Biden visits Poland as war rages in Ukraine. Russia continues airstrikes in parts of Ukraine. Russia says "first stage" of war is over amid signs its advances are stalled. Ukraine cities still under siege from Russia. Justice`s wife pushed to overturn election. Inside the brutal siege on Mariupol. Putin complains about Russia getting canceled.
ALEX WAGNER, MSNBC HOST: That is tonight`s "LAST WORD." I`m Alex Wagner. THE 11TH HOUR with Stephanie Ruhle starts right now.
STEPHANIE RUHLE, MSNBC HOST: Tonight, is Russia retreating Putin`s forces shift their focus away from Kyiv after more than a month of fierce resistance from Ukraine. But the devastation across the country is impossible to ignore. Brand new images from inside that bombed out Mariupol theater, 300 civilians killed while taking shelter.
And the growing fallout over those shocking text messages from the wife of Justice Clarence Thomas, to then President Trump`s Chief of Staff. Plus, our new reporting about the pressure she put on lawmakers to overturn the election, as THE 11TH HOUR gets underway on a Friday night.
Good evening, once again, I`m Stephanie Ruhle. As we enter day 31 of the invasion of Ukraine, President Biden is in Warsaw, Poland, where it is now 4 in the morning. In just a few hours, he will be getting an up close look at one devastating aspect of this unprovoked war, when he meets with some of the millions of refugees forced to flee to Poland. He`ll then give what the White House is calling a major address about the invasion and the challenges still ahead.
Biden spent his Friday about 60 miles from the Polish Ukrainian border, thanking members of the Army`s 82nd Airborne, who are there to support NATO forces in Eastern Europe.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JOE BIDEN, (D) U.S. PRESIDENT: What you`re engaged in is much more than just whether or not you can alleviate the pain and suffering of the people of Ukraine. We`re in a new phase -- your generation. We`re at an inflection point. About every four or five generations, there comes along a change -- a fundamental change takes place. The question is: Who is going to prevail? Are democracies going to prevail on the -- and the values we share? Or are autocracies going to prevail? And that`s really what`s at stake.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
RUHLE: The White House also took another step to squeeze the Russian economy. The U.S. will be shipping more liquefied natural gas to the European Union to help members phase out their reliance on Russian energy.
And as Russia battles to take control of at least parts of Ukraine. There are new signs of a shift in Kremlin strategy. A senior U.S. defense official says, Russian ground forces near Kyiv, appear to have stopped trying to seize Ukraine`s capitol and are losing ground in other areas, but the attacks are more intense in another part of Ukraine. As NBC`s Richard Engel reports.
RICHARD ENGEL, NBC NEWS CHIEF FOREIGN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Russia is tightening its noose around yet another Ukrainian city. This time, it`s Chernihiv, which tonight is nearly surrounded and is fighting for its survival.
In this video, the mayor showed the furious Russian attacks and called for assistance. Further south, the city of Mariupol is already completely surrounded, and it`s ruined stand in tragic testimony to the cost of Russia`s siege warfare.
Today we saw the first images from inside a theater Russia attacked nine days ago. Ukrainians covered in dust who`d been sheltering inside looked stunned. As our narrator says, a missile hit the center of the theater. Officials in Mariupol said today, around 300 people taking shelter in the building were killed.
NBC News cannot verify the claim. It would be the single worst atrocity since the war began. But Russian President Vladimir Putin says Russia is the real victim. Today accusing the west of engaging in "cancel culture" to erase Russia`s identity, comparing it as Putin often does now to Nazi repression. As the Russian military announced its consolidating its forces in the East. But even there a U.S. military official says Russia is losing ground in the city of Kherson. Where Ukrainians have been standing up to Russian occupying forces, blocking the roads, refusing to back down even in the face of gunfire.
RUHLE: Our thanks to Richard Engel for his reporting tonight. It is just before dawn, Saturday morning right now in Lviv. And that is where our friend and colleague NBC`s Cal Perry is once again with us live. Cal, we keep hearing about the progress Ukrainian forces are making and the challenges for Russians. What`s the latest where you are?
CAL PERRY, NBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT: So listen, I think when we look back at this period where President Biden was in Europe, certainly, you know, President Zelenskyy looks back at this period. He`s going to say that this was potentially a turning point. We have seen in the last 48 hours gains by the Ukrainian military especially around the capital of Kyiv and where gains weren`t made, they`ve stopped the Russians cold in their tracks. We now understand even the Russian army digging in, in some of these positions because they can no longer move forward.
And in the city of Kherson, as you heard our colleague Richard Engel explained, it really is a symbol around the country. You can take the city but only temporarily that is the message from the Ukrainian military. This was the first and only city to fall. But the message is clear, you cannot occupy these cities. If you are Russian soldiers, it will be protesters it will be Ukrainian army either way. The message is you will be brushed back.
In the eastern part of the country, we continue to see civilians dying in large numbers and trying doing whatever they can to survive. In the city of Mariupol, still 100,000 civilians remain there as that city is besieged.
Stephanie, we`re hearing anecdotal reports of survival. People tapping into their radiators to get water from it. Boiling that water to drink it to survive. And then the news today from the Ukrainian government that more Ukrainian citizens in that city are being forced to move to Russia. The Ukrainian government calling it abductions, citizens having their papers taken from them, their passports removed, and then transferred to Russia. And keep in mind, as of course, we`ve been talking about since the beginning of this war, so many families separated. Men heading to the front to fight and civilians left behind trying to survive. And now this word that many of them being forced to move to Russia. Stephanie.
RUHLE: Forced to move to Russia as what? Free citizen, hostages. We`re going to dig into that later. I do want to ask you before you go, though, I know we saw in the first official prisoner swap between Ukraine and Russia today. What does that tell us?
PERRY: Yeah, I think you can expect to see more of this. This is a new phase now in the both the negotiations and what we`ll see on the ground. It was 10 for 10, 10 service members from Russia, traded in a prisoner exchange for 10 members of the Ukrainian military.
Now, the ICRC, the International Committee of the Red Cross is supposed to be overseeing this. And the numbers are just incredible. Today, President Zelenskyy said it could be possible up to 16,000 Russian troops are dead. That`s definitely a high estimate. NATO puts it between 7,000 and 14,000. But we know based on that there are probably 1000s of prisoners of war, and you can expect large scale exchanges to become part of the negotiations and to become part of what we see every day in this conflict. Stephanie.
RUHLE: Cal Perry, thank you for joining us.
With that, I want to bring in our experts this evening, Jason Beardsley, a decorated U.S. military veteran with over 20 years` experience in the Army and the Navy. He`s now the National Executive Director for the Association of the Navy. Peter Baker, spent years as the Moscow Chief for The Washington Post, closely watching the rise of Putin. Now, he`s the Chief White House Correspondent for The New York Times. And Jeremy Bash, joins us, former Chief of Staff at the CIA and the Pentagon.
Jason, I want to go to you first, starting with Russia, scaling back at schools in Ukraine, on its face, really good news. But the former ambassador to Russia, Michael McFaul had a bit of a reality check earlier. Watch this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
AMB. MICHAEL MCFAUL, FORMER U.S. AMBASSADOR TO RUSSIA: On the one hand, Ukrainians are performing heroically on the battlefield, and they`ve achieved things that nobody predicted most certainly not me. And at the same time, they are still in a fight for their lives. I haven`t seen no signal from Putin. Yes, in general said what he said. But Putin himself has never said once, oh, we`re going to stop here and Donbass, we want to sue for peace. And that`s why you hear Zelenskyy saying thank you for what you did, but you need to do more.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
RUHLE: What`s your assessment of what`s going on here?
JASON BEARDSLEY, NATIONAL EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, ASSOCIATION OF THE U.S. NAVY: Well, I think the former ambassador has got a great point. It`s not over. But we have seen the Ukrainians put up a fierce resistance. And we know that the real cause to get Putin to get to the negotiation table is to break the will of the Russians. That`s been happening from day one. The morale is low. There`s been desertions. Their equipment and failed. They attack during the spring. It`s been muddy. That can`t move armor.
All they`ve been resorted to now is the dig in and sort of pound to siege mentality. But if the Ukrainian forces can figure out how to break that, and I think they`ve got some ways at hand than they will turn the tide again on this and continue their momentum. Russia lost momentum, they gambled, it doesn`t look good for them.
RUHLE: Russia may have lost their momentum, but Putin still has a lot of dry powder, Jeremy, and military that hasn`t set foot in Ukraine. What`s your take?
JEREMY BASH, FORMER, CIA CHIEF OF STAFF: Well, look, I think if Russia has abandoned its effort to take Kyiv, it`s abandoned its effort to decapitate the Zelenskyy government, abandon its effort to take control of the command and control of the country and deprives the Zelenskyy of his command and control. Then it is a strategic turning point. Because if Russia effectively bolsters his forces in the east, tries to win military battles in the Donbass but abandoned its effort to take major cities, then the whole nature of the conflict changes and instead of the insurgency kind of conflict that we were predicting and that we were preparing to arm the Ukrainians to fight, really now changes to a state on state kinetic war, in which the Ukrainians will need capabilities, like long range fires, like airpower, like drones, like missiles. Things that they can launch across the border to hit the Russians and inflict pain on them. They`re not merely urban combat house to house insurgency capabilities.
RUHLE: Jason, the Russian military is now saying it never intended to do more than liberate just a few areas in the east. Do you buy that? Or they just trying to save face after the fact?
BEARDSLEY: No, Stephanie, you`ve got it. They`re saving face. This is Russia`s way of trying to get again to the negotiating table with leverage. We were clear from the beginning that what Vladimir Putin intended, was a decapitation of Zelenskyy`s government, as Jeremy just pointed out, and they failed to do that.
Now, they`re trying to make it look like they`re constricting their efforts simply to the Donbass. That is a farce. They`ve got too many axes of attack that are extended into Ukraine that leaves their back end, their logistics supply wide open for what the Ukrainians have done. They`re trying to save face. The prisoner negotiation is a good sign that they`re talking. This thing is turning into the next phase.
RUHLE: While Mr. Putin we see you, you are not saving face.
Peter, President Biden is about to defend democracy on the world stage. He`s giving that major speech in about 14 hours. What does he need to say?
PETER BAKER, THE NEW YORK TIMES CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Yeah, well, first of all, I would just to say on the point we were just making, I would be a little cautious about this. I think Ambassador McFaul is right, to warn us not to get too far ahead of things here. One generals comments does not necessarily mean the whole strategy has changed.
Remember, the Russians have told us time and time again, all kinds of things just in the last few weeks that have not turned out to be true. So I would just be a little cautious before we say, this is genuinely changed. If it changes the way Jeremy and the Colonel says, that`s right. I think the points they make are all correct. But I think there`s still a big, big if there because I`m not ready to accept it on face value, that that`s where they`re going to go.
But if they do, what they`re doing here basically is taking, you know, the part of the country that they always sort of had, you know, in their clutches and ready to take. The question then for the West becomes, what do you do about that? If they`re no longer trying to take over all of Ukraine, and they settle for parts of the east where, you know, they have been more dominant, where they sponsor separatists of the past. Is the West still going to be as unified and saying that`s still not acceptable, but we`re not going to simply accept that? We`re not, because basically, for the last eight years, the West did accept Russian dominance of the Donbass, did accepted Russian is effectively annexing all but Luhansk and Donetsk.
So what President Biden tomorrow is going to have to do is, first of all, is expressed the unity of the West, talk about why the NATO solidarity is important, talk about the resolve that the West has against this Russian aggression, and make the case that America is going to be their first NATO ally. And that`s why he`s in Poland, who are very nervous about Russian aggression here. And then probably talk a little bit about the next day, because I think that this conversation, we`re having about what the Russians are doing now, what their strategy may or may not be shifting means a real test for NATO, a real test for the United States about what we do if they scale back their ambitions. What does that mean for us?
RUHLE: How important is this speech, Peter? Is this one that it`s going to be in the history books? Is the world listening? Poland is, Zelenskyy is?
BAKER: Well, it could be, certainly. We`ll see what it -- will see. I mean, it`s easy to say, obviously, the location, the setting, the symbolism of being there, in Poland, just a few miles, in effect from the Ukrainian war, gives it the potential for, you know, a landmark moment. You know, the question is whether or not Biden has it in him to kind of make the kind of stirring oratory that we have associated in the past with Cold War presidents like Kennedy talking about (inaudible), when he was in Berlin or Reagan saying, Mr. Gorbachev tear down this wall.
We`ll see if it achieves that kind of moral clarity and, and resonant, you know, stirring, you know, moment, but it is an important moment, because he does need to take leadership, as he has been, obviously these last few weeks of the Western alliance, and make clear that this kind of, you know, extra territorial aggression by Russia is not acceptable under any circumstance. And he has to leave that the world and making clear that the Russia can`t get away with it.
RUHLE: Jeremy, you`ve advised a lot of leaders throughout your career, if you were advising President Biden, what would you tell him the world needs to hear?
BASH: Well, I think he -- they need to hear, the world needs to hear that this is a global struggle that this isn`t merely a regional conflict that affects the borders of Ukraine, that this is in effect has become World War II and a half. This has become a struggle between democracy and autocracy, and that if we lose this fight, if Putin is allow to take all of Ukraine, to subjugate Ukraine, to split the West then there will be nothing that will stop Putin and tyranny and autocracy.
However, if the West does prevail in helping Ukraine defend itself, and if Putin can be pushed back, this is going to be a watershed moment for the advancement of democracy for the advancement of the NATO alliance. And it will deal a critical blow not just to Putin ism, but tyranny the world over. So, I think this is a very consequential speech. And I think the President is exactly right to paint the conflict in this larger Tableau.
RUHLE: Jason, you have been in combat zones, the President shared pizza, took selfies with members of the Army`s 82nd Airborne Division in Poland earlier today. What does it mean to the troops when the commander in chief shows up?
BEARDSLEY: You know, it`s always an honor to have our Commander in Chief with us. It shows a lot of solidarity, it shows support, he honored the 82nd Airborne, talking about them being one of the greatest fighting forces. And so I think they will always appreciate that. And I think the American people to Peter`s point and really, Jeremy`s as well need to hear from the President a clear articulation, including these troops who visited on what exactly becomes of this conflict, especially if, as Peter pointed out, Russia is willing to negotiate back to the Donbass, are we willing to stop there? Or do we continue to supply Ukraine with lethal munitions so that they can reclaim those earlier territories? As he pointed out, that`s been gone for eight years.
So the question now becomes, how do we clearly specify from the President, what is the goal? What are the objectives of the United States, we`ve had 20 years of land wars inside Iraq and Afghanistan where we didn`t have clarity? And you can see how that ended. So going forward, I think he`s done a great job of cutting a clear line and saying, we`re not going to put U.S. troops in. Now, he has to clearly articulate what are we going to do?
RUHLE: Peter, I can`t let you leave without quickly asking. We watched Putin`s address today. What is this whining that the West is now trying to cancel Russia? He`s talking about cancel culture, while his military is killing civilians and destroying cities?
BAKER: Yeah, this is his ideological framework where he -- Putin needs some of the American right, right? The Tucker Carlson, part of the Republican Party, that is waging this culture war here at home. And this is why Putin has, you know, the sympathy or what have you have a certain number of people in America who otherwise would consider themselves to be conservatives, traditionally, of course, conserves have been very skeptical of Russian leaders. But in this case, they see him, many of them see him as a likeminded foe of this liberal secularism that has come to dominate the West as far as they see it.
And when he speaks about cancel culture, he speaks about, you know, gay rights, he speaks about, you know, traditional values, he is speaking, in fact, to a part of the West that has been more sympathetic to him. This is why it matters, why he`s doing it right now, because he`s trying to sort of divide the west by saying, hey, I`m with that part of the West. Those of you who agree with me on this kind of thing. And it`s -- it goes his grievance, by the way, it goes to his broader sense that the West doesn`t respect him, does respect Russia, has treated them badly. This idea that he is being canceled, and even though he of course, is the aggressor, may seem Orwellian, to those of us in the West, but it goes to his years of resentment that is fueling this war that we`re seeing right now, the sense that Russia is a great power that has been treated like a great power, and therefore he needs to show it on the national stage by sending troops in to reconquer parts of the old Russian Empire.
RUHLE: The feelings are hurt --
BEARDSLEY: Stephanie, we should have -- just a reminder that the Russians have played that game for 50 years back and forth with the political left, the political right. This is nothing new from Vladimir Putin or any previous Russian dictator. We can`t take it seriously. We`ve got to dismiss that and do the business that the United States has set out to do.
RUHLE: All right, we`re going to leave it there, gentlemen. Jason Beardsley, Peter Baker, and Jeremy Bash, thank you.
Coming up, Democrats are calling on Clarence Thomas to resign, or at least recuse himself over his wife`s delusions and pressure to campaign to overturn the 2020 election. For Republicans, they say not so fast.
And later, the brutal fight for the surrounded city of Mariupol. More on the effort to free those still trapped and starving from a Ukrainian Member of Parliament who is from there, and whose home was bombed. THE 11TH HOUR just getting underway on a Friday night.
RUHLE: The scandal over Ginni Thomas is getting a whole lot bigger tonight after her bombshell text messages to Mark Meadows pressuring him to overturn the election.
Well, NBC News has now learned the wife of Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas also sent an email to the aide of a prominent GOP congressman, saying she would have nothing to do with his caucus until members go "out in the streets."
Well, Democratic Senator Ron Wyden now calling for Justice Thomas to recuse himself from any cases involving the January 6 investigation and the 2024 election should Trump run again. But a very different message is coming from guess where? The Republicans.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Do you think Justice Thomas should recuse himself from January 6 related cases going forward?
KEVIN MCCARTHY, HOUSE REPUBLICAN LEADER: No, I think Justice Thomas could make his decisions like he`s made him every other time. It`s his decision based upon law. If you spent any time studying the Supreme Court Justice, he`s one who studies correctly and I mean, from all the way through he if he sees it`s not upholding the Constitution, he`ll rule against it.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
RUHLE: Let`s bring in MSNBC Legal Analyst Carol Lam, she`s a former Federal Prosecutor and former U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of California, she`s also served as a judge. And Harry Litman, former U.S. Attorney and former Deputy Assistant Attorney General, he helped prepare Justice Breyer for his confirmation.
Harry, let`s talk about these text messages because they reveal that the wife of a Supreme Court justice, not only schemed to keep Trump in power, but she also deeply believes in these baseless conspiracy theories, things like Guantanamo Bay Tribunals. This person is the life partner of a Supreme Court Justice. And let`s remember, Trump`s plan was to have the Supreme Court decide the election. What do you think about all this?
HARRY LITMAN, FORMER U.S. ATTORNEY: Yeah, so you put your finger on it, there are some arguments for recusal. But the most unsettling thing is, you know, she is ardently believes -- and she`s, to put it nicely, a lunatic who`s, you know, embrace these -- she`s a holy warrior for the big lie.
Now, should that matter? I think so. First of all, Stephanie, these are only 29 emails that we happen to have gotten from Meadows as you`ve just reported. There seems to be a lot more involvement. And she`s deeply in the sort of gyrations to try to set the election aside.
Now, should that -- for Thomas himself, they`re famously close after his own searing confirmation experience. They had a cover story on People Magazine about how we prayed a lot and how together they are and kind of in lockstep. I`m not saying it means that he has the same views but if, you know, to the extent he does, obviously, people couldn`t be confident that he would be calling them square.
The main thing is, her involvement is so deep and it`s -- her access is so rich because of being the wife of a Supreme Court justice. We`ve just got to get to the bottom of how much more she was involved in things, how much she was talking to Meadows. He`s the quarterback of the whole effort to the Congress and other people. That it strikes me as even more important than this recusal point because to cut to the chase on that, Thomas gets to decide on his own. There is no law contrary to what McCarthy says. And he`s going to stiff arm it as he has in the past.
RUHLE: Carol, I want to share what NYU Law Professor Stephen Gillers told The New Yorker. He said Justice Thomas clearly has an understandable interest in protecting his wife. For that reason alone, his impartiality might be reasonably questioned, which the law says requires refute recusal. What law? Because here`s the thing, what body is actually governing them? Who is going to say, buddy, you`re going to have to step out here? No one.
CAROL LAM, FORMER U.S. ATTORNEY FOR THE SOUTHERN DISTRICT OF CALIFORNIA: You`re right. The Supreme Court is considered the top court of the land. And, you know, when there`s a dispute there, the court that`s supposed to make this decision.
There actually is a federal law. There`s federal law that actually applies the Supreme Court justices as well, that says that, you know, if there`s a situation where your impartiality or the impartiality of a justice, or any other federal judge could be called into question, then recusal is necessary.
The question is, what happens if the judge doesn`t recuse himself or herself in such a situation. And there`s no higher court that that you can appeal that to. So there is a certain amount of self-governance that has to take place with the Supreme Court. And I think that`s the real problem here. You know, Justice Thomas` wife has created a problem not just for the litigants, in this case, or Justice Thomas, but for the whole Supreme Court. And I think it`s going to fall to Justice Roberts to try to, you know, have a serious discussion with Justice Thomas about, you know, where to go from here, because these texts, these texts, put this whole situation into an entirely different framework.
A supreme court justices spouse has the right like any other citizen to hold his or her own views and, you know, write academically about it gives good speeches, but these texts, private texts, to the Chief of Staff of the White House, before and after the events of January 6, that puts us into a whole different framework, because now she is a potential witness. She is perhaps even a potential subject of this January 6 committee`s investigation. And that means, you know, there`s no court anywhere where a judge should be sitting on a case where his or her spouse is a potential witness in the case. That that`s a whole different, whole different situation.
RUHLE: Then, Harry, can we get embarrassingly practical here? For anybody who wants to make the argument she has her own separate person, separate from her husband? Why else would any person in political power take this woman`s call, besides the fact that she`s the wife of a Supreme Court justice?
LITMAN: So that`s it exactly for starters, I mean this is the reason. So that`s a fraud or it`s not a recusal point as much as a sort of broader political mess.
And what Carol says is right, except there could be a code of law, it`s just that the Supreme Court justices are able to decide for themselves whether it applies. Either judges cannot do that. They have ethics officers, and the like. That is the core problem. And Roberts can talk to him. They`ve spoken in the past about trying to have a code, but they haven`t gotten one. And you`re exactly right, I mean, it`s just part of, especially when you consider that what she`s talking about is so out there. So you know, crazy that, you know, it puts it all together in a pretty unsavory, unsettling package in any American has to be uneasy about the ability of her husband to make impartial decisions.
RUHLE: Well, all of this has put into a clearer picture that the nine people with the most important lifetime appointments in America can basically self-police. That`s what we have really learned in the last 24 hours. Carol, Harry, thank you for joining us tonight. I appreciate it.
Coming up, new images of devastation emerging from Mariupol as Ukrainian officials rule out surrender. We`ll get the latest from a lawmaker from that city, now essentially wiped out from the map when the 11th Hour continues.
RUHLE: Tonight, we`re learning much more about the horrific situation in Mariupol as those trapped inside the city are struggling to communicate with the outside world. NBC`s Gabe Gutierrez offers a rare look inside.
GABE GUTIERREZ, NBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): In Mariupol, no one is safe. Run fast, this mother said. Don`t cry, run fast. The child does, sobbing. This is a rare up close look at the besieged port city from a family who endured weeks huddled in a dark cold basement to escape the shelling. The pictures seem more at home in a history book than a smartphone.
But this is 2022, and yet in southeastern Ukraine, they`re scrounging for food and watching their lives burn. There is no way to describe this, Lubov Marchenko (ph) says. She took those videos. This is her seven year old son Artem (ph). Those were his cries. He ran fast.
God saved us and we survive, she says.
(On camera): What would you tell Putin?
(Voice-over): Please stop this madness, she response. Lubov says the building above where they were staying was hit twice. So were others. They felt the blast wave. In a last ditch effort, they boarded a humanitarian bus to escape.
We were on the bus and he started shelling in front of us, she says. We had to use another road. But they made it out to this bus in Lviv bound for the Czech Republic. We`re grateful from the bottom of our hearts, she says. Artem is no longer running.
GUTIERREZ: And we`ve just heard from them. They`re now in the Czech Republic hoping to eventually make it to Germany. But so many of their friends and relatives are still unreachable in Mariupol. Back to you.
RUHLE: Our thanks to Gabe Gutierrez for that very important reporting.
Now, let`s bring in Dmytro Gurin. He is a member of Ukrainian parliament. And Mariupol is his hometown. That`s hard for people in the United States to watch and we`ve never even been there. The last time you and I spoke just two weeks ago, you told me there were 350,000 people in a mousetrap unable to escape because of these Russian forces. What`s the situation now?
DMYTRO GURIN, UKRAINE PARLIAMENT MEMBER: The same situation, some of them were able to leave the city. I think that there are 200,000 people still in Mariupol. And President Zelenskyy said about 100,000 people, we think it`s under estimation. It`s more people the same conditions without any communication, electricity, gas, and first of all water. We now have evidence of one child died from dehydration because of lack of water. The same story just continuous.
RUHLE: Last week, we reported on a theater in Mariupol, it had the word children written in the sidewalk next to it, hoping that would save them but instead it got bombed by the Russians. Local officials are now saying that 300 people died when a bomb hit that theater. We have not been able to independently verify that. What can you tell us?
GURIN: 300 people died at least because we had like 1000 people -- 1300 people there and now we know only about 600 people. So we don`t know about hundreds of hundreds their destiny if they`re alive or dead. The drama theater is totally destroyed but you know all this drama theater and children`s hospital it`s very catchy stories but everything is destroyed.
All the hospitals, all the cultural centers and almost all the residential buildings, the district where I lived in, it`s totally destroyed. My school, my university like everywhere that I grew up that everything I know, my building it looks like what you`re showing now on the screen. Everything is destroyed. We don`t have city anymore. We had to have a limited city several weeks ago. And now we don`t have it. We`ll have to build -- rebuild Mariupol from scratch.
RUHLE: Ukraine says, Moscow is forcibly taking hundreds of 1000s of civilians from war torn cities including Mariupol into Russia, some officials say they were taken as hostages, can you confirm that?
GURIN: They really forcefully to move people, I don`t know about hundreds of 1000s but 10s of 1000s, exactly. And people are -- I`m sorry, the photos and documents taken from people and phones and documents are taken from people and we have for the situation where we cannot contact with them. They come back with us like in several days after leaving Mariupol in different cities and it`s passive. Yeah, and it`s like deportations in the middle of 20th century, same story.
RUHLE: So for you, as you just said your building, your home is now gone. This is where you grew up. Do you see yourself being able to return to Mariupol, live your life there?
GURIN: I don`t think so that I can live my life in Mariupol as I remember but we exactly, we will rebuild it and exactly we will change the city and Ukraine will come back to the city.
RUHLE: Well, I certainly hope you are right. Dmytro, thank you for joining us this evening, I appreciate it.
GURIN: Thank you. Thank you.
RUHLE: Coming up, Putin accusing the west of trying to cancel his country today. We`ll be asking a close aide to Putin`s biggest and still imprisoned critic about how the war story is being told in Russia when the 11th Hour continues.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CLINT WATTS, FORMER COUNTER TERRORISM DIVISION FORMER CONSULTANT: Soon, if not now, they`ll have more conscripts. So they have to get out there and push them forward because if they don`t, notice he said deserters because they have a problem with that right now. They probably got many disorders on their hands.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
RUHLE: The Russian invasion of Ukraine does not seem to be going as smoothly as Vladimir Putin promised. Earlier today, Putin aired his grievances, angry about military losses, sanctions and the huge bloat of Russia`s international standing as he claimed Russia is being canceled by the West. His cancellation grievance came days after his government sentenced his biggest critic, opposition leader Alexei Navalny to nine more years in prison.
So the question is, who is canceling whom? With us tonight, Vladimir Askurkov. He`s the Executive Director of Navalny`s anti-corruption foundation in Russia.
Vladimir, thank you for joining us. I know it`s not easy for you. Help us understand, why is Putin complaining about the consequences of his own actions? None of these things would have happened if he didn`t invade Ukraine.
VLADIMIR ASKURKOV, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR OF NAVALNY`S ANTI-CORRUPTION FOUNDATION IN RUSSIA: It`s ridiculous. He also invoked the cancelling of John Rolling (ph). So it`s really bizarre that he justifies the killing of 1000s of Ukrainians by some criticism of John Rolling on the internet? How mad you should -- can you be to do that?
RUHLE: What does all of this tell you about how the war is going, right? Whining about his world standing about military losses, about how much the sanctions hurt. These are not the words of a big strong winning man.
ASKURKOV: It`s true. They work has been going for a month, and the military successes of Russian army are not that great. No major city has been captured. The losses of Russian army are over 10,000 people and economic costs of the sanctions imposed by Western countries is enormous. So the war is not going great for Russia.
RUHLE: Russians have very, very limited information. What do typical Russians, your own relatives, what do they believe about the war?
ASKURKOV: State propaganda has been pushing this story of Ukraine, you know, Nazi government and Ukraine`s nationalism, but not that many people believe it. Maybe there is a 30% of supporters of war in Russia for fantasy disinformation. But most people are silent because of repressive environment. They cannot speak up without danger of being detained in prison or harassed. But this war is not popular in Russia.
RUHLE: Well, how about the danger that you put yourself in everyday right now being on American television, you fight to get the truth out, and Navalny is now in prison for another nine years for doing exactly that.
ASKURKOV: Navalny was against the war from the start and he sent his messages from the prison cell and from the court that was taking place in the penal colony that is held now. And he was speaking against the war, and he was calling Russians to protest and not be silent during this unprovoked, unnecessary war. And this has been his position throughout the decades, that he has been doing political work in Russia, and fighting against the corrupt and inhuman government of Vladimir Putin.
RUHLE: How does he get these messages out, right? Almost immediately after he was sentenced, he tweeted this, "The best support for me and other political prisoners is not sympathy and kind words, but actions, any activity against the deceitful and feverish Putin`s regime, any opposition to these war criminals? How in the world is he getting these tweets out while in prison?
ASKURKOV: He`s seen by his lawyer for about an hour a day. And during that time, he scribbled his handwritten messages to us to his family. And he also reads the material that we sent him. So he`s keeping abreast of what`s happening in the world. And he is really in touch with what goes on in Russia and the world.
RUHLE: It is pretty incredible and brave that he continues to speak this truth. But how hard is it getting? Today, Spotify became the latest media company to pull out of Russia because of censorship. How much is all of this limiting your ability to get out the anti-Putin message to tell people the truth about the war?
ASKURKOV: Russian authorities have been stepping down on internet and Russia. You cannot watch -- you cannot access Facebook or Twitter without resorting to a VPN connection. But YouTube is still operating. And YouTube has been the primary means of reaching Russian people, for us and for other independent journalists and media from outside of Russia. So we keep continuing using YouTube for that.
RUHLE: Well, you are putting yourself at risk to spread the truth, and we appreciate it, thank you so much for joining us tonight. Vladimir Askurkov joins us.
Coming up, the moment every mother lives for when the 11th Hour continues.
JUDGE KETANJI BROWN JACKSON, SUPREME COURT NOMINEE: I`m saving a special moment in this introduction for my daughters, Talia and Leila. Girls, I know it has not been easy as I`ve tried to navigate the challenges of juggling my career and motherhood. And I fully admit that I did not always get the balance right. But I hope that you`ve seen that with hard work, determination and love it can be done.
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RUHLE: The last thing before we go tonight, mothers and daughters. This week Supreme Court confirmation hearings produced several viral moments that many of us would really rather forget, courtesy of some ill- intentioned politicians.
But there is something else that also went viral and we are here for it. Sarahbeth Maney, a photography fellow for the New York Times was in the right place at the right time. And she caught this. One of Judge Jackson`s two daughters Leila, just beaming while watching her mom during day one of the hearing.
Not surprisingly, this picture struck a chord with women, with mothers around the world. One woman tweeting mom goes in photo can only pray my daughter looks at her mama with pride like this one day.
And another, a reminder to us that our children are watching. This look of pride in Jackson`s daughter`s eye speaks volumes about what this means for little girls of color, grace, intelligence, and an example.
And another, what a beautiful shot. We marvel at our children this way all the time. But how often do we catch this level of pride and adoration from child to parent.
And lastly, a touching Instagram post from ABC`s own Deborah Roberts, who also happens to be our colleague Al Roker`s wife. She posted this. Two beautiful Leilas two proud mamas.
And earlier tonight on the Last Word, the photographer who captured that moment, describe what the image means to her.
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SARAHBETH MANEY, NEW YORK TIMES PHOTOGRAPHY FELLOW: I think that if I wasn`t there, that moment may have been missed. And actually when I saw Leila smile for the first time, I didn`t take a picture. I just smiled as well and I processed what that might have felt like for her. And that`s when I decided to raise my camera and wait for that moment to happen again, and I`m really glad I was able to capture it.
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RUHLE: I am too. A freeze frame of the pride and love between a mother and daughter to finish off another difficult week. But you know who is not having a difficult week? The 15 Seated St. Peter`s Peacocks the pride of the Garden State. The Jersey City School made history tonight punching their ticket to the Elite Eight, still dancing after an incredible victory over Purdue, a three seat. It is the first time ever a 15 seat has made it there.
The Cinderella story of March continues. I want you to know that no matter who is in the anchor chair for this show, we always have time for Jersey.
And on that note, I wish you a very good night. From all of our colleagues across the networks of NBC News. Thanks for staying up late with us. See you next week.