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Zelenskyy Condemns Russian Forces For Killings In Bucha; President Biden Calls For War Crimes Trial Against Putin; Police Search For "Multiple Shooters" After 6 Killed In Sacramento. Aired 11- 11:30a ET

Aired April 04, 2022 - 11:00   ET




KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: Hello, everyone. I'm Kate Bolduan. It is tragic and it is hard to watch. But it needs to be seen to understand the reality of the atrocities happening in Ukraine right now. Ukraine's President Zelenskyy just visited the liberated town of Bucha, were scores of civilians have been killed, many of them buried in a mass grave, Zelenskyy calling the horrors their war crimes and genocide.


PRES. VOLODYMYR ZELENSKYY, UKRAINE: Was thousands of people killed and tortured with their limbs cut off, children killed, women raped. That is genocide. We want to show the world, we want you to show the world what happened here. What the Russian military did, what the Russian Federation did in peaceful Ukraine. And it was important for us, for you to see that these were civilians.


BOLDUAN: Yes. And the scenes are disturbing and truly hard to believe. Western leaders are united in their outrage. But they seemed to be split somewhat on how to respond to this right now. A CNN crew visited a church where Ukrainians found a mass grave northwest of Kyiv, the mayor of Bucha says as many as 300 people may be buried there. The bodies have at least 20 people, some of them found their hands bound, just appear almost scattered in the streets of this town after Russian troops left. President Biden is now calling for a war crimes trial against Vladimir Putin because of this. Let's begin our coverage with CNN's Fred Pleitgen. He filed this report on the very latest from Bucha.


FREDERIK PLEITGEN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: As Russian forces retreat from the area north of Kyiv in their wake, scenes of utter destruction. Whole blocks of houses flattened. Ukrainian authorities saying they believe dead bodies are still lying underneath. But here the dead also lay in the open. Ukrainian National Police showed us this mass grave in Bucha saying they believed up to 150 civilians might be buried here, but no one knows the exact number. People killed while the Russian army occupied this town.

This is what it looks like when the hope is crushed. Vladimir has been searching for his younger brother Dimitri. Now he's convinced Dimitri lies here, even though he can't be 100 percent sure. The neighbor accompanying him was strong words for the Russians. Why do you hate us so much, she asks, since the 1930s, you've been abusing Ukraine. You just want to destroy us. You want us gone. But we will be, everything will be OK. I believe it.

Video from Bucha shows bodies in the streets after Russian forces left the area. Some images even show bodies with hands tied behind their backs. The Russian Defense Ministry denies killing civilians and claims images of dead civilians are quote, fake. But we met a family just returning to their house in Borodyanka, which they say was occupied by Russian soldiers.

They show us the body of a dead man in civilian clothes they had found in the backyard. His hands and feet tied with severe bruises and a shell casing still laying nearby. Russia's military appears to have suffered heavy losses before being driven out of the area around Kyiv. This column of armored vehicles in Bucha completely destroyed.

(on camera): The way the Ukrainian tell us is that the Russians were trying to go towards Kyiv and they were then intercepted by Ukrainian drones, artillery, and also the Javelin anti-tank weapons. It's not clear how many Russians were killed here, but they say many were and others fled the scene.

(voice-over): A national police officer says the Russian troops were simply too arrogant. They thought they could drive on the streets and just go through, he says, that they would be greeted as though it's all right. Maybe they think it is normal to drive around looting, to destroy buildings, and to mock people. But our people didn't allow it.

And now it appears all the Russians have withdrawn from here. Ukraine says it is now in full control of the entire region around Kyiv. But it is only now that the full extent of the civilian suffering is truly coming to light.


BOLDUAN: Yes, Fred, thank you so much. That's absolutely right.

And despite what you just saw. And the eyewitness accounts of these murders, Russia's response to this is trying to call it a fake, falsely claiming the atrocities in Bucha were staged, a reminder that the Kremlin has repeatedly lied throughout this war. Now CNN's Ed Lavandera is live in Odessa, Ukraine with more on that and the shift in Russia's military forces right now. Ed, Russia's response to this hardly surprising, but no less disturbing.


ED LAVANDERA, CNN SENIOR NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Oh, no question. And I think it's probably why you're seeing this dramatic moment of President Zelenskyy traveling from the center of Kyiv to this suburb to bring the world's attention to it. At one point, you know, saying that if you remember these comments there earlier in the show, he wants and the Ukrainian people want the world to see all of this. They want to root out in their words, the criminals that carried out these atrocities in that city.

And Zelenskyy clearly believes that his appearance they're showing up in that city will bring the world's attention to it because he knows that there is a swift campaign to try to diminish what has happened there, propaganda, dismissing it as fake news. All of this happening as Ukraine is bracing for what Russian forces are now up to next. And it is clear that in the belief among intelligence officials around the world is that the Russian forces are regrouping and beginning to the process of perhaps trying a new strategy of attacking Ukraine, mostly from the east.

And that brings into question, cities along the southern coast of Ukraine from Mariupol down to Odessa where we are, so far Russian forces in the first month or so of this campaign have only really been able to reach about halfway between here and Mariupol. But the concern is if there's a renewed push, reinvigorated push to come into Ukraine through the east, that that could put these southern cities here in the crosshairs of more violence.

And given what we have seen in the aftermath of the retreat of Russian forces in the north, you can understand why so many people who are in the southeast of Ukraine and in the south are very concerned about what this will mean for the country once these forces try again. Kate?

BOLDUAN: Yes. Ed, thank you.

So President Biden, he just weighed in on what happened in Bucha. He is now calling for war crimes trial against Vladimir Putin. CNN's Jeremy Diamond is live at the White House for us. Jeremy, what is the President saying now?

JEREMY DIAMOND, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Kate, in light of the atrocities that we are seeing images of now that took place in Bucha, that city just outside of the capital of Kyiv, President Biden doubling down on his characterization of Vladimir Putin as a war criminal and saying that the U.S. will gather information and evidence and hopes that there will be a trial to hold Putin accountable.


JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: You may remember I got criticized for calling Putin a war criminal. Well, the truth of the matter is, so it happened to Bucha. This warrants him, he is a war criminal. But we have to gather the information. We have to continue to provide Ukraine with the weapons they need to continue the fight. And we have to gather all the detail so this could be an actual have a war crime trial. This guy is brutal. And what's happening to Bucha is outrageous. And everyone's seen it.


DIAMOND: And you hear the President there saying that it is outrageous and that the world is now seeing what Russia is doing in Ukraine. The President though not going so far as to call what is happening in Ukraine a genocide as President Zelenskyy did just a moment ago. But the President did say that he is working on more sanctions to punish Russia for the atrocities that the U.S. believes it is committing in Ukraine. And, of course, that will happen in coordination, as we have seen with previous sanctions with European allies, the President of France, Emmanuel Macron, also calling for additional sanctions, in light of what has happened in Bucha. So we will see what that international response looks like.

Meanwhile, the United States is going to push to expel Russia from the United Nations Human Rights Council that according to the U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations, Linda Thomas-Greenfield, they will put that up to a vote at the General Assembly, a vote that the U.S. believes it can win. Kate?

BOLDUAN: We will see. Jeremy, thank you.


Coming up for us, so what can the U.S. and European allies do to stop these atrocities in Ukraine from going any further? That's next.


BOLDUAN: And the breaking news into CNN, President Biden is calling for a war crimes trial against Vladimir Putin over atrocities that his forces have committed against civilians in Ukraine. A warning once again that the images we're showing you, we'll show you are graphic and they're very difficult to see. The bodies of at least 20 civilian men, somewhat their hands tied found on the streets of Bucha. Official there say they were executed and found after Russian troops withdrew from the town near Kyiv.

A CNN crew saw evidence also of a mass grave in that city. Joining me now retired Brigadier General Kevin Ryan and Michael Newton, former senior adviser to the ambassador-at-large for war crimes issues at the State Department. Thank you both. General, what we all see coming out of Bucha, it is horrific. Do you see that is, I don't know, some part of some Russian military plan?

BRIG. GEN. KEVIN RYAN, U.S. ARMY (RET.): You know, the scope of the atrocities means that it's not just in discipline amongst the troops, but it's something that is a function of the command climate, maybe even condoned by the officers in charge. So I would say that it's an endemic thing within the Russian forces. And, you know, this is the anniversary today of the founding of NATO in 1949. And this war is pointing out that we still have serious security problems in Europe because of Russia and the security system that we have is not working properly to prevent things like war crimes.


BOLDUAN: And you think there's no clear evidence of that than what we're seeing coming out right now, General?

RYAN: Right. Everything that you've already shown on the network, about Bucha, along with other isolated incidents throughout Ukraine, I mean, they're incontrovertible. But as President Biden pointed out, we need to collect the evidence presented in a legal way later. But there's no, I mean, there's no avoiding the fact that it's happening, social media reveals it very clearly.

BOLDUAN: Yes. Michael, what do you think of what President Biden just said, about this today calling for war crimes trial, saying it's a war crime, but not genocide? What did you think?

MICHAEL NEWTON, FMR. SR. ADVISER TO THE AMBASSADOR-AT-LARGE FOR WAR CRIMES ISSUES: Well, I mean, I think the law of genocide is complicated in the fact, if for no other reason here, then the Russians use the law of general genocide, or I would say abuse the law of genocide as a pretext for this aggression. And I think he's exactly right, as a political matter. But a political statement, in that context, is only the precursor to real war crimes trial. So we've had exactly the same dynamic in Sierra Leone, and in the Balkans, and in Wanda, and in Cambodia.

Now we have to put our money where our mouth is, and support investigations, lend technical expertise, do the detailed granular work in international law, the term is individual criminal responsibility. We've got to facilitate, you know, we say all source intelligence, here it's an all source effort, all of our allies, all of our resources have to be combined to generate viable criminal cases that we -- that I can walk into court and prove beyond a reasonable doubt. That's the challenge here.

BOLDUAN: Absolutely. Generally, you know, several U.S. officials have told CNN that the latest intelligence now is that Russia is now refocusing on trying to take -- taking over -- taking the Donbass and other regions in eastern Ukraine with a target of completion in early May. And we also just learned from a senior U.S. defense official that two-thirds the assessment is two-thirds of Russian troops that were centered around Kyiv have now left. What do you see in that? What is driving this? What do people need to understand about this shift?

RYAN: Well, President Putin has been forced due to lack of progress, and also due to the fighting capacity of the Ukrainian military, to change his goals. He's gone from something as expansive as talking to the United States and NATO, about getting out of Eastern Europe, to now he's looking to deal with Zelenskyy directly about the east and the south. You can think of what's going on in Ukraine as four theaters, east, west, north, south. The west is going to remain vulnerable to airstrikes, but not an invasion. The north has been abandoned, and he's moving his troops from there to the east. The south has some success, but it's in the east, where this fight began and where it is going to end. Putin is going to try to take as much territory as he can there. And only when he thinks he's got the maximum amount of territory out of whatever his military can get, only then will he come to the table seriously looking for a ceasefire.

BOLDUAN: And Michael, you know, as Russia is regrouping, repositioning, refocusing whatever they want to call it, do you expect to see more images of what we've seen coming out of Bucha in other parts of Ukraine? I mean, what is Pat -- what is past experience in your role tell you?

NEWTON: Well, I've been dealing with Ukrainian officials in Crimea now for some time. And there's no doubt in my mind that violations of the law of war, in particular occupation law, have been ongoing for a long time. So, you know, honestly, what you're seeing in Bucha and other areas that are newly liberated is just an extension of preexisting Russian policy.

But I will say that these new allegations based on irrefutable evidence, lend a whole new dynamic to the political discussions. Any talk of a negotiated peace has to account for these war crimes, and bringing perpetrators to account. And I just smile when I hear the Russians say that that's propaganda and false efforts. I hear the voice of Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, you know, never live by lies, stop living by lies.

What we have to do is continue the legal effort as a parallel to the political and military efforts. There's a essentially a third operational domain that's opened up now, that is equally important. If you lose on any of those three fronts, you lose the war. You have to win on all three fronts actually, in my mind.

BOLDUAN: Thank you both very much.


Coming up for us, a manhunt in California for what police say are multiple shooters in a deadly rampage over the weekend in Sacramento, the very latest and live report, next.



BOLDUAN: Developing at this hour, police in California are looking for what they're describing is multiple shooters after gunfire rang out in downtown Sacramento in the early morning hours Sunday. Six people were killed and dozen others were hurt. CNN's Natasha Chen is live in Los Angeles for us with more on this. Natasha, a manhunt is underway right now. Do they have any leads? NATASHA CHEN, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Kate, this morning, there have not been any updates yet as far as the police looking for multiple shooters. The police chief on Sunday afternoon said they're combing through at least 100 pieces of evidence including a recovered stolen handgun, police surveillance footage of that intersection.

This happened around 2:00 a.m. Sunday morning downtown Sacramento just a few blocks away from City Hall and the basketball arena where the Sacramento Kings play. So there were a lot of people out partying and the shots rang out about 2:00 a.m. Police say that they heard those shots and with first responders came rushing to the scene giving medical aid, including CPR.

But unfortunately, like you said six people, all adults killed, three men, three women, 12 other people were injured, and are being treated in area hospitals. We're now hearing from families of loved ones, including the family of Sergio Harris, a father of three in his late 30s, just heartbreaking stories about these families losing the ones they love. The mayor talked about how thoughts and prayers in this situation are not enough.


MAYOR DARRELL STEINBERG, SACRAMENTO: It is beyond time to have a sane conversation about guns in America. We have a sickness. It's a sickness in our country. It's a sickness in our culture.


CHEN: President Biden also gave condolences and included a statement saying that we have to do more than mourn. He said that his administration has been helping with reducing crime across the country and also calls on Congress to act. He said ban ghost guns. Require background checks for all gun sales. Ban assault weapons and high- capacity magazines. Repealed gun manufacturers' immunity from liability.

So really across the nation right now we are seeing gun violence like this not just in Sacramento, a very emotional day. Kate?

BOLDUAN: Yes, sure thing. Thank you so much. I really appreciate it.

Also at this hour, the Senate Judiciary Committee is meeting right now to consider President Biden's historic Supreme Court nominee. The Committee is set to vote this afternoon on advancing Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson's nomination to the full Senate. CNN's Manu Raju is live on the Hill for us. Manu, what's going to happen today?

MANU RAJU, CNN CHIEF CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: We expect this committee divided evenly between the two parties of 22 members, 11 Republicans, 11 Democrats to deadlock. And then at that point, the Senate will take procedural steps to advance this nomination to the Senate floor. There will be a vote tonight, so called discharge the nomination out of the Committee.

There just needs a simple majority in the 50-50 Senate with Susan Collins, at least the only Republican at the moment backing this nomination. There are enough votes to advance the nomination on the floor. And then they'll take several days until we get to the final confirmation vote at the end of the week.

Now the only question right now is whether any other Republicans decide to break ranks, Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, Mitt Romney of Utah are the two that folks are focusing on. They have not said how they will vote. Now, this morning, this Committee did kick off in rather partisan way, Republicans and Democrats squabbling over this nomination.

Dick Durbin, the Senate Judiciary Committee accused Republicans of badgering Jackson in her confirmation hearings last month. And Lindsey Graham who was the one Republican who voted for her for the lower courts of D.C. Circuit made clear he is a no now.


SEN. DICK DURBIN (D-IL), CHAIR, JUDICIARY COMMITTEE: They repeatedly interrupt and badger Judge Jackson and accused her of vile things in front of her parents, her husband, and her children. There was table pounding, some literal, from a few of my colleagues.

SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R-SC): If we're in charge, she would not have met before this Committee, you would have had somebody more moderate than this.


RAJU: So Graham went on to call her an invasive witness. Someone he said was embraced by radical Democrats. He did vote for the two Obama Supreme Court nominees as well. So this is the first Supreme Court nominee he is opposing. But it shows you how partisan the confirmation process has become, Kate, over the years as Jackson is almost certainly going to be confirmed with a very narrow margin potentially only a two vote margin, if that were the case, that'd be the closest, tied to the closest ever in Supreme Court history. Kate?

BOLDUAN: Sure thing. And all that playing out today, we'll see what happens. Thank you, Manu. Appreciate it.

Also new this morning, former President Barack Obama will return to the White House for the first time since leaving office. Obama will attend an event tomorrow celebrating the 12-year anniversary of his landmark health care law. CNN's John Harwood is at the White House for us. I have to say, John, it's a little surprising to think this will be his first time back there.


JOHN HARWOOD, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: That's right. But he's got a good reason to go back which is the signature accomplishment domestically of Barack Obama's administration which was the Affordable Care Act.