of the buildings, very dangerous situation, and I think everyone is trying to figure out, is this power plant in jeopardy? Is the nuclear fuel, essentially, secure, and what`s the danger and risk there?

Everyone should probably be asking, why does Russia keep focusing on nuclear power plants? Remember, with talking them about them retaking Chernobyl late last week. There`s a few reasons. One, they want to be able to control energy inside the country with a Ukrainian population, turn it on, turn it off.

The second part is psychological. They use that as fear, fear as a weapon. That`s why we`re talking about it right now, we are worried about it, but also, they can use that to create disinformation, misinformation at home, scare their population.

And the third thing, which I don`t think it`s been talked about enough`s logistics. Nearly, all nuclear power plants have a railhead. When you have a large armor division, and you have a very weak supply lines, it`s always great to get a hold of railheads, because if you do, you can move your arm around without consuming so much fuel and moving so slowly.

Let`s take a step back, though, on other developments today, they`re super important. We`ve been talking a lot about the convoy in the north in Kyiv. Russia hasn`t done very well at weekend day in, but now, which you`re seeing them do is take control of the south.

Several developments. These units here in Crimea, Crimea was taken over in 2014, they busted out and created a language all the way to Mariupol, which you are showing right there. Mariupol has been laid siege.

This is siege warfare. This is the kind of stuff we saw in Aleppo and Grozny for the Russian army, total, and total complete devastation using indirect fires, knocking out all infrastructure. This could be forecast for the Russians want to do in Kyiv.

Separately, very importantly from the same area, they have moved to Kherson.

[21:35:02]

Kherson is one of the bridges that goes over the Dnieper River. The Dnieper River flowing in from the Black Sea, all the way up, to the center of Ukraine, is a major artery. And if they can get through and over that western site, they then have the ability to move all the way to the Moldovan border, essentially, stealing of southern Ukraine, and all of the port access, which would allow them, if they want to, to start landing military force in places in and around Odessa, essentially creating a southern front.

Let`s jump to the big picture real quick to finish off, which is what the strategy is. Their original strategy is what I call three fronts and a coup. They were trying to come in in three directions, one, from here, and one from here. Neither appears went really well.

Here in the south, they`re starting to break through, but their original gamble was to essentially a political coup in combination with airborne rates and assassination, essentially of President Zelenskyy. That has failed, however, if you watch weather doing today and listening to Press Secretary Kirby from the Defense Department, which you`re seeing them do is extend out this enlargement here, all the way back here to the Belarusian border.

That convoy which has been sitting there, that is logistical supply that they`re trying to build up. They need to secure the rear area by destroying these population centers. They don`t want to have an insurgency in their supply lines. From here on out, it`s a really a battle of logistics. We always say food, fuel and ammunition. And it`s going to be, and the Russians to food, fuel and ammunition? And can the Ukrainians sustain food, fuel and ammunition?

And I think from here on out, it`s really a battle of logistics, and who can last and who cannot? I think the last part I would want to say is, they`re going to try and do a siege around Kyiv. They can bring forces up from the south and link them ill, and then still off to the west. That is essentially, if you`ve lost it is sea, and you`re in Ukraine, your supply lines are over land from the west, and have to come in through the border areas around Poland.

MOHYELDIN: Clint Watts, think you very much. That is a very comprehensive breakdown of all the various moving pieces involved in what we are seeing play out one week into this war. Greatly appreciated. Clint Watts, research fellow at the Foreign Policy Research Institute and MSNBC national security analyst.

I also just want to tell our viewers that really quick update that we just got. We`ve got another readout from the White House on the situation at the nuclear power. This is the latest that we`re getting. According to U.S. official, our latest information shows, no indications of elevated levels of radiation. We are monitoring the situation closely.

Again, the U.S., which probably has some real time intelligence and eyes on the situation there is saying they have no indication of elevated levels of radiation.

Let`s turn now to retired Four Star Air Force General Philip Breedlove, who served as NATO supreme allied commander from 2013 to 2016. He`s now a distinguished chair of the Frontier Europe Initiative at the Middle East Institute.

General Breedlove, thank you so much for being here.

We`re dealing with a lot of information, as you can imagine, in real time. I just want to get your reaction to the news tonight of the situation at a nuclear power plant in eastern Ukraine. We are getting word from the head of the administration there that the area has been secured for now, so perhaps it is now going in the right direction, compared to where we were just about 38 minutes ago, when we went on the air and that fire was still burning.

And now, we have this information from the White House that there is no indication of elevated radiation.

What do you make out of what we are seeing this evening, sir?

GENERAL (RET.) PHILIP BREEDLOVE, FORMER NATO SUPREME ALLIED COMMANDER EUROPE: Well, first, Ayman, thanks for having me on. And I received the same information just from awhile back, that looks like this is a skirmish or a fire that broke out in some of the administrative buildings. Well clear of the actual nuclear pieces of the plant. So, that`s good news.

The bad news is, Russia will go in there, and even have a firefighter, and think of taking on tactical operations in and around one of the largest nuclear plants in the world. It shows a lack of judgment.

I follow what Clint said about the railhead. I get that. But frankly, to make a decision to go in and fight in and around the nuclear plant, just shows me one more indication that we are facing an opponent that is a little bit out of the headlights.

MOHYELDIN: So, I don`t ask you to put yourself in the minds of Russian military planners here, but let`s turn to Russia`s broader military offensive. What has Russia`s move in Ukraine so far signal to you about what they intend to do next, Putin`s move? And why do you think they would even, not just want to capture and nuclear power plant, but willing to use dangerous force near its vicinity to try and bring it under their control?

BREEDLOVE: So I think that a lot of things we`ve been hearing for several days are correct. And that is, that Russia made some bad assumptions. They thought they were going to come in and in 2 to 3 days, this would be over.

[21:40:01]

And, so the supply on their troops, their provisioning, as was talked about before, red beans and bullets, as I say, it these things were not well- planned. And so, the thrust, especially in the north, started running out of steam too early. And literally, either took a pause or was forced to take a pause, as they try to figure out how to resupply that large column.

They were having more success in the northeast around Kharkiv, but still, that turned out to be a fight much harder than they expected. And they have taken some bloody noses when they try to go into the city with armored columns, and now, they are resorting to their old Grozny and old Syria way of doing business. Depopulate the city by just ravaging it with indiscriminate fires that is affecting the civilians there.

Down in the south, they are having better performance than in other parts of the country, but still, not perfect. They took them a long time to crew take some of the major cities. And stressing today, of course, is now Mariupol is surrounded. This is the second best port that Ukrainians had after they lost Sevastopol. And that is the port of Mariupol, where almost all their agriculture goes out of that great bread basket nation.

And losing Mariupol is a big deal. And now, just like inside Kharkiv, in Mariupol we see this depopulation, indiscriminate shelling taking on, and terrorizing the citizens there. And that`s how we`re going to see this play out for a while.

MOHYELDIN: Yeah, it`s scary.

BREEDLOVE: The one thing I didn`t sequence speak to is Odessa. The only remaining report left to the Ukraine economy, into the country is Odessa. Naval infantry, Russian naval infantry landed there, pretty small units, they took portions of the port, but nowhere near taking the city.

But now, we see Russia making moves towards Odessa, and we`re hearing the rumors of a large flotilla of ships assembling that could go to the Odessa area to do landings there, and help cut off the last and only remaining port that is available to Ukraine.

MOHYELDIN: All right. Retired General Philip Breedlove, former NATO supreme allied commander, and current distinguished chair of the Frontier Europe Initiative at the Middle East Institute -- General, thank you so much for your time and your insights this evening, greatly appreciated.

Again, we just when we get to our viewers what we`ve learned tonight. Ukrainian emergency services say that a fire broke out at a training building outside the perimeter of this nuclear power plant, and the nuclear power plant right now is being described as secure. Also, a White House official telling NBC News that the latest information they have shows that there are no indications of elevated levels of radiation at this nuclear power plant.

After the break, we`re going to talk some more about what is happening in Ukraine. We`ll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MOHYELDIN: All right, so that video that you see there happening today inside the Ukrainian parliament as Kyiv was coming under attack and Ukraine was in the midst of this war, when the 300 Ukrainian legislators met there today in secret. They began the session by singing the national anthem.

Then, they voted on a series of new military in defense laws which will make it a criminal offense for anyone in Ukraine to assist Russia with their invasion. They also approve the mobilization of military reservists.

Joining me now is Inna Sovsun. She`s a member of the Ukrainian parliament. She was not that secret meeting in Kyiv today.

Thank you so much for being with us, I greatly appreciate your time.

First, before we talk about the big picture, I`m curious to get your reaction on the developing situation on this nuclear power station in Eastern Ukraine. What, if anything, can you tell us, officially?

INNA SOVSUN, MEMBER OF UKRAINIAN PARLIAMENT: Well, we know as much as you do, that the Russians have started shelling the nuclear power station. They were trying to get there for the last day the last 24 hours. For the first half of the day, we were seeing that people went there to protest against the Russian invasion and civilians and people who are working in their, and the station that we`re trying to stop them from getting to that station.

Of course, they come in with tanks and with heavy ammunition, they started shooting the people. So they did get closer. And they started shooting. We don`t know exactly the buildings that were being damaged. We do hope we shall learn more from that.

But indeed, the problem is that they could have exploded the station with what they were doing. It`s not like they care about that, and that is the scary thing. They weren`t aiming to do a little damage. They were aiming at the station with no thinking of the consequences.

MOHYELDIN: Yeah, I think that`s what all of us were afraid of as we are looking at that fire burned there.

[21:50:05]

I want to go back to the images we saw from the parliament today, and we showed some of the video of the parliamentarian singing the Ukrainian national anthem. Can you tell me a little bit about this meeting? I mean, what was the decision-making process and wanting to take this risk to meet in person as a group?

SOVSUN: It was being planned in a relatively short period of time. Not everyone could join, but quite a large of group of MPs were fighting in the military, so they couldn`t join, obviously. They couldn`t come.

Some people did experience logistical problems. We did have a very short notice on when should we be coming. But, the idea was to do some changes in the legislation that we needed for this time of war.

The second, I think it was even more important, because we are getting a strong response from that from the people who are sitting and bunkers four nights in a row in my native city of Kharkiv, which is being bombarded so heavily.

For the people in the city of Mariupol, which was bombarded from water, from the sea. From the people in Kherson, it was crucial important to show them that we are still here, we are holding round, we are not leaving Kyiv, and we are willing to come back for those without constituents. So that was politically extremely important.

We were not allowed to show information about the session two hours after, until two hours after. But there was a political statement to the Ukrainian people.

MOHYELDIN: I can also say, it was a statement to the rest of the world. The symbol of defiance of the world saw today was very important.

Inna Sovsun, member of the Ukrainian parliament, thank you so much for being with us. Please stay safe.

We`re going to have the latest on the fire in the parkland in Ukraine in just a minute. Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[21:56:04]

MOHYELDIN: All right. So we are continuing to monitor the unfolding situation surrounding a major nuclear power plant in the Ukrainian city of Enerhodar. The state of emergency services saying tonight that the fire broke out in a training building outside of the perimeter of the plant following Russia`s firing on the area.

We learned within the last hour that President Biden had been speaking directly with President Zelenskyy about the unfolding situation. The White House going so far as saying that a short time ago, there are no indications of elevated levels of radiation in the area at the moment. That, according to a White House official.

Top local Ukrainian official in that part of Ukraine also confirming a short time ago that the nuclear plant is, quote, secured. Still, as you can imagine, a very serious situation on the ground in showing you how volatile our view thing is at the moment. One that we`re going to keep an eye on.

We`ll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MOHYELDIN: All right. That does it for us tonight. I`m going to see you tomorrow.

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

Good evening, Lawrence.