tv NBC Nightly News With Lester Holt NBC March 3, 2022 2:06am-2:41am PST
that 40-mile russian convoy the pentagon says is stalled outside kyiv why the u.s. is ruling out a no-fly zone and putin's nuclear threat has the u.s. seen any actions to back them up the white house's new plan to move the u.s. beyond covid. the new test and treat strategy how it will work the jetblue pilot pulled off a flight, allegedly drunk, and about to fly fitbit recalling nearly 2 million of its popular smart watches. the potential danger if you own one. and the ukrainian crisis sending gas prices soaring how high could they go >> announcer: this is "nbc nightly news" with lester holt good evening, everyone the whole world is watching tonight as russia, in plain sight, targets city after city its forces appearing to double down, closing in on kyiv the menacing convoy of russian armor stalled but still pointing toward the capital
claims and counterclaims about how many russian troops have been killed russia says it's close to 500 soldiers. ukraine believes enemy deaths are far higher. the truth likely buried under the fog and rubble of war. a day after president biden in his state of the union address declared vladimir putin is now isolated from the world more than ever, the russian leader showing no signs that he cares. the flow of new war refugees estimated to have reached 870,000 in a moment, the view from the pentagon. my exclusive interview with defense secretary austin but first, to our team in the field richard engel is in kyiv tonight >> reporter: russia's offensive tonight is growing more indiscriminate and destructive, raining down on ukrainian towns and cities this is the aftermath of a missile attack on the police headquarters in kharkiv, a besieged
eastern city about the size of philadelphia the city is surrounded the mayor says there's been massive destruction. the u.n. says nearly 230 ukrainian civilians have been killed so far. the number could be much higher. just outside the capital, russia attacked a residential neighborhood rescuers scrambled to search for survivors yesterday, russia attacked kyiv's television tower it's right next to the city's historic babyn yar holocaust memorial russia claims its goal now is to overthrow ukraine's government, calling it a new nazi regime ukraine's jewish president zelenskyy accused russia of distorting history and called on jews around the world to come to the nation's defense zelenskyy tweeting, what is the point of saying never again if the world stays silent when a bomb drops on the same site of babyn yar? tonight, a senior u.s.
defense official says while russia has increased missile and artillery attacks on the capital, a convoy heading toward the city is still stalled but that russian forces advancing from the south are making progress the kremlin insists tough sanctions imposed by president biden and the west isolating its banks and oligarchs, though allowing russia to keep selling its oil and gas, will not deter russia's so-called special military action. but every day, more brave ukrainians, many without weapons, are standing up to russian occupiers. this crowd confronting russian troops in berdyansk. and south of kyiv, stopping a convoy of russian vehicles a russian soldier showing restraint fires into the air he seems not to know how to respond russian troops were told they'd be greeted as liberators, freeing ukraine from a hated radical government. seeing now
both ukraine and russia have agreed to a second attempt at peace talks, but here in kyiv they're not optimistic about a cease-fire the mayor telling residents to stock up and be ready lester? >> all right richard engel, thank you. as russia's assault intensifies, the desperate exodus from ukraine grows tonight, the u.n. refugee agency says almost 900,000 people have fled the country. many more are trying to get out tom llamas is in western ukraine for us. >> reporter: tonight, that long journey out of ukraine becoming torturous. refugees standing, waiting, telling us the russians have left them shell-shocked. >> my whole city is just dust. >> reporter: katarina told our cal perry how she fled kharkiv, that bombs killed her loved ones, so she boarded a train that turned into a trip through hell. >> it was like giving your soul to god every second because our train stopped in the middle of kyiv, and
they were, you know -- they were shooting. and we heard bombs flying all over and flames and i thought this particular moment, i can die. >> reporter: refugees are still sweeping from the east where the fighting is intensifying to the west where there's a battle to get out. refugee camps are popping up across the border in poland, moldova, and romania many leaving everything behind. >> my husband, my home, my dog, my cats, my life. >> reporter: the u.n. estimates up to 4 million ukrainians will leave help is arriving this baptist seminary in lviv in western ukraine is now housing dozens of families most of their donations have come from the u.s. >> i slept, but you hear some knocking, some knocks, some booms, some cars whose engine is working and, you wake u because you don't know what's going >> reporter: tanya is grateful to be in a shelter with her partner and their
children, but she says ukraine needs so much more. >> what do you want from america what do you want from president joe biden? >> now we want you to close our sky. not let him bomb because today they have bombed my city, destroyed many houses. they didn't launch rockets. they dropped bombs destroyed many, many houses. >> the sadness is just profound tom joining us tom, we're learning about special protections the eu is proposing for those fleeing ukraine. what can you tell us >> reporter: yeah, lester this is a major development that is breaking tonight the eu is looking to grant special protection status to ukrainian refugees for up to three years. during that time, they would not have to worry about being deported they could also get worker permits and also social welfare. lester >> thank you, tom. the u.s. continues to walk a fine line tonight, arming but not fighting for ukraine.
but the pentagon is watching tonight, in an nbc news exclusive, i speak to secretary of defense lloyd austin about the stakes and the realities on the ground we've been watching this convoy that's got the world's attention. it was reported it was stalled. should we read too much into that is it still a potent fighting machine >> there's a lot of combat power that the russians still have available to them. so they have a number of options going forward. you know, one of those choose to de-escalate. and he can choose to pursue a diplomatic solution, and we hope that he does that. >> i think the world has been stunned some part of the world has been inspired but by what we've seen from ukrainian troops
and civilians who have answered the call. but is it time, is it necessary to do a reality check on what they're facing, the size of the russian force? >> we are all inspired by what we see from not just the ukrainian forces but the ukrainian people it's hard to predict which way things are going to go. i'm sure that russians would have never predicted that they would be in a place that they are in at this point, our focus is to make sure that we do everything possible to provide as much support to the ukrainians so that they can defend themselves >> what do you make of these reports of russian troops simply walking away, surrendering can you confirm them are you aware of them? >> we don't have aircraft in the air over ukraine we also don't have any boots on the ground. so it's very difficult to confirm things.
but what i will tell you is that a professional military always takes seriously the issue of recovering its fallen. this is a very important thing not only for morale, but it's just the way that business is conducted. >> and we've seen pictures and video of russian soldiers, the bodies of russian soldiers that apparently have been left as a general, as a soldier, does that shock you? >> i think that's -- that's beyond disappointing. if that is the case, it's disgusting from my standpoint. you know, i think leaders owe it to their troops to take care of them, and if something happens to them, to recover their remains. >> ukrainians and others have called for this idea of a no-fly zone to be patrolled by the u.s. to keep the russian airplanes out of the sky is that a non-starter for you? >> president biden has been clear, lester, that, you know, u.s. troops won't -- won't fight russia in ukraine. and if you establish a no-fly zone, certainly in order to enforce that no-fly zone,
you'll have to engage russian aircraft and again, that would put us at war with russia. >> we heard vladimir putin's words about nuclear weapons. have you seen any actions to back up those words, anything that suggests a new posture toward the west >> any rhetoric about the employment of nuclear weapons is dangerous, and i think we should -- we should avoid that if at all possible i think it creates a climate or it creates the conditions for gross miscalculations, and we certainly don't want to see that happen i am very comfortable with our -- with our posture, and i am confident that we can -- we can defend not only ourselves but our allies and our partners. >> mr. secretary, you and i are both children of the cold war. does it feel back to the future for you now to see this conflict >> we certainly didn't
envision being here in 2022, you know, in europe and we don't have to be here. we didn't have to be here this is a choice by one man. but again, i think it speaks to the relevance of the nato alliance i got to tell you it's impressive to see the way that countries have come together for a common cause here. >> defense secretary austin, part of our conversation at the pentagon earlier today. concern about ukraine and economic worries, the major themes of president biden's state of the union speech today the president took his message on the road here's kristen welker. >> reporter: president biden taking hise can't be a manufacturing center while delivering his first state of the union ess where he touted the unified, global response against russia. >> he has no idea what's coming. >> reporter: the
chamber filled with yellow and blue with the ukrainian ambassador looking on as the president condemned putin. >> he met with a wall of strength he never anticipated or imagined he met the ukrainian people. >> reporter: but while there was unity on russia, the president's domestic message was met with deep division. in the face of record-high inflation and his own sagging poll numbers, the president cited a painful reality for families >> with all the bright spots in our economy, inflation is robbing them of gains they thought otherwise they would be able to feel. >> reporter: and he called on congress to pass elements of his long-stalled spending plan, a strategy republicans blasted. >> the president tried yet again to revive his zombie spending plans, which a bipartisan majority of senators have already killed and buried because they would make inflation even worse. >> reporter: throughout his speech, mr. biden was repeatedly heckled by a pair of far-right republicans, marjorie taylor greene and lauren boebert, with some in their own
party criticizing their actions. >> whether you agree or disagree with the president, i believe during the state of the union, we should all show respect to the president. >> reporter: as for ukraine, tonight nbc news has learned the u.s. has delivered hundreds of stinger missiles this week to ukraine, weapons that are capable of taking out russian aircraft lester >> kristen, thank you. in his speech, the president noted the shifting approach to the pandemic saying we're in a much better place and announcing a new plan to deal with covid. with more on that, here's miguel almaguer >> reporter: transitioning from pandemic to endemic, today the white house covid task force briefing in person for the first time in more than a year, said americans must learn to live with the virus, laying out a new plan to move forward. >> we are clearly going in the right direction. >> reporter: unveiling a 96-page document with 4 main goals, the white house will
still focus on vaccines it's also investing in genomic sequencing as it braces for new variants and in an effort to prevent economic and school shutdowns, starting next week, americans can order additional free at-home testing kits, and if someone tests positive at a pharmacy or clinic, antiviral medications could be available on the spot. the initiative called "test to treat." >> so we can effectively stay ahead of this virus and protect more people. >> reporter: the new message, it's safe to begin returning to normal routines. >> it's time for america to get back to work and fill our great downtowns again with people. >> reporter: the president seems to be signaling we're entering a new normal. is that right to interpret it that way? >> i think we're in a new good place the level of transmission is way down it gives us time to pause and reflect and really construct a good roadmap for where we're heading. >> reporter: but that road may be bumpy with the country still
divided. florida's governor today with high school students. >> you do not have to wear those masks i mean, please take them off honestly it's not doing anything, and we've got to stop with this covid theater if you want to wear it, fine but this is ridiculous >> reporter: tonight a nation exhausted navigating an evolving pandemic miguel almaguer, nbc news in 60 seconds, new sanctions targeting russia's super rich oligarchs. could pressuring them be a game-changer?
the u.s. announced new sanctions today over ukraine against russia and belarus it comes as the justice department launches a new task force targeting russia's oligarchs here's keir simmons. >> reporter: don't mention private planes russia's super rich are in the crosshairs according to president biden. >> we're coming for your ill-begotten gains. >> reporter: today the justice department announcing task force "klepto capture" to enforce new sanction against russian
billionaires, though not announcing any targets by name. just last week, president putin gathering 13 oligarchs at the kremlin the message, don't stop supporting me but the loyalty of the rich is being tested like never before. when putin became president, he was determined to control russia's billionaires. now, amid his war in ukraine, some are making unprecedented public statements. oleg deripaska, worth $4 billion and once called putin's favorite industrialist, declared last week peace is very important. mikhail fridman, owner of one of russia's biggest banks, told his london investors the war was a tragedy. but none criticized putin directly and just today, another high-profile russian businessman, roman abramovich, worth an estimated $13 billion, announcing he's selling chelsea football club and is advocating for peace talks with ukraine meanwhile, president
putin himself now sanctioned his mansion and wealth exposed in a recent opposition video he's been called the richest man in europe. his yacht said to have been moved from germany last month and tonight, three western officials tell us they are seeing oligarchs try to move their assets to escape sanctions. lester >> okay. keir simmons, thanks. up next, the hazard prompting a huge recall of fitbit smart watches.
as the war in ukraine rages, it's sending gas prices soaring. the u.s. and other countries have agreed to release 60 million barrels of oil reserves to bring relief but so far it's proving to be just a drop in the bucket here's tom costello. >> reporter: bad news for anyone who uses gasoline just take a look at pump prices. >> i'm scared. i don't want to pay, like, 10 bucks a
gallon. >> reporter: the national average has jumped four cents in just one day to $3.65 a gallon, up 12 cents in a week, 25 cents in a month. california pays the most, averaging $4.86 a gallon >> over the course of the weekend, it would not be surprising that motorists can step outside, see the gas station, and prices could go up 20, 30, even 40 a gallon in some of these areas. >> reporter: here's why. russia is the world's second largest oil exporter but today its exports are under a de facto ban as shippers refuse russian oil, countries turn away russian tankers, and banks refuse to extend credit today, oil topped $112 a barrel for the first time since 2011. while u.s. oil companies under pressure to preserve profits are still pumping 10% less than before the pandemic. exxon and chevron say they plan to increase production, but it won't be quick. >> this means oil drillers now have to get the crews, the equipment, and all the support services back into the permian basin. >> reporter: airline ticket prices also likely to get more expensive with jet fuel surging 35 cents a gallon in just 2 days
experts say higher prices could last months or even years and this year alone, american families could pay an extra $600 to $700 extra just in gasoline lester >> tom costello, thank you. also this evening, a jetblue pilot removed from a plane in buffalo for allegedly being too drunk to fly officials say he blew more than four times the legal limit for pilots on a breathalyzer test. he has been removed from his duties. he could face federal charges. tonight, fitbit is recalling 1.7 million of its ionic smart watches. the consumer product safety commission says the lithium-ion batteries can overheat, posing a burn hazard. it says people should immediately stop using the watches and send them back to fitbit for a refund up next, stories of courage and resilience from inside ukraine.
finally tonight, one week ago ukraine was a peaceful place erin mclaughlin has the stories of the people just trying to go about their daily lives in the middle of a war. >> reporter: with ukraine devastated by war, across the country an all-out effort to stay alive as a missile fell on the city of kharkiv, olga hunkered down in a friend's apartment. >> i hear the shots and explosions around me and bombing, and that happens like a lot. >> reporter: earlier this week, a missile struck the house across the street, and so they boarded up every window they could. the fridge full of a week's worth of food
>> we have another storage of water in the bathroom. >> reporter: when they'd hear the bombs, they crouched in the cupboard and, when they could, practiced yoga to center themselves before more missiles fell. >> we want to be angry when we die, not scared >> reporter: in the capital, kyiv, the relentless sounds of war. >> it's kind of normal routine now in kyiv. >> reporter: ukrainians banding together, restaurants turned into food kitchens to feed their heroes trains out of kyiv, no seats available. only the space between wagons >> super cold in here, and you can't sit or anything so i probably stay here for about six hours, maybe even more. >> reporter: thousands of desperate souls trying to escape through lviv's central train station. you can hear the sirens are sounding. thousands of people. and there's mass confusion. people don't know where to go. this family packed their belongings into plastic bags and escaped the capital. are you scared
>> very scared we're in danger anyplace we're in danger. >> reporter: in a beautiful country torn apart by war, so many getting through so much however they can. erin mclaughlin, nbc news, lviv, ukraine. that's "nightly news" for this wednesday. thank you for watching, everyone i'm lester holt. please take care of yourself and each [cheers and applause] ♪ ♪ >> kelly: ♪♪ no new year's day to celebrate ♪
♪ no chocolate covered candy hearts to give away ♪ ♪ but what it is, is something true ♪ ♪ made up of these three words that i must say to you ♪ ♪ i just called to say i love you ♪ ♪ i just called to say how much i care ♪ ♪ i just called to say i love you ♪ ♪ and i mean it from the bottom of my heart ♪
♪ of my heart ♪ ♪ of my heart ♪ [cheers and applause] >> kelly: welcome to the "the kelly clarkson show"! give it up for my band, y'all! [cheers and applause] that was stevie wonder to bring extra joy to your day. matt in our audience requested it. what made you want 2 to to hear that song? >> that was amazing. i requested that song because back in high school, it was really important to me, senior year, i was going through a lot, accepting myself and coming out to friends and family. that was one other songs i turn to in the dark time to lift my spirits and i resonated with the message of saying how you feel no matter what. thank you so much. >> kelly: i love that song. it's so funny, it is such a
simple method, having someone call, not have anything to say but i love you, okay. >> at a simple but it's meaningful. >> kelly: it would turn my day around. all of my friends, are you listening? thank you so much, matt. [laughs] i love that song. ever since i can remember, y'all, i have loved to read. not ever since -- i will say when i was really little, i was like so i have to read again. my mom is a teacher. finally, i found a book that changed my life. i became such an avid reader after "matilda" by roald dahl. it is the most amazing book of all time. it made me a reader. my mom did push me to read as well. the cool thing about a book, it could make you laugh, cry, makes you think, question reality, a book can comfort you. be intriguing. just a complete and utter need of escapism, right? amen. especially from the last two years. i have read a lot. reading is the foundation of all things. it can truly transform your
life. it gives you opportunities, especially kids. today, we are honoring our love of books with a salute to reading. ♪ ♪ [cheers and applause] salute to reading. okay, so justin, thank you, justin. that is very nice. they asked me to pick my favorite book. if you love books, that is the hardest thing ever to do. so i picked a character and this is on my favorite books, i think the character that i just was drawn to as a kid. i thought it was an amazing story of triumph in overcoming so much. anyway, i relate to this character. i didn't relate specifically -- it's a hard core story. it's different. to get my just if you have read it. [laughs] not the same story. but i ask everyone in the audience today to bring their favorite books with them, so hold them up, everybody. everybody got your books? trying to see if i have read -- i have read some of these. later this hour, i'm kicking off
an issue to have all about sharing books in the audience will help me out. thank you so much. [cheers and applause] that is just a piece of this grand old reading celebration, y'all. we have an author here who is as skilled at mysteries and thrillers as he is at kids books. brad meltzer is in the house, everybody! [cheers and applause] not long ago, this is crazy, some of brad's children's books were banned until a bunch of high school students stood up to the system -- thank you, high school students. we have those young, rad humans here today. then we are going to meet a woman who got all the way through college keeping a very dark secret. she couldn't read. all the way through college and couldn't read. that is insane to me. now that she can come if she is helping other the same. it's an amazing story. we are also going to catch up with a single mom we have met before. she is going bigger than ever to help cleveland kids fall in love with books. it is really cool.
can't wait to have her back. now let's get to my first guest, y'all. has thrillers at mysteries have sold over 11 million copies. he's the author of the wildly successful "i am" series the profile strong, courageous people in history including rosa parks, gandhi, abraham lincoln, free free to call oh, and sonya soda his latest, "i am oprah winfrey," is out right now. please welcome, brad meltzer, y'all! ♪ ♪ ♪ ♪ such a fan, man. i asked everybody to bring their favorite books. i know it is very hard to pick a favorite book. what did you bring? >> brad: for me, when you don't have money, books are a passport to the world. they are this gift that leads to yourself in new ways, they open new a new possibilities. i didn't have books in my house. i had a library card. as a rhetorical library books. my first turtle library books.
i brought "tales of a fourth grade nothing" by judy blume. >> kelly: judy blume is a hit. >> brad: i almost took -- i was the one what he wanted to know how bras work. >> kelly: you know what, clever boy. >> brad: will give me the love of writing, it was the dead body, i want to know, who done it. >> kelly: you have always been like that? >> brad: i've always been obsessed with dead people. [laughter] >> kelly: that says a lot. i hear you love story telling before you even read books. >> brad: so my grandfather, this was the story, my grandfather always told me. it would go like this. batman and robin are in the batmobile. in front of them on a cliff is a white van with the joker, the penguin, the riddler, and cattlemen. and then they caught him. and i would go, tell it again. he would go batman and -- 30 words of that story. but i loved it. i left my grandfather for realizing that i need storytelling. it means so much to me. >> kelly: i do that with