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Don Lemon Tonight

Russia Says First Phase Of War Is Over As Its Advances In Ukraine Appear To Have Stalled; President Joe Biden Visits Poland; Mercenaries Believed To Be In Ukraine To Kill Zelenskyy; American In Kyiv Shares His Experience On The Front Lines; Escaping Mariupol; Rock Star Becomes Lieutenant In The Army; Reporter's Notebook: Week Four At War, Voices Of Ukraine. Aired 11p-12a ET

Aired March 25, 2022 - 23:00   ET




DON LEMON, CNN HOST (on camera): This is DON LEMON TONIGHT. I am live in Western Ukraine in Lviv. Tonight, Russia is claiming the first phase of its invasion is complete and it will now focus on Eastern Ukraine as a senior U.S. defense official says Russia's advance on Kyiv has stopped. The messaging, well, it could just be the Russian military trying to save face in the midst of fierce counterattacks by Ukrainian forces.

Even so, Russian missiles are still inflicting severe damage, blowing up a fuel depot near Ukraine's capital.

President Biden in Poland today meeting with troops deployed along NATO's eastern edge as a clearly visible deterrent to Vladimir Putin and telling soldiers, the stakes of the war in Ukraine go well beyond its borders.


JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: What you're engaging is much more than just whether or not you can alleviate the pain and suffering of the people of Ukraine. We're in a new phase. Your generation, we're at an inflection point.


LEMON (on camera): CNN's Hala Gorani joins me now live in Lviv, Ukraine. Hala, hello to you. A top Russian general is saying that the first phase of this war is over, but there is widespread bombing and destruction still happening in Ukraine.

HALA GORANI, CNN INTERNATIONAL ANCHOR AND CORRESPONDENT: Right, and it's an interesting statement because I'm looking at the exact wording here.

In general, the statement goes, the main tasks of the first stage of the operation have been completed. The combat potential of the armed forces of Ukraine has been significantly reduced -- now, that's obviously the Russian perspective, that is something that they would say -- allowing us to focus the main efforts on achieving the main goal, which is the liberation of Donbas.

Now, that suddenly has become the main goal. It wasn't the main goal in the beginning. The main goal was to blitz into Kyiv, remove Zelenskyy, put their own people in place. They tried to do it very locally in some small municipalities and small towns where we saw, for instance, mayors getting abducted and then Russian puppets put in place.

What does this mean really, I think, is the big question, and it could mean that the Russians are trying to, as you said at the top of the hour, save face by changing the initial goal of the operation to make it moving the goalpost, to make it look as though somehow, they are achieving their targets, their objectives, when in fact we know and we've been reporting for a month now, the Ukrainians have resisted mightily, especially in big cities like Kyiv --

LEMON: Yeah.

GORANI: -- where the Russians have not only entered, they've also been in some cases repelled.

So, I think it's an interesting statement to make at this stage, one month in, especially as we continue to see on lower levels, though unproductive, talks between the Russian and the Ukrainian sides.

LEMON (on camera): I want to play what the Ukrainian president, Volodymyr Zelenskyy, had to say about Russian soldiers who have been killed in this war. Watch this, Hala.


VOLODYMYR ZELENSKYY, PRESIDENT OF UKRAINE (through translator): Sixteen thousand of Russian military are lost. Why is it so?


LEMON (on camera): So, CNN cannot confirm this number, but the scale of Russian losses is much higher than they anticipated, much higher than anticipated.

GORANI: Yes. And the Russians are saying that they -- they're acknowledging finally losses of 1,351 military personnel killed and a little under 4,000 wounded. That really according to all the estimates that we're hearing from the Ukrainians, which we can't confirm, but also NATO assessments is much lower. We might be looking at over 15, 16,000 Russian deaths.


And if the Russians are saying 1,351, well, our own reporters on the ground -- you may remember, Ivan Watson did a story on one particular city in the center burying its own dead, but also storing Russian bodies in refrigerator trucks because they want to send them back --

LEMON: Yeah.

GORANI: -- to Russia, and the mayor of that one locality saying, in this truck alone, there are 300 Russian bodies.

So, it does appear as though the Russians are trying to underestimate how many losses they've taken, but the acknowledgement itself is noteworthy.

LEMON: They are downplaying --


LEMON: -- their deaths. They are.


LEMON: So, Hala is going to be back at the top of the hour. You have to watch her amazing coverage.

GORANI: It is a bit cold.

LEMON: It is a bit cold.

GORANI: But we get through it. We get through it.

LEMON: When I finish, I watch you, and I fall asleep. Thank you.

GORANI: Thank you.

LEMON: Thank you, Hala. I appreciate it.

A Ukrainian official claims Russia has turned to a group of mercenaries believed to be linked to the Kremlin to assist in its war efforts. Their main goal allegedly to assassinate the Ukrainian president, Volodymyr Zelenskyy.

CNN's David McKenzie reports now.



DAVID MCKENZIE, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): A Russian mercenary takes a selfie video in Syria. It's a recruitment- style pitch. Allegedly for the notorious Wagner Group, a brutal force believed to be linked to the Kremlin.

In the shadows of Russia's invasion of Ukraine, a senior Ukrainian defense official tells us that Wagner contractors were in the country and had a very specific mission.

(On camera): What is the objective, do you think, in Ukraine right now?

MARKYAN LUBKIVSKY, ADVISER TO THE MINISTER OF DEFENCE OF UKRAINE: They wanted to assassinate the leadership of Ukraine, our president and prime minister. So that was the goal of the couple of groups, couple of people who were sent to Ukraine without any success.

ZELENSKYY (through translator): I am here. We are not putting down arms.

MCKENZIE (voice-over): The primary target, he says, President Volodymyr Zelenskyy. Ukraine's military says documentary evidence gathered by intelligence officials and special forces outlines their alleged mission. He says several Wagner operatives have been eliminated, identified by their unique dog tags. CNN couldn't independently corroborate the account.

LUBKIVSKY: We need to find all these people and they need to go to the court. They're absolutely illegal.

MCKENZIE (voice-over): Wagner contractors surfaced in Eastern Ukraine in 2014, exposed by research groups and CNN investigations. Their operations spanned the Middle East and Africa.

U.S. officials accused Wagner of multiple human rights abuses in multiple countries. In this disturbing 2017 video, investigated by CNN, Wagner mercenaries appear to be torturing and murdering a Syrian man as they make jokes. The Kremlin said the incident had nothing to do with the Russian military operations in Syria and they've repeatedly denied any links to Wagner.

U.S. officials say that Wagner was started by this man, Dmitry Utkin, a veteran of the Chechen conflict and allegedly bankrolled by businessman Yevgeny Prigozhin, an oligarch so close to Russia's leader he is nicknamed Putin's chef, under multiple U.S. sanctions. Prigozhin denies any involvement in Wagner.

UNKNOWN: They want to fight.

MCKENZIE (voice-over): But this senior researcher at the Dossier Center says Wagner is Putin's private army. We agreed to hide their identity for their safety. They've spent years investigating Wagner's links to the Kremlin.

UNKNOWN: They operate without any law, without any rules. They can do whatever they want. Then when there is a call to MOD or there is a call to Mr. Putin with regards to this particular country, the response will be these are individuals, they have no link to the Kremlin.

MCKENZIE (voice-over): Despite the invasion and new allegations of an assassination plot, Ukraine's president says he isn't going anywhere.

David McKenzie, CNN, London.


LEMON (on camera): All right. I want to bring in now retired general military analyst, General Spider Marks. Spider, thank you. General, we appreciate you joining us this evening. Fascinating story there by David McKenzie. What does it mean that Russia is using this Wagner Group in their war on Ukraine, especially considering their main target, President Zelenskyy?

JAMES "SPIDER" MARKS, CNN MILITARY ANALYST, RETIRED MAJOR GENERAL: Well, if they think they want to try to kill Zelenskyy, they obviously don't have the capability, right? So, they got to some third party to try to get this done. It's a level of desperation in my mind. And again, an illegal act done by a war criminal, as we've been discussing over the course of the last month.

LEMON: We have heard of major morale issues within Russian troops even up to the highest ranks.


And today, we're hearing yet another Russian general has been killed, Lieutenant General Yakov Rezantsev. He is the sixth general killed on the front lines. What does this say about Russia's strategy and how they're fighting here?

MARKS: What this really talks to is what the Ukrainians are having incredible success with. What they're doing is Ukrainians are taking the Russians off their nets, their communication nets, their command- in-control capabilities. They are jamming their tactical coms which are now completely in the clear. They are intercepting those.

So, they're getting of what the Russians are trying to do. They're forcing the Russians to either go to cell phones, which they can break into, or they're requiring the leaders -- these general officers who are in information blackout, Don, they have no situational awareness, their units aren't doing well.

So, what do leaders try to do? They go to the front, they try to find out what is going on, they get out of their vehicles and they're now exposed. They can get hit by snipers. They can get hit by artillery. They don't have sufficient protection as they're moving as close and close as close as they can get to the front, and they put themselves at great risk.

And the Ukrainians are achieving this because that's the intent of trying to take somebody off their communications, is to get their leaders completely confused and to put them in exposed positions.

LEMON: Yeah. Russian forces are now in defensive positions around Kyiv. I mean, their ground troops stalled after this intense back and forth this week resulting in Ukraine taking back or retaking some territory. Is it possible that the Russians are changing their strategy because, you know, we also learned today the Kremlin generals are saying, and I quote, "the first stage of the war is over." Is that a strange in strategy or is that just moving the goalpost?

MARKS: Well, as you said, it's moving the goalpost. Look, these are tactical adjustments they're making, and it's all about the narrative, right? All Putin cares about is what he can tell his people back home and what he can publish to the world, which is our first phase is over, we're now going to concentrate on Eastern Ukraine, and the Donbas, specifically. Look, I can tell you that Putin is not consciously opening the door toward a negotiated settlement, but I bet you he's going to be a bit more willing because what he's saying is, I can't get it done where I thought I could get it done in these multiple locations. He overstretched in terms of what his objectives.

And now, he may be available to have some negotiated settlement, which I would guarantee you, the NATO partner and nobody but Zelenskyy wouldn't sign up for, which is half a loaf, you know, everything to east of the Dnieper River. Now, Putin might say, I'll call it quits, just give me that stuff. I guarantee you Zelenskyy would say no, no, no. He's having too much tactical success to take that from the Russians.

LEMON: You said it's what he can sell to the world. But doesn't the world know what is actually up in that? Putin is -- he's losing and on many different levels. I think for every single goal that he has had to divide NATO allies, to divide America, to take Ukraine, he has really lost it. The world knows what's up. I mean, is he just -- is this what he is doing for himself to try to make himself feel good?

MARKS: Yeah, he's drinking his own bath water. Clearly, what he wants to do is to say to his own people and his own cabinet, hey, this is what we're trying to do, right, guys? We're going -- just going to try to get the Donbas, right? We are just going to be to the eastern part of Ukraine, right? That was our objective here. No, no, of course not. He was trying to take Kyiv, Kharkiv, Odessa, Kherson, the Donbas. I mean, he overstretched. His strategic objectives were failed from the outset because he was trying to win everywhere, and you can't do that. He didn't establish a center of gravity. So, now, based on his incredible failure, he's rewriting his narrative.

LEMON: General Marks, thank you, sir. I appreciate it. We will see you soon.

MARKS: Thank you, Don, for having me.

LEMON (on camera): Mariupol is a city under siege suffering some of the worst attacks of Vladimir Putin's war. Next, I'm going to talk to a man who tells a story of how he got out and why he went back.


BIDEN: Ukrainian people have a lot of backbone. They have a lot of guts. And I'm sure you're observing it. And I don't mean just mean the military.





LEMON: Ukrainian officials say their forces are -- quote -- "going on the counterattack around the capital region today."

My next guest joins us from Kyiv. He is an advertising executive from New York. So, why is he in Ukraine? He traveled all the way there to document the war on the ground and help in any way that he could. Kevin Richards is his name, and he joins me now. Kevin, thank you so much. I appreciate you joining us. First, can you tell us why you're in Ukraine on the front lines of this war?

KEVIN RICHARDS, ADVERTISING EXECUTIVE: A lot of people ask that question. I -- it was fairly spontaneous decision. I was watching what was going on. I was feeling very far removed from it and felt like somebody should be there that is relatable and could deliver information and really bear witness on the ground and make it more real for the people back home in a way that possibly would motivate them to act and help.


LEMON: Kevin, what is it like in Kyiv tonight? Have you heard any air raid sirens or explosions?

RICHARDS: So, I would say for the last three or four hours, it has been more quiet than usual. Normally, we get air raid signals every -- I don't know, half an hour or so.

LEMON: Can you guys hear Kevin?

RICHARDS: Can you hear me?

LEMON: Are you there, Kevin?

RICHARDS: I am. Hello?

LEMON: I can't hear him.


LEMON: We will be right back.





LEMON: All right. We're back now with Kevin Richards, an advertising executive who left the U.S. and then came to the front lines in Kyiv so that he can help fight the war. So, we have our communication back. We lost it for a second. So, we appreciate you being so patient.

You have seen Russian missiles in the ground, these craters from the explosions, buildings completely bombed out. So, talk more about the destruction that you've seen, Kevin.

RICHARDS: You know, I've seen destruction here in the city. First day, I got here it was the day after or the morning after the mall was bombed, and the people that I'm with led by a wonderful organization called Ukraine Resistance, Alexi Bringsak (ph) and his wife and friends, brought me there and met a guy named Sergiy Stakhovsky, a professional tennis player who once beat Federer, believe it or not.

The destruction was unbelievable. You know, I was in New York when the Twin Towers came down. I witnessed it, I watched it from the roof in Soho, and that was lifechanging. Being here and seeing the destruction on a daily basis puts that all into perspective in terms of these people dealing with things like 9/11 every day.

LEMON: I understand that you -- something like that -- I mean, it does change you. Obviously, it changes you. You realize what is important. It puts everything into perspective. You were out delivering flat jackets today and you've gotten together with this group of Ukrainians to do what you can do to help protect people. Who are you working with and what are you doing?

RICHARDS: You know, they keep saying --

LEMON: Communications in a war zone, so you can understand. Kevin Richards, thank you very much. We'll continue our program. We're going to take a quick break. We'll be right back.




LEMON (on camera): Officials say 300 people were killed in the attack on that theater in Mariupol where hundreds of people were taking shelter. This new video is from just moments after that strike.


UNKNOWN (on-screen translation): The missile hit right in the center of the Drama Theater. Now people are trying to evacuate. We were on the ground floor and didn't get hurt. But under this rubble, there may be many people who were hiding from shelling.


LEMON (on camera): The situation in Mariupol is incredibly dire. The U.N. now believes there are mass graves in the city. I want to talk to Oleksandr now who was able to escape from Mariupol. He asked us to use only his first name. Oleksandr, thank you. I appreciate you joining us. Really appreciate it --


LEMON: Can you describe what it was like in Mariupol?

OLEKSANDR, ESCAPED FROM MARIUPOL: Yeah. In Mariupol, it was a terrible situation. I used to say that it was a hell. But for today, I think even that word is not enough to describe what is going on there. People survived -- they face a lot of different challenges every day.

They had to fight for their lives and the situation is getting worse and worse every day. I saw people who were melting snow and collecting water from puddles to have at least some water. People did not have and still don't have medication since a long time ago because when the city was surrounded, drugs, they disappeared almost immediately. I know that there are a lot of people who need constant treatment.

And people don't have places where they can take food. They don't have electricity. They have to collect woods to warm their food. And besides that, humanitarian -- huge problems. Every day, they're living under the constant shelling, shelling, bombing nonstop 24/7. And the big problem is that all this shelling, they happened on residential houses. They happen -- they destroyed schools. They destroyed kindergartens, hospitals.

And as you mentioned before, they destroyed even shelters where people are hiding. And now, I show the pictures of Mariupol and they're really terrible.


LEMON: I saw buildings destroyed and I understand that there were people who just died under this bombing. And those who are not killed but injured, they probably died right after several days because there is no any medical supply in the city. And even if there would be a doctor, he will not have any means to rescue those people. And I don't even --

LEMON: I understand that you said, Oleksandr. You said that the elderly and children are suffering the most. Can you talk to us about that? How so?

OLEKSANDR: Yes. It's -- unfortunately, it's really true because people with children, they have to find more food. They have to cook food for them. They have sometimes to feed the children with special food, which is not available at all. I'm not speaking even about hygiene needs for those children.

And elderly people, they are weak. In order to survive in Mariupol, you have to be strong because you need to travel a lot along the city to find a source of water, to find a bit of food. But if you are weak like an elderly, you cannot do this. You just can go out for 100 meters, but you will not find anything in a such short distance. And you have to take medication because majority of elderly in our country, they have chronic diseases, which have to be treated.

For example, my grandmother, she's now in Mariupol and she now has a problem with her health because she has no pills now that she has to take every day.

LEMON: How were you able to escape, Oleksandr?

OLEKSANDR: I think I was lucky because I found a car. I found fuel. My friends helped me because they shared with me the extra car. And me and my sister, we managed to escape. And just accidently, we heard about this location. But people, they don't have any means of communication. A lot of people, they just didn't know.

Today, there are a column of cars, private cars who will drive to escape. There were no buses. Buses were not allowed to come to Mariupol to pick up people without cars. So, it's almost not possible to relocate if you don't have a car.

I heard stories about -- my friends told me that they had to walk about 50 kilometers in order to go out from Mariupol to the nearest safe city. They stayed for a night in the villages in order to just escape from this hell because it's a terrible, terrible situation and it's getting worse and worse and worse.

LEMON: Now, I understand that once you got out, I think you mentioned this just a moment ago, you decided to go back into Mariupol to get friends and family with children?

OLEKSANDR: Yes, because I still have relatives there. And it's not only me. There are a lot of people who are trying to get back to Mariupol to escape their relatives or friends. Because now, we sometimes don't even know what is going on with our relatives. We know the situation is a terrible and we want to help as many people as we could, as we can.

And I also even heard about volunteers who just go there to rescue any woman and any children who they will find on the streets because it's -- nobody would like their relatives to go all through this -- through all of these problems.

I try to go there as well, but I failed because on the entrance to city, they took my car and I could not walk up to the city. I walked on the back direction and people helped me to escape again.

LEMON: So, the infrastructure is down. How are people getting information? Are they able to get any information in Mariupol? Is it hard?

OLEKSANDR: It's very hard. The only source of information at the period I was there, it was radio that we connected to a battery from the car. But it is very rare situation when people have radio and has electricity sources like batteries.

Some people -- the most -- the biggest source of information was just rumors. People just share information and some information was true, some false. For now, I know that some people, they found very small places in Mariupol where the connection still exists like (INAUDIBLE) building. People go upstairs to the highest floor in order to find the perception of the network. My relative, he went to a distant park and found connections there.


So, sometimes we can find connection with our relatives in Mariupol. But in majority cases, it's not possible. LEMON: Well, man, Oleksandr, please stay safe, and we hope your

grandmother gets out and everyone gets out safe, but come back and update us, okay? But be safe. Thank you.

OLEKSANDR: Thank you. Yeah, I will. Thanks.

LEMON: Thank you very much.

So, it seems like just about everyone in Ukraine is doing their part to fight back against the Russian invaders and to support their fellow Ukrainians.

This is Svyatoslav Vakarchuk, one of the biggest rock stars in Ukraine. He tells "Rolling Stone," as soon as he heard Russian bombs falling, he sprang into action, becoming a lieutenant in the army, and going around Ukraine performing for his people like at this open air convert in Lviv, even traveling to dangerous Kharkiv in Eastern Ukraine where bombs are falling constantly to give a concert for cadets and military personnel.

He goes by the name of Slava, and he joins me now. Slava, thank you so much. Appreciate what you're doing. It is very brave of you. I know you had a big tour planned. You stopped everything when Russia invaded. Can you tell me about the day you first woke up to explosions?

SVYATOSLAV VAKARCHUK, MUSICIAN AND SOCIAL ACTIVIST: Hello, everybody. Yeah, it was a very strange day. I woke up at 3:00 in the morning from just anxiety. And I turned on the TV, and I was watching the security council, by the way. And the Russians were speaking. And then, suddenly, the news broke out that Putin is going to address the nation. I immediately understand that he's going to declare war against Ukraine.

In 10 minutes after he actually did it, I heard explosion on my right and it was like probably 10 kilometers from where I live, outskirts of Kyiv. The bomb exploded in one of the airports, military airports. So, it was my first time when I heard in my life a bomb explosion, first time in 46 years. So, that's how the war started for me, personally.

LEMON: Within days, I understand that you had officially enlisted in the army and were designated as a lieutenant.

VAKARCHUK: That's correct.

LEMON: Many of your friends did the same thing, including your brother. What are your days like now? Tell me what you're seeing.

VAKARCHUK: Actually, I enlisted to the army because that was the best legitimate way to travel officially around and to support the morale of our troops and people in hospitals and going to, let's say, not very safe places, as you mentioned already. And believe me, Kharkiv is relatively a New York City, comparing to some other parts I've been to.

But generally, we see a lot of people. We go -- we bring them some humanitarian and some military aid, some equipment. We meet the troops, we meet hospitals, we meet wounded soldiers, we meet volunteers. We speak to the guys like you. By the way, I'm a big fan of you, Don. And, you know, we are doing whatever we can. Everybody in Ukraine is resisting. Everybody is trying to make the victory as quick as possible. We are all focused and determined for that.

LEMON: You know, you have played for refugees, you played for police, military units instead of in the stadiums that you had planned for your tour. So, tell us the message that you're sending to your fellow Ukrainians when you play for them.

VAKARCHUK: The message is very simple but very important. We shall overcome. This is our land. We didn't come to any other country to fight. We are defending our country. We are on the bright side of life, on the side of good. That's why we will win.

The only thing everybody needs to know is that it is going to take a while. We need to be focused, we need to stay strong, we need to support each other. And actually, that's happening. The whole country from the east to the west, from the north to the south is like one battalion. Everybody is fighting from the guys staying on the front line to the old ladies who help make Molotov cocktails or just volunteers who send foods, to journalists who work 24/7, you name it.

It's a great time for country if you're not taking to consideration that people are being killed, which is probably the worst and the biggest nightmare we witnessed.


Part of that, the country is very focused and the morale is very high. We're ready to fight, and we will win this war, believe me.

LEMON: I just want to read part of a poem that you wrote here, and it says, where did you come from, hatred? I didn't wake you up at night. I didn't offer you meals. I didn't give you my keys. Can you speak to me about how this war has changed you from an artist to a warrior, Slava?

VAKARCHUK: You know, I think I'm not a conventional warrior, neither are other most of our fellow Ukrainians, but we became warriors because that's what we need to do now. In the case of this danger, everybody goes and fights. You did it during World War II, World War I. Other countries did it during their wars.

And actually, for us, this is (INAUDIBLE) independence war. So, we didn't find for independence in 1991. We just had it because of collapse of Soviet Union. But now, we really fight for it. And, you know, it changes -- it gives you -- there is one -- there is one feeling, it is hard to explain, but the hatred I described in this poem is a very new feeling for me.

I'm an artistic person. I'm singing for love and about love, and that's how I'm known through the Eastern Europe and other countries. But, one day, you wake up with it. This hatred to those who impose this war, to Putin, to his generals, to those soldiers who just come to kill our children and women and innocent people. And you just -- it's very toxic.

And you understand that the only way to get rid of this hatred is to win and just to make your house and your land free from foreign soldier boots. And that's what we're doing. And I hope when we win --

LEMON: Yeah.

VAKARCHUK: -- I will sing once again about love and will be who I am, Slava, who wants to be a musician.

LEMON: It's interesting, Slava. I thank you. We've heard the similar sentiments from just about everyone we have spoken to, that say that they've never hated before, but they certainly hate the Russian soldiers and quite frankly Vladimir Putin for doing what they're doing to the Ukrainian people. Thank you. Be safe. Be well. We appreciate you joining us.

VAKARCHUK: Thank you very much, but may I have -- if I have an opportunity to speak just one message for Americans and other people who are watching us, it's very important. First of all, we are very grateful for all support you're giving to us. We know that the whole America stands by Ukraine and for Ukraine.

The only message we have now, just please double efforts, because we need your military equipment, we need your anti-missile defense, planes. We also need the sanctions to be even harder. Please tell your big corporations like Citi groups and others to go out of Russia because they pay taxes there and these taxes are being used for buying tanks and other --

LEMON: Okay.

VAKARCHUK: -- equipment that kills our children. Just please do it.

LEMON: All right, Slava.

VAKARCHUK: And we thank you for everything they're doing for us. Thank you.

LEMON: Slava, thank you so much. We appreciate you joining us. We'll be right back.

VAKARCHUK: Thank you.




LEMON (on camera): Here in Lviv, Ukraine, the city has changed drastically in the month since the start of Putin's invasion. In the week that I have been here, I can see that the impact of the war on all Ukrainians has been overwhelming, and the citizens here are resolved to help their neighbors and their country in any way that they can. (BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

LEMON (voice-over): I met Tatiana (ph) Rusanova on my first morning here.

(On camera): This is your house?


LEMON: Oh, my goodness.

(Voice-over): She was living at a hostel in Lviv after shelling damaged her home of 50 years outside Kharkiv. She and her daughter, Darina, were forced to take shelter in a nearby cellar with their dog, two cats, and a backpack of family photographs and documents. When the Russian bombardment stopped, they emerge to a home in ruins.

DARINA RUSANOVA, REFUGEE: I think I was shocked. I couldn't even cry. I didn't feel anything. I hope there is some peaceful way to resolve this. I just want my Ukrainian people to be safe.

LEMON (voice-over): Tatiana Nikabadze fled to the relative safety of Lviv as well with her son, Nikita (ph), but not his father, who is fighting on the front lines.

TATIANA NIKABADZE, FLED KYIV WITH HER SON (through translator): His father is in Kyiv now and fighting for Kyiv. I don't always have a possibility of calling, of knowing he's still alive.

LEMON (voice-over): The war has made Oksana Buhel a single mother, too. Her reservist husband called up to fight.

(On camera): How much longer do you think you can deal with this?

OKSANA BUHEL, HUSBAND FIGHTING IN SOUTHERN UKRAINE (through translator): It's hard to say. As long as needed because I have no options.

LEMON (voice-over): One man feels responsible for everyone in this city, residents and the displaced alike, Mayor Andriy Sadovyi.

ANDRIY SADOVYI, MAYOR OF LVIV: It is a huge responsibility. It is my duty, citizens. My duty, refugees. My duty, maximum support, Ukrainian army.


My duty, management, territorial defense. And my duty, help Ukrainian cities.

LEMON (voice-over): But amid the tragedy of war, I've heard stories of resilience and hope, like Olga (ph) and Nika, two complete strangers who connected on Instagram two days after the fighting began. Both called to help, to do something -- anything. So, they teamed up and opened up a shelter in Lviv that now houses about 200 displaced people. (On camera): What do you want people to know about what is happening here? How -- now the school has become like a safe haven for people.

NIKA HAK, SHELTER CO-FOUNDER IN LVIV: We really want to show everyone how you show compassion and how you unite and how you help each other in a crisis like this.


LEMON (on camera): And we will continue to tell those stories. We are here and we're not going anywhere.

Thanks for watching, everyone. Our live coverage continues with Hala Gorani in Lviv right after this.