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Anderson Cooper 360 Degrees

Amb. Beth Van Schaack On Russia's Forces; War Photographer Documents Tragedy On Ukraine's Front Lines; Biden Proposes To Send Proceeds From Seized Assets Of Sanctioned Russian Oligarchs To Ukraine. Aired 9-10p ET

Aired April 28, 2022 - 21:00   ET




ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST: Russia's invasion force is making slow and uneven progress, and trying to learn from two months, of mistakes, but not with any great success.

That's the latest assessment, at least tonight, from Western defense officials. Quoting one European figure now, "The attacks are somewhat better coordinated," they said, "but with small formations. In NATO, this would be basic stuff."

Now, that said, as Ukrainians in the eastern and southern parts of the country, are learning, the sheer destruction, even a less-than- competent army can inflict, is considerable.

CNN's Nick Paton Walsh got very close, to the front lines, today. He joins us now.

What is it like, where you are?

NICK PATON WALSH, CNN INTERNATIONAL SECURITY EDITOR: Well, Anderson, certainly it seems though, the renewed southern offensive, up really from Kherson, the first city that Russia took, where we are learning about, and plans for intensified Russian control, that Southern offensive is seeing some sort of progress.

Even the Ukrainian Military saying that above Kherson, near Mykolaiv, they are seeing Russians advance partially, there, and in the east as well.

And we saw ourselves what that looks like, particularly along the vital strategic Dnipro River that splits this country in two, along the western banks of which, it seems, the Russians are pushing hard, to move north.


PATON WALSH (voice-over): If Moscow had any surprises left, in this war, it is along here. The other side of the river has been Russia's, for weeks. But here, the western side is caught, in the fast-changing landscape, of this week's push. PATON WALSH (on camera): That's the price, over there, the Dnipro River, up, past which, on the left side bank here, the Russians are trying to push, wanting control, of both sides, of that vital part of Ukraine.

PATON WALSH (voice-over): Here, in Novovorontsovka (ph), we are told there are a handful of Russian tanks, just over a kilometer away, on its outskirts, pushing, probing, but ultimately kept at bay, by Ukrainian forces that still hold the town.

Resilience here, embodied in Ludmila, under the threat of rocket fire, planting onions.


PATON WALSH (voice-over): "I'm here, until victory," she said.




PATON WALSH (on camera): (FOREIGN LANGUAGE) Children have gone. It's just her and her mother. (FOREIGN LANGUAGE).


PATON WALSH (on camera): OK. 80-year-old mother, and her, are staying here.




PATON WALSH (on camera): Her mother says she's not going anywhere, and she's not going to leave her alone.


PATON WALSH (on camera): All her windows are blown out, she says.

PATON WALSH (voice-over): Ukrainian forces, who don't want their positions filmed, are dotted around the town.

As to other signs of innocent lives, lost here, rockets peeking out, from under the water.

Now, on this boat, in which 14 civilians, tried to flee, Russian occupation, on April the 7th, four of them died, when Moscow's troops opened fire, when it was 70 meters out.

Yet still, the desperate keep fleeing. This morning, these women left behind, their men, to defend their homes, near Novovorontsovka (ph). LUDA, FLED RUSSIAN OCCUPATION: (FOREIGN LANGUAGE).


PATON WALSH (voice-over): "We ran, ran early, in the morning," said Luda. "They didn't let us out. We're shields for them. They don't let us out. And by foot, and by bicycle, we go. In the fields, we ran."


PATON WALSH (voice-over): "Our soldiers were two kilometers away," Natasha (ph) adds. "And we ran to them."


PATON WALSH (voice-over): "Well, they need, the Russians, tank," she said, "take cars."


PATON WALSH (voice-over): "They draw Zs on everything."

As their new unwanted guests, demanded milk and food, at gunpoint, they had a glimpse, of their warped mindset.



PATON WALSH (voice-over): "They say, they've come to liberate us," Luda said, "these aggressors. That's what they told us. They say America is fighting here, but using the hands of Ukrainians to do it. That's what they say."

Another claim to be fueled by the violence of the long war with separatists in the east. In general, the Donetsk militants say, she said, "You have been bombing us for eight years. Now, we bomb you."

Across the fields, loathing and artillery swallow whole once-happy world.


COOPER: Nick, at the start of the invasion, you were in Kherson. What are you hearing from there now?

PATON WALSH: Certainly, there is one bit of clarity about whether or not that the first city taken by Russia, whether there will be a referendum there or not.

We're hearing from officials, installed by the Russian Military, there, a new wave, in the past days that there will now not be a referendum, as so many locals had feared that would be, possibly yesterday.

Instead, the rhetoric, being heard, from those officials, is that they want to never allow Kherson to go back to, quote, its Nazi past. That's referenced the sort of ludicrous proposition, put forward, by Russia, to justify its unprovoked invasion that it was denazifying Ukraine.

And interestingly, too, as well, they do appear to want to introduce the Russian currency, the ruble, possibly as soon as this weekend, into that city of Kherson.

Now, I should point out that while many were thinking there could have been a referendum there, yesterday, there were instead protests, and last night, as we discussed, Anderson, explosions in that town.

So, it's far from cleanly under Russian control. But certainly, the rhetoric now is they want to improve economic development, there, despite, of course, any damage, to the economy, being the result of their clumsy troop invasion, into that town, Anderson.

COOPER: We've also seen growing tensions, at the border, with Moldova, in this breakaway region that's backed by Russia, this sort of bizarre sliver of land. What's the latest there?

PATON WALSH: Yes, I mean, there being concerns, certainly voiced, I think, after Russia suggested its second phase of its operation might be to move from kind of roughly south of where I'm standing, all the way, west, via Odessa, towards Moldova, that there could be some military activation, in Transdniestria, where there has been a contingent of Russian troops, in this breakaway part of Moldova, a member of the European Union, for a time since the 1990s.

Now, there have been explosions, in Transdniestria, over the past few days or so near state security buildings. Ukraine has said that's essentially a false-flag operation, by Russia, to try and provide a justification, for an increased presence, there. And there have been suggestions maybe that there are possibly moves to mobilize some parts of forces, there, although minor, I should say, they are.

What we're hearing today though, is response from Ukraine. Their Odessa Military spokesperson talking about how they are, it seems, moving some sort of troops, in the direction of Transdniestria's border area, to be sure they can respond, to anything that may come their way.

But really, I have to say, Anderson, it's hard to see, how Russia can genuinely envision, it has the energy, to stretch all the way, across from where they are here, in Ukraine's south.

So, over there, on the border, with Moldova, this may just be another distraction, essentially tying up, parts of Ukraine's Military, on tasks, to protect things that never actually get threatened, in the end, enabling Russia's genuine motives, here, possibly, and in the east, to be pursued.

COOPER: Yes. Nick Paton Walsh, appreciate it. Thank you. Be careful.

You'll recall, last night, Nick brought us the really horrifying story, of a 16-year-old girl named Dasha (ph), who says she was raped, by a Russian soldier, in her village.

When we first told you about it, last night, Beth Van Schaack, America's Ambassador-at-Large for Global Criminal Justice, had just spoken, at the U.N., on the subject, war crimes, including rape and summary executions.

The U.S., she said, now has credible information that a Russian military unit operating near Donetsk had murdered Ukrainians, who were trying to surrender. What's more, she said, accounts from, on the ground here, suggest this was not an isolated incident.

I spoke to the Ambassador, shortly before airtime.


COOPER: Ambassador Van Schaack, we hear this horrific reporting, from my colleague, Nick Paton Walsh, about a 16-year-old girl, in the Kherson region, who says she was raped, by a Russian soldier, at her family home.

How does that align with the evidence U.S. government has been gathering, about the situation, in Ukraine, when it comes to sexual violence?


It's really disturbing, the reports that we're hearing, coming out of Ukraine, once we've had a chance to get journalists, human rights defenders, and others, on the ground, to speak with individuals, who are living this war, firsthand.

And that report is one of many that we've heard of women and girls being subjected to sexual violence, at the hands of Russia's forces.

COOPER: You told the U.N., just yesterday that the U.S. government has credible information that a Russian military unit, executed Ukrainians, who were attempting to surrender.


Do you have any more details, on that? And what do you do with that information, at this point?

VAN SCHAACK: Unfortunately, I can't share any additional details about that. But know that we are, at any given moment, looking at a fusion of information, from multiple sources, open sources, satellite, et cetera.

And that information came in. It was deeply disturbing. And if true, would be a very serious violations of the laws of war that individuals, who are incapacitated, for whatever reason, surrender, injury, et cetera, are supposed to be treated humanely, brought into custody, and dealt with that way, rather than executed outright.

COOPER: I want to read something else you told the U.N., regarding the Intelligence reports, of sexual violence, and individuals killed, execution-style.

You said, these images and reports suggest that atrocities are not the result of rogue units, or individuals. They rather reveal a deeply disturbing pattern, of systematic abuse, across all areas, where Russia's forces are engaged.

Does that mean that this is part of Russia's strategy, that the mistreatment of civilians, the violations, of international norms, of rules of engagement, rules of war, is part of a strategy, or just part of ill-discipline across the country, by Russian forces?

VAN SCHAACK: Well, at a minimum, we have very undisciplined troops, for sure. But as additional areas, become liberated, as Russia's forces retreat, we are seeing this disturbing pattern, of civilians being treated, in extremely horrific ways.

And so, that does start to suggest that this is not just random acts, by individual units or persons. But rather, certainly a lack of command and control, coming from higher up the chain of command.

COOPER: It doesn't seem like, and maybe I'm wrong, that the Russian Military, has many mechanisms, internally, to try to address, or investigate, themselves.

They clearly - you know, Vladimir Putin gave an award, to one of the biggest units that was in Bucha, at the time, when atrocities were taking place. It doesn't seem like there's a real desire, on the part of Russian forces, to investigate themselves.

VAN SCHAACK: I think that's right. The obligations of responsible command, are to supervise troops, under your command, subordinates.

And if you see, or learn of, or have wind, that abuses are underway or have been committed, the duty of the commander, is to do all that can be done, to prevent those abuses, and then to respond appropriately, after the fact, with disciplinary action.

And we have not seen that yet. We have not seen that. And it's an upsetting reality of the laws of war, here, and the breaches that we're seeing.

COOPER: So, what do what do you do with all the information that you gather that you get? Obviously, war crimes investigations, there are a number of them, going on, there. There's ones by Ukrainian officials. There's the International Criminal Court, which traditionally the United States has not recognized, or taken part in?

What kind of accountability can there actually be, internationally?

VAN SCHAACK: Well, at this moment in time, the real imperative is to preserve this information, to authenticate it, and to have it ready, for when there are accountability exercises, moving forward.

The Prosecutor General of Ukraine is going to really have to carry the lion's share of this. These are crimes that are happening, on their territory. And their courts are open, and available, to bring, to hear these cases. I know that she's building case files, with respect to particular incidents, and acts that have happened, on Ukrainian territory.

But there are third States that might also be in a position, to assert jurisdiction, if individual perpetrators travel, if survivors and victims, end up in those jurisdictions. And then, as you mentioned, you have the International Criminal Court, which has also opened an investigation, into the situation, in Ukraine, with Ukraine's consent.

COOPER: It is difficult. I mean, these are hard cases to make. It's not just a question of an individual committing an act. It's also what orders were given, what is the chain of command?

VAN SCHAACK: Indeed, they are very difficult cases. There's no question about it. And you do have a chain of command.

And there may be individuals, who are liable, all the way up that chain of command, from the individual, on the ground, who's the direct perpetrator, to the person, at the top, who's the architect of violence, and who's either issuing orders, or who's failing, to properly supervise subordinates, under his or her command and control.

And so, finding liability, all along that chain of command, is ultimately the job of courts. And I'm sure that the Prosecutor General, now, is starting to look at the various case files that she has, individuals she has, in her custody, individuals, up the chain of command, whom she can identify, and start opening files on.

COOPER: Ambassador Beth Van Schaack, I appreciate your time. Thank you.

VAN SCHAACK: Thank you.


COOPER: Next, more of my conversation, with Olena Gnes, the mom of three, here, in Kyiv, who, we've gotten to know, early on, in the war. But got to meet, for the first time, today.

And later, "New York Times photographer" Lynsey Addario, and the war story, she is telling, here, framed by storing frame.



COOPER: Over the last two months, we've gotten to know, a mom, here, in Kyiv, named Olena Gnes, and her three young children, Katya (ph), Dureena (ph), and Tara (ph). We've spoken many times, over satellite, as they've been living, for the most part, in a basement shelter, while their father, Sergei (ph) fights the war.

Olena has been documenting what life has been like for them. And we've learned so much from her, and her family, but always at a distance, over an internet connection. Today, for the first time, I got to meet her, and the kids, face-to-face. Here's more of our conversation.


COOPER: So, for now, you spend days, here. But, at night, you go back to the basement?

OLENA GNES, UKRAINIAN SHELTERING IN KYIV: Yes, exactly. Yes. Yes. In the daytime, I am outside. We go to the playground. We go home.


But, at night, I still come back to the shelter, because I do not feel safe. Maybe if my husband comes back home, I will allow myself, to close my eyes, and relax. Because, I think that we will share responsibility.

But, for now, I'm responsible for three kids. And I cannot close my eyes, in my apartment. So, it's like more, for me, to go to the shelter, where I can close my eyes, and let this tension (ph), out of control, just to sleep. Maybe I will need a psychotherapist, at some point, to deal with my personal trauma.

COOPER: When you started making videos, when you started sending videos, out into the world, what was the thought behind it?

GNES: Well, I just had a YouTube channel, before, where I was talking about Ukraine, showing the people, how beautiful is my country, inviting the foreign tourists, to come, because I was a tour guide, showing Chernobyl, showing Kyiv, and some other parts of Ukraine.

And before the war, more and more questions were about, "Is it safe to visit Ukraine? What do you think?" And then, people were asking questions like, "What's going on?" And I had to give the response to the audience.

So when, finally, at night, early in the morning, we heard explosions, and we rushed to the underground tunnel, to hide from, the possible bombs, I decided, it's my responsibility, to let the guys know that it's not safe to come to Ukraine, because the war have started.

And then, I had another thought that "OK, if it really started, and if I die, at least this video will be left behind, and people will see what happened here."

COOPER: It helps you to do it?

GNES: It helps me to, yes, it helped me a lot.

COOPER: To kind of view your life, slightly from a distance, in a way?

GNES: Yes, exactly. Exactly. When I was, like, working at Chernobyl, and describing people, what, people who were evacuated from the Chernobyl Exclusion Zone, when the accident happened, what they were feeling. And many of them were saying that they were feeling themselves like inside of a surreal movie. And I felt the same. And I wanted to show this movie to the others.

COOPER: Do you have a sense of how it might end?

GNES: Not really. Not really. It would be great, if it stops very soon.

Like, when we were talking to you, in the very beginning, yes, I was like crying, and saying, like, "You should intervene. Close the sky." Let's spend together, like immediately, why for less lives to be taken, from Ukraine.

Because for me, it was obvious that this crocodile, this bear, will not be satisfied, with this piece of meat. He will go forward and forward and forward until he's stopped. So like, why not stopping him immediately?

Why waiting for him to commit the crimes first, and then to say, "Oh, we regret. We regret that this happened, condolences." Yes, why should we allow this criminal, to commit crimes, before stopping him?

OK, what happened later? We already had Bucha. Yes, we had Borodianka. Now, we have Mariupol. And now, it's obvious that he really needs to be stopped, right now. And we shouldn't allow him, to commit, another Bucha, and another Mariupol, right?

Because this is, whenever they come, they will do the same. They will do another Bucha. So, he needs to be stopped. How to stop him? Only by force, only by arms.

COOPER: If there is some sort of negotiation, to end it, and Ukraine has to give something, and the situation remains essentially the same, with parts of Ukraine, still in Russian hands, in the south, is that acceptable?

GNES: For me, it's not acceptable. Not anymore. It was acceptable, before Bucha. It was acceptable, before Mariupol. But not anymore, no.

COOPER: And that's the way many people here feel, do you think?

GNES: Yes.

COOPER: Too much has happened?

GNES: Too much, yes.

COOPER: To have it go back to just the way it was?

GNES: So much. No peaceful agreements, anymore, with this criminal. You cannot sit, at one table, with a criminal, with a terrorist. He just needs to be prosecuted. He needs to be punished.

And all of the other Russians, who did the crimes, who were raping children, who were torturing people, who were killing civilians, they have to be prosecuted. All of this propaganda, guys, in the Russian TV, who were dehumanizing people, in Russia, and in Ukraine, all of them have to be punished. There should be no compromises. For Putin, I don't know how anyone, any politician, can shake hands with him.

COOPER: What will you tell Dureena (ph) about this time?


GNES: I - well I will tell her that she was such a powerful warrior, of late. We didn't plan her, with my husband. It was a complete--

COOPER: She was a surprise?

GNES: She was a complete kinder surprise! Moreover, we discovered her, when I was already two months pregnant. Now, I'm not only a mother of three kids, which is already difficult, but I'm mother of three children, at war. But I feel that she was gifted, to me, from, I don't know, the heaven, the gods, or something powerful, to help me, to go through all of this.


COOPER: Coming up, the war's toll, as captured by a Pulitzer Prize- winning "New York Times" photojournalist. She joins us, with the story, behind this, and other scenes of heartache.

Her unforgettable images, from the front lines, next.


COOPER: Before this hour is over, the war will enter its 10th week. More than two months of relentless undeserved brutality. But, for all the video, we, and others, capture, it's sometimes a single image that often reminds us, more than anything, of the human toll.

This is a 70-year-old woman, crying, while hiding in a basement shelter, in southeastern Ukraine. She told "The New York Times" about the constant shelling, in her town, where she is, among the few, who stay.

This photo, for "The New York Times," is just one of the many remarkable pictures, taken in this war, by Lynsey Addario.


Addario is a constant presence, in some of the most dangerous parts of Ukraine. She's been on the ground, at every major hotspot, around the globe, in recent memory, from Afghanistan, to Iraq, to Syria.

We're fortunate, to welcome her back, on the program, tonight.

Lynsey, I know you're in Zaporizhzhia, right now. As the war has moved east, just from your perspective, what's the difference, in terms of, of photographing, of covering it?

LYNSEY ADDARIO, THE NEW YORK TIMES, PULITZER PRIZE-WINNING PHOTOGRAPHER, AUTHOR, "IT'S WHAT I DO": I mean, what I'm seeing down here, is a real steady flow of civilians that are fleeing villages, and cities, all from the south and the east, as Russian troops push towards Zaporizhzhia. And it's incredible, because it's happening daily, and the flow is constant.

COOPER: You were able to go to the front lines, Ukrainian soldiers, in the Zaporizhzhia region, in a position, only two miles, from where Russian forces were attempting to overrun more territory. What was that like?

ADDARIO: So, again, very difficult, to get access, with the Ukrainian Military.

What you're looking at are soldiers, sort of positioned, along tree lines, wherever they can, digging foxholes, and kind of living, in holes, in the ground, essentially, waiting for artillery, and firing back.

They're holding these villages. I mean, the goal is to not let the Russians overrun a lot of this territory. So you have Ukrainian soldiers positioned all throughout.

At one point, when we first arrived, there was a Russian drone, flying overhead, which was, of course, terrifying. And that's a whole new element to this conflict that, everyone has to contend with. And so, we had to hide, inside of the house, and wait for the drone to disappear.

Because what the drone does is it spots soldiers, and then calls in artillery strikes. And so, the drone that was flying overhead, ended up calling in a strike, very close to our position, and we could hear it, and we waited. And then, we went, and continued on.

COOPER: You've also been seeing people, in Zaporizhzhia, coming, a lot of people are coming, from Mariupol, and other parts of Ukraine. And there's a photograph in "The New York Times," of some of the people, who are coming.

What is that like, documenting that? What are you hearing from them?

ADDARIO: I mean, it's just heartbreaking. The first day, I got here, there were four buses that had arrived. But, of course, the humanitarian corridor, we've all been waiting for, has not transpired. So, those buses have not arrived.

So, what we're seeing are individual cars that have been able to get through. People are showing a range of emotions, from just sheer elation, to kids that are so traumatized, they just sort of stare vacantly. And you can only imagine, what they've witnessed.

One family said they didn't see the sky, for six weeks. They didn't have soap or water, for six weeks, to even wash their hands. So, if you can imagine, wearing the same clothes, not being able to wash your hands, not seeing daylight? That's a long time, for families, and for crowds of people, to be living in a basement.

COOPER: I also want to show one of your photos. It's a moment, of silence, after some firefighter, from the United States, and elsewhere, alongside with Ukrainian firefighters, had been digging through rubble, and finally found a man, who had died, trapped underneath that rubble, when his home was hit by a Russian strike, last month.

Can you talk a little bit about what you witnessed there?

ADDARIO: Yes, I mean, this was interesting, because, I was, in Kyiv, for the first month of the war.

And a lot of these places like Hostomel, Horenka, these are places that were almost inaccessible. I mean, there was so much heavy fighting, we couldn't go near them. And we could only imagine what was going on, much like what we saw, in Bucha and Irpin.

This group of American firefighters, they were so motivated, to come and help Ukrainian firefighters. Eric Hill put - is one of the firefighters, from California, put a message, on Facebook. Ended up getting requests, from all over the world, from Australia, Germany, the United States, to go help Ukrainian firefighters. And so, they came to help unearth bodies, help the Ukrainian firefighters, to unearth bodies, in rubble that they just hadn't had the time to do.

COOPER: Do you worry that as it's, you know, as the war is moved to the east and, as you said, it's harder and harder to get access, to the front that if people, back in the U.S., and elsewhere, around the world, don't see the images, of what is happening here, the images of the violence that is taking place, the horror of what is happening, that they will start to kind of forget about it, or not pay attention, to what is happening, here?


ADDARIO: Yes, of course. I mean, part of my job, as a photographer, is to try to capture the emotion, and the drama, and the heartbreak that's going on. And if I can't access that, if I can't present that, to the American public, it's very difficult, to inspire people, to care. I think we were very lucky, to have the world's attention, for the first month, first six weeks, of this war, because people just couldn't turn away.

Now, it's harder and harder. Across the east, in Ukraine, the distances are very far. A lot of the places are inaccessible, or we can't spend the night, because they're just too dangerous. So, it is very difficult to cover. But, of course, we keep trying, because it's very important to cover what's happening.

COOPER: Yes. Lynsey Addario, so appreciate it. Thank you very much.

ADDARIO: Thanks, Anderson.

COOPER: Coming up, my conversation, with the top associate, of Alexei Navalny, the imprisoned Russian opposition leader. Talk to him about Russian disinformation, President Biden's pursuit of oligarch wealth, and the latest on Navalny's condition, in prison.



COOPER: Included in President Biden's announcement, of a $33 billion aid package, to the Ukrainians, was a proposal to also send them the proceeds of assets, seized from sanctioned Russian oligarchs. Quoting, the President, "We're going to seize their yachts, their luxury homes, and other ill-begotten gains."

Earlier, I spoke about that, with the top associate, of Alexei Navalny, the imprisoned opposition leader, and subject of a fascinating documentary, you can watch, on CNN, tomorrow night.

His name is Vladimir Ashurkov. He's Executive Director of Navalny's Anti-Corruption Foundation. We also spoke about, how Navalny, is doing in prison, and what impact Russian disinformation, is having, on the Russian people.


COOPER: Mr. Ashurkov, the United States, is now looking, into not only seizing the assets, of oligarchs, but actually selling off, some assets, or reappropriating financial assets, and giving them, to Ukraine, to help fight this war.

Is that something you support? And it's obviously a big step for the U.S. It would be a major change in policy.

VLADIMIR ASHURKOV, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, ANTI-CORRUPTION FOUNDATION, ASSOCIATE OF ALEXEI NAVALNY: It's not a step that should be taken lightly. It's one thing to freeze assets, of people, who got under sanctions. But it's another thing, to confiscate private property, without a proper judicial procedure.

There has been legislation, put in place, in the U.S. that would allow the U.S. Executive, to take these steps. But the procedure is still going to be worked out. And, I think, as in any procedure, where private property, is taken, from somebody, there should be a court procedure, defense, prosecution, and people should be able to defend themselves.

COOPER: It could have ripple effects. I mean, it may be satisfying, emotionally, for the U.S., initially. But, you're saying, it could have ripple effects in unintended ways?

ASHURKOV: Well, the U.S., and Western system, as a whole, has always prided itself, on being subject to the rule of law.

There is, of course, the issue of the funds needed, for reconstruction of Ukraine, and for humanitarian relief. And, on the other hand, there is - which calls for expediency, in getting these funds, from sanctioned people, and from, for instance, the reserves, of Russian Central Bank.

COOPER: When you hear Vladimir Putin vow, what he calls, a lightning- fast response, to any type of foreign intervention, in Ukraine, how do you think that's meant to be interpreted?

ASHURKOV: What is this lightning-fast response? Nobody knows. But this is our - this is the person, who deems the whole country of Ukraine, a Nazi state. So, Mr. Putin, lying is really his second nature. So, I wouldn't read too much into this rhetoric.

COOPER: What's the effectiveness, thus far, or ineffectiveness, of Vladimir Putin's propaganda, and disinformation, inside Russia itself?

ASHURKOV: It has been very effective, which is to be expected, when the last independent media outlets, were shut down, over the last two months.

Access to international social media, like Twitter, and Facebook is prohibited. You can only access them through a VPN network. And the state-controlled TVs, newspapers, they all pump out pro-war propaganda. It's difficult for, an average Russian, to get access, to truthful information, about what's going on in Ukraine.

COOPER: As the world knows, Alexei Navalny, was sentenced, last month, to another nine years, in a Russian prison. He's certainly been at the forefront, of CNN, recently, because of the CNN Film, "NAVALNY."

What are you able to tell us, about how he is doing? And is he able to communicate, with people, outside the prison?

ASHURKOV: Indeed, he got additional nine years, in prison, a little over a month.

But when he was incarcerated, after he returned to Russia, in January 2021, unfortunately, we didn't have doubt that Putin intends to keep him behind bars, for the time, he is in power.

We communicate with him through a lawyer that visits him, on weekdays, for about an hour, during which time he scribbles his handwritten notes, to his family, to our team, and reads whatever materials, we send him.

COOPER: Vladimir Ashurkov, I appreciate your time. Thank you.


ASHURKOV: Thank you, Anderson.


COOPER: By the way, if you want to see that award-winning documentary, on Alexei Navalny, it's really good, the man who took, on Putin, and lived to expose the truth, about him, it airs tomorrow, at 9 P.M. Eastern, right here, on CNN.

Now, we want to present you, another side, of the war, about the Ukrainian children, who've been forced to leave their schools, and their country, many of them now in Poland, which is trying to accommodate the large influx of refugees.

CNN's Erica Hill has more.



ERICA HILL, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): New school. New language. New country.

ANDRESZJ JAN WYROZEMBSKI, PRINCIPAL, 1ST LICEUM WARSAW (through translator): We follow the needs. When we open these classes, we did not know what would be in a week, what would be, in a month?

HILL (voice-over): There are now 50 Ukrainian refugees, enrolled at this Warsaw High School, bringing the student population up to 700.


HILL (voice-over): It's Olena's (ph) first day.

Lesia is a few weeks in, and happy to be back in class.

LESIA, 14-YEAR-OLD REFUGEE FROM RIVNE, UKRAINE: It's given me some space, or given me the feeling of safety that I'm safe here, I'm in my normal life.

HILL (voice-over): In Warsaw alone, the Mayor's Office estimates the city has taken in more than 100,000 children. With 17,000, already enrolled, in public school, the question now is how many more will come?

DEPUTY MAYOR RENATA KAZNOWSKA, WARSAW, POLAND: It's a big problem, for us, because we don't know how many students go to Warsaw, and go to our schools.

HILL (voice-over): Warsaw was already short 2,000 teachers, before Russia invaded Ukraine. The city needs more staff, and money.

WYROZEMBSKI (through translator): This is a huge challenge for us.

A good heart, willingness to help, and volunteering, are not enough.

HILL (voice-over): And yet, they're finding ways, to make it work.

Polish students are paired, with their new Ukrainian classmates.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We use a lot of Google Translate.

HILL (voice-over): Local families have donated supplies. The school provides breakfast and lunch.

In Lviv, Maryana taught German. Officially, she's now a tutor. Yet, it's clear, this mom of three, who also fled the war, is so much more.

MARYANA DRUCHEK, REFUGEE FROM LVIV, UKRAINE (through translator): We don't just speak Ukrainian. We speak the language of emotions, and the language of what we've gone through. HILL (voice-over): Comfort amidst the uncertainty.

HILL (on camera): Is it good to meet other Ukrainian kids?

DENYS, 16-YEAR-OLD REFUGEE FROM KHARKIV, UKRAINE: Yes. Because you're not alone.

HILL (voice-over): While there are more smiles, every day, the Principal says, he can't forget what lies beneath.

WYROZEMBSKI (through translator): We have some, who escaped, in the middle of the night, in their pajamas, from the basement, where they were.

HILL (voice-over): While school is a welcome distraction, it's also a reminder of how much their lives have changed.

DRUCHEK (through translator): In our hearts, we want to start the new school year, in September, at home. And we really hope for that.


COOPER: And Erica?

HILL: Anderson, as you can imagine, each day is a little different, for these kids. They're not supposed to look at their phone, during school.

But, as the Principal told me, there was one day that one of the kids picked up his phone, and he looked at it, and he realized that he was getting a notice that his school had just been hit.

Well, at that point, all the other kids are picking up their phones. They're trying to help him find out information, about his school, his town, his family, and they're also checking to make sure that their families were OK. As you can imagine, that then became the lesson, for the day, Anderson.

COOPER: Wow! Erica Hill, appreciate you being there, thank you, in Warsaw.

We'll take a look, at Shanghai, next, where some residents, are taking to the streets, trying to break down barriers, and pushing back, against authorities, with no end in sight, to their strict COVID lockdown.

CNN's David Culver, is in Shanghai, himself, locked down, and gives us a look into how he has gotten through the last 45 days, next.



COOPER: China is still grappling, with an outbreak, in COVID cases, across the country, with authorities saying more than 550,000 cases, were reported, in April, so far, spanning across 261 cities, in all 31 provinces.

The capital, Beijing reported 56 new cases, since yesterday afternoon. And some schools and several major hospitals were closed, today.

In Shanghai, more than 15,000 cases, and 52 deaths, were reported, today, as frustrations run high, with new video, showing people banging on pots, from their windows, for more daily supplies, as residents are still banned from leaving their homes. Some have resorted to fighting authorities, and attempting to break down barriers, around the city.

CNN Correspondent, David Culver, is in Shanghai, himself, stuck in his apartment, as the city nears one month, on a strict lockdown.

He shot for us, what life is like, stuck, in that apartment.


DAVID CULVER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: This is a look at my life, set up, in my apartment. The camera equipment, all sent in, from my photographer, in Beijing. He was able to get it in, just before the lockdown took effect, so that I could continue working.

My dog, after 45 days, making himself comfortable, on the couch. This is where he does his business. Can't go outside for walks for him.

My door, I have taped up, because they've been disinfecting buildings. And some of the fumigation has been coming in.

Over here, I've had this bag, packed, for now, several weeks. It's my go-bag, just in case somehow I test positive, despite being in lockdown, or I'm a close contact, and they send me off to an isolation center. I've then got to find someplace separate, to send my dog, so I've got documents, and food, and all his things packed, there.


I call this, COVID corner. I've got face masks. I've got the antigen test that we need to take each and every day, and submit our results, to the government, through an app. Some disinfectant.

Over here, this is the most recent vegetable delivery, the government handout. Keep that there. Sufficient supplies, in my fridge, got to keep close watch of how much you're eating, and kind of parcel it out, ration it out, over several days.

Out here, I'm lucky enough to have a outdoor space. But this is also where I've piled up a lot of my trash, and recycling. You can only have a community volunteer, come, to receive it, and take it away. So, it sits out here, until then. Some disinfectant, by the door, for any deliveries.

A lot of folks though, don't have this type of space. So, their trash just piles up, inside their own homes.

(END VIDEOTAPE) CULVER: And back here, live, Anderson, inside my apartment.

I stress that I am quite fortunate. I mean, I live in a traditional Shanghai neighborhood. All of my neighbors, pretty much locals. And I can hear, through the thin walls, their frustrations. I mean, I have a space that is convenient for me. But then, you've got three generations that are stuffed in a very confined, basically one room.

And this is now, for our community, 45 days. So, well over that month mark. And there's still no clear end to this!

COOPER: That's extraordinary! David Culver, I appreciate that. Thanks very much.

We'll be right back.


COOPER: We'll have more, from Kyiv, tomorrow.

The news continues. Want to hand it over to Don, and "DON LEMON TONIGHT."