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Anderson Cooper 360 Degrees

Russian Strikes Focusing On Four Areas, Including Kyiv; Russian Military To Reopen Humanitarian Corridor From Mariupol To Zaporizhzhia; Zelenskyy Says Two Generals Removed From Ukraine's Security Service; British Intel Chief: Russian Troops Refusing Battlefield Commands; Der Spiegel Reporter Describes Fallout In One Ukrainian Town After The Russians Withdrew; Jared Kushner Voluntarily Meets With Jan. 6 Committee; Florida Man Opens Home To Ukrainian Refugees And Inspires Others To Help Those In Need. Aired 8-9p ET

Aired March 31, 2022 - 20:00   ET


CHLOE MELAS, CNN ENTERTAINMENT REPORTER: Chris Rock is going to take the stage once again. I went to both of his shows last night, Erin, and in the second show, he said that he and Will Smith have not spoken, which is shocking to think that Will Smith has not actually apologized directly to Chris Rock -- Erin.

ERIN BURNETT, CNN HOST: All right, Chloe, thank you so much for your reporting and thanks to all of you.

AC 360 starts now.


JOHN BERMAN, CNN HOST: Good evening from Ukraine.

John Berman here, in for Anderson.

It has been a significant day at the start of what could become a critical point in the war. We will certainly ask our military analysts about it tonight, but some of the signs are playing to even civilian eyes.

Ukrainian troops defending Kyiv continue pushing Russian forces away from the capital even as a portion, the Pentagon says, about 20 percent are leaving on their own.

Some have withdrawn from the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Station and disaster site north of the city. The company running, it says, that Russian troops dug trenches in the highly contaminated isolation zone, received what it says were significant doses of radiation and quoting now, panicked at the first sign of illness.

CNN cannot independently confirm that, but just imagine the effect on morale, which apparently is poor across the board.

Speaking today, the head of Britain's Intelligence Agency, GCHQ said -- and I'm quoting here: "We've seen Russian soldiers short of weapons and morale, refusing to carry out orders, sabotaging their own equipment and even accidentally shooting down their own aircraft."

Meantime, Vladimir Putin signed the order today calling up 134,000 draftees for its spring military conscription effort, many of the enlisted Russian personnel in Ukraine, as you know, are conscripts. That said, for all the Russian losses especially in and around Kyiv and signs of Russian redeployment away from the area, they remain an existential threat elsewhere.


BERMAN: New video from Reuters of Russia-backed troops firing rocket propelled grenades at a Mariupol neighborhood, and this -- this is what weeks of bombardment have done to the strategically important city. It is by some accounts hanging on by just a thread, while Ukraine's President is saying the situation in the south and east of the country is in his words, extremely difficult.

Today, Russian military officials promised to reopen a humanitarian corridor from Mariupol to Zaporizhzhia starting tomorrow, and if that hellscape video were not enough to show what this war is doing to the city and its most vulnerable residents, there is this, and we should warn you, this is not easy to watch.

A little boy named Deema (ph), wounded in Mariupol in a Zaporizhzhia hospital separated from his father who is being treated for his own wounds elsewhere in the building.


(DEEMA speaking in foreign language.)

TRANSLATION: Is my dad coming? Where is my dad?

(UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE speaking in foreign language.)

TRANSLATION: Yes, yes. He will come. Just don't cry, okay?

(DEEMA speaking in foreign language.)

TRANSLATION: Will he come?

(UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE speaking in foreign language.)

TRANSLATION: Yes, he will. He will be here soon, like your mom told you.


BERMAN: Deema is just three years old.

According to Ukraine's Defense Ministry, at least 148 children have been killed since the invasion began. CNN's Ivan Watson is in Zaporizhzhia for us tonight reporting on the fight for Mariupol, CNN chief international anchor, Christiane Amanpour is in Kyiv, CNN's Nic Robertson is in Brussels for us tonight; and at the White House, CNN's Kaitlan Collins. We begin with Christiane Amanpour.


CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CNN CHIEF INTERNATIONAL ANCHOR (voice over): The first thing you notice approaching the front northeast of Kyiv are the lines of villagers waiting for humanitarian handouts. They receive a bag of bread and basics to get them through these difficult days.

(UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE speaking in foreign language.)

AMANPOUR (voice over): "The first week of the war, a shell hit us near the greenhouse. We barely survived," says this woman. "We had help from strangers around us. They gave us bread and canned food, we wouldn't have managed otherwise."

No one here knows when this war will end or whether Russia still has designs on Kyiv. The front line is about a mile away.

For now, an uneasy calm prevails ever since the Ukrainian defenders stopped the Russian advance here. It was February 28th, they say, Day Four of the war.

They want to show us how they did it, but first, we have to clamber over the bridge they downed to see the armored column they managed to take out. The riverbank is littered with their skeletons.

This was Turk-issued Russian armored vehicles and tanks that had come off the road to avoid the anti-tank mines, only to find themselves unable to cross the bridge and are unable to reverse in time.


Ukrainian forces tell us none of the soldiers inside survived.

A little further up the road, two tanks have been virtually smelted, blasted almost to smithereens. Forty-year-old Yevgeny, a veteran fighter proudly tells us this was his handiwork.

(YEVGENY speaking in foreign language.)

AMANPOUR (voice over): "We all here have one role, to keep the enemy off our land," he says. "First thing they did after seeing the village, they started to shell houses just like that. They didn't see us. They didn't know we were here, so they just started to work on houses. And so I took the tank in my sights and I fired a rocket and goodbye to him."

The destroyed vehicles are stamped with an "O." The Ukrainian officers here tell us this identifies them as Russian units that entered from Belarus to the north.

Oleg is the officer who commanded this operation.

(OLEG speaking in foreign language.) AMANPOUR (voice over): "As for now, looking at previous fighting we've had, I can tell you that we are trained better," he tells me. "We have stronger morale and spirit because we're at home. They are afraid, but they go because they're made to." He has been battle hardened ever since the first Russian invasion in 2014.

He says his side has enough weapons, ammunition, and determination to win.

"I can tell you, I'm almost sure the Russians are regrouping and not retreating," he says. "Besides, we are preparing ourselves to go forward. We're not preparing just to defend here."

U.S. and British Intelligence say Putin seems to have quote "massively misjudged" this situation and clearly overestimated the abilities of his military to secure a rapid victory.

(UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE speaking in foreign language.)

AMANPOUR (voice over): This old lady tells us: "I have seen one war and here we go again. I wish Putin would go away."

The people of this land remain stalwart and the soldiers remain dug in, hoping they can continue to withstand whatever Putin has in store for them next.


BERMAN: What a perspective. Christiane, what have been told about what is happening in the fight for Kyiv tonight?

AMANPOUR: Well, it's really rare to get to see these destroyed Russian tanks and we've been told that yes, some Russian forces are regrouping and potentially going to Belarus to refit, resupply, and then maybe be deployed elsewhere.

But we were also told to watch out because the Russians could continue to use air and missiles and sure enough, there have been, so they have two missile strikes in downtown Kyiv today, very close to where we are, but just downtown. I mean, it's really quite rare to see that.

So we're not sure exactly why, there was clearly some kind of target, but that may be just to harass the Ukrainians while they try to move around and redeploy elsewhere. We are just not sure -- John.

BERMAN: Yes, no question. I haven't seen images like the ones you just showed us, Christiane.

Ivan, to you, what more are we learning about these buses trying to get to and from Mariupol?

IVAN WATSON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, the big question is how to evacuate the estimated more than 100,000 civilians that are believed to still be trapped in the Russian siege lines under the bombardment of Mariupol. This morning, the Ukrainian government announced that they had gotten a message from the International Committee of the Red Cross from Russia, from the Russian military saying that there would be an evacuation allowed.

So the Ukrainians said, we're going to have a ceasefire, and they announced that they were sending 45 buses in the direction of Mariupol. By the end of the day, the Ukrainian government says the buses didn't reach there, that around 30 of them were held outside of a nearby city that's been kind of a stop along the way out of Mariupol called Berdyansk, and that they weren't allowed to pick anybody up and that another 12 buses were stopped in another Russian occupied city called Melitopol, and that some 14 tons of food and medicine were confiscated, the Ukrainian government claims by the Russian military.

That said about 1,400 to 1,500 civilians were able to make it out all the way here to Zaporizhzhia where I am in their own vehicles and we've seen those kind of trickles of vehicles coming out day after day while we've been here, cars that are bashed up by the Russian shelling of Mariupol, but are being used to ferry people out.

The Russian Defense Ministry has announced that it is going to try to open up a route for civilians to escape tomorrow, April 1st, Friday, and that this decision is being made at the request of the leaders of France and of Germany and the Russian Defense Ministry is asking the Red Cross and the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees to help facilitate that process.


So we're going to be looking to see if more civilians are helped to get out. It is one thing to come out in your private car, what about the elderly who don't -- maybe don't have vehicles? Who don't have younger people to take them out? That's why the buses are so important right now to try to help people out of that stricken city -- John.

BERMAN: Yes, the civilians need those buses to get through.

Kaitlan, what has President Biden been saying about what's going on here?

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, he's echoing these Intelligence assessments that President Putin is very isolated and looking inside the tent situation happening inside Russia, because clearly they believe here at the White House, that the Russian leader is not appropriately informed, completely informed about what is happening on the ground.

These reports that you're seeing about the frustrations that the Russians are facing when it comes to strategy and what they've actually been seeing on the ground. And he said today, he believes that Putin has been isolated by this, that he is either firing or putting on house arrest his top advisors because of the frustration with how poorly this invasion is going for Russia, and how much it is going against what he believed they were going to be able to do, which is overthrow the government there, take Kyiv in a few days and have this warm reception from Ukrainians, which of course, as Christiane's report showed, that's not happening.

And so this does confirm what U.S. intelligence had been saying. The President did offer a caveat, John, saying, you know, this isn't based on hard evidence. This is based on Intelligence. It's not always a complete picture. But it is often a good insight. And so far, the American intelligence on what Putin is going to do has been pretty solid, of course, as we saw, when it came to this invasion, and it also mirrors what our allies are hearing, because you saw the British Foreign Secretary saying today that Russia is struggling that Putin didn't know that there were conscripts being used in Ukraine, they accidentally shot down their own aircraft.

Reports like that, that is raising concerns, even inside the White House tonight about what's actually happening inside Russia.

BERMAN: You know, Christiane, do the Ukrainians you've been speaking with believe what the Russians are saying in terms of pulling back from Kyiv?

AMANPOUR: No, they don't. In fact, the commander in charge of the operation that we saw today, they blew up the column that came into Kyiv. He said, look, they can say all they want. We don't believe they're retreating, they are regrouping and we will be ready.

But I think it's really interesting to get a look at what we saw, because the guy who took that the tank out with his javelin told us that what he did was motivated by the fact that these Russian columns were absolutely just firing at civilian houses and structures for no reason, as they were just motoring down the road.

There was no resistance. There was no attack on them until that happened, and then they popped out from where they were hiding and took out the tanks.

But I think it's really important to realize that that is their tactic, and you can see it happening in Mariupol, and I've been told that anybody -- or the latest leaders who have been talking to Putin do find him still very entrenched in his belief that he is facing down terrorists and militants in Mariupol and elsewhere, and they don't see any sign of give in that and that is very worrying.

BERMAN: Yes, these are civilian targets.

Kaitlan, what does the White House hope will be the impact of the President's decision to tap into the U.S. Strategic Oil Reserve domestically and internationally? And are there any more Russian sanctions in the works?

COLLINS: Well, they say that there's always other sanctions that they could put in place, they could tighten the screws on the Russians even further they have already. It really remains to be seen, you know, the trajectory of this invasion.

One thing I will note is the White House said today that they don't think a call between Putin and Biden will happen unless there is significant de-escalation. That's a pretty high bar for even a conversation to happen between the two of them.

But when it comes to these oil prices, of course, that is a big problem for President Biden here at home, and there is only so much that the President can do when it comes to gas prices. And so, he is tapping into the emergency reserves here in the United States. He is going to do so for the next six months straight, a million barrels per day, and so that'll be ultimately 180 million barrels of oil that they're going to release.

But of course, that only accounts for about five percent of American consumption. And so, when you talk to experts in the industry, they only think it's going to have maybe a modest impact on gas prices. And today, officials here were repeatedly asked when consumers could expect prices to go down as a result of this action. They could not predict anything specific, but it is Biden showing that he is doing what he believes he can to try to lower these prices, but also acknowledging the fact that this isn't likely to change anytime soon -- John.

BERMAN: All right, Kaitlan Collins, Christiane Amanpour, Ivan Watson, our thanks to all of you.

Next, two distinguish retired Army Generals on the state of the invasion going into Week 6 of what Vladimir Putin likely expected would last only a few days.

And later, new signs the January 6 investigation could be growing and aiming higher and what Jared Kushner had to say to the Committee today.



BERMAN: This is video from the Kharkiv area in northeastern Ukraine. Regional military officials say Russian troops have been heavily bombarding the area over the last 24 hours, including a residential neighborhood and a gas pipeline.

Whatever their other shortcomings, Russian forces still retain the ability to inflict destruction on a large scale. We're talking about that tonight, their apparent redeployment, doubts about the redeployment, and the new conscripts and where all this leaves the larger war.

Joining us, CNN military analyst and retired Army Lieutenant General Mark Hertling, also retired Army Brigadier General Peter Zwack. He is currently a Global Fellow at the Wilson Center, Kennan Institute, General Hertling, I want to start with you.

It seems that nobody in Ukrainian, European or American Intelligence believes Russia's claims that they are really pulling back their forces around Kyiv to give peace talks a chance to progress. Can you tell us what you believe they are doing and is this a strategic redeployment or are they essentially doing it because they have to, because they're being moved by the Ukrainians? [20:20:11]

LT. GEN. MARK HERTLING (RET), CNN MILITARY ANALYST: Nobody believes it, John, because it's not true. It is just a repositioning of forces. They are trying to get some forces out that have been badly mauled by the Ukrainian forces.

Many of the Russian battalions are just shells of themselves right now. So they're trying to get back and refit and perhaps reestablish personnel strengths. That's going to be very difficult, truthfully.

Russia has got a hard road to hoe in the next couple of weeks to try and put these units that I would suggest, you know, there's been a number, 10 percent to 15 percent losses in those main combat units. I'm going to suggest that it's a lot higher than that, even close to 40 or 50 percent.

So what you're talking about is trying to get forces that were in contact out of there. They are defending the areas with artillery and rockets and missiles to keep the Ukrainians in one place, but this repositioning of forces, is getting back into Belarus and trying to get out of the frontlines is going to take a very long time, weeks, if not months.

BERMAN: Yes, look. You look at all the destruction of Christiane Amanpour's piece, tank after tank after tank, it's easy to think it might be more than 10 or 15 percent losses.

General Zwack, in his nightly address, Ukrainian President Zelenskyy announced that he had removed two Generals who are serving in the Security Service of Ukraine, the main Intelligence Security Agency of Ukrainian government calling them anti-heroes who, quote, "Have not decided where their homeland is." He didn't give any specifics there, but how do you interpret that?

BRIG. GEN. PETER ZWACK (RET), U.S. ARMY: I think we have to have to look at the entire, if you will, Russia-Ukraine breakup of the Soviet Union. And there were, you know, there were leftovers, if you will, from that period, and were overwhelmingly the bulk of the Ukrainians that came from that era, their military and their security services, there may very well be a few sympathizers in there or may be affected by the carnage.

So I buy that, that he may have a few informers, if you will, in his Ukrainian Intelligence Service, which by the way, has been doing incredibly well, by all accounts.

HERTLING: But John, if I can add to that, Peter brings a very good point. My counterpart in Ukraine, when I was commanding in Europe was a guy named Verobiyo (ph), in a session over a couple of beers one night, he told me his biggest problems was getting rid of some of the old high bound Soviet officers that had been trained in Russia in his force. That was one of his major concerns: I've got to get rid of these guys because they're corrupt and they are more loyal to Russia than they are to Ukraine.

So I think that's something like we're seeing right now, and Peter has seen that for sure in eastern Ukraine.

BERMAN: That's interesting. General Zwack, let me put this to you. Ukrainian officials say there are no longer any Russian troops at the Chernobyl Power Plant. They've transferred control of the plant to Ukraine. Russian forces earlier in this conflict show very little guard for safety when it came to radiation or nuclear plants, but what is this move -- backing off from Chernobyl, General Zwack, say to you?

ZWACK: Well, I think General Hertling would say, this is all about the Russians have taken them five weeks, you know, we have a phrase in the army, "Taking care of soldiers." And they have been driving through there because one of the main roads to the front in Kyiv goes right out of Belarus through there, and you've had troops on the site of Chernobyl you know, that have been basically, you know, keeping the staff there a bit under the gun.

And so yes, it's a mess. And I think that you've got reports anecdotally about troops that are complaining and don't want to get -- they're getting sick, and that's creating a problem. And I think now the Russians are forced to address it.

Bottom line, they haven't taken care of their people to let them go through for five weeks the way they're doing, or even be a garrison to staff there.

BERMAN: Just one more example of that. General Zwack, General Hertling, thank you both very much.

HERTLING: Sure, John.

ZWACK: Thank you.

BERMAN: And just ahead, we're going to discuss Putin's strategy for peace talks and whether Russia will honor that humanitarian corridor scheduled to open tomorrow out of Mariupol.



BERMAN: The next round of negotiations between Ukraine and Russia is expected to resume tomorrow. However, President Zelenskyy's Chief of Staff tells CNN's Christiane Amanpour that he has a very, very small portion of optimism on peace talks.

In a separate interview, the Polish Prime Minister echoed that statement. He believes Russia wants to negotiate, but from quote, "a very strong position." Still European leaders are hoping the Russians abide by an agreement to reopen that humanitarian corridor tomorrow out of Mariupol.

Nic Robertson is in Brussels. We spoke just before airtime.


BERMAN: Nic, what's the latest you're hearing about the diplomatic talks? And is there a consensus on what Vladimir Putin's strategy is at this point?

NIC ROBERTSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL DIPLOMATIC EDITOR: It seems to be to chew up time to gain military advantage on the ground by saying that there can be some level of talks, though it is very interesting, when he was talking with the Italian Prime Minister today, Mario Draghi, the Kremlin's readout of that phone call was Draghi asked him and said it's time for you to have a face-to-face meeting with President Zelenskyy.

Putin said, the time is not right. We're not there yet.

So there's this talk, and we understand that there will be some level of engagement, a diplomatic engagement again, at the end of this week, but it seems clear from the top that they're not really ready to make significant compromises.

BERMAN: As we mentioned, we're learning that at the request of both France and Germany, the Russian military says it will reopen the humanitarian corridor out of Mariupol. How much confidence is there that the Russians will actually refrain from attacking that space?


ROBERTSON: I think the zero confidence quite simply because Russia doesn't follow through on its word. And the Ukrainians, the German chancellor, the French president have all seen this, they're engaging directly with President Putin. And what he says doesn't materialize. So I think at the moment, Russia is really just letting a few people go in dribs and drabs, they know it's tying up Ukrainian military assets inside Mariupol pole trying to defend the civilian population there. According to Ukrainian officials today, humanitarian supplies that have been trying to get to some of the besieged towns, the Russians have stopped those in their tracks.

So it's not at all clear that Russia will go ahead and do this. It has control of the situation. And it will take tactical advantage by making this drag out making it play out slowly.

BERMAN: So there are new details from British intelligence sources about the morale of the Russian forces. What are you learning in that front, Nic?

ROBERTSON: Yes, the head of GCHQ, which is the equivalent, I guess, of the NSA in the United States, Jeremy Fleming said that the morale was so bad with Russian forces that they were actually sabotaging their own weapons, not having enough weapons as well, refusing to follow orders, and in one case, accidentally shooting down one of their own aircraft. And the assessment from Fleming is just the same as we've been hearing from U.S. officials, that none of the top military officials close to President Putin want to tell him the truth. That he's got troops in the frontlines, with, with bad morale, bad equipment, bad directions, bad leadership, making bad decisions, and not actually able to meet the military gains that Putin wants and expects them to make.

That points to the isolation of Putin. If he's isolated on military information, is he isolated on other information, for example, how sanctions are impacting him?

BERMAN: Nic Robertson, thank you so much for your reporting.

So you heard Nic talking about the British report on the isolation of Putin and how his generals do not want to tell him the truth about the performance of Russian troops in Ukraine? As Kaitlan Collins mentioned, President Biden cautiously alluded to the same assessment earlier today.


JOE BIDEN (D) PRESIDENT OF UNITED STATES: That's an open question. There's a lot of speculation. But he seems to be I'm not saying this was a certainty, he seems to be self-isolated. And there's some indication that he has fired or put under house arrest some of his advisers. But I don't want to put too much stock in at this time, because we don't have that much hard evidence.


BERMAN: I'm joined now by William Taylor, former U.S. ambassador to Ukraine. Ambassador Taylor, as we mentioned, President Biden says Putin seems to be isolating himself and punishing maybe some of his advisers. To that point, do you agree with U.S. intelligence assessments that Putin is being misled by his military?

WILLIAM TAYLOR, FMR U.S. AMBASSADOR TO UKRAINE: John, I think he probably is the intelligence services know better than I, but I'm prepared to believe them. What we do see that corroborate that is a lack of direction, a misunderstanding of what's going on, on the ground with his military going very badly doesn't seem to understand that. It's also consistent with lack of direction from the President to his negotiators, the negotiators that have been meeting the Russian negotiators that have been meeting with the Ukrainians don't have any instructions, they don't have any proposals. They don't have anything to put on the table.

Unlike the Ukrainians that have come with serious proposals, they've obviously given a lot of thought. And they're clearly in touch with President Zelenskyy. President Zelenskyy has his top political adviser that is the leader of his faction, the servant of the people faction, in the in the Rada in the parliament, who's a co-chair, a co-leader of that delegation down there talking with the Russians. And they, as you say, they probably talk tomorrow, but it's not clear at all, that the Russian side is connected at all to President Putin, who doesn't seem to be giving any guidance at all. And he's not ready to negotiate apparently, and that means he doesn't understand how bad it is on the ground.

BERMAN: That's a good point. There are different messages coming from the talks themselves and from Moscow about the talks. If there is tension between Putin and his top military officials, what impact do you think that would have here on the ground in Ukraine, the course of the war itself?

TAYLOR: I think it had a big effect right from the beginning. The President Putin again divorced from reality probably thought that the Ukrainians would not fight hard, he probably thought that Ukrainian -- well we know he thinks that the Ukrainian not really a nation don't really defend themselves.


So, the military probably had was not prepared for the fierce fighting the strong fighting the terrible find that they're getting beaten up, that they encountered when they went to the -- when they went into Ukraine. So that I think had a real bad effect of the Putin lack of understanding bad briefing, bad concepts, bad notions of what it is that what he has done to the Ukrainian people to unite them has probably filtered into the way the Russian military has worked and not worked in Ukraine.

BERMAN: We're all witnessing a humanitarian catastrophe in Mariupol. Do you believe the Russians will actually deliver on this latest pledge on top of all the others we've heard over the last days and weeks to reopen the humanitarian corridor there?

TAYLOR: John, we have no reason to believe that the Russians will do what they say, they've not in the past. Every now and then a quarter is used and some people get out. And that's a good thing. While we're talking about Mariupol, the Ukrainians have an idea a notion of hero cities and Mariupol is clearly going to be -- is going to go down in Ukrainian history as a hero city. It has defended itself and defended its civilians. The military has been performed heroically under terrible conditions, terrible conditions, and they are still holding out after what 36 days. So this is an amazing story, a hero city in Mariupol.

BERMAN: You know, deputy mayor there told me they're fighting block to block defending that city at this point, Ambassador. You said that Russia losing more soldiers, its economy is spiraling down. Putin may be up for more negotiations. Do you have any sense of what the Ukrainians would agree to their?

TAYLOR: They've been pretty clear, John, they've been thinking about how they can provide their own security. They used to think it was going to come from NATO down, they pretty much understand their reluctantly come to the conclusion is not going to be NATO anytime soon. So, they're looking for other things. And they've got some ideas that they've put on the table with the Russians that have to do with neutrality, a strong neutrality, a militarized, fortified neutrality that would allow them to maintain this, this great military that they're demonstrating right now. They want to keep that in any future system that does have neutrality, they want to be able to defend themselves. And the other thing they put on the table is the idea of guarantors, the other nations that would guarantee Ukrainian security if they gave up their option to go to NATO.

BERMAN: Ambassador William Taylor, thank you as always.

Coming up, the aftermath in a small border town after Russian troops withdrew over the weekend. We'll be joined by a reporter with their Spiegel who was there and tells us what he saw with his own eyes. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)


BERMAN: Over the weekend, Ukrainian forces were able to retake a town near the border with Russia place one local official last week called the hottest point of fighting in the region. This is what Trostyanets looks like now, these images were released by the Ukrainian government, they show burned out buildings including damaged homes and a hospital. And as awful as the destruction is what you don't see here may have been far uglier. It's something our next guest knows very well.

Christoph Reuter was there and he's just written a detailed piece on the aftermath for Germany's Der Spiegel Magazine.

Christoph, what was it like in Trostyanets after the month long occupation by the Russians?

CHRISTOPH REUTER, FOREIGN DESK REPORTER, DER SPIEGEL: We arrived is the first foreign journalist probably about 36, 40 hours after the last Russians had left, which the local people didn't know first, because there is no working mobile line system, no landlines. So when we came, there was basically the first hours people there to go out through their city, which they hadn't -- many of them hadn't dared to do for one month. And there were incredible scenes of people meeting each other not knowing if the other were still alive, some had tears in their eyes to see the destructions. Or they had tears in their eyes because he was simply happy to have survived. It was in all this freezing cold and extremely emotional moment for the people of Trostyanets.

BERMAN: What a moment, what a moment, that must have been. And we don't have that much visibility or having until this point on what life has been like for people under Russian control. So when the Russians were in control there, how did they treat the civilian population?

REUTER: This is the interesting thing, because Trostyanets was -- it's like a case study where you really had Russians 600 up to 600 for one month. And when they entered, there was basically indifference. They did not interact with the local population, they have their filtrations. They came, they took the empty police headquarters, the train station, took base there. But then after one week, approximately, they were shelved for the first time and they learned rather quickly that everybody in the town was against them, and many were informing the Ukrainian army (INAUDIBLE) about their location. So the Ukrainians would shell very precisely the tank positions, et cetera.

Plus, after a few days, the Russians ran out of food. They had food rations obviously only for very few days and what they did was to look local supermarkets, to look local people, and to become very aggressive towards everybody basically out of panic paranoia that every one who gets near them could be an informer and then they get shelled and die, so they introduced a curfew after three o'clock in the afternoon and whoever was out on the street, risk to be shot in many rural shots have captured then tortured in the headquarter the interrogation in the basement of the train station.


So you put, we put, see, or we could learn from the accounts of the people. And from evidence we saw, like remnants of stuff they had looted, destroy doors, destroyed ATMs, locks, how the behavior of the Russians had escalated from kind of clueless game into a very murderous halt.

BERMAN: What about the Russian troops themselves? The people you talk to, what do they tell you about how much the Russians knew about the war and what their mission actually was?

REUTER: Yes, this is the especially if you take into consideration how brutal they behaved after a while. This is the complete bewildering element in this, because some people like the head of security of the big chocolate factory, he talked with the Russians because they accepted him as kind of official spokesperson or somebody who's important and the Russians asked him in mid-March, late March, where are we have we taken Kyiv, have we taken Kharkiv, is Zelenskyy dead? They had no clue what was happening in the country. So he had to tell them what was happening. And when people ask them, so how long will you stay? Will you go somewhere? What's the mission? What do you want from us here? The only answer they would get was orders. We have orders. And obviously the order war, go to Trostyanets, stay there and wait for further orders.

But there was no plan there was nothing that the Russians could give good explain, why are we here? Why are we treating this town like the hostile environment, which it was, but what we want here? They didn't know.

BERMAN: Christoph Reuter, thank you so much for this reporting. It's a window we just haven't seen. Really appreciate it.

REUTER: My pleasure. Thanks a lot.

BERMAN: Up next, in Washington, the Department of Justice is expanding its investigation into January 6 insurrection. And Jared Kushner the son-in-law and former senior adviser to the former president voluntarily meets for the January 6 Committee. These details coming up.



BERMAN: In addition to the news from here, there are key developments back home the January 6 investigation, Jared Kushner, the son-in-law and senior White House adviser to the former president voluntarily met with the January 6 Committee today. Also the Department of Justice is expanding its own probe.

For more, let's go to CNN's Ryan Nobles on Capitol Hill. Ryan, there are signs the Justice Department's criminal investigation into the attempts to overturn the election. There are signs it's widening. What's the latest on that investigation who they're investigating tonight?

RYAN NOBLES, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, John. That's right. You know, up until this point, the Department of Justice had seemed to be pretty focused only on the actual people that stormed the Capitol on January 6, those responsible for the violence that we saw on that day, but now we're getting signs that the probe is starting to widen beyond just those individuals and into the folks that were responsible for planning and funding the rallies that took place here on January 6. We have determined that there have been a number of individuals that have been subpoenaed, that were connected to those rallies, that were part of the fundraising apparatus.

At this point, it doesn't appear that these individuals may be targets. This may be more of a fact finding mission, as Merrick Garland and the Department of Justice widens its probe. But you remember, John, that there's been a lot of criticism from Garland and the DOJ that they've only focused on these kind of low level offenders that were here and actually committed the violence and not those that were fomenting the anger around misinformation related to the election. This is a sign that the probe is starting to get just a little bit bigger.

BERMAN: So separate, but related to this Ryan, what have you learned about what Jared Kushner did or did not tell the January 6 Committee today?

NOBLES: Well, in general, the Committee seems pretty satisfied with his deposition today. Representative Elaine Luria of Virginia told CNN earlier that he did volunteer a lot of information that they were looking for. This was a voluntary deposition of Jared Kushner. And we know that he talked to the Committee for a significant amount of time, more than six hours. Now, that is pretty standard, the Committee usually conducts lengthy depositions.

But when they fill that entire time, it likely means that they're at least getting answers to their questions, the questions that they pose to Jared Kushner. And he, of course, is a key player in all of this. He wasn't in Washington on January 6, but he was one of President Trump's closest advisors. Of course, he's his son-in-law, and was in and around the White House and the campaign in the time between the November election and January 6 where the Trump and his associates were doing a lot to spread information and peddle these lies about the election results. John

BERMAN: Very quickly, placed this along with everything else, including the developments involving Ginni Thomas, the wife of Clarence Thomas.

NOBLES: Well, it shows that the Committee is really starting to zero in on a focus here. They are definitely interested not just in what happened here on January 6, but the broader picture of how all of this election misinformation led to what took place here on January 6, and of course, John, we still have in front of us those public hearings, which should take place later this spring.


BERMAN: Ryan Nobles, thank you so much for that reporting.

Up next, the outpouring of support for one Ukrainian family we told you about last night on "360" now living in Florida, and how Randi Kaye story about that has inspired others to help refugees of the war.


BERMAN: Here in Ukraine, more than 10 million people have been forced to leave their homes and upwards of 4 million have fled to neighboring countries. As Randi Kaye reported last night of the program, some make it to the United States. Randi shared the story of a mother named Iryna and her three children ages three, seven and nine who are living with a total stranger in Cooper City, Florida who wanted to help. Phillip Bradford who's almost 80 and living alone open his home to them when a Ukrainian church called telling him about the family in need. And his kindness has inspired others. The president of St. Nicholas Ukrainian Orthodox Church told us today a family in Orlando who saw the story called to say they would also welcome Ukrainian refugees in their home. And others called saying they would help too.


Plus, the mother Iryna told Randi about today that she and her family had been invited to the Cooper City community meeting next month. And a neighbor has set up a GoFundMe page for Iryna and her family. The link to that page is right there on the screen.

The news continues, so let's hand it over to Wolf Blitzer in "CNN TONIGHT." Wolf.