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Anderson Cooper 360 Degrees

Shelling In And Around Kyiv Tonight; Biden On Putin Remark Not Walking Back Anything; UK Defensive Attache To Washington Wagner Group Has Deployed To Eastern Ukraine, Expected To Deploy More Than 1,000 Mercenaries; Ukrainian Forces Holding Onto Mykolaiv, But Soldiers Dying In Russian Attacks; Sources: Jan. 6 Committee Will Try To Speak With Ginni Thomas, Wife Of Justice Clarence Thomas; Parental Guidance Debuts Wednesday On CNN+. Aired 8-9p ET

Aired March 28, 2022 - 20:00   ET


STEPHANIE ELAM, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice over): Stephanie Elam, CNN, Hollywood.


ERIN BURNETT, CNN HOST: And thanks so much for joining us. AC 360 starts now.



Whatever you'll hear tonight or heard over the weekend about Russia shifting its military focus to eastern and southeastern Ukraine, it might not be as simple as that because there has been shelling overnight in and around Kyiv and other attacks in the west.

And despite news today from Irpin's mayor that his suburban town had been liberated, the sight of residents being helped out of what the mayor said could soon become a combat zone again, was sobering to say the least. The same can be said for late words and from Ukraine's general staff that defenses within Mariupol continue to hold because this is Mariupol. Look at that.

Ukrainian officials now say 90 percent of the city's residential buildings have been damaged or destroyed, 90 percent, and according to Mariupol mayor, the humanitarian corridor in and out of the city is now in Russian hands. As much as any day in the invasion so far, there is a lot in flux right now.

Now, we're going to talk about where things stand militarily tonight, where they go next with former NATO Supreme Allied Commander Wesley Clark. We will also talk at length about President Biden declaring over the weekend that Vladimir Putin in his words, cannot remain in power, of course, the White House walked back of that statement. And finally, but the President said, standing behind his remarks today.


JOE BIDEN (D), PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The fact of the matter is, I was expressing the moral outrage I felt toward the way Putin's dealing and the actions of this man, which is just brutality.

Half the children in Ukraine, I've just come from being with those families. And so -- but I want to make it clear, I wasn't then nor am I now articulating a policy change.


COOPER: Also tonight, my conversation with a photojournalist, Juan Arredondo. You may know that name. He was in Irpin near where those refugees were in a video we showed a few moments ago. It's the first time he has told his story, about what happened when he and his friend and colleague, documentary filmmaker, Brent Renaud came under fire.


JUAN ARREDONDO, PHOTOJOURNALIST: I certainly never experienced an ambush like that. But there was a point that I thought: This is it. I'm gone.

I was laying down on the floor, and it was so much like, I could hear so much hitting that car that I thought: Okay, this is it. I'm not going to survive this. I've never experienced that sensation, that that feeling of knowing that this is it.

And it's not -- it's not a feeling of being afraid. It's just coming to terms that there is nothing I can do. This is probably going to be the end.

COOPER: Any sense of how many bullets were --

ARREDONDO: It was just a lot. I mean, I can't -- like I try to remember it, but it was just -- it was just kind of raining. That's all I can hear. It's just hearing hitting windows, hitting the kind of like tin like metal and then that's when I felt I got shot.

I yell, "I got shot," but I didn't get a response from Brent. I just kept yelling to the driver, "Just drive, go, go, go." And my recollection is that because of the sound the car was making, the car may be had been damaged, and so he stopped and that's when I looked up and I saw Brent's know exit -- now, that I know is an exit wound, but it was a wound here and so it was bleeding, I tried to grab onto it and maybe stop the bleeding.


COOPER: His friend, Brent Renaud was killed in that car. Juan Arredondo was seriously wounded. We spoke it to him today in his hospital room. That's just ahead.

Also tonight, live report from CNN's Fred Pleitgen in Kyiv; CNN's Bed Wedeman is in Mykolaiv, and as we mentioned, CNN's Kaitlan Collins.

But first, I want to get to Fred with a warning what he has tonight is graphic.


Anderson. Well, it is all part of this gigantic battle that is going on here for a control of Kyiv with the Russian forces continuing to try and press their offensive. What we saw today was a huge amount of explosions, especially towards the northwestern part of the city as well, with the Ukrainians saying they are launching a counteroffensive, but the Russians also pressing and devastating consequences for the civilians on the ground. Here is what we saw.


PLEITGEN (voice over): Kyiv remains under full on attack by Vladimir Putin's Army. Ukrainian officials saying Russian forces are trying to storm the capital, but failing, unleashing artillery barrages on civilian areas in the process.

We drove to the village Novi Petrivtsi, north of Kyiv, only a few miles from the frontline. Even the streets here are pockmarked with shrapnel and massive impact craters, whole buildings laid to waste.

PLEITGEN (on camera): I mean, just look at the utter destruction caused by this massive explosion. There are some really thick brick walls and even they were annihilated by the force of whatever landed here. The people here tell us they only felt one really large explosion and it wounded several people and killed a small child.

PLEITGEN (voice over): That child was two-year-old, Stepan (ph) killed while in his bed when the house came under fire.


These videos given to us by local authorities show the chaos in the aftermath.

(UNIDENTIFIED MALE speaking in foreign language.)

PLEITGEN (voice over): As the wounded appear in shock, residents and rescuers tried to save those who are inside. Stepan pronounced dead on the scene.

Stepan was Oleg Shpaks (ph) second youngest child.

We found Oleg sifting through the rubble of his house days later.

(OLEG SHPAKS speaking in foreign language.)

PLEITGEN (voice over): Inside he shows me the damage caused by the explosion. He was at work when his home was hit. His wife, the other children, and his mother-in-law had already been brought to the hospital when he arrived at the house. Stepan couldn't be saved, and because of staff shortages at the morgue, Oleg had to prepare his son's body for burial himself.

OLEG SHPAKS, SON DIED IN BOMBING (through translator): I had to wash him, to dress him. His head from his right ear to his left ear, one large hematoma. His arms, his legs, a total hematoma not compatible with life. And besides that, lots of other wounds were discovered after death.

PLEITGEN (voice over): Many other houses have also been hit here. The police tell me the Russians shelled the town every day.

We bumped into 84 year old Halyna in the town center. She was a child when the Nazis invaded this area and says now, things are worse.

HALYNA, NOVI PETRIVTSI RESIDENT (through translator): Worse than fascists. When the Germans were here and entered our homes, they would shoot at the ceiling, but they would not touch us. They moved us into the woods, but they did not shoot us like the Russian soldiers are shooting now, killing children.

PLEITGEN (voice over): The Kremlin claims its forces don't target civilian areas, but the U.S., NATO, and the Ukrainians say the Russians are frustrated by their lack of progress and are firing longer range weapons because they can't make headway on the ground.

VLADYSLAV ODINTSOV, KYIV REGIONAL POLICE (through translator): They understand that sooner or later, our troops will push them out of our territory. Now, the Russians are doing dirty tricks. They shoot more at civilian areas than other positions of the Ukrainian Army.

PLEITGEN (voice over): Ukraine's Army says it is pressing its own counter offensive trying to dislodge Russian troops from the outskirts of Kyiv. The Kremlin's forces meanwhile, so far unable to take the Ukrainian capital are instead laying waste to its suburbs.


COOPER: Fred, I mean, that father who had to prepare his own child's little body for burial, I mean, it's just sickening. Have the Russians made any progress in their advance toward Kyiv in recent days?

PLEITGEN: Well, it doesn't look like they have made very much. It has been quite interesting to hear throughout the early morning hours today, the Ukrainian military came out and said that the Russians had started new smaller offensives as they put it trying to win streets in small villages.

The Ukrainians were saying that they were stopping that, also the Deputy Defense Minister of Ukraine, she came out as well and she said that the Russians were trying to create what she called corridors around the city, obviously, saying they were trying to encircle the city. But that too, seems to have been failing.

The recent reports that we've been getting, it is really a mixed bag is that the Russians seemed to almost desperately trying to break out of that area that they have towards the north of Kyiv, also towards the West as well. But there are indications, Anderson, that the Ukrainians may have the upper hand.

But what you do see then is that indiscriminate shelling of the outskirts of Kyiv and areas like the one that we were at, with all those awful consequences, like for instance, unfortunately for that two-year-old boy who was killed while sleeping inside his house -- Anderson.

COOPER: Fred Pleitgen, appreciate it.

President Biden's statement today, which you heard a moment ago, ended the weekend with the White House backpedaling, did not whoever necessarily stop the criticism by some and praise from others.

For more, I want to go to CNN's Kaitlan Collins at the White House.

So the President is trying to make it clear, he is not walking anything back. How is his position going to sit with other NATO leaders?

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, I think they are probably happy that the President weighed in tonight, clarifying his comments saying he is not backing off of it. He stands by the sentiment of it, but saying he is not stating any kind of change in policy from the United States government perspective.

And so we had seen the French President say that the comments of President Biden said in Poland at the end of that very forceful speech where he said Putin is someone who cannot remain in power. Macron said those are not comments that he would make. He said that there is a chance they could be viewed as escalatory. And of course, he is someone who has been intensely involved in discussions with Putin since this invasion started.

And so I think you could see make that argument tonight about whether or not they believe that President Biden should have clarified those remarks, though, of course, his aides sought to do so, Anderson right after he had spoken them, because as we noted, they were adlib. They were not included in the prepared remarks, but I think it's something different when it's the President himself coming out and explaining what he meant and providing context to that and so he was very clear tonight that this does not represent any kind of change in U.S. policy.

You've heard aides for the last several weeks say they do not support regime change in Russia, that is something for the Russian people for them to decide.


But the President said that he was expressing his moral outrage, Anderson, because of course, he said he had just met with those Ukrainian refugees who have been forced from their homes by Putin's invasion. And he said, that is what was behind that sentiment that he added on there at the end, those nine words that, of course, have reverberated ever since he spoke them.

COOPER: Is there concern within the White House that Putin could somehow exploit the unease in Europe over the President's comments?

COLLINS: I think if you talk to some Russia experts, they could definitely see how Putin would do that. Of course, that is something he has done in the past, used comments out of context, tried to use them to kind of backfill this sentiment that he is maintained for several decades now, which is that the West is trying to replace him and they are trying to get him out of power.

Of course, he is someone that experts have described as paranoid. They say that that is something that has only increased ever since COVID-19 happened, and he has grown more isolated from aides that he was around.

But President Biden said tonight that he was not worried about Putin using that as some kind of excuse to try to influence people, maybe he could potentially do so in Russia, but President Biden didn't seem very concerned about that being something that would carry out throughout Europe, of course.

COOPER: Kaitlan Collins, appreciate it. I want to get perspective now from "The Washington Post's" Max Boot. His latest column is titled "Opinion: Biden's Support for Ukraine and opposition to Putin were no gaffe."

So Max, you heard Kaitlan, do you think it was necessary for the President to offer clarification? You think it'll satisfy anyone?

MAX BOOT, CNN GLOBAL AFFAIRS ANALYST: I think it was necessary for the President to weigh in, because there has been so much controversy since he said those words, and I would think that this would more or less put it to rest. I mean, I'm kind of amazed that this story has lasted even as long as it has on Saturday.

I think, you know, we need to focus on what you're focusing most of your time on, Anderson, which is the war crimes being committed by the Russian military in Ukraine and by the valiant attempts and largely successful attempts, I would add by the Ukrainian military to fight back.

I mean, when we talk about the rupture in Russian-U.S. relations, it is kind of ridiculous to say some new story suggesting that Biden is causing that rupture with his comments. No.

Vladimir Putin is causing that rupture with his war crimes.

COOPER: You wrote in "The Washington Post," you said, "I wonder if perhaps history will vindicate this Biden 'gaffe' in much the way that many historians have praised comments by Ronald Reagan that were once seen as dangerously provocative. Reagan called the Soviet Union 'evil empire,' predicted it would wind up in the 'ash-heap of history.'"

BOOT: Well, that's exactly right, Anderson.

You know, back in the 1980s, there was a lot of criticism of President Reagan for contributing to rising superpower tensions with what were viewed as these intemperate comments referring to the Soviet Union as an evil empire, predicting that it would wind up on the ash-heap of history, or later, saying that Mikhail Gorbachev should tear down the Berlin Wall.

Now, there is no question that there was a rise in tensions in part because of that rhetoric, in part because of some of the tough things that the Reagan administration did to contest Soviet power. But in hindsight, I think most historians would focus on the fact that Reagan was vindicated that the Soviet Union ultimately did collapse, and we later learned that his words gave heart and hope to many dissidents behind the Iron Curtain.

And I would think this is something we haven't really talked about, but I would think that President Biden's words calling out Vladimir Putin as a war criminal and saying that he should not remain in power, I would think that would give hope, not only to Ukrainian patriots, knowing that we stand with them, but also to Russian dissidents.

And remember, there are still some brave people in Russia who are willing to challenge Putin's rule and they need to know that America is behind them.

COOPER: You know, essentially, our Ivan Watson was in a mayor's office in a town I think, was in Dnipro, around there and his office was literally like a shrine to Ronald Reagan. It had a bust of Reagan, it had the American flag, and it was exactly that reason.

You also made the comparison to the last American President who gave a speech in the Polish capital, which was President Trump, you wrote, quote, "I would rather have a President who is fearless in calling out Putin's war crimes than one who toadies to the Russian tyrant."

Is there anything President Biden or any Western leader could say right now you think that would significantly alter the course of the wars beyond words at this point?

BOOT: No, I think words are very important. I mean, you can send words marching into battle as Winston Churchill did. I mean, President Biden is certainly not an order for the ages in the way that Churchill was. But I think his words matter a lot. And I'm pretty confident, Anderson that if President Trump were in office, we would not have this solid Western coalition to oppose the Russian war of aggression. We would not have this huge flow of arms to Ukraine.

I'm sure the West would be a shambles and Vladimir Putin would be taking advantage of that. I think the fact that Biden has been so good at marshaling our allies to oppose the Soviet invasion of Ukraine, I think that is hugely important and his words have something to do with that and, you know, there is some alarm expressed by a few, by Macron and a few other allies about Biden's rhetoric, but on the whole, I think it's good because he is making clear that the United States is completely opposed to this illegal and immoral Soviet invasion -- Russian, I should say invasion of Ukraine.



BOOT: It feels like a Soviet invasion, and I think that's actually doing a lot of good to give heart to the Ukrainians and also provide them with the weaponry they need, and also to keep the Western coalition together to impose very tough sanctions on Russia. COOPER: Max Boot, it is good to have you on. Thank you, Max.

Still to come tonight. We played you a portion a moment ago, my conversation with photojournalist, Juan Arredondo, his first time telling his story since the ambush in which he was shot and his friend and colleague, Brent Renaud was killed. They were in the same vehicle. He was in the backseat, Brent was in the front seat, shot in the neck.

Later, the personal cost of war for one Ukrainian family.

We'll be right back.



COOPER: Two weeks ago filmmaker and journalist, Brent Renaud lost his life documenting the horrors of the battlefield in Ukraine. Tributes immediately poured in for the award-winning filmmaker. The head of police in Kyiv said at the time, that Renaud quote, "Paid with his life for an attempt to shed light on how underhand cruel and merciless the aggressor is."

He was traveling at the time with a photojournalist, Juan Arredondo, who barely escaped with his own life and is now receiving care at the New York Presbyterian Columbia University Irving Medical Center.

In his first interview, since that day, I was able to speak with Arredondo about his friend, and the attack, he calls an ambush. We warn you, some of the images, you'll see are graphic, but as we always try to communicate in these instances, we think it's necessary to show them to understand what is happening in Ukraine, and what Brent Renaud gave his life trying to capture.


COOPER: Do you remember what happened?

ARREDONDO: Yes, yes. I remember the day very clearly.

COOPER: What was the plan that day?

ARREDONDO: So the plan was -- so the reason we were in Kyiv, we were looking for refugees, but they already told us that the city was a transit city, that there were no shelters. It was just basically people being evacuated.

COOPER (voice over): Juan Arredondo and his friend and colleague, Brent Renaud weren't looking to document the fighting in Ukraine. Instead, they wanted to tell the stories of refugees who were fleeing the war.

They headed to Irpin where they heard thousands of civilians were being evacuated.

COOPER (on camera): At that point, Irpin was -- they had destroyed the bridge from Irpin to prevent Russian forces from coming -- being able to come across, and we had seen on Saturday, Clarissa Ward had done some live shots at the point where hundreds if not thousands of displaced people were coming out of Irpin kind of being helped across the bridge.

And then Lynsey Addario was there when a rocket hit Irpin and a family was killed.

ARREDONDO: Was killed. We were there on a Sunday. So that was -- that was after what happened with Lynsey. So that was much later that week, where from what our understanding that part was already -- that was a humanitarian corridor.

We did see a small -- when we were there, we saw maybe three cars coming in. They evacuated some civilians, and then we asked if there were like -- they're coming from another bridge and that's quite far, but it's still a corridor. So we decided to start walking.

COOPER: And it was you and Brent.

ARREDONDO: It was me and Brent. That's when -- well, two cars, two civilian cars approached us, but we couldn't communicate with them well, so we didn't know what they wanted. And then the third car that came spoke some English and we said: Look, we're looking for this bridge where people have been evacuated. He is like, yes, I can take you guys there.

So we got in the car, and you know, it must have been maybe 10, maximum 15 minutes that we were riding, and there was a checkpoint, but it was empty. And then there were the barricades. So as we started to zigzag through the barricades, I was sitting in the back behind Brent, and I was looking out the window, and then I saw in the trenches two military, one of them pull out the AK, and I just shouted, like, "We're getting shot."

COOPER: Could you tell whether they were Ukrainian or Russian?

ARREDONDO: No. It was so fast. What leads me to think they were Russian is because, first of all, that was the corridor where people were being evacuated, and we just came across a convoy of military -- Ukrainian military. They were just walking and patrolling, but they said: Hey, you can go this way.

COOPER: That's got to be so surreal to actually see two guys get up and start pointing, to see it before it happens.

ARREDONDO: Well, I just -- I mean, I -- yes, my reaction was just to scream and duck, because I didn't -- I didn't think they were going to shoot, but that was sort of my instinct. But it was surreal because we were convinced that we were in a place that you know, I mean, was there danger? Yes. It could have been, but it didn't -- there was nothing that led us to believe that we were going to be ambushed or anything.

COOPER: Any sense of how many shots or -- ARREDONDO: It was just a lot. I mean, I can't -- like I try to

remember, but it was just -- it was just kind of raining. That's all I can hear. It's just hearing hitting windows, hitting the kind of like tin like metal and then that's when I felt that I got shot. I yell "I got shot," but I didn't get any response from Brent.

COOPER: You were down to the floor in the back seat.

ARREDONDO: In the floor of the back seat. Yes.

COOPER: And can you tell where you had been shot?

ARREDONDO: Yeah, because I felt it right there, and I just touched it and I feel like the bleeding.

COOPER: It entered through --

ARREDONDO: Through my -- so my buttocks on the left.


ARREDONDO: But then I started like, tapping my toes, just to make sure if I could, you know, like if I lost anything, and I feel them and I was like, okay, I'm fine.

And then I just kept yelling to the driver, "Just drive. Go, go, go." And my recollection is that because of the sound that car was making, the car maybe had been damaged, and so he stopped. And that's when I looked up and I saw Brent, you know, exit -- now that I know it's an exit wound, but it was a wound here and so it was bleeding, I tried to grab on to it and maybe to stop the bleeding.

COOPER: Was he said anything?

ARREDONDO: I could see he is -- like he was trying to mumble things, but I couldn't make out what he was saying. Then I saw the driver get out and then wave at another civilian car and then you know, they were trying to get -- the driver was trying to get Brent out.


I got out of the car, and then they just shoved me into this car and then drove me out. But I kept saying, you know, "Bring Brent. Bring Brent." And I think at that point I said, maybe Brent, was just, he was dead already.

And I remember just being that car, I put my hand on the wound, and I was starting to faint. And I was like, I can't be -- this I can't be. I can't go.

COOPER: We all imagine how would we react in a situation where shots are being fired in our direction, and you think intellectually, oh, this is the way it would happen or this is the way what I would do. Was it different than you had ever thought of it?

ARREDONDO: I certainly never experienced an ambush like that, but there was a point that I thought, this is it, I'm gone. I was laying down on the floor and there was so much -- like I could hear so much hitting that car, that I thought okay, this is it. I'm not going to survive this.

And I've never experienced that sensation, that feeling of knowing that this is it. And it's not -- it's not a feeling of being afraid, it is just coming to terms that there is nothing I can do. This is probably going to be the end.

And then right after that thought is when I felt the shot and I shouted, "I got shot" and I don't know, and then it just -- but it happened so fast that I couldn't tell how -- what is the span of time from the moment the first shot was fired to the moment we stopped.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I hope everything will be okay.

ARREDONDO: Thank you.

COOPER (voice over): This is Juan at a hospital in Kyiv right after he was shot. Doctors found a fragment of the bullet lodged in his leg.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Tell me please, what is your name?




UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Where are you from?


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The U.S. What's happened to you?

ARREDONDO: My friend is Brent Renaud and he's been shot and left behind.


ARREDONDO: I don't know. I don't know.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You don't know what happened to him?

ARREDONDO: He was -- I saw being shot in the neck, and we got split.

COOPER (voice over): Juan says he didn't learn Brent had died until after he was out of surgery when Brent's brother, Craig called him to tell him the news.

COOPER: (on camera): What was Brent like?

ARREDONDO: Brent was a -- you know, he was a good friend. He was -- you know, we met, we were doing a Nieman Fellowship up in Harvard and that's where we met. I remember him telling him one thing that I'll never forget is like, we're not going to have a schedule, we don't follow a schedule, we follow a story. And if that requires it to be 20 hours a week, or whatever it takes to get that story, we'll do it.

So I understood that, and so we worked well that way. He was always concerned, he was concerned about me being you know, being well, but also learning and becoming better. And so it's rare to have a friend to work and not have any -- we never had any disagreements or anything like that. So that was very special.

COOPER: When something like this happens, do you dream about it?

ARREDONDO: So that's interesting, because, you know, I've been having a hard time sleeping, that's probably one of the parts that I've been struggling with is because I don't sleep for long periods of time and I noticed my dreams are very vivid. And it's always in that car.

Now I don't recall --

COOPER: In your dreams, you're in that car.

ARREDONDO: In the car. And I don't recall exactly what happens, but I do know I'm forcing myself to wake up so I don't live that, so I am waking up. I'm very jumpy all night. Wake up in sweat.

COOPER: It was reading about the funeral service that they held for Brent, which sounded really lovely attended. It sounded like there was a really big turnout. I understand you asked that a poem be read, the "Invictus."

ARREDONDO: "Invictus."

COOPER: Was that a poem that he liked? A poem you liked?

ARREDONDO: It was a poem I liked and it's a poem that I kept reading to myself, "It matters not how straight the gate are charged with punishments to scroll. I am the master of my faith. I am the captain of my soul."

COOPER: What does that mean to you?

ARREDONDO: I mean, it's gotten me through some really dark nights, these last two weeks, especially when I was going to surgery I kept saying those last lines. I don't mess with my faith. I'm the captain of my soul. Like I'm not going to let this -- I need to come out alive with this.

I don't know why it wasn't my time. That's -- I keep asking that myself. Why? But those nights that I was -- it was -- yes, I was losing blood. I was really weak and I didn't know what was happening. So I remember those two lines.


COOPER: We hope Juan makes a full recovery. He is expected to get out of the hospital within the week or so, and he hopes to be able to return to work as a photojournalist covering the stories that he loves. There is breaking news about a notorious mercenary group deploying in

large numbers to eastern Ukraine on the side of Russia. We'll talk about that, and a larger battlefield state of play with former NATO Supreme Allied Commander, Wesley Clark.



COOPER: There's more breaking news tonight. Britain's defense attache to Washington saying that Russian Wagner Group mercenaries are now in eastern Ukraine and as expected to send more than 1,000 of its members into battle. The reason he says heavy Russian regular army losses in a stalled invasion. (INAUDIBLE) today, (INAUDIBLE) Ukraine's head of military intelligence say Russia could be looking to carve Ukrainian into like North and South Korea.

Joining us to talk about these developments and more tonight target retired Army four star General Wesley Clark, CNN military analyst and former NATO supreme allied commander.

General Clark, the fact that more than 1,000 mercenaries are reportedly expected to deploy to eastern Ukraine, what does it tell you about the Russian military strategy and how they view their own forces abilities.

GEN. WESLEY CLARK, CNN MILITARY ANALYST: They're looking for people who will fight harder and fight more recklessly and frankly, cause more damage and terror for the civilian population. These Wagner Group people have been in some of them have been in eastern Ukraine for some time. And basically, they're killers. They go in and kill people in civilian vocations. They raped the women, murder them. I've been trying to get evidence on this, we don't have it, but I keep hearing anecdotes about it. So they're in there. And they're a real problem.

This is a war against the people of Ukraine and Putin is not doing very well with his troops right now, it's bring in all the mercenaries you can find to try to wreck Ukraine the damage and morale and force him to give in.


COOPER: The idea that that Putin could look to carve Ukraine and to, do you see that possibly as a goal of his at this point essentially heave off the area's in the east and the south.

CLARK: What might be an intermediate objective, but I don't think Mr. Putin is going to be satisfied with half of Ukraine. If he can get the whole thing, he's going to get the whole thing. So what I see is, there's an effort to encircle the Ukrainian forces, they're holding the Donbass pocket. And if the Russian forces on the south can get Dnipro, if the ones in the north can also get Dnipro, maybe they could cut off and encircled a sizable body of Ukrainian troops, but he's not stopping there. He's got his forces going after Kyiv, he's still going after Kharkiv. And those forces are being reconstituted. They're being re armed. Some of them have been pulled back and Belarus to reorganize, they'll be back.

We've got a period of maybe two to four or five weeks before those forces are reorganized and back into the fight. And it's a critical period for Ukraine. We've got to get them more combat capability. They need more weapon systems.

COOPER: What is your assessment of Ukrainian forces gains and losses? I mean, in the last 24 hours or so? The mayor of Mariupol said the city was in the hands of the occupiers. But the Ukrainian General Staff is saying that Ukrainian forces continue to maintain circular defense of the city. And the mayor of Irpin told CNN that Ukraine is claimed that suburb of Kyiv, has reclaimed that suburb of Kyiv from Russian forces. So, I mean, do you do feel like the on the ground, they're still holding their own?

CLARK: Well, they're surely launching some local counter attacks and the counter attacks are successful, in part because they've got the right weapons, those counter attacks, the javelins, the stringers, some British (INAUDIBLE), but they've also got the ability to go out and go after bogged down or located Russian forces. It's not a war movement anymore. So there's Russian forces are fixed. They're in a way they're like sitting ducks.

In Mariupol, the Ukrainians are going to fight till the very end, to tie down the Russian forces, to extract as much damage on the Russians as it can. And to protect the 160,000 civilians that are still there as long as possible. They hope that for each President Macron will come in with humanitarian aid that he promised. He announced on Friday, he was going to have a bigger humanitarian aid mission. It's Monday and we don't see any signs of it.

COOPER: The Russian forces, they've struck fuel depots, several locations around Ukraine. If they keep doing that, how debilitating is that for Ukrainian forces.

CLARK: It is debilitating because they're splitting the attention of the forces. But really, the thing is Anderson right now we're in a logistics battle. The Ukrainians had inferior combat capability to begin with. We gave them farm our own stocks, some key defensive systems, the javelins and the stingers. And they've been highly effective. But in the coming phases of the battle, that's not going to be enough. They're going to need heavy artillery, they're going to need at the ammunition for it. They're going to need armored fighting vehicles and some tanks, so that they can compete on a more equitable, equal basis with the Russian forces are going to be coming in there.

Otherwise, they're going to be encircled in Kyiv and then talented, and then maybe the chemicals will be used at some point to finish off what's left in Kyiv, if they don't capitulate before then. So, we've got a limited time window to get heavy equipment into Kyiv, not from the United States docks, but from allies who got compatible equipment.

COOPER: General Wesley Clark, I appreciate your time. Thank you.

CLARK: Thank you. COOPER: Up next, the heavy toll of war a mother burying her son, he answered the call to volunteer in the Ukrainian army, lost his life while defending his country. Will tell you his story ahead.



COOPER: A senior U.S. defense official says Russian forces have fired more than 1,370 missiles in Ukraine and they're largely stalled in several parts of the country including the southern city of Mykolaiv. That's where Ukrainian troops are holding their ground delaying a Russian advance. It does though come at a heavy cost the loss of soldiers many of them volunteers, men under the age of 60, who answered the call to defend their country.

CNN's Ben Wedeman is in Mykolaiv and joins us now. Ben, what do you been seeing?

BEN WEDEMAN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, what we've seen Anderson is that this city was really the Russian forces were just on the outskirts of it. Only a few days ago since then they've been repulsed. But for one mother it was done at a very high price.


WEDEMAN (voice-over): Lord have mercy goes to him to refrain. Another family drinks of wars bitter dredges. Forty seven-year-old Yuri Solomka, died on the 18th of March from wounds sustained in the frontline city of Mykolaiv. His mother Lyudmila struggles through the ceremony. Every day, there's another funeral during this time of death, destruction and displacement.

These are indeed the times that (INAUDIBLE) people's soul. Yuri was a volunteer not a regular soldier, he was given full military honors. Beyond the customs of respect for a man who died in battle for a nation at war lies the trauma of the woman who brought him into this world.

There can be nothing more painful for a mother than to attend the funeral of her child. A son killed in a war not of his choosing.



WEDEMAN (voice-over): He decided on his own to join the army, says Lyudmila. He hadn't told me. He was a good father and a good son. Says his sister Yelena, he was always a man of his word.

Yuri lies with other freshly dug graves.

(on-camera): After a month of this conflict, no one really knows how many soldiers and civilians have been killed. The only thing of which anyone can be certain is that only the dead have seen the end of war.

(voice-over): Before this funeral ends, preparations begin for the next. Ashes to ashes, dust to dust.


COOPER: You in Mykolaiv the same city where Yuri was killed. What are the state of things there?

WEDEMAN: The center of the city seems to be coming back to normal. We were out in grocery store the other day was, which was quite busy, but you just have to take a very short drive outside to see how close to Russian still are. We were at a village where people were packing up the women, especially the old women were leaving because they just could not put up with the sound of bombardment, spending days and days in the basements of their homes. So the war has receded. But it's still perilously close to this city. Anderson.

COOPER: Ben Wedeman, appreciate it. Thanks, Ben.

Just ahead, breaking news on Capitol Hill and on the January 6 committee in Ginni Thomas, wife of Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas also criminal referral recommendations for two former advisors to the former president. The latest when we return.



COOPER: Breaking news coming out of the House Special Committee formed to investigate the January 6 riots. The panel is meeting behind closed doors on Capitol Hill as our. Sources tell CNN the committee wants to interview Ginni Thomas, wife of Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, over her reported back channel communications with the White House before and after the attack. This discussion comes just moments after the committee voted to recommend criminal contempt charges for two former advisors to the former president Dan Scavino and Peter Navarro.

Paula Reid joins us now from Capitol Hill with the latest. When do we expect to know how the committee plans to handle Ginni Thomas?

PAULA REID, CNN SENIOR LEGAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: Well, tonight Anderson the committee is expected to meet privately where the chairman of the committee Bennie Thompson is expected to recommend that the committee seek the cooperation of Ginni Thomas in its investigation into January 6. Now sources tell CNN, Ginni Thomas has been a topic of discussion among committee members for quite some time because they have been in possession of these 29 text messages between her and the former White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows. And in these text messages, we see her pressing Meadows using her direct line to one of the most powerful people in the Trump White House to urge him to work to overturn the results of the election. Now, Thomas is a longtime conservative activist, but this is a really clear example of her work intersecting with an issue that her husband eventually had to rule on.

Now, one outstanding question Anderson is why now? The committee is how these text messages for quite some time. They only really became public last week when CNN and other outlets reported on them. I asked about half of the committee members as they walked into their meeting earlier. What changed? Why now? Why did it take these becoming public free to push for her cooperation? No answers.

Now interestingly Anderson, Meadows may not be the only person who is getting these text messages from Ginni Thomas. She was also messaging someone she referred to as Jared, now was that the president's son-in- law and senior advisor? It's not clear but lawmakers will have the chance to ask him just that when Jared Kushner appears voluntarily and virtually before the committee later this week.

COOPER: There was a critical ruling in federal court today regarding the former president and his role on January 6. What happened?

REID: That's right, Anderson. In this ruling, a federal judge ruled that conservative lawyer John Eastman has to turn over some e-mails to the House Select Committee. Now that is not extraordinary in and of itself, but the House Select Committee has used this litigation over John Eastman's e-mails to publicly lay out and their theory of criminal conduct by former President Trump. In a filing in this case, earlier this month, the committee accused the former president and Eastman of engaging in a criminal conspiracy to perpetrate a fraud against the American people by trying to undermine the outcome of the election.

And here in today's decision, you have a federal judge saying, yes, that's right. It's more likely than not that they were planning a crime. That is a big boost Anderson for the House Select Committee, as it moles whether to make a criminal referral to the Justice Department, a former President Trump.

COOPER: Well, Paula Reid, thank you. Appreciate it.

Coming up, "Parental Guidance" from CNN's Clarissa Ward and a look at my new program on CNN+. We'll be right back.



COOPER: It's an exciting week here at CNN tomorrow morning, CNN+ launches, I have two shows, it'll be on the new streaming service. One is "Full Circle", it's a program that we've been doing for a couple years now. And you'll now be able to find it on CNN+. The other is called "Parental Guidance." And it's exactly what it sounds like as a new parent. I certainly need some guidance and advice just like all new parents do. For the launch, I talked to a lot of experts who know about parenting because I really have no idea what I'm doing. I talked to no one on the launch episode also to my colleague, CNN colleague chief international correspondent Clarissa Ward, who's a mom of two young kids. And we talked about business trips and how to handle them as parents just turns out our last business trip was to a war zone. There's a bit of our conversation.


COOPER (on-camera): You and I talked about this a little bit when we were in Ukraine, but I wanted to call because it's the first time I've had kids and traveled with that amount of time. And you obviously you have two kids as well. How old are your kids?


COOPER (on-camera): A lot of parents deal with traveling. Obviously, you're traveling to war zones in very complex places. But how do you deal with that as a parent?

WARD: Honestly, I think I'm still working it out. It's really hard. It's really hard. And anyone who says it's not his, you know, either work something out that I have yet to work out. Or they're lying. Because I feel like there is guilt as a parent with like being away from your kids, even if you know it's for good reasons. And even if you know feel pretty confident that in the long run, they're going to be glad that you did the work that you did, et cetera. What for me has helped is like building this life for my children that exists without me in it as well.



COOPER: I'm shooting the show when my kids are napping. That's what it's come to. That's CNN's Clarissa Ward. Don't miss more of our chat when "Parental Guidance" debuts this Wednesday on CNN+. I hope you like it. You'll find new episodes of "Full Circle" and CNN+ on Tuesdays and Saturdays.

Stay with CNN for the latest from Ukraine. The news continues. Want to hand it over Wolf in "CNN TONIGHT." Wolf.