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Anderson Cooper 360 Degrees

Ukraine On Heightened Alert Ahead Of Russia's "Victory Day"; NY Times Logs 50 Hours Viewing Russian State TV To See How The War Is Presented To Its People; SUV Used In Alabama Jailbreak Discovered In Tennessee. Aired 9-10p ET

Aired May 06, 2022 - 21:00   ET




ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST: As we've been reporting, tonight, there are horrors, and misery, wrought by the Russian forces, after more than two months of attacks, on Mariupol.

In the east of Ukraine, however, the war's going far worse, for Russia, despite the hope of a reset, after its failed attempts, to take the capital, Kyiv. Ukrainian officials say, the Russian forces are stalled, despite heavy bombardments.

Tonight, several looks at how the fight, in the east, is progressing, including conversation with Americans, fighting on the front line. Plus, a report from inside Moscow. But we start on the front lines in the east.

Joining us now, from the city of Kramatorsk, is Sam Riley (ph).

So Sam, you've continued to see heavy fighting, in the area. Kramatorsk, where you are now, was hit with its first airstrikes, in a month, yesterday. How are people holding up there? What's going on?

SAM KILEY, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, it was quite extraordinary, seeing the aftermath, of those airstrikes, just about 36 hours ago, because the impacts were devastating, in a residential area, in particular, 25 people were injured. But miraculously, nobody killed. One person was critical.

A lot of clearing-up began almost immediately that the dust has settled, even though many, many dwellings were completely destroyed, massive series of holes in the ground, caused by the detonations of this ordnance. I think it's probably almost certainly dropped by aircraft.

And just as we were coming up, there, Anderson, the air raid sirens, which had been silent, unusually overnight, have just gone on. And we can hear a number of detonations. I have to say, somewhat in the distance, from where I am now.

But it is keeping the Russians at a distance, from Kramatorsk. Their strategic prize, really, in their campaign, in the east, which is what the Ukrainians are so keen to do. They've been holding them back. They're not able, the Russians, to make any significant breakthroughs.

And indeed, around the city of Kharkiv, there's been something of a counter-attack, conducted by Ukrainian forces try, with some success, forcing the Russians, out of a number of villages, particularly to the east of Kharkiv.

But all eyes are on this date, for Victory Day, on Monday, in Russia, when there is an anticipation here, that there could be some game- changing moment, perhaps, a major assault, being launched by the Russians, Anderson.

COOPER: What is the importance of Kramatorsk?

KILEY: Well Kramatorsk sits in a kind of at the center of a kind of Pac-Man shaped chunk, of territory, controlled, by the Ukrainian government, surrounded on the north, and to a large extent, to the south too. And, of course, to the east has been Russian-controlled, or Russian-backed rebel-controlled since 2014.

It is also the biggest city, still in Ukrainian hands, in what's known as the Donbas region. Traditionally, the area known for eastern Ukraine.

And the Russians have pledged, as part of when they reconfigured, their intent, from the national denazification, as they put it, of Ukraine, to more modest aims to capture, Luhansk and Donetsk Oblast that that is the two provinces, in the east.

They control a large chunk of those two provinces. But they don't control, where I'm standing here. And they don't control the capital of either - of Luhansk either.

COOPER: Yes. Sam Kiley, appreciate it. Thank you.

It is not exclusively Ukrainians, fighting this war. But, a month ago, I was in Ukraine, spent several days, with three American veterans, of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. They'd gone to Ukraine, on their own dime, to help train volunteers.

Tonight, Isa Soares is in Ukraine. Has the story of international fighters, including Americans, who are not there to train. They're there to fight.


ISA SOARES, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT AND ANCHOR (voice-over): For weeks now, these volunteer fighters, have been defending a country that is not theirs.

"DOC," VOLUNTEER FIGHTER IN UKRAINE: I saw, on the news, just like everybody else, the atrocities that the Russians were committing. That's the reason why I came.

SOARES (voice-over): The two Americans, and the Canadian, who prefer we identify them, by their nicknames, tell me that, from their experiences, with one particular unit, the Ukrainian forces, they have been fighting alongside, on the front lines, are ill-equipped, and cut-off from resources.

"RAT," VOLUNTEER FIGHTER IN UKRAINE: Specifically, NATO munitions, in terms of anti-tank weapons, as well as artillery, like Howitzers--

SOARES (on camera): So heavy air?

RAT: --or tanks, or--

SOARES (on camera): Yes.


RAT: --even like MRAP-type vehicle, anything like that? It's nowhere on the front.

SOARES (voice-over): "Doc," "Rat," and "Shadow (ph)," say they have fought, near Kyiv, and in the east, in the Kharkiv region, where Russian troops has strengthened their presence.

RAT: So, they would push here, send troops, massive column, on the main road, push them here.

SOARES (voice-over): This video, filmed by them, shows the challenging terrain.

RAT: It's just fields, as far as the eye can see, with nothing but open ground, and next-to-zero concealment.

SOARES (voice-over): A battleground without the right equipment can be deadly. The former Canadian Armed Forces Sergeant tells me?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's a miracle, it's a straight-up miracle that we are still alive.

DOC: You basically have to be a tank, or artillery, or a aircraft, right now, to fight, in the eastern front.

SOARES (voice-over): So far, the U.S. has approved more than $3 billion, in military assistance, to Ukraine, including thousands of Javelin, Stinger, missiles, and other critical weapons. Equipment that these former U.S. Marines say they haven't seen.

DOC: The stuff from these packages need to get to the front.

SOARES (on camera): Yes.

DOC: They do.

SOARES (voice-over): So much so they are being teased about it.

RAT: We will have guys, coming up to us, with Google Translate.

DOC: Yes.

RAT: "Where are the Howitzers?"

DOC: Yes.

RAT: "Where is Biden's help?"

DOC: Yes.

RAT: Or "Where is NATO's help?"


SOARES (voice-over): Last month, the Pentagon said military gear and equipment was getting to Ukraine, between 24 hours and 48 hours, after it was shipped. But the U.S. was transferring it, to Ukrainian hands, and not dictating how fast they get it, to the front line, or what unit gets them.

These fighters had just one glimpse, of one front line. But they're not alone, in thinking that Ukraine's Military remains desperately outgunned.

RAT: Both parts. It's one side has nothing, and it's doing everything they can. And then, the other side has everything. And they're too afraid to do anything with that.

SOARES (voice-over): Despite the challenges of the battlefield, "Doc," and "Rat," are returning to the front line, moved by Ukraine's fighting spirit.

DOC: The Ukrainians are giving it their all. And they're doing it every single day, every single minute, every single hour.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They are not part of NATO, so--

SOARES (voice-over): "Shadow (ph)," meanwhile, staying away from the front lines, in Lviv, after learning he's going to be a father.

Camaraderie, and a common cause, as they fight for freedom, in a foreign land.

Isa Soares, CNN, Lviv, Ukraine.


COOPER: CNN reached out, to Ukrainian Defense Ministry, for comment, on the claims of these three, featured in the story that military aid is not reaching the front lines, in the northeast of Ukraine, and why. But is yet to receive a response.

More now, on the situation in Ukraine, from CNN's Fareed Zakaria.

Fareed, there's been a sense, throughout Russia's invasion of Ukraine, that Vladimir Putin's attempting to recreate a Soviet-era mentality, in Russia, restore the country to what he sees as its former glory, a greater Russia.

What do you think? I mean, do you think this Victory Day is as important as some are making it out to be, potentially? FAREED ZAKARIA, CNN HOST, FAREED ZAKARIA GPS: Symbolically, for Putin, Anderson, it's very important. So, this is the day - this marks the anniversary of the Nazi surrender, to Soviet forces, in 1945.

It was a huge holiday, in the Soviet Union, celebrated with all kinds of parades. Some of us remember, these were the times, when the Soviets would show-off their most advanced weaponry.

They stopped celebrating it, in the 1990s, when the Soviet Union collapsed, when Russia became a democratic country, partly because they were just - the Russia was in a mess. And partly because they did have a kind of loss of national pride.

Putin revived the celebration of May Day. So, for him, this is kind of personal. And the 60th and 70th anniversaries of the end of World War II were huge celebrations, in Putin's Russia. So, for him, this is a big deal. This is in a way, the kind of symbolic way that he has revived Russia, revived Russian nationalism.

So, it's hard to predict what this very unpredictable man will do. But there's no question, for him, the May Day celebrations are a very big deal. They are a symbol of Russia's nationalism, and Russian pride, which as you say, is wrapped up, with this effort, to kind of return to former imperial glory.

COOPER: It's impossible to know, what is going to happen, obviously, in Ukraine, a lot defense - what happens in the battlefield, and what happens in Vladimir Putin's mind.

How do you see the fight, as it is, right now?


ZAKARIA: One of the things I'm trying to figure out? We're all trying to figure this out, Anderson.

But one thing that I'm noticing, which is really interesting, is that despite the difficulties, of some of the weaponry, getting to the front lines? As you - that was a fascinating report. And I'm sure it's being taken very seriously, in Washington, right now. But what I noticed is, the Ukrainians are now emboldened.

If you notice, Zelenskyy has now started saying that there will be no serious negotiations, until the Russians moved back, to their pre- February 24 borders. So, there is a sense that Ukraine feels they can make these kind of demands, these kind of tough conditions, toward the Russians.

The other thing, I noticed is, the Americans are, in their own way, escalating their pressure. If you remember, the Secretary of Defense, Lloyd Austin, said the goal now is to weaken Russia, so that it cannot do this kind of thing again. That was not the original goal. The original goal was really, just help the Ukrainians.

So clearly, there is a sense that the tide is turning. Ukraine is doing better. What I can't tell is, Russia is, in some senses, holding back. It has a huge army. It has huge weaponry, chemical weapons, not to mention, obviously nuclear weapons. Could it ramp this up? Could the May Day celebrations be an occasion, where Putin declares a formal war?

Right now, Russia is conducting a special military operation, in Ukraine. That means it can't use its regularly conscripted troops, people who are drafted. If you declare war, if Putin declares war, on May Day, that will allow him to use hundreds of thousands of new troops.

Now, they're not very well-trained. But, the whole strategy, the Russians have had, is bigness, not brains. Just throw everything you can. And over time, you will grind this poor, small country down. Could that work? I worry about that.

COOPER: Yes. I mean, even an army that is incompetent, if they are - if they don't care about their own troops, and they don't care, about civilians, in the country, they are fighting? They are capable of committing, of creating huge violence. I mean, they're capable of destroying everything, if they have no constraints.

ZAKARIA: And we've seen, they have no constraints. So, they have not been able to take Mariupol, this city, in the south. But they have essentially destroyed. They have destroyed 90 percent of the buildings, in Mariupol, even though they have not been able to actually take it over. Think about the bravery, of the Ukrainian forces, in doing that.

So that's the - now, at some point, Anderson, what does happen in wars, is if troops, if Russian troops notice that, and more than notice, notice that as they go into these battles, they're losing a lot of people? It becomes harder and harder to throw more troops into those battles.

Because people don't want to go into a battle, where they think, "My God, I've got a 30 percent chance of dying, here, because I noticed that the last wave that went in, had 30 percent of dying." So, there is a chilling effect, on Russian morale.

And the more that the Ukrainians have weaponry, from the West? The more they can turn this into a kind of meat grinder, for Russian forces. All of which is to say, the most likely outcome here, unfortunately, is a very bloody messy meat grinder, in which everyone is destroyed, no one is winning.

It's a very bleak to - I mean, this feels like you're watching some documentary, out of World War II--


ZAKARIA: --that I never thought I would see again, where whole cities are being destroyed, tens of thousands of soldiers are losing their lives. It almost seems nihilistic.

COOPER: Yes. Fareed Zakaria, I appreciate it. Thank you. Still to come tonight, the war, as Vladimir Putin wants his people to see it, "The New York Times" logged 50 hours, watching Russian state TV, to understand what Russians may think of the war. One of their reporters joins us next, to discuss what they saw.

We also have breaking news, out of Havana. New details, about that hotel explosion that's now claimed at least 22 lives.



COOPER: There's another front, in the war, in Ukraine, vital to Vladimir Putin's success. It is the disinformation campaign, on state television, in Russia that carries the Vladimir Putin's preferred version of how the war is going.

"The New York Times" recently spent more than 50 hours, reviewing Russian television. Its conclusion is that Russian disinformation is not solely intended to convince viewers. "Just as often," "The Times" writes, "the goal is to confuse viewers and sow distrust so audiences are not sure what to believe."

I'm joined now by the author of that piece, "The Times'" Stuart A. Thompson.

Stuart, thanks so much for being with us.

So, I want to play a clip from Russian TV, on the sinking of the flagship, Moskva that you used, in your piece. Let's take a look at this.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): Let's begin with the emergency in the Black Sea. The rocket cruiser Moskva, a flagship of the Black Sea Fleet, suffered serious damage because of a fire and the resulting detonation of ammunition.

The Ministry of Defense reports that the crew has been fully evacuated. The cruiser remains afloat. A decision is being made about towing it to port.


COOPER: So, there's no indication that the ship was attacked by Ukraine. They claim the entire crew was evacuated.

How did the stories that was told to people in Russia progress from there?

STUART A. THOMPSON, THE NEW YORK TIMES: Yes, they started off by trying to explain away the attack, as not an attack, but a fire, an ammunition fire. And then, as they were towing the ship back to shore, they sank in storm, as they described it.


So, they really adjusted their story, as the news unfolded. But really, trying to cast it as not an attack, but sort of an accident, and just trying to save face, for they're losing a ship, and not only that, but the equipment.

And, they're very proud of that ship. And also the people on board, that's a big strategic loss for them. And it really shows how they try to spin strategic losses, for Russians, at home, and save face, on the morale front as well.

COOPER: What does Russian media say about casualties in the war?

A. THOMPSON: Yes, so far, they've been downplaying them. Obviously, in March, they did start to acknowledge, the casualties. But U.S. estimates put them much higher. I think, 10,000 potential casualties, 30,000 injured.

And, for this particular ship, they said that all the crew was safely evacuated. And independent Russian media said that 40 were killed, 100 were injured.

And later, they did show footage of sailors, from the ship, lined up, in a nicely-staged van, or it seemed, images that are going to make people at home feel good about, soldiers and sailors, being saved, from the ship, when in reality of wars, that they're not all going to be coming home.

And throughout the war, they've tried to explain away different casualties, Ukrainian casualties, as hoaxes. But it's hard to do, when your own soldiers aren't going back to their families.

COOPER: Stuart, stay with us, because I also want to bring in Steve Hall, to the discussion, former CIA Chief of Russia Operations, and a CNN National Security Analyst.

Steve, how does the Kremlin use state television to present their view? I mean, is this a new level of propaganda, from what you've seen?

STEVE HALL, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST, FORMER CIA CHIEF OF RUSSIA OPERATIONS: Anderson, it's not so much a new level, because the Russians and the Soviets, have been doing this--


HALL: --for well over 100 years. It all started, back in Lenin's time, over 100 years ago. The technology at the time was he would send out rail cars, with show-and-tell, for various small towns, about Russia, about how great Communism is. Now, fast-forward to this day, and you've got, television, you've got the internet.

And, of course, so many Russians, the vast majority, get their news, from the television. Because if you don't live in St. Petersburg, or Moscow, or one of the largest cities, you're in the rural areas? That's really all you've got, vertical (ph) internet access. And so - and it's very limited anyway.

So, this is just really different technology, but essentially the same modus operandi that the Kremlin has always used.

COOPER: Steve, I mean, you and your team, looking at all these images, what - did anything stand out to you or surprise you? Stuart. I'm sorry.

A. THOMPSON: Yes. I mean, I think what we see usually, in the West, is Putin having big rallies, poll numbers go up. And it's confusing, to try to understand why. And I think - the thing that I really got, from looking at all the footage is, this is a long-standing aggressive, regular pattern, of trying to spin events.

And really, anything we've seen, casualties in Bucha, nuclear power plants skirmishes that result in a fire, that raises a lot of alarms, and all of those events, are spun in one way or the other, with a pro- Russia bend, really leaning into historical narratives that they've relied on, for a long time.

So, blaming Neo-Nazis. That's one thing that we saw all the time, in really any event. Where there's a casualty, or, charges of war crimes, things against Russia, they were able to say, "Well, that was either the Neo-Nazis did it," or "They were responsible that they had a base in the hospital that was bombed." So, that was a big feature, and something we're aware of, but it really did stand out, on the programming.

COOPER: Steve, there are a lot of people, who have spent their entire careers, trying to figure out, what's happening inside the Kremlin. Is it possible to get a sense of the Kremlin's thinking by looking at what they put out on state TV?

HALL: Yes. I think it's - I think there is a sort of an optic there. It's like open source intelligence, when you watch what they're putting out, in these very shiny Western-looking, CNN-looking studios.

And the reason that it's important to watch this? And God bless Stuart, for putting in all those hours! I certainly wouldn't want to be watching that all day long! But it's important to do it, because Russians have screwed up - the Kremlin has screwed up in the past, on this.

You'll recall, there have been previous wars, in Chechnya, and also in Afghanistan, where there have been protests, because mothers have started talking about their sons not coming home.

There was the sinking, about two decades ago, of the submarine Kursk, where the entire crew was lost, after an accident. And Putin didn't handle that very well, from a propaganda perspective, saying "No, we don't need Western help." And Russians got angry.

So, it's almost more like the more anxious, and the more push-forward that you see, on Russian propaganda, the more nervous the Kremlin is. And that's an interesting indication, Anderson.

COOPER: Yes. Steve Hall, Stuart Thompson, really interesting, thank you so much.


Breaking news, tonight, in the Cuban hotel disaster, the death toll, in today's massive explosion, now stands at 22. A pregnant woman and child are said to be among the dead. Dozens more injured.

Patrick Oppmann is outside the hotel, in Havana, for us, tonight.

So Patrick, the Cuban President says the blast was not caused by a bomb nor an attack. What do we know?

PATRICK OPPMANN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, it appears, as the grim work continues, behind me, and more and more bodies are pulled out, from the rubble, it appears Anderson that as this hotel was readying to be reopened, for the first time, really, since the Pandemic, a truck carrying gas, came out to refill the hotel's cooking gas supply.

There was some sort of gas leak. The hotel filled up with gas. And then, this tremendous explosion that rocked Havana, took place.

Early this morning, when I arrived on the scene, within minutes, they were still pulling people from - they were beginning to pull people from the rubble. We saw one woman, who was bloodied, and other woman, who was barely able to walk out.

And that was really just the beginning. All day long, they pulled survivors out, from the rubble. And as well, as you said, up until now, 22 people, who had lost their lives. That number is expected to rise.

Because, we are hearing that rescuers have not been able to get to parts of the hotel. The pool on the roof is still full of water. This structure that remains there behind me is not safe. So, rescuers are concerned that the hotel, the rest of the hotel can come crashing down, upon them.

And then, this amazing news that there are apparently some survivors, trapped in the basement. One rescue worker tells me that a woman, who was able to get her cell phone working, called relatives, who then relayed word to the rescue workers here that she was there trapped, in the basement, under rubble. And they're trying to reach her, and see if there are other survivors, down there.

So, the desperate work continues and, we expect, overnight, and into tomorrow. These scenes to still be playing out, and the death toll tragically, to continue--


OPPMANN: --to rise.

COOPER: Patrick Oppmann, in Havana, appreciate it. Thanks for the latest.

Coming up, longtime women's rights advocate, Gloria Steinem, joins me. We'll look at the leak of the Roe opinion draft, and what happens if the Supreme Court ends abortion protection, on the federal level.

Plus, Justice Clarence Thomas, responding publicly, to the breach that's rattling the court. And new CNN polling, on where Americans stand, after the leak. That's next.



COOPER: We hear another voice of outrage, tonight, from the Supreme Court bench, after the Roe draft opinion leak that could signal the end of abortion rights, at the federal level.

Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, telling a Conference, in Atlanta that leak is a form of bullying government institutions. He says, without their stability, quote, "You cannot have a free society."

New CNN polling, on Roe v. Wade, taken after the leak, finds that two- thirds of American adults questioned - disagree - question - disagree with the idea of the court ending Row. 59 percent want Congress, to pass a law, guaranteeing the right to abortion, nationwide.

Gloria Steinem has watched this battle play out, since before abortion became legal, nearly half a century ago. The iconic feminist organizer and author joins me, tonight.

Gloria, thanks so much for joining us. When you were protesting, and demonstrating in the streets, for abortion rights, you were there. You saw the Supreme Court legalize abortion, in 1973. What was your reaction, given your history, to this leak?

GLORIA STEINEM, FEMINIST ORGANIZER AND AUTHOR: It seems, like science fiction, to suppose, once again, that we can have democracy, without allowing women, to control our own physical selves. It's a throwback.

Obviously, most States would not follow suit. But there are many places, where this proposes an enormous danger, to women, who would then have to go out of the state, or seek an illegal procedure.

COOPER: The argument that this should be left up to the States? Why is that, in your opinion, wrong?

STEINEM: The fundamental rights, of our Constitution, of freedom of speech, all the fundamentals, were not spelled out, in terms of reproduction because, of course, women weren't part of the Constitution. But it is clear that our right to bodily integrity, and to decide what happens, inside ourselves, is a fundamental human right.

COOPER: Do you believe Justice Alito, and others, when they say, "Well, because there is a fetus involved, abortion is different than other rights that rely on a privacy ruling, and therefore there won't be any other ripple effects, of this, on interracial marriage, same- sex marriage, other rights that the court has decided on, in recent decades." STEINEM: The line has always been, for women, for doctors, for commonsense, whether or not a fetus was able to exist, outside the body, of another person.

As long as the body of another person, our heart, our lungs, our physical health, everything, is the question, and is in the only way that a fetus can survive, then it's clearly the duty, almost, of the person, to preserve health, to preserve, whatever is necessary, to not only give birth to children, and safety, but to make sure that they are well-cared for that there is not a huge suffering overpopulation.

It's just every single argument. As the great Florynce Kennedy, once said, "If men could get pregnant, abortion would be a sacrament." I mean, this is a function, of a patriarchal, racist system that treats women's bodies as subjects, for their decision, not for women's decision.


COOPER: Is this an issue you think will bring out more voters? I mean, there's a poll CNN has, just out now, which is kind of mixed, on that. It shows 66 percent of Americans are against overturning Roe v. Wade. This poll that was just done, slightly before and also after the draft was released.

But it also shows that a lot of Republicans, who support the overturning of Roe, are very enthusiastic about it. And that might drive them to come out to vote, just as much as Democrats, might come out to vote, who are opposed to it.

STEINEM: Well, we're not equally divided, Democrats and Republicans. And also, Republican women have been a swing vote. And they are way more likely to be in favor, obviously, of reproductive rights, and reproductive freedom.

So, I don't think this is a country that's prepared to vote, in the majority, to take away the fundamental right to make decisions, over our own physical selves. It makes absolutely no sense, and it's dangerous.

COOPER: So, what is your message, to young women, out there, today, or women of any age, or anybody, who wants - who's opposed to this? What do you - what do you hope to see, in the coming weeks?

STEINEM: Make your voice heard. Communicate with your, especially, state legislatures, who we neglect from - frequently, and with your federal national legislators too, and make clear that it would be, in a democracy, political suicide, not to support reproductive freedom, as a fundamental human right, like freedom of speech and freedom of assembly.

COOPER: Gloria Steinem, I appreciate your time. Thank you.

STEINEM: Thank you.

COOPER: Well, there's more breaking news, tonight. Georgia's Republican Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, formally ruling that GOP congresswoman Marjorie Taylor Greene, will stay on the ballot, in the primary election, later this month.

It comes, after a state judge, today, ruled against the liberal-backed efforts, to disqualify Greene, for her alleged role in the January 6 insurrection. The judge says that Greene's challengers failed to offer persuasive evidence that she, quote, engaged in the insurrection.

Greene had testified that she didn't know about any plans, for violence. She's also repeatedly said, she couldn't remember key facts, like what she discussed with White House officials.

Greene's challengers plan to appeal.

Coming up, there's breaking news, on the getaway vehicle, used by the Alabama inmate, and corrections officer, and where the manhunt for them stands now.



COOPER: We got more breaking news, tonight, on the manhunt, for missing Alabama inmate, and corrections officer.

According to Lauderdale County Sheriff, the night before the detention center incident, corrections officer, Vicky White, stayed at hotel.

And the U.S. Marshals Service says their getaway vehicle was found in a tow lot, in Williamson County, Tennessee, a couple hours north of Florence, Alabama, where they fled the detention center.

CNN's Ryan Young, is in the Alabama town, following all the developments, joins us now.

Do officials have any new leads?

RYAN YOUNG, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Anderson, what a great question?

You think about this? We've been watching this, for over a week now, or this is the week since that escape happened. This is so different than most escapes. And I can tell you, they've been tracking, every single part of this, since that escape happened.

That car had a GPS on it. They were able to find that car, several hours later. But this is the thing. The Sheriff really said to us, today, that the idea that his former deputy knew how they worked, gave her a tremendous head start.

She stayed at the Quality Inn, like you talk about, the hotel, the day before this happened. They parked that getaway car, somewhere nearby. And then, they drove that patrol car, basically straight from the jail, to this parking lot, and were able to switch cars, before anyone knew what was going on. It's that Orange Ford Edge they've been looking for, for days, and who knew that it was found, several hours later? It was parked in the middle of the street. It appears that it broke down in Tennessee, in Williamson, about two hours away from here. And it's because of that, it was towed to a tow lot. And no one knew, this entire time that it was in that tow lot.

Now, CNN was actually able to reach out, to the tow truck driver, who found that car. And he said, he put it in an impound lot. He was watching TV, and said, "Hey, this doesn't really match up." And that's how they told Police, last night that that car was in the tow lot, Anderson.

COOPER: Wow! So, he's the one, who contacted Police, to let them know where it is.

So, the U.S. Marshals put out some images, yesterday, showing how Vicky White may have altered her appearance. This, I guess, is just theoretical, changing her - the color of her hair.

It's presumably difficult for Casey White, to hide, his appearance. He's six foot nine, and has recognizable tattoos.

YOUNG: Absolutely. Look, Anderson, when you think about this? And I know you've talked to U.S. Marshals, just like I have. You're talking about a big dude here.

He's six foot nine, over 300 pounds, and his tattoos are something that will stick out. He has two eyes on the back of his head. He has a Confederate flag, on the middle of his back, and he has a sleeve, on his right arm.

And then, you saw what they did with Vicky's hair. They've kind of made it brown, just in case she put that.

One of the things that stood out to us, and it seems like no one's talking about this, is they actually talked about her gait, the way she walks. They say, she waddles. So, there have been a lot of jokes about that on social media.

Because, when you watch the video of her going into that sally port into that car, you can see how she kind of waddles back and forth. They're hoping that's something that she won't be able to hide, because it's very hard, to change your gait. And someone will notice that.

But when you think about this man, Casey, you can't hide six foot nine. So, that was one of the things.

The Marshals Service is also saying, and I know you're going to talk to them, they put the triangle on Williamson, Tennessee. And the reason why, is because there may be several tips that come in, and those tips may help them sort of circle a certain area, and they can send investigators, to that location.

For a week, we've been asking these questions. "Hey, have you got any tips? Where is this going?" That's the reason why they're pointing their sort of eyes in that direction, at this point.


COOPER: So, just so I'm - I have this correct? They're looking for a six foot nine guy, who has tattooed eyes, on the back of his head? And a woman, who waddles? That's - those are the?


COOPER: Quite a pair!

YOUNG: I mean, look, you really can't make this up!


YOUNG: You can't make this up! And, Anderson, look, the television coverage has helped them tremendously.

And you've noticed, how open both law enforcement communities have been, with us, in terms of giving us information, giving us pictures. The jokes that are in this community are so strong that it's actually helped to keep this on social media. And that's helped them get more calls, Anderson.

COOPER: Yes. Ryan Young, appreciate it. Thanks so much.

As authorities continue the manhunt, for both fugitives, more details are surfacing, about the wanted inmate, and what put him in jail, in the first place.

CNN's Nadia Romero has the story.


NADIA ROMERO, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Casey White is scheduled to stand trial, for capital murder charges, related to the 2015 death of Connie Ridgeway, this summer.

But, last Friday, he escaped, forcing Ridgeway's family, including her son, Austin Williams, through a rollercoaster of emotions.

AUSTIN WILLIAMS, CONNIE RIDGEWAY'S SON: My feelings have been kind of been all over the place, just adrenaline, and stress, and just, not sleeping really well.

ROMERO (voice-over): White's violent criminal history dates back to at least 2010.

Court documents allege he beat his brother, in the face, and head, with an axe/sledge hammer handle, landing him in prison, in 2012. He was released, nearly four years later.

And, in October 2015, Connie Ridgeway, was murdered, in her apartment, in Lauderdale County, Alabama. Police questioned White, at the time, but did not charge him. And, just months later, in December, White went on a crime spree that included a home invasion, carjacking and a Police chase. He was indicted, on 15 counts, in March 2016, and later convicted, on seven of those charges, including attempted murder and robbery. He was sent to prison, with his first possibility of parole, in 2061.

But in 2020, Lauderdale County District Attorney says White admitted to killing Connie Ridgeway. He was then brought to Lauderdale County Detention Center, to be arraigned on murder charges, in October 2020. White pleaded not guilty.

And that's where he is believed to have met, and started his relationship, with corrections officer, White. While there, deputies discovered White was allegedly planning an escape that included taking a hostage. He was sent back.

SHERIFF RICK SINGLETON, LAUDERDALE COUNTY, ALABAMA: He was immediately returned back to the Department of Corrections. But he was brought back to our facility, on February 25 of this year. We do know and have confirmed that they were in touch, via phone, during that two-year period, while he was in prison, and she was still working here.

ROMERO (voice-over): And White was placed on the most restrictive custody-level, housed in a single cell, restrained and accompanied by armed guards, at all times.

Sheriff Singleton says White was brought back to the Lauderdale County Detention Center, in February, where Officer White worked, ahead of the trial, for the Ridgeway murder. Inmates have come forward, with new information, about the two of them.

SINGLETON: They were saying he was getting special treatment. He was getting privileges, getting extra food, on his tray that Vicky White was seeing that that he got that other inmates weren't getting.

ROMERO (voice-over): Austin Williams says there should have been extra eyes, on Casey White, and anyone, who was associating with him. Now, he's worried, more people could be hurt, by White, while he's on the run.

WILLIAMS: I mean, really no one's safe, who's in contact with him. I mean, he - and he could snap at any moment. He could just snap at anything, and that's it.

ROMERO (voice-over): Nadia Romero, CNN, Atlanta.


COOPER: Coming up, some flowers have become a symbol of Ukrainian resistance. And, across the border, they're inspiring a new refuge, for children, who escaped the war, and for their new teachers.

Randi Kaye takes us there, next.



COOPER: As we continue to watch the massive humanitarian response, to Vladimir Putin's war, in Ukraine, our Randi Kaye is in neighboring Moldova. And it's there, she finds a new mission, for families.



RANDI KAYE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): These children are far from the war, ravaging their home country of Ukraine.

The joy on their faces is, thanks, in part, to this woman, Meredith Wiedemer. She's a mother of three, originally from Baltimore. But she's been living in Moldova, since August, last year.

When refugee moms started trekking across the border, to Moldova, with their children in tow, Meredith took notice.

MEREDITH WIEDEMER, CO-FOUNDER, THE SUNFLOWER CENTER: You can just see, in a refugee's face, when they're here, they're just completely startled.

KAYE (on camera): Yes.

WIEDEMER: And we wanted to provide a place, where they could get that support.

KAYE (voice-over): That idea became "The Sunflower Center," a place, where, yes, kids could have fun, and hopefully forget about the war, for a few hours. But Meredith also really wanted to provide educational services and structure.

WIEDEMER: There were some children's classes going on. But they weren't actually classes. They weren't sitting and creating. They were just like in entertainment, right, with like a loud techno music playing, and kids jumping around.

They needed someone to hold their hand. I mean, we walk every single kid up to the classroom, right? You're trying to meet every kid, here, with an empathetic approach, and be kind, and listen to what they need.

KAYE (voice-over): In this room, we found more than a dozen children, making Mother's Day cards. And they were anxious, to show them, to us. Hardly, a hint of the stress of war, on their faces.


KAYE (voice-over): Their teacher is Irina Zelkova (ph). She too is a Ukrainian refugee. She fled Odessa, Ukraine, with her 2-year-old daughter, and is making a new life, here.

KAYE (on camera): You're a teacher. How important is this school, and this center, for the children?


KAYE (voice-over): She tells me, it's very important that these children have a place to go, after being ripped from their own schools, and their friends, and all they know.


KAYE (voice-over): Irina (ph) also says, she's seen a change in the children, now that they have some structure in their lives. They are calmer, she says, more positive, and communicating better.



KAYE (voice-over): Sunflower Center has only been open, a few weeks. But the classes are already growing in numbers and popularity. And it's privately-funded, so there is no cost to any of the refugee families.


This woman, fled the region, near Odessa, with her daughter, who is now enrolled here.

KAYE (on camera): How grateful are you that you have this?


KAYE (voice-over): Tatyana (ph) tells me she is overwhelmed with gratitude. She and her daughter feel embraced by Moldova, and its people. The Sunflower Center, she says, is a calming experience. Though she's quick to tell me, her heart is still in Ukraine.


KAYE: Anderson, The Sunflower Center, is actually one of the happiest places, I've been to, here, in Moldova, which is remarkable, considering what these children have been through.

But the center doesn't just cater to the children. It's also looking out for the moms. Remember, it's mostly mothers and children that are crossing the border, here, into Moldova, from Ukraine. The men are staying behind to fight.

So, they're also holding art therapy classes, for the mothers. Also, some counseling, because the moms have a lot of tough questions, to answer, from these children, like, why did they leave their home, or maybe where is their father.

So, it's really important that they have a place that serves both the mother, and the child. And Sunflower Center is really a very nurturing space, Anderson.

COOPER: Randi Kaye, thanks.

We'll be right back.


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