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At This Hour

Ukraine Claims Strike on Russian Black Sea Flagship; U.S. Weighs Sending Top Official to Ukraine in Show of Support; NYC Subway Shooting Suspect to Appear in Federal Court. Aired 11-11:30a ET

Aired April 14, 2022 - 11:00   ET




ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

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

BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN ANCHOR: I'm Brianna Keilar, live in Lviv, Ukraine. We do begin with breaking news. A significant blow to Vladimir Putin's war here in Ukraine. Ukraine claims its forces sank Russia's key warship in the Black Sea in a missile attack.

The Kremlin denies it but concedes it's badly damaged. Its loss would be a major defeat for Russia as it regroups for a new offensive in eastern Ukraine. The French military says Russia is preparing for a large scale assault here in the coming days, with the goal of conquering the Donbas region.

And as the war enters its 50th day, the brutal reality of Putin's invasion is captured in this heart-wrenching video.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: (Speaking foreign language).

BOLDUAN (voice-over): That is a Ukrainian mother realizing her worst fears, when she discovers the body of her young son, who had been dumped in a shallow well near Kyiv. Another body also found at the well, which was located on the route of the Russian retreat near the capital of Kyiv.


KEILAR: Let's begin our coverage now with CNN's Matt Rivers, with me here in Lviv.

Let's talk about this warship.

What do we know?

MATT RIVERS, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: We get information from three different sources essentially right now, Russian, Ukrainians and Americans have now weighed in.

The Russians are saying, as you said off the top, they call this a fire on board the ship. It's significant that Russian state media is talking about this. They don't want to be talking about this but I think realized they don't have a choice. They say there was a fire on board, now out. They don't say what the cause of the fire was.

But they do say essentially the ship is out of commission, at least for the time being. The cause, from what the Ukrainians are saying, is the Ukrainian armed forces themselves, launching cruise missiles, shore based cruise missiles at this ship, several of them, they say, ended up hitting the ship, causing what we have seen, which is basically the crippling of this ship.

They say the missiles they launched are called Ukrainian designed Neptune missiles, brought into service within the Ukrainian armed forces within the last year.

But what we hear from the Americans is that it's too early for them to tell, at least publicly, exactly what happened here. They said it could be anything from, quote, "Russian incompetence" to a successful attack from Ukraine's armed forces.

So we still have a lot to learn, I think, about exactly what happened here. But I think the overall takeaway, no matter the cause, is that you have one of the most important ships in the Russian navy now out of commission.

KEILAR: And important to note, it was involved in that infamous Snake Island incident.

RIVERS: 100 percent. This is when the Ukrainian border guards were captured on radio telling the Russian warship to go eff yourself. And this ship was involved in that. A really symbolic blow that the Ukrainians say they've inflicted on the Russians.

KEILAR: Certainly is, Matt, thank you so much for that. Appreciate it.

The Biden administration is unveiling a massive new security package for Ukraine, which includes hundreds of weapons and helicopters. And this comes as the U.S. considers sending a high ranking official to Ukraine in a show of support. CNN's Jeremy Diamond is live at the White House.

Jeremy, do we have any idea who the U.S. might send to Ukraine and when it might happen?

Because I spoke with a senior Zelenskyy administration aide, who said probably it's going to be Lloyd Austin.

JEREMY DIAMOND, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Yes, listen. The administration is having internal preliminary discussions about sending a high level official. It could potentially be the Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin. It could also potentially be the secretary of state Antony Blinken. But of course, we're unlikely to actually get a heads-up that they're going until they actually show up in Kyiv because of the heightened security environment that still exists in Ukraine, a country that is, of course, still at war.

This visit also could ultimately not happen. That is something that's being cautioned by our sources. Obviously, a visit by a high ranking U.S. official would follow other visits by Western leaders in recent days and weeks. It would be symbolic.

But of course, the U.S. right now is focused on what it is doing in terms of material and concrete support. Just yesterday, President Biden announcing an $800 million in additional military assistance to Ukraine. And let me just show you some of the highlights here.

It includes 11 MI-17 helicopters, 18 Howitzer cannons, 300 additional Switchblade drones and some radar systems, counter artillery radar systems, which would help Ukraine.

Also what the U.S. is expecting to be a new type of fight in Ukraine as it happens in the Donbas region, much more flat territory, much more to Russia's tank advantages and so the U.S. providing much heavier weaponry than in the past because of the shifting dynamics. Brianna.

KEILAR: All right, Jeremy, thank you so much for that.

Joining me is retired Brigadier General Mark Kimmitt.


KEILAR: And also with us, CNN global affairs analyst Kimberly Dozier.

General, I want to start with this warship.

What's your assessment of this?

And I ask because if truly this is an act of God, Vladimir Putin should be thinking about what the guy upstairs is telling him with which ship He hit.

BRIG. GEN. MARK KIMMITT, U.S. ARMY (RET.): No, I think that's right. But I'm a little bit sanguine on the impact of this particular Russian ship going down. Yes, it was probably important for the area around Odessa.

But look, the major fear we've got to concern ourselves with is a near-term offensive operation, ground offensive operation. While that ship with its missiles may have been helpful, I don't think it will hold back any Russian ground offensive.

So good that we got it; glad Putin needs to do some more praying but I don't think this will change the course of the war.

KEILAR: This is partially about morale though, Kim.

That's part of the reason the Ukrainians want to champion this, right?

KIMBERLY DOZIER, CNN GLOBAL AFFAIRS ANALYST: Yes, this might not be a lot on the military front, though it does take an estimated quarter of the missiles off the battlefield or make them harder to fire and deny the Russians that platform to fire them from.

But the fact that Russia is having to put this on its state outlets, it's having to let its people know that it's taken some heavy costs in this war. Now they're probably going to blame it on maintenance. The ship was due for another series of refits back in 2016 that didn't happen.

And Soviet-era ships are known for having a problem with their fire suppression systems. That was one of the things that needed overhauling.

Nonetheless, whether it's from lack of maintenance or a Ukrainian rocket or missile, it's off the battlefield. The Ukrainians can celebrate. The Russians have to start scratching their head, wondering, how is this going.

In the meantime, every military official I speak to or hear from, says it's taking the Russians a long time to gather enough forces that they're going to need to close that 300-mile gap between Kharkiv and the north and Mariupol in the south. They thought it would start by now. But it really hasn't.

KEILAR: To your point, Kim -- and General, I want to know what you think about this -- the French military estimate has been a few days, right. But then I asked John Kirby, the Pentagon spokesperson. And he wouldn't commit to agreement with that French estimate.

He said it might be in the next couple of weeks. And I wonder what you think about these various estimates.

KIMMITT: Well, I kind of think the French are wrong on this one. We have sufficient overhead platforms to be able to track most of the equipment on the ground. I think all of us look at May Day, the victory day parade, the time which they should be having an offensive.

But there's absolutely no need to start this offensive off quickly if they don't have the materiel or fuel or the artillery. And our overhead platforms and our intelligence on the ground should be able to determine that. So if John Kirby is saying it won't be for a while, I'll take that to the bank.

KEILAR: Kim, I wonder, we're expecting -- and it seems like we should be expecting a senior U.S. official, cabinet level official, paying a visit to the Zelenskyy administration. We see so many heads of state coming to do that. We don't expect it's going to be President Biden.

The question is, who is it going to be?

Is it going to be Antony Blinken, the top diplomat, or Lloyd Austin, the head of the department of war essentially?

What do you think is the message to send?

DOZIER: Well, you know, either man, I think, is comfortable going into a war zone. It is an important message to be seen on the streets of Kyiv, with President Zelenskyy, to send to Moscow, saying we are still concentrating this amount of political capital on this country and this war.

At the same time, it also could help domestically, politically. It helped the U.K. prime minister, Boris Johnson, distract attention from the fact that, just within a day or so after his visit, he became the first British prime minister found guilty of breaking a law while in office. So it helped to distract the public.

Could it help Biden with his opinion polls, the fact that he's rushing this unexpected amount of $800 million worth of aid and sending a senior official?

Maybe. And, you know, I know that's a little crass to talk about but that matters, too, in terms of keeping support for the Biden and other efforts, to keep supplies going, to keep this war winnable for the Ukrainians.


KEILAR: Yes, it does matter.

General, the choppers in this package, they weren't in the package. Zelenskyy and Biden talk on the phone, then it's in the package.

What do the choppers do in the efforts here?

KIMMITT: First of all, what I want to do is agree with Kim. In this whole issue about materiel versus morale, there's an old French general that once said morale is to materiel as 5 is to 1. So it's important to keep her points in mind about maintaining public support.

Again, 18 MI-17s, and that list of equipment that you're seeing there, it's very, very good that we're sending it. It's more for morale purposes; 18 Howitzers and 40,000 artillery rounds, that's how many I had as a young lieutenant colonel and that much ammunition we fired in training in a year.

So nothing here is a magic bullet. But as Kim said, it's all about morale and keeping public support behind this effort.

KEILAR: That really puts it into perspective, General. Thank you so much for that.

And Kim, thank you so much for your insights as well. We do appreciate it.

I want go back now to Kate in New York.

BOLDUAN: Brianna, thank you so much. We'll get back to Ukraine very shortly. But also ahead for us, the New York City subway shooting suspect will

be in federal court today, now charged with carrying out a terror attack. The latest on his arrest and the investigation next.





BOLDUAN: Developing at this hour, the man accused of carrying out an attack on the New York City subway will appear in federal court very soon. He was picked up yesterday and, in a wild turn of events, authorities say that Frank James called into a police tip line himself, leading to his arrest.

James is now facing a terror related charge for shooting 10 people and injuring more than a dozen others. CNN's Jason Carroll is live in New York for us with more on this.

Jason, what's going to happen today?

JASON CARROLL, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, we are expecting to hear from Frank James in federal court. That's going to be happening in just about an hour from now or so, Kate.

But a lot of folks still talking about what happened right out here on this sidewalk, where I'm standing, yesterday afternoon. This is the spot where Frank James was arrested. He was spotted here on the streets, just a few yards from where I'm standing right now.

Police brought him into custody without incident. But it all started yesterday afternoon after a law enforcement source says Frank James himself called him to the Crimestoppers tipline and said that he was at a McDonald's located just a few blocks from where I am.

Police went over to that McDonald's; he was nowhere to be found. And that's when someone by the name of Francisco Puebla stepped in. Yesterday afternoon, he recognized Frank James, saw him on the sidewalk. He also saw a police car that was patrolling the area, flagged him and stopped him.


FRANCISCO PUEBLA, CRIME STOPPER: When I saw his face, I recognized him right away. But at the same time, I feel kind of panicked, because he was carrying a backpack on his right-hand side. He was heavy. He was going and talking to himself.

I went right straight up to the police car and told the police officer that I just saw the man that -- the one who did the shooting in Brooklyn.

And he just told me, like, OK, what is he wearing? What is he carrying?


CARROLL: And thanks to Francisco Puebla, that good Samaritan, police were able to bring Frank James into custody without incident.

At one point, when they transferred him, Kate, into federal custody, he was walked outside in front of a number of reporters.

They were shouting questions, why did you do it, why did you do it. He did not answer those questions. His first court appearance scheduled to happen just about an hour or so from now in Brooklyn federal court.

He faces a number of charges including a federal charge, one count of violating a law, which prohibits terrorist attacks and other violence against a mass transportation system. If convicted, he faces life in prison -- Kate.

BOLDUAN: Jason, thank you so much for that.

The New York Police Department is also crediting a teenager for helping to apprehend Frank James, spotting James hours before he was picked up. And CNN's Shimon Prokupecz is with me now.

You spoke with the teenager, Shimon.

What did he tell you?

SHIMON PROKUPECZ, CNN CRIME AND JUSTICE PRODUCER: Really fascinating, Kate. He's just 17 years old. Jack Griffin was on a field trip with his photography class here on the Lower East Side when he rounded this corner here.

I want to show you. He came across this corner here on Orchard Street and Canal and saw Frank James, sitting on this bench here, just sitting and just looking away as if nothing was going on.

He said, immediately, he realized it was him and he started snapping photos of Frank James. He then also followed him. Take a listen to what he said about what he did when he saw him.


JACK GRIFFIN, PHOTOGRAPHY STUDENT: Right here, from about 20 feet away, I saw Frank James sitting down at that bench over there. So I got out my camera and I quickly took a photo of the street. And that's when he noticed he was being photographed and he started walking away.

PROKUPECZ: What drew your attention to him?

GRIFFIN: I was just looking for things to shoot on the street, graffiti, anything.


GRIFFIN: And then I suddenly saw him and I said, that's the guy. That's what the police report said he would look like.


PROKUPECZ: Kate, he credits New York City with those push alerts we all received on our phones with helping him identify Frank James. He said the Twitter photos. He also says that what he did, after he snapped these photos, he posted them on Twitter.

That's how I made contact yesterday and he also notified the NYPD and the Crimestoppers and they tell him it is because of his information they were able to focus their attention on their search here. So they thanked him and spoke to him last night.

And he said, he was just trying to do the right thing and he's happy he was able to snap those photos, Kate.

BOLDUAN: That's great you were able to connect with him. Amazing what they really did, just walking around, seeing it and saying something, as we should. Good to see you, Shimon. Thank you so much.

Joining me for more on this, senior law enforcement analyst, Andrew McCabe, and CNN law enforcement analyst, Jonathan Wackrow, a former senior service agent.

Let's talk about Frank James first. He's in custody. He's charged. About to face a judge.

What's your big question now?

JONATHAN WACKROW, CNN LAW ENFORCEMENT ANALYST: My big question is the same as everybody.

What was his motive here?

And unfortunately, right now, the motive remains unknown. But I think it's important for everyone to understand with this case that James had a level of premeditation that he put toward this attack, some detailed planning.

And what I mean by that, you have to take it a step backward and understand he traveled from Wisconsin, over a thousand miles, to New York City to launch this attack. He had some level of targeting information that he was going off of.

He drove a rental van to the subway system. He selected the subway line that he was going to utilize, selected the station and, you know, actually put the time and effort into utilizing a disguise to basically mask the attack that he was about to launch.

And then at the end of the attack, there was a level of, you know, exit strategy in how he was going to escape. So this wasn't a suicide mission that he was on. This was launching an attack to lead. Now this is all very basic planning but it does show a level of increased attention and planning purposes to launch this attack.

BOLDUAN: And, Andy, what should people make of the fact that Frank James called in his own tip on himself?

ANDREW MCCABE, CNN SENIOR LAW ENFORCEMENT ANALYST: Kate, I don't know there's much you can make of it except to conclude that every one of these situations is very different, particularly when you are dealing with people who are clearly, you know, not operating at the highest level of logic in their actions.

I think, you know, you see that through the course of this event. He's a kind of an unhinged guy. In all of his YouTube videos, somehow he goes from just being a person with deep grievances for the Black community, the Hispanic community, the homeless community, the subway system, on and on and on.

He goes from just being an angry guy with a lot of grievances to planning and executing a fairly organized attack. Of course, he does it in an incompetent way.

So I think all along the course of this attack, you see kind of conflicting indications of, like, competence and organization and then just totally illogical things, like dropping your gun as you flee the scene, calling in the tip on himself, just one more really strange aspect.

BOLDUAN: Jonathan, we just now heard from two people, who called in tips, to kind of pinpoint Frank James and help bring about his arrest.

How important is the public's help in a manhunt like this?

WACKROW: It's extremely important. When you think about just the area of the size of Manhattan, of New York, this person could have gone anywhere. Law enforcement cannot do this by themselves. They have to rely on the public's assistance in identifying suspects, their location in a safe way.

Programs such as Crimestoppers are critical to the success in making sure that our communities remain safe. But that's just one part of preparedness.

One of the big successes here -- and I just want to call this out -- is that, in the moment of, in the aftermath of this attack, you know, what saved those 10 people who were injured, who were fired upon 33 times in a very confined space, the success here with the FDNY and first responders, their preparedness in planning for these types of incidents, these mass casualty events, actually saved lives.


WACKROW: You take that component, you combine it with the public's assistance in identifying and locating this individual, at the end of the day, there's a shared fate of responsibility amongst all of us. In working together, we have a successful outcome, a suspect in custody and hopefully we'll have a very successful prosecution.

BOLDUAN: Great to see you guys. Thank you so much.

Coming up for us still, a key Russian warship badly damaged after Ukraine said it hit it with cruise missiles. Russia disputes that.

No matter what caused the damage, how big of a blow is this to Putin's war effort?

More on that next.