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The Lead with Jake Tapper
Russia Says Its Warship "Moskva" Sank In Black Sea; Ukrainian Military: Bridge Destroyed As Russian Convoy Crossed; U.S. & E.U. Pledge $1.3 Billion More In Military Aid For Ukraine; Trains Become A Lifeline For Ukrainian Civilians; NY AG Investigating Possible Gas Price Gouging By Oil Industry; Roma Refugees Say They Face Discrimination As They Flee Ukraine; Elon Musk Offers To Buy Twitter For $43 Billion. Aired 5-6p ET
Aired April 14, 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: Still there are also more signs that a Russian attack on Eastern Ukraine is imminent. A senior Pentagon official telling CNN the first Russian troops that left the North have begun appearing in the southeast, the Donbass region. And the French military spokesman said the expected large-scale offensive could start, he said, in the coming days.
Now the Biden administration is expanding its intelligence sharing with Ukraine, they say, so they can send information on Russia's activities in that specific region more quickly.
Finally, a grim milestone 50 days since Russia started this war and we still do not have a realistic number of just how many innocent Ukrainian civilians have been brutally killed. What were left with are wildly undercounted estimates from the United Nations that said 2,000 have been killed. Ukrainian officials still in the thick of Russian bombardment, they throw up their hands. They say they have no way of knowing the degree of the tragedy as of now. So all that's real and definite, intangible right now are moments like this one.
That's a Ukrainian mom discovering her son's lifeless body, dumped into shallow well after Russian forces left their residential town of Buzova just 30 miles from here where I'm standing in Kyiv. She is heard saying my little son, he's hardly able to breathe because of all the sobbing.
Or take a look at this family. They tried to take an evacuation boat to safety with nothing more than a backpack and important documents. Then Russian rockets came raining down, turning the scene into a bloodbath and killing the 12-year-old and the right of your screen there, Vladimir Nesterenko (ph). Vladimir idolized Michael Jordan. He dreamed of playing basketball.
Then there was eight-year-old Elisa (ph), who watched her grandfather get killed right in front of her eyes. Ukraine's First Lady first flag the story and reports say the little girl's grandfather cradled her in his dying arms to protect her from the blast. And he gave his life serving as a human shield. Elisa was also gravely injured. And she too, later died from injuries at a nearby hospital.
This is what the Russians are doing in Ukraine.
We're joined now by CNN's Fred Pleitgen.
Fred, Ukraine's endured seven weeks of war now, more than seven weeks. It appears there will be another big battle in the east. You spoke with Ukrainian national security adviser. What did he have to say?
FREDERIK PLEITGEN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: You're absolutely right, Jake. The Ukraine has absolutely no illusions that this battle is going to be tough, it's going to be bloody. There's two things that I think really gave them a morale boost. One is that ship being hit but it's also the security assistance that they're getting, especially from the United States and the fact that there's some heavy weapons among that security assistance.
The Ukrainians are telling me they're already moving more forces towards the East right now. And we also saw that firsthand as well.
(BEGIN VIDEO TAPE)
PLEITGEN (voice-over): As Vladimir Putin masters his troops in eastern Ukraine, the Ukrainians too are deploying more forces to try and stop Russia's offensive. These elite territorial defense soldiers gearing up to head east.
We are absolutely prepared for this. We have both fighting spirit and fighting mood. We are patriots of our country and of course, we will fight back the enemy the soldier who goes by the name Vlad, The Rifle, tells me. And now Ukraine's forces saying they've struck the flagship of Putin's Black Sea Fleet, the guided missile cruiser Moskva.
I spoke exclusively with Ukraine's national security adviser.
(on camera): Can you tell us what happened to the cruiser Moskva?
(voice-over): It sank he says jokingly. So far, Russia only acknowledges that the ship was damaged after a fire and now Moscow claims it sank while being towed in a storm.
The Moskva was involved in an out famous incident in a place called Snake Island when its crew told Ukrainian soldiers to surrender. This was the answer.
The Moskva was still there near the Snake Island and was hit yesterday by two powerful Ukrainian made missiles he says. And then a warning to Putin. This is just the beginning, he says, there will be more than one Moskva.
But the leadership in Kyiv understand the next major battles will be different and possibly even more bloody as Russian tanks and artillery pour into the Donbass region. This horde has invaded our country and they think we will watch them destroy us, he says. But of course, we will respond by all means we have thanks to our international partners we have interesting tools. The U.S. and its allies have already provided Ukraine with billions of dollars worth of weapons and are now moving to give Kyiv heavier arms to counter Vladimir Putin's tank battalions. The National Security Adviser says Ukraine needs all the firepower it can get. I would never say that the Russian army is weak, he says, given the amount of weapons thrown there, the number of tanks, armored personnel carriers, planes and helicopters, I would not say this is a weak army. I would say these are strong Ukrainian soldiers who fight back such a powerful army.
The National Security adviser also tells me for Ukraine, the end game is clear. There will be no Russian soldiers in this area, he says, neither in Crimea nor on the territory of Donetsk or Luhansk region. This is our land, we do not need someone else. We are not going to give up.
And that's also what the territorial defense group in Kyiv pledges, ready to bring its forces to Ukraine's east to confront the Russian army once again.
(END VIDEO TAPE)
PLEITGEN: So then you can tell the Ukrainians under no illusions as to what they're up against the firepower the Russians can bring and the brutality that they bring as well. But at the same time, you do see that there is that boost of morale. Ukrainians believe with that security assistance, they might have a chance.
TAPPER: All right, Fred Pleitgen, thank you so much.
With us now to talk about this, Pentagon Spokesman Retired Admiral John Kirby.
John, thanks so much for joining us. So, Russia now says that it's damaged warship Moskva sank in the Black Sea. Is there anything you can tell us to sort out the conflicting claims about what damage? Did the Russians are saying it was just a fire on board and then a storm sank the ship? The Ukrainian say, no, no, we shot it with a two Neptune land to sea missiles. Who is telling the truth here?
JOHN KIRBY, PENTAGON PRESS SECRETARY: Well, we certainly can't -- we're not in a position to officially confirm independently what exactly led to the ships now sinking. But we're also not in any position to refute the Ukrainian side of this. It's certainly plausible and possible that they in fact, did hit this with a Neptune missile or maybe more. I mean, the Neptune has arranged that would have certainly be able to make it reach the Moskva, which was about 60 to 65 miles south of the coast off Odessa. So certainly within the realm of possibility there.
But clearly, as you said earlier, man, this is a big blow to the Black Sea Fleet. This is a cruiser, very, very capable warship with almost 500 sailors on board and a key part of their efforts to execute some sort of naval dominance in the Black Sea. So this is going to have an effect on their capabilities.
TAPPER: I can't even think of the last time a ship this big sank in a --
TAPPER: -- military confrontation. I'm sure it's happened since World War II, but nothing comes to mind.
Can I ask, given the fact that even the Russians confirm that there was an explosion on board, they say --
TAPPER: -- there was a fire and the fire hit ammunition they have. It's likely that Russian sailors were killed in this incident, yes?
KIRBY: I think you have to work on that assumption, Jake. I mean, almost 500 sailors, I don't know how many they got off, we did see indications that there were lifeboats and that some sailors got off the ship. But if it was hit by a missile, even if it was just an internal explosion that cooked off ammunition as the Russians are saying, you're likely going to have loss of life and casualties onboard that ship.
TAPPER: Ukraine's military says that its special operations forces destroyed a bridge as a Russian convoy was crossing near Kharkiv in the northeast of the country. For days, we've seen satellite pictures of these long Russian convoys heading for eastern Ukraine, heading for the Donbass region that seem like right targets. Do the Ukrainians have to just sit and wait for this convoy to start attacking them?
KIRBY: No. And I don't think they will. I mean, you saw in the north, near Kyiv where there was that vaunted convoy we've been talking about for so many days. The reason that got stuck was because the Ukrainians hit it right at the front of the column and then hit it throughout that column of vehicles. And I won't get ahead of the Ukrainians or what they're going to do on the ground, but no, they don't have to sit and wait.
They've got the capabilities available to them. It's just a matter of like what their battle plan is. And again, I don't want to speak for them.
We haven't seen resupply or refit efforts of a quantity like we saw in the north just yet. We are seeing a convoy of vehicles coming down from the north, from Russia, down towards that town of Izium. Now we still assess that that convoy is north of Izium and hasn't made a lot of progress. But it's basically full of command-and-control elements, enablers, maybe some helicopter support. Clearly what the Russians are doing or trying to do in what we call shaping, they're trying to set the conditions for success in the Donbass for some future more offensive operations.
TAPPER: You're expecting a different kind of fighting, we all are, in eastern Ukraine than we saw -- KIRBY: That's right.
TAPPER: -- earlier around Kyiv. The land the land is a freer of woods, it's more clear. How will the new supplies of arms from the U.S. from other NATO countries help with this fight that's coming?
KIRBY: We think that the train there, which is a little like Kansas, it's flat, it's open like you described dig will lend itself for the Russians to use, mechanized forces in columns and open formations, artillery, short range and even long range fires. Those are the kinds of capabilities that you want to make sure the Ukrainians have as well.
And so when you look at that new package the President authorized just yesterday, you'll see how it serves 40,000 artillery rounds to go with it. A counter artillery radar system, which will help the Ukrainians defend against Russian artillery strikes as well as UAVs and even coastal defense vessels to help them in the Sea of Azov. So we're deliberately tailoring this package to try to meet the needs of the fight they have today, because they are fighting in the Donbass today, and the fight that we think is coming in the days and weeks to come ahead of them.
TAPPER: How soon can you get those howitzers and other weapons to the Ukrainians on the front lines where they need it?
KIRBY: We're working on that right now, Jake. We're looking at where the -- these things are, and how fast we can get them there. From the time that President authorizes to the time we can get them into the Ukrainian hands has been, in some cases, as short as a week. And we know that the time is not our friend. We know the clock is ticking here.
We're going to be working on this package just as fast as we were working on the last one. And I suspect that we'll start to have shipments flow here very, very soon.
TAPPER: Do you have to sneak them in? Are you worried that if the Russians see you providing these arms, they will consider those American shipments to be legitimate military targets?
KIRBY: Well, they've already said that they would consider them legitimate targets. So what we're doing is we're being very careful about how the shipments are getting into Ukraine, using various routes from different places and at different times, varying it appropriately. We're doing everything we can to protect the operational security of these shipments, getting them to Ukraine as fast as we can.
And look, eight to 10 flights are flying into the region a day, not all from the United States, but from elsewhere, eight to 10. And usually there are multiple sets of vehicles moving into Ukraine by the ground every single day from various different locations. That has not been interrupted yet. And we want to preserve our ability to keep that flow going.
So again, we'll be in very, very careful. We have not seen any interdiction attempts by the Russians thus far.
TAPPER: Pentagon spokesman and retired Rear Admiral John Kirby, thanks so much. Appreciate your time today.
Coming up next, my conversation today with the chief prosecutor from the International Criminal Court. He discusses his plans to methodically review the evidence they are beginning to collect of Russia's horrific offenses.
Plus, new claims of discrimination from Ukrainian refugees, now just trying to find a new life after escaping Russia's war. Stay with us.
TAPPER: We're live from Kyiv in our world lead, Russian state media claiming a victory in the besieged port city of Mariupol. This video allegedly shows more than 1000 Ukrainian Marines surrendering to Russian forces. Ukraine is denying this report. CNN cannot verify if this is real or Kremlin propaganda.
Still, Mariupol has been one of the hardest hit areas since the war broke out seven weeks ago. CNN's Ed Lavandera spoke with one survivor who has tried her best to deliver aid and offer support to citizens in hiding while running for her life.
(BEGIN VIDEO TAPE)
ED LAVANDERA, CNN SENIOR NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): When the first bomb struck Mariupol, Katya Erskaya thought her most effective weapon would be a gentle smile and the ability to calm terrified families. She lived in an underground shelter, coordinating relief supplies for the trapped civilians of this besieged city.
(on camera): So you're watching your city get bombed and destroyed. People are being killed. You decide not to leave but to help.
KATYA ERSKAYA, MARIUPOL RESIDENT: It's horrible, its animus, didn't allow even children to go out from the city.
LAVANDERA (voice-over): Day by day, the video Katya captured showed life in Mariupol unraveling. She lost touch with the outside world. None of her family and friends outside the city knew if she was alive or dead. Life here was falling into an abyss.
ERSKAYA: It was like middle eight.
LAVANDERA (on camera): It's like the Middle Ages?
LAVANDERA (on camera): It's almost like you could feel yourself running out of time. There was only so much longer you could stay in Mariupol.
ERSKAYA: I thought I will never go from Mariupol until the end.
LAVANDERA (voice-over): On March 16, Katya evacuated. She recorded two short videos on her way out just before seeing a family walking on the side of the road, a mother, grandmother and two young girls.
ERSKAYA: We head to two, three places in our car and we saw this family and we decided to help them.
LAVANDERA (voice-over): One of the Russian military checkpoints, they stopped in front of a soldier.
ERSKAYA: And he show was, go out and we began to turn on our car, and after that he began to shoot.
LAVANDERA (voice-over): One of the bullets pierced the car over her head.
(on camera): But in the backseat was 11-year-old Milena Orolova (ph) shot in the face. The Russians realizing their mistake sent the girl to a hospital. Katya now separated, traveled on without knowing if the young girl survived until,
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: One, two, three, four, five, six, seven.
LAVANDERA (voice-over): CNN found Milena in the basement of a children's hospital in eastern Ukraine after surviving life-saving surgery. For Katya, the relief is overwhelmed by the horrors of what she witnessed.
ERSKAYA: I saw a lot of dead people, a lot of common graves on the street, for example, in my yard. And I started to believe that they're crazy because they were like maniacs.
LAVANDERA (on camera): They were maniacs to you?
ERSKAYA: Yes. Is there really -- they're really crazy, like Nazis in the Second World War.
LAVANDERA (voice-over): After escaping, Katya remembered the videos she recorded before the Russians ravaged Mariupol. Ukrainians protesting outside the now famous theatre that in a matter of weeks would be the site of one of the most grotesque bombings in this war. The theater still intact, the city's buildings unscathed. She sees the peaceful faces of families and children.
The video is hard to watch. Are these people alive or left in makeshift graves around the city? Katya Erskaya doesn't know. And for her, there's only one way to deal with this haunting reality.
ERSKAYA: I decided that I will cry only once the Ukrainian gets a victory.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LAVANDERA: And Jake, you know, one of the hardest things for people like Katya to deal with is that there are still 180,000 people left in Mariupol and the regions around that city. She escaped several weeks ago. She said it was already so dangerous, unimaginable to live in when the street fighting was going on. So, hard for them to grasp just how much the situation there in that city has deteriorated in the days since they've left. Jake.
TAPPER: Ed Lavandera in Mykolaiv, Ukraine, thank you so much.
Earlier today in Kyiv I spoke with the International Criminal Court Chief Prosecutor, Karim Khan. He is leading the war crimes investigation here in Ukraine. And after touring the northern towns of Bucha and Borodyanka, he said, quote, "Ukraine is a crime scene."
(BEGIN VIDEO TAPE)
TAPPER: Prosecutor Khan, thanks so much for doing this. Appreciate it.
So you have been going around the country. You've been to Bucha, you've been to Borodyanka. What have you seen? Have you seen anything that surprised you?
KARIM KHAN, PROSECUTOR, INTERNATIONAL CRIMINAL COURT: Unfortunately, not. I think we have all been seeing the pictures and reading the reports regarding the devastation, the human cost both to property, but really most importantly to civilians, men, women and children. And so, it was an opportunity to see firsthand to verify to try to start a process of collection.
TAPPER: Putin is out there saying it's all fake. It's all a hoax, you're seeing with your own eyes.
KHAN: What we have to do, I think the job is to separate truth from falsehood. Truth always is said to be the first casualty of war. There's competing narratives. There's allegations and counter allegations.
And I think this is why there's a role, an important role for an independent prosecutor's office. We don't have a political agenda. We're not in favor of Ukraine and against Russia or in favor of Russia against Ukraine, we're in favor of humanity.
TAPPER: And you're not in a position right now where you are asserting the Russian military is committing horrific acts or the Russian military is committing war crimes or as President Biden said, Putin is committing genocide. That's not your role right now. You are an investigator getting facts, and you're not ready right now to assign blame one way or the other.
KHAN: Yes, I mean, I don't have the luxury of a politician to speaking in generalities. We have to have evidence for every proposition we put forward. And it requires deliberation. It requires, of course, some urgency to get to the truth, but we're committed to that. But, you know, the principle of Nuremberg, the United States and Russia as well as the other victorious powers, established a principle in Nuremberg, that was very eloquently put in. The crimes are not committed by men, not abstract entities. So we're not looking at Russia or Ukraine, look at individuals. Individuals who have power, mostly men, whether it's rape or whether it's a gun or whether it's a mortar or whether it's a shell or whether it's a missile from an airplane, there are obligations people cannot, under the laws of war, do what they want with impunity.
TAPPER: How is it possible to go from just holding a private or a sergeant responsible versus this is systemic, they were told to do this, and it goes up the ladder and you hold colonels, generals, commanders, President Putin responsible, how does that work?
KHAN: The important thing is, I think it's nobody is above the law, nobody's beneath it. But whether you're a private or a captain or a colonel or a general or a civilian superior, the basic principles apply to you. Nobody gets jail out of free card, nobody gets a free pass. Every individual must act with responsibility in the contract, and there is this personal accountability. It's Not a defense, Nuremberg established it. Superior orders is not a defense, it's not enough to attack a civilian object and attack women and children.
TAPPER: So, the reason that the Nazis were able to be tried at Nuremberg is because they were defeated, right, they lost. It is likely that however this conflict ends, Putin will still be in power. Russia is not a signatory to the International Criminal Court, either as the United States for that matter. So, how can we guarantee that there will be some sort of justice given the fact that Russia is not on board with the ICC, and it's likely that the Kremlin and all its leaders will still be standing when this conflicts over.
KHAN: We can't be naive about things, we need to be realistic. But first things first, collect the evidence, preserve it, analyze it, you know, make determinations based on what it shows, and those determinations can be checked by judges.
Now, in terms of the surrender of individuals, this is an issue we've seen before. Yes, you're quite right about the allied powers after the Second World War but too many arrest warrants were executed in the former Yugoslavia when hostilities were going on. So, it requires collective will, it requires political will, it requires a sense of responsibility and not to, you know, abdicate that responsibility over the next period. It may not be easy, but I do believe with collection -- collective effort, the law can be vindicated, but time will tell. And I take a really pragmatic view.
We have to, and I have to as a prosecutor of the ICC, do my job. Judges then will, you know, do their jobs and check and verify and make determinations that we will respect. This growing realization that our common front needs to be built based upon legality, because it affects Ukraine, but it affects all parts of the world, because of the rules based system and the principles of public international law that have to be rendered much more meaningful, not to judges in their gowns or advocates in the courtroom, but to the men and women and children that you see on the streets and refugee camps that are completely innocent and that suffer horrendous crimes time and time and time again. And we tend to have not only short memories, but also an absence of shame.
TAPPER: Every year on International Holocaust Memorial Day, I read these statements from world leaders, never again, never again. And there's always a genocide going on. Whether Myanmar or any of the other places that you've mentioned.
What do you say to somebody out there who says it's all nonsense, they say never again and then 10s of 1000s of Ukrainians get massacred and the Western powers just sit back and, you know, they send some arms, but they don't really get involved?
KHAN: I think it's incredibly difficult. You're spot on. It's a matter of shame that what you say is true, but it is. At the same time it can't be hopeless. We can't give up hope. Because we have lost domestically and people commit murders and whole variety of crimes.
The issue should be collective well to impose these standards in practice. And it's about progress. Yes, the world is full of contradictions and hypocrisy and double standards, I accept that. But generally, if you look where we are today, in terms of the relevance of international law and international criminal law, for all its defects and shortcomings, I think objectively we're in a better place than we were, you know, in the 1980s or the 1990s.
And I think if we keep working, if we don't give up hope, but be realistic and try to improve the compliance with the law, we'll make progress. Ad Utopia doesn't exist in practice. It's about trying to keep progressing in a way that is meaningful and we don't stop.
TAPPER: Thank you so much for your time today. Appreciate it.
KHAN: Thanks so much. Thanks, Jake.
(END VIDEO TAPE)
TAPPER: An impossible task of moving people and supplies throughout a country under constant attack. How trains are playing a vital role in saving lives here in Ukraine. Stay with us.
TAPPER: We're back live in Kyiv, Ukraine's capital city. Before Vladimir Putin gave the order and the bloody invasion commenced 50 days ago, this country was little more than a name for most Americans. It's actually a pretty large country. It's about the same size as Texas. From here to the front lines in eastern Ukraine or southeast to the besieged city of Maricopa, it's roughly 500 miles. It's a bit quicker to get to than driving from El Paso to San Antonio or from Dallas to Brownsville. Except here fighting and Russian checkpoints can make roads impassable, obviously since the war began. Flying is out of the question. So the safest way to get around in Ukraine to get away from the Russians and the havoc they're wreaking, it's by train.
TAPPER (voice-over): Close to 6,000 war crimes being investigated, potentially tens of thousands massacred. And Russia repositioning for a new assault. These Ukrainians are not waiting for what's next.
SVETLANA, TOOK EVACUATION TRAIN FROM KHARKIV REGION (through translation): A week ago, we were thinking and hoping that it would stop. It will be calmer. But it didn't change.
TAPPER (voice-over): Less than a week after Russia bombed, a crowded railway platform in Kramatorsk, those lucky enough to evacuate on these trains believe the ride was worth the risk. With air travel now non-existent and unexploded bombs and Russian checkpoints on the roads, trains remain the safest way to flee.
MARINA, MOTHER OF TWO FROM SOUTHEASTERN UKRAINE (through translation): It's not only the question of shelling, but the question of safety that some people may come and just take you away. We can't stay.
TAPPER (voice-over): Baby Maxim (ph) and his mother Marina are from Zaporizhzhia, but plan to wait out the war in Germany.
Outside the main Lviv train station, volunteers at this booth answer questions and help coordinate transportation and safe housing in Germany, Poland, Lviv and more, where most want to go, is back in time.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (through translation): We want as soon as possible to continue living as before.
TAPPER (voice-over): Vida and her husband are just two of nearly 4 million Ukrainians. The railway says it has evacuated since the Russian invasion began.
VIDA, EVACUATED FROM BUCHA (through translation): People say on the internet that anything can happen even here. So we hope it will be easy. We left everything behind.
TAPPER (on-camera): Thousands and thousands of Ukrainians fleeing their hometowns come here to the Lviv train station. They try to get accommodations, they can get food here from the World Central Kitchen. There's a fire over there. Wood burning stove heating up water. People have just come with whatever belongings they can take, and their loved ones just trying to get to someplace safe.
(voice-over): Away from the crowds at a smaller train station nearby, the most fragile passengers have their own carefully coordinated welcome. (on-camera): Doctors Without Borders arranged this train. There were a few cars with kids from an orphanage. And now in these remaining cars, there are 10 people, nine of them children, almost all of them wounded in the attack on Kramatorsk. They're getting off the train and getting into these ambulances.
(voice-over): This was not the arrival they imagined when they came to the Kramatorsk railway station last Friday. But after Russians targeted the crowd on that platform, many of these passengers, these children suffered shrapnel wounds so deep. Surgery is required.
Their train to Lviv is outfitted with medical equipment in each car as well as a team of doctors and nurses. Dr. Stig Walravens was the E.R. physician on board for the 24-hour journey, overseeing some complex injuries along the way.
STIG WALRAVENS, ER PHYSICIAN, DOCTORS WITHOUT BORDERS: So they had actually pneumothorax which is air in between the lung and the chest was due to actually a penetrating trauma of a blast.
TAPPER (on-camera): These are the kinds of wounds that normally you see and normally one expect to see in soldiers not in children.
WALRAVENS: You expect to see that in war-struck areas where civilians are also close to the firing line.
TAPPER (on-camera): Pretty tough stuff to see kids hurt like that.
WALRAVENS: Always remain tough, yes.
TAPPER (voice-over): He says his team has been going back and forth on these kinds of medical transports for 10 days. This group of some of Putin's youngest victims safe for now and headed for more care.
Back at the main terminal, the trains keep chugging in and out and across the country. Bringing Ukrainians from the besieged south and the east to Lviv where they can have the small luxury of a moment to cry.
TAPPER: And we were asked to not show you the orphans and to not show you the kids who were so critically wounded in the Kramatorsk train station attack. And we obviously honored those wishes. But I have to tell you, that was tough to say.
In the U.S. today, finally, the new investigation into what many people suspect are drivers being ripped off at the gas pump as oil companies cash in. Stay with us.
TAPPER: In our money lead today, what appears to be a first of its kind, a new investigation launched by the New York Attorney General into possible gas price gouging. A source tell CNN the investigation is broad examining the state's entire supply chain process from oil supply lines to the gas pump.
Let's bring in CNN's Alison Kosik. Alison, word of this investigation comes as oil companies are reporting these eye-popping profits.
ALISON KOSIK, CNN BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: Jake, you're right, oil companies are raking in enormous profits as consumers face soaring gas prices. In 2021, ExxonMobil made $23 billion, shell $19 billion, Chevron and BP, tens of billions as well. Now, New York Attorney General Letitia James is launching an investigation to find out whether the oil industry has been taking advantage of consumers in New York State by price gouging at the pump.
This is a deep dive into the entire supply chain, from production to the pump. It's going to be covering all the steps before the product even gets to gas stations. So not only major oil companies that supply oil to the state. But this investigation is also going to look into refineries that turn crude into gasoline as well as independent operators of pipelines and terminals, plus the manufacturers, distributors, shipping firms and retailers.
The investigation is a reflection of the anger about high gas prices as oil companies in 2021 made some of their biggest profits in years and our forecast this year to earn even more. The current average is $4.07 a gallon which has come down since the record high of $4.33 last month. It is worth noting that oil companies lost enormous amounts of money in 2020 when crude oil crashed below zero for the first time ever.
The American Petroleum Institute says countless investigations have shown that changes in gasoline prices are based on market factors. But even President Biden recently called out the tendency for gas prices to go up like a rocket when oil spikes but only to drop like a feather when crude crashes.
At this point, Jake, it's not clear what if any -- there's any evidence that state authorities have a potential price gouging. Jake?
TAPPER: And Alison, Amazon turn heads today. They announced its first -- their first ever fuel surcharge to sellers, that's not going to sit well with customers.
KOSIK: Yes, especially because Amazon's fee hikes on sellers could translate into higher costs to consumers as those businesses look to pass along that expense. And a memo to CNN, Amazon said it's imposing the new fee because inflation has worsened significantly in recent months. And Amazon spokesperson said the fee only applies to sellers that choose to use Amazon's fulfillment services which includes storing, packing and shipping products.
But this fee, Jake, to sellers comes after Amazon just hiked its prime membership fee $20 to $139. The new fee on sellers, it begins two weeks -- in two weeks on April 28th, when Amazon is also expected to release its earnings report for the first three months of this year. Jake?
TAPPER: All right, Alison Kosik in our money lead, thank you so much.
Coming up next here from Ukraine, the refugee group that says they're not being treated like other Ukrainians who escaped for. They say they're being discriminated against. Stay with us.
TAPPER: In our world lead, more than 4.7 million Ukrainians have been forced to flee the country since the beginning of Putin's brutal invasion 50 days ago. The majority of the refugees traveling to neighboring Poland. But as CNN's Kyung Lah reports for us now, displaced members of the Roma community, that's Europe's largest ethnic minority, they say they're receiving different treatment than ethnic Ukrainians.
KYUNG LAH, CNN SENIOR NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Since late February, when they fled Ukraine, this has been life for these refugees in Poland.
(on-camera): You're just moving from shelter to shelter?
(voice-over): Yes, says Masha Gorniak (ph) who fled a town near Lviv, Ukraine, where her husband fights in the war. Gorniak (ph) says her children have watched as other refugees moved out of shelters into Polish host homes and apartments.
(on-camera): Is there a difference with how others are being treated compared to your family?
(voice-over): A big difference, she says. The help goes Ukrainians with clothes, food, even when it comes to our children. Roma people are treated like, I don't know what, she says.
To be clear, these families are all Ukrainian, but they're not considered white. They're Roma, Europe's largest ethnic minority. Among the millions of Ukrainians fleeing the war, the European Commission estimates 100,000 are Roma. Most of them say Roma nonprofit groups are in Poland.
(on-camera): What do you see happening here when it comes to Roma people?
RAJMUND SIWAK, VOLUNTEE: Big problem, big problem and people, Polish people know as (INAUDIBLE) this gypsy.
LAH (voice-over): Rajmund Siwak, who was also Roma is a volunteer for a Roma relief group in Poland. On this day, he's going from shelter to shelter picking up Roma families.
JOANNA TALEWICZ, VOLUNTEER LEADER: Yes, this is racism. It's a very open racism.
LAH (voice-over): Joanna Talewicz runs the group helping Roma refugees.
TALEWICZ: Nobody wants to take them from different cities, from refugees' shelters, from volunteers.
LAH (on-camera): Across Poland?
TALEWICZ: Across Poland. Forget that you are able to run the apartment for those people. It's impossible. It's impossible even if you have money.
LAH (voice-over): Talewicz's group found three houses in Poland that they can rent for these exhausted families. Fatima Hordiva's (ph) daughter Milana (ph) fell asleep immediately once she was on the bus.
(on-camera): How hard has all of this been on all of the children here?
(voice-over): It was hard in the shelter, she says. Before they finally head to this house, the volunteers stop at another shelter and pick up Oresia Pitula who barely escaped Russian missiles in her suburb outside of Kyiv. She has also been in shelters for the last month.
(on-camera): With all your children and you're pregnant? Seven months pregnant traveling with three-year-old twins and her eight-year-old. The Roma volunteers say Roma families are often larger, creating a different housing challenge in this crisis. But these Ukrainians just like their fellow refugees have husbands fighting in the war, and children they're trying to protect.
TALEWICZ: I thought that during the war, you know, during these terrible circumstances, we need to help all refugees. I never thought that we will have a deal with a racist during the war. Yes. And it was nice. It was very, very nice.
LAH: CNN has reached out to the European Commission and multiple levels of the Polish government. We did hear back from local provincial office here in Warsaw that said it had not received any complaints from the Roma community, but that any complaints would be investigated.
Now E.U. representatives have said that they visited Poland and other border countries in early March and that, quote, it did not witness any incidents of discrimination or racism.
Kyung Lah, CNN, Warsaw, Poland.
TAPPER: And our thanks to Kyung Lah. After Kyung filed that report, CNN did hear back from the Polish Interior Ministry. They say that they are in, quote, constant contact with representatives of Roma organizations, unquote. A $43 billion offer Twitter might just refuse? That's next.
TAPPER: In our tech lead, the richest man in the world tells Twitter take it or leave it. Elon Musk offering to buy the social media company for $43 billion in cash or $54.20 a share. This after Musk became Twitter's largest shareholder last week. Now, the takeover bid is about $9 more than the stock's current market price though it is below its 52 week high. If this offer is not accepted, Musk says he will reconsider his position as a shareholder.
Critics say Musk is not thought through the challenges of moderating content on Twitter or how he would finance the hostile takeover. Musk says he wants this to be a free speech platform.
I'll be back at 9:00 p.m. Eastern for CNN Tonight with more live from Kyiv and from our reporters on the frontlines of this bloody invasion. Our coverage continues now with Jim Acosta in for Wolf Blitzer in "THE SITUATION ROOM."