Return to Transcripts main page

At This Hour

Dozens Killed In Strike At Kramatorsk Train Station Filled With Evacuees; WH To Celebrate Judge Jackson Amid COVID Outbreak In D.C. Aired 11-11:30a ET

Aired April 08, 2022 - 11:00   ET



BIANNA GOLODRYGA, CNN ANCHOR: Wow, great news on all fronts. Well, thanks for joining us today. I'm Bianna Golodryga.

JIM SCIUTTO, CNN ANCHOR: And I'm Jim Sciutto. We do hope you have a good weekend. At this hour with Kate Bolduan starts right now.

KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: Hello, everyone. I'm Kate Bolduan live in New York.

BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN ANCHOR: And I'm Brianna Keilar live in Lviv, Ukraine. And we do begin with breaking news with horrible news. Dozens of Ukrainians are dead and possibly hundreds more injured in a brutal massacre on innocent refugees. Today, a Russian missile strike targeted a train station in eastern Ukraine, a civilian train station, where President Zelenskyy says that thousands of civilians were waiting to evacuate. Some new social media video capturing the chaotic moments that occurred after the attack. And I do want to warn you that this video is graphic.


(Speaking in Foreign Language)


KEILAR: Crews at the scene say that several children are among those who were killed. The governor there saying that it included at least five kids. Ukrainian officials say that Russian forces are in the final stages of a massive breakthrough offensive in the Donbass region. In the meantime, the latest intelligence from Britain says that Russian troops have now fully withdrawn from Northern Ukraine to Belarus and Russia. And this is coming as high ranking Kremlin official concedes to significant Russian troop losses.

But what we're seeing is incredibly horrific at this train station in the east. According to the CEO of Ukrainian railways, who I spoke with just a short time ago, he said that there were actually two strikes. So this would have been a double tap strike. He said the entire train station was pretty much destroyed in this. And he said that to put this into context, about a day before Russian forces made a striker on a nearby railway overpass, it was actually the only -- and continues to be the only Ukrainian controlled exit out of a number of cities in the area.

So the effect of that was a little bit of a backup. There were actually more civilians waiting at the train station that we had seen even before. So as Russia tries to blame Ukraine for this, saying that they did this to their own people. It's ridiculous, quite frankly, as we hear what they're trying to say. They certainly have a domestic audience for it though, a lot of Russians who do believe that propaganda.

In the meantime the U.S. and Western allies are condemning this horrific attack at the train station. Leaders are united and calling for more actions against Vladimir Putin. CNN's David McKenzie is live for us outside of the British Prime Minister's residence in London with reaction from world leaders. David?

DAVID MCKENZIE, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Brianna, there's growing outrage from world leaders because of this heinous attack that is blamed on Russian forces in eastern Ukraine. Right now, there's an ongoing press conference of Boris Johnson and of the German Chancellor. Boris Johnson earlier calling this an outrage saying that Putin should not go unpunished said that incidents like this are really a war crime.

And he said that there needs to be more punishment, more sanction. And especially, there is a sense that more must be done to stop the energy sector. There was also comments from the White House. Let's take a listen.


BORIS JOHNSON, PRIME MINISTER OF THE UNITED KINGDOM: I know that Britain and Germany share exactly the same sense of horror and revulsion at the brutality being unleashed, including the unconscionable bombing of refugees fleeing their homes this morning. You tap at the train station in eastern Ukraine shows the depths to which Putin once pointed army has sunk.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Obviously, these are horrific and devastating images. And we are doing everything that we can to provide the Ukrainians with the security assistance that they need, the weapons that they need to push back against Russian aggression. And of course, we're doing everything in our power to make Russia and international pariah and to strangle its economy and to hold it accountable for the choices that it's making.


MCKENZIE: You get the sense of urgency, but really also a question, what more can be done other than these sanctions that are in place and that's what they're discussing right now at Downing Street. Brianna?

KEILAR: Yes, the thing that can be done will also hurt Europe so much. It seems they may not want to go that route. David, thank you so much live for us in London. Amid the atrocities at this train station, CNN has an exclusive look inside the Chernobyl nuclear site just days after Ukraine regain control from Russia. Some of those Russian forces had been exposed to radiation levels. CNN's Fred Pleitgen live in Kyiv with his exclusive report. Tell us what you found, Fred.


FREDERIK PLEITGEN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Hi there, Brianna. Yes, it was pretty wild actually even getting to Chernobyl. We had to go off road because so much of the road to Chernobyl was destroyed when the Russians invaded Ukraine. But when we got there, there's really two things that stood out. You can see that's the final checkpoint, actually, where there Ukrainian forces are towards Belarus, where, of course, the Russians came from.

But there's two things that really stuck out. On the one hand, you're absolutely right, the Russians appear to have exposed their own forces to radiation. In fact, what we found when we went to the quarters where the Russians stayed, as they were occupying this place, there were increased radiation levels. And the Ukrainians told us that's because the Russians ventured out into that area, and then took the radiation back with them into their own quarters.

What we're seeing on your screen right now, that's the really awful bit about all this. That is where the Russians kept a lot of the staff and security officials from the Ukrainians underground, in the bomb shelter of the actual power plant. They kept them there without any sunlight, without any real good air, and also, of course, without any sort of communications.

And now they've actually taken these people to Russia as prisoners. And the Ukrainians tell us they have absolutely no idea where these people are, or how they're doing, of course, at the same time, trying to get them back. It's almost 170 Ukrainians that had been taken to Russia. And the Ukrainians also saying that the Russians, when they left that power plant, they took with a bunch of computers and also scavenge through that area, because they didn't let those Ukrainians take their own belongings with them and stole a lot of their personal belongings as well. Brianna?

KEILAR: Just ridiculous. And we're seeing that looting all over. Fred, thank you so much for that report live for us from Kyiv.

Joining me now is retired Brigadier General Steve Anderson and also with us in this conversation is CNN national security analyst Beth Sanner. She is the former Deputy Director of National Intelligence. General, I want to start with you. You of course, have a background in logistics. We've been talking a lot here in recent weeks about railway damage. But this particularly was an attack on a train station, where there are civilians. And I wonder what you think about this?

BRIG. GEN. STEVE ANDERSON, U.S. ARMY (RET.): Well, first of all, Brianna, thanks for what you're doing over there. Your reporting has been so critical. But yes, I'm outraged as everyone else is about this. But I'm not surprised. I mean, they're trying to terrorize the people. They've suffered a stunning loss up in Kyiv. And they're trying to regroup. But train stations, unfortunately, are strategic target. And it's part of the logistics hub.

And the Ukrainians have been winning the logistics war and the Russians notice. I mean, their roads, their remained mostly open. The airports are even open, although no, no planes are really flying. They've got 15,000 miles of railroads that continue to operate and resupply Ukrainian forces. Many reporters have been reporting from these train stations and actually moving trains, they've got river transport.

There's the Dnipro river that comes all the way down from Kyiv, all the way down to Dnipro is going to be hugely significant in the upcoming fight, because it's a great way to move a lot of equipment very quickly, a lot of heavy equipment. So the Russians know that the supply chain is working. So they're going to do everything they want to do to stop it, because they know that what's coming up is another race of logistics. It's a race between the Russians ability to restore their wounded forces, versus the Ukrainians ability to get their maneuver forces their tanks, their artillery, their helicopters, et cetera, down to the area of Donbass, because we know there's going to be a very heavy maneuver warfare type fight down there.

KEILAR: Beth, there was a missile on the ground outside the station that said for the children on it in Russian. And I think a lot of people are trying to make sense of what's happening there. What do you think?

BETH SANNER, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: Well, the way that the phrase is written, it isn't -- I think our first initial reaction would be, oh, they're aiming at children. But it really is more as if revenge for our children who they claim have been attacked over the past eight years by the Ukrainians. So this is part of the whole propaganda that many Russians believe that Ukrainians are attacking Russian children.

So this is this kind of in revenge for that, but it just shows the depravity of the Russian actions. And it also shows to me that it was absolutely targeted. You don't write something like that on a missile and think that it's aiming at a, you know, a site that is an industrial site or a military site. That's not what that means.

KEILAR: I spoke earlier to the CEO of Ukrainian railways. Let's listen to some of what he said and then we'll discuss.



OLEKSANDR KAMYSHIN, HEAD OF UKRAINE RAILWAYS: This case shows that they try to kill civilians. They do block evacuation program. Yesterday, they bombed the bridge, which connects all the cities like Kramatorsk, (INAUDIBLE) with Ukraine. And they keep shelling stations, they keep shelling trains, and they do whatever they can to stop the evacuation program of civilians.

(END VIDEO CLIP) KEILAR: So general, we heard in there say that Russian forces had bombed a bridge, what we learned was that they bombed about a day before this, a railway overpass, the only Ukrainian controlled exit by rail for a number of cities in this region. The effect of that was that there was a backup of civilians at that train station. I wonder what you think this portends for the future and how Putin is going to approach the east?

ANDERSON: Well, I would submit to you that we're going to see more of this. I mean, this is a logistics hub, like I said earlier, and that's exactly why he -- they attacked as they did. And evidently it was successful in the fact that it backlogged and made it difficult for movement to go transport through that area. They're going to continue to do this. You know, but the rest of the world needs to step up and be outraged by this, these senseless attacks on civilians.

I mean, there's ways to take out rail stations without attacking at a time when thousands of people are trying to board trains. But, you know, we need to step up. And I want to remind Americans that the United States was spending $300 million a day 15 years ago, in the war in Iraq. You know, we spent 2.4 billion thus far to support the Ukrainians. That's eight days of activity in Iraq.

And I submit to you, this is a far more dangerous existential threat to our nation. So we need to step up. We need to spend more money. We need to get the Ukrainians what they need, which is heavy equipment, artillery, tanks, helicopters and the like to prepare for the oncoming battle in the Donbass area, which is going to be as I said, heavy maneuver war.

KEILAR: That's -- and that is what they're asking for. General and Beth, thank you so much to both of you.

And, Kate, back to you in New York, it seems that, you know, it's not necessarily that the Russians bombed this train station, despite the civilians. It seems the civilians were the point.

BOLDUAN: Very clearly a target as we've seen in the great discussion you just had, Brianna. We're going to be back to Ukraine, back to Brianna very shortly.

Also coming up for us, the newest Supreme Court Justice and the White House celebration, we'll hear from Ketanji Brown Jackson, in her own words very soon what's in store today after her historic confirmation, that's next.



BOLDUAN: In the next hour, a big celebration at the White House. The President hosting an event to mark the historic confirmation of Ketanji Brown Jackson, who will be the first black woman to serve on the Supreme Court. CNN's Jeremy Diamond is live at the White House for us this hour. What's going to happen there today, Jeremy? JEREMY DIAMOND, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Kate, one day after Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson was confirmed to be the next Associate Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court by a 53 to 47 majority, today President Biden, Vice President Harris, and judge Jackson all coming to the White House of South Lawn to celebrate that confirmation. And also, of course, to mark the historic nature of this confirmation as Judge Jackson is set to become now the first black woman to sit on the nation's highest court.

There will be Judge Jackson's family in attendance, lawmakers including all of those senators, including those three Republicans who joined Democrats to vote, to confirm Judge Jackson. And of course, it's also a moment for President Biden to take a political victory lap noting that this is a promise that he made to nominate the first black woman to the U.S. Supreme Court to have her confirmed, marking that of course is a promise kept.

BOLDUAN: And Jeremy, I mean, with a notable increase in COVID cases in D.C. among -- and among the President's team, what are they saying about holding an event today at the White House albeit outside?

DIAMOND: Yes, I mean, first of all, they're noting the fact that it is outdoors on the South Lawn where you'll have perhaps a couple 100 people in attendance. But all individuals who are in close proximity to the president, certainly those who will be on stage with him will be tested. That is in keeping with the White House's coronavirus protocols. But we also heard the White House Communications Director Kate Bedingfield say earlier today that, listen, President Biden it's certainly possible that he could contract coronavirus at some point. But he is double boosted now for this with a far less severe outcomes expected should he test positive, and also noting that he's living his life as many Americans are now trying to do in this next phase of the pandemic. Kate?

BOLDUAN: A good note, Jeremy, thank you so much.

All right, joining me now for more on this is CNN chief legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin. And also with us Tomiko Brown-Nagin, she is the Dean of the Harvard Radcliffe Institute and a Professor of Constitutional Law at Harvard Law School. Dean, let's start with the historic moment. You write in a new opinion piece for CNN this, well, there's certainly cause to celebrate the change that Jackson's confirmation to the court symbolizes, that celebration is not enough. What do you mean?

TOMIKO BROWN-NAGIN, DEAN, HARVARD RADCLIFFE INSTITUTE: Well, first, I do want to say, Kate, that it is an extraordinary historic moment as the Supreme Court was established in 1789. So it has taken 233 years to reach this moment. And it is a barrier breaking moment that validates the principle of equal opportunity and our Constitution and our laws. And so I say congratulations to Justice Jackson for an extraordinary accomplishment and also to our country for reaching this milestone.


At the same time, I do hope that we can both celebrate this individual accomplishment and think about whether we're doing enough as a country and our institutions to ensure that all students can thrive can have access to the educational opportunities that set one up for success in life.

BOLDUAN: And Jeffrey, you know, less than an hour now, we're also going to see, this is also, it's a big moment for the country. It's a big moment for the now going to be Justice Jackson. It's also a big moment for the Biden administration. What does this mean for him on what we're going to see today?

JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN CHIEF LEGAL ANALYST: Well, there hasn't been a lot of good news for the President lately. I mean, inflation is a big problem. And he didn't get back -- he didn't get through a big part of his agenda. This is a big legacy item. It is it is an item symbolically important, but practically important.


TOOBIN: You know, it is worth remembering that if soon to be Justice Jackson lives a normal lifespan, she will serve on that court until about 2050. That is a big legacy for any president. That's why they care so much about Supreme Court appointments. And it doesn't look like there's anyone else getting ready to leave anytime soon. So this may be it for Supreme Court appointments. But one is better than Jimmy Carter, who served for four years and didn't get an appointment. He's the only president in American history to serve a full term without appointing anyone to the Supreme Court.

BOLDUAN: I didn't know that. That's really interesting. Dean, I want to read another -- I want to read something from Adam Liptak's analysis that kind of stuck with me. He writes, there will, for the first time, be four women on the court. Also for the first time, there will be two black justices and a Latina. But that new tableau on the court's grand mahogany bench will mask a simple truth. The new justice will do nothing to alter the basic dynamic on a court dominated by six Republican appointees.

So what does this all mean what Adam really lays out well in his analysis, what does this mean for the coming term?

BROWN-NAGIN: Well, there are a number of ways to think about impact, Kate. There's the short term, when there is little reason to think that Justice Jackson can change outcomes and the button cultural issues like affirmative action, and guns and abortion. It's not down to the Liberals to do that, right? It's up to the Conservatives to move to the center on some of those issues.

And we've seen that the Chief Justice who cares so much about the integrity of the court is willing to perhaps build consensus in some of those cases. But long term, the composition of the court will change. And she will be able to perhaps deliver votes and write majority opinions in many cases.

And in the meantime, it's really important that she will participate in the questioning and the deliberations. Likely she'll write a number of dissents. And as she is a part of that process, she will bring her experiences as a public defender, as a U.S. District Court judge who has seen the everyday impact on the range of Americans who enter that courtroom on the law.

And she's working mother, I could go on and on and on. Some of these experiences will have been shaped by her identity as a black woman, as a descendant of enslaved people, as a person who grew up in the South. And so while it is true, that in the short term her impact on judicial outcomes will be limited, I would not understate the significance of Justice Jackson being in the room and bringing her experiences, personal and professional with her.

BOLDUAN: You put really well kind of the different types of impact that you can have on this. Jeffrey, it's great to see you. Thank you.

TOOBIN: I'm sorry.

BOLDUAN: No, it's OK. Thank you.

TOOBIN: I was going to say, long term is her hope, short term it's not looking good.

BOLDUAN: There you go. It's great to see both, thank you.


Coming up for us, we're going to head back to Ukraine because there are more details coming in about the attack on that train station in the eastern part of the country. Dozens killed, hundreds hurt, civilians just trying to flee the war, that's next.


KEILAR: Breaking news, a Russian missile strike on a train station in eastern Ukraine has killed dozens including at least five children, possibly hundreds of others injured in this. All of those killed are refugees who are hoping to escape the terrifying violence perpetrated by Vladimir Putin's forces there in the East and the promise of that to come.

CNN's Ed Lavandera is live for us in Odessa. And I understand that the Russian military is claiming that it struck a military target not far from where you are. What can you tell us?


ED LAVANDERA, CNN SENIOR NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Hey, Brianna. Well, that happened around midnight last night here in the Odessa region just on the outskirts of town northeast of the city.