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Transcript: The Beat with Ari Melber, 3/10/22

Guests: Malcolm Nance, Katty Kay, Tymofiy Mylovanov, Ryan Smith, Amy Pope


Three killed in Russian bombing of Ukraine maternity ward, while Ukrainian forces attacked Russian tanks. Former Ukrainian minister of the economy on the Ukrainian ground troops holding their position outside of Kyiv. Refugees telling harrowing stories of journey out of Ukraine. NBA`s Utah Jazz donating housing for Ukrainian refugees in cooperation with Airbnb.


WALLACE: Thank you so much for letting us into your homes during these truly extraordinary times. We`re grateful. THE BEAT WITH ARI MELBER starts right now.

Hi, Ari.

ARI MELBER, MSNBC HOST: Hi, Nicolle. Thank you very much.

Welcome to THE BEAT, everyone. I am Ari Melber. And as we come on the air we are reporting for you along with our colleagues around the world and tracking this day 15 of Vladimir Putin`s invasion into Ukraine. The forces inside Ukraine continue to hold their own in many ways. While the Russian troops are attacking the civilian population.

That has been the state of play here for several days and it`s tough, harrowing times. We have battlefield footage that show some Ukrainian forces driving back a column of Russian tanks. You may note this is different from many of the aftermath videos that we`ve been covering over last two weeks. This is actual live battle footage, I should say taken live. But not showing craters or devastation afterwards. But really the exchange that you see right there.

Tough battlefield situations on the outskirts of Kyiv. The Russian tanks hit from the air. They retreated to get away from that bombardment. Meanwhile Ukrainian soldiers were also seen celebrating the capture of some of those vehicles you just saw on your screen. The military says one of the tanks left behind was not only obtained but repaired to a degree that the Ukrainians are now using it back against the Russians who brought it into their country.

Also today, a video that shows Ukrainian soldiers diffusing an unexploded Russian bomb. You see right there. Obviously a tense operation. Meanwhile, there are no real signs of a diplomatic breakthrough. Ukraine defiant in those talks with Russia today.


DMYTRO KULEBA, UKRAINIAN FOREIGN MINISTER: We are ready to seek balanced diplomatic solutions to put an end to this war. But we will not surrender.


MELBER: It may be striking to consider what we see there and yet this is a feature of many conflicts as a hot war plays out, people who represent both countries, both governments meet in some neutral territory to try to see what might be worked out. And yet Russia, more so than Ukraine here, was very clearly not interested in having a factual dialogue, let alone any apparent effort to end this war.

Indeed, when you look at the Kremlin misinformation, the Russian foreign minister falsely asserted today that Russia, quote, "did not attack Ukraine." Meanwhile, Putin is trying to put some sort of more positive ideas around the sanctions, claiming that Russia will become more self- sufficient as it disengages here under force from the economic decisions of other countries, and has to be a more solitary economy in some way.

There is a new death toll number from Russia`s bombing on that maternity ward, the reporting that we brought you yesterday. President Zelenskyy says three died in that attack, 17 injured. U.S. ambassador to the U.N. putting it flatly today, accusing Russia of war crimes for those kind of civilian attacks. Other Ukrainian cities are under siege with situations so dire that people are basically using mass graves to bury the dead.

We`re going to show you another round of video that as we`ve warned you around here and we try to work this out with our journalists and producers and standards when you`re going to see something like this, that is quite graphic, but it is also in our news judgment the reality of what`s happening for to you see on the ground in this war.

Here is a mass grave being used in Mariupol. Officials say about 1200 people have died since the invasion began. Here is how one woman there describes what they`re facing.


TANIA BONDAR, UKRAINIAN CITIZEN (through text translation): I`m Tania Bondar, and my children are still alive. I have nine kids. Pray for Mariupol, we are being bombed from all directions. Pray for mothers with children, please, it`s very hard here. We have no water, no food, no electricity, it`s so scary getting through this.


MELBER: The voice, the perspective, the challenge there as explained by one citizen on the ground. We have our reporting for you throughout this hour including in a few moments NBC`s Cal Perry joining us live from Ukraine.

We begin with our analyst Malcolm Nance, formerly a U.S. intelligence officer and now the director of the Terror Asymmetrics Project. He`s also an analyst for at MSNBC. We should note Malcolm was in Ukraine just -- within the last month. They arrived when the Ukraine invasion began. Katty Kay is a special U.S. correspondent for BBC News.

I want to thank you both for joining me. Malcolm, your thoughts on what we see there in the civilian toll?

MALCOLM NANCE, TERROR ASYMMETRICS PROJECT EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR: You know, I spent a month there and literally flew out hours before the strikes came. And what I had when I was there, I saw a modern European city. And now what we see is the utter devastation that a country like Russia has decided to wreak.


They`ve decided that 77 years of rebuilding, since the end of World War II, needed to be eliminated and Russian strategy and tactics that we`ve seen in Georgia, we saw it in Chechnya, we definitely saw it in Syria, is that they are to make the civilian population suffer. And the first thing they do is they destroy hospitals, they destroy firehouses, they destroy ambulances, and then they bombard the civilians themselves in hopes that they will force the defenders to surrender.

You are looking at total war here. And Russia is now committing open war crimes and propagandizing their own population into believing that none of this is actually happening and it`s Ukraine attacking them. Expect anything at this point.

MELBER: And Katty, I think viewers are familiar by now with some of those estimates. Before this began, the views of the Russian military were that it might be able to take Kyiv in a matter of days. That hasn`t happened. Far longer than expected, although with this punishing -- this punishing outcomes and many deaths, of course. But now the estimates we`re seeing from U.S. officials are basically they could take Kyiv in another week or two. And basically Russian forces capable of encircling Kyiv I should say in a week or two but to actually overtake the entire capital would take longer, four to six weeks.

Katty, your thoughts on how this is playing out basically as emphasized no one is saying the Russian military isn`t capable of doing anything. We`re witnessing it. And yet they have struggled on their own timeline.

KATTY KAY, BBC NEWS SPECIAL U.S. CORRESPONDENT: So U.S. intelligence officials are now saying that three things have really surprised Vladimir Putin. One was the unity of the West in imposing those crippling sanctions and getting arms to the Ukrainians. The other was the resistance of the Ukrainian forces and the strength of the Ukrainian forces, and the third of course was how poorly his own military has performed.

And what we`re seeing play out is, you know, something that clearly Vladimir Putin himself was not expecting. I was just reading up, looking back at the history of the Afghan war, the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan, 15,000 Soviet soldiers, Russian soldiers died in Afghanistan, Ari, during the course of 10 years. U.S. estimates now think that about 5,000 Russian soldiers have died in Ukraine in two weeks. And the amount of losses is enormous for the Russians.

And the question is, how will that start to impact public opinion back in Russia itself. We know that the Russians are having a news blackout. It`s difficult for them to get access to information. It`s something that U.S. officials and European officials have told me they`re very worried about. But once those bodies start coming back, once mothers of Russian soldiers, as they did during Afghanistan, realize that their sons are dying in a war they don`t want to have happen, then you start getting real pressure on Vladimir Putin.

In the meantime, of course, though, it`s the Ukrainian population, the Ukrainian civilians, women, children, fathers, mothers, old people who are the ones bearing the brunt of this onslaught.

MELBER: Yes. All important points and food for thought. Our analysts are going to stay with us. As mentioned we`re going from experts to our reporters in the field. Cal Perry in Lviv, Ukraine. That`s in the west near the border with Poland.

Cal, as always, tell us anything that you`re finding and hearing in your reporting today and my question for you is, what we to make of the relatively rare battlefield footage, the nature of this war and we`ve emphasized this to viewers is that Russia sometimes is actually not always trying to share or publicize what it`s doing for lying back home, so they may have victories that are not often seen. There we got some aerial footage. You`re thoughts on all of the above.

CAL PERRY, NBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT: Well, and we`re starting to get a look at footage of things that we knew to be true because we were hearing the reporting of it. We were getting it from solid sources inside the Ukrainian government, but now we`re seeing it and so we could verify. That battlefield footage is certainly one of those things. And we heard from the Pentagon that the Ukrainian forces were doing these hit-and-run tactics on this convoy and that`s sort of what you see in that video.

The other thing that we`re seeing in video that we hadn`t seen, for example in Mariupol, where we`ve heard from the deputy mayor, as he puts it 400,000 civilians are basically being held hostage. You`ve covered that mass grave. That city is under siege. And that humanitarian situation is completely disastrous. The extra bit of detail we heard today was they have tried six different times to evacuate that city and come under fire in each of those occasions.

Another piece of video that we`re now seeing from Kharkiv, the damage in Kharkiv, and this is to the north of the country, is extensive and what the BBC put out today, and again that is a trusted news source, and the video we`re seeing is confirming what we had heard from Ukrainian officials which is that bodies are littering the streets of this city, the bodies of both civilians and of Russian soldiers.


So Russian soldiers are taking heavy losses in that city and we can now see that with our very own eyes. The other thing that`s happened here today is the Ukrainian government is talking about the possibility of chemical weapons attacks in a way they were not talking about this before. We`ve heard it from the Americans. We`ve even heard it from Russian officials. There is this narrative beginning in Russia, from Russian officials, that the United States and the Ukrainian government have had secret biological sites here in the country.

And that is now something that both the Ukrainian president and the minister of foreign affairs have gone out of their way to speak about today, to prepare this country for the possibility that we could see a false-flag attack using chemical weapons. It is incredibly frightening for the people that are trying to flee to now hear that coming from all sides.

The last thing I`ll mention today that I think was an important development, you mentioned those failed peace talks in Turkey. Well, the IAEA director general was at those peace talks. He was there because he wanted to open up a humanitarian corridor leading to Chernobyl. We`re told that is going to happen. It`s not a humanitarian corridor as much as it is Ukrainian engineers trying to get to Chernobyl to get the power lines back in effect there to avoid some kind of larger disaster. We`re told that is going to happen as well, Ari.

MELBER: Cal Perry updating us on more than one piece of the international reporting which we appreciate. Thank you, Cal, and please stay safe.

Malcolm and Katty are back with me. And I want to turn where the bad information about the Russian invasion at this juncture, where it goes, whether it matters if at all inside Russia.

Malcolm, we just spoke to Andrei Kozyrev who was the foreign minister under Yeltsin. So we saw the footage, for example, of Lavrov today, current foreign minister, he was once deputy to this individual, and I`m about to play some of what he told me last night which was pretty striking because I`m just a journalist asking the general questions. We have all these experts, someone like you and Katty who study the foreign policy or this individual who served at the Kremlin at the highest levels.

So I asked the basic questions if this is going so poorly, the death toll for Russian soldiers as Katty just mentioned a moment ago, quite high by any global scale, how does that affect Putin. And he basically said the way it works, he called it, quote, "Russian tradition," but he said something rather striking, he said the way it works, they`d sooner show a Russian leader to their grave than give them bad news that might endanger the aides themselves. Here is how he put it.


MELBER: Is there anyone inside the Russian government who can even give him the bad news?

ANDREI KOZYREV, FORMER RUSSIAN FOREIGN MINISTER: It is less possible than overthrowing him. That`s a Russian tradition. They fear to tell the boss the truth, but one day they might come with a weapon and escort him either to a grave or to a retirement.


MELBER: They won`t share the bad news because it could endanger themselves but as he put it, Malcolm, they may come with a weapon and show him to the grave or early retirement. Serious stuff. Your reaction as an intelligence analyst of that Kremlin insider`s view.

NANCE: Yes, I saw that interview. I thought it was absolutely fascinating. Let me tell you something, this is likely not going to end well. And that may mean that somebody, especially if Vladimir Putin resorts to chemical weapons, in Central Europe, even if it`s a false-flag operation, the way they did in Syria, you`re going to see someone is going to be motivated to terminate his command.

That is just not going to stand. That`s the sort of thing that will lead NATO into war with Russia. And to be quite honest, they have 75 percent of their army is around Ukraine. So it`s not like they`re well-protected. I don`t know what Vladimir Putin is thinking. I don`t understand his calculus, because his calculus is Russian, as Anne Applebaum has warned us, we should not think through the lens of the West that it would not be unthinkable for him to actually launch chemical weapons in Europe for the first time since World War I.

That being said, the Russian people will have to resolve this issue because I`m one of the few analysts that believes I think the Ukrainians are doing a lot better than most people think. The Pentagon said seven days, two days for the taking of Kyiv. I said months, now we`re going into months.

MELBER: Katty, same line of questioning to you. Everyone is familiar that Putin has a KGB background, that he wages information war, that he`s not to be underestimated, but that Kremlin`s insider`s view was that as the propaganda piles up over the years, and as Putin has isolated himself literally physically when we see those dramatic photos of the long table meetings, but also with his inner circle over the past few years, he may really not know things.


He may be genuinely surprised that it`s taking this long. He may be in his own way upset that things are not going according to plan. It`s clear the timeline is different than they wanted. You`re analysis?

KAY: Yes, it was really interesting listening to Bill Burns, the director of the CIA, speaking at the Senate Intelligence Committee on exactly your point, Ari, that Putin is somebody who cannot tolerate the idea of losing, who sees losing or backing down in any way or admitting that he is wrong as a huge sign of weakness, and his rather depressing conclusion in the committee hearing today was that all of these talks, the ones we saw in Turkey, the ones that we`ve been seeing in Belarus are really just for tactical reasons.

He doesn`t actually feel committed to those talks and he`s just doing them because he doesn`t see an end game. There is no clear off-ramp for him. There is no clear victory for him anymore. And he`s just spinning this out with these, you know, prospect of humanitarian corridors which then get broken and that makes somebody incredibly dangerous. Somebody who doesn`t see what the end of this is, somebody who doesn`t see a way out of this, who feels cornered, who feels it`s weak to back down.

Every single atrocity that`s committed in Ukraine is another off-ramp that President Putin has chosen not to take. And that leaves everybody, and if there are, God forbid, chemical weapons in Europe or even worse in Europe, that leaves everybody in an incredibly dangerous situation.

MELBER: Understood. Katty Kay and Malcolm Nance, my thanks to both of you leading us off.

We have a lot more in the program including what Richard Engel is finding on the ground. Also we`re seeing the civilian resistance across Ukraine. One of the country`s former top officials join us as we continue to hear from people in these countries who have served and know what`s going on. That`s part of the way we`re doing our reporting.

And later tonight, a special guest on the refugee crisis and ways people could actually help. Hope amidst the tragedies. Stay with us.





NICK MARTIN, PEOPLE AND POLITICS CORRESPONDENT, SKY NEWS: And being strong means going home even though it might be very dangerous?

KOVALENKO: Yes. Of course. And we have a good army and I believe that our people, Ukrainians, men, will win.


MELBER: After fleeing, a Ukrainian refugee is headed back to Ukraine to join the fighting that keeps going to defend her country. Meanwhile in the southeast, civilians are risking basically their own bodies in an effort to slow down the Russian military vehicles. You can see them there. They`re unarmed, they`re in great danger to make that choice. But they shout, go home. Ukrainian soldiers are vowing to fight until the last bullet is fired.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We stay until the end. Until the last bullet, until this last person could protect our country.


MELBER: Northwest to the capital in Irpin, civilians fleeing their homes on foot. Many desperate to leave. There is no safe corridor for their evacuation in that area. Residents say Russian forces are deliberately targeting things that are not military but are just to provide safety and survival for civilians like electricity, gas, water.

When you look at the shelling`s aftermath, you see houses completely destroyed and reduced to rubble. Again some of this in civilian areas, not military targets. Ukrainian troops continue to move in where they can, patrolling the area for Russian soldiers and vehicles. They`re hoping to use Irpin as a launch pad to take the capital on the Russian side.

NBC`s Richard Engel has been embedded there with the ground forces.


RICHARD ENGEL, NBC NEWS CHIEF FOREIGN CORRESPONDENT: This is the suburb that is holding out, that is resisting against the Russian invasion.

The streets here are completely empty and the biggest risk is that you turn a corner and there are the Russians. The Russian tank, Russian APC. Several of us driving cautiously and with our eyes open.


MELBER: That is just part of what it looks like on the ground. A city turned into a siege war zone. I will be joined by a former top Ukrainian official from the Zelenskyy government who knows these players and people risking their lives right now when we`re back in one minute.


MELBER: I`m joined now by Tymofiy Mylovanov, the former minister of the economy for Ukraine, president of the Kyiv School of Economics. He joins us from Kyiv where he knows many of the people, government officials and otherwise, fighting for their life.

Thank you for joining me.


MELBER: Let`s begin with, as mentioned, some of the people you know in the Zelenskyy administration. What are you hearing? What do you think of his leadership and the message we`ve heard from this outgunned government leadership of a country that clearly keeps fighting?

MYLOVANOV: Well, you know, I talk to Minister (INAUDIBLE), I have spoken with multiple ministers today and they all, you know, they are all doing their job. Some of them are, you know, I was the minister of economy so I`m mostly talking to people who are doing financial econ block so they are thinking about how to restructure the economy, how we get financing in time, what should be the liquidity for the central bank or for the minister of Finance, how we pay salaries, how to actually do their planting season.


I talked to the minister of the agriculture, but I also talked to military and it`s about supplies, military payments and things like that. It looks like, you know, everyone is working, working really hard. Thinking both about tactical and operational issues but also about strategy. And of course the courage and leadership of Zelenskyy. He is legendary.

MELBER: If the capital falls, what is the plan then?

MYLOVANOV: I don`t think it will fall. And you know, just to get the perspective, Kyiv, the size of Kyiv is larger than Manhattan. And they`ve been, you know, millions of people in Kyiv probably right now. There are hundreds of thousands of people who are fighters, who are -- who have weapons and who are well-trained.

Just to give you another example, despite all of this offensive that we`re, you know, that we`re seeing and this awful, you know, awful, awful tragic consequences for civilians and northwest and sometimes northeast of Kyiv, two days ago I, as the president of the Kyiv School of Economics, had to get some documents from Kyiv and the local FedEx, private post, which is called Nova Poshta, new post, actually delivered to me.

So right now private post delivery is working in Kyiv. And all the other things in Kyiv. It`s a vast area and I think even just if you want to create a belt around Kyiv without any war, without any resistance, just in engineering terms, you would need probably five months to build it. So, you know, it is going to go on for years, if they really want to take Kyiv.

MELBER: Do you think that Russia and Vladimir Putin underestimated the nature of the Zelenskyy government and this sort of citizen hybrid fighting corps?

MYLOVANOV: I think he got annoyed. Because, you know, for outside observers, Zelenskyy is a surprise but has been a steady pattern of Zelenskyy defying Putin in over the last couple of years and it started with Zelenskyy putting under house arrest pro-Russian oligarchs. People who the previous president hadn`t dared to touch and then once Russia started disrupting energy supplies last year and sort of trying to really strong- arm economically Ukraine into submission, again that wasn`t in the news but it was clear when -- you know, I still serve as an adviser to the office of the president, Zelenskyy.

So I was working in the office when that was happening and, you know, Russia was trying and Zelenskyy was fighting. And then in August last year, the person who was very close to Zelenskyy, an aide, he`s in some sense his mentor, was shot. There was an assassination. He survived. He wasn`t wounded but his driver was. And that was a signal that something is not going -- you know, some of the theories was that it was a signal from Russians. Still, Zelenskyy didn`t budge.

So there is a history to Zelenskyy that he shows he`s very proud. I`ve been in multiple meetings where he was saying that no one will dictate to people of Ukraine, to the people of Ukraine, and to the president of Ukraine representing the people of Ukraine what to do and that was his reaction both to the west and to the east and to the north and to the south. So he`s a very proud person and I think that helps lead people in this very difficult situation.

MELBER: Yes, well, appreciate you telling us what you see, your candor, and what sounds like in some ways your grim optimism as we all keep an eye on this. And as I`ve said, we wish you safety. A former minister of the economy Tymofiy Mylovanov --

MYLOVANOV: Can I just --

MELBER: Yes, sir, go ahead.

MYLOVANOV: Can I just -- you know, I lead the school, you know, and there`s all this bravery, but, you know, we have two students unaccounted for. And today we reconnected with them. They were in war zone. That`s next to this Bucha, Hostomel and in Irpin. You were actually just showing the episode from the evacuation in Irpin right now in the background. And so, you know, one of the students talked to us about what happened.

She spent two weeks in a basement. She was forced there with her family by the regular Russian troops. And she was not given water during these two weeks. No water to a 16-year-old child for two weeks.


So that`s -- you know, it`s despicable. So, I`m sorry, I have to bring that up.

MELBER: And you`re saying that`s your eyewitness account, that you personally spoke with that family and that is --


MELBER: -- the mistreatment that minor was -- that you confirmed was subjected to by Russian soldiers?

MYLOVANOV: Yes. My immediate subordinate, the head of the undergraduate education, has with spoken with her and we discussed that this morning. Several hours ago.

MELBER: Yes. Well, I can understand you wanted to use the interview to also put that on the record. I didn`t know about it so I didn`t know to ask about it but I`m glad you shared it, and again, Tymofiy Mylovanov, thank you for your time and again we wish you safety.

MYLOVANOV: Thank you.

MELBER: Yes, sir.

Coming up, we will go then live to the Ukraine border. Civilians fleeing as Russians close in. And we mentioned this earlier by the end of the hour we look at the hope and the positive work, there is a lot of people doing things to help refugees and how you, wherever you are, might get involved if you choose. That`s by the end of the hour.



MELBER: We`ve been tracking the difficult humanitarian crisis in Ukraine. Russian forces have basically flattened the southeastern port city of Mariupol. Pediatric cancer patients were transferred to the western city of Lviv.


OREST LESHNEVSKYY, PEDIATRIC SURGEON: We are transferring to our city for some kids. It`s really like go through the hell because Russian troops, they are bombing, they are shooting, they didn`t stop.


MELBER: Of the several million refugees leaving a million have entered Poland. NBC`s Ellison Barber spoke with a woman at a train station there.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (through translator): Because we were being bombed and we were being shot. We were in the basement. We were hiding in fear. And it was really impossible to stay there for a long time. And I also want other countries not to ever experience what we are experiencing right now.


MELBER: NBC`s Ellison Barber is live at that polish border. Ellison?

ELLISON BARBER, NBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT: Hey, Ari. Yes, we spent the last few days going to different border crossings trying to get a sense of what it`s like for people as they`re immediately coming into the country. We decided to kind of follow the train path that a lot of people are taking to Krakow. Most people, when they`re crossing into Poland, they are not staying in the border cities.

They`re trying to move to bigger cities like this. But what we`re hearing from refugees we`ve encountered at train stations here and also volunteers is that beds, they`re increasingly hard to come by. Listen to what one volunteer told us.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (through translator): One of the most difficult things right now for us is that we have too many people who are coming here and we don`t have as many beds.

BARBER: If you`re unable to get a room here, where would you sleep?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (through translator): We don`t have any other place, actually. So this is our only hope.


BARBER: When we were at the train station here, we saw this just massive line of people waiting, to try and talk to someone to see if they could potentially get some sort of apartment, hotel, bed, a place to stay at least for a day or so. We spoke to one man who was so frustrated that he didn`t want to speak on camera. He waited in the line for three hours only to get to the front and be told they did not have any beds available.

What we`re hearing is essentially as soon as a room becomes available, there is someone there waiting who needs it and then at the same time, because people are crossing into Poland so quickly, it`s almost like they are there two, three, four refugees on top of that immediately waiting for another room as well. Ari?

MELBER: Ellison Barber, thank you and stay safe.

We are tracking the global push here in many different ways that people are trying to show some support against the Russian aggression and often for the Ukrainian people. We see that across culture and sports as a NASCAR team owner pledging a million rounds of ammunition. Professional tennis donating $700,000 to the Ukraine relief efforts. Andy Murray donating prize money this year specifically to children in Ukraine. The Premier League donated millions of pounds for refugee relief and this is new, the NBA`s Utah Jazz is partnering with Airbnb to donate over 30,000 nights of free housing for Ukrainian refugees.

If some of this rings a bell, we did hear directly from Airbnb`s CEO about that initiative when it first launched previously on THE BEAT.


BRIAN CHESKY, AIRBNB CEO: We are committed in partnership with and our host around the world but in particular our host in Europe to provide housing for up to 100,000 refugees that are fleeing Ukraine. We will make sure no matter what they charge, that the housing is 100 percent free to refugees.


MELBER: That`s the program and now for an update and how it`s expanding, I`m joined by Ryan Smith, the owner of the Utah Jazz basketball team and the chairman and co-founder of Qualtrics, and for an expert on the humanitarian side of this, Amy Pope from the U.N.`s International Organization for Migration. She was a senior adviser on migration issues to President Biden as recently as last year.

Welcome to both of you. Ryan, there is a lot going on. You`re a busy person. You`re most known for what you`re doing in business. Why was this important to you to get involved in now and what are you doing?


RYAN SMITH, OWNER, UTAH JAZZ: Yes, so, Ari, thanks, and it`s good to be with you, Amy. Look, I think we`re in a crisis here. And often when you see this and you see this around the world, you`re asking yourself what can I do to help. And I was asking myself, I think a lot of us have been, at Qualtrics, both with the Jazz, and you know, I was fortunate enough to be with Joe from last week, and one of the co-founders of Airbnb and he explained this program and it just makes sense.

I mean, they`re matching up hosts. Everyone knows the platform with refugees, with nights and places to stay. And it`s one of those things that it needs every single person every organization can get involved with and, you know, at the Jazz we had, you know, a big moment last night where we launched it. We started with 32,000 nights and we`re just asking everyone not only in sports, but everywhere to just help out.

We can provide maybe just shelter, if that`s where we start. And this is a great technology platform that could mobilize quickly and right now we need to go fast.

MELBER: Yes. Well, and as you mentioned, people relate to this wherever they are and make sense of it through the things that people participate in, and sports and culture is part of that. It`s actually, we saw the NBA playing the Ukrainian national anthem this week was the first time it`s been done for any foreign country. And that`s the way that some clearly are choosing to show solidarity.

Amy, walk us through how you deal with this particular refugee crisis. Sadly Europe has dealt with many.

AMY POPE, INTERNATIONAL ORGANIZATION FOR MIGRATION: That is right. I mean, this one in particular is obviously affecting people directly in Europe. We anticipate that there may be four million people ultimately who are crossing the border. As of today, it`s been 2.3 million. 1.3 into Poland alone. And we know that the impact on all of the surrounding countries is going to be fairly significant. So that means that their infrastructure is really stressed and basic supplies, blankets, housing, hygiene kits, all of that is in high demand.

So we`re very grateful to Airbnb for this partnership and to the Jazz for supporting it. Because getting people a place to sleep is one of the most acute needs that we`re seeing at this moment in time.

MELBER: And Amy, what is your view of what Ryan alluded to, which is we`re in this more connected world. I think most people are familiar with Airbnb as a platform. The CEO was explaining to us how they`re working in tandem with organizations to do the vetting. So to be clear it`s not just someone shows up. They`re working with humanitarian groups the same way they use placement programs for other refugees outside of that business context.

But how much of this digital, you know, solution, the aspect of it, helps and how much of it feels like a drop in the bucket when the numbers are millions?

POPE: Every little bit helps. And the really great thing about Airbnb is that it is well-known to people. They do have a lot of inventory already available. But more importantly, anybody who wants to host refugee at this moment in time can sign up through the Airbnb platform, even if they don`t have a prior history.

And the reason that is so important is that Airbnb does provide a layer of vetting and at the same time as we`re trying to address the most acute needs of people on the move, we`re also very aware that many of the people crossing are women, they`re children, they`re elderly. They are people who might have particular protection needs.

And so ensuring that they are not necessarily just going into a random stranger`s house but that there`s been this process that Airbnb has offered in which it vets the housing, it ensures that the people are going to somewhere that is safe, and that they have information on where they are going.

It`s actually an important piece of the puzzle here. And so really critical to ensuring that our response is not only immediate, but that it protects the dignity and the rights of the migrants who are crossing right now.

MELBER: Yes. And I understand exactly what you`re saying there.

Ryan, your part of a rarified group, team owners, as you know, are in the news for all kinds of reasons. Certainly different teams in basketball and football have had their own debates about civil rights protests, clashes sometimes with players groups. I`m curious how you navigate this as something that clearly is important to you. You said it`s a humanitarian issue, when I`m sure you know migration, immigration, whether people should have larger or smaller refugee support status here in America and in Europe, these are big political issues.

I`m curious how you decide to weigh in here and whether it was in some sense less complicated as a foreign issue than if it were two million people trying to get into the U.S.


SMITH: Yes, I think this is why the is so special. It`s something that actually can play and hopefully it`s the beginning of a broader movement there. I mean, from us, you know, we`re in Utah. We have an incredibly philanthropic state. You know, the outreach of people wanting to help, bringing blankets, bringing food, things to our arena, lighting up the arena. And, you know, I honestly didn`t know what we were going to do.

I didn`t know what our place is as the Jazz was going to be to try to help. And, you know, I think one of the problems we have is sometimes when it comes to crisis or ways that we could play, we often try to reinvent the wheel and, you know, just by chance I was with Joe and he was explaining it and that was it. It hit me going, OK, wow, this is something that we can do, we can act now, we can make impact and it feels right.

And I think that that`s how I lead, that`s how I try to lead the organization. We can`t solve every issue. But we`re going to do our best to, you know, leave the place a better -- a better world than where we found it. And sports is a great way to do that. I`m fortunate enough to have an incredible Jazz nation all over the world.

We`ve got, you know, 18,000 people a night that come in the arena and if we can do our part and leverage our platform, whether it`s small or large, like I think that, you know, maybe we can sleep a little bit better at night saying, hey, these people are suffering with some of the basic human elements where it`s shelter and food, and say, hey, actually we made a difference of 32,000 people.

And what we`re going to see hopefully is that other people jump on board. Similar to myself. Like I didn`t create this program. I just heard about it last Saturday. And here we are on Thursday, you know, partnering with Amy and with making an impact. So I think that I`m here just to say like no matter where you are, what organization, this is something that we can actually do that will help right away.

MELBER: Yes, and you`re both getting at the point that it`s not all or none here in the United States. Lord knows people have gone through a ton of problems in the last several years and people can feel fatigued by that in all sorts of ways and they have to look after their own families and economics and everything, COVID and everything else.

And yet if there is a way to contribute at whatever level, some people are in a position to do, that may be positive because this is another humanitarian crisis and there are ways to help, and some of the needs are short-term, as mentioned, housing or a certain amount of money to get people through a couple of weeks for starters.

So, Ryan Smith and Amy Pope, thanks to both of you. As mentioned, we`re going to keep an eye on these programs.

SMITH: Thanks, Ari.

MELBER: Absolutely, thank you. I`m going to fit in a break. But when we come back, we look at the acts of humanity, including this from inside a bomb shelter.



UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Every war is a disaster and it is a disaster for our country. And we hope that it is going to end in the closest future.


MELBER: A thought from a soldier in Ukraine and as the world continues to watch and sometimes engage with this difficult rolling tragedy, we also here in our coverage have tried to maintain a full view because there are also stories of humanity, hope and resilience.

With that in mind, tonight we look at Ukrainians who are continuing to live their lives amidst to all this, not shutting down the parts of them that love art or cultural or life or sharing, but finding their way to do it and forge through it amidst a siege. For example, let`s look at a troop of actors from Kyiv who decided to go ahead, the show must go on as they say. Well, they put on their show inside a bomb shelter.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (Speaking in foreign language)


MELBER: That was just a snippet of what we`re told is a modern version of a Ukrainian play that is based on Virgil`s " Aeneid" and deals with issues of war. Meanwhile, above ground the Kyiv Classic Symphony performed a concert for peace. They played Beethoven`s "Ode to Joy" which is the anthem of the E.U.


MELBER: A moment both somber and uplifting. That`s the instrumental. If you consult the lyrics to that anthem it includes statements like, quote, "Ukraine has not yet perished. Our enemies will vanish like dew in the sun."

One woman also has been noticed for sharing videos of herself playing the violin while sheltered underground in Kharkiv, writing in one post that people found online that she has to use a clothespin on her instrument to keep the volume down.


MELBER: War is terrible as it has always been throughout the history of humanity that it takes so much life and yet we see in these stories how life resiliently still goes on.


We`ll be right back.


MELBER: Finally tonight there was a stern warning from the head of the CIA today and here is the key part.


WILLIAM BURNS, CIA DIRECTOR: Whether it`s the potential for a use of chemical weapons either as a false-flag operation or against Ukrainians, this is something, as all of you know very well, is very much a part of Russia`s playbook. This is one information war that I think Putin is losing.


MELBER: The CIA making it public they view chemical weapons is on the table.


One of our analysts referred to that earlier tonight in our reporting. There you see it directly under oath and it is part of what the U.S. and of course those in Ukraine may be bracing for.

Thanks for sticking with our coverage. "THE REIDOUT" with Joy Reid continues our MSNBC coverage of the war in Ukraine right now.