Return to Transcripts main page
Interview With Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban Spokesman Zoltan Kovacs; Interview With European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen; Interview With World Central Kitchen CEO Nate Mook; Interview with Ukrainian Defense Intelligence Chief Major General Kyrylo Budanov. Aired 1- 2p ET
Aired April 08, 2022 - 13:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CNN INTERNATIONAL HOST: Hello, everyone, and welcome to AMANPOUR live from Kyiv in Ukraine. Here's what's coming up.
A brutal Russian missile strike kills dozens of mostly women and children waiting to evacuate at a train station. And we get an eyewitness report.
Then: With European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen in Ukraine meeting with President Zelenskyy, I ask her, what more is Europe prepared
to do as these atrocities mount?
And Ukraine's defense intelligence chief, General Kyrylo Budanov, calls attacking evacuees an act of terror. My interview with him.
Also, as Putin ally Viktor Orban wins a fourth term in Hungary, I asked his spokesman, could the next challenge to democracy come from inside Europe?
Welcome to the program, everyone. I'm Christiane Amanpour in Kyiv.
The death toll from the bombing of a train station in Kramatorsk, a well- known hub for people fleeing the fighting in Eastern Ukraine, is still rising.
A warning: This is a brutal war and video of this attack is hard to watch.
As of now, 50 civilians are dead. Five of them are children. Scores more are injured. Officials charge that it was a deliberate attack on women,
children and the elderly.
Here's President Volodymyr Zelenskyy speaking to the Finnish Parliament shortly after the explosions hit.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
VOLODYMYR ZELENSKYY, UKRAINIAN PRESIDENT (through translator): This is an ordinary railway terminal, people crowded waiting for the trains to be
evacuated to the safe territory. They hit these people. There are witnesses. There are videos. There are remnants of the missiles and dead
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: And in view of this brutal war, Finland, historically neutral, is on the verge of a decision about joining NATO.
Nate Mook works with chef Jose Andres at World Central Kitchen, and he was in Kramatorsk picking up supplies near that train station when the missiles
Nate, welcome to the program.
I mean, it is extraordinary that you're there doing humanitarian work. You have traveled all over the country delivering meals. And this happens to
those people desperately in need. Tell me what you saw.
NATE MOOK, CEO, WORLD CENTRAL KITCHEN: Thank you, Christiane.
It is extraordinarily shocking. We have been spending the last couple of days at this railway station working with the Ukrainian railways and
meeting with the head of the station to help organize how we can provide humanitarian assistance to these families as they are getting on these
Sometimes, they're waiting for many hours because there are limited trains. So we had intended to set up actually starting today to provide fresh
pastries, coffee and tea, as we do at many other railway stations here across Ukraine.
We drove by the railway station this morning. I looked down out of the car from the overpass and saw the thousands of individuals, thousands of women,
children, elderly, who were waiting to get on these trains, just as they have the day before. And less than two minutes later, we heard the booms.
And it's not just the sound that hits you. It's the vibration and it's the feeling. And there were about five to 10 of them. We didn't know what
happened at the time. We were heading to our warehouse to pick up flour to take to a bakery. And one of our team at the warehouse said he had actually
seen one of the missiles inbound. He said he could see the wings on the missile.
And that missile was hit by a Ukrainian air defense. So there were probably many more of them. I then heard very quickly that two missiles had struck
the railway station, where we had just been the day before and had intended to be just an hour or so later.
So we headed over to the railway station, and the scene there was absolutely horrific and catastrophic.
AMANPOUR: I mean, it really looks horrendous. And we are seeing part of one of those missiles, which presumably was the one that was brought down,
but just basically lying in the center there on some grass.
Can I ask you, Nate, because, unfortunately, infrastructure is a target of the Russians, whatever it might be. They want to weaken Ukraine's very
ability to work, whether its factories and other such infrastructure.
Were people concerned? Was the train manager concerned? Was the mayor, as far as you know, concerned that their train station might be a target?
MOOK: You know, surprisingly, there wasn't major concern on this station, because these train stations have been the lifeblood of getting civilians,
innocent civilians, evacuated from cities for the entirety of the war.
And, of course, there are exceptions to places like Mariupol, where stations have been attacked and on the front lines. But, for the most part,
even in places like Kharkiv, you're seeing the train stations left relatively alone, because they're only filled with women and children and
These are not strategic value targets for a military. So, the train station, although there were thousands of people -- 4,000 are estimated to
have been there at the time. And we spoke to the mayor yesterday morning, who told us that around 8,000 to 9,000 people were being evacuated every
day, that it was actually -- this was sort of thought to be a bit of a safe location because it was only civilians.
Now, of course, that has changed now. And it is very clear that this is simply nothing more than murder of innocent people. And, really, there's no
other way to frame it.
AMANPOUR: And you said you were talking to the mayor. We did as well, in terms of the first reports. He told us 80 percent of those killed today and
injured were, as you mentioned, the civilians, women, elderly, children, and, as you mentioned, that they had been using this hub for evacuations
for the past two weeks.
So it was well-known to all sides that that is what was going on that. But you also talked to the mayor of Mariupol -- or the mayor, saying that he
wanted to move like hospitals under -- what are they doing in the aftermath? Or what did they tell you to try to add another layer of
protection for people?
MOOK: So, there's a lot being figured out right now.
It seems like there's not going to be continued passenger trains here because of the risk, not only to the people that would be congregating at
the station, but also the railway workers themselves, many of whom probably were killed today as well.
So, now there's the question of, how are individuals going to evacuate out of the city? When we were at the train stations yesterday and the day
before, again, it was people with disabilities. We had railway workers helping women in wheelchairs onto the trains. You had young infants, people
And so now they need to figure out another way out of the city, if they can even get out. It sounds like there's going to be a focus on buses to go by
road. But, again, it's not clear how quickly you can move this scale of people. The railways had really been the lifeline for so many.
Here in Kramatorsk, they had moved parts of the hospital underground, surgery equipment underground. But even today, we heard from the mayor that
they have been overloaded with a number of people that are injured here. And it really is a really catastrophic event here in the city.
And nobody knows what's coming next, because if they were willing to bomb this amount of innocent people, send a missile into a railway station full
of women and children, then what else are they capable of? And that is the question right now.
AMANPOUR: And, Nate, I mean, look, you are a humanitarian worker, by and large, I mean, in terms of what you're doing now, World Central Kitchen,
I mean, your job is to take food and to help the locals, restaurants and the others, sort of upscale food for those in need. You have been to Bucha.
You have been to Kharkiv, now Kramatorsk. And you have been all over the place?
Did you expect, coming from the United States to do this humanitarian work, that you would be caught up, just like so many of the civilians, in so much
of what's going on?
MOOK: You know, it definitely was not the initial expectation, for sure.
But I think, as you come here and you stand next to the amazing Ukrainians that are working day in and day out -- and we wouldn't be doing this work
without our amazing partners here. We have a small World Central Kitchen staff on the ground. And so much of the work is done by our amazing local
teams. Here in Kramatorsk is no exception, and also in places like Kharkiv.
And so we are inspired by them. They told us today, sure, we're nervous. We know this can happen. But we are strong. And we will stay here. We will
continue to do the work that we need to do to make sure that everybody has food.
I think there's been so many reports of people starving to death in cities like Mariupol. The mayor here in Kramatorsk was looking to stockpile food
in a number of different locations around the city. World Central Kitchen has been bringing in train wagons and trucks filled with food to provide to
those both now and potentially in the future, if the city were to be cut off.
And so it's a new situation for us, for sure. But I will say that, every day, what keeps us going, what keeps me going is the amazing bravery and
heroism of those that were working side by side here in places like Kramatorsk.
AMANPOUR: Nate Mook, CEO of World Central Kitchen, thank you very much for being with us with that eyewitness testimony.
Now, the European Commission president, Ursula von der Leyen, is in Kyiv today to meet with President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, as E.U. countries agreed
to new sanctions and a faster flow of arms.
When we spoke just before her meeting, she told me the latest atrocity in Kramatorsk only strengthens Europe's determination to see Vladimir Putin
AMANPOUR: Welcome to the program.
URSULA VON DER LEYEN, PRESIDENT, EUROPEAN COMMISSION: Thank you.
AMANPOUR: So, you have also just come from Bucha. You came by train to Ukraine, and then you went to Bucha.
What does it mean to witness that firsthand?
VON DER LEYEN: It is horrible. There are almost no words that can explain what I saw there.
I had the mayor, who explained to me what had happened. There were still the bodies, so, atrocious, unbelievable, shocking. This is the brutal face
of Putin's war.
AMANPOUR: And we had another attack this morning just before you arrived, a brutal missile attack on a station that's a hub for evacuations from the
eastern town of Kramatorsk.
Dozens of people are dead. The number keeps rising. Dozens are injured. What does this mean to you, as you are in the process of thinking every
minute on how to increase the punitive pain?
VON DER LEYEN: It has even strengthened the determination we have to not have Putin do this. He has to fail. He has to fail. And Ukraine has to win
this battle with our support.
Therefore, we have just been discussing with the prime minister where we can step up, be it sanctions, be it financial support, be it support with
the refugees and the internally displaced and, of course, support for arms. The Ukrainian need arms. They are so bravely fighting, and they will get
more arms from...
AMANPOUR: OK, can you be absolutely sure that that's the case?
Because there seems to be word in the stratosphere -- and, certainly, the foreign minister has said maybe a month ago I was asking you what you are
going to give us. Now I'm asking you when you're going to give it to us.
There's a narrow window for them to be able to be armed to fight off what's coming to the east.
VON DER LEYEN: Right.
We are coming today here to give with clear commitment financially; $500 million on top for arms will be delivered. And I spoke to the prime
minister very clearly on what they need. So the flow of arms is better now to the Ukrainians, so that they can defend themselves and fight for our
AMANPOUR: Are you sure?
VON DER LEYEN: I am sure.
AMANPOUR: Because it is a fight for our democracies, right?
VON DER LEYEN: It's a fight for our democracies. It is a fight whether we will have the right of might or the rule of law, the fight whether humanity
will prevail, or it's going to be this hideous devastation that I have seen in Bucha.
AMANPOUR: Can I just ask you?
Because the Russian side obviously denies all of this, that they even target civilians, much less what we see on the ground with our own eyes.
What would you say to Putin ,who allegedly is out of touch?
VON DER LEYEN: I think he should see the pictures, the pictures I have seen today. And if you look at...
AMANPOUR: But he sees them, and he denies it.
VON DER LEYEN: Well...
AMANPOUR: He says it's fake.
VON DER LEYEN: If you look at the attack today at the train station, I was shown pictures where the shelling had written on "For our children," which
means like revenge for our children.
So, they are building, indeed, this awful narrative, as if they would be returning something. A nightmare.
AMANPOUR: So I know that the E.U. has passed its fifth round of sanctions, and that you're going to stop with the coal imports from Russia.
But the E.U. foreign policy chief has put some really hard truths down here. He said: "We have given one billion euros in arms for Ukraine. It
might seem a lot, but a billion euro is what we pay Putin every day for the energy that he provides us."
When are you going to stop?
VON DER LEYEN: The coal is out. We are diversifying away from Russian gas. Thanks to our American friends, for example, I have an agreement with
President Biden that this year we can replace the Russian LNG, buy American LNG.
And as of next year, one-third of the Russian gas can be replaced by American LNG. We are looking into oil now. So...
AMANPOUR: Because that's the big one.
VON DER LEYEN: That's the big one, indeed.
AMANPOUR: It is the oil that finances him a lot.
VON DER LEYEN: And we are right now looking into that.
Overall, if you look at the export, 70 percent of the export goods have been cut now, and we keep on going.
AMANPOUR: So you have some differences amongst certain E.U. nations.
Hungary, where the prime minister has been reelected for a fourth time, quite convincingly, apparently, has had a lot of arguments with the E.U.
about common values and rule of law and the press and all that and an illiberal democracy.
He has said, having been comfortably reelected, that he will pay Putin in rubles if Putin demands it or ask for it. He says, the price for us is just
So, he's breaking with the E.U. What message do you have for Orban?
VON DER LEYEN: Well, we did an analysis of the decree of Putin. And the legal case is very clear.
What Putin is suggesting, this transforming euros into rubles and then pay the gas bill, would be a breach of sanctions. So it's a very clear message.
If you do that, pay in ruble, you breach the sanctions, you circumvent the sanctions we have put on Russia.
AMANPOUR: So what punishment would Hungary and Orban get if they do that?
VON DER LEYEN: We are in discussions with Hungary.
So far, Hungary has stick to the sanctions. So, until we don't see the opposite, it's fine. And I think never before have we seen the European
Union so united, so determined so fast. And I think it's for each of our member states also a question, do I want to be the first one to break that
unity? I think not.
AMANPOUR: President Zelenskyy, who you're about to see, has literally pointed the finger at Orban in that famous meeting with the E.U. in which
he appeared virtually: Look, Viktor, do you see what's happening in Mariupol, he asked.
Viktor Orban has not sent weapons, like you all have. He hasn't coalesced around the sanctions. What message do you have for them? I mean, where is
the red line to belonging to the community of nations that are trying to fight back this anti-democratic force?
VON DER LEYEN: No, I think -- so, first of all, we have to be clear.
So far, the Hungarians did stick to every sanction and every measure we took, and I think we should not judge on a country before they have not
broken the rules, for example. This is very clear.
My job is to keep all these 27 together and to give solutions to move forward. That's what I'm working hard day and night. And...
AMANPOUR: Is it hard?
VON DER LEYEN: Well, it's worth it.
AMANPOUR: But is it hard to keep them all together?
VON DER LEYEN: Well, 27 different member states, this is always 27 different opinions.
But the unity in fighting back Putin's ruthless war is amazing, the determination. Therefore, we were so fast, because we understand this is
the question, democracy or autocracy.
AMANPOUR: OK. So that's the question.
So my question to you is, then, why not accept a country that is right now fighting like no other European country has for democracy? Why not accept
the Ukraine into the E.U.? Is Ukraine fighting harder for democracy or Hungary?
VON DER LEYEN: And the next step I'm just about to discuss now with President Zelenskyy what the -- joining the European Union is concerned.
VON DER LEYEN: Yes.
AMANPOUR: And you think that's going to accelerate?
VON DER LEYEN: It's an important step forward, the so-called opinion that has to be formed by the commission. And, here, we work hand in hand with
This is a precondition for any kind of accession process. And this is what we're very practically going to discuss right now.
AMANPOUR: But you do except that they are fighting for the democracy that you're preaching?
VON DER LEYEN: Absolutely. Absolutely.
AMANPOUR: And do you agree, lastly -- I know you have to go -- with your president, who has said that successive German administrations have been
too soft on Putin, Merkel, now, before?
VON DER LEYEN: Well, this would be another interview between the two of us which is really quite a long interview that we would have to do, because,
there, you cannot just give a yes-or-no answer.
I mean, I witnessed many, many of these years of government. Let's have another one on that.
AMANPOUR: All right.
VON DER LEYEN: Thank you.
AMANPOUR: Good luck.
VON DER LEYEN: Thank you so much. Thanks a lot.
AMANPOUR: Well, as we just discussed, Hungary is emerging is a dissenting voice, it has emerged frankly, in some E.U. sanctions.
Of all the E.U. nations, Hungary has the closest ties to Russia. When Prime Minister Viktor Orban won a resounding victory in elections over the
weekend, the first thing he did was turn his ire on his allies and on Ukraine. Take a listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
VIKTOR ORBAN, HUNGARIAN PRIME MINISTER (through translator): Now we have to battle the biggest forces, the left wing at home, the international left
wing, the Brussels bureaucrats, all the organizations of the Soros empire, the international mainstream media, and, finally, the Ukrainian president
We never had so many opponents.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: Shortly after that victory, Russian President Vladimir Putin called Mr. Orban to congratulate him.
Joining me now on all of this is Zoltan Kovacs. He is the international spokesman for the prime minister.
Mr. Kovacs, welcome to the program.
ZOLTAN KOVACS, SPOKESMAN, HUNGARIAN PRIME MINISTER VIKTOR ORBAN: Good evening.
AMANPOUR: I just got to ask you why. I mean, just why is your boss talking like that against President Zelenskyy, against the mainstream media -- I
mean, that's us -- you're appearing with us -- and aligning so heavily with President Putin at this stage? What's in it for him?
KOVACS: Well, it was more than a comfortable victory behind us just a week ago. I can tell you, it's a sweeping victory.
And I believe that is providing you the explanation. It's been a very heated, campaign, overshadowed and very strongly influenced by what was
happening and what is happening in the war. And I don't believe it's a good advice, actually, on behalf of foreign countries, including Ukraine, to
come into the Hungarian election campaign campaigning for the opposition.
So that was the meaning of what the prime minister stated. We don't -- we never -- we never have come to words with those who actually wanted to
interfere into our domestic affairs, especially in a heated debate on the upcoming elections.
And now, as we have received, again, a sweep -- by a sweeping victory, a two-thirds majority, more seats in Parliament actually than we had before,
I believe it's a clear message that the Hungarian standpoint, and that is what was represented by the prime minister during the campaign, and that is
that we are not going to send arms and soldiers to Ukraine, is a must for us to follow.
This is the mandate that was given by the Hungarian people.
AMANPOUR: I mean, I just guess, why -- I mean, we did -- I just called it a resounding victory. So, yes, we have seen it.
I'm just trying to figure out why, why you wouldn't want to help, like all your other E.U. brethren, NATO brethren, a country that has been attacked,
unprovoked, and that is actually very pro-European, democratic, sovereign, independent?
Why is Viktor Orban aligning against this country and with President Putin?
KOVACS: With all due respect, what you are trying to offer by the second half of your question is simply not true.
We are not standing apart. We are standing firmly and 100 percent with the NATO and European Union decisions. And the answer for the first part of
your question is, again, very simple. The Hungarian people don't want us to be mingled, to -- dragged into this war (AUDIO GAP) fact that we have 150
AMANPOUR: Oh, dear, oh, dear.
We have lost Mr. Zoltan Kovacs. And we are going to try to get him back, because this is an important conversation.
Oh, apparently, we do have him back.
Zoltan Kovacs, can you hear me? Can you still hear me? Sorry. We lost you for a moment. Can you hear me?
KOVACS: I can hear you loud and clear, that's right.
AMANPOUR: OK. OK, good.
So, we got what you were just saying. We understand. I heard it. So -- but I just want to ask you, you say were standing firm, et cetera, et cetera.
But the prime minister, after his very convincing victory, took the opportunity to suddenly break with the E.U., at least rhetorically, and say
that he would pay for Russian energy in rubles, which the E.U. calls extortion, blackmail, and has refused to do that.
Why, again, would you do that? What's the explanation?
KOVACS: Well, let's put things right here.
The European Union so far has no common procurement of gas and oil for European countries. So, as we speak, we still go by and alongside those
contracts we have with the Russians regarding gas and oil. And according to those contracts, it's a technical issue whether we pay in the -- what is
the nature we pay.
So it is not going around any kind of sanction policy, very definitely. As you well know, the Hungarian economy and the Hungarian population is
dependent 85 percent on Russian gas. It's not have the situation we created. It's been inherited without any alternative. And it's important to
-- there's no physical alternative to Russian gas and oil for the moment.
Oil is 65 percent, actually, of our imports coming from Russia. These are the very simple facts, actually, that, for us, going for energy and paying
for energy, whatever it takes, is going to happen. Though we see the very strong rhetoric coming from different corners of Europe and even from
Ukraine that we should stop it, it's impossible.
AMANPOUR: You know, the -- I just spoke, as you heard, to the European Commission -- the European -- E.U. president, Ursula von der Leyen, who
said that, if you actually did start paying in rubles, it would be circumventing sanctions that we have put on Russia, and there would be a
penalty for it.
She also said that we -- Putin must fail in Ukraine, for all the obvious reasons, that she said it can't be the law of might makes right. It has to
be rule of law. Do you also share the belief, the E.U. belief, that this project of President Putin's in Ukraine needs to fail?
KOVACS: With all due respect, the president of the commission is entitled to represent the standpoint of the European Union as such, and that is the
decisions of the council of the European Union.
We stand 100 percent, as you suggested, actually, following the interview with the E.U. decisions and NATO decisions. And that is that we look for
peace. Whatever it costs, however it's achieved, a truce and peace should come as soon as possible.
AMANPOUR: Mr. Kovacs, I want to play for you again a very pointed, specifically targeted comment by the president of Ukraine, Zelenskyy, when
he last met with all of the E.U. remotely. And this is what he said to your prime minister specifically.
We're just going to play this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ZELENSKYY (through translator): Hungary, I want to pause here and be honest. Once and for all, you have to decide for yourself who you are with.
You are sovereign state.
Listen, Viktor, do you know what is happening in Mariupol? Please, if you can, go to your waterfront. Look at those shoes. And you will see how mass
killings can happen again in today's world. And that is what Russia is doing today.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: So you don't need me to tell you, but I will tell my -- the viewers that that reference to shoes is a reference to a Hungarian memorial
to the Jews killed in your country during World War II.
So, given what happened at the train station today, not only what's happening in Mariupol, but the wanton killings, mass slaughter of civilians
trying to get out of the war zone, what would your prime minister say to this president? And does he actually talk to him?
And I'm asking you that because you also want to be hosting a peace conference.
KOVACS: Yes, indeed. As a sovereign state, as the president suggested, we see what is happening in the Ukraine.
And that's why we do everything at our disposal to help those who flee Ukraine and help the Ukrainian people, even in Ukraine, by providing
And with all due respect, it is indeed this kind of messaging that the prime minister rejected. As a sovereign state, don't message us. We know
what to do. We do everything at our disposal, but it's not going to be by what you are trying to tell us to do.
I believe Mr. Zelenskyy is representing the Ukrainian national interests. We see the disturbing images and the tragedy that is happening in the
Ukraine. Again, the Hungarian standpoint is firm, and it's been reaffirmed by the Hungarian electorate, the Hungarian people, with a sweeping
We are not going to mingle in this war by the -- by means of weapons and by supplying soldiers. We are going to take care of everyone who is coming
from Ukraine. And our best effort is to bring these warring partners into a negotiating -- negotiating table as soon as possible.
That's why the offer was there. Budapest have seen the independence of Ukraine back in the mid-'90s. I believe that message, the resonance,
actually, that Budapest, Hungary has played a role by recognizing (AUDIO GAP) should resonate with the Ukrainian people, as well as with the
AMANPOUR: And just a sort of related question, because there have been other elections in Europe, in Serbia. There's coming up in France. And
there's quite a lot of your kind of aligned politics and politicians, who - - well, in Serbia, they won. In France, Marine Le Pen is vying to win.
I just wonder whether you believe that Prime Minister Orban's sort of dream of collecting a like-minded Christian, right-wing nationalist group in
Europe still has legs given how discredited so many of these leaders are having banked a lot of their, you know, strategic alliances with Putin.
Do you think that plan, that dream of Prime Minister Orban still has legs today?
KOVACS: Very lyrical wording on your behalf of how we look at the world, but I believe it is a lot more simple. Mr. Orban has always represented the
Hungarian national interest. We are a -- position on how the European Union should work. We believe that a strong Europe is only possible through
strong nations. And we don't believe, it's simply not true that a sovereigntist approach is against becoming a European dream and come in
European position, just the opposite.
Whatever is happening in Europe, Mr. Orban is always going to look for partners who respect the will of the people in their own countries and is
making it possible, actually that sovereign state stands -- that have a common ground issuing those many, many challenges and disturbing challenges
ahead of us.
We simply and flatly reject that the leftist politicians, as a matter of fact, the narrative you're suggesting is trying to hijack what Europe is
and how Europe should look like. There are many alternatives to it which are workable and they are equally relevant.
AMANPOUR: So, let me ask you about those alternatives, because as we know, and I've done interviews with your officials that you proudly call yourself
an illiberal democracy. So, are the values that you feel need to be projected close control of the media, you know, sort of judiciary and, you
know, under your power?
Your SCE (ph) says that this last vote was "marred by the absence of a level playing field and that Hungary shows a general deterioration of the
conditions for democratic elections." Is that a concern for you? Do you even care?
KOVACS: That's not a concern because we are familiar with your personal and with the CNN's reading of what is happening in Central Europe. But I
can tell you that the very figures that you are referring, as a matter of fact, according to your election system, it would have been an 85 percent
majority for my political community is a tallying example that the Hungarians exactly know what they wanted to decide about and how they
decided. And the --
AMANPOUR: Yes. I am very sorry. Zoltan Kovacs, we've lost the last bit of what you said. But I think we all heard. And I'm not sure whether you said
something personal to me about this, but clearly, I'm not in the minority with these analysis and questions.
Now, the language of Russia's invasion of Ukraine has been dominated by the word Nazi, denazification. It's a puzzling assertion about a country who,
as we know, the president is Jewish and who last fall signed a law combatting antisemitism. But religion is at the heart of a lot of Vladimir
Putin's distorted case against Ukraine, and it is the soul of Ukraine's national identity as well.
On my visit here, I was able to explore the role of religion in this country and in this war.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR (voiceover): Among the most spectacular sights all over Ukraine are the golden domed Christian orthodox churches.
Here, especially in wartime, they've taken on the outsized role of nationhood. At St. Michael's Metropolitan Epiphanius of Kyiv and all
Ukraine leads his parishioners praying for peace and victory.
METROPOLITAN EPIPHANIUS OF KYIV AND ALL UKRAINE, PRIMATE OF THE ORTHODOX CHURCH OF UKRAINE (through translator): We suffer together with Ukrainians
who are a part of our Ukrainian people, especially now when the aggressor, the Russian federation, especially Putin is trying to destroy us as a
AMANPOUR (voiceover): When a Kyiv prince converted to Christianity in the year 988 a.d., he started this church and the one in Russia, which then
grew to be the dominant branch. But Metropolitan Epiphanius says that now Russia is losing religious and political influence over Ukraine.
Over the years, Vladimir Putin has harnessed himself and his project for a greater Russia to the church. And so, parishioners here know that their
church's very survival hangs in the balance.
54-year-old Tatiana pushes piety aside just for a moment.
TATIANA (through translator): Putin is such a cynical man. The (INAUDIBLE) evil is easy for him. I wish he was dead. Sorry, you can't a that in a
temple, but it is honest.
AMANPOUR (voiceover): And Metropolitan Epiphanius has harsher words for his Moscow counterpart who supports Putin's vision of an empire centered on
METROPOLITAN EPIPHANIUS OF KYIV AND ALL UKRAINE (through translator): As head of the church, he should be telling the truth to Putin and Russians
about what is happening in Ukraine, not supporting and blessing it. So, I would tell him to be a pastor and not a murderer of Ukrainians.
AMANPOUR (voiceover): But this nationalist conflict waged in part through religion has been brewing ever since the church here became independent in
AMANPOUR (on camera): When this church was actually granted its formal independence, it added a whole new layer of grievance and outrage and
protest from Russia. President Putin even warned that darkly that switching allegiance by the Ukrainians could lead to serious dispute and even
bloodshed, he said.
AMANPOUR (voiceover): There seems to be few limits to what triggers Putin and his Russian nationalists. Take the that he launched this war to
denazify Ukraine. So, we visited Kyiv's holocaust memorial at Babyn Yar to try to understand that term in a nation with a Jewish president and several
ministers who have outlawed antisemitism.
AMANPOUR (on camera): When they say, you know, so and so Ukrainian is a Nazi. It means anti-Russian or antisemitic?
RUSLAN KAVATSUIK, DEPUTY CEO, BABYN YAR HOLOCAUST MEMORIAL CENTER: Definitely, Putin doesn't care about Babyn Yar, he doesn't care about
holocaust, he doesn't care about Jews when he is speaking of denazification.
AMANPOUR: How powerful an entity are ultranationalists or fascists here?
KAVATSUIK: In Ukraine, they try to go for elections a couple of times, every time succeeding to 1 percent. So, it's a very -- people are very
reluctant to give any power to the right.
AMANPOUR (voiceover): Ruslan Kavatsuik is deputy director of Babyn Yar. He tells us Yar means ravine. And he shows us the precise site where more than
30,000 Jews were executed on September 29 and 30, 1941.
Today, the most beautiful synagogue has been built to memorialize them. The Swiss architect and Ukrainian engineers have devised an elaborate and
complex structure, revealing itself through a system of pulleys to be in part based on the synagogues that used to dot the ancient countryside.
Over 1.5 million Jews lived here before World War II. About 1 million were killed in the holocaust. It's believed that 43,000 Jews still live in
Ukraine, although perhaps four times that number claim Jewish ancestry.
As we peer into the audio/visual history of how more than 100,000 Jews and others were simply gunned down during World War II in this area alone,
Ruslan tell us that Russia needs to respect Ukraine's tragic pass, not distort it.
And back at St. Michael's here's 80-year-old Irina.
IRINA (through translator): I would tell Putin to come to his senses and not to harm people. What right does he have? Well, who is he and why is he
destroying us like this? We pray and ask God that it will be over soon.
AMANPOUR (voiceover): The wall around St. Michael's is dedicated to some of the 14,000 soldiers who have been killed since Putin first invaded back
in 2014 and the people pray for Ukraine to win what they call the struggle against evil and stop it spreading any further.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR (on camera): The power and the peril of politics revolving around religion.
Now, Major General Kyrylo Budanov is head of the Ukrainian Defense Intelligence. And I had a rare interview with him this morning here at the
headquarters in Kyiv. He told me the missile attacks in Kramatorsk are another in a series of war crimes committed by Russia's army. And he's
called for more help for Ukraine defending in the East now.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: Major General Budanov, welcome to the program.
MAJ. GEN. KYRYLO BUDANOV, UKRAINIAN DEFENSE INTELLIGENCE CHIEF (through translator): Thank you. I am glad to be talking to you.
AMANPOUR: I want your reaction to the missile strike on the station, the train station in Kramatorsk today.
MAJ. GEN. BUDANOV (through translator): What can I say? This is another example of criminal activity of war criminal dictator Putin. It is in our
case that I hope that would be added to the criminal investigation against him in the international courts conducting a powerful missile strike
against a civilian infrastructure during the evacuation of civilians, it's an act of terrorism.
AMANPOUR: Have you seen this? This is the picture that was taken by people there. This is the part of the rocket. And on it, it says, for children.
What does that mean?
MAJ. GEN. BUDANOV (through translator): This is pure propaganda and sickening mind of the dictator who is conducting war against us. It is an
absurd situation because he decided to launch a missile, Tochka-U, the label for children effectively attacking other children. You need to
understand and your audience needs to understand that Tochka-U is a ballistic missile that has 480 kilograms of explosives.
AMANPOUR: General, there is a pattern, obviously, of them targeting civilian infrastructure. Can you tell me what you think the next phase of
this war looks like? Do you agree that they have pulled back from the north from Kyiv and everything north and how do you see the next week, two weeks,
the next month playing out?
MAJ. GEN. BUDANOV (through translator): First of all, they didn't retreat from Kyiv region. They were defeated and they had to retreat to regroup and
reform. Second point is that they are regrouping towards a city called Issum via Belgorod. They are moving through Belgorod. They get additional
troops in Belgorod in order to compensate their losses in Ukraine.
AMANPOUR: So, they're refitting, you're saying. Re-supplying, refitting and coming back?
MAJ. GEN. BUDANOV (through translator): That is correct. They plan to advance toward Kharkiv, first of all. They will try to finish off the City
of Mariupol. And only after that they might try to initiate advances towards Kyiv.
AMANPOUR: Do you think they're going to capture Kharkiv? They're going to try?
MAJ. GEN. BUDANOV (through translator): They are trying to capture Kharkiv from day one, but they haven't achieved anything.
AMANPOUR: Do you have enough to hold them back from the East? Because clearly, they don't just want to just keep the bits they have right now,
but they want to have a hold of the Donbas. Are you equipped to fight them back?
MAJ. GEN. BUDANOV (through translator): As I mentioned, we have all-out war and we don't have any other choice. But we must accomplish this. Second
point is that we count a lot onto the support from our strategic partners. We do get more and more of supplies, but I must say that these supplies are
The leadership of certain countries, he is afraid that Ukraine should receive too much assistance because it can lead to involvement those
countries in this war. That is a mistaken view.
AMANPOUR: Some western military analysts, generals, people who commanded troops in Europe, et cetera, have said that this is a crucial window of
opportunity to supply Ukraine because the Russians, as you say, have been pushed back in many areas. You have got a high morale and a pretty success
rate in lots of other places that now, do you agree that there is a window in order to get you these weapons and what exactly do you need?
MAJ. GEN. BUDANOV (through translator): I agree that this is an excellent opportunity to provide supplies to Ukraine. Second priority is heavy
artillery and missile systems. Our priorities include anti-air defenses and then, heavy armament as well. Air defense systems and aviation system.
AMANPOUR: What is an aviation system?
MAJ. GEN. BUDANOV (through translator): Combat planes.
AMANPOUR: So, you need planes?
MAJ. GEN. BUDANOV: We need combat planes.
AMANPOUR: Against their troops or against their planes?
MAJ. GEN. BUDANOV (through translator): Against ground forces.
AMANPOUR: You've talked a lot of what you need in terms of air defense systems and missiles to take down planes, I guess. Do you need tanks? Do
you need other heavy armor on the ground or do you have enough?
MAJ. GEN. BUDANOV (through translator): Unfortunately, we do. We have quite large attrition in the last eight years and that's why we need more
additional armor and for personnel carriers, all armor that is necessary to conduct fighting on the ground. This is not Afghanistan or Iraq or any --
or some other African countries where advanced countries are fighting some sort of rebels on the ground.
AMANPOUR: General, you're the head of military intelligence here right now and there are a lot of people who don't fully understand why the Russians
appear to be so ill-equip and so ill-prepared for this battle up until now. What are you learning from intercept or from interrogating prisoners of war
or from any of that about their orders about their orders, about their logistics, about their performance on the battlefield?
MAJ. GEN. BUDANOV (through translator): The answer is quite simple. First of all, they counted on a quick capture of Kyiv in three days and that's
why we didn't plan for long-term logistics in place. The second point is that logistics, military logistics in Russia is quite weakened. We didn't
pay attention because they believed that they will achieve victory maximum of within three days. The third point is that all those legends about
powerful Russian machine is so bubbled, nothing else.
AMANPOUR: You were quoted -- you have said that you think one of their aims or maybe their main aim is to divide the country into a North-South
Korea kind of situation. Can you explain what you mean by that?
MAJ. GEN. BUDANOV (through translator): We need to look at that conceptually. We look at the scenario where they can separate some
territories that they call Luhansk and Donetsk People's Republic. In reality, it is some parts of Luhansk and Donetsk (INAUDIBLE).
Then, in a similar fashion, we want to create Kherson People's Republic. And they will turn these territories into enclaves controlled by Russia and
separate it from the worldwide community. They will keep their troops on the contact line as it is the case in between North and South Korea.
AMANPOUR: Do you think Mariupol can hold out? Are you worried that you might lose Mariupol and also Odessa?
MAJ. GEN. BUDANOV (through translator): Let me say once again, first of all, we are in charge of Mariupol until now. We provide all necessary
support despite all that difficult situation that we have now. We will return all temporary occupied territories. As I've said, all of them.
AMANPOUR: Is there anything else that I need to know, any other intel that you've uncovered that you need to share?
MAJ. GEN. BUDANOV (through translator): I cannot share intelligence with you. It would be unprofessional on my behalf. But let me repeat, Putin is a
war criminal. It is only a matter of time before he would be prosecuted. Second point is Putin's army are conducting criminal and war crimes on the
ground. The third point is Ukraine needs really serious support in heavy armament and we need it not tomorrow, we need it today. And the last thing
I want to say is that nobody should be afraid of Russian military machine, which was popularized in TikTok and our social media.
Yes, they have a lot of forces and that's probably their only strong point, but this is not a force that they would like to show off. The truth is that
this is an army of criminals who rape women and children, eat dogs, and steal carpets and TV sets. This is the real face of the Russian army.
I personally spoke to one of the POW who was really surprised. He was surprised to see that Ukrainian buildings have bathrooms with proper
toilets. They still live in Middle Ages. We are not talking about St. Petersburg and Moscow. The real Russia is completely different.
AMANPOUR: I need to ask you a final question. There have been reports, allegations that some of your troops, some of the Ukrainian troops have
fired into the knees of some Russian prisoners of war and in some instances, killed Russian prisoners of war. Is that something that you
would accept that should be investigated?
MAJ. GEN. BUDANOV (through translator): If you have similar facts, let's investigate them. However, let's remember that we live in time of huge
information warfare and Russia is strong in terms of disinformation and information warfare.
AMANPOUR: OK. But one of these incidents does have video. So, I just want to understand, if you're calling them war criminals, would you agree that
anything out of the norms of war on your side should also be investigated and held accountable?
MAJ. GEN. BUDANOV (through translator): Let me say again, if you have any concrete facts, let's investigate them.
AMANPOUR: If there is an allegation of a crime within your forces, should that be investigated?
MAJ. GEN. BUDANOV (through translator): Let's investigate.
AMANPOUR: General Budanov, thank you very much indeed for joining us.
MAJ. GEN. BUDANOV (through translator): Thank you very much for the time that you dedicated.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: And CNN has requested comment from the Russian Ministry of Defense in response to allegations from Human Rights Watch that Russian
soldiers committed rape, summary executions and other forms of unlawful violence. We've not heard back in response.
Now, when Russian forces first launched their invasion, one objective was a small but strategic city in Southern Ukraine, but they met the full of
Ukrainian existence, from the troops and from ordinary civilians as well. Correspondent Ed Lavandera brings us their story.
ED LAVANDERA, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voiceover): The sign into town reads, Russian soldier, you will die here. The Russians didn't listen. This is the
story of how the small city of Voznesensk fought off the Russian invasion in early March.
Yevheni Velichko is the mayor of the city of 30,000 people. He took us to the bridge, at least where the bridge used to be where Ukrainian soldier,
volunteer fighters and a fearlessly creative cast of civilians stared down the Russians.
LAVANDERA (on camera): How close did the Russians get to taking over this city?
YEVHENI VELICHKO, MAYOR, VOZNESENSK, UKRAINE: [Speaking in foreign language].
LAVANDERA: You can see on the other side of the bridge in the distance there, just on the other side of the bridge a row of tires and that's as
close as the Russian tanks came.
LAVANDERA (voiceover): The mayor says the Ukrainians blew it up so that the Russians couldn't cross into the heart of the city. That sparked a two-
day confrontation. But thousands of residents were trapped on the other side of the bridge, the only section of the city Russian forces invaded.
This man named Ivan (ph) lives in a house along the main road into town. Several homes and cars around him were scorched in the fire fight. He hid
inside with his elderly mother as the Russian tanks swarmed his neighborhood.
LAVANDERA (on camera): He describes how terrifying it was, several homes blown up around him, constant barrage of gun fire. But he tells us, he
actually didn't see it, he had to hide inside his home. But just the sound of it was terrifying.
LAVANDERA (voiceover): Various cameras captured the images of the Russian military vehicles with the letter Z emblazoned on the side. The mayor says
three columns of Russian soldiers moved into the city. One military official says the Russians invaded with at least 100 tanks and armored
personnel carriers and as many as 500 soldiers.
LAVANDERA (on camera): So, this is Ghost. He's asked that we not use his full name and he is the head of a reconnaissance unit here in this town
that was instrumental in fighting back the Russians. And this was the spot where you fought the Russians.
He says he thinks that's a blood stain there. Wow. The remnants of a Russian meal.
GHOST, UKRAINIAN RECONNAISSANCE UNIT COMMANDER (through translator): When they were advancing towards the bridge, thanks to the Ukrainian military
forces, the air assault brigade, the territorial defense and our recon squad, we fought them off.
Here, we showered them with artillery and we destroyed them.
LAVANDERA (voiceover): The Ukrainians blew up multiple bridges in the city to keep the Russians from moving into this town that sits at a strategic
crossroads in Southern Ukraine and kept Vladimir Putin's army from invading deeper into the country.
LAVANDERA (on camera): In this spot, just on the edge of the city, multiple Russian tanks were taken out here. We're actually standing in the
ashes of one of those tanks. And there were at least two Russian soldiers that were killed in this very spot.
GHOST (through translator): We are strong. Our city is strong. Our spirit is strong. When the enemy came, everyone rose up from the kids to the
LAVANDERA (voiceover): Hiding resident called in the locations of Russian soldiers. Others ran ammunition and supplies wherever it was needed.
LAVANDERA (on camera): The Russians had more fire power, had more weapons than you guys had.
GHOST (through translator): They were powerful. They had tanks. They had APCs. A lot of vehicles. But we're stronger, smarter and more tactical.
LAVANDERA: Are you worried that they'll come back for revenge after you guys embarrassed them?
GHOST (through translator): No, it's them who should be afraid. They should know if they come here, they will remain here as (INAUDIBLE). We
already have refrigerators for their bodies and we can bring more.
LAVANDERA (voiceover): But the Russian soldiers weren't ready to face the grandmothers of Stepova Street. In a small village on the edge of
Voznesensk, 88-year-old Vira walked out, armed with her canes and fired off an epic tirade of verbal artillery.
VIRA PARASENYK, RAKOVE, UKRAINIAN RESIDENT (through translator): I come out from the kitchen. I come out from the kitchen and I tell him, sorry for
the language. "F your mother." Has your Putin gone mad, firing at kids? F, is he mad? He is a bitch. He must die.
LAVANDERA (voiceover): They say they were chased out of their homes and robbed. But the women relished telling this story with laughter.
I ask if they're worried the Russians will return to seek revenge, they tell me they're not going anywhere.