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Crisis in Ukraine; Search for Flight 370; New Terrorist Video

Aired April 18, 2014 - 18:00   ET


WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Happening now: breaking news on the Flight 370 investigation. We have new information about the mysterious turn off course. Are authorities sharing everything they know?

Also ahead, CNN uncovers another chilling terrorist video. Stand by for an exclusive report on its message and the potential threat to American targets right now.

Plus, dangerous new defiance in Ukraine, as government forces try to regain control. Pro-Russian militants are rejecting an international deal and they're refusing to lay down their weapons.

And new video of frightened passengers trying to escape a sunken ferry. The ship's captain now facing charges and the search for survivors growing more desperate.

I'm Wolf Blitzer. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

We're following breaking development this hour in the Flight 370 mystery. There's been another glitch in the underwater search for the plane. And we have also learned more about the jet's flight path and the critical moments when it first veered off course and vanished. We will have a live report from the staging area for the search. CNN's Miguel Marquez is standing by. We also have our team of experts here in THE SITUATION ROOM. They're covering every new angle in the story.

Let's get the latest though from our justice correspondent Pamela Brown -- Pam.

PAMELA BROWN, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, tonight, a source tells CNN more details are shedding light on the early moments when Flight 370 went missing and which country airspace TV flying it when it start to turn around.


BROWN (voice-over): A Malaysian aviation source tells CNN Flight 370 made its dramatic Westward turn while it was in Vietnamese airspace. Vietnamese air traffic control never made contact with the plane. The aviation source tells CNN's Nic Robertson the plane continued to fly at 39,000 feet for at least 20 minutes as it crossed back over the Malaysian Peninsula before starting to descend.

That change in altitude is just one of the many mysteries investigators are trying to figure out. The new report on the beginning of the plane's journey comes as the Bluefin-21 continues to look for the flight's final resting place. Tonight, the underwater sonar vehicle is in the middle of its sixth mission. Its fifth trip to the bottom of the Indian Ocean was cut short earlier today. A problem with a navigation system had to be prepared, again slowing down the search.

FABIEN COSTEAU, OCEAN EXPLORER: It's extraordinarily difficult and then you're talking about an unchartered territory. So, it's like trying to look to see what is going on in the attic through the front door keyhole.

BROWN: More than 46 square miles have been searched near where the Ocean Shield detected pings thought to be from black boxes. None of the sonar images from the Bluefin has been released to the public.

ROB MCCALLUM, CNN ANALYST: It's going to be a game of patience now and 15 square miles a day, every day we get a little more information back and we can write off the area that was searched. We don't have to go back to that. It's done.

BROWN: Overnight, the Malaysian transport minister leading the investigation said on Twitter a special committee is now considering if more unmanned subs are needed to map the ocean floor.

Underwater searches can take a long time. It took vehicles similar to Bluefin about 78 days over the course of two years to find the wreckage of Air France 447 and that was after debris was found. With efforts focused underwater for Flight 370, the search above the ocean surface is set to wrap up soon.

AIR COMMODORE KEVIN MCEVOY, ROYAL NEW ZEALAND AIR FORCE: Really, it's not that surprising that over such a vast area in such a long period of time that no debris has been found. It's disappointing for us, absolutely.

BROWN: In Beijing, Chinese families of the missing passengers gathered for a prayer service in a hotel after Chinese police prevented them from entering a park.


BROWN: And family groups also published these documents right here pushing investigators to double-check the satellite data and explain Malaysia's initial response when the plane went missing. This is of course something they have been pushing for, for a while.

BLITZER: Pamela, I want you to stand by, because we have more from you coming up.

It's early Saturday morning right now in Australia, time for planes to take off again in search of debris for the missing plane.

CNN's Miguel Marquez is joining us live from Perth, Australia. That's the staging point.

Miguel, you actually got to fly with an air search team earlier.

MIGUEL MARQUEZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: We did, indeed. It was a Royal New Zealand Air Force team in a P-3 Orion aircraft.

The area they're searching is so unbelievably remote now, Wolf, it took us about five hours to get out to the area. It leaves meantime, about an hour and half's worth of gas in order to search the area they're tasked with and then a five-hour trip home. Those sorties are happening every single day. They're getting ready to go up in probably about an hour now for today's sorties, both the P-3s, P-8s.

They're not only searching one area in the Southern Indian Ocean, but tomorrow or three different areas using different nations, searching different patches of the ocean where they believe maybe, possibly, given the number of days this airliner they believe went down where it did, where that debris may have ended up.

Interestingly, the folks we hooked up with yesterday at the New Zealand Air Force they are the only P-3s so far to have seen something in the water and actually successfully hooked up a ship to it to actually pick it up and examine it. That turned out to be breadbasket basically that was not related to MH370.

But it gives you an idea of just how difficult it is for them to see something from the air and then direct traffic on the ocean to it -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Are you getting any indication, Miguel, how much longer they're going to continue the aerial search?

MARQUEZ: Look, there is frustration with the aerial search because it is long, long hours for these guys. They are being taxed to the very limit of their capabilities and their gears' capabilities as well, because the planes have to be serviced very often.

There was word it may be days. But these guys say, look, we're in it for the long haul, for as frustrating as it is for them. They keep in mind the families of MH370, their frustrations are even much greater and they understand the world is focused on this story. They're very competitive as well.

They want to be the ones that come up with something from Malaysia Flight 370. For the air crews, they're in it for the long haul. They're waiting to hear from their higher-ups as to how long it will last. It could be a few days. But if Angus Houston is right what he told a local newspaper here they believe they're in the right spot and they will find it on the ocean floor, that search on the ocean surface will end -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Please thank those crews for all their excellent work. Thanks very much, Miguel Marquez, in Perth, Australia.

Let's bring in our panel. Our justice correspondent Pamela Brown is still with us, along with former naval oceanographer Van Gurley, our aviation analyst Peter Goelz and our law enforcement another Tom Fuentes.

Peter, what does it say to you the plane, according to Nic Robertson -- and he spoke to a Malaysian source well-plugged in -- it went from 35,000, its normal cruising, up to 39,000 feet after it made that surprising left turn after transponders stopped working, spent about 15 minutes in Vietnamese airspace and eventually flew over the Malaysian Peninsula?

PETER GOELZ, CNN AVIATION ANALYST: I think it confirms it was under human control. Somebody was directing and flying that plane.

Now, do we know why? We don't know. But it was under human control. I think, you know, the more we get information like this and can confirm it, the better understanding we have of the flight path and what might have been happening.

BLITZER: That 39,000 feet, that is near the maximum. It could maybe go up to 41,000. But that's about it.

Pamela, how did this play into your reporting over the past few days that the co-pilot had his cell phone on and was trying to establish a signal with a cell tower?

BROWN: We know as you point out, there was some sort of -- I should actually rewind a little bit. This information has been shared with U.S. investigators, data that the co-pilot's cell phone, data from it was detected by a cell tower.

What Nic is reporting from a source does square with how that would be possible because basically this source is saying that it flew 39,000 feet for 20 minutes over the South China Sea and over part of the Malaysian Peninsula, so, and it could -- he said after that, that it went down in altitude. We don't know how much. But we have heard previously it went down from 4,000 feet about 100 miles off the West Coast.

We know that in order for that phone to hit the cell tower, it had to be around 10,000 feet. It does go in line with what we have been reporting.

BLITZER: Why is just -- you know the Malaysian authorities. Tom, you worked with them when you were assistant director at the FBI. Why is all this information coming out so piecemeal? Why isn't there a way of systematic way of releasing this information, at least for the benefit of the families?

TOM FUENTES, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: I think because they don't want to release it in the first place. They have been very closed-mouthed about the investigation from the very beginning.

These are not official proclamations we're getting. This is back-channel source information. I continue to be very skeptical of how does the source know what the source knows? Which radar system is being analyzed? Who's doing the analysis? How is this being leaked out? Because there are so many variations of how high that plane went, how low it came down to, the direction it went. We have one phone trying to connect with the tower or connecting with the tower. But what about the other 240 passengers? There had to be more phones on, on that plane that didn't get shut off that would have made the same type of connection.

There are so many mysterious aspects and the source information that is coming out back-channel isn't helping to clarify anything.

BLITZER: Do you see any greater clarity as a result of this new information that we're just learning?


I think the piece I'm focused on is that underwater search. I guess I'm a little surprised the Australians haven't really ever said how big an area they're really focused on. They sort of hinted they're focused on a tighter area than the full range that we would think about if you look at all four of those ping.s

So I think, unfortunately, it's still a waiting game on the undersea side. It's going to take several weeks, up to a month to try to get to the area. If you look at what the Bluefin has done so far, on the five to six missions, it's only covered 15 percent of the total area they will have to get through.

BLITZER: You're not frustrated, you're not saying this is a failure by any means?

GURLEY: Absolutely not. Not at this point.

again, you have to sort of methodically work your way through the area and it just takes time. Unfortunately for everybody, everybody wants the answers yesterday, and it's going to take a lot more time than that.

BLITZER: The other disturbing information we're getting involves this. This is an emergency locator transmitter, Peter, as you well know, and there are four of these aboard a Boeing 777. They're supposed to send a message that there's been a problem if it hits water or there's a crash. Four of them if four different parts of the plane and none of them sent any message or at least nothing was detected.

That raises a lot of questions.

GOELZ: It does. These things are not armored like the black box, so it can't really function if it's a very violent crash. But that none of them sent out a message that was picked up by one of the satellites is very mysterious.

BLITZER: Very mysterious, indeed.

What do you say about that? FUENTES: We don't know the maintenance regime of the airline on checking these making sure the batteries are still good and they function.

We just -- that's yet to be discussed also down the line of what the airline did in terms of all of the service for that aircraft.

BLITZER: Hold on, guys, for a moment, because I want go to back to Perth, Australia, right now.

Geoffrey Thomas is standing by live. He's editor in chief of He's been very helpful to us over these past several weeks.

What do you make of that, those four emergency locator transmitters? Once the plane disappeared, whether it went in the water, whether it crashed or whatever, there was no indication from not one of them that there was a problem.

GEOFFREY THOMAS, EDITOR IN CHIEF, AIRLINERATINGS.COM: Indeed, Wolf. This is just one more facet of what is just an extraordinary mystery.

At every twist and turn, we appear to have something that we have never come across before. We have never lost an airliner for seven weeks. Yes, it does raise questions about the maintenance of those items on the Boeing 777. That airplane was delivered in 2004. I'm not exactly sure how often these have to be checked to ensure the battery is serviced and working.

So it's not an old airplane by normal standards, but, again, it just raises questions and there are just so many questions even when we find the airplane eventually. There's still many, many questions unanswered.

BLITZER: Geoffrey, that Bluefin, the underwater drone that's been searching the bottom of the Indian Ocean, the floor over there, fifth mission was aborted. It's now on its sixth mission. What are you hearing about how it's going?

THOMAS: Look, there's still a very high level of confidence, Wolf. I mean, with the search for Air France 447, I think it took 18 missions before they actually found the wreckage.

And they had lots of -- a number of aborts. The difference there was there was no international media scrutiny of day by day of what was going on. Here, of course, we have intense interest every hour, every minute of what's going on. And we are seeing, you know, a live operation of a Bluefin-21, a very expensive, exotic piece of kit, if you like, working in an extreme environment.

And I guess we have to expect the fact it's not going to work perfectly every time. But it's very early days yet and there's still a high level of confidence.

BLITZER: Does it make sense, Van Gurley, to put another one in the water at the same time, or would that confuse or complicate the search?

GURLEY: Really comes down, Wolf, to how big an area they're trying to cover. We don't know that answer. They haven't released exactly what the primary search area is. It's very confined. You don't want to have vehicles stepping on each other. But if it's a broader area, you can certainly run concurrent operations. The issue is going to be getting the piece of gear there and finding the support infrastructure like ships. That could take a long time.

BLITZER: You think they should be sending more equipment in, at least if possible?

GOELZ: I think we ought to be prepared for it.

As Van said, we don't know what the size of the search area is. If it's big enough, put another piece down and let's get to work on it.

BLITZER: We know that that search area though is based on the pings that came supposedly from one of these flight data recorders like this one. This is a ping. One of them lasted for two hours. They are convinced that was the real deal. In order for that ping to actually have come from one of the black boxes, they have a relatively modest area that they have to search.

GOELZ: Well, I'm not sure how modest it is given the equipment that's searching it right now. That's the issue here is that the short range of that Bluefin each day it goes down, compared to the size of the area, which, as Van said, we don't know exactly how big that area is, which raises another issue, which is that we're always criticizing the Malaysians for not being forthcoming. But there's aspects of the search we don't know either.

BLITZER: But based on everything you're information, Pamela, from your sources, they're pretty convinced they're looking at the right area?

BROWN: Yes. That is sort of the general sense.

And as we have been talking about, this takes time. With Air France, there were at least four extensive searches underwater to find the wreckage. For the first search, it took nines days to finally locate the wreckage. They start at the best point, what they believe to be the best point, they're working out from there, and it's going to take a while.

BLITZER: Geoffrey, when we hear Malaysian officials, Australian officials saying they may have to expand the search area, what does that say to you?

THOMAS: I mean, what it says is, if they don't find it in the most logical spot, they will have to expand it further.

But, I mean, it is very, very early days. And I think that some of these comments are probably unhelpful. We have still got Angus Houston saying we are looking in the right spot. Remember, with Air France 447, we didn't find it where we expected to find it. We had debris on the surface. We knew a lot more about Air France 447 than we do about MH370 and we still found the debris somewhere away from where we expected to find it. I'm still confident in very Angus Houston. He says we're looking in the right area. I think we will find something hopefully very soon.

BLITZER: The difference is in that Air France disaster, they never heard any pings at all from those two black boxes. This time they believe they did hear some pings.

All right, guys. Geoffrey Thomas has been helpful for us from Perth, Australia. The rest of our team, Tom, Peter, Van, and Pamela, thanks, guys, very much to you as well.

Still ahead, a CNN exclusive, a new terrorist message on video. Why are U.S. officials concerned? We have new information.

The captain escapes his sinking sink while passengers die -- stand by for the latest on the ferry disaster and the fate of those trapped teenagers.


ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

BLITZER: Let's get to a story right now breaking exclusively right here on CNN.

A group closely affiliated with al Qaeda has just released new video calling for more terrorist attacks. It's the second time this week we have seen high-resolution images of al Qaeda-affiliated terrorists.

Our Pentagon correspondent Barbara Starr has studied the video. She broke the story about the first video, now the second video.

What are you learning, Barbara?

BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, look, a lot of these al Qaeda videos are meant as propaganda meant to be seen by the world.

But when the CIA and the Pentagon look at them, they're looking frame by frame for any clue about where the next attack may be coming from.


STARR (voice-over): This time, it's a video of fighters from al Qaeda's dangerous Somali affiliate Al-Shabab, their faces hidden, calling for new recruits and more attacks.

Recently posted on the Internet, it's clearly a propaganda and recruiting video. "This time, the threat? We will blow you up until we finish you off" -- a chilling reminder of the assault on Nairobi's Westgate Mall that killed 67 people. These men say, "It's not that Westgate was enough; there are still hundreds of men who are wishing for such an operation."

PETER BERGEN, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: We certainly can't dismiss their ability to carry out those kinds of terrorist attacks.

STARR: Al-Shabab is in the U.S. crosshairs. In January, a drone strike failed to kill Ahmed Abdi Godane, the leader. Last October, Navy SEALs under heavy gunfire had to abandon an assault on a compound in Southern Somalia when civilians got in the way. The SEALs had been sent to get a man known as Ikrima, a senior planner for Al-Shabab.

Ikrima attracted U.S. attention because he was working with this man, Nasser al-Wuhayshi, seen in this video first broadcast by CNN. Wuhayshi is number two in al Qaeda and leads its dangerous Yemen wing. U.S. officials tell CNN it's believed this daring open gathering was shot in the remote mountains of Southern Yemen, an al Qaeda stronghold.

Wuhayshi coordinates al Qaeda's far-flung affiliates plotting to attack Western targets overseas or even here in the U.S. The connection between al Qaeda groups in Somalia and Yemen was partially disrupted when a middleman was picked up by the U.S.

BERGEN: He was very familiar with the leadership of al Qaeda in Yemen. He spoke at length to U.S. interrogators.

STARR: U.S. officials tell CNN Wuhayshi's group has gone on an internal rampage, brutally killing several people they believe are informants for the U.S.


STARR: Now, this video aside, there is a lot of worry right now because al Qaeda in Yemen has gone quiet, almost too quiet. A lot of them are turning away from using their cell phones, from encrypted chat rooms, going back to more old-fashioned communication, if you will, couriers.

Now, that the U.S. officials say, makes it harder, but not impossible for them to track what these al Qaeda affiliates may be up to -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Almost like a thunderous silence right now.

Barbara Starr doing excellent reporting for us, thank you very much.

Let's dig a little bit deeper about this chilling new video.

Joining us, our national security analyst Peter Bergen and our CNN intelligence and security analyst Bob Baer.

Guys, thanks very much.

What's the significant, do you think, Bob, of this new video coming out from Al-Shabab? They're a pretty brutal group.

BOB BAER, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Wolf, first of all, I think they want to change the subject. Al Qaeda isn't doing well in Syria. They're in the middle of sectarian civil war in Iraq and they want to focus on an outside enemy. They haven't really struck the United States or Western Europe for almost a decade now.

I think they would like to go on the offensive again. This is a propaganda tape and they are probably planning operations as we speak. We just have to assume it. What I find interesting is they have gotten to the point where they can shed their cell phones and their e- mail and the rest of it and go meet and use couriers.

They have learned. They have learned from the drones. They have learned from the war against al Qaeda, which has been mostly successful. They're going back to old-fashioned techniques.

BLITZER: Do you think they have also learned from all the leaks about U.S. surveillance capabilities?

BAER: Absolutely. There's so much on the National Security Agency. There's so much on the Internet. On these sites, they talk about it, they know about it. They read the newspapers. They watch CNN. They know about all these leaks. And they are -- smart guys are accounting for it and they're going off grid.

BLITZER: Do you see a connection, Peter, between these two released videos, both pretty high-tech, they're high-definition resolution -- one of them al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula video, they do show some faces, including the leader, the number two leader of al Qaeda.

The other one, Al-Shabab, they don't show faces. But do you see a connection between the release of these two videos?

BERGEN: Not necessarily. They can be coincidental.

But certainly these two groups have cooperated in the past. They have exchanged training tactics. They have people, personnel come from Somalia to learn how to build explosive devices and go back to Somalia. These groups they are kind of embedded with each other now. They both identify as -- they are both self-identified as al Qaeda affiliates. But the timing of the two may just be coincidental.

BLITZER: The argument I have heard is that they're both designed basically, as Bob points out, for propaganda purpose to recruit, to find new additional members, if you will.

BERGEN: Al-Shabab, the one in Somalia, has tended to focus on attacks in Africa.

Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula has definitely tried to attack American targets. Their target set is a little different. And I think their capacities are different. Al-Shabab is more of a local insurgency in Somalia than a kind of global terrorist group.

BLITZER: Let me go back to Barbara Starr at the Pentagon for a moment.

Barbara, when U.S. officials assess, analyze these two videos, you point out accurately they're looking it frame by frame by frame. If a face is covered though in the Al-Shabab video, what are they looking for?

STARR: Well, nobody's face in that video is perhaps totally covered. They're looking at things like, believe it or not, the shape of eyes, the shape of noses, the tone of skin to try and determine where some of these fighters come from.

In this video, they actually believe a number of them are Kenyans, not Somalis. Why is that so important? Because Al-Shabab would like to drive Kenya out of Somalia where it's been trying to work on some of the peacekeeping efforts and try and convince Kenyans that they should catch their lot with al Qaeda.

I think both Bob and Peter obviously are completely correct. The videos aren't tied to each other, but one of the underlying themes that U.S. officials will tell you, 13 years after 9/11, what worries them are these al Qaeda affiliates. They may be regional, they may be trying to attack the United States, but this is really al Qaeda 13 years later.

They are in so many places and they are driven by ideology. They have financing, they have capability. They certainly have expensive video equipment. And this is what worries people. They're not going away. These affiliates continue to recruit. They continue to plot and plan.

BLITZER: Bob Baer, how much of a threat do you believe these two groups, al Shabaab and al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, really pose to the U.S.?

BAER: Well, I think the ones that are based in Somalia, or Yemen, themselves, are not -- what they're looking for are looking for lone wolves, for instance, in the United States. There's a big Somali community, for instance, in the Midwest. The FBI office in Chicago is intensely focused on that to see if there are recruits. Remember, the weapons they're able to develop are made from hardware stores. A little practice. They pose a real danger. Aspirational now, but the FBI is worried about crossing this line. It could occur at any time.

BLITZER: Same question, Peter, to you. How much of a threat do these groups represent to the U.S.?

BERGEN: Well, there's the Yemeni-American who was the operational commander of the group, Anwar Awlaki. His writings and propaganda show up in terrorism cases routinely in the United States. A few years after he died, "Inspire" magazine, which is the sort of in-flight magazine of al Qaeda in Yemen, continues to be produced and continues to show up in terrorism cases. So it's sort of all but implied you don't necessarily need somebody from the United States even training with these groups. These groups are operationalizing people through the Internet who may have no direct connection in terms of training in Yemen or Somalia. But that happens, too. BLITZER: Peter Bergen, thanks very much.

Bob Baer, thanks to you.

Barbara Starr, excellent reporting, as usual.

Barbara has broken two major stories for us over the past few days on these new al Qaeda videotapes.

"CROSSFIRE" won't be seen tonight so we can bring you more coverage of some major developing international stories.

Just ahead, a deal is reached on the Ukraine crisis, but a pro- Russian militia group is having no part of it. We're going to tell you why they're adamantly refusing to put down their weapons.

And investigators are working to try to figure out what or who caused a ferry to crash, killing 29 people. How the captain has now been charged. Is he responsible? We're going live to South Korea, trying to get some answers.


BLITZER: To Ukraine now, where a defiant-pro-Russian militia group has refused to lay down their arms and give back government buildings they seized. This despite an international deal between Russia, Ukraine and the west that is meant to be the first major step towards easing the crisis.

CNN's Arwa Damon is in Ukraine for us at the scene of the occupation -- Arwa.

ARWA DAMON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, in the approximately 200 miles of eastern Ukraine where protestors have taken over security and administrative buildings, no one is budging.


DAMON (voice-over): Geneva's diplomatic dance is a long way from the reality of Donetsk, where the self-proclaimed People's Republic remains firmly in place at the main administrative building.

(on camera): No matter what initial agreement may have been reached in Geneva about the need to evacuate public spaces, clearly here, it's not really made any sort of difference.

The problem is that those who are occupying buildings like this one do not view themselves as being illegal. They say that it's the government in Kiev that needs to be the one to step down. They're pressing ahead with all of their plans, including efforts to hold a referendum, and they firmly believe that, no matter what happens, they can always turn to Russia for support.

(voice-over): At a press conference inside, one of the leaders of the revolt against Kiev sarcastically thanks Europe for waking up the Russian bear. Another, Denis Pushilin, says the Kiev government took power through a coup and must give up the public buildings it controls.

Up the road, Maditska Rokovitskaya (ph), press secretary for the city council, continues to find her workplace occupied by masked men. They work in the background as she talks. "It is strange," she admits but says, "At least they aren't being violent or threatening."

These are unsettling times despite the veneer of normalcy in the rest of the city. Catarina (ph), a young mother, doesn't know how she will eventually explain it all to her son.

"If he asks me about what happened, we, ourselves, don't understand. Who is in power? The people who are right or those who are wrong," she says?

The spring sunshine has brought people into the parks, but everywhere there is a mood of wariness. No one seems to hold the reins here.


DAMON: Understandably, people are incredibly fearful. Ever since Ukraine's creation as an independent state it has never been through anything like this. It has never been this close, possibly, to a civil war -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Arwa Damon, thank you, reporting from Eastern Ukraine.

The secretary of state, John Kerry, is warning that Russia needs to keep up its side of the deal and deescalate the situation quickly or there could be, in his words, "further costs."

Joining us now is our White House correspondent, Michelle Kosinski.

Michelle, what is the latest over there?

MICHELLE KOSINSKI, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, today we heard the administration back off a bit from what sounded at least something like a deadline from Secretary of State Kerry yesterday, saying that if Russia didn't live up to the agreement it just signed and disarm militants, give back government buildings across eastern Ukraine that it seized through the weekend, there would be tougher U.S. sanctions.

Today, though, national security adviser Susan Rice didn't want to put any time frame on it, saying only that the U.S. would be watching and waiting in coming days. And she said just getting Russia to sign that agreement was in progress in and of itself. When asked, though, OK, one full day now after the signing of that agreement, have we seen any visible sign at all that Russia is making a move toward de-escalation? Here's what she said.

KOSINSKI: We'll continue to watch very carefully how they proceed. What they say, what they do and how, indeed, the monitors are allowed to operate when they deploy which we believe will begin over the weekend.


KOSINSKI: In other words, apparently, no, no visible progress.

And then you have those militants on the ground saying they have no allegiance to the Kiev government that they see as legitimate, that they don't have to give up anything.

There is a question out there, how much influence and control does Russia even have over those militants on the ground Can Russia be held responsible for their actions or is it possible that at least some element of this has spun beyond Russian control? Today Rice said the U.S. Does believe that Russia maintains significant influence over them, continues to urge Russia to use it -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Michelle Kosinski with the very latest from the White House. Thank you.

Just ahead, we'll have more on the fight for Flight 370. Is there a specific backup plan if nothing turns up in the current search effort?

And a new glimpse of the harrowing attempts to escape from a sinking ferry. Stand by for new video and the latest on the disaster that's still unfolding right now. To find out, by the way, how you can help the victims, go to


BLITZER: The death toll from a ferry disaster in South Korea is up to 29. Nearly 300 passengers are still missing. Many of them teenagers.

And we're now getting a dramatic new look at what it was like to escape the ship as it was sinking.

CNN's Kyung Lah is in South Korea for us. She's got new developments. Also, some new cell phone video.

What are you learning, Kyung?

KYUNG LAH, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, we've just gotten off the phone with the coast guard in South Korea, and they tell us that divers are at the ship, they are at -- where the ship has gone down. They have laid down guidelines. These are almost like physical ropes that allow them to begin going through the rooms one by one.

They've laid those lines down on the third and fourth floor of this vessel, beginning what is now going to be the fourth day here of trying to retrieve people from this ship.


LAH (voice-over): As the search for survivors grows more harrowing, new video onboard the sinking ship has emerged. This cell phone video shot by a frightened passenger shows the final moments before the ferry went down. Watch as passengers try to escape clinging to railings. Passageways flood. Captain says he issued the order for passenger to stay aboard the sinking ship.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): Don't move. If you move, it is more dangerous.

LAH: Because, he said, the current was strong, water too cold and there was no rescue boat. The captain, Lee Joon Suk, was among the first to be rescued. Now, he's being charged with five criminal counts, including negligence leading to the sinking and abandoning of the ship as well as bodily injury resulting in death.

He also admitted he was not at the helm when the accident occurred, telling reporters that prior to the accident, he told the crew where to sail the ship and then went to his bedroom to tend to something.

Unsure, families of the missing still wait in agony. "They have to hurry to rescue survivors," cries this father of a missing passenger.

Overnight, the Korean coast guard released transcripts of the ferry's final moments that seem to show a confused crew unable to help passengers. Please put on a life vest and get ready as people may have to abandon ships, coast guard orders a crew by radio. It's hard for people to move, someone on the ferry responds. Local Korean media reports only one of the 46 lifeboats on board were ever used. Survivors say only those who disobey the captain's original order survived.

But even survival has its price. The vice principal of the students managed to make it off the ferry but was so overcome with grief, he apparently hanged himself from a tree outside the school.

Still, nearby, families waited helplessly watching live video of efforts to rescue passengers. Some eventually asked to identify their children who didn't survive.

"My baby, my baby," this woman cries. It seems like she gets up to me while calling me, 'Mom, why don't you come?'"


LAH: You can see over my shoulder, these families are still standing at the dock. They're still looking out at sea, Wolf. There have not been any survivors found over the last two days -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Kyung Lah reporting for us from South Korea, what a sad story that is. Thank you.

Now back to Flight 370 and the mystery. A short while ago, marked exactly six weeks since the plane was supposed to land in China. Instead, it simply vanished.

Tom Foreman is here in THE SITUATION ROOM. Tom, what's the backup plan, if nothing turns up in the current search areas?

TOM FOREMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, we keep hearing of this plan B, Wolf. We've had an awful lot of plans since this thing began.

Look at this. These are all the search areas in just the past month. Many of them overlap. They represent hundreds of thousands of square miles of ocean.

And this isn't counting those up around the Malacca Strait, those in the South China Sea, those up into Europe, all the areas we talked about early on in the process. Right now, they're focused on this area right here. This is where the underwater search is going involving the Bluefin, which has really uncovered several dozen square miles underwater so far.

This is where the surface search is going on with planes and ships out there looking for any debris on the surface. But again, each of the areas we've seen at each step has been the most promising thing out there. And not one of them has paid off.

And now, this is the new plan, if that all fails. They will go back along that arc described by the satellite data. They will use the pings as sort of a nexus around which to work here. And then you can open up an area of around 11,000 square miles and start scouring this area to see if that might produce any results.

Wolf, they're calling it plan B, but they may as well call it plan X, Y, or Z, because we've seen a lot of plans. As you started out, six weeks in, not one thing found yet firmly linked to that plane.

BLITZER: Well, six weeks exactly right now. Thanks very much, Tom Foreman.

Just ahead, Pope Francis leads the Vatican's Good Friday service. We're taking a closer look at the long and sometimes challenging history between the White House and the Vatican.


POPE FRANCIS (through translator): He is resplendent. (INAUDIBLE)

We see the monstrosity of man.



BLITZER: Christians are celebrating Good Friday today, including Pope Francis who led a good Friday service at St. Peter's Basilica in the Vatican.

This Easter Sunday, I'll explore the long and sometimes challenging history between the White House and the Vatican in a new CNN special, "Popes and Presidents."

Here is a preview.


BLITZER (voice-over): They are two of the most powerful offices on the planet. One elected in secret ballot by a handful of leaders in the Sistine Chapel. The spiritual head of 1.2 billion Catholics, seated on the throne of Peter.

(on camera): Barack Obama, 47 years old, will become the 44th president of the United States.

(voice-over): The other put in power by an electorate of millions of citizens in a grueling nationwide election.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Congratulations, Mr. President.

BLITZER: All for the right to sit in the Oval Office at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.


BLITZER: The pope and the president.

For more than 200 years, the politician behind the desk in the oval office and the bishop seated on the throne of Peter have marked history together, through war and peace, at times working hand in hand to rewrite their own story.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You can imagine when the declaration of independence was signed, when America was founded, the papacy must have been very worried.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He said, you know, I'm going to be president of the United States. I'm not going to be a Catholic president of the United States.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They were casting about for any way back from the dream.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Those shared convictions that communism could be overturned, the time in the 1980s, that was a radical notion.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Because of the relative weight and power of these two significant institution, the Vatican and the United States of America, they're going to want to find some areas where they can move forward together.

BLITZER: The White House and the Vatican opening a new chapter with President Barack Obama and Pope Francis.

OBAMA: I have been really impressed so far with the way he's communicated what I think is the essence of the Christian faith. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No one thought except for Barack Obama he was going to be president. And not even Cardinal Bergoglio thought he was going to be pope.


BLTIZER: And you can see "Popes and Presidents" this Sunday, Easter Sunday, 2:00 p.m. Eastern, right here on CNN. I hope you tune in or DVR it if you can't.

Remember, you can always follow us on Twitter. Go ahead and tweet me @WolfBlitzer. Tweet the show @CNNSitRoom.

Please be sure to join us Monday in THE SITUATION ROOM. Watch us live, or once again, you can always DVR the show so you won't miss a moment.

That's it for me. Thanks very much for watching. I'm Wolf Blitzer in THE SITUATION ROOM.

"ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT" starts right now.