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Don Lemon Tonight

CNN Visits A Ukrainian Military Cemetery; Heavy Firefight In Northeast Of Kyiv; Senators Question Judge Jackson In Confirmation Hearing; Putin Spokesman Refuses To Rule Out Use Of Nuclear Weapons If Russia Faces An 'Existential Threat;' One Dead After Tornado Hits St. Bernard Parish; Top Putin Critic Navalny Sentenced To Nine More Years In Prison. Aired 11p-12a ET

Aired March 22, 2022 - 23:00   ET



IVAN WATSON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: This refrigerator truck represents another side of this war. It is parked outside a city morgue. And city officials say that it is partially filled with the bodies of some 350 Russian soldiers. There is another refrigerator truck, they say, that is parked in another part of the city with around 400 Russian corpses. And when you come to this side here, you can smell the stench of cadavers.

The Ukrainian officials say that they are conducting DNA tests of the Russian dead and that they are then going to send these bodies to the Ukrainian capital to eventually be returned to Russia and to the families for proper burial.

Ivan Watson, CNN, Dnipro, Ukraine.


DON LEMON, CNN HOST (on camera): Ivan, thank you so much for that report.

It's the top of the hour. This is DON LEMON TONIGHT. I am live in Lviv in Western Ukraine. Intense fighting breaking out late today between Ukrainian and Russian forces just northeast of Kyiv. The fierce battle captured on video.






LEMON (on camera): So, this latest round of heavy fighting coming as the Pentagon says there are signs Ukrainian forces are going on the offensive in some areas trying to take back territory captured by Russian troops. A spokesman for the Kremlin admitting tonight that Vladimir Putin has not achieved the goals he set for his forces here in Ukraine and refusing to rule out the use of nuclear weapons in Russia if Russia faces -- excuse me, nuclear weapons if Russia faces what he calls an existential threat to its domestic security. Watch this.


DMITRY PESKOV, KREMLIN SPOKESPERSON: You can read all the reasons for nuclear arms to be used. So, if it is an existential threat for our country, then it can be used in accordance with our concept.


LEMON (on camera): Also, President Biden leaves for Brussels tomorrow. On Thursday, he's going to attend NATO's emergency meeting on Russia's invasion of Ukraine.

You see here sitting next to me, CNN international correspondent and anchor Hala Gorani live here in Lviv, Ukraine. Hala, thank you so much for joining us. It's extraordinary, what Dmitry Peskov said, not ruling out the possible use of nuclear weapons. What are officials here in Ukraine saying about that?

HALA GORANI, CNN INTERNATIONAL ANCHOR AND CORRESPONDENT: So, we haven't heard official reaction, but we know that this is what the Kremlin is putting out and has put out in previous weeks because, as you know, Don, Vladimir Putin also kind of engaged in some nuclear saber-rattling a few weeks ago.

He wasn't asked once or twice, he was asked three times, Dmitry Peskov, whether or not his country would rule out the use of nuclear weapons, and he responded, as you told our viewers and your viewers, that if Russia faced an existential threat, this would still be on the table.

LEMON: Yeah.

GORANI: Obviously, if you consider that Russia is suffering some battlefield setbacks, which they are because they've lost thousands of troops, more troops in just a few weeks than they did by some estimates in the entirety of their Afghanistan invasion several decades ago, this is one of the tools that they have potentially to keep people on edge, to prevent NATO and western allies from going further into the battlefield, certainly from imposing something like a no-fly zone because the fear at the end of that is that a direct confrontation could lead to the use of these weapons of mass destruction.

LEMON: It appears like that we've reached a new phase in this war. Ukraine forces are launching counterattacks now. It seems like they're on the offensive, you know, around Kyiv. What do we know about the fighting around the capital? Do you think it is a -- do you believe that it's happening, that they're on the offensive now rather than on their heels?

GORANI: Rather than on the defensive and just trying to just keep the troops where they are. Rather than just keeping them where they are, now it's a question of pushing them back farther.

Now, what you showed your viewers at the top of the hour was video of Chechen fighters, who are volunteers helping the Ukrainian army. They're anti-Kadyrov Chechen fighters. You heard even in that video some "allahu akbar." These are -- these are guys who come here to fight against Russia that waged two brutal wars on their country.

LEMON: Right.

GORANI: Right?


So, they are Kadyrov, who is the Russian puppet, fighters fighting on the side of the Russians. So, you have now -- which happens all the time, by the way. It happens in Syria, it happened in other big conflagrations, that you start having groups fight each other, become some sort of proxy battle. It hasn't happened to the degree of a country like Syria yet, but we are only four weeks in.

LEMON: Well, it's interesting, I think some of our viewers were confused because they heard them say "allahu akbar," and they were like, wait a minute, is that in Ukraine? What is happening here?

GORANI: It's from Chechnya.

LEMON: It's from -- they're Chechens, who are doing this.

Some bad news, more bad news, I understand, from Mariupol. There was a bus that was traveling to evacuate people from the city stolen by Russian forces?

GORANI: Eleven buses. Thankfully, they were empty. So, they were on their way to Mariupol to evacuate some those civilians who have been caught in some of the most just devastating and horrendous fighting in that city. The president said it was reduced to ashes, essentially.

We understand, according to Ukrainian officials, that the drivers and some of the emergency workers on these buses were taken some 15 miles outside of the city. Civilians were not in those buses yet. They were going in. That's what we know so far about that convoy.

LEMON: It's amazing, looking at this footage. Mariupol is just devastated.

GORANI: And it's also being now targeted from the Sea of Azov. So, from Russian warships. They're using longer and longer-range missiles because as their ground troops are stalling and in some cases being repelled, they're having to use much longer-range weaponry, in some cases fired from ships.

LEMON: Yeah.


LEMON: Hala is one of our anchors on CNN international. The international folks know you very well. Occasionally, you are on CNN domestic. And I'm so glad that our viewers are getting to discover, some of them, not all of them, they know you, they know you're there, getting to discover just the fantastic work that our CNN international correspondents and anchors do on a daily basis, and you're often in these war zones covering these very stories.

GORANI: And I should say, our teams in Kyiv --

LEMON: Right.

GORANI: -- and our teams in Mariupol -- not in Mariupol, in Mykolaiv and other places, they're taking tremendous risks --

LEMON: Yeah.

GORANI: -- and doing great work.

LEMON: DON LEMON TONIGHT, "HALA GORANI TONIGHT," is what airs on CNN international, and you'll be back in about 50 minutes or so.

GORANI: Correct.

LEMON: Yeah, to head our coverage, anchor our coverage. Thank you, Hala.

GORANI: Thank you.

LEMON: I appreciate it. I want to turn now to CNN military analyst and retired Air Force Colonel Cedric Leighton, also CNN senior law enforcement analyst and former FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe. Thank you both for joining us this evening. We appreciate it.

So, colonel, let's look at this video. CNN has verified, showing a firefight between Ukrainian forces and Russian military, the Russian military, about 18 miles north of Kyiv. What does it show and does it really show how far this war is being fought? What does it show here?

CEDRIC LEIGHTON, CNN MILITARY ANALYST, RETIRED AIR FORCE COLONEL: Well, Don, yeah, this is a very tactical engagement. And what you'll see here in just a second, I believe, is a grenade launcher, a simple grenade launcher, older model, being used by, as Hala mentioned, the Chechen fighters.

This is very quick. Here, he comes with the grenade launcher right there. And he's going to go up over the railroad tracks that are coming up here in just a second. And he sees a target along with, you know, the other Ukrainians and Chechens that are, you know, clearly holding the line there on the railroad tracks. They have a target in those houses right there. And he just fired. He's coming back to reload. He grabs the grenade right there, puts it in the launcher, and he's going to use this once again to fire directly at a Russian target. This is close-in fighting. And when they do this, they are literally killing people as this happens. So, this is the kind of thing, this is what close-in combat really looks like. And we can see from this that not only is there a great deal of enthusiasm for this fight, but they have a sense of mission. And the morale of these troops, even if they are Chechens, is very high because they're in the service of something that they believe in at this point.

LEMON: Colonel, Ukraine's forces say that they are regaining territory around Kyiv, but in east, Russian forces are hammering cities like Mariupol. What is the situation in the south of Ukraine?

LEIGHTON: So, the situation in the south is really quite interesting right now. So, let's go to this map right here, Don. What we have -- this is Mariupol, which you just mentioned. This is basically hell on earth right now, as President Zelensky and other Ukrainian officials have mentioned.

About 90% of this city has been destroyed. The infrastructure, living space, all of that is practically gone. They're trying to get more people out of there. It's really difficult. And, of course, the Russians have closed in on a lot of this, and Mariupol may very well be in a great deal of trouble.


Now, over here on the western side of the southern front, if you will, is the town of Mykolaiv. Ukrainians have made quite some progress here because what they've done is they've brought back the Russian advance at this point.

The Russians had captured Kherson before. There have been control issues for the Russians in Kherson. And that also shows that there's a bit of a lack of control in this area on the part of the Russians.

But the Russians are going to try to do one thing. They are going to try to go to Odessa. And the fact that they're doing this is indicative of their major goal, which is to take over all of this coastline, all the way through here in order to have basically control over everything that touches the sea, so that Ukraine would become a landlocked country. Odessa, third largest city, largest port, key junction for all the Russian efforts right now.

LEMON: Andrew McCabe, I'm sure that you are just watching this and fixated on what the colonel is saying. He us giving us some very good information. We heard Putin's spokesman today, though, Dmitry Peskov, telling Christiane Amanpour that they're refusing to rule out the use of nuclear weapons. How seriously do you take their nuclear saber- rattling?

ANDREW MCCABE, CNN SENIOR LAW ENFORCEMENT ANALYST, FORMER DEPUTY DIRECTOR OF FBI: Well, Don, I think you have to take everything seriously that you hear from the Russians right now. Their conduct on the battlefield, as the general has just walked through, really showed they're taking no quarter, right? They're taking advantage of every advantage they have, sitting back and shelling cities like Mariupol into complete and utter devastation.

The question becomes, how desperate do they need to be before they actually reach for the nuclear arsenal, reach for potentially chemical weapons and things of that nature? I think at this point, no one has a read on what's happening inside Vladimir Putin's head, but you have to plan for the eventuality that essentially every horrific --

LEMON: Can we talk about the threat here at home, Andrew? The FBI is warning Russian-linked hackers scanned the networks of five U.S. energy companies ahead of Biden's warning that Putin may resort to cyberattacks. The warning said at least 18 other companies were scanned. Do you expect that we'll see an attack in the near future?

MCCABE: Don, I think we have to plan for the possibility of an attack. Nobody can predict with absolute certainty. But there are a few things that we know absolutely. We know that for years the Russians have been spending incredible time and effort to probe the sort of systems that you just mentioned.

So, energy sector. Anybody connected to the defense sector, clear defense contractors, academic institutions, research institutions for this purpose, to understand where the vulnerabilities are so they can get into those cyber systems. You know, salting that ability away for a rainy day.

Well, it's raining in Russia right now. We know that our economic sanctions have had a massive impact on their economy. It's entirely possible that they'll use that cyber leverage to strike back, particularly at those sectors that are similar to the ones that have been targets of our economic sanctions.

So, energy sector, financial sectors, banks, are institutions that I think should be particularly careful right now and really on top of their cyber security game.

LEMON: Andrew and Colonel Leighton, thank you so much. We appreciate it.

LEIGHTON: You bet, Don.

MCCABE: Thanks.

LEMON (on camera): A marathon confirmation hearing for President Biden's Supreme Court nominee, and Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson is facing more of it tomorrow. What she says about how she approaches cases.


JUDGE KETANJI BROWN JACKSON, SUPREME COURT NOMINEE: We have to have people being held accountable for committing crimes. But we have to do so fairly under our Constitution.




LEMON: Today's marathon confirmation hearing for President Biden's Supreme Court nominee, Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson, wrapping up for the day just a little while ago. Judge Jackson explaining what this moment means to her as a mother.


JACKSON: I said in my opening that girls, you know, you had to deal with me juggling motherhood and job responsibilities, and I didn't always get the balance right. And so, I would hope for them seeing me -- hopefully you all will confirm me, seeing me moved to the Supreme Court, that they can know that you don't have to be perfect in your career trajectory and you can still end up doing what you want to do.


LEMON (on camera): CNN's Paula Reid has more from the hearing.


PAULA REID, CNN SENIOR LEGAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): On the second day of her Supreme Court confirmation hearings, Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson forcefully pushing back against GOP attacks, accusing her of being lenient in sentencing child porn offenders.

JACKSON: As a mother and a judge who has had to deal with these cases, I was thinking that nothing could be further from the truth.


JACKSON: The statute says, calculate the guidelines, but also look at various aspects of this offense and impose a sentence that is -- quote -- "sufficient but not greater than necessary to promote the purposes of punishment."

REID (voice-over): Those guidelines, she says, are out of date as they suggest tougher sentences based on the number of photographs received in the mail.

JACKSON: And that made total sense before, when we didn't have the internet, when we didn't have distribution. But the way that the guideline is now structured, based on that set of circumstances, is leading to extreme disparities in the system.

REID (voice-over): But Republican Senator Josh Hawley still used his entire allotment of time to talk about the issue.

SEN. JOSH HAWLEY (R-MO): Judge, he was 18. These kids are eight. I don't see in what sense they're peers. I've got a nine-year-old, a seven-year-old, and a 16-month-old at home, and I live in fear that they will be exposed to, let alone exploited in this kind of material.

JACKSON: This particular defendant had just graduated from high school. And some of, perhaps not all, when you were looking at the records, but some of the materials that he was looking at were older teenagers, were older victims, attempting to take into account all of the relevant factors and do justice individually in each case.

REID (voice-over): Today was the first chance lawmakers had to question Jackson with another big focus being her previous representation of Guantanamo Bay detainees.

JACKSON: Federal public defenders don't get to pick their clients. They have to represent whoever comes in and it's a service.

REID (voice-over): The issue touched off this tense exchange.

SEN. DICK DURBIN (D-IL): You suggested a president of your own party released them --

SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R-SC): I'm suggesting the system has failed miserably, and advocates to change this system, like she was advocating, would destroy our ability to protect this country. We're at war. We're not fighting a crime.

REID (voice-over): Senator Ted Cruz zeroed in on critical race theory, the idea that U.S. systems are inherently racist, using charts and books.

JACKSON: Senator --

REID (voice-over): It was one of the few times Jackson appeared visibly annoyed.

SEN. TED CRUZ (R-TX): Do you agree with this book that is being taught with kids, that babies are racist?

JACKSON: Senator, I have not reviewed any of those books, any of those ideas. They don't come up in my work as a judge, which I am respectfully here to address.

REID (voice-over): Democrats, though, often used their time to highlight the historic significance of her nomination and provide a reprieve for Jackson during the grueling day-long hearing.

SEN. DIANNE FEINSTEIN (D-CA): I think you're doing very well. And as you can see, this is a bit of a tough place.

REID (voice-over): Paula Reid, CNN, Washington.


LEMON (on camera): All right, Paula, thank you very much.

Joining me now, CNN's senior legal analyst Mr. Elie Honig. Elie, appreciate you joining us. This was an intense day of hearings. How do you think the judge did?

ELIE HONIG, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Well, Don, I think Judge Jackson herself put on display the exact traits that you want in any federal judge at any level. You want a judge, first of all, who understands the law, who has respect for the law. Judge Jackson showed a masterful control of the law today and a reverence for the law, a real respect for the law.

You want someone who's going to be careful, evenhanded and empathetic, and you can see that in the way she talked about the cases in front of her, the parties in front of her.

And you want someone who has what you call a judicial demeanor, someone who is calm and in control. And boy, Don, she sat there for 13 hours. She hardly flinched. She seemed as strong in hour 13 as in hour one. She was calm and in control. All those things are exactly what you want in any judge.

LEMON: Republican senators attempted to portray her as soft on crime. Do you think it worked?

HONIG: No, I think it fell flat. This whole attack based on child pornography cases, I think, was really misguided. And we need to have some context here. In every federal criminal case, the judge has to calculate the sentencing guidelines. There's a book. You have to do the math. You come up with a recommended range.

And then the judge, according to Congress, according to the Supreme Court, has discretion to sentence above, within, or below that guidelines. Federal judges constantly, nearly half the cases, sentence below those guidelines.

And in child pornography possession cases, only possession cases, that's all that we're talking about here, sentence below the guidelines nearly 60% of the time, 59% of the time.

So, to attack Judge Jackson for doing something that is done in the majority of those cases, I think that really doesn't get anywhere.

LEMON: All right. Elie Honig, thank you very much. Appreciate that.

HONIG: Thanks, Don.


LEMON (on camera): Vladimir Putin's spokesman talking to CNN's Christiane Amanpour today. That interview is next.


CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CNN CHIEF INTERNATIONAL ANCHOR: The world is afraid -- and I want to know whether Putin intends the world to be afraid -- of the nuclear option. Would he use it?


(COMMERCIAL BREAK) LEMON: Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov giving a stunning interview to CNN's Christiane Amanpour today.


(on camera): These are the big moments.


AMANPOUR: Nearly four weeks into this war, you by all intelligence, I guess, you know, experts are somewhat stalled, certainly around Kyiv and in other parts. There seems to be low morale amongst your troops. There seems to be equipment breakdowns and command and control issues. My first question is, what does President Putin think he has achieved in Ukraine to date?

PESKOV: Well, first of all, not yet. He hasn't achieved yet. And we're speaking about a special military operation that is going on. And it is going on strictly in accordance with the plans. And there were purposes that were established beforehand.

AMANPOUR: When you say he hasn't achieved, President Putin hasn't achieved yet, what do you foresee? Because this was going to be, according to your own side and in the press, in the state-sponsored media in Russia, a pretty quick operation.

It was even suggested that, you know, within a couple of days that -- quote, unquote -- "Ukraine would return to -- quote, unquote -- "Mother Russia." What has gone wrong and what do you see for the next phase of this?

PESKOV: Well, of course no one would think from the very beginning about a couple of days. It's a serious operation with serious purposes. The main goal of the operation is to get rid of the military potential of Ukraine. And actually, this is why our military are targeting only military objects on the territory of Ukraine, not civil ones. Russian military are not hitting civil aims, civil targets.

AMANPOUR: Look, I know you guys say that you're not targeting civilians, and you've just told me it was a special military operation, which is I know what the Kremlin military censorship demands. It is a war and it is an invasion and we're all watching it all over global television, no matter what you tell your own people.

There are so many civilian targets that it's hard to count them right now. And, you know, you may deny it, but even the Chinese, Dmitry, even the Chinese, who are your friends, have expressed a very, very deep concern about civilian targets.

The real question, is what is President Putin's strategic goal in blasting the civilian infrastructure of places like Mariupol, which we are watching turn to smithereens for the last several weeks now? What's the strategic goal?

PESKOV: Well, the strategic goal is to clear off the Mariupol from nationalistic regiments who are there in a heavily-covered environment. And by the way, they are simply not letting people out from the city, from the town. And this is a problem. Because now we're receiving lots of refugees coming from there. And they simply tell us, they're eyewitnesses, they simply tell us that they were used like a shield.

AMANPOUR: Could I quickly ask you, though, I need to ask you this because the world is afraid -- and I want to know whether Putin intends the world to be afraid -- of the nuclear option. Would he use it?

PESKOV: President Putin intends to -- intends to make the world listen to and understand our concerns. We've been trying to convey our concerns to the world, to Europe, to the United States, for a couple of decades. But no one would listen to us.

And before it is too late, it was a decision to start -- to launch a special operation, military operation, to get rid of anti-Russia that was created next to our borders.

AMANPOUR: What? To get rid of Russia?

PESKOV: Anti-Russia. Because Ukraine -- actually, Ukraine started to be -- it was formed by the western countries, anti-Russia.


PESKOV: This is the problem.

AMANPOUR: Okay. Look, Ukraine is a country, sovereign. It's recognized by the United Nations. It's been around for a very, very long time.

But I just want to know, I just want to ask you again, is President Putin -- because, again, the Finnish president said to me that when he asked Putin directly about this, because President Putin has laid that card on the table, President Putin said that if anybody tries to stop him, very bad things will happen.

And I want to know whether you are convinced or confident that your boss will not use that option.


PESKOV: Well, we have a concept of domestic security. And, well, it's public. You can read all the reasons for nuclear arms to be used. So, if it is in existential threat for our country, then it can be used in accordance with our concept.


PESKOV: There are no other reasons that were mentioned in that text.


LEMON (on camera): Just stunning. Stunning. I want to bring in now former U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine William Taylor. Ambassador, thank you for joining us. I sat there today and I watched the entire interview with my jaw on the floor, that Christiane was conducting with Dmitry Peskov. What's your reaction? You heard Putin's spokesperson and the degree of weight Americans should give to this.

WILLIAM TAYLOR, FORMER U.S. AMBASSADOR TO UKRAINE: So, Don, my jaw hit the floor when he said directly to Christiane that they were not targeting civilian objects. He said that just directly. And she rightly pushed back. She couldn't believe it either. So, in that regard and in that conversation, he's not a credible -- he's not a credible witness, as they would say. If he's going to lie like that, then why do we listen to him?

LEMON: Yeah. Agreed. Listen, I think -- well, we do listen to him because of my next question about the threat of nuclear weapons. He said that Russia will use nuclear weapons if faced with an existential threat. Of course, Putin can claim anything rises to that level. So, what do you think he's trying to accomplish with that statement?

TAYLOR: So, I think there may be less there, Don, than meets the eye. I think Peskov was trying to get out of this. I think he was saying that the only way -- he said our doctrine is that the only way we're going to use nuclear weapons is if there's an existential threat to us. He wouldn't say, no one would say that Ukraine poses an existential threat to Russia. No one -- he wouldn't say that.

LEMON: But he is saying, ambassador, with all due respect, he's saying that Ukraine -- he's saying that -- he's saying that Ukraine poses a threat to Russia, which is -- basically, that's why Russia is invading Ukraine, because Ukraine is somehow posing a threat to Russia. Russia has nuclear weapons. Russia's military is, you know -- dwarfs the size of the Ukrainian military.

TAYLOR: Ten times. Easily.

LEMON: Yeah. Yeah.

TAYLOR: You're making exactly the right point, Don. That's exactly the right point. Ukraine cannot pose an existential threat to Russia, for all the reasons that you just said. A, it is a peaceful nation. It has never posed a threat to Russia in any way. B, it doesn't have the capability to do it in any case.

So, this business about existential -- I think Peskov was looking for a way to get out of that question that she was pushing him on by saying the only way that we'll do it is if it's existential. And as you and I just discussed, Ukraine doesn't pose that.

LEMON: Yeah. But I'm listening and I'm thinking his answers are nonsensical. And it is obviously propaganda. He is admitting the obvious, that Putin has not yet achieved his goals in Ukraine. We're told that Putin is enraged over his lack of progress on the ground. How do you expect him to respond now that Ukrainian forces have taken back control of Makariv, just west of Ukraine's capital? TAYLOR: Don, you're exactly right. That's not the only place where

Ukrainians have taken the offensive. They have taken the offensive to push back the Russians away from Kyiv in two different directions and in other places as well, in Mykolaiv. So, there are places where the Ukrainians are making progress and pushing them back.

And you're right, that must frustrate Putin. Again, Peskov said, well, we never really expected to be there in three days. Christiane was exactly right. That's exactly what they said. And here it is, what, day 27. And you're there in Lviv. Day 27 and they're still not even -- and they're being pushed back away.

So that must drive President Putin, his boss, crazy. And he says he's angry. He's angry at the people in Ukraine that want to join NATO. Christiane said exactly the right thing. It's a sovereign nation. It's trying to secure itself. And that's what makes pp angry.


And in that case, Don, he's angry, so he's killing tens of thousands of people, civilians and military, and thousands, tens of thousands of Russian soldiers are dying, that they've now admitted. So, because President Putin is angry that Ukraine might want to join NATO, he's killing people.

LEMON: Yeah. It's a fascinating interview, Ambassador Taylor. We appreciate you joining us. Thank you so much.

TAYLOR: Thanks, Don.

LEMON: Putin critic Alexei Navalny getting slapped with a new nine- year prison sentence. Another Putin critic, Garry Kasparov, joins me now. That's next.




LEMON: We want to get to some breaking news. It's out of Louisiana, as a matter of fact. A large tornado battering parts of New Orleans, the New Orleans area tonight. This video is from our affiliate WDSU in New Orleans. One person, we're told, is dead in the Arabi neighborhood in St. Bernard Parish. And there are reports of some pretty significant damage in that area and also in the Lower Ninth Ward.

I want to bring in now the parish president Guy McInnis. He joins us by phone. Guy, thank you so much for joining us. What is going on there? Because we heard that St. Bernard Parish got hit tonight by what appears to be this massive tornado. What damage are you seeing?

GUY MCINNIS, PARISH PRESIDENT (via telephone): Well, Don, thank you for thinking of us. We had a large tornado come over the river. You're from here, so you know where we're talking about. Started in the south Arabi area and just cut a swath all the way through to the (INAUDIBLE) Canal, which is on the lake side of our parish.

And we have multiple homes. We don't know yet how many. We do know that we have some homes that were leveled. We have homes that were lifted up and put back down on the street. We have one confirmed death. We have multiple injuries that were reported at the hospital. We don't have a number on that yet. We don't have a number of homes.

Tonight, we are looking at a rescue and recovery tonight. Fire department and our sheriff's deputies, they'll be out all night. The overwhelming support from state and federal. We've talked to the governor. We've talked to Congressman Scalise, Congressman Richmond tonight from the White House.

We're just going to -- we've got a long night ahead of us and a long road to recovery, but I feel confident that we will get everything done here quickly for our citizens.

LEMON: The video we're looking at, I mean, it looks pretty devastating. And the tornado, it looks like it was a big one that came through. And you said that one person has died and search and rescue teams are out searching. What more do you know? What more can you tell us, Guy?

MCINNIS (via telephone): What I can tell you, Don, is that this is a serious event here in St. Bernard Parish. You know it's a neighboring community to the city of New Orleans. Like I said, we're going to be staging tonight. And tomorrow morning, we will have a better assessment of how many homes and how many people were affected. But it's plentiful.

We're asking for prayers. We have plenty of resources. And, you know, we know how resilient our citizens here are, Don. You do, too. We're looking to get after it starting at daylight and starting our recovery.

LEMON: So, look, this is all just happening, I know. So, you probably don't know much. But you said you're still working on trying to get everything together. I certainly understand that. Do you know what kind of injuries we're talking about? Do you have any idea at this point, Guy?

MCINNIS (via telephone): I do not know the severity of them, Don. I know the area that I've seen tonight, it's totally devastated in a few of our neighborhoods. So, it's a miracle that we only have one reported confirmed death at this time. But I'll know more tomorrow, Don, and when we will be providing updates.

LEMON: Yeah. Well, look, this is not good news, obviously, and this video just looks horrible. Guy McInnis is the president of St. Bernard Parish down in New Orleans. Listen, we're thinking about you guys. We're going to continue reporting on it. And stay safe. Thank you so much. All right? You guys take care down there.

MCINNIS (via telephone): Thank you, Don. And God bless.

LEMON: Thank you. You, as well. So, back now to our story here in Ukraine. Russian opposition leader and Putin critic Alexei Navalny sentenced to nine more years in maximum security in a penal colony. That's according to Russian state media. The State Department calling for his immediate release and calling today's decision a sham ruling.

He was convicted he was convicted of fraud for allegedly stealing from his own organization. Navalny appearing in court today looking frail after being arrested 13 months ago on a different charge.


So, joining me now to discuss is Russian opposition member Garry Kasparov. He is also the chairman of the Human Rights Foundation and Renew Democracy Initiative. Thank you, Garry. We appreciate you joining us.

Putin's spokesman tells CNN, and I quote here, "No one is afraid of him. If a person is a criminal, he should be in prison." But would he be getting nine more years in prison if Putin wasn't afraid of him?

GARRY KASPAROV, RUSSIAN OPPOSITION LEADER, CHAIRMAN OF HUMAN RIGHTS FOUNDATION AND RENEW DEMOCRACY INITIATIVE: Of course, he is afraid of him. And he is so afraid that he never mentioned even his name. Putin believes that mentioning name of Alexei Navalny could actually bring some evil to Putin's life.

And I wouldn't be so concerned about nine years or 10 years or five years. Everyone understands Navalny will stay in jail as long as Putin stays in power. So, it's amazing that more time Navalny time spends in jail, the more crimes he committed. It's an agony. It's a desperation.

People who marched peacefully on the streets of Russia, they're either dead like (INAUDIBLE) or in jail like Alexei Navalny. But I think this verdict is a demonstration that Putin is enraged with his failures in Ukraine and they just tried to take revenge on someone who is still within his power.

LEMON: Yeah. Garry, I got to tell you that Navalny is defiant on Twitter after the sentencing, writing, nine years. Well, as the characters of my favorite TV series "The Wire" used to say, you only do two days. That's the day you go in and the day you come out.

I mean, Navalny has been vocal even as the Kremlin tries to stifle him. Do you think his voice combined with what is going on in Ukrainian will cause public pressure against Putin to grow inside of Russia?

KASPAROV: Look, I don't think that as of now we can expect the massive protest, the revolt that could threaten Putin's power. It can happen only after military defeat in Ukraine. That's why it's so important to supply Ukraine with all the weapons they need to win the war. Not just to survive another day, but to win the war. They need long-range missiles to hit Russian ships that are shelling Ukrainian cities. Ukrainian victory and Putin's defeat in Ukraine may lead to revolt in Russia because dictator cannot afford looking weak. And then, Navalny will have a great chance of leaving prison because during this chaos, I think many, many things that Putin's down, they will be reversed. So, that's what always happens during revolution.

But again, the number one condition is military defeat in Ukraine that will send a message to all Putin's cronies and henchmen in Russia that his regime is weak and it's going downhill.

LEMON: Navalny has been held in this penal colony prison since February of last year. And before that, he was poisoned with that nerve agent. Yet earlier in the war, he was trying to organize demonstrations using his social media. Putin so far has been unable to silence him. Why is that?

KASPAROV: Look, it seems that Navalny and -- of course, we understand if Putin wants it, Navalny will be silenced forever. It's equal creating a martyr. And I think that people around Putin recognize that. Navalny in jail is bad, but Navalny murdered in jail is even worse.

And I also think that some people around Putin, they're already thinking about the future. Dictator's position doesn't look as solid as it used to be. And I think they want to keep some options open. And Navalny in jail is again might be an option in the future. God knows.

So, naturally, the fact is that Navalny is still alive and can send messages through his lawyers to us. It demonstrates that the system is not -- is not as intact as it used to be.

LEMON: Yeah. Garry, you be well. We appreciate you joining us. And I'm sure you're watching what's happening here in Ukraine and cannot believe all the devastation and destruction. We appreciate you joining us. Thank you so much. Be well.

KASPAROV: Thank you very much.

LEMON: Thank you. And thank you for watching, everyone. Our live coverage continues with Hala Gorani in just a moment.



UNKNOWN (voice-over): This is "CNN Breaking News."

GORANI: Hello and welcome to our viewers around the world and in United States this hour. I'm Hala Gorani reporting live from Lviv in Ukraine where it is almost six in the morning across this western Ukrainian city.

Ukrainian forces have launched a counterattack near the capital that appears to be making some headway against the Russian troops. The Ukrainian military announced that it taken back Makariv from the Russians. That is outside of Kyiv.