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Anderson Cooper 360 Degrees

National Hurricane Center: The Danger Is Not Over From This Storm; At Least 45 Dead In Florida After Hurricane Ian; Fort Myers Beach Resident On Storm Surge: It Was Five Hours Of Pure Hell; Search And Rescue Combing Fort Myers Beach For Survivors; Putin Declares Those Who Live In Annexed Regions Of Ukraine Are Russian Citizens "Forever"; Zelenskyy Hail "Substantial Results" In Eastern Ukraine; World Central Kitchen In Florida Helping After Hurricane Ian. Aired 8- 9p ET

Aired September 30, 2022 - 20:00   ET


FIONA HILL, FORMER DEPUTY US NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISER: The person in charge and him framing the whole terms of any kind of negotiation.

NIC ROBERTSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL DIPLOMATIC EDITOR (voice over): And that's why the caution on calling Russia out, it is going to take global unity to get Putin to back down.

Nic Robertson, CNN, London.


ERIN BURNETT, CNN HOST: And thanks so much for joining us.

Ac 360 begins now.


JOHN BERMAN, CNN HOST: The danger is not over.

John Berman here, in for Anderson, and that is straight from the National Hurricane Center. Ian may no longer be a hurricane, but it is still forecast to bring dangerously high winds, heavy rain, storm surge, and flash flooding as it moves inland.

It has already done considerable damage to the South Carolina coast where it struck today as a Category 1 Hurricane. This is the Cherry Grove Pier in North Myrtle Beach, one of two that partially collapsed today. And just as on the Florida Gulf Coast and later in Orlando, Ian caused significant flooding in the Charleston and Myrtle Beach areas and knocked out power to about a third of a million customers in South and North Carolina.

So, we've also just received some new video in of a high wave sweeping several people off a pier in Miami.


BERMAN: So that is in Miami still from the high tide and the waves being kicked up by Ian, six people were hurt in that, no one, thank goodness, was killed.

Statewide, the death toll is now at least 42 and that is expected to rise and the damage especially in places like Fort Myers Beach became even more apparent today. It is so severe that a Coast Guard Commander told our Wolf Blitzer his chopper crews simply do not have many landmarks left to help guide them. "We are flying," he said, "In areas that are unrecognizable."

As we said parts of two piers collapsed on the South Carolina coast, one in North Myrtle Beach, the other on Pawleys Island where CNN's Miguel Marquez is for us tonight.

Miguel, what more can you tell us about the pier that was damaged?

MIGUEL MARQUEZ, CNN SENIOR NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, this is a fishing pier that had been here for many, many years, sort of beloved in the community. Lots of fish caught off this pier. We only can -- we can show you the remnants now.

You can see part of the pier still, but it's too dark to show you, but we can show you a bit of what's left of this pier.

Look, it's a pile of rubble, but what is important to keep in mind, this came on as a Category 1 just south of here, it made landfall, and it just pummeled the coastline here. Not just this pier, but the dunes along the coast here and then pushing tons of debris back into the city, the town, as well and further inland. Just a massive amount of debris was pushed in destroying this pier along the way.

Amazingly, no one was injured. No one was killed in this area that we have heard of so far. There were several rescues that were done. No one injured, no one killed, which is great. Because of what happened in Florida, because it was so bad in Florida, people really paid attention here.

There were some people out in the street. There were no mass evacuations here. There were no evacuation orders. They asked people to stay at home, to stay off the streets, and to watch the weather very carefully. And it seems here in the Carolinas at least, people did just that -- John.

BERMAN: Miguel, what about the rest of Pawleys Island? Did that have any damage?

MARQUEZ: There are several piers inland from here that are damaged. There are marsh lands, they are connected to piers and to boat ramps, a lot of those got damaged and were pushed around, so that will take some time for them to get things sorted out here on Pawleys Island before residents can come back. The causeways, those small bridges from the Mainland onto Pawleys Island, those are still closed because there are just so much debris on them. We had to walk into this area -- John.

BERMAN: All right, Miguel Marquez, for us in South Carolina.

Miguel, thank you. So many places affected by Ian, and we want to go back to Central

Florida now to Orlando which has seen widespread historic flooding and many, many water rescues. CNN's Ryan Young is there for us now.

Ryan, what are you seeing there tonight?

RYAN YOUNG, CNN CORRESPONDENT: John, the rain may be gone, the storm may be gone, but the devastation is still sitting here. You can see all that water right there alongside this road. That is in front of a neighborhood and I could tell you, there are no cones blocking this neighborhood off.

Today, we saw residents going into their own neighborhood to help each other out, because there are still people who decided to live back there, and the only reason why this is lit up right now is because we're standing here.


I want to shut our lights off to give you an idea about how dark it is out here, so you have people who decided to stay back, they are on their own, flooded water above their mailboxes, all their cars flooded out and they are still there because they do not want to leave their belongings.

Yesterday, the rescue operations ended, but we will show you the video today when we went along with some of the residents here who were very frustrated by the lack of response they say they've seen.

They got in their own boat and started helping folks out by making sure they gave them a tour, maybe even back to the home to get medicine and to save pets, and to check on older citizens who said they decided not to leave the home back there.

In the last half hour or so, we've seen a citizen who was watching CNN actually show up with an airboat to try to help other residents get some of their belongings out of this situation. Listen to this neighbor who was frustrated who got on a boat to help out neighbors in need.


YOUNG: Are you frustrated that you haven't been seen any city officials or anyone here from the city today to help out especially after what happened to you guys yesterday?

EMORI RIVERS, RESCUING NEIGHBORS: Yes, I am frustrated because looking at the news and everything, I think my neighborhood exactly has gotten worse than any other neighborhood. Yes, neighborhoods have flooded, but I haven't seen that one other neighborhood with their house completely under the water. I keep going by, I'm seeing water all the way up to the door. So I'm really frustrated. We need help out here.

(END VIDEO CLIP) YOUNG: John, I want to punctuate this. We saw snakes ourselves. We

saw a gator today and a man just before this live shot decided to take his bicycle and start walking up this road here to try to make it home tonight.

So, you have people who obviously know this area will flood sometime, but they've never seen it flood like this. And when you have dozens of residents who decide to stay back here, and there's no blockade, yes, without the help of their own neighbors, they would not have been able to make it back home today.

But there's a growing frustration because they want to see more efforts from the State and the City to help themselves out because right now, they are concerned about what's going to happen especially on the other side of the situation and with people who have decided to huddle in garages tonight, and burn bonfires sometimes to stay with the mosquitoes and everything else and to cook food, they are very frustrated and hope that someone will come out here in the next few days to help them out.

BERMAN: There are so many dangers all around, Ryan, but such a hunger to get back to something close to normal, to get back to their homes.

Ryan Young, thank you for showing us that.

So joining us now by phone is Kevin Behen, who fair to say, witnessed some of the worst conditions that anyone could imagine in the place that has seen the most devastation, Fort Myers Beach, and importantly, is still seeing that.

Kevin, if you can hear me, thank you for joining us. I am glad you're safe.

I'm so glad that you're safe. Tell us what happened when the storm hit. What did you do?

KEVIN BEHEN, HOME WAS DESTROYED IN FORT MYERS BEACH (via phone): Well, you know, they were forecasting that -- you know, they were warning everybody, this could be you know, I mean the worst storm ever. And then, it was supposed to go toward Tampa, then they talked about the storm surge being 18 feet. You know, and I think a lot of people got caught off guard to the storm surge.

Well, first of all, we didn't even get the eye. We got the worst end of it, and it just came on. And the storm surge kept coming and it got up to 25 feet high. I saw it all happen. Houses are floating in the Back Bay, people are on the roofs. There is a lot of lives lost here. This island is -- I couldn't even find my street where I live. I mean, that's how bad it is.

BERMAN: You know, I saw it from the air and I can't imagine what it was like to be in it as it was happening. We have a photo you took from the second floor of where you were sheltering. What did you think when you saw this storm surge?

BEHEN: I was thinking, man, I'll tell you what, I made the biggest mistake of my life to be honest with you, but I was -- I was able to get into a solid building. I got out of my place because I knew that something was going to go wrong. And a guy that I lease from, his name is Jesse. He stayed in the house and this guy, the house collapsed, and he ended up riding on the roof of his house with his dog. It was going toward the Back Bay and it crashed in the house and he jumped on a tree.

I had a friend. They were in a house and he was with his wife and there was another couple and the storm surge came all the way up and they had -- the windows were sucked out. These guys push their wives out the windows to where a tree was and they were looking at them and the guys were holding on and they just looked at their wives and they said, "We can't hold on anymore. We love you. Bye." And that was it. I mean, people are sucking air at their ceilings.

BERMAN: Did they all make it? Did they all make it?

BEHEN: No. No. The two guys didn't make it. The wife and the girlfriend did because they pushed them out the windows first.


BERMAN: Oh my goodness.

BEHEN: They just found somebody, I just heard to, like three hours ago floated out to the sea.

BERMAN: Have you passed that on? Have you passed that on to authorities? Do they know?

BEHEN: Oh, they know. They're here right now. I just -- I just want to explain, I'm not trying to make this sound worse than anything than anybody else. Everybody is going through a real bad time now.

But it is unimaginable to see 25 feet of water coming rushing through, it's like a dam broke. It was -- it was taking everything. There's cars floating down the road. There's people, they are pulling people out of the mangroves right now. You know what I mean? They've got cadaver dogs. They're down here. They're going through all the hotels looking for everybody. The horror stories are just incredible.

A friend of mine was in a house and these -- people -- we all know each other on island, it is a small community and everybody is just freaked out. And I'm just here just to talk to everybody and just make sure everybody, you know, they need to talk.

And he said he was holding on to his best friend's hair and the surge was like 25 feet. And his best friend says, "You got to let go of him." He goes, "No, he's my best friend." "Let go." And he goes, "No." And it almost took him out, but he finally let go of him. And that was it.

I mean, this is what happened here. I mean, it was like -- you couldn't see any building. It was -- I don't think we're ever going to see a storm like this again, ever. And I was -- I will say, I had to run up to the third floor, I was on the second floor, and it kept rising up and we ran out the door and went up on the third floor, and I'm thinking, if this comes up any higher we are going to be on the roof, you know what I mean?

BERMAN: You know --

BEHEN: It was just --

BERMAN: Based on what we're seeing with the destruction that we now can see, you can only imagine and based on the stories you're telling us, what it was like to be there while it was happening. What do you want people who are watching this now and are seeing some of these pictures and are hearing you describe it, what do you want them to know?

BEHEN: Do not trust the track of a hurricane and what they need to do now is they need to take a Cat 5, which is supposed to be 158 miles an hour, and they need to turn that into a hundred -- and drop the miles on 155 and they need to tell people, if you don't leave you will die. That's it.

I mean, people need to get out, you know what I mean? They need to get out and I was fortunate enough to get into a solid building and what I saw is just heartbreaking and all the friends that lost and everybody else, the stories are horrific. It's a nightmare. This island is destroyed. They are going to tear down everything that was built with wood, everything -- they're tearing everything down there's nothing left.

The storm surge is like a wave -- I've never seen anything like this in my life.

BERMAN: Kevin Behen, I am so sorry for your loss, for those close to you that you've lost. I'm glad for you that you did make it through this ordeal. I know it's going to be difficult for you going forward.

BEHEN: Thank you.

BERMAN: Please make sure that you let us know if there's anything we can do to help getting the story out there and I know the aid is coming in. Please stay safe for the time being.

BEHEN: The aid is coming and we just want everybody to know that we need more help down here. You know what I mean? So, I mean they're here but it's just -- it is what it is, I guess. We're just all saying a prayer and just trying to help each other out.

BERMAN: There's so much need. Listen, thank you very much. Be well.

BEHEN: You've got it. Okay, thank you.

BERMAN: You can only imagine what it's like to be in those circumstances right now, having lived through that and still face the challenges ahead.

The storm, it does still remain a threat as it moves inland. We want to get the latest on it from CNN's Jennifer Gray who is in the Weather Center. So Jennifer, what is the latest right now?


The storm is still moving into the Mid-Atlantic. It is nowhere near the storm that impacted Florida anymore. The storm is now post- tropical and has lost its tropical characteristics, but the rain is still with it. We are looking at heavy rainfall all across the Mid- Atlantic even spilling into the Northeast so we are going to see the potential for flooding.

The good news around the coast of the Carolinas, the storm surge has ended. All the water is flowing back into the ocean. We still have some flooding, some inland flooding going on, and we will have a Tornado Watch until 10 o'clock. So the possibility of spin up definitely there as we go throughout the evening hours.

But here is the forecast radar, you can see a lot of rain falling across the Mid-Atlantic even into the Ohio Valley all throughout the weekend. Even a lot of moisture spilling into the Northeast so we are going to look for the potential for some flash flooding.

Rainfall totals two to four inches, sometimes up to six potentially. You can see all along the I-95 corridor, we're going to see some heavy rain. This is for the next three days, John. So still a bit of a threat with this storm. It will be breezy along the coast as well, the rain will continue, but this storm is finally starting to wind down, thankfully.

BERMAN: Long overdue. Jennifer Gray, thank you so much for that.

GRAY: Thanks.

BERMAN: Next, the owner of one of the many boats the storm tossed around like toys, in this case, while he was on board.

And later Vladimir Putin's land grab in Ukraine, a dark and ominous speech he made announcing it and what to make of the nuclear threat that he once again made.



BERMAN: So looking there at one of the indelible images of the storm, the number of boats of all types, not where they should be. Some, as our Randi Kaye showed us last night, still attached to pieces of docks and moorings, but washed inland by the surge.

Today, she met the owner of one such boat and joins us now.

So, Randi, what did you see today as you continue to do such an amazing job covering the devastation in that area.


RANDI KAYE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Thank you, John. We were driving around Fort Myers Beach here. We saw the flooded

communities, the flattened communities, the boats in trees, of course. And then we happened upon this marina or what used to be a marina here.

This was a marina building that used to be here, right here behind me. It ended up out to sea, it was pulled out by the storm, and this giant boat here behind me took the other route. That was in the water, ended up on dry land.

We spoke to the owner of that boat who rode that storm out on the boat and here is what he told us.


KAYE: Have you ever seen a storm like this?

MIKE STACZEK, RODE OUT HURRICANE ON BOAT: No, not this big. I have seen the other hurricanes, but nothing like this.

KAYE (voice over): When Hurricane Ian hit Fort Myers Beach, Boat Captain Mike Staczek was in for the ride of his life.

STACZEK: It was surreal. It was very surreal.

KAYE (voice over): Mike had decided to ride out the storm on his boat docked at this Fort Myers Beach marina. It is made of steel and has a generator so we thought it would be safer than home. Mike showed me video of what he saw as the hurricane gained strength.

STACZEK: So here's the one with the -- you'll see the building that collapsed over there. You'll get to see at the minute. You can see I was running the engine, holding the boat in place. It should be a minute, there's the building.

KAYE (on camera): Wow. It's just right in the water.


KAYE (voice over): He tied the boat he was on to another large boat he owned, both weighed about 50 tons, he says, but even that was no match for hurricane Ian.

At about 3:00 AM, all of a sudden Mike was lifted up by the force of the water and the wind.

STACZEK: We didn't actually get dragged around until the very, very end.

KAYE (on camera): What was that feeling like being carried along as the storm was going?

STACZEK: Just really, we knew it was out of our control at that point. So, we just figured we knew -- we were happy we were blown inland, because we knew we'd wind up over land not out in water that we will be sinking and be in real danger. So, you just couldn't see anything.

The wind was howling and we knew we were in the parking lot. We didn't know where we were going to stop.

KAYE (voice over): In the end, after a wild 15 hours, Mike and his boats, which were still tied together, landed in a street. And while they aren't a total loss, Ian sure took a chunk out of this boat Mike used for his business, a floating hotel.

STACZEK: That's cabin six, actually. It was one of the nicest cabin. It had a private deck. And you're just looking at -- the wind did that, but that wasn't even from a hit. That was -- we were just watching the wind, as it got more and more, it started peeling the side back and pulled it right off.

KAYE (on camera): Pulled it right off.



BERMAN: Randi, imagine thinking it's good news that he was getting blown inland at least he would end up somewhere like a parking lot instead of washed out to sea. Did Mike tell you what he is going to do next? Can he salvage any of these boats?

KAYE: He hopes to salvage both boats actually, John, but only one of them is insured, unfortunately. But he does have a generator on it. It is running right now. But he wants to get it back in the water as soon as possible. And here's why. If you look there, it's leaning -- this boat right here, it is leaning against a power line. The power company was here today. And if they deem that that boat is in the way of them restoring power, Mike says they will just simply destroy it.

So he has a crane company giving him an estimate. He wants that boat in the water as soon as possible., and hopefully, he'll fix up the other one -- John.

BERMAN: These are the decisions and the predicament so many are in.

Randi Kaye, thank you very much.

So we just received word from Florida officials who have reopened several new facilities bringing the death toll statewide to at least 45 and that continues to grow.

Now, I want to check back in with Holly Smith, the mayor of Sanibel. When we spoke last night, she already had a good idea of how badly her town and the island it sits on, Sanibel Island had been hit.


BERMAN: For the people who want to stay at this point, what services exist for them? I mean, how much damage is there? Is it livable?

MAYOR HOLLY SMITH, SANIBEL ISLAND, FLORIDA: Frankly, no. But they do have the right to stay there and right now, you know, it's important for us to just go ahead and say okay, do you have food and water? Are you okay?

I'll be doing my flyover tomorrow and getting on the island, my boots on the ground as well tomorrow so I can get a better assessment.


BERMAN: And Mayor Smith does join us tonight.

Mayor, I know you were able to go to Sanibel Island today. What was it like?

SMITH (via phone): You know, watching all that we watched, the videos and everything. We talked about that, but when you step onto that island and you walk around, it was -- it was overpowering. Really, the extent of the devastation on the island until you're on the ground and walking around, you really don't get a sense of that.

I went out with my other Council members as well as some of the police department and we were able to get around to parts of the island. Very limited parts, but those areas have extreme, extreme devastation

BERMAN: Are there still people on the island who don't want to leave?


SMITH: Yes, there are right now. But let me tell you some good parts here as well. When we were getting ready to load and get on the boat to head over, they were bringing a number of people off and those were faces that we knew. And it was so good to see them and they were so glad to be safe.

And then when we were on the island, we also saw a number of people. And we took down -- every time we saw somebody, we recorded their name, where they were, so we can make sure that our list, we have them marked as safe. And then we had probably 25 or so people on our boat coming back with us, coming off.

And these were, you know, there were elderly, younger, there was a pregnant woman on and what they went through, the descriptions they had were just absolutely horrific.

BERMAN: It must be such a relief to see faces that you know and have them be okay. I know Governor DeSantis announced that he is going to help bring barges in to get heavy equipment on Sanibel. What more do you know about how that's going to work? And what else do you need?

SMITH: Well, I was out of pocket today. So, I haven't had an opportunity to speak to the Governor's Office to find out, you know, what assets they are bringing in -- are being brought on. And I neglected to say our City Manager was on today.

So I really can't speak to that. It's our understanding that we are getting National Guard coming forward here. I don't have a timeline and that will be a 24-hour guard on the island. The barges, I know are in play. Where they are, I'm not sure so I

couldn't answer that specifically.

BERMAN: Well, hopefully that help is on the way.

Mayor Holly Smith, thank you again for speaking with us tonight. We're glad you're well.

SMITH: You're welcome.

BERMAN: We're glad you had a chance to reconnect with people you know there.

SMITH: Thank you for your time.

BERMAN: All right, we're going to get more on the Fort Myers region. Just ahead, CNN's Bill Weir is going to take us to a place that shows not just the damage, but does it in a way that conveys how powerful and destructive this storm really was.

That's next on 360.



BERMAN: All right, a reminder just a moment ago, the death toll of Florida from Hurricane Ian rose to 45, 45, 45, and that number, sadly, will no doubt rise again. In early we heard from Kevin (INAUDIBLE) in Fort Myers Beach, who lost his home and went through so much during the storm. It is a story that is all too common in that area to see in some of the very worst.

I'm joined now by Bill Weir, who's in Fort Myers. And Bill, I know you tried to get to Fort Myers Beach today, you're going to tell us about that journey. But also, one of the things you're seeing it and you really see it everywhere, is boats and just impossible places.

BILL WEIR, CNN CHIEF CLIMATE CORRESPONDENT: Absolutely. That's just all of them. And an illustration of the physics of this storm that did the most amazing things. Yes, I was on my way, because we'd heard 90% of Fort Myers Beach was wiped out the road was closed there by the sheriff's department. It sounds like they're going to open that up in coming days. But while we're sitting here, we're looking around and look at these images of the Cracker Jack, this charter yacht parked on the top of a Chevy Suburban, with the alarm going off inside to alert the captain that something is wrong. And then there was this yacht across the boulevard that had to be shoved across there bringing in all this heavy equipment to try to move all this debris out of the way to shoving it for the time being.

But then take a look at this footage. You compare that to what's happening here in Fort Myers. This is near the Yacht Basin. It's near Joe's Crab Shack, if you've been there before, I looked it up. Back in 2017, Irma and Maria took out about 65,000 boats in Florida at a cost of near $650 million. It's hard to imagine that this storm will exceed that. But it's not just property damage here we're talking about. These are people's homes down in Florida. And I met a guy a captain here in the basin just a moment ago who wanted to ride it out in old salt and a pretty small boat 24-footer. He has two dogs though. And when this big yacht started banging into his it had come loose. He got his dogs came out, people across the street saw him, help them he rode out the storm with them on their balcony watching this bass in which he says it's just family. It's everybody who knows each other, and they had been taken care of each other. He says he's pretty sure that most people were on their boats here in this harbor when that happened, but there's no telling John how to search for, you know, for the clearer each one of these vessels to make sure there wasn't somebody inside.

And when he when you think about in those terms, you see the sunken boats here in the harbor. It just fills your guts with dread. And then I made all of this debris just now I looked down and noticed. Just a reminder that these are families lives that we're looking at, that we're talking about this is not, you know, it's not disaster porn. This is this is these are human lives. And this is these are somebody's grandbabies. And who knows where this came from. If you recognize these people, you can hit me on social media, we can try to at least get this get this back to them.

But the one lesson I got from Captain Lou here just a minute ago, was just how much people are taking together, taking care of each other in this community. Another inspiring example of this storm John folks together. The longer it takes to clean this up, though, I worry about that that sort of fraying a bit. We shall see. But every one of these a reminder of the wrath of it, John.

BERMAN: Yes. It's a great point, Billy, you know, yes, boats and homes destroy. But the important thing here is what it's done to people in their lives that are just uprooted. Now, Bill Weir, your coverage has been terrific. Thank you so much for being with us tonight.

WEIR: My pleasure, John. Thanks.

BERMAN: So, we're going to go back to the Fort Myers region later in the broadcast and talk with Chef Jose Andres of World Central Kitchen.

But next, another big story today Russian President Vladimir Putin attempting to annex A large chunk of Ukraine and his speech steeped in anger, conspiracies, and hints about using nuclear weapons. A discussion with one of our reporters who recently returned from Moscow and a former CIA official, that's next.



BERMAN: So major developments we want to tell you about tonight in the war in Ukraine. As Ukrainian forces appear to be encircling Russian units in a strategically important town of the East, Vladimir Putin held a celebratory concert in Red Square today after declaring that Russia would annex four regions in Ukraine. That includes the same region Donetsk where Ukrainians appear to be encircling some of his troops and circling Russian troops. So this was a spectacle to be sure it began with a speech in one of the grand halls of the Kremlin. Putin his words were a times dark, confrontational conspiratorial, he blamed the West for the war. At times Putin seem to be projecting charging the West in the U.S. with bringing despots for being despots, who infringe on nation's rights and break international law.

Now, in the orders Putin signed today, they include lands that his armies do not actually occupy. Nevertheless, today, he proclaimed all of it, quote, our land.


VLADIMIR PUTIN, PRESIDENT OF RUSSIA (through translation): I want to keep authorities and their real masters in the West to hear me and remember, those people who live in these four regions are becoming our citizens forever.


BERMAN: Putin also spoke about the use of nuclear weapons hinting at their use, and once again blaming the United State.



PUTIN (through translation): The country which used nuclear weapons twice in Hiroshima and Nagasaki, they have created a precedent.


BERMAN: In response, President Biden said Putin's actions are a sign he's struggling. Ukraine's President Zelenskyy call today's show a quote, farce.

I'm joined now here by our senior international correspondent, Matthew Chance, who has not only reported from the warzone in Ukraine, but also from Moscow, and CNN national security analyst, Steve Hall, a former CIA chief of Russia operations.

Matthew, it's, it's always an honor to see you in person. Look, this speech from Vladimir Putin, it was fiery. In it comes as hundreds of thousands of Russians appear to be upset with the direction that he's taken. How do you think this speech will play with the Russian people?

MATTHEW CHANCE, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: I think you're right. It's there's a massive disconnect between the kind of rhetoric and sort of patriotic fervor that we heard from Vladimir Putin. And that crowd of invited guests as well, in Red Square, a disconnect between that, and what's happening on the battlefield first of all, I mean, this is the first time I can think of that a country has actually annexed territory, it is actively retreating from, it's being pushed out from by the opposing army, in this case, the Ukrainians.

But it's also there's also a massive disconnect, I think, with the attitude that many Russians feel now about what Russia calls this special military operation. Because, you know, as we all know, while these celebrations are being staged in the center of the Russian capital, we've got hundreds of thousands of Russian men trying to leave the country to escape the military draft, they know that they need to get out as quickly as they can. Otherwise, they're going to be sucked into that kind of bloodbath.

BERMAN: It just to follow up on that. Do you have a sense that the message from today in the mobilization from a few weeks ago, have backfired?

CHANCE: I think the mobilization has definitely backfired. I think what we're seeing today with this message of, you know, of kind of victory is aimed at a domestic audience to say, look, you know, we got what we wanted, this is the Russian traditional lands coming home, and he, along with his propaganda machine, with the state media, are going to be spinning that yarn to Russians for the foreseeable future.

BERMAN: Steve Hall will follow up on that with you. Do you see this speech that Putin gave today as more for that domestic audience? Or what was the message intended for the West?

STEVE HALL, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: Yes, it was definitely for the domestic audience, I think, John, and it's, I mean, I would characterize the speech, it's just, it's just silly. I mean, it's crazy. You can, I'm sure people are already doing analysis of it. And it's interesting, but it's just it's pure theater. It's trying to win over, you know, those pockets, or those parts of the Russian population, that are still very concerned about that. And most of those populations are in the, you know, better educated, richer parts of Russia, relatively speaking places like Moscow and St. Petersburg.

I think this type of propaganda and the big, you know, the big show, the big concert that they put on in Red Square, I've seen those in person, they're very good at doing these things, those things played better in sort of the Russian hinterlands where people have a more difficult time getting access to the internet and have to rely more on Russian media. So yes, it's definitely a domestic thing. He knows that the West is watching. But he also knows that the West is just not taking it seriously, which we really shouldn't.

BERMAN: Do you think he believes that conflict with the West is inevitable Steve?

HALL: You know, he's, he's got to be very, very careful about that. Because it depends on what we mean by conflict with the West. So, he's very good at rattling the nuclear saber, without really even saying anything about nuclear weapons, except when the United States, you know, use them. And that's a precedent. But that's extremely useful to him, because he knows that we get in the West, we get apoplectic about this, because when you're talking about nuclear weapons, everybody has to take it seriously.

But he also knows that if the Russian people and more importantly, his senior advisors, thought that he was seriously considering some sort of nuclear confrontation with the West, he wouldn't be in his job for very long. I don't think nobody wants that to happen inside of Russia. BERMAN: So Matthew, that nuclear threat, which has gone from, you know, thinly veiled to not veiled at all, really, or at least nuclear discussion from Vladimir Putin. What do you think he's driving out there?

CHANCE: Well, well, that that nuclear threat, by the way, it's thinly veiled from Vladimir Putin himself, but on Russian state media, which is often a conduit for what is going on in the Kremlin, it's talked about explicitly, you should level London they've spoken about that. I just think he's raising the states. He's got a you know, he's not got much else to fall back on apart from these, these threats, the threat that he could deploy those much feared Russian nuclear weapons, because he's conventional army has, you know, frankly, failed to achieve the military objectives. They've been bringing them back in body bags, and he's not got much else I don't think to throw out the conflict except for this kind of last-ditch attempt to scare the West and to scare Ukraine into backing down.


BERMAN: Matthew Chance, it is great to see you in person. Thank you for being here. Steve Hall, thank you as well.

More now on Ukrainian counter offensive, CNN's Nick Paton Walsh and his team recently visited a newly liberated town. This is what one resident told him.


NICK PATON WALSH, CNN INTERATIONAL SECURITY EDITOR (voice-over): Anna is one of nine people left in her block. She almost didn't make it.

UNDENTIFIED FEMALE (through translation): The scariest was when the Russians one night were in a firefight in my courtyard. I was in the doorway and tried to hold a steel door shut, but a soldier pulled at the door. So, I jumped down and fell in the basement. He tore open the door, shot his gun into the darkness and missed me.


BERMAN: All right here now to see it as Nick Paton Walsh and Kramatorsk in eastern Ukraine. Nick, what is this so-called annexation mean to the Ukrainians?

WALSH: Nothing at all, to be honest, I mean, unless of course you are standing in territory, which Russia actually physically occupies and has declared part of Russia, then you do, in theory have a new government in Russia's eyes. But where I'm standing, this is a place which as of this morning, Russia said was Ukraine and now thinks is part of Russia, but it is controlled by Ukraine. That brings home I think, how, at times delusional what we heard from Moscow was yes, there was strong messaging about leaving a path to victory. But it seemed more about trying to justify past mistakes and necessarily suggest that the current path is really working.

And what you're certainly seeing here, we've seen flashes on the skyline and direction of an important strategic town called Lyman just before we were talking here, John, is Ukraine moving forward, they look likely, if they haven't already to encircle Lyman that has thousands of Russian troops inside of it. It could well fall to Ukraine in the days ahead, those troops could surrender or fight it out. And that could then have a knock-on effect across Russian positions in the area of Luhansk. Another key place, one of the four areas that Vladimir Putin said are now part of Russia.

The issue here is the rhetoric we heard in Moscow is just totally undermined by how Ukraine is seeing daily methodical progress on the battlefield here, John. That is proving to be something which Vladimir Putin is going to struggle massively to bridge the gap between his rhetoric and what is happening here on the front lines, John.

BERMAN: You know, I remember when Lyman foot fell to the Russians. If it gets back in Ukrainian hands, how big of a strategic step is that? What could it portend for what's next?

WALSH: Well, if you look at the Ukrainian strategy, certainly when the areas around Kharkiv fell, the focus for the Ukrainians was a town called Izyum, which was essentially the supply hub, a railway town again, but strategically important to Russia, because it used that to supply its other forces. And then remarkably, when Izyum fell, everything fell that was reliant upon it. And there are thoughts that possibly Lyman feels a similar function in the Donetsk and Luhansk areas.

Now they are places that Russia has had forces in probably in parts of it since 2014, they probably have more defenses in place. But we have seen Russia at times, unable to regroup, unable to work out what to do, if it loses a place it never thought it would lose. And it certainly invested enough troops in Lyman it seems, decent units, regular Russian army and some better and volunteer units into Lyman perhaps thinking the idea of actually falling was never going to happen. And what of Ukraine done. They've got around the back of it, as they did Izyum, as they've done in other places, too, rather than doing what Russia does, which is the full-frontal assault with lots of lives lost. They simply cut off the supply by going around the back of it. That's what we're seeing at the moment.

And the knock-on effect we may see from there is the towns behind it that relied on Lyman for supply may not know quite what to do. And Russian forces may end up falling back in disarray, like we saw in Kharkiv. That's a possibility not a dead certainty at this stage but remarkable to see where this rhetoric coming out of Russia the hour by hour as Putin took the stage, his forces are losing ground and strategic places here. John.

BERMAN: Yes, as forces do worse. The threats get stronger as Matthew Chance was saying before. Nick Paton Walsh, very nice to see you. Please stay safe.

Up next, we're going to go back to Fort Myers. Our guest chef Jose Andres will share how he and his team at World Central Kitchen are getting fresh meals to those in need after the storm.



BERMAN: When disaster strikes, Chef Jose Andres and his team at World Central Kitchen, they get right to the scene. And Chef Andres joins us tonight from Fort Myers.

Chef, it's great to see you. What are you seeing there as the greatest need now that the hurricane is two days gone from that region?

JOSE ANDRES, WORLD CENTRAL KITCHEN: Well, we've seen the images the destruction obviously is very big. We see these two islands obviously Sanibel that these and Pine Island that they are really very much in very bad shape. As you see you can only access by boat or by helicopter. Today I've been able to be in both islands, wasn't really contained within there the last two days. And the situation is that what remain, no electricity, a lot of destruction. The U.S. Coast Guard, law enforcement doing a lot of rescue missions, taking a lot of people out to the hospitals, everybody who have (INAUDIBLE) is doing God's work. Wasn't dragging and that's what we always do.

Very quickly, we go out in the communities, bringing water, bringing food sandwiches, hot meals. In the last few days, we've done more than 60,000 meals already. And we only do this because we have a lot of restaurant partners. We have kitchens, Tampa, Fort Myers, you know, we are used using the infrastructure that is good to do what we do with everybody that may need (INAUDIBLE) and a bottle of water.

BERMAN: You're incredible at it. And you really are so good at doing this and there is so much need. You had pre-positioned in Florida ahead of the hurricane so that you could spring right into action. What's your setup there? And you mentioned getting by boat and helicopter, is that how you're reaching these hard-hit areas?


ANDRES: Yes. Today myself I was in the we have two helicopters. And we were out of the airport of (INAUDIBLE). And we were able to do different, different during the day, many landings. In the (INAUDIBLE), the community now is waiting for us. Now we have teams there that when we dropped the food and the water there helping us not only to serve in a central location, so people know we go every day, but also reaching those communities that they don't have cars, or they are even further away. So, we began creating the systems where entire community comes together, and they become volunteers on their own right. Every day you keep organizing, you began positioning food trucks, in places, you began having different restaurants, that from those restaurants, you start being smart in the way you do distributions, to hospitals, to fire stations to the communities that they are in very bad shape.

At the end, I always say that we are the biggest organization in the world. Because every restaurant, every warehouse, every person, every cook, every one belongs to World Central Kitchen. What happens? They don't know it yet. But in the moment, we show up, they see that the big problems have very simple solutions. When the community comes together. You see, food and water should never be a problem. We can always do it.

BERMAN: I know makes everyone feel better. As soon as they see you all on the scene and you're there right away. People need to know that from covering the storm from being down there. I see your people simply everywhere, even before the news crews, even before the Coast Guard and other people get there sometimes you are there.

Chef, great to see you please stay safe. We'll talk to you again.

ANDRES: Thanks.

BERMAN: And we'll be right back.



BERMAN: The news continues. So, let's hand it over to Laura Coates who's filling in for "DON LEMON TONIGHT." Laura.