Biden bans Russian oil in the U.S. as evacuations continue in Ukraine

President Biden on Tuesday announced a U.S. ban on all imports of Russian oil, as U.S. intelligence officials say they believe Russia underestimated Ukraine's potential for resistance. Meanwhile, intense fighting continues across the country, while more than 2 million Ukrainians have now fled for safety, including 1 million children. Nick Schifrin reports from Ukraine.

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  • Judy Woodruff:

    President Biden today announced a U.S. ban on all imports of Russian oil, a move followed quickly by the United Kingdom. The president said it would ratchet up the pressure on Russia's economy, which has come under withering pressure from sanctions and other moves by the U.S., European Union, and other nations.

  • President Joe Biden:

    We're banning all imports of Russian oil and gas and energy. That means Russian oil will no longer be acceptable at U.S. ports, and the American people will deal another powerful blow to Putin's war machine.

    This is a move that has strong bipartisan support in Congress and, I believe, in the country.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    The torrent of companies leaving Russia continued today too. American icons Coca-Cola, Pepsico, Starbucks, McDonald's said they would suspend operations in Russia. McDonald's has more than 800 locations and employs tens of thousands of Russians.

    Meantime, leaders of U.S. intelligence agencies said today they believe President Putin underestimated the strength of Ukraine's resistance before launching the invasion nearly two weeks ago. They spoke during a congressional hearing on global threats to U.S. security.

    But Director of National Intelligence Avril Haines added that, despite Russian setbacks, Putin may intensify his assault.

    Avril Hanes, U.S. Director of National Intelligence Nominee: Our analysts assess that Putin is unlikely to be deterred by such setbacks, and instead may escalate, essentially doubling down to achieve Ukrainian disarmament and neutrality, to prevent it from further integrating with the U.S. and NATO, if it doesn't reach some diplomatic negotiation.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Meantime, the war in Ukraine continues at a brutal pace.

    The United Nations' human rights agency said today that it has recorded 474 civilian deaths in the conflict, including 29 children. They believe the real toll is much higher. And the Pentagon today said that it believes somewhere between 2,000 and 4,000 Russian troops have been killed in the fighting, though they gave that estimate little confidence.

    The Ukrainians claim they have killed 11,000 Russians. And now more than two million Ukrainians have fled their nation, including one million children, most heading west toward the rest of Europe.

    It is on part of that March where we find Nick Schifrin tonight in Western Ukraine.

  • Nick Schifrin:

    Today, finally, a rescue for families who've been living in fear, for hundreds of trapped foreign students, for residents of this northeast city besieged by Russian shelling.

    This is what they fled, the destruction of their homes, the fear of losing their lives in a Russian onslaught that clearly targeted civilians. The buses also headed to another corridor in the southeastern city Mariupol.

    But, today, for the fourth straight day, there was no promised rescue, nor Russian restraint. Residents have had no essentials for nearly a week. All they have is despair.

    Ludmila Amelkina, Resident of Mariupol (through translator): We don't have electricity. We don't have anything to eat. We don't have medicine. We have got nothing.

  • Nick Schifrin:

    The bombardment drives them underground, babies barely older than the war, parents so traumatized, they can't offer comfort.

    Gomma Janna, Resident of Mariupol (through translator): Why shouldn't I cry? I want my home. I want my job. I'm so sad about people, about the city, the children.

  • Nick Schifrin:

    In Kharkiv, near the Russian border, a Russian bomb reduced a hospital to rubble. The World Health Organization said today at least 16 health facilities have been attacked in 12 days of war.

    But, in a nearby hospital, a small miracle. A child named Vova survived, despite a piece of shrapnel in his skull. After surgery, when the doctor woke him up, Vova whispered: "I am fine."

    But there was no relief outside Kyiv in the suburb of Irpin. Residents who've been shelled for days braved Russian threats to cross under a destroyed bridge. A senior U.S. defense official today warned, Russia is still advancing on the capital from the north, west, and northeast.

    Some of those fleeing Irpin have lost homes for the second time in less than two weeks.

  • Anthony, Evacuee (through translator):

    We have got nothing. We had to run away. At our house, the temperature was 10 degrees, and it was decreasing. That's why we are fleeing again.

  • Nick Schifrin:

    The flight to safety often as harrowing as the violence they escape. We met this family when they reached a safe space, a shelter near the Polish border.

    Six-year-old Nikita insisted on staying in his grandmother Olha's arms.

    Can you tell me what it was like to make the decision to leave and how difficult it was to leave?

  • Olha, Evacuee (through translator):

    People got out of the bomb shelters, all dirty in dust, and they got on the train. The people who got on the train, they were crying. And then the train station was being shelled, so we all had to wait.

  • Nick Schifrin:

    To get to safety, they traveled through the Kharkiv train station, overwhelmed with people desperate to leave. They'd fled an area with constant explosions in the eastern district of Donetsk.

  • Olha (through translator):

    We were very close, and the kids were very scared. We were sitting in the bomb shelter all the time. The air raid alarm went off all the time.

    Both the kids would run into the bathroom, cover themselves with a blanket and stay there the whole night. Our kids were prepared for that. They weren't too scared. Right now, when we call back home, there's no food in the grocery stores. People don't have money, and, if they do, there's nothing to spend it on. Nothing.

  • Nikita, 6-year-old Evacuee (through translator):

    The economy is a bit broken.


  • Nick Schifrin:

    What's also broken? Russian military equipment. Ukraine said today it shot down three Russian fighter jets and a cruise missile.

    But, in Moscow, President Putin raised pensions, a sign he may be worried about popular opinion, and claimed, falsely, all Russian troops in Ukraine were — quote — "professional."

  • Vladimir Putin, Russian President (through translator):

    I'd like to emphasize that conscript soldiers do not and will not participate in the military operation, and there will be no additional callout of reserves.

  • Nick Schifrin:

    This war's far less formal commander in chief, despite death threats, showed off his office for the first time.

  • Volodymyr Zelenskyy, Ukrainian President (through translator):

    I stay here in Kyiv. I don't hide, and I'm not afraid of anyone. I will stay here as long as it's necessary to win in our patriotic war.

  • Nick Schifrin:

    To win that war, Ukraine is lining up civilians, and trying to turn them into warriors, young men who feel at ease, older men willing to fight alongside their own children.

    They're called the territorial defense, volunteers who've mostly never served or held a gun, learning urban warfare, as long as it takes. They take an oath to the military and country. They're just one unit of 100,000 across the country, Ukraine's newest weekday warriors, hardened not by battle, but by necessity.

    What were you doing two weeks ago?

  • Eugene Lata, Odessa Volunteer:

    I'm an I.T. specialist. I'm chief marketing officer for a huge I.T. Company.

  • Nick Schifrin:

    Thirty–year-old Eugene Lata is one of this unit's medics. Unlike most volunteers, he's seen combat. In 2014, he filmed and witnessed some of the worst fighting in Eastern Ukraine. Now he prepares for more battle.

  • Eugene Lata:

    I believe the war will come to Odessa, because I don't believe that Putin will stop. He will not stop.

    We're just waiting. We're just waiting when the war will start in Odessa.

  • Nick Schifrin:

    His job is to modernize the unit's medicine and outdated first aid kits.

  • Eugene Lata:

    1978, you know? But it's still OK. It's working.

  • Nick Schifrin:

    So this is older than you?

  • Eugene Lata:

    Yes, it's older than my mother.


  • Nick Schifrin:

    Nearby, perhaps the youngest volunteer.

    Valeria Ruslanova is in charge of the uniforms, and is 19.

  • Valeria Ruslanova, Odessa Volunteer (through translator):

    I am from Crimea. I came in 2018. I know what Russia is and what Putin is, and I don't wish any of that on Ukraine.

  • Nick Schifrin:

    In 2014, Russian soldiers invaded Crimea. Moscow annexed the peninsula and persecuted or even killed anyone not deemed sufficiently pro-Russian.

  • Valeria Ruslanova (through translator):

    These are young guys who were not afraid to say something. And then their bodies were found in the forest.

    They made us relinquish our Ukrainian passports and accept Russian citizenship. After, life in Crimea changed significantly. Crimea was destroyed. Most of the young people realized we did not have a future in Crimea.

  • Nick Schifrin:

    Before the war, she says she hung out with her friends and was a barista, but her dreams of becoming a teacher now deferred.

    Valeria Ruslanova (through translator)

  • Nick Schifrin:

    Do you have faith that you, the army, the government, will be able to protect Odessa and protect the country?

    Valeria Ruslanova (through translator)

  • Nick Schifrin:

    Lata was born the same year an independent Ukraine was born, 1991. He is tied by birth to his country's fate.

  • Eugene Lata:

    Right now, everyone involved in every single city, in every single town of our country, everyone involved in this war, and people know and people understands that if we — if we lose, then we don't have a country, then we don't have a nationality.

    And that's why we are fighting here not for Odessa, not for the Kyiv or Kharkiv. We are fighting for the whole Ukraine, and we are fighting for the independent country.

  • Nick Schifrin:

    Today, President Volodymyr Zelenskyy addressed British Parliament and borrowed both from Churchill and Shakespeare. He compared the fight against Russia to Britain's fight against Germany in World War II, and vowed — quote — "We would fight Russia at sea, in the air. We will fight in the forests, in the fields and on the streets."

    And he acknowledged that the threat posed by Russia to Kyiv was existential. And he asked: "The question for us is to be or not to be."

    Judy, the answer was to be.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    And you could see that in the answers of the Ukrainians you spoke with.

    Nick, a question. How meaningful is it seen the corridor, at humanitarian corridor that — as it existed today?

  • Nick Schifrin:

    Some 5,000 people were able to escape Sumy, both residents and also many trapped students.

    And some humanitarian aid was allowed to get into Sumy. But Zelenskyy said today that that represented 1 percent of what needs to be done. There are more than 1,000 villages and cities across Ukraine that don't have any power, don't have any electricity, don't have any basic services. Hundreds of thousands are without power and without access just to some of the basics of life.

    And to give you a sense of how bad things have gotten in Mariupol, Judy, that we featured earlier, city authorities today said that they were about to start digging the mass graves.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    It's hard to hear this.

    Nick, and we know the U.S. was warning today about what's to come?

  • Nick Schifrin:

    Yes, as we heard at the top of the segment, we heard from Avril Haines, the director of national intelligence today, say that Putin would be undeterred by some of the setbacks.

    And Bill Burns, the director of the CIA, went even further. He said that Putin was angry and frustrated, and he's likely to double down with no regard for civilian casualties. And that, of course, is what we're already seeing, that huge convoy outside of Kyiv bogged down, haven't moved — hasn't moved in four or five days, and we have seen indiscriminate shelling across the country already.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Nick Schifrin reporting tonight from Western Ukraine.

    Thank you, Nick.

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