Return to Transcripts main page
THE SITUATION ROOM
Tensions Escalate, Media Targeted in Crackdown; U.S. Navy Missile Destroyers Move into Black Sea; Gunmen Block Military Observers in Crimea; GOP Split Over National Security; Interview with US Amb. to OSCE Daniel Baer
Aired March 7, 2014 - 17:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN: All right, Jake, thank you.
Happening now, Putin's new threat -- Russia warning the secretary of State, John Kerry, against a plan it says will inevitably boomerang on the United States.
Plus, a CNN exclusive -- we're there as masked men with guns block international monitors from entering Crimea.
An extraordinary new video -- a woman's desperate plea to deliver food to her husband denied. I'll speak live with the vice reporter who captured the dramatic story inside the crisis.
I'm Wolf Blitzer.
You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
Tensions on both sides of this crisis only worsening this hour. Members of the media now the latest targets of the growing backlash. This is dramatic surveillance video of a Bulgarian journalist in Crimea being wrestled to the ground and assaulted by unidentified masked men who put a gun to his head. At least two Ukrainian channels have now also been shutdown.
Here are some more late breaking developments. The Russian foreign minister, Sergei Lavrov, warning the secretary of State, John Kerry, that planned sanctions could inevitably boomerang on the United States.
CNN is there exclusively as gunmen block unarmed international military observers from entering Crimea.
And Russians storm a Ukrainian military base in Crimea, smashing the gates with a truck.
We're covering this increasingly volatile situation as only CNN can.
We begin with our chief national security correspondent, Jim Sciutto, with the very latest -- Jim.
JIM SCIUTTO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, we're more than a week into the crisis and I think you can say that we're at a diplomatic and military stalemate between the U.S. and Russia. Talks between those two countries still have yet to produce progress, or even a plan for progress.
Meanwhile, Russia continues to defy the U.S. demand that its forces return to their bases. And the volatile mix of ethnic divisions and competing militias and soldiers and warships increasingly in danger of boiling over.
SCIUTTO (voice-over): As diplomacy sputters over Crimea, violence erupts. Here, pro-Russian gunmen attack a foreign journalist who tried to film them. One of the masked men points a gun to his head.
And here, a clash between pro-Russian and pro-Ukrainian mobs ends with a violent beating.
Across Crimea, the Russian intervention looks more and more like a military takeover. Two scuttled Russian warships now trap the bulk of the Ukrainian Navy and Ukraine officials say some 30,000 Russian troops are on the ground, above the 25,000 limit under Russia's treaties with Ukraine.
REAR ADM. JOHN KIRBY, PENTAGON PRESS SECRETARY: It's less important, the number, than it is what they're doing. So we're much more concerned about the activities, you know, blocking off Ukrainian naval bases by sinking patrol boats into the waterways and essentially establishing operational control of the Crimea.
SCIUTTO: The U.S. has repeatedly demanded Russia pull its troops back to their bases, but they're still patrolling sovereign Ukrainian territory. And Western military observers attempting to monitor the situation were blocked from Crimea by pro-Russian gunmen for the third straight day.
JEN PSAKI, STATE DEPARTMENT SPOKESWOMAN: Russia is fairly isolated here. Our preference here is not to keep hyping up sanctions, our preference here is to find an end to this conflict that's happening through engagement, through discussion.
SCIUTTO: Those discussions remain at a stalemate. A 60 minute phone call between President Obama and President Putin, visiting the Sochi Paralympics today, revealed continuing divisions over the state of play. And a call between Secretary Kerry and Russian Foreign Minister Lavrov ended with this stark warning from Lavrov, U.S. sanctions against Moscow would, quote, "Hit the United States like a boomerang."
Now, with a referendum in Crimea for greater integration with Moscow looming next weekend, some see a win/win for Russia.
STUART HOLLIDAY, MERIDIAN INTERNATIONAL CENTER: Both options benefit Russia. You know, one of them is a very independent autonomous region within Russia, with heavy, you know, Russian ties and influence. And the other one is an annex -- an outright annexation. So he's already set the goal posts pretty far down the field.
SCIUTTO (on camera): Either way, he wins?
(END VIDEO TAPE)
SCIUTTO: On the political front today, we had two more potentially damaging developments. The Russian parliament voting to endorse next weekend's referendum in Crimea on a closer association with Russia, or even outright secession from Ukraine. The Russian parliament also approving a proposal to make it easier for Ukrainian citizens of Russian descent to apply for nationality, which would further inflame tensions within the country.
I, also, Wolf, spoke a short time ago to a senior State Department official. And I asked, you know, you have these public proclamations that are very unfriendly between the U.S. and Russia now, like Foreign Minister Lavrov's comments. I said, you know, behind the scenes, is it friendlier?
And I was told, as Secretary Kerry said yesterday, that it is more professional behind-the-scenes between Kerry and Lavrov. They've got a long-term relationship.
But I think you could say, at the end of the day, the real power here is with Vladimir Putin.
Does Lavrov have his ear?
Is it Lavrov's decision?
We know he had to go back to Russia even to talk about the format for talks with Ukrainian officials.
So, you know, it is a stalemate right now. We have yet to see where those talks are -- what they're going to produce.
BLITZER: Well, let's hope they produce something positive.
BLITZER: All right, thanks very much.
Jim will be back later.
A new video of a U.S. Navy missile destroyer moving into the Black Sea, as the United States is getting new indications the Russian military doesn't plan to leave Crimea any time soon.
Let's go to our Pentagon correspondent, Barbara Starr.
She's working this part of the story for us.
What are you learning?
BARBARA STARR, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, you mentioned a couple of minutes ago about a base in Southern Ukraine, in the Crimea, being taken over by Russians and violence breaking out there. This is exactly the kind of indicator that the U.S. is worried about, that this is the kind of thing that could spark wider conflict. This standoff can't continue. This happening as the U.S. military made its own moves today.
STARR (voice-over): With the eyes of the world on it, the U.S. Navy guided missile destroyer Truxtun, moved into the Black Sea. It is supposed to be a routine deployment.
But with Russian-occupied Crimea just to the north, nothing is routine.
Today, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel talked to the new Ukrainian defense chief, who made his first request for U.S. aid.
KIRBY: He asked the U.S. Secretary to consider providing some advice and counsel to his troops with respect to the humanitarian assistance and disaster relief efforts.
STARR: Ukraine says there are 30,000 Russian troops in Crimea. The U.S. estimates 20,000, and more troops on alert inside Russia.
Behind the scenes, U.S. intelligence sees crucial indicators the Russian military is taking steps to become firmly entrenched in Crimea. Supply lines are in place. Units are being rotated. One U.S. official telling CNN, they can stay as long as they want.
But the U.S. has one more message for Vladimir Putin -- it's ready to protect Poland. Warsaw and Washington are talking about a dozen U.S. F-16s and 300 troops being sent to this Polish air base for joint training -- a message to Putin, even as the U.S. worries about another man in Moscow, Edward Snowden, the NSA leaker, worried Moscow will try to get access to U.S. war plans that Snowden could have.
LT. GEN. MICHAEL FLYNN, DIRECTOR, DEFENSE INTELLIGENCE AGENCY: If they don't have access, you have to assume that they are going to try to get access to it. So -- and that would be very serious.
(END VIDEO TAPE)
STARR: So where are we?
Russian troops on the border with Ukraine at a heightened state of readiness. Other troops deep back inside Russia, also on a heightened state readiness. An awful lot would be ready to go, Wolf, if Vladimir Putin ordered them in -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Barbara Starr at the Pentagon.
Thanks very much.
Coming up next, a CNN exclusive -- we're on the front lines as masked gunmen block -- yes, block international monitors from entering Crimea. And I'll speak live with the U.S. ambassador to the organization that oversees these observers. I'll ask him what he plans to do about all of this.
Plus, extraordinary new video coming in, new reporting, as well, from the front lines of this crisis. I'll speak live with the vice reporter, capturing it all firsthand.
BLITZER: For the second straight day, unarmed military observers from an international security organization are being blocked from entering Crimea.
Our CNN senior international correspondent, Matthew Chance, on the ground with exclusive video of what's happening at the checkpoint.
Matthew is joining us now with details.
What's going on -- Matthew?
MATTHEW CHANCE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, thanks very much.
Well, those monitors from the OSCE the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, they were turned back, essentially, today. We were with them exclusively, traveling from the mainland Ukraine across the land bridge into the Crimean Peninsula.
They'd been knocked back on Thursday a couple of times, talking about some quite aggressive responses from the masked gunmen who had met them there. They were more hopeful today. They said they were more determined. They were going to go in and see if they could, you know, realize their mandates and report on the security situation inside Crimea.
Take a listen -- take a look at our journey.
CHANCE (voice-over): On the road to the center of the Ukrainian crisis, as international monitors sent to report on the military buildup here try to make their way to Crimea.
We gained exclusive access to their convoy as it crossed from the mainland.
(on camera): All right. Well, we're following these coaches here, which are carrying the 43 members of the unarmed OSCE military mission toward Crimea. The last time they tried to get into the peninsula, they had a very hostile reception. One of the military officers on board there told me that the guards, the pro-Russian guards at the checkpoint they tried to cross, clicked their safety catches off. And so it was a very dangerous situation they were in.
Earlier, when we were speaking to them as they got on to these buses, they told us that they've had a meeting and that they've decided they do have the right to access Crimea. And so, today, they say they're going to be much more assertive about getting in.
(voice-over) That these unarmed military officers can only push so far, especially when confronted with the masked pro-Russian gunmen manning the road blocks. The negotiations were short, access denied.
Legally, are they allowed to prevent you from going in?
LT. COL. GABOR ACS, HUNGARIAN DELEGATE, OSCE: Legally, it's quite interesting question. They have the right to go there, but as you could see, (INAUDIBLE).
CHANCE: It was at the invitation of Ukraine's interim government that the OSCE, a key European security organization arrived. At least 18 member states, including the U.S. sent military observers meant to monitor the crisis and help deescalate it, not make it worse.
(on-camera) Well, this is a standoff we've been witnessing between members of the OSCE here and the pro-Russian security forces there for the blocking through this stretch of land towards the Crimean peninsula. The OSCE, the commander here saying that we've come here to check on the situation inside Crimea. And the man there wearing the mask (ph) has just told them that he's been ordered by the Crimean government not to let anybody in.
You see, this is the reaction of the Ukrainian crowd chanting now nationalistic slogans because they're angry at what's happened.
CHANCE (voice-over): Angry and frustrated, but for those who now control Crimea, an international presence is not welcome.
CHANCE (on-camera): Well, authorities here in Crimea say they will consider international observers for the referendum that's being staged here on autonomy next weekend, but only if those international observers are from Russia, Wolf.
BLITZER: Matthew Chance with that exclusive report. Thank you very, very much.
Joining us now is the United States Ambassador to the group of these international observers you just saw trying to get into Crimea. Ambassador Daniel Baer is joining us. He's the U.S. representative to the organization for security and cooperation in Europe.
Ambassador, the Russians say that this group, this group of observers lack what they call official invitations to come into Crimea. What do you say to that?
DANIEL BAER, U.S. AMB TO ORGANIZATION FOR SECURITY AND COOPERATION IN EUROPE: That's just not the case, Wolf. All 57 participating states in the OSCE are signatories of the Vienna document, which is the document under which Ukraine requested this visit, including Russia. And Ukraine -- Crimea's part of Ukraine and there's absolutely the right for Ukraine to request under this document military observation, mission to dispel concerns about tensions or security situation on the ground, which are concerns, by the way, that have been raised by the Russian federation themselves.
BLITZER: And this argument that the local Crimea government, which Crimea, of course, is part of the sovereign state of Ukraine, but this local government in Crimea doesn't want these observers to come in. What's the reaction? What's the -- what do you say to that?
BAER: Well, the so-called government in Crimea right now is effectively a puppet government. The guy who is leading it got four percent of the vote in the last election there. So, you know, that government does not have authority to decide where the sovereign territory of Ukraine starts and ends.
And it is the central government in Kiev that has the authority to invite on a voluntary basis these observers. And 21 countries and 43 people have taken up that invitation, and we would expect the Russian government as well as all others who are signatories to be on a document to support full access for them.
BLITZER: So, what can you effectively do now if these observers are repeatedly blocked from entering Crimea? What's the answer?
BAER: Well, obviously, it is a military observer team, but it's an unarmed. And this is not a military action. These observers are a neutral party meant to assess the situation on the ground. My understanding is they are now bedding down for the night. They will meet again as a team and decide how to proceed. But you know, this is really part of a broader picture, which is that as the president and the secretary of state have made clear, we will continue to explore avenues for delivering consequences for Russia's illegal actions.
At the same time, there's an off ramp here. And the off ramp is for Russia to have their military forces go back to their bases. The paramilitaries that they've hired and sent in go back to Russia, and for monitors to come in and address the concerns on the ground.
BLITZER: You wrote this, and I'll put it up on the screen, ambassador. You wrote referring to the Russian federation, "We don't have to agree, but we should talk about hard truths. This should not be a forum where we disrespect each other by peddling a big lie." So, you're accusing the Russians of a big lie. What is the big lie they're peddling?
BAER: The big lie they're peddling is that there is some enormously terrible situation on the ground, particularly, for ethnic Russians, particularly in the Crimean region of Ukraine. The high commissioner for national minorities of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe was on the ground this past week. She saw no evidence of that.
The only reports of the various things that the Russian federation is using to justify its illegal action come from the Russian federation's own organs or press organs controlled by the Russian federation. There are no independent reports that corroborate any of the concerns that they have raised. Now, if those concerns are, nonetheless, real, they should be quite willing to invite and welcome and help support the access of the international community to monitor the situation on the ground.
Russia has been peddling a big lie in order to justify what is an illegal action that doesn't contribute to security in the region and undermines the faith of the international community in the Russian federation's ability to be a real international partner.
BLITZER: Strong words for Ambassador Donald Baer. He's the U.S. representative to the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe. Ambassador, good luck over there. Thanks very much. We'll stay in touch.
Coming up, the Ukrainian crisis exposing an emerging divide inside the GOP. We're going to tell you what it could be for 2016.
Also, I'll speak live with the vice reporter bringing us extraordinary new video, firsthand accounts from those directly affected by this conflict. Stay with us. You're in the SITUATION ROOM.
BLITZER: The crisis in Crimea is revealing fault lines beyond Ukraine, even here in Washington. At the annual conservative conference known as CPAC, Republican leaders argued for conflicting views on foreign policy with many of the party's 2016 hopefuls fighting to push the party in rather different directions. Our chief Congressional correspondent, Dana Bash, reports.
DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): He drew the biggest, most enthusiastic crowd at this important gathering of conservatives, and Rand Paul had a message far different from other speakers, especially those who may want to be president.
SEN. RAND PAUL, (R) KENTUCKY: As our voices rise in protest, the NSA monitors your every phone call. If you have a cell phone, you are under surveillance. I believe what you do on your cell phone is none of their damn business.
(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)
BASH: Paul sued President Obama over NSA spying, and he's hoping these wildly applauding activists represent a niche for him in the GOP first carved out by his father, Ron Paul. Civil liberties trump national security.
PAUL: We will not trade our liberty for security, not now, not ever.
BASH: A contrast with another potential 2016 presidential candidate who staked out hawkish territory.
SEN. MARCO RUBIO, (R) FLORIDA: We cannot ignore the global importance of this nation.
BASH: Marco Rubio pushed back on isolationist Republicans, painting a dangerous picture of Russia, Iran, and China in a world without an aggressive United States foreign policy.
RUBIO: There is only one nation on earth capable of rallying and bringing together the free people on this planet to stand up to the spread of totalitarianism. There is only one nation on earth that can do that, and that is ours.
BASH: Other Republicans with an eye on the White House slammed the president as weak (ph) on the world stage.
MIKE HUCKABEE, (R) FORMER ARKANSAS GOVERNOR: I know that the only time that Vladimir Putin shivers is when he has his shirt off in a cold Russian winter.
BASH: Mike Huckabee also went after a potential 2016 White House rival, Hillary Clinton, on a big issue for the GOP base, the deadly attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi.
HUCKABEE: With all due respect to Hillary Clinton, it does make a difference. Why they died and who did it?
(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)
BASH (on-camera): Obviously, that is a rallying cry for the conservative.
HUCKABEE: That is a rallying cry for every American whose concern about my four Americans were murdered, and we didn't send anybody in there to at least attempt to rescue them.
BASH: So, you really think that's going to be a potential Achilles heel for her on a national level and a general election? Not just among --
HUCKABEE: God help us if it isn't.
BASH: And despite the very real split in the GOP on foreign policy between those who want to be more aggressive on the world state and those who don't, that battle of ideas does not usually dominate a GOP primary race for president, it's usually decided much more on social and economic issues on the home --
BLITZER: Dana, standby for a moment because Gloria's with us, as well. Gloria Borger, our chief political analyst. How much of a divide, Gloria, is there on these sensitive issues within the GOP?
GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: Look, there's a huge divide on almost everything within the Republican Party right now and it was right out there at the CPAC meeting that Dana covered. I mean, the elephants are kind of trampling each other. You've got Rand Paul talking about privacy as she's reporting about. You've got Ted Cruz talking about its party that needs to stand up for its principles, insulting John McCain and Bob Dole and Mitt Romney along the way as the people who lost the presidency, implying that if they had real principles, perhaps, they might have won. Marco Rubio talking about a more muscular foreign policy as Dana was talking about.
Chris Christie talking about winning, which is what he says the party needs to do in checking every box he needed to check. Paul Ryan talking about what a great family fight they're having and how healthy it is for the Republican Party. They're all over the place right now. It is healthy. They should be. At some point, they're going to have to figure out where they are, but it's going to be a really long campaign and it's already started.
BASH: And this is also -- this is the symptom of being out of the White House for so many years, I mean, for at least -- for five years and losing two presidential races. This always happens to a party. They try to find their way. I mean, this happened with -- when Bill Clinton finally got the nomination, it took a long time. You know, you were there.
You covered it for Democrats to realize that he was the kind of politician that they wanted, somebody who was more centrist and not somebody more liberal.
BLITZER: Because -- because, Gloria, you know that if you listen to Rand Paul, he is much less interventionist oriented than some of the -- like John McCain or Lindsey Graham.
BLITZER: Or Marco Rubio for that matter.
BORGER: Right. Well --
BLITZER: You know, he doesn't necessarily see the United States getting involved in all these international --
BORGER: No. No, and you heard Marco Rubio. I think he's kind of McCain lite, wouldn't you say? Not quite as muscular as John McCain. But trying to carve out this place for himself in the Republican Party, has gotten a lot of trouble on immigration reform, as you know. So he's trying to find his own terra firma.
BASH: And in his -- and in his generation of Republicans, he being the same generation as Ted Cruz and Rand Paul, he does stand out as someone who's similar to the -- to the older guys, to McCain and those people.
BLITZER: All right. All right. Guys, we'll see what happens within the GOP. There are differences in the -- with the Democrats as well, but we'll discuss that later.
BORGER: But they have a president, actually.
BLITZER: Yes. But there's still differences within the Democratic Party on these sensitive issues.
Up next, a woman's desperate pleas to help her husband denied by local militias. We're in Crimea with VICE News.
Plus, this man met Ronald Reagan on his 1998 visit to Moscow. And who he is and what his role is right now in the Ukrainian crisis is fascinating. We're going to tell you what we've learned.
And after one anchor's dramatic resignation, we're also taking a closer look at RT, that's the news network some call Putin's propaganda machine.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
LIZ WAHL FORMER RUSSIA TODAY AMERICA ANCHOR: I'm proud to be an American and believe in disseminating the truth. And that is why after this newscast, I'm resigning.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: A compelling photo just resurfacing is getting new attention in the midst of this Ukraine crisis. And if you think the man seen here with President Ronald Reagan looks a lot like the Russian President Vladimir Putin, that's because it might be.
Let's bring in Brian Todd. He's got details -- Brian.
BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, these photos really captured our attention over the past few days as we've explored Vladimir Putin's rise and his actions in this crisis.
Putin was a young KGB officer at the time that photo was taken. We examined that picture along with some other recent images of Putin with an expert.
TODD (voice-over): A mysterious photo, nearly 26 years old. President Reagan touring Moscow's Red Square in the spring of 1988. But it's the blond-haired man on the left who looks like a tourist who's now drawing attention.
White House photographer Pete Souza who took this photo told NPR two years ago --
PETE SOUZA, PHOTOJOURNALIST: It's been pointed out to me and verified that that was Putin.
TODD: Vladimir Putin at that time was a KGB officer. Souza said he'd been told the people greeting Reagan were, quote, "all KGB families." But Souza now says he's not sure that was Putin, we're not sure either.
(On camera): What strikes us are the two noses. They seem different. What do you think?
PROF. KAREN BRADLEY, UNIVERSITY OF MARYLAND: They are different. So you have a longer hooked nose here, and you have a little bit of a ski slope there. You also have similar mouths, but there's slight differences. The head is longer over here than it is here. This is a short round head.
TODD (voice-over): But it's Putin's actions now that are really being scrutinized by people including image and movement analyst, Karen Bradley. Pentagon officials tell us they've done body language studies on Putin. The last one was in 2012. They say they're not studying him during this Ukraine crisis. It's part of a broader program designed to study movement patterns of important world leaders.
REAR ADMIRAL JOHN KIRBY, PENTAGON PRESS SECRETARY: To determine, you know, a better understanding of their decision-making process.
TODD: The Pentagon won't say what they've concluded about Putin's body language. We asked Bradley to do her own analysis for CNN using video of Putin observing war games this week.
BRADLEY: He's a very stressed person in this video. His mouth is working, he's looking away from the commander, he's not connecting with him at all. He's very much involved with his own thoughts and feelings right now.
TODD: The head of the Pentagon's Body Language Analysis Program says Putin's labored walk, not moving his right side may indicate he overcame a previous illness.
The Pentagon says they carefully examined body language to determine a leader's negotiating style. Bradley's take on when Putin and President Obama had this exchange last September where Putin pulls away first and Obama stops himself from patting him on the back.
BRADLEY: Putin's not giving anything away. Nothing will be given away. It will be his terms. He is determined to win.
TODD: Pentagon officials say their body language program has studied more than a dozen world leaders, and they've spent about $300,000 a year on it since 2009 -- Wolf.
BLITZER: You know that mysterious photo that you were just showing our viewers, the White House photographer Pete Souza, he recalls something that people at the time were -- were saying that the tourists were probably not really tourists after all.
TODD: That's right. Kind of what sparked his interest in this photo and why we're looking at it so closely now. He says he noticed at the time that the so-called tourists were asking Reagan questions about human rights in the United States. Souza recalled -- you know, asking a Secret Service agent why are these tourists asking these questions about human rights and the Secret Service agent said, those are all KGB families.
So it raised some suspicions as to whether, you know, maybe these people are trying to get close to Reagan, gather bits of intelligence, things like that. It's kind of strange.
BLITZER: Very strange. All right, Brian, thanks very much.
Two American news anchors working for Russia state-funded RT Television Network made some dramatic headlines of their own this week. Going on air, blasting Russia's role in this crisis. One even quitting her job.
Their bold moves are raising new questions about the network and Russia's media coverage of the event.
CNN's Tom Foreman is digging deeper.
WAHL: I'm proud to be an American and believe in disseminating the truth, and that is why after this newscast, I'm resigning.
TOM FOREMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Liz Wahl's dramatic departure has a question swirling around Russia today. Is this news or propaganda? On the Web site, plenty of headlines about Ukraine, but most lead away from Russia's involvement and others tell stories of popular uprisings against the new Ukrainian government.
The RT explanation for why their coverage is different? Other media outlets are getting the story all wrong.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It's very difficult to talk about aggression when you show thousands of people cheering for Russia in different parts of Ukraine, right? Maybe that's why you don't see this kind of footage on U.S. TV very often.
FOREMAN: Propaganda has long been used in times of conflict. This U.S. Army film from 1962 depicts Russian troops marching in support of the iron curtain of communism.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: An iron curtain dividing the free world from the slave world.
FOREMAN (on camera): And, of course, the Russians have produced plenty of propaganda over the years aimed at America. But much of that was during the Cold War. And these were governments. This is arguably something quite different.
(Voice-over): Ads for the RT channel have pummeled Western intervention in places like Libya savaged other media outlets for pushing a pro-American agenda and all along RT has proclaimed itself a neutral news source. Want evidence?
ABBY MARTIN, RT ANCHOR: What Russia did is wrong.
FOREMAN: Another RT anchor Abby Martin spoke out against Russia's move into Crimea. And she's still on the job.
MARTIN: I said, you know, if I disagree with something that Russia's doing, I will continue to speak out. And they gave me the complete editorial freedom to do whatever I want on my show.
FOREMAN: RT or as it used to be called Russia Today claims 644 million people in more than 100 countries, Wolf. And yet, right now they know also they have a lot of skeptics watching them very closely because of these latest moves.
BLITZER: Yes. I suspect you're right. All right, Tom. Thanks very much.
Just ahead, a dramatic confrontation caught on tape as a VICE reporter told by an armed man he's not allowed to record. You're going to find out how it all played out when I speak with him live, that's coming up.
And in our next hour, the Ukrainian pop star giving voice to her country's desperate plea. She's here in the United States right now. What does she want this country to do? I'll ask her live.
BLITZER: Neighbors against neighbors, friends against friends. The tensions in Crimea, they are tearing the region apart along political lines.
VICE News reporter Simon Ostrovsky is on the ground at a Ukrainian naval base surrounded by armed pro-Russian supporters. He has dramatic accounts from both sides.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
VYACHESLAV BEBNEV, SEVASTOPOL COSSACK CHIEF: (Speaking in Foreign Language) It's not just the Cossacks out here. It's the whole city, all of Crimea is rising up against the new fascist government of Ukraine. And we are keeping the peace so that no arms or force is used. We want to say good-bye to Ukraine peacefully.
SIMON OSTROVSKY, REPORTER, VICE NEWS: (Speaking in foreign language) Do you think Crimea needs to separate from Ukraine?
BEBNEV: (Speaking in foreign language) Absolutely. We're too different from Western Ukraine. It's like positive and negative in electronics.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: (Speaking in foreign language) I'm not going anywhere, my son -- my husband is in there. I want to get in.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (Speaking in foreign language) Please calm down.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: (Speaking in foreign language) I brought food for my husband. He's hungry. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (Speaking in foreign language) He's not hungry. He's not hungry. She was sent here. Get rid of that camera. This is a provocation.
OSTROVSKY: (Speaking in foreign language) Who are you trying to give this to?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: (Speaking in foreign language) My husband.
OSTROVSKY: He's serving inside?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: (Speaking in foreign language) Yes, he serves here. He's an officer. His rank is commander.
OSTROVSKY: (Speaking in foreign language) Are they not allowing you to bring food inside?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: (Speaking in foreign language) They won't let me.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: (Speaking in foreign language) That's not true. Not true. They can come out and take it, but they don't want to come out.
OSTROVSKY: (Speaking in foreign language) I saw you blocking her.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: (Speaking in foreign language) They don't want to come out. They're allowed to.
OSTROVSKY: (Speaking in foreign language) So let her through.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: (Speaking in foreign language) How can we let a civilian enter a military base?
OSTROVSKY: (Speaking in foreign language) Could you please open your bag and show me the provocation you've got?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: (Speaking in foreign language) Cookies, candies, coffee, tea. See? I've been here before, they would open the door. I'd pass it through and that was it. I didn't go inside.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (Speaking in foreign language) You and your Molotov cocktails. You're not allowed in.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: (Speaking in foreign language) I'm Russian from head to toe. I married a --
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (Speaking in foreign language) It's not big deal. You should have made a better choice.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: (Speaking in foreign language) What choice? There are (EXPLETIVE DELETED) and good people in any ethnicity.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: And Simon Ostrovsky is joining us on the phone right now. He's inside Crimea.
How tense is this situation right now in this -- I don't know if you can get a good sense of how many people you've been speaking to want Crimea to be part of Russia, how many want it to be part of Ukraine?
OSTROVSKY: Well, I've been speaking to a lot of people at protests, and obviously, they're all very pro-Russian, but I've actually been getting messages over the last couple of days from people who have been watching some of my stories to let me know that they don't want to take Russian citizenship and they're very worried about what's going to happen.
And there's a large population of Crimean Tatars here as well. It's a Muslim group that lives in Crimea and they definitely don't want to be part of Russia. They make up about 14 percent of the population. And a woman that we interviewed earlier today almost broke down in tears when she was telling us about how afraid she was of this becoming a part of Russia.
BLITZER: Looks like there's been some big shifts under way. I want to play another clip, Simon, from your reporting.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OSTROVSKY: We've noticed there have been reports and we've seen ourselves that the Russians have pulled back from a number of military bases that they have been holding under siege for the last few days. And we're thinking that that might have something to do with the fact that the OSCE are trying to get through.
(Speaking in foreign language) Why did the Russian military and Cossacks, who had been here for a few days, decide to leave?
LT. COL. VLADIMIR DOKUCHAEV, UKRAINIAN NAVY: All we have are theories. But I think they're pretty well known. It has to do with the arrival of the OSCE observers. According to the information I just got, the OSCE observers weren't allowed into Crimea.
OSTROVSKY: (Speaking in foreign language) So it's safe to assume that they Russian military will soon come back.
DOKUCHAEV: (Speaking in foreign language) Yes. There is a theory that they will come back after the OSCE observers are gone.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: So when I sense is -- and tell me if you agree -- that maybe they're removing some of these forces in advance thinking these European monitors, they are still not being allowed in but they might be allowed in, so they're sending some of these militias, some of these Russian troops back to their bases. Is that, Simon, what you sense as well?
OSTROVSKY: Well, I think -- I think, yes, this is a temporary measure because there are Russian activities at Ukrainian bases going on today. We just visited one where about a couple of hours ago a group of Russian soldiers without any insignia showed up and asked yet another base to surrender to them and they didn't, and a Russian climbed over the wall and actually rammed the front gate with their truck.
So it's a very tense situation, but then eventually the Russians got the order to leave and so they left. So they're going around spooking people and just trying to wear the Ukrainians down. In fact, we're actually following a column of Russian armored personnel carriers right now on the highway between Sevastopol and Simferopol. So they're in the area and moving around.
BLITZER: And you've had some major problems with locals in terms of your ability to film. I'm going to play yet another clip from your reporting.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OSTROVSKY: We've come to have a look at the Ukrainian naval ship which is under blockade right now. It's down there. It's called The Slavutich. And the Russian Navy isn't allowing any of the Ukrainian ships to move around the harbor but the Russian soldiers here are trying to tell us that we are not allowed to film.
(Speaking in foreign language) May I ask what country you are a citizen of?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (Speaking in foreign language) I'm local.
OSTROVSKY: (Speaking in foreign language) Where from specifically?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (Speaking in foreign language) I'm local. From Sevastopol.
(Speaking in foreign language) You are asking me to leave so I want to make sure that you have the right to do so. He is also representing the Ukrainian Ministry like you. If you're saying that you're representing Ukraine --
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: So tell me a little bit about the ability to get access to report on what's going on, Simon?
OSTROVSKY: Well, it's kind of a wild goose chase half of the time. You're just cruising around the peninsula and trying to confirm rumors that you've heard that the Russians are doing this here, that there and you get to places, you never know what the situation's going to be like because you might get somewhere and be able to get through or it might be blockaded by a big group of Cossacks and pro-Russia protesters, et cetera.
And you never know what you're going to find and it's kind of the luck of the draw. So that's kind of why we're following this convoy right now because we want to see where it's going and you'll be able to find out where it's going tomorrow if you have a look at vicenews.com.
BLITZER: We certainly do. Well, do you have a sense where it's going?
OSTROVSKY: It's -- we're not far from a town called Bakhchisaray, so we could be going there, but it could be going beyond the capital, the Crimean capital Simferopol.
BLITZER: All right.
OSTROVSKY: And there's a lot of Ukrainian bases in area.
BLITZER: Be careful over there, Simon. We'll stay in close touch with you.
Simon Ostrovsky, from VICE News. And you can see a lot more of Simon's reporting from Ukraine by going to vicenews.com. He's doing an excellent great job.
Coming up, Russians seizing a Ukrainian based foreign journalists beaten. We'll have the latest, we have more reports coming in from Crimea.
And the pop star pleading her country's case around the world. I'll talk to the voice of Ukraine, Ruslana. She's live here in THE SITUATION ROOM.