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The Lead with Jake Tapper

U.S. Formally Declares Russian Forces Committed War Crimes In Ukraine; New Video Shows Parts Of Mariupol Buried In Ashes; Biden Arriving In Brussels As U.S. Accuses Russia Of War Crimes; Jackson Grilled About Guidelines For Child Pornography Sentences; Remembering Former Secretary Of State Madeleine Albright. Aired 4-5p ET

Aired March 23, 2022 - 16:00   ET



VICTOR BLACKWELL, CNN HOST: But the vaccine was not that effective in preventing infections by the omicron variant. Despite that, Moderna plans to ask the FDA to authorize use of the vaccine for ages 6-11 in the coming weeks.



PAMELA BROWN, CNN HOST: The United States officially declaring Russia has committed war crimes in Ukraine.

THE LEAD starts right now.

Apartment buildings, a theater sheltering hundreds of innocent civilians, a maternity and children's hospital, these are some of the targets of Russian strikes turning Ukrainian neighborhoods into dust.

President Biden about to land in Brussels for what could be some of the most important meetings of his presidency. A face-to-face sit-down with key allies ratcheting up the pressure on Vladimir Putin.

And a handful of Republican senators go all in on attacking Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson, accusing her of being soft on crime as she tries to land a seat on the Supreme Court.

ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

BROWN: Welcome to THE LEAD. I'm Pamela Brown, in for Jake Tapper. And we begin with breaking news in our world lead.

And the Biden administration formally accusing Russian forces of committing war crimes after evidence mounting daily before our eyes. A theater in Mariupol with the world children spelled out in large letters. On two sides, visible from the air.

Yet with 1,200 women and children inside, Ukrainian officials say Russia dropped a bomb on that building. And just today, Russia strikes again destroying civilian areas. Ukraine's health minister begged for more body armor, saying six medics have been killed by Russian forces and 58 ambulances have been fired upon.

And in southern Ukraine, new video shows cruise missiles launched off the coast of Crimea, bombarding a key port in Ukraine. A new video from a drone shows what's left of Mariupol. This was once a neighborhood. Now much of it charred by fire, as you see.

I want to bring in CNN's Sam Kiley. He's in Kyiv.

Sam, despite Russia's aggression, Ukrainians have made gains in the capital there, is there a sense of how long that may last?

SAM KILEY, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: I think that's the absolutely key issue, Pam. The Ukrainians have now more or less for about the last ten days have been trying to conduct a counteroffensive to try to push back forces, particularly in the west of the country. And they claimed and there's some evidence to support it, they claimed that they've had a degree of success.

So, today, for example, they claim that they had captured more than 80 percent of the suburb of Irpin. Now, you'll recall, that was the northwestern suburb where there were so many tragic images of refugees fleeing the Russian invasion across the destroyed bridge, across the river, very precarious crossings and of course the tragic deaths, among others, of a whole family of four in a Russian mortar attack.

Now, the Russians are being pushed back, according to the Ukrainians. They're being helped by flooding of the Irpin River which is making combat operations for the Russians harder.

And I have to say, it's been a ferocious fight. We're a good ten miles from that location and we can their bombardment no doubt going in both directions. And even here, some small arms fire. Very ferocious fight going on.

Eighty percent of that town recapture, according to the police. We've put out video of themselves patrolling but this could go the other way at any time. But Makariv, another town in the west, much further west, down a crucial road out of the city to the west has also captured, according to the Ukrainians yesterday, they are saying they are trying to set up a series of defensive lines to prevent the Russians coming in.

But the key issue is can they hold their lines against not just the Russians but the Belarusians, if they come as may be anticipated by certainly western analysts and here in Ukraine. Military people really concerned if Belarus joins this war, that may tip the balance of numbers and fire power and make Kyiv vulnerable once again, Pam.

BROWN: Yeah. All right. So, we'll continue to look at that question. A new estimate about Russian losses may help explain how Ukrainians have been able to make these advances near Kyiv.

KILEY: Yeah. So these Russian losses figures have come from NATO officials. They are reflecting basically on the Ukrainian claims of having killed some 14,000 to 15,000. That's the top end of the NATO estimate. The lower end is about 7,000. And then there is a formula where you multiple by two or three, the numbers of killed to estimate the number of wounded and captured. That would take up to 30,000 or 40,000.


If 30,000 or 40,000 Russians have been taken off the battlefield as a consequence of Vladimir Putin's invasion, that's a total force of 190,000 gathered for the invasion. A lot of those people would be logistics troops. This would be a major blow indeed to the Russians.

They've already lost five generals. So there's some evidence that they are really getting hammered here and there. They do have more men and more weapons to draw on -- Pam.

BROWN: All right. Sam Kiley in Kyiv -- thank you so much, Sam.

New video shows a closer look at some of the destruction in Mariupol. A man says a Russian strike is to blame for this building on fire that destroyed a giant steel factory. And another video shows the aftermath of that fire. All the machinery destroyed along with much of the major city in south eastern Ukraine.

I want to bring in Maxim Borodin. He is the deputy in Mariupol, and he is currently in western Ukraine. First off, I want to know, how are you doing? I can't imagine how it must feel to know what has happened to your city.

MAXIM BORODIN, MARIUPOL CITY COUNCIL DEPUTY: It's terrible. Totally terrible because this is not looks like our city which will -- it be about three weeks ago. It was prosperous city with great streets, new buildings, newer design of parks and all that. Now, it's totally ruined. The most problem, not even the buildings. The most problem, a lot of the citizens, about I think 200,000 or so are still in the city.

And their situation is like hostages because Russians want, won't let the humanitarian convoy go into the Mariupol. They stop it and for last two weeks, they don't pass it. So it is a great problem and the situation is so terrible that some people now going out of the city buy food.

It is about 80 kilometers from Mariupol to Berdyansk, but they go anyway under the shelling in the cold because they don't have food. They don't have water. There are no electricity, and no cell connection.

So, Mariupol now is in total catastrophic situation. And all world needs to get, to act now to help liberate (ph) Mariupol. If they didn't, it will be not about thousand of dead. It is about hundreds of thousands of dead.

BROWN: Just innocent people. Just the depths of desperation, what you are describing there, those still trying to flee the city.

Your country's president, Volodymyr Zelenskyy, said despite your city being reduced to ashes, he refused to surrender Mariupol to Russia. How do you hold on when Putin appears to have the advantage and intent on taking it over?

BORODIN: It is hard to say we understand even if this city was stranded. There are no, after that. In villages which Russians already taken, they start to take men, and get it to the so-called DPR army. There are no peace after the surrender. It is only more continuous and more casualties it will be.

So it is only way to help Mariupol citizens is to liberate Mariupol with the help of our allies. There are not any other options. It is pity but it is not looking like with Putin is to surrender.

BROWN: All right, Maxim Borodin. Thank you again for coming on and sharing your story. We wish you the best.

BORODIN: Thank you.

BROWN: Well, they could be some of the most important meetings of his presidency so far. A live look at Brussels where President Biden is about to touchdown with the warning for America's allies.

And then devastating storms stare through the south, picking up and tossing school buses and houses like they're toys.



BROWN: Live pictures here of Air Force One in Brussels. And as President Biden arrives, his administration is formally declaring the Russian forces have committed war crimes. That ahead of President Biden's high stakes meetings with world leaders that start tomorrow.

CNN's Kaitlan Collins is in Brussels with what's at stake for Biden as NATO allies try to pressure Putin to end his invasion.


KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): President Biden arriving in Brussels as he seeks to ratchet up the pressure on Russia.

JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I'm going to tell you all I have to say. I'm going to say it when I get there.

COLLINS: Biden set for a full day with urgent talks with critical allies as he delivers new warnings about Russia potentially using chemical weapons in Ukraine.

REPORTER: How high is that threat?

BIDEN: I think it's a real threat.

COLLINS: After his meetings, Biden is planning to announce new sanctions on hundreds of lawmakers and new efforts to crackdown on attempts to invade existing ones. JAKE SULLIVAN, NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISER: That announcement will

focus not just on adding new sanctions, but on ensuring that there is joint effort to crack down on evasion, on sanctions busting, any attempt by any country to help Russia basically undermine, weaken, or get around the actions.

COLLINS: Biden could also announce he is sending more troops to Eastern Europe to reassure NATO allies. After the Pentagon presented him with options before he departed Washington --


SULLIVAN: That is something the president will discuss with his allies at the NATO summit on Thursday.

COLLINS: -- the head of NATO says he expects the alliance to boost its presence.

JENS STOLTENBERG, NATO SECRETARY GENERAL: With major increases to our forces in the eastern part of the alliance, on land, in the air and at sea.

COLLINS: Ahead of his address to NATO leaders, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has continued his appeals to other nations for more assistance.

CNN has learned the first deliveries of the $800 million in new military aid from the U.S. have started to arrive in Ukraine.

JOHN KIRBY, PENTAGON PRESS SECRETARY: We have seen indications that the Ukrainians are going a bit more on the offense now. They have been defending very smartly, very nimbly, very creatively.


COLLINS: Now, Pam, as you see, President Biden has just landed in Brussels. He is going to be greeted by Belgium's prime minister. He's going to his hotel for the night, and then tomorrow starts that full day of very intensive meetings with allies to talk about what's happening in Ukraine.

Of course, this comes as the national security adviser told reporters on the trip here that there has been this intense back and forth between the United States and European allies over their dependence on Russian energy. Talking, of course about, the concerns they have, given the leverage that it gives Russia and how to reduce that independence on that energy. That is expected to also be a substantial topic during these meetings tomorrow. And, of course, President Biden will hold a press conference tomorrow night where he will update reporters on everything that happened in this long day of meetings, Pamela.

BROWN: All right. Kaitlan Collins live for us from Brussels -- thanks so much, Kaitlan.

A rare and revealing moment, CNN gets exclusive access to the meeting with the Russian general where Pentagon officials say he got emotional when asked about his family ties to Ukraine. That's next.



BROWN: Taking a look, a live look here at President Biden on the tarmac in Brussels, Belgium. He is there for an emergency summit with NATO. He'll be meeting with some key allies soon.

And staying in our world lead, a CNN exclusive, an inside look at a Russian military leader getting unusually emotional while meeting with U.S. military officials last week. According in the document, U.S. officials said it revealed a revealing moment from a Russian general.

And to CNN's Barbara Starr reports, defense officials say this could hint at growing morale problems inside Putin's armed forces.


BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): With Russia's war in Ukraine stalled, and the U.S. saying morale is a problem for Russian forces, CNN has learned of a rare meeting in Moscow between U.S. and Russian military officials, which according to a U.S. readout of the meeting, contained a quote, revealing moment from Russian Major General Yevgeny Ilyin, a general with extensive experience dealing with Americans.

As the meeting ended, the readout says an attache on the U.S. side casually asked about Ilyin's family in Ukraine. According to the readout, the official said the general's stoic demeanor suddenly became flushed and agitated. Ilyin replied, he was born in Ukraine and went to school in Donetsk. And then said, according to the readout, the situation in Ukraine is tragic, and I am very depressed over it, before walking out without shaking hands.

The attache wrote in the readout, the fire in his eyes and flustered demeanor left a chill down the spine.

Meetings with Russian officials are typically scripted, but the two attaches said they had never witnessed such an outburst by Russian counterparts at an official meeting. The readout by the officials concludes, at the very least, it is clear that morale problems among Russian forces are not limited to front line troops.

The readout describes only the impressions of the U.S. officials, and does not definitively explain Ilyin's behavior. Such readouts are typically too sensitive to be made public.

COL. CEDRIC LEIGHTON, AIR FORCE (RET.): Readouts at this time are important because they give us an insight, a potential insight into what the Russians are really thinking. It also shows that there is some kind of a morale problem within the Russian hierarchy and it extends possibly all the way to the top.

STARR: The Russian ministry for defense did not respond to a CNN request for comment on the meeting or the readout. But the Kremlin has denied reports of low morale among its forces in Ukraine.

DMITRY PESKOV, KREMLIN PRESS SECRETARY: It would probably have to doubt this information. You have to doubt it and you have to think twice, whether it is true or not.

STARR: As Russia faces stiff resistance from Ukrainian forces, if the Americans are correct and morale is an issue, it is a challenge the Russians can ill afford.

JOHN KIRBY, PENTAGON PRESS SECRETARY: We've seen increasing indications that morale and unit cohesion is a problem. And yes, it absolutely translates into potential military effectiveness issues.


STARR (on camera): So, one Russian general, flushed and agitated, according to the Americans, just another mystery about what really may be going on behind Kremlin walls -- Pamela.


BROWN: Barbara Starr at the Pentagon with this exclusive -- thank you so much.

And let's discuss with CNN military analyst and retired Army Major General James "Spider" Marks.

Hi, General.

So, this is clearly a rare and revealing look at the sensitive meeting between Russian and U.S. military officials that Barbara just laid out. What is your reaction to it? What does that say about morale in the Russian military right now?

MAJ. GEN. JAMES "SPIDER" MARKS (RET.), CNN MILITARY ANALYST: Well, on several levels, what it tells you is that the incredible foreign officers in the attache office are doing their job effectively. I mean, we've got this war in Ukraine and you have U.S. military personnel dealing with their Russian counterparts on a real-time basis to elicit this information. That's good news. Number one.

Number two, it tells you distinctly that the Russians have a very deep problem. I mean, the information we're getting from reports from the field, from your contributors and your anchors on the field you get which are phenomenal, and then reports coming from other sources really indicate the Russian forces at the troop level, at the soldier level, are really having some very difficult times understanding what their purpose is.

You know, the Russian military deals in tasks. This is what I want you to do. The U.S. military and our NATO partners deal with tasks and purpose. Why I want you to do it.

The Russian soldiers don't have that. We've seen some incredible videos. Some of the Russian troops driving into a gasoline station and then ransacking the place because they don't have their own chow. They're probably walking away with food they can't get from their own logistics supply. That's a significant problem.

BROWN: Yeah. And it's a big reason why this invasion clearly hasn't gone according to plan for Russia. I mean, you as officials say they've seen indications that some soldiers are suffering from frostbite due to lack of cold weather gear. They're dealing with shortage of food, as you point out, fuel, other logistics problems.

I mean, tell us more about that. Why do you think that is? I mean, clearly, given what we knew leading up to this invasion, this had been in the works for a while by Vladimir Putin and those around him. How can this be?

MARKS: Yeah, two things. First of all, hubris. I think Putin thought this would be a cake walk, 48 hours.

I don't need a senior command and control commander because I'm going to go take Kyiv. It's going to take me a couple days. Kharkiv, you're going to fall immediately. And then down south, we'll get Mariupol and Kherson and eventually we'll waltz our way over to Odessa.

I mean, that's hubris. That's a misunderstanding, a strategic miscalculation that's incredibly huge and Putin is in the intel business and he totally blew it. I mean, that's phenomenal.

And then the second thing is that as a result of that, these soldiers came ill-prepared for any of that. They thought they would be living off, they would get into Kyiv and immediately be welcomed and they would have an opportunity to be replenished in short amount of time. That has been totally exposed.

And these Russian soldiers, I've been cold, I've been hungry, wet, shot at, and I have to tell you. That is an incredible lack of leadership when you can't unscrew and loosen those problems and get support to your front line troops to get them to do the mission and to understand why you're doing it. It is a total collapse of the Russian military.

BROWN: Yeah. To understand why you're doing it. That sense of purpose clearly is missing.

Major General Marks, thank you so much.

MARKS: Thank you, Pam.

BROWN: Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson facing another round of grilling from senators in her confirmation hearing. Why one Democrat says some of the questions were, quote, beyond the pale.



BROWN: Topping our politics lead, another round of heated questioning at the confirmation hearing for the president's Supreme Court nominee.

As Jessica Schneider reports, Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson has been fielding at time scathing scrutiny over her record.



JESSICA SCHNEIDER, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): As the questioning of Supreme Court nominee Ketanji Brown Jackson winds down, Republicans seem to be ramping up their criticisms of Jackson's judicial record, her sentencing decisions in child pornography cases continue to be a flash point.

Senator Lindsey Graham accusing her of giving offenders supervision instead of jail time.

SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R-SC): You think it is a bigger deterrent to take somebody who's on a computer looking at sexual images of children in the most disgusting way is to supervise their computer habits, versus putting them in jail?

JACKSON: No, Senator. I didn't say versus.

GRAHAM: That's exactly what you said.

JACKSON: Senator, I wasn't talking about versus.

GRAHAM: You just said you thought it was a deterrent to supervise them. I don't think it's a deterrent. I think the deterrent is putting them in jail.

JACKSON: Congress has directed courts to consider various means of achieving deterrence. One of them, as you've said, is incarceration. Another, as I tried to mention, was substantial periods of supervision once the person --

GRAHAM: So, if I could --

SCHNEIDER: Democrat Patrick Leahy emerged from the hearing telling reports that Graham's questioning went, quote, beyond the pale.

SEN. PATRICK LEAHY (D-VT): Lindsey Graham has gone twice the amount of time allotted to him. He wouldn't let her answer.


And so, he kept interrupting her. And I couldn't help but think, was this aimed for this hearing or aimed for a political campaign?

SCHNEIDER: An in-depth CNN review shows Judge Jackson mostly followed common judicial sentencing practices in these child porn cases. And a group of retired federal judges including two Republican appointees sent a letter to the committee saying Jackson's record on sentencing is entirely consistent with decisions from judges around the country. But Republicans have not found that reasoning satisfactory, continuing to press their belief that Jackson is, quote, soft on crime. SEN. THOM TILLIS (R-NC): There is at least a level of empathy that

enters into your treatment of a defendant that some could view as maybe beyond what some of us would be comfortable with, with respect to administering justice.

JACKSON: Nobody said to them, do you understand that there are children who will never have normal lives because you sold crack to their parents, and now they're in a vortex of addiction. Do you understand that, Mr. Defendant?

I was the one in my sentencing practices who explained those things in an interest of furthering Congress's direction that we are supposed to be sentencing people so they can ultimately be rehabilitated.

SCHNEIDER: And Judge Jackson continued to stress her near decade of experience as a federal judge.

JACKSON: I approach cases from experience, from practice, and consistent with may constitutional obligations.


SCHNEIDER (on camera): And Judge Jackson made some news of her own today. For the first time, she pledged in confirmed, she will recuse herself from an affirmative action case involving Harvard that will be heard by the Supreme Court sometime in the fall. Jackson serves on Harvard's board of overseers, and said she would recuse herself from any decision that could be there that would question if she would be able to fairly hear the case. Now we know that she will not -- Pamela.

BROWN: All right. Jessica, thanks so much.

Let's discuss now with our panel.

I'm going to kick it off to you first here, Elliot Williams. So, we just heard Jessica report on all this. Republicans have hammered Judge Jackson on how she sentenced child pornography cases. Here's more from that heated exchange with Senator Graham this morning.


GRAHAM: You think it is a bigger deterrent to take somebody who is on a computer looking at sexual images of children in the most disgusting way is to supervise their computer habits versus putting them in jail?

JACKSON: No, Senator. I didn't say versus.

GRAHAM: That's exactly what you said. I think the best way to deter people from getting on a computer and viewing thousands and hundreds and over time, maybe millions, the population as a whole, of children being exploited and abused every time someone clicks on is to put their ass in jail, not supervise their computer usage.

JACKSON: Senator, I wasn't talking about versus.

GRAHAM: You just said, you thought it was a deterrent to supervise them. I don't think it's a deterrent.


BROWN: What do you make of that line of questioning?

ELLIOT WILLIAMS, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Yeah. So, he is really being reductive talking about how defendants are sentenced, because look, defendants can both get jail time and what's called supervised release. And he sort of made it sound like it was all or nothing, and she was saying that necessarily, if a defendant wasn't put in jail, that she was necessarily wanting to see them under supervision.

Look, at the end of the day, Congress created rules for sentencing. Congress created guidelines the judges can follow, which she did, in line with judges all the way across the country. If Senator Graham or anyone else in the Senate does not like that, they ought to change the federal sentencing guidelines and restrict what judges can do. But her sentencing is perfectly in line with what judges across the country are --


BROWN: Eighty percent, right?

WILLIAMS: Eighty percent. And so, it's because it is child pornography and this is heinous, heinous conduct that gets in people's heads and really excites people. Yes, it is splashy at a hearing. But he's really only telling part of the story here. And there is very little to be gained from beating up a judicial nominee.

KAREN FINNEY, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: That's exactly what they've done throughout the whole hearing. They've used these theatrics. They've used very explicit examples, they interrupted her. That was not only an egregious example in terms of what you pointed out from the law but from the perspective of decorum, they said they wanted this to be a hearing where there was decorum. That went out the window.

I can tell you, a lot of polling recently showing women, particularly white women voters, are disgusted by the meanness they see in Washington. So, I think viewers at home watching that exchange are going to be very disturbed.

You saw her trying to answer the question. He cut her off. He was rude. He was ruffling her papers.

He wouldn't even give her the almost of looking her in the eye when she was trying to answer.


It was a completely theatrical presentation, all full of messaging opportunities for the GOP.

BROWN: Right. I mean, the midterms, of course, coming up. So how much do you think is playing into this, Karen? FINNEY: I think that's exactly what they were trying to do.

Throughout this, there have been certain themes -- crime, critical race theory and parental rights. We've heard these over and over again.

BROWN: Abortion.

FINNEY: And abortion.

She did a very good job -- I'm actually prepping a couple of people for other hearings. She did a good job staying in her lane and sticking to matters that would be before her as a judge or that had come before her as a judge. Democrats are doing some messaging, too.

BROWN: That is true. We're seeing a lot of messaging on both sides.


BROWN: And to your point about staying in her lane, one area that we're all listening for is what she would say about expanding the Supreme Court. That is the hot topic, right? Here's what she said. Here's her succinct answer yesterday.


JACKSON: In my view, judges should not be speaking into political issues and certainly not a nominee for a position on the Supreme Court. So I agree with Justice Barrett.


BROWN: So clearly, declining to give an opinion on this.

Adam White, I want to bring you in. How did her answer sit with you? I know that was something that you were looking for, how she would respond to that question.

ADAM WHITE, SENIOR FELLOW, AMERICAN ENTERPRISE INSTITUTE: I was looking for this question and, frankly, I was glad that Senator Sasse returned to it today. I understand why the judge might not speak directly to that court-packing issue. That's an issue first and foremost for Congress.

But it's premised on a debate about the legitimacy of the court, or the lack of the legitimacy on the eyes of its critics. The court's legitimacy is important for our system and it is important to know how a judge sees the court's legitimacy. So I'm glad that Senator Sasse and Judge Jackson spoke a little more to the legitimacy issue, even if she won't speak directly to the court packing question.

BROWN: I guess it is no surprise that she didn't speak more directly to it, Elliot.

WILLIAMS: And, look, I take a slightly different view on it. Although your Wall Street piece, Adam White, it is really, really good. Here's the thing. It is a political question at the end of the day. If

Congress wants to create a Supreme Court of 13, 14, 15, 21 members, that's for Congress to decide. And it is almost like asking, a friend of ours said, asking her to weigh in on her March Madness bracket. Yes, it is a matter of great public interest and the answer she gives might bother people, but it just doesn't matter.

WHITE: Except this is a policy question where judges have a unique insight. They know what it is like to work on a court with other judges. She mostly served on three judge panels. A court of 11 or 13 would change the dynamic of the court. I'd be interesting to hear her thoughts on it.

FINNEY: But again, the purpose of these hearings is to determine her fitness as a Supreme Court justice. So her role is to talk about the law, to answer the questions. But to recognize where we're trying to get into the lanes of political messaging, where, as she said, not something that would be within her purview if she were to be a Supreme Court judge.

And finally, it is adding a black woman to the Supreme Court does add to the legitimacy of the court, because more Americans look at the court and say that court looks like me. Maybe I'm going to pay closer attention and be more interested in what they're doing.

WILLIAMS: One really quick point. The fact that we are talking about this is an indication of how successful Republicans have been in the hearing. Because what she has done is very succinctly and very successfully explained very complicated areas of law but also laid out her resume, background and experience in a really effective way. This court packing stuff is a distraction in getting away from really talking about the nominee.

BROWN: All right. Thank you so much, Elliot, Adam. Karen, welcome back.

FINNEY: Thank you.

BROWN: Good to see you.

Well, up next, CNN gets an up-close reminder of the human cost of the Russian invasion of Ukraine.



BROWN: Back in our world lead, the human cost of Putin's brutal war is growing. As Ukraine's forces combat the invasion, they must also prepare to handle the increasing loss of life, even among Russia's military personnel.

CNN's Ivan Watson reports on how Ukrainian authorities are responding to this challenge.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) IVAN WATSON, CNN SENIOR IONTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The military cemetery stands on a wind-swept field on the edge of the city of Dnipro. Rows of graves, a reminder of the stark reality Ukraine has lived with for years.

All these crosses mark the graves of Ukrainian soldiers killed fighting against Russian-backed separatists in the Donbas region since 2014. These are new graves. For Ukrainian soldiers killed since Russia invaded Ukraine on February 24th of this year.

My guide here is Mykhailo Lysenko, deputy mayor of the city of Dnipro.

MYKHAILO LYSENKO, DNIPRO DEPUTY MAYOR: It's Mykhailo. It is a very young man, a very, very young man.

WATSON: Born in 1997.

LYSENKO: Yes, yes. Very hard for us. For our city and for people in Ukraine.

WATSON: Nearby, rows of freshly dug graves that are so far empty.


These are preparations in case there are more casualties.


WATSON: This deadly war presents a bizarre challenge to Ukrainian officials like Lysenko. On the one hand, they have to fortify city defenses and support the armed forces. And at the same time, provide basic services like garbage disposal and running city buses.

LYSENKO: If you look on our street, now we have a clean street.

WATSON: How do you manage a city and fight a war at the same time?

It's complicated, he says. We have experience because this is the second war we've fought against Russia. The ground war has yet to reach the eastern city of Dnipro and its population of nearly 1 million inhabitants.

Sometimes the city looks almost normal, though there is a strict 8:00 p.m. curfew. Instead of advertisements, billboards defiantly curse at the Russian military. These days, city officials carry guns.

This is because of the war you have weapons.

LYSENKO: Yes, yes. It is normal for me.

WATSON: Why is Ronald Reagan, his portrait in your office?

LYSENKO: Because this guy, he is very charismatical guy. And this guy destroyed Soviet Union.

WATSON: To see another side of the conflict, the deputy mayor brings me here to one of the city' morgues to see a parked refrigerator truck.

LYSENKO: In this fridge, they have 350 dead Russian soldiers. In another morgue, we have 400. I can't open this truck because in this truck, this freeze truck, a lot of dead guys. I don't want to show his face, his legs, his, any pieces of body.

WATSON: He says all the dead Russian soldiers gathered from front lines across eastern Ukraine are stored here in Dnipro before eventually being shipped to Kyiv.

Why is the Ukrainian government collecting the bodies of Russian soldiers?

LYSENKO: They cannot leave this body on our fields, on our streets, or another place. It is not normal.

WATSON: As we speak, we hear something in the sky. What is that noise?


WATSON: Where do we go?

Just now we had a little alert because there was a sound that Mykhailo says was -- sounded like a Russian drone. War dead and the threat of enemy drones, part of everyday life now in Eastern Ukraine.


WATSON (on camera): I should underscore that I cannot independently confirm that there were the bodies of around 700 Russian soldiers in two different refrigerator trucks. The trucks were not opened for us. You heard the reason why.

But it is plausible when you hear the estimates of potential Russian casualties coming from the U.S. government, coming from the Ukrainian government. An additional issue, a challenge for keeping the buses running on time in Dnipro, the deputy mayor says, is because many of his bus drivers have volunteered to join the armed forces because they have previous experience driving tanks in the Ukrainian armed forces, and so the city buses have dropped to about 60 percent of their original mobility -- Pamela.

BROWN: Interesting. Ivan Watson in Dnipro, Ukraine, thank you so much.

International lead, the Louisiana National Guard has been activated to help clean up response from two powerful tornadoes in that state last night. One person died near New Orleans.

And new video from the CNN air drone shows some of the damage from the more destructive tornado. In some cases, houses were picked up and thrown across the street, while others went untouched. The National Weather Service said the tornado stayed on the ground for more than 12 miles, and just 48 hours, there were nearly 60 reported tornadoes across five states. And the chances of tornados are lower today but more regions could

still see storms. So, we'll be tracking that for you.

And coming up from refugee to America's first female secretary of state, a look at the life and legacy of Madeleine Albright.



BROWN: We want to remember a remarkable stateswoman for the U.S. Madeleine Albright died today from cancer. Born in Prague, she was the daughter of a diplomat. Her father was a Czechoslovakian ambassador to then Yugoslavia.

The family fled after the coup in 1948. Albright went on to be the top diplomat for the United States. And as the first female secretary of state, Albright promoted the expansion of NATO eastward into the former Soviet bloc. She also pushed for the nonproliferation of nuclear weapons.

In the face of serious challenges, much like the war in Ukraine we witnessed today, Albright was an advocate for peace around the world. She received the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2012, the nation's highest civilian honor. Madeleine Albright was 84 years old.

Our coverage continues now with Wolf Blitzer in "THE SITUATION ROOM" in Brussels.