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Anderson Cooper 360 Degrees

Blinken, Austin Pledge New Diplomatic, Military Support For Ukraine During Visit To Kyiv; Volunteers In Ukraine Risk Their Lives To Supply Civilians Who Won't Leave Areas Of Heavy Fighting; French President Macron Soundly Beats Far-Right Opponent. Aired 9-10p ET

Aired April 25, 2022 - 21:00   ET




ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST: In the last hour, we showed you the women and children, who've been trapped in the basement, at a steelmaking complex, in Mariupol. They said they've been there, for weeks, since late February.

It's now no exaggeration to say that the contrast between what life is like, for them, tonight, and life, just a little more than, two months ago, is perhaps as stark as any single place on earth.

That reality, and worse, sets the tone, for this report, from CNN's Matt Rivers.


MATT RIVERS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Before Mariupol became a hell-scape, before Russian military depravity, turned a city into a cemetery, there was love, here.

Just two weeks before the war began, Natalka Zarytska spent Valentine's Day, with her boyfriend, in the city. They took this picture, at a cafe. And this one, after eating. And a few days later, she snapped this one of him, from her window seat, on the train that would take her back to Kyiv.

NATALKA ZARYTSKA, HUSBAND FIGHTING IN MARIUPOL: He kissed me, and told, "Natalia (ph), I don't know when I will see you again."

RIVERS (voice-over): Resignation, from a man, who understood the realities of the war to come.

Natalka's boyfriend, who we are not naming, or showing, for security reasons, is a soldier, in the Azov Battalion, a unit that has fought the Russians, in Mariupol, for months.

We went to see Natalka, at her home, in Kyiv, where she told us, her boyfriend was given a command, to, quote, "Fight until the last drop of blood."

RIVERS (on camera): What did you think, when he told you that? ZARYTSKA: I recommended him to save his life. But he answered, "No. I should keep on the command. I'm a soldier. And I have to be here."


RIVERS (voice-over): She says her boyfriend lost cell service, on March 3. His silence was as deafening as the bombs that by then had started to fall around Kyiv, forcing her, and her family, down, into this cellar. It was in here that after two weeks she heard from him.

ZARYTSKA: When he called, it could be 10 seconds or 15 seconds, and then bombing, and no connections.

RIVERS (voice-over): But with what connection he did have, he would send her videos of the utter destruction that surrounded him. We can't show you those, for security reasons.

RIVERS (on camera): What do you think, when you watch these videos?

ZARYTSKA: I think they're empty. I feel the empty, absolutely empty.

RIVERS (voice-over): Along with the videos, were selfies and texts, and on his birthday, a particularly special message.

ZARYTSKA: He gave me a proposition that I couldn't--

RIVERS (on camera): Say "No" to him?

ZARYTSKA: --say "No," yes.

RIVERS (on camera): What did he write to you?

ZARYTSKA: (FOREIGN LANGUAGE). So, "I love you. And do you want to be my wife?"

RIVERS (voice-over): A few days later, a marriage certificate made it official. Now a wife, she says she refuses to cry. Her husband is stoic, in the face of death. So, she will be too.

How else to describe her reaction, to the last message he sent?

ZARYTSKA: My husband told me that "Natalia (ph), please be glad, because very soon, it will finish."

RIVERS (on camera): When you say it's going to finish very soon, what are the two options?

ZARYTSKA: Very simple. They will alive, or they will be killed. Just two options.


COOPER: And Matt Rivers joins us now.

Do we know how her husband is doing?

RIVERS: Yes, well, the last message she got from him was a few days ago. So, we don't have any real confirmation.

But what she told us in that message is that he had took pictures, of a number of handwritten pages that he called his final letter to her. He told her, "Don't read them, unless I'm killed here."

And so, we asked her, "Do you think he's going to get out alive?" And she said, "In my head, I think, it's probably impossible. But in my heart," she holds out hope.

COOPER: Wow! It's incredible!

Matt Rivers, thank you so much.


COOPER: I mean, so many people are going through unspeakable things, in that steel plant, in Mariupol.

Few people have had the kind of view of the horrors, in Mariupol. The man you're about to meet has. By that same token, few are better- equipped to speak for, and minister to the needs, body and soul, of the hardest hit.

Pastor Gennadiy Mokhnenko, leads a congregation, in Mariupol. I spoke to him, just before airtime.


COOPER: Pastor, you are close to Mariupol. You're outside. You can't go inside. For obvious safety reasons, you're not allowed in. But I know you work with people, every day, who pass into the city, to help, and some, who come out.

What are you hearing, about what is happening, in Mariupol?

GENNADIY MOKHNENKO, PASTOR FROM MARIUPOL: We have one short word, for about what's happened, in Mariupol. This is not new terming. This is genocide. This is genocide. My city, completely destroyed. Maybe 20,000, maybe 30,000, maybe 40,000 people was killed. And every day, Russian soldier killed more people.

Every day, we try get some people, from Mariupol. And when they start talking, about what's happened there, I can hear this. 21st Century Europe, my beautiful amazing city, just two months ago, they destroyed all of this. And it's real hell, right now. So many crazy story.

COOPER: Before the invasion, it was said there were some 440,000 people, who lived in Mariupol. It was a thriving city. When you look at the images, now, it is a hell-scape. It is destroyed.

Vladimir Putin recently praised, his General, saying that - praising him on what he called the liberation of Mariupol. Is that what the Russians have done there? Have they liberated that town?

MOKHNENKO: When we hear - when we, in Ukraine, hear this, we are real angry. And, even me, like Pastor. But I can't hear this. [21:10:00]

Can you imagine your American city, like New York, for example? And if somebody came to your city, well, destroyed completely, city where you was born? When they will kill thousands, thousands people, children, woman, old people, and they will tell for all world, "We're just save people here," what is that?

What is that? How it's possible? But they did - they tell for people, "We are savers. We save - we save people, here." We told them, "Please, don't save us. We don't need Russian soldier, there."

Mariupol was one of the best city, in my country. Amazing city. Even last eight years, front line was not so far. Just 15 kilometers, 20 kilometers, from my home. But even last eight years, my city built, they remodeling - they built so many beautiful place. And but now, all of this garbage. Everywhere, killed people.

My city now looks like huge cemetery. I think - everywhere, people's body, and was killed. It's unbelievable.

COOPER: Pastor Mokhnenko, I appreciate your time. And I'm so sorry for what is happening. Thank you for talking to us.


COOPER: More now, on the unfolding battle, for eastern Ukraine, as well as the dire situation, right now, in Mariupol, which has been under Russian attack, or siege, for the better part of two months.

Joining us is CNN Military Analyst and retired Army Lieutenant General Mark Hertling.

General Hertling, you see the images, coming out of Mariupol. I mean, what your assessment is of the ongoing battle there? How long, can you train Ukrainian troops, under siege, surrounded in a steel plant, hold out for?

LT. GEN. MARK HERTLING (RET.), U.S. ARMY, CNN MILITARY ANALYST: Anderson, if you would have showed me, or asked me that question, three weeks ago, I would have said, "Not long."

They have performed miracles. The Ukrainian forces that are in that Azovstal plant facility, which has been shown to be about the equivalent of the size of major cities, throughout Europe, has just been miraculous, to say the most. It puts places like Bastogne (ph), to shame, in terms of what they have done, over this - the last two months.

There have been three times the number of Russian troops, attempting to overtake and seize that facility. They have failed in that action. It has caused a huge backup, of logistics trails, to the east, to the north, and to the west, out of that city, for the Russian soldiers.

So, this has been a phenomenal fight, by these heroes, in Mariupol. And they will go down, as legends, in the history of Ukraine, when this thing is over.

COOPER: The Joint Chiefs Chairman, General Milley, said that the next several weeks are going to be critical, for the outcome, of the battle in the South. He talked about making sure the right type of aid, is getting to the right location, at the right time. That's gotten a lot more difficult now, given the long supply lines.

And we talked before, about Russia's long supply lines. You now have Ukrainians needing, you know - it's a long journey, from the Polish border, all the way to the eastern front, to try to get Howitzers, and tanks, and other things, to them.

HERTLING: Yes, to put it in perspective, Anderson, what I did, is a comparison, on a U.S. map, today. It's about 950 miles, from Lviv, to Dnipro, which is right in the center of the fighting, right now. That's their major transfer point.

Then, it has to go from Dnipro, to Kharkiv, to Kramatorsk, to Donetsk. And respectively, it's about 200 miles to 250 miles, to each one of those cities, after they get the supplies, to Dnipro.

And we're talking about, literally, tons of ammunition, large pieces of military equipment, a requirement, to say, how do we get the right things, to the right place? Because, truthfully, Ukraine is going to be fighting on three different fronts, the northeast, the southeast, and the south.

The Ukrainian army is going to face a lot of challenges. They're going to start conducting large-scale conventional combined arms operations, which were not like what you saw in north of Kyiv. And they're going to have to manage logistics, at a very large level, across all of this battle space, and across these long lines of communication, as we call it. It's all going to be proving very challenging.


But what we've seen, so far, is the challenges the Russians face, or have faced, in the past, are much greater. And I personally don't think the Russian army has solved any of the problems that they brought into this eastern and southern fight.

COOPER: Well that was going to be my next question to you. Because, I mean, given the problems, we saw, with the Russian forces, around Kyiv, and their failure, to meet their initial objectives, have they been able to regroup, rearm, renew?

HERTLING: Yes. I think, Russia is facing three major problems. They have real challenges, with manning the force.

There have been indicators across the board that they have attempted to regenerate some of the forces, they lost, in the north, and push them back in the east. I don't believe they've done it.

And an indicator of that is the fact that we've now been in this pause, this so-called operational pause that Russia has dictated, for almost two weeks, now. If they were going to restart a, an attack action, in the east, they would have started it, by now, if their forces had been ready.

It tells me that their manning, is slow to come around. They're relayed at (ph) casualty levels, already. They have attempted to do reconnaissance-by-force, in this area, and Ukraine has pushed them back.

So, they're going to have manning problems. They're also continuing to have tactical leadership and generalship problems. We could talk about that all day long. But it's much greater than they experienced in phase one. And then, finally, they're going to have some of the same problems, in terms of logistically supporting their front lines.

We're seeing some attacks, going on, within Russia now. Now, whether that's caused by local citizens, who are protesting, against their government, or Ukrainian special operations, I don't know. But that's going to affect Russian logistics, as well.

COOPER: Yes. General Hertling, really appreciate it. Thank you. Fascinating.

Coming up next, in the wake of the visit here, from the Secretaries of State, and Defense, Austin - Secretary of Defense, Austin, the promise to reestablish an American diplomatic presence, here, we'll speak with - from a - we'll speak with a former American Ambassador to Ukraine, William Taylor.

And later, someone, who we've spoken to, throughout the invasion. "Washington Post" photojournalist, Heidi Levine, whose images have said so much, so eloquently, about this war, we'll talk to her ahead.



COOPER: America's top diplomat and Defense official, visited, here, over the weekend. And in addition to meeting with Ukraine's President Zelenskyy, and pledging that U.S. diplomats would soon be returning to Kyiv, they made headlines, at a subsequent press conference.

Secretary Blinken saying that Russia has failed, his word, in its attempt, to subjugate Ukraine. Secretary Austin, saying, and these are his words, "We want to see Russia weakened, to the degree that it can't do the kinds of things that it has done, in invading Ukraine."

Want to get some perspective, now, on the visit, from William Taylor, former U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine.

Ambassador, thanks so much, for joining us. How significant, do you think, was the visit, by Secretaries Austin and Blinken? And did it accomplish anything?

WILLIAM TAYLOR, FORMER U.S. AMBASSADOR TO UKRAINE: Anderson, I think, it's very significant. And I think it did accomplish things.

It's certainly made the point that the United States is broader than in the rhetoric that we use. It brings things, to the table. It brings weapons. It is providing the weapons.

And President Zelenskyy has acknowledged that these heavier weapons that he's been asking for are now flowing. And President Zelenskyy himself said it was important that the two secretaries be there. So, it was - I think, it was significant.

It also demonstrated a commitment, a long-term commitment that the United States has to Ukraine. And the comments subsequently that is "We're going to be there. We're going to - the United States is going to be there, for as long as it takes."

The Ukrainians, we know, will fight. You were just talking about the Mariupol heroism. It's incredible what they're doing. And that's a demonstration that the Ukrainians will fight as long as they have the means to do that.

And so, that's what General Austin - Secretary Austin, and Secretary Blinken, were there, to demonstrate, is we're going to be there to support them.

COOPER: We obviously know about the Biden administration's intention, to provide $713 million, in additional military aid. Beyond that, what needs to happen, now, particularly, on a diplomatic level?

TAYLOR: It's not clear Anderson that there's a diplomatic solution, in the near-term. President Putin has given no indication that he's serious, about negotiations.

President Zelenskyy has been trying, and his team have been down, several times, both in Turkey, and on the border. Even by video conference, they've been making some effort. However, he has also said, President Zelenskyy has also said, in the face of these atrocities, in the face, of these war crimes, it's hard to negotiate, with people, like that.

And so, the negotiation, is bound to come, at some point. Probably, when President Putin realizes that he's not going to win on the battlefield, his army is not doing well, as the General just described. The Ukrainian military is doing very well, and they can continue to do that. And, at that point, maybe President Putin will figure it's time to sit down. But it doesn't seem like it's going to happen anytime soon.

COOPER: What is the importance of - I mean, this is just a symbolic importance, of U.S. diplomats, returning to Ukraine, this week?

TAYLOR: More than symbolic. It is important demonstration that we are there. We are in the capital. We're in - and it will happen, maybe in two steps.

Maybe it's back to Lviv, first, and then to - then back into Kyiv, into the embassy. I understand - I've talked to some of the diplomats, and they're eager to get back, to Kyiv, because it's more than symbolic.

It is effective, especially in times of war, where the communication, the quick communication, and indeed, the face-to-face communication, is so important.


Then, it's information going both ways. It's information, coming from Washington, through our embassy, to the Ukrainians. It's also really important, to have the ability, for President Zelenskyy, and Foreign Minister, Kuleba, Defense Minister, Reznikov, to be able to speak directly, and get their messages, back to Washington, in a hurry.

So, it is more than just symbolic. It can be very effective, at increasing the speed, and accuracy, and indeed the connections that are important, at this time.

COOPER: Yes. Ambassador William Taylor, appreciate your time. Thank you.

Coming up, we're going to introduce you to Ukrainian volunteer, who delivers much-needed medicine, and food, to the civilians, who refuse to leave front-line areas, in the east, even as Russian forces, threaten to overrun their towns, and villages.

And later, "Washington Post" photojournalist, Heidi Levine, shares what she has documented, on this now two-month old invasion.


COOPER: In our last hour, Clarissa Ward brought to you, her story, of paramedics, in Ukraine, risking their lives, to save others. There are others, in Ukraine, tonight, risking their lives, as well, trying to bring much-needed supplies, to civilians living, on the front lines, who either won't or can't leave their homes.

Sam Kiley has that story.



SAM KILEY, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): At 21, Maria Stern (ph) is a war veteran. She's been a volunteer, on Ukraine's front lines, in the Donbas, for five years.

Today, she's delivering medicine, and food, to villages, within range of Russian artillery. A new phase, in Vladimir Putin's invasion, of Ukraine, is underway. And it's sometimes hard, to understand, why people stay in front-line villages.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (through translator): I'm asking people, a specific question. Are you ready to hear children, crying, and saying, "Mom, I'm scared to die." It gives me the creeps, to hear them say that myself.

KILEY (voice-over): Russian forces have captured Izium, a few miles, to the north. Pounding nearby towns, with artillery and rockets, they're slowly advancing south, towards Sloviansk, and the city of Kramatorsk. Russia's aim is to capture this territory. To do so, it needs to overrun this landscape.

Maria (ph) is heading towards them, about three miles, from the latest reported Russian forces, and heavy shelling.

She ignores air raid sirens. Her family, who've become friends, are hanging on, in their home. And she's bringing them food.


KILEY (voice-over): On arrival, good news. They've agreed to pull out.


KILEY (voice-over): A last run, in the springtime garden, for Yvkania (ph) and Oleksandra (ph), who ignore the town sirens.

NATALIA MALIGON, RESIDENT OF MYKOLAIVKA, UKRAINE (through translator): My sister woke up, this morning, and said, we have to leave. So, we packed up. We didn't want to leave until the last minute. But then, something made you want to. So, we had to.

KILEY (voice-over): It's an emotional wrench that it's a relief.

KILEY (on camera): The importance of groups, like Maria (ph) are, part of a volunteer army, right across Ukraine, here, in the front-line villages, is not just humanitarian. It's political. It's about trying to hold on to as much Ukrainian government territory, as is possible, for as long as is possible.

KILEY (voice-over): The lessons, from Bucha, and other towns, captured by Russia, is that many civilians may not survive occupation. A neighbor herself frightened and confused, still refuses to go. She's got a job, at the local power plant. Joining Ukraine's millions of refugees, risks a life of deeper poverty.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (through translator): It's simply a genocide of the Ukrainian people. I don't know how else to explain to you. You just ask for what?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (through translator): We're not planning to leave here. This is my homeland. And my relatives are here. I cannot leave anyone here. My elderly grandmother is 80, and can hardly walk. I can't leave her. Do you understand?

KILEY (voice-over): There's no jollying (ph) escape, for Grandmother Luga (ph). Not for anyone, in this family.

Tens of thousands of people, are staying on, in their homes, across this region.


KILEY (voice-over): In the nearby church, Orthodox Easter services are dominated by prayers for peace. But the unholy ghost of war looms heavily here.



COOPER: Sam joins us now, from Kramatorsk.

The volunteers, you spoke with, I mean, they must be scared, for their own safety?

KILEY: They're very scared. Very frequently, they come under artillery fire. There's very small, very low levels of small arms fire, here. And indeed, that's been the characteristic, of this war, in general.

But particularly, in this phase, Anderson, this is an artillery duel, going on, particularly here, in the east, just north of, where I am. Where I was, with Maria (ph), there, we could hear regular detonations, from incoming and outgoing artillery.

Just now, as dawn, is breaking here, in Kramatorsk, there's been an uptick, in artillery exchanges. And that's typical of the Soviet style of doing war, which is to bombard villages, into oblivion, very often, and then try and take over the landscape.

A landscape that will be devoid of human beings, and it is being wiped off, the face of the earth, in terms of the culture of Ukraine, which is why, people, like Maria (ph) talk of - use this term, genocide, Anderson.

COOPER: Yes. Sam Kiley, appreciate it. Be careful.

Earlier, I spoke to someone, who has spent a great deal of time, chronicling the heroism, and the horrors, of this war. Also, the fears of displaced Ukrainians, she has met, in her travels. "Washington Post" photojournalist, Heidi Levine.


COOPER: Heidi, thanks so much, for joining us. You've been, in Ukraine, since February 20. You've now moved to the east of the country, as Russian forces now are focusing on the area. How is working there, different, than what you were experiencing, in Kyiv?


HEIDI LEVINE, PHOTOJOURNALIST, THE WASHINGTON POST: Well, it's a different pace, so far. It's, you know, access to the front lines, is quite difficult, and challenging. And we're hoping, to have access, to the front line.

But what we've really been concentrating on, is in Zaporizhzhia, there's a refugee center. And we are meeting people that are coming out of Mariupol, and villages, surrounding Mariupol. And people are just coming out shell-shocked.

COOPER: Yes. I mean, the images, you took, of the people, getting off that bus, in Mariupol, and the story that went along with it, it was so moving.

The reporters that you're working with, were saying that when the buses arrived, and the doors opened, a lot of the people just kind of sat on the bus, sort of in stunned silence, just watching the officials, who were there, waiting for them, sort of stunned that they were out of this horrific scene, in Mariupol.

LEVINE: And that's really true. Because even when convoys are moving, they don't even know, if they're actually going to reach Ukrainian territory. They don't know if they're going to get shot on, by Russian forces. They could get turned back. We've even heard of people, being taken off the convoy, and that people are missing.

So, you can only imagine what it's like, for these people, to actually get to an area that they feel safe that they're actually fed. The support that they're getting is amazing. They're getting fed. There's clothes available. Toys, for the children. And--

COOPER: And, for some of them, it's the first time they've had solid food. I mean, in--

LEVINE: Right.

COOPER: --according to the accounts, some of them were eating dry pasta, for days, in basements.

LEVINE: Exactly. I mean, people are too afraid, to go outside, because they could easily be shot.

COOPER: You were in also a town, called Vorzel, which is northwest of Kyiv.

And in the report that went along with your photographs, I mean, you tell the story of this man, who helped his neighbors, helped shelter them, ended up being shot, and his body left outside, on the street, for days, his family looking at it every day, but were too afraid to go out, and retrieve it, because they were afraid they would get shot.

LEVINE: Exactly. And, in fact, we met with a son, and he showed us where his father was buried, behind the house, in the backyard. And he's hoping that he will be able to exhume the body, and give it a proper burial.

But also, you have to understand that too, his family, his mother, is in another part of Ukraine. So, families are so separated that chances are, when there are - when there is a funeral, family member - not all the family members can even attend.

When, in Vorzel, I met a woman. Her name was Julia (ph), 37-years-old. And she told me that a Russian soldier tried to rape her. It was really difficult for her to speak. I think it was helpful that I was a woman, and I really tried to make her comfortable.

And she told me that he came to her door, of her house, and - armed with his gun, and in uniform, and led - tried to get her to go to the shed, in the yard, and asked her to sit down, inside the shed, and tried to touch her.

And luckily, her dog, followed her, with her, and apparently scared the soldier, who called her a very feisty one. And she told us, - soldier that he can shoot her in the head. And then, he can only do what he wants, with her body. But - and she managed to escape, and hide in her neighbor's basement, for days, until he was - his unit was - had moved on.

COOPER: Yes. Well, your work, your photographs, and the work of all your colleagues, it helps me understand, what's happening. It opens my eyes and, I'm sure, it does to millions of people, around the world.

Heidi Levine, I really appreciate your time. Thank you.

LEVINE: Well, thank you, so much, for having me.


COOPER: Well, coming up, with more than 3 million refugees, having fled to Poland, many non-Ukrainian refugees are finding they face different treatment, when they cross the border. Details on that, next.



COOPER: According to the latest U.N. data, more than 5.2 million refugees, have fled Ukraine, since the invasion began, just two months ago. Life of refugees is, of course, not easy, especially for non- Ukrainians, fleeing the country, who haven't found the same welcome, in Poland, as others.

CNN's Erica Hill has the story.


ERICA HILL, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): After fleeing the war, in Ukraine, a chance, to just be a kid.


HILL (on camera): She says, here, she is grateful.

HILL (voice-over): Poland has welcomed nearly 3 million people, since the war started. Yet, not everyone is greeted, with open arms.

KAMILA DEMBINSKA, MANAGER, HOSTEL FOR NON-UKRAINIAN REFUGEES: It's clear that we are more open for those Slavic people, at safe groups (ph).

HILL (voice-over): While Ukrainians, arriving in Poland, can stay, for 18 months, work, legally, and have access, to health care, and social services, non-Ukrainians can't.

These three women knew they could help. MAGDA WRONISZEWSKA, MANAGER, HOSTEL FOR NON-UKRAINIAN REFUGEES: They have only two weeks to think about their next steps. It's I can't imagine actually how to - how to do it, when you're a war refugee.

HILL (voice-over): Overnight, they started a shelter, for non- Ukrainian refugees, run by KIK (ph), a Catholic NGO, in Poland. With space, for 70 guests, they're turning people away, daily.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And from the beginning, it's full.


HILL (voice-over): Joel and Daniel (ph), students from Nigeria, were studying Management, in Kyiv, when the war broke out, and were reluctant to leave.

OYEBANJI "JOEL" TOLUWALASE, NIGERIAN REFUGEE, WAS STUDYING IN UKRAINE: Which was fun for me, and I would rather love to go back to Ukraine. It's just like that. It's a very good country.

HILL (on camera): You told me, when you were looking to leave, that it was harder for you, because of the way you look, because of the color of your skin?

TOLUWALASE: Yes, to be honest, yes. This is a challenge.

HILL (voice-over): They finally left, two weeks ago, and are now trying to figure out, what's next.

DEMBINSKA: We also try to support our guests, organizing their next steps. So, sometimes, it's a trip to other countries. But also, we try to find flats or apartments, places to stay.

HILL (voice-over): Volunteers, at least a dozen, a day, keep the shelter running, and help connect refugees, to essential services. Among them, 27-year-old Khaled, an IT professional, who fled Afghanistan, seven months ago.

ABDUL KHALED MOHEBI, AFGHAN REFUGEE, VOLUNTEER: I do anything that I can do. It's very good, for me, because I don't have any other job. And it's good idea, to spend time here.

HILL (voice-over): This effort relies on donations, from clothing, and toiletries, to food and flowers.

Even the space, which has now welcomed more than 500 people, from 36 countries, is donated, a generous offer the runs out, at the end of May. They're hoping to move before then, to ensure these refugees, have somewhere to go.

HILL (on camera): How long do you think your help will be needed?

DEMBINSKA: We should be ready, to invite new refugees, till the end of the next year.

HILL (voice-over): A challenge, this team, is determined, to meet. UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I have a feeling that we are really helping those people, who are here. We cannot solve all problems. But this is a small part that we can do.


COOPER: Erica joins me now, from Warsaw.

Is that shelter losing its space, at the end of May? What happens?

HILL: Yes. Yes, they are. So, when I say they launched the shelter, overnight, it did literally happen, overnight.

These three women, work with this organization, KIK (ph) International. But I should point out, Anderson, they all have full time jobs and families. They found this space, which was donated, to them, for three months.

But, at the end of May, the owner needs it back. It actually serves as a camp over winter and summer break. So, they'll need those dorm rooms.

So, they're currently searching for another location. And they're hoping not only to find one, but to find one that's larger. This has a capacity for 70 people. They're hoping to maybe find a space that could hold as many as 150 at a time.

COOPER: And how long, typically, do people stay?

HILL: So, it depends on the person. And they're coming, really, from all over, and all different situations.

Initially, when they opened the shelter, their plan was that they would give people three days, so they could stay for three days, and then they needed to move on. They realized that they couldn't just kick people out. They're literally turning people away, every day.

As for how long everybody stays? Again, it depends on their situation. They have students, from all over, who'd been studying, in Ukraine. Families, as well. And part of it depends on them lining up what's next, whether they're trying to go home or to perhaps another country, in Western Europe, or trying to find a way in Poland, and that really dictates how long they need help, in that shelter.

COOPER: Well, Erica Hill, appreciate it. Thank you.

Coming up, an election outcome that impacts the global response, to the invasion. France's President Macron has soundly defeated his opponent, viewed by some as pro-Putin. But she's still vowing to stay in the political fight. What that might mean for the war? Next.



COOPER: Well, France is among the NATO nations, playing a big supporting role, to Ukraine, in this invasion. That's why the world had been watching this presidential election, yesterday, very closely.

The candidate, running against incumbent Emmanuel Macron, was once openly supportive, of Vladimir Putin. She didn't win, by a lot. She still could impact France's Ukraine policy, down the road, however.

Our Melissa Bell has more.


MELISSA BELL, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): As Emmanuel Macron, became the first French president, in 20 years, to win a second term, the European flag, served, as a reminder, of what had been at stake.



BELL (voice-over): His far-right rival, Marine Le Pen, had promised to defying Europe's institutions, turning the E.U. into a much looser alliance, of sovereign nations, a position, apparently backed, by 42 percent of voters.


MARINE LE PEN, FAR-RIGHT PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE (through translator): For our French leaders, as for the European leaders, this result bears witness, to the great mistrust, of the French people, towards them, which they cannot ignore, and to the widely shared aspiration, for a great change.

BELL (voice-over): It's a change Vladimir Putin has been backing, for years, receiving the far-right candidate, just ahead, of the 2017 French election.

And last week, the jailed Russian opposition leader, Alexey Navalny, weighed in, urging the French, to back Macron. And describing the Russian bank that lent Le Pen's party, nearly $10 million, in 2014, as a well-known money laundering agency, created, at the instigation of Putin, in a tweet, just hours ahead of the French candidates' debate.

MACRON (through translator): You depend on Russian power. You depend on Mr. Putin.

LE PEN (through translator): I am a completely free woman.

BELL (voice-over): Marine Le Pen insists the loan was strictly a financial arrangement that her party is reimbursing, in full. But she remains cautious, about further sanctions, against Moscow.

LE PEN (through translator): To pretend that the French or other European peoples could absorb the consequences of a total cut-off of Russian gas, oil, or raw materials, is simply irresponsible.


BELL (voice-over): But Macron has gone much further, than just sanctions, sending 100 million euros of weaponry, to Kyiv.

Something Le Pen, had said she would be prudent about. She also announced that she wanted a strategic rapprochement between NATO and Russia.

BELL (on camera): In the end, neither her positions, on NATO and the E.U., nor her proximity to Moscow, prevented Marine Le Pen, from achieving a historic score, coming within 5.5 million votes, of Emmanuel Macron.

She's now looking to June's legislative elections, to try and deprive him, of his governing majority, which could present challenges, for France's continued support to Ukraine.

BELL (voice-over): And Le Pen, is far from alone, in Europe, with allies, amongst the bloc's far-right and Eurosceptic parties, many of them, also, historically close to Moscow.

By Monday morning, she arrived at her headquarters, defeated, but unbowed, vowing to start a fresh fight, for her own vision, of the future.


BELL (voice-over): Melissa Bell, CNN, Paris.


COOPER: Well, we'll be right back.


COOPER: Stay with CNN, for the latest, from Ukraine.

The news continues. Let's turn things over to Don and "DON LEMON TONIGHT."