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The Lead with Jake Tapper

Ukraine: At Least 50 Killed In Russian Attack On Train Station; Official: 164 Bodies Found After Massacre In Bucha; Ukrainian Authorities: Russian Troops Discussed Killing And Raping Civilians In Intercepted Audio; U.S. And Polish Military Show Their Strength Less Than 100 Miles From Ukrainian Border; Biden, Harris, & Jackson Maskless At White House Event. Aired 4-5p ET

Aired April 08, 2022 - 16:00   ET



ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN HOST: I don't know what their playbook is for it. I mean, now that we've all taken a breath and the dust is clear, of course he should have left. Of course, he should have left after that assault.


All right. Well, THE LEAD WITH JAKE TAPPER starts right now.

ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: I am standing on a roof top looking out on Lviv on day 44 of Russia's brutal invasion of Ukraine. I'm Jake Tapper. Welcome to this special broadcast of THE LEAD live from Western Ukraine.

We start our coverage tonight with what world leaders are calling a despicable bottom nation. An attack committed by Russian forces against innocent Ukrainian civilians, a missile strike on a train station full of Ukrainian families because they were trying to flee the horrors of Putin's war.

We want to warn you, some of the images we will bring you in our show today, they're graphic and disturbing.


TAPPER: This is the immediate aftermath of that attack in the city of Kramatorsk. That's in Ukraine's east, in the Donbas region. The haunting screams, the sheer panic, bodies being dragged away from the chaos, blood staining the sidewalks.

The regional military governor says at least 50 people were killed, including five children. Nearly 100 others wounded, including children and mothers.

The Ukrainian officials have been warning about a Russian advance on the east, telling their civilians, get out of there. And now, it seems Russian forces have directly attacked Ukrainians trying to make a run for it.

We understand that it can be unsettling and difficult to see these images of death and destruction. But our teams of CNN reporters are spread across the country to bring you the ugly truth of this war, because not long after this strike, the Kremlin per usual, lied, publicly denying any involvement calling this a provocation, falsely suggesting that the Ukrainian military was behind the strikes on its own civilians.

Frankly, if we in the press were not here to bear witness to what the Ukrainians are being subjected to by the Kremlin, who would be?

I want to bring in CNN chief international anchor Christiane Amanpour who is live for us in Kyiv.

And, Christiane, Ukraine says the Kremlin knew full well the train was filled with civilians and they attacked it anyway.

CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CNN CHIEF INTERNATIONAL ANCHOR: You know, Jake, we spoke to the mayor of Kramatorsk shortly after this attack, and he told us that for the past two weeks, at least, this train station has been the hub, the gateway for about 8,000 people per day to flee this area in the east where Russia is redirecting its offensive. So he was saying that they must have known because it has been like this with thousands of people all along.


AMANPOUR (voice-over): You can hear the fear and the anguish. You can see the desperate efforts to rescue civilians after an attack on this train station in the eastern city of Kramatorsk. A crowded platform hit by Russian missile strikes as people tried to escape heavy fighting. Russian forces also struck the station building itself. The head of the railway told CNN. Now, dozens are dead including children and many people remain unaccounted for.

I asked Ukraine's chief of military intelligence for his reaction.

MAJ. GEN. KYRYLO BUDANOV, CHIEF, DEFENSE INTELLIGENCE OF UKRAINE: What can I say? This is another example of criminal activity, of war criminal dictator Putin. It is in our case that I hope that it would be added to the criminal investigation against him in the international courts, conducting the powerful missile strike against the civilian infrastructure during the evacuation of civilians. It is an act of terrorism.

AMANPOUR: In the hours and days before this attack, the station was crowded with thousands of refugees. Kramatorsk has been a hub for internally displaced people in the Donetsk region. Families desperately boarding trains to escape the Russian assault.

Now, body bags and abandoned luggage are all that remain. The hundreds wounded are one step further from evacuation.

Painted on the side of this deadly rocket were the words, for the children. A chilling message the European Commission president tells me just strengthens her resolve to say Vladimir Putin fails in Ukraine.

URSULA VON DER LEYEN, EUROPEAN COMMISSION PRESIDENT: If you look at the attack today, at the train station. I was shown pictures where the shelling had written on a, for our children, which means revenge for our children. So, they are building indeed this awful narrative, as if there would be returning something.


A nightmare.

AMANPOUR: Russia has denied responsibility for the strike, calling it provocation by Ukraine. But the brutality of this invasion is well- documented, despite Russia's military consistently denying attacking civilians.

Kramatorsk was one of the first places attacked when the invasion was launched February 24th.

VOLODYMYR ZELENSKYY, UKRAINIAN PRESIDENT (through translator): Why do they need this war against Ukraine? Why do they need to hit civilians with missiles? Why the cruelty the world witness in the Bucha and other cities liberated by Ukrainian army?

AMANPOUR: On Friday, Ukraine announced ten humanitarian corridors, including one in the Donetsk region. But civilian casualties are increasing every hour that Russia's bombardments continue.


AMANPOUR: And now, as we said, Russia is redirecting its offensive in the east and the military intelligence chief told me what they need now is not light weapons anymore, not just shoulder-fired anti-tank weapons. They need big anti-aircraft missile systems, anti-missile systems and even combat aircraft as well.

And the EU chief, she came here telling President Zelenskyy that they are going fast ahead with their accession to the EU. They're putting that in motion right now. That's a big development -- Jake.

TAPPER: All right. CNN's Christiane Amanpour live for us in Kyiv -- thank you as always.

Ukrainian leaders say they believe Russia is nearly finished with its preparations to begin this massive military operation in the Donbas region. The Kremlin even admitted part of the reason I think withdrew its troops around Kyiv was to bolster this massive attack on the east. Western leaders assert the move is also because the Russian military failed to capture the capital city and other cities in the north.

CNN's Clarissa Ward followed the path Russians took in their ultimately unsuccessful attempt to take Chernihiv, which is once a vibrant city of 300,000 people. Now, take a look at what the Russians left behind.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) CLARISSA WARD, CNN CHIEF INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): This is what remains of Russia's presence in much of northern Ukraine, a hastily abandoned camp by the roadside, just 30 miles in from the Russian border, where soldiers dug in and prepared for their advance. Their foxholes still littered with their rations.

So, this is where it looks like they were doing their cooking. You can see onions, coffee, and water, some cans over there. But what's so striking walking around this camp is that it's just a mess. It seems there was a total lack of discipline.

Around the corner in the village in Chernihiv, Lyudmila Stefanov (ph) tells us residents hid their valuables as Russian forces looted the area.

Five weeks they were staying here. Tanks were all around us. At night, they would shoot at the houses with machine guns, she says. But praise god, they didn't touch us.

As the Russians continue their lightning offensive down to the city of Chernihiv, their tactics grew more brutal. Faced with stiff resistance on the ground, they doubled down on bombardment from the skies.

Ukrainian soldier Bogdan Barditski (ph) shows us what's left of this village of Nova Silhivka (ph) just outside Chernihiv. The scale of the destruction is jaw dropping. Not a single house is untouched.

Bogdan explains this was the final push to get into the city. He's saying this was a Ukrainian position, the Russians bombed it heavily, and then Russian soldiers were actually here in this area just a mile away from the city.

Nikolai Krasnato (ph) never saw the Russian soldiers here, but felt the full force of their assault.

This is my cellar, he says. He tells us his nephew was sheltering from the bombardment there when it took a hit. Pinned down, Nikolai was forced bury him there in a shallow grave in the garden.

We put a cross and we covered it with the shields, so the dogs won't give dig him up, he says.

I feel such hatred for Putin. I want to tear him apart. I lived through 70 years, but I never saw a beast like this.

Many here fear they haven't seen the last of him. On a destroyed bridge, an emotional Tatyana and Svetlana are returning from their first visit with their parents since the war began. They're worried they may not see them again.


We don't know if the Russians will come back to the village where my parents are, Tatyana says. And this is so scary.

In the end, Russia's offensive in the north was a failure, but the scars of its assault remain deep, with the prospect of a return to normalcy still seems far away.


WARD (on camera): You know, and, Jake, the people living in those villages that were occupied by Russian forces for weeks on end, they have survived the worst of it, but their situation is still a huge struggle. These places, many of them are almost entirely cut off still. The roads are often impassable. There are many roads littered with mines. There are fears about booby traps left behind by the Russians.

And Ukrainian forces are trying to get in to each of these villages and insure that people have the supplies that they need because they still don't have power. They still don't have running water. Many of them still don't even have food.

We saw people using bicycles a lot as a way to get around town, because some of these bridges were taken down, actually by the Ukrainian side to avoid allowing Russian forces to get closer into the country and potentially to the city of Chernihiv. But all of this makes for a very tricky and frankly quite desperate situation for these people who simply do not know when they will be fully united with the rest of the country, fully united, as you saw in the case of Tatyana and Svetlana, with their families who they continue to be apart from, Jake.

TAPPER: Yeah. I mean, those conditions are desperation can create real threats to life and limb of their own. Clarissa Ward, thank you so much for that important report.

Still ahead, another firsthand report of the horrors, this time from Bucha as more bodies have been found in areas abandoned by Russian soldiers.

Plus, a show, the demonstration of military might on the ground. CNN gets access to joint exercises between the U.S. and neighboring Poland aimed at sending a very clear message to Vladimir Putin.

Stay with us.



TAPPER: Continuing with our world lead, the prosecutor general of Ukraine says so far, 164 bodies, 164 have been discovered in Bucha. That's the town, of course, outside the capital of Kyiv where a massacre of civilians was discovered after Russian forces had withdrawn.

Joining us now live to discuss is Kira Rudik. She's a member of Ukraine's parliament.

Thank you so much for joining us, Kira. I want to start with your reaction to this morning's deadly attack on the Kramatorsk train station. KIRA RUDIK, UKRAINE PARLIAMENT MEMBER: Hi, Jake. Thank you so much

for having me.

Well, this is one of the next level of Russian crimes. I cannot even describe in words what we feel here, especially given that we as government officials advised people to evacuate eastern regions because we knew that Russians are coming there. And after what we had seen in Bucha and the other outskirts of Kyiv, we said every civilian, please evacuate, because there is no way we can predict what Russian forces will do.

So, right now, Russians are hitting where it hurts the most. They're hitting train stations where the people are trying to evacuate. For you to understand, these are not men who are evacuating. These are not even -- so they are older people with kids. You're taking your grandmother and children and saying, please go away right away.

So -- and have you seen that on the rocket, on the missile that hit Kramatorsk train station, it was written "for the kids". How -- like, what --


RUDIK: -- how in the world, how it begin to happen? I don't have words. I just feel tremendous pain everywhere when we are talking about it.

TAPPER: And you recently visited --


RUDIK: Cruel thing that could possibly happen.

TAPPER: You recently visited the small town of Borodianka, which Russian forces occupied for a month. You wrote on Twitter that the invaders, quote, were genuinely surprised we had toilets in all houses. They also looted washing machines, stoves, kitchen supplies jewelry, clothing underwear, to send it back home, unquote.

Borodianka itself was almost entirely destroyed. Tell us what you saw there, what you witnessed.

RUDIK: So, Borodianka is a small town, but it had all the benefits of civilization, and people who survived there, they were telling that Russian troops, they were really surprised. They said, oh, you have toilet in every house. We don't have that.

They really destroyed, like, everything. I don't think there is a -- there is one or two really buildings that are stayed intact. And I was the most impressed with the kindergarten where, it was done inside with so much love, with hand painted pictures near every child's bed. And it was all gone to thrashes.

So the atrocities there are just unspeakable. You cannot imagine. Like, the part of the homes that are destroyed and the other parts are standing. [16:20:01]

And people are walking around trying to find their loved ones, like, under the buildings, because the destructions are -- they're terrible, that the rescue teams did not find all the people that used to live there. And for many, many days they will not be able to do that.

And I have witnessed people who were sitting just around waiting until maybe they will discover a body and it would be a body of their loved ones. And it was, again, it's unspeakable pain that people are surviving right now.

TAPPER: You've also visited Bucha twice now. Tell us about your visit of Bucha twice there, because local authorities are still counting the number of civilians dead in the wake of the Russian forces leaving. What did survivors there tell you about what they saw, what happened?

RUDIK: So, you know what's the worst thing about mass grave? The worst thing is the amount of people who is coming there with two thoughts. On one hand, they really do hope to find their loved ones in the mass grave, because they have been looking and looking and looking.

And on the other hand, we do really have this small tiny hope that they will not find their loved ones there. And then it would be a miracle. It would be a miracle that the person will magically appear.

With these two thoughts tearing them apart, people are standing there crying and looking at every single dead body that's being exhumed from the mass grave. Would you believe that hurt and the pain that these people are feeling looking at every single dead body, hoping and not hoping that that would be some of their relatives?

I have talked to women who were raped there in Bucha by Russian soldiers. I have talked to woman who was raped by three Russian soldiers after her husband was killed there and her 6-year-old son had to witness it. And she begged Russian soldiers so she could find a place to hide her son, and they said, no. The apartment they stayed at was very small.

The worst thing, one of the Russian soldiers kept coming back on and on for the rest of the time they were there, and he told her he loved her, and he said, I will take to you Russia, et cetera, and she said, I was so scared that he will force me to go to Russia with him.

And it was -- it's just unspeakable that people have to suffer this day after day after day while the rest of the world is taking their sweet time and saying, okay, we'll have another meeting in two weeks about should we or how would not we give Ukraine more weapons? And this what struck me the most is the time when you are under occupation, when you are threatened for your life is going very differently than the time when you are in peace, when you are safe, when you live in developed country, it's just a different world.

And this is why on day 43 of the war we keep asking for the same thing on day one. Give us the weapons so we can protect ourselves, so we can fight Russia back and push them back from our country, because otherwise there will be more Buchas, more Borodiankas. We don't know what's happening in Mariupol.

We do know what's happening in Mariupol -- more atrocity, more pain, more terrible crimes. And there will be more tragedies like in Kramatorsk, because there's nothing right now stopping Russia from creating more of the tragedies like in Kramatorsk, because our skies is almost not protected.

And we do need the protection. Otherwise, they will be just hitting whenever they want with their missiles and people will be dying, civilian people. And this is why we are asking for that particular support for our skies.

TAPPER: Kira Rudik of the Ukrainian parliament, I hope they're hearing you all over the world, especially in Brussels, at NATO headquarters and in Washington, D.C. Thank you for your time today. Thank you for bearing witness.

RUDIK: Thank you.

TAPPER: Coming up, incriminating radio transmissions. More intercepted audio of Russian commanders telling their soldiers to commit these horrors, these atrocities upon Ukrainian citizens. The latest recordings, next. Stay with us.



TAPPER: We're back with our world lead, live from Lviv Ukraine. Ukrainian officials say there is new audio from intercepted radio traffic revealing Russian soldiers talk about killing and raping Ukrainian civilians.

As CNN's Matthew Chance reports for us now, these recordings paint a bigger picture of Russian soldiers who are inexperienced and also seemingly guilty of war crimes. Again, we have to warn you, the images you're about to see are graphic.


MATTHEW CHANCE, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): This is a war with mass digital evidence.


Every Russian atrocity can be recorded as the Kremlin's finding out, every illegal order potentially intercepted and exposed.

RUSSIAN TROOPS: A car drove by, but I'm not sure if it was a car or a military vehicle. But there were two peope coming out of the grove dressed as civilians.

Kill them all, for f**k sake.

Got it. But all the village here is civilian.

What's wrong with you? If there are civilians, slay them all.

CHANCE: Intentionally targeting civilians, something Russia categorically denies, is a war crime.

Kremlin blames Ukrainian forces for the devastation and the bloodshed. But hours of audio recordings said to be of Russian soldiers communicating with their commanders and released by the Ukrainian security services seems to tell a very different story. One of the civilian areas laid to waste by Russian forces on purpose.

RUSSIAN TROOPS: Shell everywhere! Shell the settlements directly, got it?

Got it. That's what I'm doing.

Throw some to the west, dammit, several shells, to those closer to me.

Kulinovka, Riabushki, I think they are working from there, aren't they?

Yes, yes.

Roger that. I will pass on the coordinates now.

Shell them. Shell them a lot to raze these two villages to the ground.

CHANCE: And killing civilians isn't the only excess of which Russian forces are accused. Multiple reports emerged of rape of young women, even children, by rampaging troops. One intercept record a Russian soldier in a tank regiment telling a horrified woman on the other end of the line what he knew.

RUSSIAN TROOPS: Basically, three tankers here, raped a girl.


Three tankers -- she was 16 years old.

Our tankers?



MATTHEWS: But these are not the crimes of victors. Time and again, Russian armor has been ravaged by Ukrainian forces with report of severely disrupted supply lines.

RUSSIAN TROOPS: Do they feed you well?

Yes, OK. We feed ourselves alright. We butchered a dog and ate it. It was OK.

CHANCE: And plunging morale among inexperienced soldiers, some as young as 18, disturbed by the violence and desperate for peace so they can go home.

RUSSIAN TROOPS: We are so fed up sitting here, and I just hope we are not going to get hit.

But you are going to be a veteran after this special military operation in Ukraine. Putin has signed a decree.

What veteran? They promised us we would all get medals, and money with each medal. But I want to go home. I don't need those medals.

MATTHEWS: But instead of medals there are now growing calls for those suspected of war crime to be tried. It may never happen, but forensic teams are in Ukraine piecing together evidence just in case.

Already, there are thousands for who justice must be done.


CHANCE (on camera): Jake, this conflict continues to be absolutely shocking. It's just the conduct of those Russian soldiers appears to be -- well, the just outrageous. And U.S. officials say that the Russians are, you know, doubling down on a recruitment drive, they say, to recruit upwards of 60,000 more soldiers to bolster their forces in Ukraine and elsewhere.

TAPPER: CNN's Matthew Chance in London, thank you so much for that important report.

Also today, a demonstration of the military might less than two hours from the Ukrainian border. U.S. and Polish forces conducting joint live fire exercises. One of the most visible signs of the military ramp-up by NATO.

CNN's Kyung Lah was there as officials opened the exercises to the press for the first time.


KYUNG LAH, CNN SENIOR CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): No words needed. This is the NATO message to Russian President Vladimir Putin. This is the first look at American troops firing weaponry on the ground in Poland since the war in Ukraine began.

U.S. and Polish forces publicly showed off the might of the West in a bilateral live training exercise. One by one, polish tanks lined up heavy artillery, and paratroopers dangled from helicopters, landing on a battleground that's designed to prepare for a war just a short drive away.


The 82nd Airborne Infantry Brigade Team base at Ft. Bragg has been training with American Black Hawks here in Poland for weeks, deployed in mid-February before Russia invaded Ukraine.

As the U.S. soldiers run across the field, a U.S. made Javelin missile launches. It's a portable surface to air system that's been critical for Ukrainian forces in the war.

What we understand is there are two platoons here, 60 American troops taking part in this live-fire act. It's a show of force. We're about just two hours away from the Ukrainian border. The Americans are trying to show that they are indeed working with the Polish troops.

This is just a small snapshot of the greater U.S. force here. A U.S. official says approximately 11,000 U.S. troops are deployed in this NATO country. They're a visible sign of a larger military ramp up near Ukraine.

A senior official tells CNN eight to ten aircraft a day land in airfields near Ukraine with weapons and security assistance material that's moved into the country by truck convoy. This bilateral drill ends with a photo op for the cameras, the two countries side by side.

What is the message you're sending to Russia?

COL. MICHAL MALYSKA, POLISH TERRITORIAL DEFENSE FORCES: We are strong. We cooperate with other forces from all NATO. We are ready for any action. We are ready to defend our country.


LAH (on camera): You may notice that I didn't interview any members of the 82nd Airborne. The reason why is there is a blanket no media policy for them to talk to us. But we did spend time chatting with them.

And, Jake, just a couple of anecdotes. They have been sleeping in tents ever since they came to Poland here in mid-February. It's very cold. They're obviously not seeing their families. But all this is presented to us as a part of the job -- Jake.

TAPPER: All right. Kyung Lah in Warsaw, thank you so much. Appreciate it.

The last time there was a Supreme Court celebration at the White House, it became a super spreader event. How the current White House try to avoid a repeat of today's ceremony. That's next.



TAPPER: In our health lead, today, the White House hosted an outdoor event celebrating Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson's confirmation to the U.S. Supreme Court. The future justice stood side by side with President Biden and Vice President Harris even though both have come in contact with people who recently tested positive for COVID-19.

Dr. Anthony Fauci, the president's chief medical adviser, joins us to discuss.

Dr. Fauci, good to see you. Just yesterday, House Speaker Pelosi revealed she tested positive for

COVID, that was two day after she stood next to President Biden at the White House bill signing. She even hugged him there.

The CDC's guidelines define a close contact as, quote, anyone who was less than six feet away from you for a combined total of 15 minutes or more over a 24-hour period.

Is that guidance still operative? Is the Biden administration saying one thing and doing another?

DR. ANTHONY FAUCI, DIRECTOR, NATIONAL INSTITUTE OF ALLERGY & INFECTIOUS DISEASES: Not at all, as a matter of fact. The contact was certainly close from the photo we saw, Jake, but it wasn't prolonged. Besides, I think it's important to point out that the president is really well-protected. Number one, he's vaccinated, boosted once, and boosted twice.

It is conceivable that the president will get infected. Given the BA.2 transmissibility and the fact that there likely will uptick. But given that people who are one-on-one close contacts with him are all tested before they're with the president, number two, 99 percent of the White House complex staff are vaccinated, and the president himself is vaccinated and double boosted.

So from the standpoint of risk, the risk is not zero, and the president realizes that, but to the extent that you could possibly protect him, I believe we'll be okay. But again, it is conceivable, Jake, that he could get infect. But we're hoping that if that happens, the amount of protection he has from vaccination and double boost, he would get a mild illness if anything.

TAPPER: So, this is something new that we're hearing from the White House. You're saying this today. This morning on CNN, White House communications director Bedingfield also said it's conceivable, possible that the president will also test positive for COVID at some point. She said he's just living his life.

I mean, I don't want to bemoan -- I don't want to belabor this issue, but he's 79. I realize that's a little younger than you, so no offense on that. But he's 79 years old, come into close contact with positive cases. I mean, we've all been told to beware of that, to be wary, to take precautions.

FAUCI: Right. And, in fact, that is correct. Right now the level of risk in the Washington, D.C., area, that the president is following the CDC protocol, and that is when you have a green level, which it is right now, that indoor gathering without a mask is okay.

So he is doing exactly what the CDC is recommending for the rest of the country. And as I mentioned, it's very important to point out that he is vaccinated and boosted twice and following the CDC guidelines.


TAPPER: Yeah. So I also wanted to mention, the White House is very eager to talk

about this new study by the Commonwealth Fund which concludes, looking at the data, that between December 2020 and this past March, U.S. efforts to vaccinate Americans, to get those needles in arms have prevented, according to the study, more than 2 million deaths and 17 million hospitalizations.

That is empirically good news. I should note that Congress just left town without approving new funding for COVID response. That's a Democratic-controlled Congress.

Are you worried about running into issues with testing and booster supplies?

FAUCI: Oh, definitely, Jake. We really do need money. I mean, it's not just talk saying we need it. But over a period of time of months things are going to run out. I mean, what's going to run out are tests are going to run out, the antibodies are going to run out, the antivirals are going to run out.

The studies we're doing to determine the best approach towards the next level of boosting, we don't have to money for. So I mean, these are thing we really need to take seriously.

So I would hope that the Congress, which up until this point has been generous with the administration in supporting what we need to do and supporting it well, but now is no time to just stop that. We really do need to get the money that's been requested, so I do hope that that comes through.

The data that you're talking about, Jake, about the effect of vaccination on preventing 2.3 million deaths and 17 million hospitalizations is just yet again another argument for why it's so important for people to get vaccinated. I mean, we know the data when you compare unvaccinated to vaccinated with regard the hospitalization and death is striking. These data from the commonwealth fund underscores the importance of getting vaccinated. So if ever there was again more accumulating evidence of why it's so important to get people vaccinated, this is it.

TAPPER: Yeah, 2 million Americans that are still with us because of the vaccinations.

Dr. Anthony Fauci, thanks so much. Appreciate your time today.

Coming up, the harrowing story of one group's effort to get orphans out of this war zone. Our next guest knows risks. He's take incoming fire along the way.

Stay with us.



TAPPER: Back to our world lead. Humanitarian workers in Ukraine are risking their lives to try to save the lives of others, to try to help others. All the while, Russian bombs are exploding around them, including my next guest, Mykola Kuleba, who recorded this video.


MYKOLA KULEBA, FORMER COMM. OF THE PRESIDENT OF UKRAINE FOR CHILDREN'S RIGHTS: Friends, thank you so much. We are in safety now. And I have privilege to go with two very nice kids who have seen weapons, shellings. They have seen everything, and now they're going to Poland. They're happy. They're the happiest children in the world.


TAPPER: Mykola is transporting children out of Ukraine in armored vehicles as part of his organization Save Ukraine. One of his transports was hit by Russian shelling early they are week.

I spoke with him earlier about what happened.


KULEBA: Last week during in location, our families with children from Chernihiv from the east and three of Save Ukrainian volunteers died and three more were severely wounded as a result of shelling by the Russian army. The location transport was totally destroyed, and one of our volunteers from the hospital -- he want rescue children and families, and the other in the hospital.

Yeah, and -- and we thank only our drivers, volunteers, and all our team, because we have close 100 people who every day rescue children and families in combat zone.

TAPPER: How many kids have you gotten out so far? How many kids have you been able to evacuate so far?

KULEBA: Oh, for whole period of war, we have evacuated close 20,000 children and families. And for the last two days, only it's close 200 children and families, because every day -- it depends of situation. For example, in that cities we work yesterday, now it's impossible to work because it's very high risk to be killed by Russians.


And children --

TAPPER: We know you're operating around the clock. Go ahead, I'm sorry. You were talk about people with disabilities. I'm wondering what your concerns are for those people left behind.

KULEBA: Yeah. And these people left behind, children, people with disabilities, and the elderly are particularly hard hit. They often stay in houses because they do not have the opportunity to go down to the basement to hide from enemy shellings.

And people are very exhausted, hungry, and many of them need medical care. They were on their verge of survival, under fire for a long time. Families told me how they drunk snow to cook.

It's only yesterday, one family, who we took from the combat zone, told me about this. They sit more than one month in the basement. It's a family with ten orphans. It's a foster family.

And now they are in a safety place and they can have a rest a little, and then we are -- we decide to leave (ph) or -- them permanently or to deliver them to Poland or Germany.

TAPPER: Mr. Kuleba, thank you so much for your time and thank you so much for the work you do. We really appreciate it.

KULEBA: Thank you very much. Thank you.


TAPPER: It was the site of the world's worst nuclear disaster. And now, CNN's team is the first TV crew to get access to Chernobyl since Russian forces withdrew. What did our reporters find? That's next.