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The Lead with Jake Tapper
Blinken: U.S. Can't Confirm Use Of Chemical Weapons But Had Info Of Russia Could Use Chemical Agents In Mariupol; Ukraine: More Than 200 Civilians Evacuated From Mariupol Today; Regional Leader: Up To 22,000 Estimated Killed In Mariupol; U.S. Military Veterans Step In To Train Ukrainian Soldiers; FDNY: 10 People Shot On New York Subway; Suspect Remains At Large; Sources: Police Identify Shooting Suspect After Finding Credit Card; Town Near Front Lines Become Hub For Fleeing Civilians; Children Of Kremlin Officials Live Lavish Western Lifestyles; More Than 75 Percent Of 2021 Adolescent Overdose Deaths Linked To Fentanyl. Aired 5-6p ET
Aired April 12, 2022 - 17:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: The military governor of the region says three people were taken to the hospital. All three are expected to survive. Let's get right to CNN's Fred Pleitgen on the ground in the capital of Kyiv.
And Fred, the Russians seem to be gearing up for this massive offensive expected in the east. How are the Ukrainians preparing? How are they reacting?
FREDERIK PLEITGEN, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Hi there, Jake. Well, the Ukrainians are saying that they're absolutely aware of those Russian troop movements that are coming from the Donbass region and similarly positioning close to where the Ukrainians are in the east of the country possibly trying to cut Ukrainian forces off. The Ukrainians are saying they're aware of that, but they have their own battle plan. And they also say that they are ready and are moving forces to the east as well.
At the same time here in the Kyiv region and in some other regions in Ukraine as well, they've launched a large scale investigation into possible Russian war crimes. I caught up to date with the general prosecutor of this country and we work together at a mass grave in Bucha. And I want to warn our viewers that some of what you're about to see is extremely graphic and very disturbing.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
PLEITGEN (voice-over): Even as Russian troops mass in eastern Ukraine for what the U.S. believes will be a huge offensive, authorities and Kyiv continued digging up bodies. Painstaking work that goes hand in hand with investigating Russia's attack on Kyiv and possible crimes committed by Vladimir Putin's invading troops.
Prosecutor General Irina Venediktova is leading the charge. She spoke to me at the edge of a mass grave in the Kyiv suburb of Bucha.
IRINA VENEDIKTOVA, UKRAINE GENERAL PROSECUTOR: For us, the best motivation is justice. And of course, we understand the Ukrainian want fast justice, true and fast justice. That's why we do everything, but to document all evidence, all facts of war crimes that we have here in Ukraine.
PLEITGEN (voice-over): French forensic investigators are now also on the scene, not because Ukraine lacks expertise but because Kyiv wants to be as transparent as possible in the face of Russian disinformation efforts.
VENEDIKTOVA: We want to do our job absolutely open with standards of international humanitarian law. It's very high standards. That's why when here we have our international colleagues, we understand that they can see everything, they can see a real situation, here real graves, real dead bodies.
PLEITGEN (voice-over): After Ukrainian forces managed to expel Russian troops from around Kyiv and some other areas they'd occupied and Ukraine, authorities have discovered scores of dead bodies. Today, another six found in just one basement outside Kyiv. The prosecutor tells me they are collecting evidence in 1000s of cases.
VENEDIKTOVA: Now we started more than 6000 cases. It's cases -- it's crimes, war crimes, crimes against humanity, aggression crimes. And we started on the first day so far, we started them case about genocide.
PLEITGEN (voice-over): All this as Russia still claims its forces that invaded Ukraine have not harmed any civilians.
On a visit to a spaceport with Belarusian strongman Alexander Lukashenko, Russian President Vladimir Putin again claimed his forces are fighting against would be Ukrainian Nazis in what he calls a, quote, "special operation." The goals are absolutely clear and they are noble, he said. I said it from the beginning and want to draw your attention to that.
(on camera): There are some in the U.S. at the top level who have spoken about a possible war crimes trial against Vladimir Putin, is that something you think could ever be possible and it's something that you're working towards to provide evidence for?
VENEDIKTOVA: Of course. I think that everyone understands who is responsible for this role. That's why we do everything to fix, to document evidences. But we here in Ukraine actually understand who is responsible for all of this.
PLEITGEN (voice-over): The investigators work is complicated by the fact that the war is still going on. And they can't reach many devastated areas like the encircled city of Mariupol where Ukraine's president says 10s of 1000s have been killed. But Irina Venediktova says no matter how long it takes, she will press on.
VENEDIKTOVA: It's actually extremely important because if we will be successful as prosecutors, I sure that we can stop such aggressions in the future.
(END VIDEO TAPE)
PLEITGEN: And Jake, you saw me and the prosecutor general, they're standing at that mass grave with dead bodies all around us. And I can tell you from having been in Bucha for many, many times now that there were a lot of dead bodies that have been recovered there and that are continuing to be recovered. There will Vladimir Putin at that same event that we saw there in that report on that spaceport with Lukashenko said he believes everything that we've just shown there is fake, Jake.
TAPPER: All right, Fred Pleitgen bringing us the facts and the truth in Kyiv. Thank you so much. Appreciate it.
Let's bring in CNN Correspondent Matt Rivers who joins me now in Lviv.
And Matt, we've heard these unconfirmed reports of a chemical weapon of some sort used by the Russians against Ukrainians in Mariupol on Monday. What do we know about this?
MATT RIVERS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, I think at this point it's safe to say that it's murky. We don't have all of the details yet. And the Ukrainian officials themselves are saying exactly that. There's no smoking gun as it weren't quite yet. That said they do have suspicions that there was a chemical attack in Mariupol, this coming from the Ukrainian Deputy Minister of Defense.
And I want to be really specific about her words. She said, we are trying to understand what was used based on the preliminary data. There's an assumption that these could have been phosphorus munitions, but the official information will follow later.
If they are phosphorus munitions, and they're used in a way that attacks civilians or soldiers is clearly a violation of international law. It's clearly a chemical attack. And it's the kind of thing that we've heard from officials since the beginning of this war, both here in Ukraine, in the U.S., the U.K., this is what they had been afraid of, were the Russians to do this.
But again, the U.S. not confirming this so far. There's nothing solid that this actually happened. But it's a suspicion that needs to be investigated.
TAPPER: And the Pentagon Press Secretary John Kirby said today the Russians have proved willing to use chemical weapons in the past. If it is proven that they did, in fact, have the U.S. and Western allies said what the consequences will be?
RIVERS: They say that there will be far reaching consequences, but they are keeping it pretty close to the vest in terms of exactly what those are going to be. I think there's going to be a lot of pressure on countries like Germany, like the United States, like the U.K., what are they going to do to ramp up what they've done so far? Because if chemical weapons, the use of chemical weapons truly is a red line, well, how do you back that up and ramp up sanctions or whatever you're going to do to make it known this is not OK.
So does that mean that Germany will maybe take a closer look at actually stopping energy imports from Russia? Is the United States going to be more willing to send airplanes, you know, war planes into Ukraine? Those are the kinds of questions that I think policymakers in these countries need to be asked if it truly is a red line. And we get the kind of overwhelming evidence that this chemical attack did in fact happen.
TAPPER: Yes. And let's turn to the evacuation efforts because there's been ongoing heavy fighting in Mariupol for weeks. Are civilians in Mariupol, have they been able to get out?
RIVERS: I mean, some, the numbers that we've gotten earlier this week, yesterday, were just a few 100. And if you listen to Ukrainian officials, they're saying 10s of 1000s still need to get out. And that's kind of indicative of what we're seeing not only in Mariupol, but also in other parts of the country. Hundreds, maybe a few 1000 being able to get out but the threat remains for 100s of 1000s of Ukrainians today.
TAPPER: Yes. Matt Rivers, thank you so much for joining us. Appreciate it.
I want to bring in Andrii Zahorodniuk. He's the former Ukrainian defense minister. He's now -- he now serves as an adviser to the Ukrainian government. Thank you so much for joining us, sir.
The military governor of the Donetsk region says as many as 22,000 people, Ukrainians, have died in Mariupol. Ukrainian Marines there say that they're going to hold on, quote, "until the end," but there's no ammunition or food going into Mariupol. How much longer can Ukraine continue to fight in Mariupol?
ANDRII ZAHORODNIUK, FORMER UKRAINIAN MINISTER OF DEFENSE: Well, that's unclear because of course, we didn't know what forces Russians will bring if they're going to indeed use the prohibited weapons like chemical or what they're going to do. So our Marines and the National Guard battalion is holding as much as they can and they're doing absolutely amazing because they've been holding in a safe city for over a month. But it's difficult to say. It's a extremely tough situation there.
TAPPER: Mariupol, if it were to fall, would be the first major city to fall. If that happens, are you worried that Russia will gain control over surrounding southern regions too since the Russian military controls Crimea?
ZAHORODNIUK: Of course, they will try to do that. It's difficult to establish control. They currently already claiming that you have control pretty much a full area around Mariupol and up to Kherson, which they say they control as well. But we can see that this is a very partial control since, for example, a city council has a Ukrainian flag still there and so on. But nevertheless, they will try and they will be very difficult for them, because to keep control over a new acquired territory of like several 1000 square kilometers, of course, it's difficult. And Ukraine is going to do whatever possible to make it way more difficult and in the end, impossible. And we have a chance for the counter offensive there, it's just a question whether we have enough weapons at our disposal. And that gets us to the question of the international assistance and so on, but generally we can make them go. Yes.
TAPPER: Let's talk about that because President Zelenskyy says that the Ukrainians could end the Russian siege of Mariupol if Ukrainian forces were to be supplied with heavy weapons from the West. What specific -- specifically, what kind of heavy weapons would end this?
ZAHORODNIUK: We're talking about the artillery units, we're talking about the tanks, preferably the fighter jets and also what is called multiple launch rocket systems. It's a type of rocket artillery, which is highly effective in this case. And that's what we've been asking to our -- from our international partners, U.S. included and the other ones.
The thing is that if we have a certain critical amount of those weapons and generally the highly capable firepower, we can turn this whole thing until the -- from a random counter attacks or various counter attacks to the systemic counter offensive. And if that happens, we feel that Ukrainian army is way more trained, is way more efficient, and well-staffed, and Russians will run out of options. So, actually, it is a question of having enough quantity of right weapons at the right time at the moment.
TAPPER: Former Deputy Defense Minister Andrii Zahorodniuk, thank you so much for your time today. Really appreciate it.
ZAHORODNIUK: Thank you.
TAPPER: Coming up next, the elite groups coming in here to Ukraine with a special mission in mind. Plus, the other big story this hour, the manhunt for the New York subway shooter. A press conference set to begin in a moment. We're going to come back. Stay with us.
TAPPER: And we're back with some breaking news in our world lead, Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelenskyy has announced that the Government of Ukraine has captured a Ukrainian politician with very close ties to Vladimir Putin. Zelenskyy shared these photos on social media of a disheveled Victor Medvedchuk. Saying that Medchuck was detained in a special operation.
Medvedchuk had already been accused of treason against Ukraine. He was under house arrest before Russia invaded Ukraine. But since then, his whereabouts had been unknown. Some observers believe that Medvedchuk or one of his allies might have been Putin's preference to lead a puppet government in Ukraine if Russia had been successful in toppling Zelenskyy.
Turning down to the military assistance in Ukraine, that goes beyond what the U.S. government is offering, the Biden administration has a $1.7 billion supply list for Ukraine that includes Stinger anti- aircraft missiles, Javelin anti-tank missiles, ammunition, body armor, laser guided rockets, and much more where President Biden says he will not send to Ukraine as active duty U.S. troops. But that does not mean others aren't filling that void.
(BEGIN VIDEO TAPE)
TAPPER (voice-over): Current U.S. service members are not in Ukraine, but U.S. veterans, they damn sure are.
At an undisclosed location in Ukraine, a retired U.S. Marine veteran Colonel Andrew Milburn is training Ukrainians to fight the Russians. Milburn knows what it's like on the front lines. An American who grew up in the U.K., he has served in Somalia, Libya, Afghanistan, and Iraq.
COL. ANDREW MILBURN (RET.), MARINE CORPS VETERAN TRAINING UKRAINIANS: You know, I went through the Battle of Fallujah, but I would rather do that again than confront, you know, about a 12-hour barrage of Russian artillery like the, you know, the one we're seeing.
TAPPER (voice-over): Having retired from the U.S. military in 2019, Milburn runs an organization that brings in other former Special Forces members to assess the needs of various militaries.
After losing the battle of Kyiv, leaving behind devastation and evidence of atrocities, the Russians are now turning to the eastern flank of Ukraine to what will likely be a series of large scale battles.
MILBURN: Ukrainian military at large is more adaptive than the U.S. military. And I think I feel justified, I mean, qualified to say that.
TAPPER (voice-over): This more open less wooded terrain in the East could be more challenging for the Ukrainian military, which was able to rely on guerrilla tactics and calling in targeted strikes in the north.
MILBURN: It is going to be a significant challenge and Russians are much stronger in the defense.
TAPPER (voice-over): Milburn trains ordinary Ukrainians to fight in the resistance as well as training more elite Ukrainian special forces like Mykola.
Ukrainian successes, Mykola says, are because of help from the U.S., other NATO countries and individuals like Milburn.
MYKOLA, MEMBER OF UKRAINIAN SPECIAL FORCES: Also because of your help, we were quite successful with first attack so Russian leave our territory not for their own wishes. They lost a lot of troops, a lot of tanks, a lot of arm because we were using modern European and American antitank missiles. And they lost a lot.
TAPPER (voice-over): He knows what's to come will be tough.
MYKOLA: We need more. Now, yes, you're right, we have powers but it's not -- it doesn't mean that war stopped already.
TAPPER (voice-over): Milburn agrees, the Ukrainian still need a great deal.
MILBURN: They need drones, right? They need drones with a range longer than the DJ1. They need secure radios because they need to communicate. Those are very basic things. They need medical equipment.
TAPPER (voice-over): Even upgrading the basic equipment they already have could make a big difference, he says.
MILBURN: For a lot of times, so just -- they're coordinating by cell phone or by just, you know, kind of regular Motorola radios which can be intercepted, geo located, jammed. So anyone who's been in any Western military will be astounded.
TAPPER (voice-over): But weapons and equipment are not the only need. Training, he says, is key.
MILBURN: They like medical training. And, you know, evidence of that is if you talk to Ukrainian medics, there are some horror stories out there. So, injuries that would be easily survivable in Iraq or Afghanistan by U.K. or U.S. soldiers. Ukrainians are dying from here.
TAPPER (voice-over): Milburn is proud of his time in uniform, he is proud to be a Marine. But there is something purer about this fight, he says, than the others he has fought.
MILBURN: But frankly, you know, serving in Iraq and Afghanistan, especially Afghanistan after the debacle back in, you know, was it in August, there was always a kind of moral ambivalence, there was always a feeling of being an invading army. All right? Even at the beginning of those conflicts, we thought our call (ph) says we're good.
So there was always that -- there was always kind of that dissonance between the idealism that pulled you into the military, and then what you found yourself doing. Here, there's no such thing. You've got one sovereign nation being invaded by another. And yes, to your point, when it comes down to it, it is evil, good versus evil. And this time, I feel very squirreling on the side of good.
(END VIDEO TAPE)
TAPPER: And our thanks to CNN producer, Vasko Cotovio for help with that story. Vital help, couldn't have done it without them.
I want to bring in Matt Gallagher, he's a U.S. Army veteran who served in the Iraq War, and he wrote as a contributor for the latest edition of Esquire magazine.
Matt, thanks for joining us.
So you went in Ukraine last month, you trained Ukrainian soldiers. Tell us about your experience. Do Ukrainian soldiers seem prepared for the fight as Russia now prepares for this big battle in eastern and southern Ukraine?
MATT GALLAGHER, U.S. ARMY VETERAN, IRAQ WAR: So, two other trainers and fellow combat veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan. And I, Adrian Botomberger (ph) and Benjamin Bush (ph), we were assigned to a civilian defense force in Lviv. And we spent three weeks training with kind of everyday Ukrainians soldiers -- not soldiers, bus drivers, welders, teachers, folks who, in some cases have never picked up a rifle before, and train them up on urban combat basics for survivability, you know, because they saw -- we got there very early in March when the offensive to Kyiv was still underway.
And the war seemed like it could be going anywhere to include the western part of Ukraine. And we just felt like it was necessary to give some skills back to these people who never thought they'd be put in such a position to defend themselves, defend their families, but might very well have to.
TAPPER: So President Biden has been emphatic, saying he's not going to send U.S. troops into Ukraine, that has not stopped so many veterans, such as yourself, from stepping up. Has the Biden administration been open to folks, such as yourself, doing so or business have nothing to do with them?
GALLAGHER: You know, one of the best parts of being an American, Jake, is we don't have to wait for our government to give us permission. You know, I'm not an active duty soldier. I got out over a decade ago now. But I still have some general knowledge, then had some real specialist expertise that we could give these people, you know, fellow citizens of a sovereign democracy that are in need that just want the same things we do back here in the states, some peace, some prosperity and opportunity to better life for their children. So we went.
As for coming back, you know, I can only speak anecdotally, I encountered no bureaucratic or government resistance. They asked that customs, if I was transporting any weapons, when they saw the stamps, the Ukrainian stamps in my passport, I was not. And then I was back to my normal life.
TAPPER: You wrote a really interesting opinion piece for "The New York Times" titled "My Advice for American Veterans Who Want to Get on a Plane to Ukraine." You note that so many veterans continue to have a commitment to service even after they leave the armed forces that might be first responders. Some will want to go and shoot a Russian. What do you tell those who want to help? A veteran who says, should I go Matt, should I go to Ukraine?
GALLAGHER: This is so vital, you need to know that you're going to help the Ukrainian people before you get on that plane, that you're fulfilling a need. My friend had a contact at the Lviv City Council. We knew there was a need for us, and so we went.
You know there's a big difference between say an ex Special Forces medic, who has contacts on the ground wants to treat wounded refugees, train up civilians on combat medicine, versus somebody just kind of aimlessly buying a plane ticket and going over there hoping to kind of find some kind of absolution for their private prior experiences in uniform or just kind of wanting to be part of history or, you know, something kind of vague and notional. I understand those instincts, but unless you have a specific purpose already set in place, you're just going to become a burden for a government and the people that he's dealing with far too much already as is.
TAPPER: Matt Gallagher, thank you so much. And as always, thank you for your service. Appreciate it.
Coming up, today's subway shooting in New York. This happened in a busy part of Brooklyn with surveillance cameras likely everywhere. So, why is it taking so long to track down the gunman? Stay with us.
TAPPER: Turning now to our national lead, this morning's routine commute on the New York City subway system turned into a nightmare at about 8:24 in the morning New York time. A man set off a smoke bomb inside a moving train car, pulled out a gun and started shooting as the subway pulled into a station in Brooklyn. Police say 10 people were shot, at least 29 people have been hospitalized, although some have been released.
CNN's Shimon Prokupecz joins us now live from New York where we are waiting for a news conference on the investigation and the manhunt. Police still have not found the gunman. But Shimon, you say they have located a U-Haul truck that they think might be connected to the attack?
SHIMON PROKUPECZ, CNN CRIME AND JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: That's right, they have located a U-Haul truck. It's a van in Brooklyn, not too far from this location, where they are now on scene, police are on scene and they have connected it to the alleged shooter. What were told in just the last few minutes, they made that connection because the shooter dropped his credit card. They believe he dropped his credit card while at the scene here perhaps when he was fleeing, and so they were able to connect them through that credit card.
He used that credit card, sources say, to purchase, to rent this U- Haul, and that's how they made the connection. We're also told that authorities were able to use cell phone video, a video that bystanders had, strap hangers here on the subway hat. And they were able to use that video to connect it to the alleged shooter as well.
Pretty early on, we were given indications that authorities here knew who they were looking for. The question now is where is this person? We're expecting to hear from authorities shortly perhaps on an update on their efforts to find him. But this was a very scary, certainly very terrifying morning for many of the commuters here who heading to work early this morning.
We're told that the gunman had a high capacity, several high capacity magazines. And the only reason authorities believe that he stopped firing was because the gun jammed, and they believe this could have been far worse had the gun not jammed. But the big question now is, where is this alleged shooter? Authorities out here looking for him. And we hope, Jake, to hear from authorities here soon on the latest in the investigation.
TAPPER: All right, Shimon Prokupecz, thank you so much.
Let's discuss this with former New York Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly. Commissioner Kelly, thanks for joining us. As you just heard Shimon report, sources tell CNN the police have identified the gunman because of a credit card that he apparently dropped. So tell us what do you think they are doing right now if they know who did this?
RAYMOND KELLY, FORMER NEW YORK CITY POLICE COMMISSIONER: Well, if, in fact, that's correct, I have no reason that it isn't that, you know, they immediately identify the individual who had that credit card, and then the activity that was on that credit card. Then because of license plate readers, which are really phenomenal, you can drive down to 60 miles an hour and pick up all the plate numbers on the street. Because of those license plate numbers, they were able to quickly locate where the man is.
So, you know, it's remarkable what technology will do as far as helping investigators these days. Information that was put out there, yes, he currently had a Glock automatic. He had two extended magazines. Some had ammunition, one had ammunition, the other did not. So it looks like he panicked. And ran out of the train, went up on the street. And it was not specifically noticed by anybody at that time.
TAPPER: So Commissioner Kelly, if they know who it is, or they think they know who it is, why have they not put out his name and put out his photograph?
KELLY: Well, I think we have to know more details of the case. They may not want to get him to run. We don't know, you know, where he is now. Perhaps the telephones tracing will tell him where he is. But I don't think he want to put that out to the public.
They probably have a reasonable idea of where he is and where he's going to be. So they wouldn't want to put that out to the public at large unless there's absolutely no idea where he might be. So I think I agree --
TAPPER: That makes sense.
KELLY: -- reasonable idea of where he is and/or as I say we will be.
TAPPER: So law enforcement sources tell CNN that a U-Haul cargo van the police as connected with the Brooklyn subway shooting has been located. We don't yet know what the connection is other than the credit card fell out at the shooting and rented that van. It seems like there's likely evidence in that van though, right?
KELLY: Yes, I think it'd be really cautious. As far as I know, they have not entered the van as yet. But obviously, they had an under observation. So evidence undoubtedly of some sort probably in that van.
TAPPER: And they haven't entered the van in all likelihood. Assuming that that's correct, because they want to make sure it's not booby trapped. How do they make sure that it's not booby trapped before they open the van?
KELLY: Well, you know, robots are used in law enforcement these days to do those sorts of jobs. So a robot could open a van. And obviously, they could examine it from a distance. I'm sure the streets would be blocked off. But you're right. That's the reason that they haven't gone in quickly, and smart policing, not to do that in a rush.
TAPPER: Witness descriptions of the suspect, so he was wearing a gas mask, he was using some kind of smoke device inside the train car. This suggests to me but, obviously, I care more about your opinion, that this was pre-planned. How might that play into the investigation?
KELLY: Oh, yes, I think you're right, it was pre-planned. He, obviously, thought the smoke was somehow going to help him escape. But yes, that would definitely be an issue in the investigation. When you get smoke canisters, I don't know. You know, where are they sold?
Perhaps as we said, the individual has some links to fill it up here. Probably investigation is already certainly involve Philadelphia. So, yes, I mean, he has left a trail that is being followed up on quickly. And I think it's just a matter of a short period of time before he's taken into custody.
TAPPER: Former NYPD Commissioner Ray Kelly, good to see you again. Thanks so much for your insights. We'll be right back with more from Ukraine.
KELLY: Thank you.
TAPPER: Continuing with our world lead, while the military struggle focuses on south and eastern Ukraine right now, parts of the country that successfully fought off Russia's first wave are coming back to life but, of course, it is a life that has utterly changed.
CNN's Ed Lavandera visited one such town. It's still near the frontlines of the fighting and it's become a hub for Ukrainian civilians, fleeing the terror of Putin's invasion.
ED LAVANDERA, CNN SENIOR NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): One look at these massive craters in the small Ukrainian town of Bashtanka near Mykolaiv, and it's not hard to imagine the horror inflicted by Russian forces bombing this neighborhood. Bashtanka Mayor Olexander Beregoviy brought us here. He says the Russian plane that dropped the bomb circled over these homes several times before unleashing the explosive attack.
This is a simple peaceful town, he says, with just ordinary people. No military. Farming is what we do here to feed the country and the world.
(on-camera): There was a 70-year-old man in this house peeling potatoes when this bomb struck. What happened to him?
(voice-over): God decided not to take him away, he tells me. The man survived.
VITALIY HOMERSKIK, TOWN COUNCIL MEMBER: (Speaking Foreign Language)
LAVANDERA (voice-over): For more than a week in March, this little town of 12,000 people fought off the Russians any way it could.
Town council member Vitaliy Homerskik put out a Facebook plea that if anyone knew how to fire a cannon, they should race out to help. A humble force of about 100 people push the Russians out. More than 170 buildings were damaged. The charred wreckage was left all over town.
But the mayor tells the story of one fighter who became an instant legend, a 78-year-old man who was told he was too old to fight.
(on-camera): Instead, he made a Molotov cocktail and threw it at a Russian artillery system blowing it up. We've asked to speak with the man but we're told by city officials that they're protecting his identity to keep him safe.
(voice-over): The town might have won the battle but this war never ends. Bashtanka is now a frontline refuge for thousands of Ukrainians hoping to escape. Every day at this church buses drop off refugees fleeing Russian occupied areas just a few miles away. Zakruzetska Ruslana says she left the city of Kherson after enduring weeks of bombardment with her two children and nieces.
ZAKRUZETSKA RUSLANA, KHERSON RESIDENT (through translation): They break into people's homes every night. Drag people out. Beat them up. My neighbors were beaten up. Thank God they're still alive. They're probably doing that to scare people so they're always in fear.
It was horrible there. Everyday people are going crazy, to be honest. It's intolerable. The children, the tension is terrible. You don't know if you'll wake up alive.
LAVANDERA (voice-over): Escaping alive is a dream as we found closer to the front lines. The nearby village of Yavkino (ph) has endured weeks of shelling. (on-camera): You can see the munition and the shrapnel. We can see this building over here peppered with holes.
(voice-over): As we meet with the village headman, it's clear the fighting isn't over.
(on-camera): What is that noise?
(voice-over): Yes, they are firing, he says. Olexander Kovriga tells us Russians fired cluster artillery at a group of young people charging their phones in this spot.
They do it on purpose so people will panic, he tells me.
(on-camera): We understand that there was a refugee, 17 years old, who came here trying to escape and she was killed?
Lydia Dominica (ph) couldn't escape the Russian strikes, a young woman trying to reach Bashtanka. Her mother says she was studying food production and shared these photos so her daughter cannot be forgotten.
LAVANDERA: And, Jake, when we started reporting that story there in Bashtanka, we kept hearing about this 17-year-old killed by Russian strikes, but nobody knew who she was. Nobody could tell us her name. And we spent a lot of time trying to figure that out.
I asked our fixer and translator Costa (ph), who lives here in Ukraine, to help me do whatever we could do track down her family. He worked the phones relentlessly and eventually got to Lydia's (ph) mom and that's how we're able to report to you her name, show you her picture. Tell you a little bit about her. Documenting the atrocities against innocent civilians in this war is vital. Jake?
TAPPER: Another great report from Ed Lavandera reporting from Odessa, Ukraine. Thank you so much for that.
Coming up, the children of Russia's most powerful leaders, the elite, the oligarchs, they're used to living like aristocrats but the good times might be coming to an end. Stay with us.
TAPPER: Vladimir Putin often criticizes what he describes as the excesses of the West. But as Drew Griffin reports for us now, Putin's daughters, as well as the children of other powerful Russian oligarchs, well, they live like royalty, though the good times might be coming to something of an end.
(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) DREW GRIFFIN, CNN SENIOR INVESTIGATIVE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): As Putin's atrocities continue in Ukraine, he falsely blames the West and Europe for the war.
VLADIMIR PUTIN, RUSSIA PRESUDENT (through translation): The whole planet is now paying for the West's ambitions and the West's attempts to maintain its elusive dominance.
GRIFFIN (voice-over): Yet his own adult daughters sanctioned by the U.S. Treasury both have reportedly own property in the West, including this seaside mansion on the French coastal town of Biarritz.
JODI VITTORI, PROFESSOR, GEORGETOWN UNIV. WALSH SCHOOL OF FOREIGN SERVICE: It's hypocritical to derive West and their liberal values and then still rely on the west and their liberal values.
GRIFFIN (voice-over): That hypocrisy criticizing the West while family members live in the West is shared by Putin's inner circle. Kremlin Press Secretary Dmitry Peskov unofficial role is Vladimir Putin's chief liar.
DMITRY PESKOV, KREMLIN PRESS SECRETARY: Russian military are not hitting civil aims, civil charges.
GRIFFIN (voice-over): He spent his life in government jobs, official salary about $173,000 in 2020, yet has been spotted wearing a $600,000 watch, according to an anti-corruption group. His socialite daughter Lisa, went to a boarding school in France, interned at Louie Vuitton and posted pictures of an enviable life in Paris filled with fashion and glamour.
LISA PESKOVA, DMITRY'S DAUGHTER (through translation): I consider myself a person of the world. I was born in Turkey, lived in France, studied in Russia and France. That is, I don't have any favorite country. I love each place in its own way.
GRIFFIN (voice-over): So how does a family live like this on a Russian government salary? Lisa Peskova once wrote a tongue-in-cheek post saying she's the daughter of the main billionaire and thief of the country. The U.S. Treasury all but use the same language when they sanctioned her. And other family members, saying they live luxurious lifestyles that are incongruent with Peskov's civil servants salary, and are likely built on the ill-gotten wealth of Peskov's connection to Putin.
Peskova called the sanctions a witch hunt on telegram, saying accusing family for enabling war is madness. And she's proud to be Russian. Jodi Vittori, Georgetown University professor specializing in Illicit State Financing says it boils down to Russia's current governmental system, kleptocracy.
VITTORI: A kleptocracy is merely a government that is ruled by thieves. And were the policies and decisions made on behalf of those thieves.
GRIFFIN (voice-over): It's a similar story with Russia's Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, officially makes $142,000 a year. But the 27- year-old who's been described as Lavrov stepdaughter by the British government, has been living a lavish lifestyle. Her name is Polina Kovaleva. The Anti-Corruption Foundation says she attended a British boarding school.
Like Peskov's daughter, she's left a social media trail of exotic trips, filthy rich adventures and high style across Europe and beyond. And she reportedly owns a 4 million pound property in London, according to the U.K., where she has been sanctioned for benefiting from association of those responsible for Russian aggression.
Though the accounting is almost impossible to trace, Russian Anti- Corruption investigator Maria Pevchikh is convinced the apartments, the mansions, lifestyles are the real salaries being paid to Putin's allies.
MARIA PEVCHIKH, HEAD OF INVESTIGATIONS, ANTI-CORRUPTION FOUNDATION: The system wants in a way that's in order to keep those people who are willing to be the face of Putin's regime like the ministers, they need to be incentivized. Their salary is not enough.
GRIFFIN (voice-over): Georgetown's Jodi Vittori says the people in Putin's inner circle know, it could all vanish in an instant.
VITTORI: He can turn on any of his regime at anytime he so chooses. Your assets can be frozen, you can go to jail, your family can go to jail, you could find yourself chased out. So moving as much as you can out of the country also just make sense.
GRIFFIN: As a response to this from the Kremlin, Jake, a spokesperson for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs gave us a very narrow statement that neither Putin nor Lavrov have accounts in Britain or anywhere else abroad. Didn't mention the family. And regarding the sanctions on Putin's daughters, that spokesperson said, Russia will respond without fail and will do so as it sees fit. Whatever that means. Jake?
TAPPER: All right, Drew Griffin, thank you so much.
Coming up, the rate of teens dying by overdose in the U.S. has doubled during the pandemic but it is not because more teens are doing drugs. So what's driving the surge? That's next.
TAPPER: In our health lead, disturbing new numbers from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention today, drug overdoses among adolescents in the United States doubled from 2010 to 2021, doubled. Fentanyl, the potent synthetic opioid was involved in more than 75 percent of the more than 1,100 deaths last year.
The lead author of the study published in the medical journal JAMA Notes, that's the Journal of the American Medical Association says this spike is not coming from more teens using drugs from -- but from drug use becoming more dangerous because of fentanyl.
I'm going to be back at 9:00 p.m. Eastern for CNN Tonight with more from Lviv and from our reporters who are on the frontlines of this bloody invasion. Our coverage continues now with Wolf Blitzer in "THE SITUATIOIN ROOM." I'll see in a few hours.