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Transcript: The Rachel Maddow Show, 4/4/22

Guests: Kira Rudik, Jon Gerberg, Oona Hathaway, Toomas Ilves

Summary

MSNBC`s continuing live coverage of the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

Transcript

JEREMY PETERS, THE NEW YORK TIMES: Let`s not forget that if Trump sought her out, and got her endorsement early, because he knew how powerful and how popular she was. And that`s where we are right now. It`s gone full circle, Chris.

CHRIS HAYES, MSNBC HOST: All right. Jeremy Peters, thank you very much. That is "ALL IN" on this Monday.

THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW with Ali Velshi starts right now. Good evening, Ali.

ALI VELSHI, MSNBC HOST: Chris, good evening to you, and have a good night. We will see you tomorrow.

And thanks to you at home for joining us this hour. I`m joining you from the Ukrainian city of Lviv tonight.

About 300 miles from here, in the city of Bucha, it snowed yesterday. This was a Ukrainian man and woman standing with a soldier in Bucha yesterday, discovering the site of a mass grave as the flurries fell around them. They embraced each other while they wept.

There`s something about these images, the look on their faces, how the side of that mass grave knocked the wind out of them so hard that they had to sit on the ground. It encapsulates the global reaction to the images that we started receiving out of Ukraine this weekend. The city of Bucha is a suburb of Ukraine`s capital, about 37,000 people live there.

It was one of the first cities in Ukraine to fall after Russia launched its full scale unprovoked invasion of Ukraine. Bucha had been under Russian control for a little more than a month before Russian troops suddenly pulled out of Bucha and around the entire Kyiv region, after sustaining heavy losses.

And at first, that was heralded asked good news by the Ukrainians. They were watching Russia entering retreat mode, until Ukraine and the rest of the world began to see what Russia left behind. And by now, you`ve heard of the atrocities that have been committed in the Ukrainian city of Bucha. In the last 48 hours, Ukrainian authorities said that the bodies that more than 410 Ukrainian civilians have been found in and around Bucha. Most of them are littering the streets. They have been buried unceremoniously in mass graves.

I want to show you the photos that journalist have been showing from Bucha, but I do have to warn you, these images are incredibly disturbing. So, I want to give you a moment a look away if you don`t want to see them, if you have kids in the room, it`s upsetting. But it is important to understand the full scale of what is happening.

This was Bucha over the weekend after Russia pulled out its troops. The bodies of dead Ukrainian men and women lining the streets, civilians in civilian clothes. According to some of the people who live here, some of the people who survived, Russian soldiers began indiscriminately killing people when they arrived. One woman told "The Associated Press" that a Russian soldier attacked her neighbor who had left his house together would. She said quote, they hit him -- crushing the bone and he fell down.

Then, they shot off his left leg completely with the boot. Then, they shot him all over. Some civilians appear to have been shot with their hands tied behind their back. Workers try to remove the ties from their wrists before they were buried. Other victims reportedly appeared to have been shot at incredibly close range.

One resident told "Reuters" she found a man who had been shot in his eye. There are so many bodies on the streets of Bucha that some residents have become covering up the dad with sheets or coats. And attempt to get the deceased just a bit of dignity in death. While municipal workers drive around the city with a truck full of body bags, picking up the bodies, one by one.

Most of the dead are being buried in mass graves, like this one. Ukrainian President Zelenskyy has accused the Russian military of killing and torturing his citizens in the Kyiv suburb. President Zelenskyy went to Bucha today. He said witnessing the violence first hands -- made it difficult to speak.

But late tonight, we got word that President Zelenskyy will speak about the atrocity tomorrow morning before the United Nations Security Council. Russia has predictably denied they had anything to do with the atrocities in Bucha. The Kremlin has said that the images are fabricated. They have said that the dead bodies are crisis actors. Russia`s defense ministry admitted that some bodies were dead Ukrainians, but said they were put there by Ukraine after Russia left town.

The painful, gruesome evidence of what happened in Bucha is mounting and none of it appears to be on Russia`s side. "The New York Times" has compared video and satellite imagery, which appears to directly rebut Russia`s denials that they were responsible.

On the left side of your screen, are screenshots from a video taken by Ukrainian city council member, two days ago. After Russia left town, showing bodies on the street. On the right side, is a satellite image that was taken on March 19th, while Bucha was under Russian occupation.

[21:05:01]

In that satellite image on the right, you can see those bodies recorded over the weekend. They have been in the streets for weeks.

The spokesperson for the European Union said today he believed, quote, there is no one else but Russia who could have committed these atrocities.

NBC`s Molly Hunter spoke today with some of the Bucha residents who survived the Russian invasion of their city.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MOLLY HUNTER, NBC NEWS FOREIGN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Today in Bucha, they are going house to house, working quickly, desperate to remove the land mines the Russian left behind. Russian soldiers occupied her home for more than a month. They broke the locks on the doors. She was forced downstairs to the basement. They threatened to throw grenades at us, she says. They cursed at us, saying, our husbands were Nazis.

If you could give me one Russian, I would chop him up the same way they chopped up people in neighboring Irpin. And throughout Bucha today, the carnage laid bare in the sun.

Olenka`s brother had been missing for more than a week. She says, we found him five days ago, lying on the street, three bullets in his leg, one to the heart, one to the lungs.

Their mother, standing next to his backyard grave, plans to rebury her son like he deserves.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No one know will we survive.

HUNTER: And here on the western city of Lviv, we meet 32-year-old Andrei Laveta (ph).

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I didn`t expect that they are so heartless.

HUNTER: With his brother-in-law Nikolai and their families, they escape Bucha on March 9th.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We saw a horrific thing like murdered people on the streets outside, like the civilians. And they just was shot. They were just killed.

HUNTER: Where were the gunshot wounds?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Like the chest, something like this.

HUNTER: And these were people in civilian clothes, for sure?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: For sure, civilians.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

VELSHI: The eyes of the world have been on Ukraine since the start of the invasion, but something about the brutality of these images out of Bucha has ignited a paradigm shift in the way that world leaders and everyday citizens are thinking about what to do about this crisis. And it is, of course, far from the first time in history that the power of photography has humanized an atrocity that until that point felt far, far away.

So, I will again warn you that some of the images I`m about to show you are disturbing. What you have likely seen -- it brings to mind the photo of the little girl crying at the border that brought renewed attention to the Trump administration`s policy of forced family separations. Or the tragic photo of two-year-old Alan Kurdi, the curling face of the Syrian civil war.

It was this of a young man named David Kirby on his deathbed that gave the face to HIV/AIDS. It was this photo of a young boy who was murdered in South Africa that brought international attention to the horrors of apartheid.

Photos have, of course, marked inflection points and wars to. The American civil war was the first large-scale conflict after the invention of cameras. Photos from the battle of Antietam, visualize the gruesome reality of the war which was previously just an abstraction for most Americans. This was the photo that woke Americans up to the horrors of the Vietnam War.

Since Russia launched an invasion on Ukraine, allegations of war crimes have been made against Russia after they bombed a theater full of civilians at a hospital full of pregnant moms in Mariupol. But these new images have generated a deafening roar of war crime allegations from all over the world, including from the president of the United States.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: One comment to make before I start today -- you may remember I got criticized for calling Putin a war criminal. Well, the truth of the matter, you saw what happened in Bucha, this warrants him -- he is a war criminal.

But we have to gather the information. We have to continue to provide Ukraine with the weapons they need to continue to fight. And we have to get all the details for this to actually have a war crime trial.

This guy is brutal. And what`s happening in Bucha is outrageous, and everyone has seen it.

REPORTER: Do you think it`s genocide?

BIDEN: No, I think it is a war crime.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

VELSHI: President Biden also said today that he is weighing whether to levy additional sanctions against Russia. The state department today said that it will support a multinational team of prosecutors to begin an investigation into whether Russia`s actions in Bucha constitute war crimes.

But while the early steps of an investigation get going, with any kind of repercussions a long way away, Ukraine right now, is left to pick up the pieces.

In the past 24 hours, parliamentary leaders and Ukraine make their way to Bucha to witness the devastation. We should warn you, much of what they saw is disturbing. They`ve traveled there to see first hand the bodies, the destruction, to document the horror and gather evidence in preparation for a potential war crimes trial against Vladimir Putin and his troops.

[21:10:06]

One member of parliament who visited Bucha today, Kira Rudik, said, quote, every death, every destruction is documented. I am choosing to go there, to take this darkness in because one day, I want to be a witness at his trial. A Nuremberg trial for each and every single person.

During her time in Bucha, she saw bodies lying in the street and a mass grave in the center of town.

Joining us now to discuss what she witnessed and what the world should do about it, is Ukrainian member of parliament Kira Rudik.

Ms. Rudik, thank you for being with us tonight. We appreciate it. You have often taken time to be with us and it is hard and it at the middle of the night.

But it is harder tonight, somehow. Somehow, even though you have been out there with your phone documenting this war since the beginning, something more has happened now. Tell us what the world should know about what you saw.

KIRA RUDIK, MEMBER OF UKRAINIAN PARLIAMENT: Ali, thank you so much for having me. I have seen so many dead bodies today. I have seen people killed by -- with her hands tied behind their backs. And I talk to people who survived this, who have seen all of this with their own eyes. I talked to women who are raped by Russians, who had their children (INAUDIBLE) and their husbands killed.

I have talked to people whose children were dying of pneumonia because they had to stay in the basement for 39 days without any ray of light. I have seen -- talked to families whose relatives died and were burnt alive. We talk to families whose daughters were the ones who were burned by Russians and run over tanks.

We have seen so much pain and destruction there that I cannot even begin to tell you. But the most important was that we were able to get international journalists into Bucha, so they could film themselves and share the information with the whole world, because what we witnessed right now is the Russians are trying to say some obscene things that it is all made up. And it is not.

We are gathering the evidence because every single person will have and will be taken accountable, will be prosecuted and will be held to justice.

I have seen people whose houses were destroyed to the ground and the -- the most heartbreaking piece was the houses that burned down and only fence staying up and on that fence was a sign, written by hand, put into a plastic file and tied to the fans with tape, and it was saying on the sign, we are peaceful people. So, people wrote and hopefully that Russians would avoid them, that they will avoid death, but they did not.

They were in fact peaceful people. They were not even resistant. They did not have arms. They just wanted to survive this war and they did not.

And for that, we will -- we will demand justice. We will never forget them, we will never forgive.

There will be trials. There will be list of soldiers that we are putting together so that they will be held accountable. And we want right now, every single world leader to think twice, if they are doing enough, because we think they are not doing it. Right now at the same time that we are talking, there are people somewhere in basements, people being killed with their hands behind backs. There are people being raped, because there are places that are occupied by Russians still.

And we are not getting the weapons that we need to get because on the day 40, we are talking about the same things that we need on day one. Because right now, on the day 40, there are still countries that are buying Russian gas and oil, who are basically sponsoring those horrors and terrors that is happening to my people.

Because right now, there are still countries who are hesitating about to help Ukraine or not. And I can tell you, this is happening right now on everybody`s behalf, and everybody`s. I want you to see this because this is happening in my country, to my people, to my nation. This is pure genocide.

And we do need help to stop this, we do need help to win this war, we do need the world to stand up as one, to stop hesitating, to stop thinking what to do, and start acting. Start acting because this needs to stop.

[21:15:04]

VELSHI: When you say start acting, there are people concerned that anything that feels like direct military intervention, including no fly zones or western NATO troops in Ukraine will be an escalation that could result in nuclear war.

What do you tell those people?

RUDIK: Ali, we are not asking for NATO troops on our ground. We are fighting Russians on the ground there with ourselves. We do need weapons and we do need sanctions on Russian gas and oil.

We do need weapons to fight them in the air because what you have shown right now, the pictures they are showing, what happens to the houses, to the cities when they are attacked missiles. We need weapons to protect our skies. We will protect them ourselves.

But please give us these weapons. Rent us these weapons. Sell them to us for $1 or whatever, but we need them. Otherwise, we will be fighting underground, but we will still destroyed from the air.

And the second point which needs to happen is absolute ban on Russian gas and oil. Every single dollar that is getting into Russia is being used to create this terror in Ukraine. Every single dollar that is coming from businesses that are operating in Russia s being used to rape women here, to kill children here, to kill innocent people who didn`t do anything wrong.

They just exist and make Putin hate us for that. This is genocide and it is happening in the 21st century and the world is saying never again. I`m calling right now for everybody who was saying never again to act on it right now.

VELSHI: Kira Rudik, we have been speaking for a long time and you have had great force in your arguments and your videos and the fact that you have learned to use a gun that you had never done before. But something is different tonight. Something is different in your voice and it matters that you saw in Bucha, that you are bearing witness to -- and we are thankful to you that you have taken the time to share that with us tonight, as horrible, horrible as it is.

Kira Rudik is a member of the Ukrainian parliament. Please stay safe.

RUDIK: Thank you and glory to Ukraine.

VELSHI: Unfortunately, Bucha is not the only place where Russian troops may have committed war crimes. Coming up next, we`ll speak live with a "Washington Post" videographer who was in another town near Kyiv this weekend.

And we do have some good news tonight. History made in the United States Senate. We have a lot to get to. Stay with us.

Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[21:22:27]

VELSHI: We are seeing horrific images and hearing chilling stories of the atrocities that Russian forces carried out in the town of Bucha, but it is not the only place that this is happening. There are towns trickling in from the town of Motyzhyn, about 31 miles away from the capital of Kyiv.

Once again, images and descriptions that we are about to share with you are hard to see and hear. Residents in Motyzhyn, they told reporters that their mayor, her husband, and her son were shot from close range and thrown into this pit, behind a plot of land where Russian forces have been sleeping -- apparently, retaliation for not collaborating with the occupiers.

Ukraine`s deputy prime minister confirmed the mayor`s death and said that as of Sunday, the leaders of 11 other towns were being held in Russian captivity. Their fate is unknown. Today, an investigator from Human Rights Watch was in Bucha, talking to people in gathering evidence of possible war crimes in the town. That kind of documentation is something that the organization has been doing all over Ukraine from the start of this conflict.

Here is one account from Chernihiv, on February 27th. Quote: Most people are heading in their basements because of shelling and soldiers went door to door. The soldiers took six men from their homes, end quote. The mother of one of the men ran to the street to ask Russian soldiers if the check point when it happened. They told us not to worry. The soldiers would scare them a bit and let them go. We walked away about 50 meters and heard gunshots.

These stories of people being rounded up an executed by Russian forces echoes told to "The Washington Post" by a man in the village of Andriivka, it is a small village west of Kyiv just this past Saturday.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

VADIM BASHKO: Forty people are missing, young people. No one can find them. People say they were held in captivity. What happened next, no one knows. Bodies are being found here and there. A lot of houses are mined. They`ve placed up trip wire.

People were shot here. There`s one body. Another body is in the box. The military didn`t want to take him. The boy is face down, hands tied. If you pull him, there could be an explosion.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

VELSHI: Joining us now from Kyiv is "The Washington Post" video journalist who captured that video, Jon Gerberg.

[21:25:01]

Mr. Gerberg, thank you for making time to be with us tonight.

In that video, a man told you that his wife and -- he endorsed wife after hide his son`s military uniform. Their son is a member of the Ukrainian military. They hid his uniform so that the Russian soldiers would not kill them.

Tell us more about what you learned in shooting that video.

JON GERBERG, VIDEO JOURNALIST, THE WASHINGTON POST: Absolutely. Thanks, Ali.

The entire scene of -- which is just a small village in rural Ukraine. It was complete apocalypse, devastation as far as you could see down the road. The small village was just scattered with a discarded Russian armaments. There were bodies who were bound, tied, executed on the side of the road.

We were only able to get so close to the bodies because residents were actually concerned that the bodies had been booby trapped by Russians before they left. We talk to residents who were lucky enough, for lack of a better word, to survive. But this man`s wife actually lived in the basement in a home where Russians were fighting from the houses on both sides of them. And they had actually come and take his chickens to eat when they ran out of their own rations, which is one of the only reasons he feels like he survived.

And they have dozens of neighbors that have been killed. And they were still digging through this destroyed village and frantically going into houses because they didn`t know if they were mind -- that could pose a danger. So, they are still just beginning to see the devastation in their own small village. Unfortunately, this horrific scene is replicating itself many, many times over across the country.

VELSHI: You said something interesting. For those who were lucky enough to survive, because surviving into this is something. It is April 4th today, you have a new video, a grandmother, who has been in her basement since February 27th. And he went down into the basement.

GERBERG: Absolutely. Her name is Valentina and she took us down. She is a grandmother. She could be anyone`s grandmother. She showed us her block that was littered with bullets and a destroyed Russian tank outside.

In her courtyard, in her little garden area, there is spent armaments, there are bullet casings. We kind of did two interviews with her. One was and her grandchildren`s from, which is full of dolls and toys and board games, except now the walls and windows are blown out with bullets, just shattering the entire place.

And then, we went downstairs, and she -- it`s essentially a root cellar, six by six, with no windows, obviously. It is a scene of solitary confinement, essentially. She lives there by herself. Her daughter and grandchildren have escaped to Kyiv, which has its own dangerous.

She lived in this tiny little cellar by herself for over a month with barely any food, no gas, no power, and again, this is one of many, many stories that is replicating itself across Ukraine. And it has for over a month now.

VELSHI: Jon, thank you for bearing witness the way you do. These videos, these images are crucial at this point. Jon Gerberg is a video journalist at "The Washington Post". We thank you for joining us tonight.

Up next, is there any way to hold Vladimir Putin responsible for what his troops are doing in Ukraine? We are going to talk about that, but first we do have some unexpected and truly historic news tonight, concerning Joe Biden`s nominee to the Supreme Court, Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson. As predicted, today, the Senate judiciary committee deadlocked, voting along party lines on her nomination. As expected, nearly every Republican spent their time reiterating the same tired arguments against her confirmation that they had produced two weeks ago.

Well, we got some big news tonight about how Judge Jackson`s final confirmation vote will turn out because this evening, both Senators Lisa Murkowski and Mitt Romney announced that they will vote in support of Judge Jackson. They joined Senator Susan Collins who made it clear that she would vote for Judge Jackson last week.

All three of those Republican senators followed those announcements with votes to discharge Judge Jackson`s nomination to the Senate floor today. The final vote was 50 3:47. A final confirmation vote later this week, likely on Friday. And that means Judge Jackson is now formally on track to make history as the first public defender and the first black woman to be confirmed as a Supreme Court justice.

[21:30:04]

And that is some badly needed good news tonight.

We will have much more ahead. Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JAKE SULLIVAN, NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISER: The images that we see are tragic. They`re shocking. But unfortunately, they`re not surprising. We do not believe that this is just a random accident or the rogue act of a particular individual. We believe that this was part of the plan.

[21:35:01]

There has to be accountability for these war crimes. That accountability has to be felt at every level of the Russian system, and the United States will work in the international community to ensure that accountability is applied.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

VELSHI: That was the U.S. national security adviser Jake Sullivan saying that there must be accountability for war crimes committed by Russia.

Calls to hold Vladimir Putin responsible for war crimes have been growing for weeks. But now, there are vague images out of the Ukrainian city of Bucha this weekend brought the issue of accountability to the forefront. The question is, how does the international community hold a global superpower, a nuclear arms superpower like Russia, accountable for something like this atrocities?

This is the International Criminal Court and is sometimes called the ICC, or The Hague, and reference to the Dutch city which is based. The ICC is supposed to be the international court of law where war crimes are tried. That is what it means to send someone to The Hague.

Most countries in the world have ratified a treaty recognizing the jurisdiction of the ICC. Now, I say most countries, because there are a few countries that are not, one of those countries as Russia. Another one of those countries is the United States.

Ukraine is also not a member of the ICC, though it has accepted some authority by the court in the past. Even so, Russia is unlikely to recognized ICC`s jurisdiction anytime soon, especially when doing so would likely mean sending Vladimir Putin to face international criminal prosecution. Don`t hold your breath for that one.

There are, though, some other ways to hold workers accountable beyond just ICC. But most of those pots run through the United Nations Security Council where Russia has the power to veto anything it wants, even though the rest of the world supports it.

Right now, multiple organizations and government bodies are investigating alleged Russian war crimes, collecting evidence, trying to build a case that these things actually happened.

Ukraine`s prosecutor general said over the weekend that her office has dozens of investigators looking at evidence in Ukraine. On Sunday, Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said that he also plans to create, quote, a special mechanism of justice involving both Ukrainian international experts to hold Russia accountable. But where and how this evidence will be presented remains unclear.

So, what can the world actually do to hold Vladimir Putin accountable?

Joining me now is Oona Hathaway, professional of international law at Yale Law school, and founder and director for the Center of Global Legal Challenges.

Professor Hathaway, thank you for being with us.

Is there any way to actually charge Vladimir Putin or anyone else in the Russian chain of command with war crimes?

OONA HATHAWAY, YALE LAW SCHOOL PROFESSOR OF INTERNATIONAL LAW: Yes, probably the main way forward here is through the international criminal courts. As you mention, the International Criminal Court does have jurisdiction here, and that is because Ukraine gave it jurisdiction started in 2013 overall the events that are happening in Ukraine. And I still have jurisdiction today.

And in fact, the prosecutor there national criminal court has already begun investigations supported by referrals from 41 countries. They basically said, we really support this effort. Many are offering additional money and support and assistance for that investigation.

So, those investigations have already begun and there is a number of steps here. There has to be evidence collection that is actually documenting the crimes that are taking place and ensuring that we collect that evidence in a way that we can eventually be presented in court. And then there`s the next step of figuring out who is responsible for these terrible crimes and connecting the acts and the terrible events to the people who are actually responsible for them.

VELSHI: Let`s talk about the facets that you talked about an international law. Is it possible to create a tribunal about this that Russia is in part of? Russia does not buy into the International Criminal Court, and this is the week or the month or the year that it will decide to change its mind. Is there an enforcement mechanism?

HATHAWAY: Yeah, so, that`s a great question. And the reason that the International Criminal Court does have jurisdiction over Russians is because they`re committing their crimes in Ukraine. So, it`s the same principle that if I go to London and I commit a crime there, I can be brought in front of a London court for committing a crime in London. I`m an American, but also responsible for the crimes that I commit in another state`s territory.

Similarly, here Russia is committing a whole host of crimes, or crimes, crimes against humanity, perhaps even genocide. And it`s happening on the territory of Ukraine. So Ukraine does have the right to prosecute those crimes, and to do it itself.

[21:40:02]

Or to allow an international court to prosecute these were crimes. So, Ukraine is given jurisdiction over these crimes of international criminal court, and that`s what allows it to have jurisdiction over the Russians who are committing their crimes on the soil of Ukraine. And so, even though Russia is not party to the ICC I may not recognize it, it doesn`t really matter. And the criminal court can prosecute them in Ukraine, because Ukraine is the part to give the court jurisdiction.

VELSHI: It is important to note that Joe Biden and the State Department and others are talked about the fact that there are likely more crimes committed because, for decades, the United States itself has either resisted, or undermined institutions like the ICC. Or the U.N. High Commissioner on Human Rights because of allegations that have been made against the United States and allies like Israel.

Apparently, the Biden administration is reviewing the U.S.`s position with respect to the International Criminal Court. This feels like the moment for America to re-those institutions.

HATHAWAY: Absolutely. And you`re absolutely right. The United States had an uneasy relationships with international criminal court, in particular, you may remember that under the Trump administration, that we actually sanctioned members of the International Criminal Court, judges, and attorneys who were participating in an investigation of the United States for actions committed in Afghanistan. So we`ve had a very uneasy relationship with the International Criminal Court.

And what this moment does present is an opportunity for the United States to think about how do we create accountability in these situations? How can we work with International Criminal Courts? Sometimes it is the only body that is in a position to actually prosecute these crimes, and we believe in international law. We believe in the Geneva conventions. And we need a way to bring accountability for these violations.

And International Criminal Court is really the institution that is best situated to do that. In addition to the Ukrainian courts themselves, which as you mentioned and outside of the segment, has already begun some investigations, in fact, thousands of cases of war crimes violations. But aside from the Ukrainian courts, their International Criminal Court is really the best institution for taking these forward.

And so the U.S. is going to have to figure out how to work with that effectively and how to support its efforts.

VELSHI: Thank you again for your time and your expertise. Oona Hathaway is a professor of international law at Yale Law School. We appreciate your time.

HATHAWAY: Thank you.

VELSHI: So, if prosecuting Vladimir Putin for war crimes is hard to do, should the United States and its allies be doing more right now to help Ukraine actually defeat Russia? Our next guest thinks so.

Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[21:47:42]

VELSHI: Lithuania is officially totally 100 percent off of Russian gas. It became the first nation in the European Union to cut off Russian gas entirely this weekend. This is a very, very big deal. Last year, 26 percent of its national gash came from Russia. From now on, none of it will.

That move came amid a number of actions from other countries. Today, the U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Linda Thomas-Greenfield said, the U.S. plans to try to suspend Russia from its seat on the U.N. Human Rights Council. Both France and Germany are expelling dozens of Russian diplomats from their countries. Germany`s president is now said, it was clearly a mistake for his country to have pushed for the completion of the Nord Stream 2 natural gas pipeline from Russia.

But we`ve not seen the big shoe drop. That country stopping the import of Russian oil outright and while we`re expecting more strong sanctions from the EU, the UK and the U.S., the question remains, what else can be done in the face of the atrocities of which the entire world is now aware?

Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said the new sanctions are alone enough but many worry that the options beyond sanctions, particularly the military options could escalate this crisis further and that direct military intervention of any kind could risk the possibility of nuclear war. So the West has got to figure out how to stop Putin without starting any larger war. Where does it go from here, how does it respond?

Joining us now is Toomas Ilves. He is the former president of Estonia. He also served as the former Estonian ambassador to the United States and to Canada.

Mr. President, thank you for being with us here tonight.

For the immediate future and we`re talking about days or weeks now, what do you think the response from the West should be to Russia? Is it more sanctions, is it Europe saying or shutting off the gas and oil flow? Specifically, what would you like to see done in a days to come?

TOOMAS ILVES, FORMER PRESIDENT OF ESTONIA: Well, the most pressing matter of course is shutting off the money supply to Russians and that really I mean they`re getting several billion a week from selling gas primarily to three countries, Germany, Austria and Hungary.

[21:50:03]

So that would be the toughest blow. Where we see other activities, equally forcefully, for example, open in open source intelligence identifying the troops who are in place today when the Russians basically push back and say, this was all made up now. "The New York Times" has just published old aerial photography of the bodies lying there. So the Russians are being insistently embarrassed by their own propaganda failures.

VELSHI: You understand this well, having been the president of Estonia and having been the ambassador to the United States in Canada. What is surprising about what you just mentioned is the conspiracy theory that pushed back by Russia about how the Ukrainians themselves have killed those people, and planted their bodies. It gets them to the American conspiracy theory far-right echo chamber as well.

There are Americans saying, how do you really know that the Russians killed these people? How do you really know those are atrocities? Maybe it`s just propaganda.

ILVES: Well, we saw this already in 2014 when the Russians shot down the MH-17 Malaysian airliner where they made all kinds of claims like actually the plane had been filled beforehand with courses by CIA. No one bought that, most serious people bought that.

Now, too, when you keep coming up with evidence as the United States, "The Times" just publish with old photography -- three-week-old aerial pictures of body is lying in the street then once again that has been debunked. And that is always a problem we have to face that people come up with wild wide-eyed conspiracy theories and then it unfortunately becomes the task of the truth-tellers to push back on those kinds of wild conspiracies. And in this case, it`s quite clear. The Russians really blew it with their claims.

VELSHI: So at this point, a few days ago, just a few days ago we`ve seen the conversation between the Russians and the Ukrainians and Ukraine they continue via teleconference. There is real optimism about possible peace talks or even discussions on the Russians about a meeting between Zelenskyy and Vladimir Putin. Is there a diplomatic path forward here?

ILVES: Well, I think the discovery of the massive war crimes makes it very difficult politically for President Zelenskyy to give away too much in discussions. I think that this is so completely horrified not only the cranium in public but the rest of the west. That the pressures he was under until just a few days ago to make concessions have I think lightened considerably.

And for himself, let`s face it, difference between Ukraine and Russia fundamental difference is that Ukraine has a democratically elected president. And he has to -- he can`t do things the way Putin can. He has a free press and if he`s going to make concessions, his public will go, we`ll get very angry. His electorate will get very angry.

And certainly, after all of these horrific pictures and this evidence of what has been going on. And moreover, seems to have been going on in other cities and towns in Ukraine as well. It will make the peace process far more difficult than it has been of till now.

VELSHI: Toomas Ilves is the former president of Estonia, former Estonia ambassador to the United States and to Canada, thank you so much for your time tonight.

ILVES: Well, thank you.

VELSHI: All right, up next, with the U.S. is doing to make this war even more costly for some of Vladimir Putin`s biggest supporters.

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[21:58:39]

VELSHI: This 255-foot luxury yacht`s name is Tango. It`s currently docked on the Spanish island of Mallorca. It`s estimated to cost $90 million, and stop by crew of 22 people, and equipped with cabins with 14 guests, the swimming pool and a beauty salon.

Tango belongs to the Russian oligarch Viktor Vekselberg. He`s a longtime ally of Vladimir Putin. Or we should say, Tango did belong to Viktor Vekselberg until early this morning when it was seized by the FBI and Spanish authorities. Prosecutors in Spain obtained a court order allowing U.S. authorities to swoop in and take control of the ship.

Now, this is not the first seizure of an oligarch yacht, since the Russia invasion of Ukraine, a whole mirage of mega yachts have been seized in exclusive marinas all across Europe. But this yacht seizure is notable because it`s the first by U.S. officials. Today`s operations coordinated by the Justice Department`s new klepto-capture task force which is an interagency a law enforcement group aimed at holding sanctioned Russians accountable.

And today, Attorney General Merrick Garland made it clear that this is just the beginning.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MERRICK GARLAND, ATTORNEY GENERAL: Today marks our task forces` first seizure of an asset belonging to a sanctioned individual with close ties to the Russian regime. It will not be last. Together with our international partners, we will do everything possible to hold accountable any individual whose criminal acts enable the Russian government to continue its unjust war.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

VELSHI: While President Biden himself has admitted these measures will not change the tide of this war, they certainly chip away at the pillars of Vladimir Putin`s support.

Well, that does it for us tonight. We will see you again tomorrow.

It`s time now for "THE LAST WORD WITH LAWRENCE O`DONNELL".

Good evening, my friend.