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Anderson Cooper 360 Degrees

Air Raid Sirens Heard in Kyiv; Pentagon Spokesman Gets Emotional Talking about Russian Atrocities; Ukrainian Journalist Killed in Russian Missile Strike on Kyiv; Putin Accepts Invitation To G20 Summit, Setting Up Potential Showdown With Biden; Tensions High Along Ukraine Border With Breakaway Region In Neighboring Moldova After Series Of Explosions Earlier This Week. Aired 8-9p ET

Aired April 29, 2022 - 20:00   ET




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And AC 360 starts now.


Air raid sirens were heard again here tonight as Kyiv deals with the fact that driving Russian ground troops away from the city does not make it immune from Russian air attack, namely the cruise missile strike last night.

When we left you, reports were that 10 people had been wounded in that attack. Today, rescuers removed a body from the rubble of the high- rise apartment that was hit, a woman named Vira Hyrych, Ukrainian journalist with Radio Free Europe, Radio Liberty. She was 54 years old and is the 23rd member of the media to be killed since the Russian invasion began.

Russia says the missile was aimed at a nearby Defense plant, it landed not far from where U.N. Secretary-General Guterres was at the time. Kyiv's Mayor tonight called it Vladimir Putin's raised middle finger to the Secretary-General. You'll hear more from my conversation with Mayor Klitschko in the program. We also learn more details today in the death of American and former Marine, Willy Joseph Cancel, killed fighting alongside Ukrainian troops.

The White House today offering condolences and cautioning Americans against coming here to fight. Just a short time ago, Cancel's mother spoke to CNN.


REBECCA CABRERA, MOTHER OF WILLY JOSEPH CANCEL: He believes in what they were fighting for. He -- this was something that hit to his heart. And, you know, he knew they needed help and it was just something that he felt that he could help them because he had the experience and the training and the knowledge to go and help them.


COOPER: We will have more on that coming up, including the questions it raises, like what contracting company hired him to come here to Ukraine, and who might have been paying that company?

As for the fighting itself, Russian forces continue to pound the south and east of the country, but without a great deal of forward progress. Outside one city, they appear to be moving forward, slow beyond -- new images tonight of a recently blown-up railway bridge, possibly taken down by Ukrainian units fighting a tactical withdrawal, something we've seen several times here before.

Then there was this, after a week of thinly veiled nuclear threats from the Kremlin and the latest attack on Kyiv with the U.N. Secretary-General nearby, Pentagon spokesman John Kirby's emotional answer, when asked if the Defense Department considers Vladimir Putin, a rational actor.


REAR ADMIRAL JOHN KIRBY (RET.) PENTAGON PRESS SECRETARY: I'm not going to go into the psychology of Vladimir Putin. It's hard to look at what he is doing in Ukraine, what his forces are doing in Ukraine, and think that any ethical, moral individual could justify that. It's difficult to look at the -- sorry.

It's difficult to look at some of the images and imagine that any well thinking, serious, mature leader would do that. So, I can't talk to his psychology, but I think we can all speak to his depravity.


COOPER: A lot to bring you in the hour ahead.

Reporting for us tonight from Washington, CNN's Alex Marquardt on the Willy Cancel story, CNN's Matt Rivers on the Russian missile strikes and in the capital of neighboring Moldova, our Randi Kaye.

First, we go to Alex Marquardt.

So Alex, what more are you learning tonight?

ALEX MARQUARDT, CNN SENIOR NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Well, Anderson, the Biden administration itself has not confirmed the death of Willy Cancel, his mother, most of what we're learning is coming from his mother. President Biden did acknowledge Cancel today saying that it is very sad that he left a baby behind.

What we do know from the Cancel family is that he was 22 years old, former Marine. He felt this call to go and join the fight in Ukraine. He had a wife, he left behind a seven-month-old child.

He had been working in Tennessee as a corrections officer, but his mother also says that he joined a private contracting company. So, when the war started, this contracting company asked if anyone would go and fight in Ukraine and he raised his hand.

Before going to Ukraine, his mother said he traveled back to New York to see his wife, his child, and his father, and then went out to California for 24 hours to see his mother.


MARQUARDT: And then he went over, and he went into Ukraine around mid- March. His mother says that is about two and a half to three weeks after the fighting started, and they were able to keep some kind of contact with him as he fought, not very much as you can imagine.

The last time they spoke with him was just a week ago, on Thursday. They were able to FaceTime with him. He introduced some members of his unit.

In the following days, they texted a little bit, he said, "I'm safe. I love you." And the last day heard from him was last Sunday, before he died -- Anderson.

COOPER: Did his mom say what company he was working for and who was paying him or give any indication on how many contractors there might be in Ukraine or working alongside him?

MARQUARDT: She wouldn't say, didn't say what contracting company he worked for, whether he was being paid, how he was being paid. As you heard in that clip there, he was drawn to this cause. He wanted to go fight for the underdog.

His mother also told CNN she spoke with our colleague, Ellie Kaufman, that he worried that the fight would spill over, that it would go beyond Ukraine's borders and that American troops would eventually have to go and fight. But he was, you know, convinced that this was the right thing to do.

It's highly possible, even probable Anderson, that even if you went with a private company, that he then went on to join this International Legion that Ukraine has set up. You'll remember that in the early days of the war, the earliest days, Ukraine recognized how hard this fight was going to be, and set up what they called an International Legion, calling on anyone and everyone who wanted to, to come and fight for Ukraine and people did.

Foreigners poured across the border into Ukraine to go and fight as volunteers. But to put a number on that is impossible. It's very murky. The Ukrainians did say early on at some 20,000 foreign volunteers and vets had signed up from 52 different countries.

But Anderson, it's unclear how many actually went on to join the fight.

COOPER: And the White House today just again, said essentially don't come to Ukraine to fight.

MARQUARDT: They did. They expressed their condolences to the Cancel family. They said -- this is a White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki, she said she understands why Americans would want to go over there. Americans are also inside Ukraine training Ukrainian fighters. The White House saying they understand that, but they do not want Americans inside Ukraine.

She said that if you want to help, please try to find another way whether it's with an aid group or an NGO, but the message from the Biden administration to Americans is very clear, please don't go to Ukraine. It's too dangerous -- Anderson.

COOPER: Alex Marquardt, appreciate it. Thank you.

Now, Mariupol and the hundreds of fighters and civilians holding out and sheltering beneath the city's enormous steelmaking complex.

Now earlier this week, we got our first look at the very difficult living conditions there inside the plant. One woman saying they haven't seen daylight for weeks, children crying all the time, food and water running out.

Now, Mariupol's mayor says the Russians had been bombing a makeshift hospital inside the facility wounding he says more than 600 people.

Joining us tonight is Yuriy Ryzhenkov, CEO of the company that owns the plant. Mr. Ryzhenkov, I appreciate you being with us. Are you in contact with people at the plant or those who have escaped? What are they telling you about the conditions inside?

YURIY RYZHENKOV, CEO, METINVEST HOLDING: Well, unfortunately, we're not in contact with the people at the plant for more than three weeks now, since the connection that broke up, but we are meeting the people who get out of the plant and we're meeting them right on the outskirts with Mariupol trying to provide them with humanitarian aid like food, water, shelter and then trying to evacuate them to Zaporizhzhia where we set up a rehabilitation center with a psychiatrist, with medics and so on.

They are telling us that it is a humanitarian disaster there. The city is being destroyed, basically, a beautiful striving city was turned into a concentration camp by the Russians in less than two months. You can say it is genocide, which is happening there.

COOPER: How difficult is it for them to escape on their own? Because we know that plans for these civilian corridors have been mostly unsuccessful, buses really haven't -- only a few buses have ever gotten out, some people in personal vehicles early on were able to get out, but it's very, very difficult.

RYZHENKOV: It is very difficult. We've been trying to send humanitarian convoy with the buses with food and medicine into the city and try to get as many people as we can out of the city from the beginning of this siege, but every time we did this, the Russian start shooting, so never we got into the city.


RYZHENKOV: The people started to get out of the city when they own their own cars, even on foot. I mean, I have a terrible story of one of our employees who had to leave the city and walked through the minefields with his pregnant wife for more than 30 kilometers. Actually, as he got into safety, his wife gave birth the next day, but fortunately the child and the parent is, but they had live through is terrible.

COOPER: This is -- I mean, for those who don't know, and obviously Russian troops who are there are well aware of what this plant is like, this is an enormous facility. Can you give it just a sense of the size of it? And there's much of it underground, is that correct?

RYZHENKOV: There are lots of things about actually the underground part of the facility. It is a large steel mill. The capacity of steel mill used to be over seven million ton in the Soviet times. Lately, it was producing about four and a half million tons of steel a year. Its area is about 1,000 hectares. It employed 11,000 people at the beginning of this aggression.

And yes, obviously, there are lots of underground facilities there. Every shop would have an underground shelter, a bomb shelter, which was built during the Cold War, and would temporarily house about two shifts of the employees of the mill, which is about 4,000 people could hide in the shelters at any given moment in time.

We actually stocked those shelters with food and water, enough for about two three weeks, just before the war, that gave the possibility for the people to stay there for a while. But as you can imagine this runs out, it's almost two months now.

Regarding the tunneling system, which has been so much discussed in the press. There are tunnels, of course, like under any industrial facility, but those are not military tunnels and those are not kind of tunnels meant for people to move about. Those as sewage tunnels or cabling tunnels and they are not connecting to shelters. They are just the sewage system under the plant.

COOPER: Vladimir Putin is obviously watching this situation. He told his General on television a few days ago, he wanted to be seen as saying, you know, don't go in, don't try to take the plant, just surround it so that not even a fly can escape.

What is your message for Vladimir Putin about what he and his forces are doing to the people in Mariupol?

RYZHENKOV: Well, the message is simple. Don't make it any worse than it already is. Let the civilians out. Let the people get out of the plant safely into a safe place.

COOPER: Yuriy Ryzhenkov, I appreciate your time tonight. Thank you very much.

RYZHENKOV: Thank you.

COOPER: Coming up next, we well more on the aftermath of the Russian missile strike in Kyiv and my conversation with the City's Mayor, Vitali Klitschko.

Later the remarkable young woman who documented what it was like to live in Kharkiv under nearly constant bombardment and her escape with her family. Now, that it's even worse and her dad is now there, how is he? And how is she holding up? Ahead.



COOPER: At the top of the program, we recounted the Mayor of Kyiv's characterization of the Russian cruise missile strike on the city last night which killed a Radio Liberty Radio Free Europe journalist and came close to where U.N. Secretary General Guterres was at the time. He called it Vladimir Putin's raised middle finger at the Secretary- General.

That's not all Vitali Klitschko had to say, our conversation shortly, but some background first from CNN's Matt Rivers on the attack that shook the city last night and leaves it shaken tonight.


MATT RIVERS, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice over): It had been weeks of relative quiet in Kyiv, but a couple of bangs and a plume of black smoke quickly changed that.

Ukraine and Russia both confirming cruise missiles were fired into a central district of Kyiv on Thursday evening, mere miles away from where the U.N. Secretary-General had just wrapped up a meeting with President Zelenskyy. Rescuers worked through the night and in the morning, a clearer picture emerged about what happened with this apartment complex shredded by shrapnel, leaving those in the neighborhood shaken.

(UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE speaking in foreign language.)

RIVERS (voice over): "This wall saved my life," She says, "Otherwise, it would have been the end. There was a lot of fire. I could see everything was burning. I was so scared. It was horror." She says she only survived because she wasn't sitting next to the window.

Her son, Alexie's (ph) hands, bloodied.

(ALEXIE speaking in foreign language.)

RIVERS (voice over): He says, "A clap and a blast, then panic. That's it. I didn't see it until later, I saw my hand was covered in blood."

Mother and son survived while others affected by the strike did not, 54-year-old Vira Hyrych, a Ukrainian journalist lived here, having just returned to her home about a week ago.

No one had heard from her all night, so friends kept trying to call her. Her ringing cell phone led rescuers to her body this morning.

(UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE speaking in foreign language.)

RIVERS (voice over): "I have no words," says this friend. "No tears left. I have no energy to cry. Only a few days ago she was asking how she could help me because my house burned down and now no one can help her."

RIVERS (on camera): Russia's Ministry of Defense says they were aiming for a factory right nearby here that is one of Ukraine's top producers of air-to-air guided missiles, as well as aircraft parts. We can't show you that factory due to Ukrainian law.

The factory was damaged in the strike, but so was that apartment complex just behind me.


RIVERS (on camera): Yet another example of Russia targeting places with supposed military relevance, but killing ordinary civilians in the process.

RIVERS (voice over): Vira's body was taken out of the building midday on Friday, the victim of an attack President Zelenskyy said proves quote, "That one cannot relax yet, one cannot think that the war is over, we still need to fight."


COOPER: And Matt Rivers is here with me. I understand there has been a new development, some people were arrested at the site.

RIVERS: Yes. So this is -- what we know is that Ukraine is always nervous about anything that can help Russia better target its strikes, get a better idea of the results of its strikes, and so they say that they arrested two people on the scene that authorities say we're acting suspiciously, actually taking pictures of the damage of that site, and when they searched their phone, they say they were members of various separatist pro-Russian Telegram groups that had contacts in Russia.

And so what they're saying is that they're going to continue that investigation to make sure that these two people are not actively working for the Russians here in Ukraine.

We should add, you know, being a part of a Telegram group or having contacts in Russia does not make you a Russian spy, but this is something clearly the Ukrainians are worried about enough to make this information public.

COOPER: I mean, security is still -- people are very security conscious here and just in terms of reporting, they are concerned about giving away locations of strikes for this very reason to help -- they don't want to help Russians target better.

RIVERS: Yes, and they are very strict with journalists, as well. I mean, telling us we can't even show the military facility that was damaged as a result of this strike, we were just across the street from essentially, and yet we couldn't even show it because of that Martial Law.

COOPER: Matt Rivers, appreciate it.

Also, I know, authorities here have urged residents not to not to return because of the continuing danger. They don't want people rushing back.

RIVERS: Yes, and this is something we've heard from authorities for a while now because as life has returned not to normal, but more normal than it was in the beginning of the war when there were literal bombs falling not far from where we are, you know, people have started to come back. They want to restart their lives and it's an understandable sentiment, but authorities have said look, it's not safe yet and they're pointing to these missile strikes as, you know, an example of why it's not totally safe to return.

COOPER: Yes, Matt, I appreciate it, Matt Rivers, very much.


COOPER: I spent yesterday with Olena Gnes and her three young children. She is above all a study in resilience as are so many people here. The man you're about to meet again, who you probably become well acquainted with by now it is a study in defiance. Vitali Klitschko, Mayor of Kyiv and former world heavyweight boxing champion.

I spoke to him shortly before airtime.


COOPER: Were you surprised by the missile strike yesterday?

VITALI KLITSCHKO, MAYOR OF KYIV: It's no surprise right now for me. We expect everything. What actually is very unusual in normal life, if we are talking about Russia, no rules.

After visiting General-Secretary of the United Nations, after visiting Moscow, right now everybody know he is coming to Kyiv and the same day when U.N. General-Secretary meet the President of Ukraine, the latest attack to our hometown. COOPER: It seems like the Russians are sending messages with their bombing sometimes.

KLITSCHKO: The message is, I guess, it is a middle finger from Russia.

COOPER: It's a middle finger.


COOPER: They did it when Secretaries Austin and Blinken left on the train. They bombed the trains in the West. Secretary-General the U.N. was here yesterday. They bombed when he was still here.

KLITSCHKO: Yes. A signal. My opinion is no respect. It is a middle finger for everybody.

COOPER: You went to the scene of the blast. What was it like?

KLITSCHKO: It's actually dramatic to see the destroyed building, kids and depressed people.

COOPER: It is a 25-storey residential building. The first two floors they say were damaged by fire.

KLITSCHKO: We were very happy. It's a brand new building. It's not -- people doesn't have a time to move, but if it is 20 meters to the right, it can kill hundreds of people and that is why we are lucky just -- what has been lucky -- they destroyed these apartment buildings, they destroyed -- just one people has died, 10 injured.

But we are lucky because there can be much more damages. I mean, much more people dead.

COOPER: A few weeks ago you had said that people shouldn't rush back. People who had moved away shouldn't rush back necessarily. Is that still the case? Are you are -- are you cautious about people returning?


KLITSCHKO: We can't forbid them to come, yes, of course I understand everyone wants to come back to hometown and the last week was pretty quiet and people moved back, but my proposal, my advice to anyone to stay in much more safety place because we are responsible for life of the people, for safety.

And it is any second, any minute, any hour, the Russian air raids can launch at every place in our hometown and it's not secret. Kyiv was target and still target from Russia.

COOPER: Do you think it's possible that they would resume daily attacks on Kyiv, that they would continue to try to come back to Kyiv to try to remove the leadership?

KLITSCHKO: Definitely. Definitely, it is the main goal.

Never believe in Russia, first of all, and they always have some explanation, but the main goal is to occupy Kyiv.

COOPER: So even though the fighting has moved to the east, the emphasis of the fighting has moved to the east, Kyiv is still under threat.

KLITSCHKO: Kyiv is still the target.

COOPER: When you see the fighting in the east, what concerns you? How do you think it is going?

KLITSCHKO: I hope we keep fingers crossed for our soldiers, for our Army and we have to defend -- defend our homeland. Actually, Ukrainian Army destroyed the meters of the strongest army of the world Russian army. As a former fighter, I can explain you, it's not matter how big you are, how strong are you, it is very important, the will and spirit for every fighter. It is a simple explanation. Right now, the Russian soldiers fighting for the money, our soldiers defend our families and our children, the future of our children.

Do you see the difference to die for the money or die as you defend your children?

COOPER: And that will to fight, that makes all the difference.

KLITSCHKO: Yes. The will to fight make a huge difference between Russian soldier and Ukrainian.

COOPER: One of the things that the Secretary-General was trying to do was get agreement from Russia on the actual real humanitarian corridors, to get people out of Mariupol. Do you think that will ever really happen? Do you think Russia will ever agree to that?

KLITSCHKO: Russians are unpredictable and that why, it is predicted -- to make predictions, what rational accept or not, it is pretty difficult. I hope -- I hope we need to take the people from Mariupol. It's very important and they all -- our partners, everybody in the world, every rule have also -- every war have some rules and to evacuate civilians from Mariupol is very important for us.

COOPER: Are you optimistic?


COOPER: You believe that Ukraine will win.

KLITSCHKO: Definitely.

COOPER: Mr. Mayor, thank you very much.

KLITSCHKO: You're welcome.


COOPER: Vitali Klitschko and yes, he is very big. He is enormous.

Vladimir Putin now says he will attend the G20 Summit, a top economic meeting for world leaders later this year. President Biden reacted to that today, but we'll he and the U.S. allies stay home? A potential showdown between the two leaders, next.



COOPER: President Biden's management of U.S. involvement in this war extends beyond the aid and arms intelligence being sent to Ukraine. Today Russia indicated that later this year, Vladimir Putin would attend one of the top economic meetings for leaders the G20 summit in Indonesia. A lot of times, certainly between now and then, but already the White House is trying to determine how to respond and whether even to attend, while keeping united front among allies across the world.

I'm joined now by our chief White House correspondent Kaitlan Collins.

So, this is a strange situation, I mean Vladimir Putin was invited to this G20 meeting by the President of Indonesia, which is hosting the meeting. Was there any pressure from the United States or NATO to not extend that invitation do we know?

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, so the White House says their understanding of how this all went down Anderson is that Indonesia extended this invitation to Russia before the invasion of Ukraine had actually happened. But I think what's notable is that they have not rescinded the invitation since this has happened. And they don't seem poised to do so because they put out a statement today saying that there needs to be unity among these G20 nations, of course, the leading industrialized nations in the world saying that they don't need to be split. So, it doesn't seem like they are about to change their mind on this invitation.

And so, that's what puts the United States and President Biden in a weird spot of making this decision of whether they go and are in the same room as President Putin at have a lot of these meetings because of course, you know how these summits go, there's often these family photos with all the world leaders in them. At the beginning, they have many summits, a lot of one on ones often between these world leaders. And of course, it would be the first time that Biden had seen Putin in person face to face since this invasion started.

And so, I think that's what's the White House is weighing, what do they do here? Do they boycott? Or does President Biden go?

COOPER: What does the White House see as the risks of President Biden showing up to the meeting versus the risk of declining to attend and protest?

COLLINS: I think the number one risk is giving Putin this world stage, appearing on the world stage with him given of course, what he's done. And the fact that so much has changed since the last time not only that they spoke. But since President Biden and President Putin saw each other when they had this huge summit, of course, last summer, but a year ago from now in Geneva, where they met for several hours one on one. And since then the relationship has deteriorated to a point where Russia experts say they haven't seen the relations between the United States and Russia this low in decades. And of course, Biden has called Putin a war criminal. He's said that he's committing genocide there.

And so, I think that is that, that's what they're weighing. But also when it comes to the risks of not going, the White House still seems to think the most likely scenario right now is that Biden does still go. And of course, he has said that Russia should be removed from the G20. Anderson, that's very unlikely to happen because it has to be a consensus decision. China gets a decision there. They're like not likely to push Russia out of this.

And so he said instead, Ukraine should also be invited. They have been invited, though it's not clear that they have accepted that invitation.

COOPER: All right. Kaitlan Collins, appreciate it. We'll keep following.


Coming up, Transnistria probably never heard of it before maybe a few weeks ago but there's now a lot of talk about this strange breakaway region possibly being the next front in the war.

Randi Kaye got as close as you could to the border today of Transnistria before being turned back. Her report is next.


COOPER: Another place we're keeping an eye on tonight is along Ukraine southwest border. It's a place you may not have heard of before this war, breakaway region of Ukraine's neighbor Moldova called Transnistria. You can see it there on a map it's been home to Russian troops for decades. Ukraine says Thursday was strengthening security along its border with Transnistria after a series of unexplained explosions there earlier this week. Russia has condemned the attacks blamed Ukraine. Ukraine says they believe the attacks were staged by Russia as a pretext perhaps to open a new frontier in the war.

CNN's Randi Kaye is in Moldova tonight after venturing to the border of that breakaway Republic today.


RANDI KAYE, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (on-camera): We drove here from the capital of Moldova to see just how close we could get to Transnistria. That's that breakaway Republic that sits on the border of Moldova and Ukraine. That shared border is about 250 miles long and Transnistria is about the size of Rhode Island. There are about 500,000 people living on that tiny strip of land, many of whom do speak Russian. There's also believed to be about 1,500 Russian forces there. Those are believed according to Russia to be peacekeeping forces, but as we saw, many of them are manning those border crossings.

[20:40:13] That bridge in the distance behind me goes to the city of Dubasari in Transnistria. It's one of five bridges that connects Moldova where we are to Transnistria. We did drive up there hoping to get closer, but once we saw a Russian armored vehicle and Russian troops, we turned around quickly.

Some Moldovans who we've spoken with who have crossed over say there are police everywhere there in Transnistria. And it feels very much like the Soviet Union of the reason that Transnistria could be so key is because it could be just what Russia needs to expand the war from Ukraine into Moldova. A Russian commander recently raised concerns the army plan to control southern Ukraine and open a land corridor stretching to Transnistria.


COOPER: Randi Kaye joins us now from Moldova's capital.

So when you were there at the border, were the Russian troops there -- it looked like they were watching pretty much the whole time.

KAYE: Yes, they certainly were Anderson. They kept their eyes on us, they had those binoculars, they seem to be passing them back and forth to each other, they were chatting amongst themselves, and looking at us the whole time as we were there on the side of the road, taking some video of that area. And they also seem to change position while we were there. When we first pulled up, one of those troops was actually on the Moldova side. And then by the time we left, they had moved back onto the bridge. But there are five bridges that connect Moldova to Transnistria.

And that is so unnerving for people here, certainly in the capital of Chisinau where we are right now, because it's only about 45 minutes away from here. So the citizens are certainly concerned and there's about 450,000 Ukrainian refugees that came here. There's about 100,000 of them left here. They certainly don't want to see Transnistria and Moldova next on Vladimir Putin's list, Anderson.

COOPER: Are people in Moldova concerned about a possible Russian incursion into Moldova?

KAYE: Yet we did get a real sense of concern Anderson, we spoke with a former U.S. Marine, he seems very concerned about Russia invading here. We also spoke with a volunteer organization that is working with the refugees, they're already making contingency plans to get their people out if they need to. And of course, we heard from the President of Moldova earlier this week, saying that she thinks those unexplained attacks in Transnistria are just an attempt by Russia to escalate what's the tension and in this ongoing war. She also said that she condemns any attempt to involve Moldova and actions that could threaten peace here.

It's important to note Anderson that that Moldova is not a member of NATO. It's not a member of the European Union, it considers itself neutral. But that may not be enough for Vladimir Putin, Anderson. COOPER: Yes, Randi Kaye, appreciate it. Thank you.

We get perspective now from retired Army Lieutenant General and CNN military analyst, Mark Hertling.

General Hertling, a senior U.S. defense official said that today that Russian forces are making quote, some incremental, uneven, slow advances to the southeast and southwest of the Izium. The Russians are trying to advance on a number of different fronts obviously. Can you just talk a little bit about why this area south of Izium is so crucial to the Russian strategy?

LT. GEN. MARK HERTLING (RET.), CNN MILITARY ANALYST: Well the critical crossroads Anderson because it has various road junctions that go north, south, east and west, number one. It also has railroads coming out of the town of Izium, Izium are relatively small town, about 40,000 in the population. But it also as importantly, has a river that runs through it. And the Russians need to secure that riverbank and put bridge heads over that river. There's not many bridges, there's two in the city of Izium itself. So in order to get forces from the east to the west, which they will need to attempt to surround the Ukrainian army, they need to control a couple of those key cities.

So the fighting there is very intense. It is one of the so-called shoulders of the envelopment movement that Russia is trying to do both from the north and from the south of the Ukrainian forces fighting along the Donbass front. So, it's that positional advantage getting key terrain, which is always important. And the Russians are putting a whole lot of forces from their Eastern and Central military districts, their combined arms armies into those areas. They have gained some things. They have gained a little bit of terrain, but every time they the Russians conduct an artillery barrage as we talked about yesterday, and then follow up with forces going into those areas, what they find is when it's the artillery stops and the forces go in, Ukrainian forces will be able to push them back.

But this is going to be a somewhat horrific fight for that shoulder that northern shoulder around Izium and the control of the rivers and the roads in that area.

COOPER: And just in terms of the amount of weaponry and Pentagon Press Secretary, John Kirby said today, more than half of the 90 howitzers that were being sent to Ukraine in the last two aid packages are now already in Ukraine. I mean given the distances involved for how it's or crossing the Ukrainian border to get to the front lines for use and how quickly do you think they can be brought to bear?


HERTLING: It's not going to be tomorrow, Anderson. How say that right now. You know, when you're talking about the fielding of equipment inside of a combat zone, if you have one spot where you're delivering all that those pieces of equipment, it's relatively easy to transport the weapons to that one spot. But what we're talking about now is a frontage along the Donbass region that's anywhere from 150 to 200 miles wide. So they have to get those artillery pieces, and the related ammunition is a key areas where the Ukrainian forces can conduct counter fire against the Russian artillery. That's going to take a while.

In addition to that, the Ukrainian forces to train on the artillery as well to make sure that they use it correctly.

COOPER: General Mark Herling, really appreciate it. Thank you. Always interesting.

Up next, we first met a young woman named Anastasia she was fleeing from Kharkiv with her family. Coming up, she joins us again for an update on where she and her family are now. Now she's trying to help the Ukrainian forces fight for her homeland.



COOPER: Today marks the beginning of the 10th week of Russia's invasion of Ukraine. These last couple of months have been difficult certainly for Ukrainians with the latest data from the United Nations showing more than 5.4 million people have fled the country, and within 7 million people are displaced internally throughout Ukraine. Last month Anastasia Paraskevova is someone that we met who created video diaries of her time in Kharkiv. Less than 30 miles from the Russian border showing us the reality of living through the war. There's just a snippet from her stories back then.


ANASTASIA PARASKEVOVA, ESCAPED KHARKIV: Last night, was probably the most terrifying night of my life. Kharkiv was terribly bombarded last night. Airstrikes all over the city. Dozens of buildings destroyed. Civilian buildings where people live.


COOPER: Well, I spoke to her again with Anastasia earlier today. She shelters miles away from Kharkiv.


COOPER (on-camera): Anastasia the last time we spoke you had left Kharkiv but you hadn't found a place to stay yet. How are you? How are you and your mom and your sister doing?

PARASKEVOVA: We're doing as fine as you can be. We're in Poltava, a friend of ours who and he lend us his home to live in without pay, without anything. So we are staying while he is fighting. So we have a relatively secure place to live.

COOPER (on-camera): Do you feel safe?

PARASKEVOVA: Well, it's much more safer here in Poltava than it is in Kharkiv of course (INAUDIBLE) air raid sirens go off three, four times a day, will fly and kill whoever. It will -- can land in any building. And that's why security is not exactly how I would describe but much more secure than you would be in (INAUDIBLE) Kharkiv, Mariupol.

COOPER (on-camera): Yes, I mean, the shelling in Kharkiv continues to just be relentless. I know, you've been volunteering to help out a local battalion. What are you doing?

PARASKEVOVA: This is the battalion of the guy who lend us his place. His name is Yuri. He is fighting in the battalion in local (INAUDIBLE) of Poltava. So I decided to actually thank you very much, I used you as a platform. I appeared in your CNN program. People found me on Facebook. So I asked them to help this battalion with optical instruments they need and protective gear. And we just bought yesterday 11 monocles. So thank you very much.

COOPER (on-camera): I know you were trying to get helmets as well, but they're hard to find.

PARASKEVOVA: Yes, they're really hard to find. It seems that Ukrainians bought every helmet in existence. Out of stock, in Germany, they're out of stock locally, they're out of stock, and to get them in only big volunteer organizations seems to be able to buy them in large quantities. So it's hard to do. But they're also fairly needs such as, for example, optical instruments, because they soon might be sent dangerous location in zoom. So the war is going on there. Active war zone. So they will need those to patrol to be more secure.

COOPER (on-camera): I understand that your dad returned to Kharkiv. How's he doing?

PARASKEVOVA: Yes, for two months, basically now. I would say that he's a bit depressed. It's gets to him I guess, and many other people so I would call him he's down, down a bit.

COOPER (on-camera): And -- but your apartment your apartment is still there?

PARASKEVOVA: Yes I -- yes, it's all right. I asked my friend are honest, like territorial defense, civilians who took arms. So I asked him, if my building -- apartment building this still standing. Every two, three days he goes and checks.

COOPER (on-camera): Well Anastasia, it's good to hear from you again please stay safe.


PARASKEVOVA: Thank you again. You really helped me a lot.


COOPER: Just a note the optical instruments that Anastasia talked about giving to the Ukrainian military monoculars, which is a single lens binocular.

Coming up, the latest on the recent strain and mysteries deaths of Russian businessman. That's ahead.


COOPER: So at least six Russian businessmen have reportedly died by suicide in the last few months with three of them allegedly killing members of their own families before taking their own lives. The first head of transport at Gazprom Invest was found dead in his cottage near Leningrad in late January. Month later, another top Gazprom executive was found dead in his garage. Three days later, it was Ukrainian born Russian billionaire in England. In late March, another Russian businessman was found dead alongside his wife and children. And earlier this month in Moscow, two more Russian businessmen died and apparent murder suicides, one of them the former vice president of Gazprom Bank.

Now, the other former executive of the gas producer Novatek who was found dead north of Barcelona with his wife and daughters bodies nearby. At least four them were associated with the Russian state owned energy giant Gazprom and its subsidiaries.


Well Gazprom has not returned CNN's calls for comment.

Stay with CNN throughout the weekend for the latest from Ukraine. The CNN Film "NAVALNY" starts now.