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Transcript: The 11th Hour with Stephanie Ruhle, 3/14/22

Guests: Mike Rogers, Marie Yovanovitch, Michael McFaul, Neil Thomas, Igor Novikov, Bill Novick


Russia broadens their assault, intensifying attacks in already besieged cities. The pregnant woman photographed after the hospital bombing in Mariupol dies, along with her baby. Ukrainian President Zelenskyy plans to virtually address members of Congress. NBC News reports President Biden is considering a trip to Europe in the coming weeks.



LAWRENCE O`DONNELL, MSNBC HOST: That is tonight`s "LAST WORD." THE 11TH HOUR with Stephanie Ruhle starts now.


STEPHANIE RUHLE, MSNBC HOST: Tonight the war widens, Russian forces broaden their assault on Ukraine, intensifying its attacks and bombarding already besieged cities. As the White House warns China over its close ties to Putin after reports Russia wants its military and financial help.

And the youngest victims of war, newborn babies in need of surgery, a doctor who traveled from the U.S. to Ukraine, whose team operated on a 17- day-old baby just today. We`ll be here live as THE 11TH HOUR gets underway on a Monday night.

Good evening, once again, I`m Stephanie Ruhle. We are entering day 20 of the Russian invasion. As Moscow`s forces continued to hammer cities, Ukrainians are showing their will to fight back. Earlier today, Pentagon Press Secretary John Kirby spoke about the resistance.


JOHN KIRBY, PENTAGON PRESS SECRETARY: You just look at how little progress the Russians have been able to make in the two plus weeks now that they`ve been at this. Yes, some of that is due to their own stumbles and missteps and logistical problems, but a lot of it, a lot of it is due to the Ukrainian resistance and how adaptive they are proving to be on the field and frankly in the street.


RUHLE: There`s also signs of resistance inside Russia. A protester has gone viral after disrupting Russian state TV holding an anti-war sign. What`s Putin doing during all of this, expanding his attacks. Shocking video shows the destruction in Mariupol. The city has been repeatedly pummeled by Russian forces, and while some have been able to escape, thousands and thousands are trapped there with no water, electricity, heat or food and to the Northwest in Kiev. NBC`s chief foreign correspondent Richard Engel has new reporting.


RICHARD ENGEL, NBC CHIEF FOREIGN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Ukraine says this is an incoming Russian missile intercepted by Ukrainian air defenses falling and exploding on the streets of Kyiv.

Nearby, Russia destroyed an apartment building the strike just after 5:00 a.m. when most people were sleeping. There are no military targets here.

(on camera): This is just a civilian apartment building surrounded by other apartment buildings and the only possible reason for attacking it is to kill civilians and terrorize the population just a few miles from the center of Kyiv.

(voice-over): (INAUDIBLE) he says intuition must have woken him. He was having a smoke when suddenly in the slow time of extreme fear. He saw a flash and then the windows and doors came crashing in.

Nina (ph), a downstairs neighbor was shaken but unhurt. In the aftermath, she was happy not to be alone. Do you have a mother she asked? Her name happens to be Nina (ph) too. Nina`s (ph) three-room apartment is devastated. She was in bed asleep.

(on camera): And all of this fell on top of it. It`s amazing you`re not hurt. Not even a little broken glass, nothing.

(voice-over): I had a big blanket on top of me so all good, she say. Adding, she feels pity for Putin`s mother who is turning in her grave that she gave birth to such a nasty bastard. Outside lay the body of a man killed for being in his home.


RUHLE: Thanks to Richard Engel. The human cost of the war of course has been devastating. The AP reporting that wounded pregnant women in this footage that has now been seen around the world has died from her injuries along with her baby. Nearly three million people are now refugees fleeing the country for safety. Ukraine`s President Zelenskyy will address Congress virtually on Wednesday.

And NBC News now reporting President Biden may be traveling to Europe in the next few weeks to reassure allies in the region. The trip has not yet been finalized. But one U.S. official says Brussels is under consideration.

Meanwhile, the price of oil dropped today dipping below 100 bucks a barrel. The gas prices, they remain high. So my big question is when`s the price at the pump going to drop?

With that, we`ve got a lot to cover this evening and let`s turn out to NBCs Cal Perry back with us tonight from Lviv. Cal, your reporting has been extraordinary. Here you are in the Lviv. These strikes are getting closer to you what`s the situation like?

CAL PERRY, NBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT: So, 48 hours ago, we heard the air raid sirens and for three weeks here we hadn`t heard strikes, but we heard then distant explosions at least eight of them at this military base in your Yavoriv.


Now, Yavoriv site, this military complex is somewhere that U.S. troops have been in the past and past years, they`ve been training Ukrainian soldiers there. It`s a base that NATO has used. But they fired over 30 missiles at this site, only eight actually reached the site. But that leaves 22 either falling short or having been shot out of the air. 34 people dead, at least 113 others wounded.

But it was the message behind this airstrike that Putin is willing to strike west of where I am between where I am in the Polish border, this site is only 15 miles, Stephanie, 15 miles from where U.S. troops now our station, more than 10,000 of them in Poland to try to bolster those NATO defenses.

It`s a message that`s been received loud and clear in this city, a city that is slowly of course, bursting now with more and more refugees. Stephanie.

RUHLE: Then what does it mean for all those refugees who fled from their cities to Lviv thinking that would be the safe place? Are they now going to have to leave again? And if they do, there`s less options outside the country at this point.

PERRY: For so many people, there`s just nowhere to go. You can make your way to the Polish border, but it could take you two, maybe three days to cross. We heard from the mayor of Krakow tonight saying that that city in Poland has swollen by a population of more than 15 percent that they`re running out of room there.

And look, you talk about fleeing Mariupol, you talk about fleeing Kharkiv of a place where you can`t even get above ground, a place where there`s slit trench mass graves, some of the worst conditions that we have heard, and you come here to a place that is supposed to be safe.

And at best, you`re finding a place to stay with family or friends. At worst, you`re sleeping outside with no cover at a train station. And then the sirens go off. And then you hear the sound of incoming rockets.

For the more than half of the refugees that have been displaced who are children. It is all the more traumatizing, Stephanie.

RUHLE: Cal, it`s getting more and more dangerous all over the country. We know over the weekend and American journalist was killed. Today, a Fox News journalist was injured while reporting near Kyiv. Do you feel safe where you are?

PERRY: I think we have the perception of safety. We are 350 miles from Kyiv. But no, I don`t think anyone is safe in this country. When you look at the range of these strikes, and again, the 148 hours ago we`re hearing from the Pentagon probably came from Russian bombers more than 1,000 miles away.

Nobody in this country feels safe. And we should make this very clear that people are dying from things other than the violence here. You have two and a half million people on the move, another few million at least internally displaced. This is a country that is starting to run out of food. You have at least five million people, according to the World Food Program, who are in desperate need of immediate food assistance.

And I`m not even talking about the people who are sheltered in basements in places like Kharkiv and Mariupol where there is nothing and the explosions are happening all the time, Stephanie.

RUHLE: My gosh, Cal, thank you so much for your reporting. I appreciate you joining us tonight. Thank you.

Former FBI special agent and MSNBC national security analyst Clint Watts is also with us tonight at the big board tracking the latest movements by the Russian troops. Clint, what do we need to know where are they headed?

CLINT WATTS, MSNBC NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: A few things. So you were talking to Cal, Stephanie, he`s out here in Lviv, this is Yavoriv. This is that airbase that had the missile strike that was so devastating over the weekend.

And I think this really shows how this war is taken on a very different tone. Week one, it was a dash to Kyiv, that failed, terrible plan by Putin. Now you`re seeing armored columns being advanced and airstrikes going after supply lines to the west.

Separately, I think when you look here in the North, it`s really about what`s happening in Kyiv. Two weeks ago, we were talking about this convoy pressing in getting bogged down, essentially not being able to move but today, yesterday, over the weekend, you see them starting to move here to the west and really established positions trying to do what we call blocking positions.

This is not like an offensive attack. This is preparation for it and it matches up with what we see here in the East. We have armor convoys coming in. The Ukrainian military doing a great job of stopping these. But behind them is a log jam of armor that can come in over time. And ultimately what they want to do is try to surround Kyiv and do what they`re doing in other cities.

You talked about Mariupol. Here in the south and the east, we`re seeing what their campaign plan is really going to be over time, which is to go in lay siege to cities like Mariupol, starve them out, destroy the infrastructure make it impossible to live there. While all the time bringing in logistics.

We now see notions of resupply by sea. We`ve seen rail resupply here and we see two important battles one is Mykolaiv here. The Russians are trying to advance there, take this bridgehead so they can move to Moldova and reunite with this ethnic Russian population is Transdnistria, but they`re having a hard time. The Ukrainian military is doing an excellent job of stopping them.

Separately what you also see is an axis of advanced here. They`re trying to advance north to Dnipro. Dnipro is essential central town that`s right there on the Dnieper River and from Sumy, you see them trying to come down.


They will try and link these up from the south and cut off eastern Ukraine. Big problem for the Russians, Stephanie. Kherson. Kherson is the one town that they`ve been able to take over. This is that mayor that you heard about being seized are trying to essentially replace it and create a statelet.

The problem is they can`t hold this. And throughout all of this area, what you`re seeing is Ukrainian protests in Russian controlled or Russian occupied area. So even if they take a town, they can`t hold it, and over time, I`m not sure they can sustain the fight against Ukrainian military.

RUHLE: Thank you, Clint. Really important information tonight. With that, let`s bring in our expert guests. Former Michigan Congressman Mike Rogers, he was chair of the House Intelligence Committee. He also served as an officer in the U.S. Army and as an FBI special agent, Marie Yovanovitch, former ambassador to Ukraine. Her new memoir, "Lessons from the Edge," details her unjust removal from that post, and how she was thrust into the national spotlight when she testified at Trump`s first impeachment trial. And Michael McFaul, MSNBC international affairs analyst and former U.S. ambassador to Russia.

Mike Rogers, I want to go to you first and share with the former commanding general of the U.S. Army in Europe, said on our air on Meet the Press earlier today.


LT. GEN BEN HODGES (RET.), FORMER COMMANDING GENERAL OF THE U.S. ARMY AND EUROPE: I think within the next 10 days, Russia is going to culminate which means they will not be able to continue the attack any further. And so it`s kind of a race, actually. And we give the Ukrainians enough where they can outlast Russia until Russia culminates. And my assessment right now, unless something dramatically different happens. That`s in about 10 days.


RUHLE: Wow. 10 days, he thinks Russia can`t go on. What do you think?

MIKE ROGERS, FORMER MICHIGAN CONGRESSMAN: Well, I would not count them out just yet. Because remember, they don`t have to have a precise military operation to accomplish what they want. They have to have chaos death. They`re causing these huge refugee problems all through the country. And your reporter was talking about food shortages and other things.

Normally, that wouldn`t be looked at as a military victory. But I think Putin will. So I`d be a little cautious to say in 10 days, they`re going to run out of steam. They`ve got a lot of a -- lot of hardware that they can throw at towns and civilian populations, which you see is a Putin who is getting I think, a little more desperate. And the Ukrainians are doing a phenomenal job standing up for their own freedom. And that`s why they`re hitting civilian targets.

They want that chaos, they want starvation, they want people on the move. They want these governments to kind of collapse from their ability to take care of their citizenry. And so 10 days, I don`t know, I think he gets more desperate and throws more ordinates to this problem.

RUHLE: Ambassador Yovanovitch you know him? Well, you serve twice in Ukraine, and once in Russia, does Putin have a way out of this? That sort of saves face, but at the same time ends this thing?

MARIE YOVANOVITCH, FMR. U.S.AMBASSADOR TO UKRAINE: Well, I -- right now, I don`t see that he`s actually got any interest in finding a face saving way out that would be acceptable I think to the international community. I think that the Congressman was absolutely correct that he`s going to keep on throwing everything he can at this. And if he`s not successful with the methods he`s using now, it`s very possible he could double down chemical bio attack.

RUHLE: Ambassador McFaul, I want to talk about that protester with the anti-war sign on Russian TV. That wasn`t just any Russian TV, state run TV, the biggest program the most watched program in the country. Do you take it as a one off? Or is it a sign that there are cracks in Putin`s control over the message?

MICHAEL MCFAUL, FMR. U.S. AMBASSADOR TO RUSSIA: First of all, it is the number one station channel one that reaches millions, tens of millions of people throughout Russia. That journalist she`s an editor, no longer, she`s been arrested. But she`s an editor at that state propaganda machine. And she did a little video before she did that stunt to tell people why she did it. You know, one of her parents is from Ukraine, the others from Russia. They`ve never fought and she just said, they are lying to you. And then she went and did just this incredibly courageous thing.

Remember, Putin`s Parliament just passed a law just a few years ago saying if you use the word war, and that`s what`s on her placard, you can go to jail for 15 years. And I think if she has the bravery to do this. I would say a couple other things.

First of all, she said some help. There are thousands of people that work there. That just doesn`t happen unless people want her to do that. And for every brave person like Maria that does this, that means that there`s tens of thousands if not millions more, that are not as brave as her but that think the same way that she does.

RUHLE: Wow. Mike Rogers, let`s talk about Russian propaganda, because we keep saying who`s helping Putin push these messages but one of the problems is he is getting help from far right groups right here in the US. I want to share a report from our colleague Jake Ward at NBC. Watch this.



JAKE WARD, NBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Russia`s ambassador pushed a conspiracy theory Friday saying at least 30 research labs in Ukraine are actually U.S. backed by a weapons facilities conducting what he calls dangerous experiments. U.S. officials vehemently deny the accusations.

While Russia is amplifying this conspiracy theory now, it appears to have begun on far right social networks in the U.S. back in February 10 days before the invasion, and now it`s gone viral in America. Far right voices online and cable news and public figures are rewarded with millions of views.


RUHLE: Does this spread? Does the spread of this kind of disinformation actually affect what happens on the ground, Mike?

ROGERS: Listen, anytime that there is misinformation about bio weapons labs, and I will say the administration did not roll this out very well. I think the Secretary when she was preparing for the Congress did not make it very clear. There`s a difference between biomedical research or bio research and bio weapons research. The difference couldn`t be more stark.

And remember, for years, the United States has worked to, let me back up, when the Soviet Union owned Ukraine they had bioweapons labs there. And because of the United States and our NATO partners and Europe, we were able to take those materials and get rid of those materials. Now they still have things for, you know, how you combat aids and how you might fight Ebola, all of those things are real. But they`re not bio weapons. They`re trying to find ways to treat those things if they were exposed in their country. And that`s a huge difference.

And I, you know, we have to be really clear, this might be the one time we need to all come together, there`s probably more than one time, but this is the one time we have to come together on this. The Russians are desperate. The Chinese are going to help spread that message because it hurts the United States and our European partners.

And this is the time facts matter. And my argument is the facts on this will bear out that there are no bioweapons labs there. There are facilities who are doing biomedical and bio research against pathogens, and that`s very, very different.

And what they were afraid of candidly, was, you know, conscript Russian soldiers going in and knocking things over when you go in here who aren`t trained very well, and having some exposure.

And so I think all of us need to take a deep breath.


ROGERS: What`s happening on the ground is Ukrainians are paying a heavy price they`re dying every day. And somehow this week, I keep it out of the political for -- of trying to one up each other politically, at the expense of these Ukrainians who are just absolutely courageous and defending themselves against Russian aggression.

RUHLE: But Mike, candidly, to that very point, isn`t it Pollyanna (ph) is to say, we have to take a deep breath and all get together. That`s Tucker Carlson right there. You`re right. You`re a Republican congressman. Millions of people watch him every night. He didn`t say those things by accident.

ROGERS: Well, listen, I think facts will bear it out. I, my wife says, I`m an eternal optimist. And that might be a genetic defect. And so I`m still a little positive that Americans can see the difference here. And facts do matter. So if someone sees something online, they should check it out. They shouldn`t take the single source. They should go and look at it themselves.

The State Department actually put out a really good report on this a few years ago, about how they`ve done all of the labs that they did contact and got materials out and got the weapons, the bio weapons research out.

So listen, I get where you`re going with this. But none of this is helpful to the Iranian, excuse me, the Ukrainians who are on the ground, literally fighting and dying in the civilians who are just absolutely in panic, and they know they`re going to not have heat, they`re not going to have food here pretty quickly.

I mean, that`s what we ought to be focused on. All of us Republicans, Democrats, Americans, we should ramp up everything that we can give them we should get Putin to want to come to the table, because he is having such a horrible time of it, even though he is. Remember, he will do a lot worse before he ever shows up in that negotiating room and we ought to give our Ukrainian friends every advantage to put as much hurt on Putin as they possibly can.

RUHLE: We always have time for eternal optimism here, Mike. Ambassador Yovanovitch speaking of the State Department, you write about the State Department in your new book, and how Trump basically gutted it, and how it`s essential for the State Department, like the military needs to stay nonpartisan. Can you speak to that?

YOVANOVITCH: Yes, I think this is absolutely essential for all government agencies, because we are the continuity of government and we need to be able to serve every president that`s elected in a nonpartisan way.


Obviously there`s a debate about what policy should be. But then once a decision is made, there needs to be the confidence that the career civil servants and foreign service officers, military officers are going to move forward and implement that policy.

RUHLE: I know I`m out of time, but Ambassador McFaul, I always have to make time to ask about just how desperate Putin is. He`s reportedly recruiting Syrian fighters for this war. But earlier today, I saw a foreign affairs expert Bob Ghosh make a really interesting point about trying to bring those, those fighters to join this, to join the war. And here`s what he said.


BOBBY GHOSH, BLOOMBERG OPINION COLUMNIST: That`s really smacks of desperation, because the Syrian fighters weren`t particularly effective in Syria, and the idea that you will pull them out of a war zone, and they`re familiar with and send them to a cold Eastern European country where they stick out like a sore thumb, where they don`t speak the language and not familiar with the terrain that killed the second most powerful standing army in the world should not need to recruit mercenaries like that.


RUHLE: What do you think?

MCFAUL: Good news, bad news. The good news is that he is desperate and envies recruiting foreign fighters. That`s a sign of the desperation. That`s a sign that things are not going according to plan.

The bad news is he has 90 percent of his army left, he has 90 percent of his fighting material left, and he shows no signs of wanting to negotiate yet. Wars end in two ways. Either one side wins, or there`s a stalemate. And so far, there`s not a stalemate on the ground. I suspect this war is going to get worse before it ends or gets better.

RUHLE: We`re going to end on not very good news, then. Thank you so much for joining us this evening, Mike Rogers, Marie Yovanovitch and Michael McFaul.

Coming up next, caviar birthday cakes and vodka toasts. A look at the very close relationship between Xi Jinping and Vladimir Putin as China faces tough choices of the war in Ukraine.

And later, the American doctor now living and working inside a Ukrainian hospital to help treat the youngest patients newborn babies what he has seen so far, and what he`s bracing for next. THE 11TH HOUR just getting underway on a Monday night.




NED PRICE, STATE DEPARTMENT SPOKESMAN: We have communicated very clearly to Beijing, that we won`t stand by if -- we will not allow any country to compensate Russia for its losses.


RUHLE: China`s relationship with Russia is under intense scrutiny as the war in Ukraine intensifies. U.S. officials say Russia has asked China for military aid, a charge the Kremlin has since denied.

Let`s bring in Neil Thomas to discuss he covers Chinese Politics, Foreign Policy and International Relations for the Eurasia Group.

I got to start with this because according to The New York Times, Xi Jingping, has met with Putin 38 times as national leaders, OK, more than with any other head of state. This is extraordinary to me, right? I haven`t had 38 one on one encounters with a person I`m married to over the last 20 years. How much of their relationship is ceremonial? And how much of it is a strategic alliance?

NEIL THOMAS, CHINA AND NORTHEAST ASIA ANALYST EUROASIA GROUP: I think it`s really a bit of both. I mean, Xi and Putin really do have what we could call a geopolitical bromance. I mean, they`re both autocrats who wants to weaken the role of the U.S. and the West and the world and restore their own visions of their countries historical greatness.

So I think there is some real ideological overlap. But you`re also right to say there are some strategic interests at play here. And ultimately, both leaders have so far put their own country`s interests first, because it hasn`t really been up until this point, a significant cost, but closer China-Russia relations, and that`s what might be being tested right now.

RUHLE: What would that look like for China to put all of its weight behind Russia in this war? What would that look like?

THOMAS: It would be a geopolitical earthquake. So far, China has been reluctant to actively support Russia, it hasn`t endorsed the invasion. So far as we know, it has not yet sent any direct military or economic assistance for Russia`s invasion of Ukraine. It`s a set of defect, it supports the sovereignty of all countries, it wants peace talks, it wants to really reduce the humanitarian cost.

But if China was to come out and support the invasion, or perhaps just send assistance that directly went into Ukraine, and that perhaps was used against Ukrainian civilians, that would really intensify this strategic competition we`re seeing between the U.S. and China has been developing over the last few years, and I think would really push Europe which has been on the fence a bit between the U.S. and China quite firmly into the American camp.

And we`d see more coordination on export controls and sanctions directed against China as an acceleration of the economic decoupling that was begun a few years ago, to a place that we really haven`t seen in a long time a kind of reversal of globalization. So it would, it would be huge.

RUHLE: What about China`s own business? What`s the likelihood of China invading Taiwan anytime soon?

THOMAS: Not as high as some people think, in my view. So both Beijing and actually Taipei, the government of Taiwan had downplayed that comparison, because both sides know that, you know, the U.S. has reacted strongly against Ukraine. But Taiwan it`s so much more important for U.S. security interests than Ukraine is.


The U.S. even has a commitment to the Taiwan Relations Act to make sure that Taiwan has the resources necessary for its own self-defense. It`s almost a pricey alliance. And we`re seeing that closer and closer U.S. support in a bipartisan manner, for deepening relations with Taiwan and for ensuring that it`s only the Taiwanese people who are going to decide the future of Taiwan.

So I think Beijing knows that the likelihood that America would become more directly involved in such conflict is rising. We haven`t actually seen any kind of uptick in military maneuvers or policy rhetoric coming out of Beijing that would suggest or start setting the stage for a drastic movement on Taiwan. We think that`s quite a way away.

RUHLE: We have seen an uptick in COVID cases in China, this huge surge of Omicron has now led to lock downs for millions of people across several different regions. How long is this expected to last? I mean, we cannot forget, we have got these huge supply chain issues that are leading to the inflation we`re facing. And they`re at the heart of everything from cars to phones.

THOMAS: The Chinese government`s really in a race against time at the moment to bring this latest outbreak, the most significant outbreak since the original outbreak in Wuhan back in early 2020 to bring that under control. And thus far, its dynamic zero policies are not having the effect that would want and that`s placing serious pressure on the Chinese government`s already ambitious growth target of around 5.5 percent for this year.

So I think we`re going to see a continuation of these zero COVID policies, they`re going to try and stamp it out, like they have the past couple of years, but it`s not going to work as well. I mean, that`s one of the reasons why Eurasia Group had the failure of zero COVID as its top risk for 2022. Because the balance is becoming increasingly difficult to pull off without really affecting the Chinese economy. So we could even see resorting to old style stimulus measures later in the year if growth really starts to suffer because of this.

RUHLE: COVID is back in a very, very big weigh in China. Neil, thank you so much. Neil Thomas joining us from the Eurasia Group.

THOMAS: Thank you.

RUHLE: Coming up, a live update from Kyiv, one of President Zelenskyy`s former advisors on what he`s seeing tonight and what we could hear from the Ukrainian president when he speaks to Congress on Wednesday when the 11th Hour continues.



RUHLE: Not far from the Black Sea. The southern city of Mykolaiv is bracing for a Russian takeover, nearly half of the civilian population has already evacuated. Those who are left behind are securing whatever they can as Nick Martin of Sky News reports.


NICK MARTIN, SKY NEWS REPORTER (on camera): Well, the city has been under bombardment for a few days now. There`s been some heavy fighting to the east of Mykolaiv. In fact, we`re told the Russian forces are probably about 20 kilometers from this site where I`m standing now. This is one of the main hospitals overnight that was some shelling 53 people were injured, including seven children.

And around half of this city has now fled to the west over the bridge, over the river which is about a kilometer long, and heading towards the other key port city of Odessa. And when you when you walk around here, it does feel quiet. There`s obviously lots of military on street corners, lots of sandbags, they`re being very protective of the hospital. Obviously, that`s a key site.

And one of the other bridges across the river has this huge iron drawbridge, which is normally used to let ships through in boats, that`s been raised now. It`s one of the biggest obstacles I`ve ever seen on a bridge. It`s huge. And that will hopefully protect the rest of this city.

Some people are queuing here for the pharmacy and the supermarket obviously trying to get some provisions in but this city has been under attack now for days. Some of their buildings have been hit by shelling. Some of them have been hit by rockets. And it`s obviously one of the key targets for the Russian military.

All of these Black Sea ports along the south of this country are key. Just west of here is Odessa. They are preparing themselves to be there a few days. And if the Russians are able to secure this city, Mykolaiv and Odessa, then they would effectively cut Ukraine off by the sea and that would be strategically very important.


RUHLE: Thanks to Nick Martin of Sky News. As Russian forces target southern Ukraine, they also continue to step up pressure on the country`s capital city. The population of Kyiv has been seeing heavy shelling and residential areas as you can see on your screen right now. This was just in the last hour, and remember, it`s just after 5:00 a.m.

Back with us to discuss Igor Novikov. He`s a former adviser to Ukrainian president Zelenskyy. Igor, I was going to apologize for waking you and your family up so early but those explosions already got you all up this morning.

The last time we spoke you said you were getting through this with your young children telling them it was fireworks putting headphones on when the explosions were going off. But things have gotten so much worse in the last week. What`s it like for you?


IGOR NOVIKOV, FORMER ADVISOR TO UKRAINIAN PRESIDENT ZELENSKYY: Well, we had our brush, what we call a Russian alarm clock goes off twice this morning. So once at 4:00 a.m., and once around 5:00 a.m.. So literally like 35 minutes ago.

Those most likely were cruise missiles. And by the sound of it, they`ve been shut down by our anti-aircraft system here in Kyiv. So, but we kind of look, we got used to this. I mean, they say it`s only dramatic and scary, you know, the first couple of days, and then it`s been happening for 19 days now that we used to those explosions. And I usually oversleep them whenever I can, you know, start a couple of hours to sleep. And my kids, ironically, sleep well as well. So everyone`s asleep in the house now, for me.

RUHLE: Wow. Earlier we mentioned that Russian state TV employee who interrupted the broadcast, I want you to watch this.

No war. 250 million Russians saw that. How big of an impact do you think it has on them? And for her? It`s reported she`s now in police custody, how much trouble you think she`s in?

NOVIKOV: Well, I think she`s going to be in a lot of trouble. Because regardless of why it happened and how it happened, because, you know, we do have some questions that back asking here. First of all, I mean, I`m not sure Russian TV in primetime news, it goes up live. So, you know, this could be a more systemic phenomenon and the protests not only from her, but in from a more powerful group of people.

But regardless of that, I mean, it`s terrorism at its best, because in Russia, you know, there are dire consequences that follow acts of defiance of that. But hopefully, I mean, this will wake some people up because one, you know, one of the major kind of groups of people who can stop this war is the actual Russian people if they understand what`s going on. And if they protested, they let their voices be heard.

RUHLE: That is a brave, brave woman. President Zelenskyy is going to be speaking to Congress later this week. What do you think we should expect?

NOVIKOV: Well, I`m not going to spoil much. But let me just reiterate two important points. First of all, I mean, I`m sure he`s going to try and explain once again, you know, to the American audience, and to the members of Congress, that this conflict goes way deeper than Ukraine. Putin`s main enemy here is NATO, and is the U.S. I think Putin is doing his best to test out Article 5 of NATO in a safe way for him, plus, he`s got nuclear deterrence.

If you`ve been paying attention to what`s been going on to the west of Ukraine. I mean, we`ve had, I think, three or four incidents with Russian drones landing in Eastern Europe, outside Ukraine.

So I think we`re going to see more of that, plus, you know, the airstrikes are coming closer to the western border. And, you know, God forbid, if you know, one of those rocket lands on NATO territory, I mean, that will be quite a test. And that`s what Putin wants to see. And most likely, that would be very interesting for China to watch as well. Because, you know, if it leads to a long bureaucratic process, and you know, there`s no repercussions for hitting, you know, native territory, I mean, we`re in trouble. This conflict is going to go global and escalate quite big.

RUHLE: I have to ask before we go, what is morale like in Ukraine right now? We know that they have been targeting civilians, because the Ukrainian army is so strong. But what is that doing to your people?

NOVIKOV: Well, I mean, it gives us strength to keep fighting because look, obviously, psychologically, it`s incredibly demanding. There`s only so many pictures of dead children, one can see before it has affecting you, regardless of positivity, honesty. But at the same time, look, I keep saying we`re home, and we were going to fight this to the end. Plus, on top of that, I think we`re looking for any kind of smallest ray of positivity to come out of it. So one of the funniest things I`ve been following tonight, actually, is, you know, are you UFO conspiracy. This is hilarious.

I mean, they seriously there`s always a story about UFOs in the skies over Kyiv. And people just don`t realize I mean, we have so many aircraft and cruise missiles and drones flying over Kyiv that, you know, that there`s bound to be some UFOs.

RUHLE: And maybe a UFO in the mix. Igor, thank you so much for joining us on this very, very early morning your time. I appreciate it.

Coming up, some of the world`s youngest and most vulnerable victims are getting help right now from a team of medical heroes from the United States. We`ll bring you the pediatric cardiologist from Memphis, Tennessee, who`s making it all happen when the 11th Hour continues.




MOLLY HUNTER, NBC NEWS FOREIGN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): It was terrifying, Ina (ph) says, leaving in an ambulance dodging the constant bombing. It was full scale war.

(on camera): What does it feel like as a mother just to have all of this out of your control.

(voice-over): But I have to be strong. I`ll do whatever it takes to get him the treatment he needs.



RUHLE: Molly Hunter with some of the stories that families are facing who are in an impossible situation trying to get their severely ill children help while they`re inside a warzone.

Our next guest traveled from Memphis, Tennessee to care for newborn cardiac patients, all six months or younger. He got to crack out on Sunday and started to drive. That drive should take four hours to Lviv. It took him at least 10.

Dr. Bill Novick and his team started surgery today. Dr. Novick, thank you for everything you`re doing. Tell us about your first patient. Your first surgery a baby who was born just 17 days ago, three days into this war. How`s he doing?


DR. BILL NOVICK, U.S. PEDIATRIC SURGEON OPERATING IN UKRAINE: He`s doing well, you know, he`s a baby who has a difficult transition great arteries, which is moderately complicated operation, that baby`s 2.6 kilos, so as small as well. We started late in the afternoon or early evening and finished about 330 this morning, which you know, about two and a half hours ago now. He`s in the ICU and looks great.

RUHLE: Describe your setup there? How challenging is it for you to treat these little patients in the hospital situation that you`re in?

NOVICK: Well, you know, Stephanie, we`ve been at this particular hospital in this city, before twice. And so we knew the situation coming in. Obviously, medicines and supplies were a major issue. But we have a really great friend in this group Children of War out of Los Angeles that spared no expense to get us here with all of our supplies. And, you know, we`re pretty well set right now, in terms of having the things that we need to operate on these small babies.

RUHLE: One of the Ukrainian doctors there have been telling you, I know you`re staying at the hospital, what are they most worried about?

NOVICK: Yes, they were pretty excited to see us even though it`s 4:30 in the morning when we arrived. I spent a little bit later time this morning on Monday yesterday now for us with the hospital administrator, and he was effusive in his stacks of us showing up and really notice the difference that we`re making for his children, not only in this town, but you know, because this is the last fully functioning large pediatric hospital in Ukraine. And we`re now getting -- we got another ship transferred in today from Odessa. And they`re coming on a regular basis now.

They know we`re here than most of the Ukrainians know our group. We`ve been working in Ukraine since `94. So once word got out that we were here. Unfortunately, more kids started showing up.

RUHLE: But you haven`t been there during a war like this? How different is that? How much harder is your job?

NOVICK: Yes, I could say that there are a number of things that are different from our last visit back in January, when the war wasn`t actually happening yet. Security is at a level that I`ve never seen before.

You know, off and on all day to day, literally, the air raid sirens are going off in this town. We`ve not been hit. But the situation is very tense. And that goes down all the way to interpersonal relations. I mean, people are really on edge. They`re very dedicated to taking care of their children, and they seen an unbelievable spirit here in the Ukrainians.

This is something the Russians will not overcome is the spirit of the Ukrainian people. And I don`t know the President Putin knows what a hornet`s nest he is stirred up in these very strong and determined people.

RUHLE: Did you have any reservations you and your team about leaving the safety of the U.S. and going to Ukraine?

NOVICK: No, this was -- this is interesting. We had a team put together Sunday weekend, a week and a half ago and when they bombed, very important maternity hospital. That entire team disappeared in the course of about six hours.

I put out a simple post on Facebook, my own personal not the foundation. On Facebook post, they got shared 40,000 times and I got 600 e-mails of volunteers that wanted to go. I refilled that team by Wednesday afternoon. It was amazing. Absolutely.

RUHLE: 40,000 times, Bill. It`s very rare that I say it but sometimes Facebook, sometimes it does a lot of good. Bill, thank you so much for joining us. Thank you for everything that you are doing. We are so grateful for your work and for you at home. If you`d like to help go to, cardiac- They could certainly use our help.

Coming up, after escaping the horrors of war in Ukraine, some children are welcome back to school Italian style, when the 11th Hour continues. You don`t want to miss this.



RUHLE: The last thing before we go tonight, a very warm welcome. Nobody. Nobody likes to be the new kid in school. Now imagine it`s not just the new school, but a new country and a new language. And if you are among the nearly 3 million Ukrainians who have fled this war, you don`t know if you`re ever going to return to the place you called home.

That might be why hundreds of teachers and students at the Don Milani Institute in Naples, Italy did what they could to make sure their new Ukrainian students. Eight-year-old Dimitri and 10-year-old Victoria felt more than at home.


Grand Italian welcome yet another reminder in this time of almost unthinkable crisis, it costs absolutely nothing to be kind. But when you are, it is worth everything.

And on that note, I wish you a very good night from all of us that then it works of NBC News, thank you for staying up late with us. I will see you at the end of tomorrow.