She's become the face of Ukrainian mothers, a Kyiv tour guide who now wonders if anything will be left of the city to visit. Now, she's underground, doing emotional interviews with American media with her two boys and a baby in her lap. Her husband, like all men his age, has joined the country's defense force, and she has no idea if her boys will still have a father when everything is over. People ask why she didn't leave. It's my home, she replies. "If I stay here, [my husband] will fight better, because I will inspire him to be super strong -- like he inspires me to be super strong."
On Wednesday, she seized a rare moment to take her kids home for a quick bath and stock up on things most moms take for granted: diapers, drinking water, and warm clothes. She tried to encourage the kids to play, but in a heartbreaking moment that revealed how much things had changed in her country, they wanted to leave. "They were afraid to stay at home. They were asking all the time, 'Are bombs flying?'" It's a terror the adults like Olena understand. "There is the feeling, the constant fear, like it is somewhere in my stomach... somewhere in my heart."
In other cities across Ukraine, there is no going home. Bombs have ravaged apartment buildings in Kharkiv and Mariupol, where the fighting is most intense. Mariupol's mayor sent out desperate messages in the night, warning that the Russians had taken out their electricity, water, and heat. "They have damaged the railways... and smashed trains so that we can't evacuate women, children, and the elderly," he posted in a panic. "We are being destroyed as a nation."
They've stopped food supplies, "blocking us like in former Leningrad [in the Second World War]." And according to the French talks with Vladimir Putin, the worst is yet to come.
Meanwhile, as a million refugees flee for safety, tens of thousands of Ukrainians are streaming in. As many as 80,000 citizens have raced home to protect their country. One of the most famous, Ukrainian tennis star Sergiy Stakhovsky, said it was "not an easy decision" with three children but told CNN, "I was born here, my grandparents are buried here. And I would like to have a history to tell my kids. If I would stay home and Ukraine would fail, then there would be no Ukraine -- not even in the history books."
While Russia ramps up its attacks, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky insists they are capturing more enemy troops. "All the captives say only one thing: they do not know why they are here...These are not warriors of the superpower. These are confused children who were used." Many Russians, CNN points out, don't even know what's truly happening in Ukraine. "State-controlled television shows almost no reports of Russian bombing and shelling in Kyiv..." Back in Moscow, the government threatens protestors to stay home. So far, they have refused, as thousands of Russians pour into the streets carrying "Nyet Voine!" ("No to War!") signs. "We didn't choose this," one after another tells foreign reporters, as more punishments are carried out against the country's athletes, travelers, and consumers.
Across the Atlantic, U.S. leaders push to do more. Democrats, as usual, had different priorities. "I think it's interesting, right, that the first thing we did when we got back from recess in the Senate is a vote on an abortion on demand bill [that] basically would wipe out by federal law any restrictions of any kind on abortion..." Senator Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) said on "Washington Watch." "So I just think it tells you how messed up these people's priorities are."
When the president's party did decide to hunker down and get things done in Ukraine, the two parties have worked as one. "I will say we could do more," Rubio insisted. "I do wish [for] something that [Joe] Biden just won't do because the Left-wing of his party won't allow him to do it -- and maybe he doesn't want to do it either -- and that is increased American oil and gas production." Four years ago, he pointed out, America exported more oil than it imported. "He needs to reverse that. He won't do it, obviously, because of the Green New Deal fanatics, but that's something we could do."
At least for now, Rubio agrees, Putin is feeling the pain. "I think he calculated this invasion would move quicker -- [that] Zelensky and the government would just abandon post and take off... I think he thought he'd be greeted as a liberator in many places. And I think he expected there would be sanctions, but I don't think he thought there would be as widespread as they've now become, which includes everything from being cut off for the international banking system all the way to the inability to fly anywhere... Their economy is in freefall. I think a week from now, you're going to have a very serious crisis in the Russian economy, and I don't think he anticipated that or the resistance he's met and how badly his forces have performed in the face of it."
Like FRC's Lt. General (Ret.) Jerry Boykin, who said earlier on "Washington Watch" that this has "every earmark of the beginning of a global war," Rubio thinks Putin is capable of doing just about anything at this point. "[He] has some clear military objectives, and he's going to [be] willing to kill civilians and commit war crimes to achieve them." We're looking at a "medieval-type siege" on cities, he said, "which means you basically starve people into submission. And the world has to start thinking about what options do we have to break it?" Is a humanitarian corridor? Unmanned vehicles and airdrops? Whatever it is, "we just can't sit by and watch that happen."
A half a world away in China, Rubio warns that another regime is watching "very closely" to see what happens. "Russia and China are making the same argument -- and that is that they are great powers [who] have a right to create vassal states, tributary states, in their spheres of influence..." In some ways, he thinks the Chinese have probably been shocked by the amount of global response to what's happened. "But I also think they feel comfortable [about] their economy. You know, Russia's economy is... the same as some of our states. I mean, it's a two trillion dollar economy... China is a much bigger economy... And I think they feel like that economic power insulates them from some of the things that are happening to Russia right now."
In Taiwan, newspaper headlines wonder anxiously, "Ukraine today, Taiwan tomorrow?" Some of the answers will lie here. It's time for the president to project the strength the world has been waiting for from the United States. "China is making an assessment right now [about invading Taiwan]," Rep. Scott Perry (R-Pa.) cautions. "And I think there is still time for the Biden administration to show... some resolve."