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Don Lemon Tonight

Russia Intensifies Attacks On Western Ukraine; Biden: "No Apologies" For Saying Putin "Cannot Remain In Power"; American In Kyiv On What It Is Like When Everyday Life Is Shattered; Efforts Underway To Get Ukrainian Orphans Out Of Warzone; Edmonton, Canada Firefighters Donate Gear To Ukraine; Will Smith Apologizes To Chris Rock For Slapping Him At The Oscars. Aired 11p-12a ET

Aired March 28, 2022 - 23:00   ET




DON LEMON, CNN HOST (on camera): This is DON LEMON TONIGHT live in Lviv in Western Ukraine, where we have heard air raid sirens tonight and the front lines of the war won't just keep shifting. Shelling reported in and around the city of Kyiv.

In heavily damaged Irpin, the mayor says the city is back under Ukrainian control despite still being bombed. And in the worst hit city, Mariupol, in the southern part of Ukraine, tens of thousands of residents are still trapped in the city's rubble. Their mayor says a humanitarian evacuation corridor is in the hands of Russian soldiers.

And while all the devastation continues, we're hearing from a Kremlin spokesman tonight, warning that Russia would use nuclear weapons if the existence of this country is threatened.


DMITRY PESKOV, KREMLIN PRESS SECRETARY: We have a security concept that very clearly states that only when there is a threat for existence of the state in our country, we can use and we will actually use nuclear weapons to eliminate the threat for the existence of our country.


LEMON (on camera): Frightening. CNN's Hala Gorani is here with me in Lviv tonight.


LEMON: Hala, hello to you. Listen, there were more explosions and air raids in and around Kyiv tonight. What do you know about the fighting around the capital city?

GORANI: There's so much going on that I have to look down to really list those suburbs around Kyiv that are either changing hands in favor of the Russians or changing hands in favor of the Ukrainians. But the Ukrainians are saying that they've been able to recapture the suburb of Irpin.

Our viewers might remember the images of our Clarissa Ward at that bombed-out bridge, remember, when she was helping civilians --

LEMON: Right.

GORANI: -- out of the rubble. That is Irpin. They were fleeing Irpin. The mayor of Irpin is now saying that that area is back in Ukrainian hands. However, the Russians keep shelling, as we saw with our Fred Pleitgen not far from Kyiv, these corridors, these routes that are designed to resupply Ukrainian troops on the ground.

And the deputy defense minister is saying they're trying to establish some sort of ring around the capital, which he called a corridor, not a humanitarian one, a military one, to encircle the capital and cut the supply routes of Ukrainian forces on the ground because they have not been able, the Russians, to take Kyiv.

In fact, I thought it was quite interesting yesterday. I interviewed a top minister in the government of Zelenskyy, President Zelenskyy. He was sitting in his ministry. He wasn't in a shelter. He wasn't wearing body armor.

There seems to be around Kyiv this sense that, well, the curfew can ease now, the center is holding, even though around the suburbs are really seeing some intense fighting and shelling and some misery in the civilian population.

LEMON: The end of last week, we were talking about the Russian official who said that they were changing strategy, that they were just going to start targeting Eastern Ukraine, right? But then, since then, there have been shellings here in Lviv. Also, of course, in Kyiv. Was that just a diversion? What was that all about, do you think?

GORANI: Well, I mean, Ukrainian officials are saying potentially that it was because Kyiv is the big prize. You get Kyiv, you secure Kyiv, you secure the country. And that is the big prize.

Is this a diversion or are they going to focus most of their military efforts on the east? We're seeing, and I know we are going to speak of Mariupol, that city was completely leveled. It resisted. The Russian tactic is, fine, we're carpet bomb you until there is 10% of your buildings left standing, and then we'll move in and plant our flag on this big pile of rubble.

LEMON: Yeah.

GORANI: So, is it a diversion? Well, I mean, you know, from the Russian perspective, it appears as though those statements that they made publicly don't match the facts on the ground. You were at the scene of that --

LEMON: Right behind us.

GORANI: -- not too far from where we are of that fuel depot. Another fuel depo in Western Ukraine was also hit. That could be more tactical in the sense that these are strategic facilities.

LEMON: Right.

GORANI: Fuel depots obviously are used to fuel vehicles. An airport, an airplane repair facility is a strategic tactical target. We are not seeing civilian targets being bombed in Western Ukraine.

LEMON: This one is very close to --

GORANI: It sure was.

LEMON: -- the president's own neighborhood.


LEMON: Let's talk about Mariupol because I can't take my eyes off the video when I see it. I mean, it is just gone.


LEMON: I mean, look at that. There it is right there.

GORANI: And it reminds me so much of East Aleppo. It's really the same tactic.


You have resistance, we will absolutely demolish and obliterate the city. Remember, this is not Aleppo.

LEMON: Right.

GORANI: This is a largely Russian-speaking city that the Russians are saying they've come to -- quote -- "liberate from neo-Nazis." These are their Russian-speaking brothers in Mariupol, a city of 400,000 people initially. Now, about 150, 160,000 people left. Just absolutely --

LEMON: The people are so tough.


LEMON: And they kicked off humanitarian corridors that Russians -- I mean, it is unbelievable. Look at that.

GORANI: Yeah. They've been shelled for weeks and they're -- a few thousand have made it out in the last few days. But in the first few weeks of the war, these humanitarian corridors that were designed to allow civilians to evacuate were targeted pretty relentlessly.

LEMON: We'll see you in a couple of minutes. We will see you in 55 minutes here --

GORANI: Absolutely.

LEMON: -- on CNN leading our coverage. Thank you, Hala Gorani. GORANI: See you then.

LEMON (on camera): Appreciate it.

President Biden is saying that he is not backtracking on his comments that Vladimir Putin cannot remain in power.


JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: I'm not walking anything back. The fact of the matter is I was expressing the moral outrage I felt toward the way Putin is dealing and the actions of this man which is brutality. Half the children in Ukraine -- I have just come from being with those families. And so -- but I want to make it clear. I wasn't then nor I am right now articulating a policy change. I was expressing the moral outrage that I felt.


LEMON (on camera): The former director of National Intelligence, James Clapper, joins me. He's now a CNN national security analyst. Thank you, director. I appreciate you joining us. President Biden is standing by his comments. Do you expect Putin to somehow exploit this?

JAMES CLAPPER, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST, FORMER DIRECTOR OF NATIONAL INTELLIGENCE: Well, I suppose the Putin propaganda machine will. But I guess I got a contrarian view here about this. By the attempts to walk back what the president said seems to me to infer that we're okay with acquiescing in a war criminal as a head of state of the Russian federation. So, I didn't have a problem at all with what the president said. I thought he was directing it more towards the Russian people.

But the answer to your question, sure, they'll take advantage of it. But it certainly didn't come as a big surprise to Vladimir Putin that there's an animosity between him and President Biden. So, I just -- I don't have a problem with what he said, and I thought it was kind of ridiculous to -- quote -- "walk back" those nine words.

LEMON: Yeah. I was surprised this weekend when they did do that. I think calling someone a war criminal is much harsher than saying they shouldn't be in power. But, you know, here we are.

Director Clapper, just hours from now, the next round of talks between Russia and Ukraine will happen. President Zelenskyy says that he is willing to accept neutral nonnuclear status as part of peace deal. How vulnerable would that leave Ukraine, and do you think Putin would actually be open to that?

CLAPPER: Well, actually, I mean, it sounds like Zelenskyy is making a big concession and he really isn't. Going back to the so-called Budapest memorandum, I think, of 1994, where the neutrality of -- the spirit of which was that the neutrality of Ukraine was guaranteed, Ukraine agreed to have removed all the nuclear weapons from the Soviet era. So, it sounds great, it's good from a PR standpoint, but it really isn't, very substantively different than what has been agreed to in the past.

All this talk about partitioning north, south, east, west, I think that's a lost cause because I think both Russia's position, Putin's position and the Ukrainian position is too intractable. And I don't think the Russians are interested in accepting half a loaf. And I don't think the Ukrainians, at least right now, are interested in conceding a way part of Ukraine's territory.

LEMON: Director, a source is telling CNN that there was an incident during the Ukraine-Russia talks just a few weeks ago where some of the negotiators experienced minor skin peeling and sore eyes. It included the Russian oligarch Roman Abramovich. A U.S. source is telling Reuters that it was likely due an environmental factor and not poisoning. I mean, what did you think when you heard this?

CLAPPER: Well, I wasn't sure what to think. On the one hand, as we know, this has become a standard Russian tactic of poisoning people.


You know, they don't like or saying or doing things that they object to. So, there is that suspicion. The fact that a Russian oligarch who is connected to Putin but is opposed to the war is involved in this, you know, it's hard to say. I don't know if we know enough facts here to make an assessment.

Frankly, if a poisoning occurred, I would actually suspect more of a Ukrainian quisling than direct Russian involvement just because of the physical access.

LEMON: Interesting. We're learning that the Russian private military group Wagner is expected to deploy more than 1,000 mercenaries to Eastern Ukraine. NATO estimates that Russia has already lost 15,000 troops. Several generals have been killed. What does that tell you about Russia's military strategy right now, director?

CLAPPER: Well, it tells me they're getting desperate. I mean, when you talk about bringing in Syrians, bringing in Chechens, bringing in occupation troops from Georgia, or bringing in troops from far east, this tells me the Russians are hurting for manpower, which, of course, you know, this is a meat grinder for them, a cannon fodder as far as Putin is concerned.

You know, the Wagner group is a mercenary murder for hire outfit oddly enough, ironically enough named after Hitler's favorite composer. They're being brought in to help to de-Nazify -- air quotes -- Ukraine. And they are a bad bunch, no question about it. But what it tells me, Russia is in a bad place.

LEMON: Director Clapper, thank you, sir. I appreciate it.

CLAPPER: Thanks, Don. Stay safe out there.

LEMON: Thank you very much. I really appreciate that.

You're looking at mass destruction now in one Ukrainian village just north of Kyiv. Buildings completely destroyed. Streets turned to rubble.

I want to bring in now former Marine Corps Captain Elliot Ackerman. He joins us now from Warsaw, Poland tonight. But he spent several days in Kyiv as well as here in Western Ukraine.

Elliot, thank you, man. We should not become just sort of immune to that footage. We shouldn't get used to it. It's terrible to see images like that. So, good evening to you. You met another American who served in the Marines who is in Ukraine fighting for the resistance. He told you that the combat is worse than anything that he saw in Afghanistan. How did he describe it?

ELLIOT ACKERMAN, FORMER MARINE CORPS CAPTAIN: He described it really as kind of classic trench warfare. He was fighting north of Kyiv. He described being shelled in trenches over several days. You know, he described repulsing wave assault of Russian troops. Really a type of warfare that we haven't seen by and large in Europe since the mid-20th century.

LEMON: You know, Elliot, he also spoke about how critical javelins and anti-war weapons are in this battle. Why is that?

ACKERMAN: I think we're seeing something really interesting with these javelin anti-tank missiles and a few other similar missiles in that they've become so effective that a group of Ukrainian soldiers with a javelin is more lethal than the latest generation Russian tank.

And he told me one of the reasons we're seeing such Ukrainian success is because of these platforms' lethality. I think that's something that we really need to continue watching.

LEMON: Elliot, this marine described what he is seeing from Russians on the battlefield. Why does he think Putin's forces haven't been as effective as many had expected?

ACKERMAN: Well, you know, Napoleon who fought many of his battles in that part of the war had a maxim. His maxim was that in warfare, the morale is to the material as 3 is to 1. I mean, listen, the Ukrainians are defending their homes, their families, their loved ones, and by and large, these Russians are conscripts, many of whom didn't even know they were going to Ukraine to fight.

So, I think it's important to keep that in mind. He was very insistent on bringing that point home. But, you know, there's a second point that is worth --

LEMON: Elliot, before you go on and talk about that, can you talk about those conscripts?


In the beginning, people didn't really understand that. I think it needs -- it bears explaining. There were people, soldiers who were going to fight this war that had no idea that they were going to Ukraine?

ACKERMAN: Yes. They were told they were going on a military exercise. I think it's also important to note that the conscripts we are seeing turn up in Ukraine, you know, these aren't 19, 20-year-old Russian kids from St. Petersburg in Moscow. I mean, these are kids who are from the poor areas of Russia and that's very intentional. Putin does that to insulate himself politically when these young soldiers are killed.

LEMON: Yeah. Sorry. Go on. You can continue your thought. I'm sorry to interrupt you. I thought it was interesting, your point was.

ACKERMAN: Sure. I was just going to make the other point, which is the American and western way of warfare which is really a decentralized form of warfare in which every soldier, you know, from a 22-year-old corporal up to a colonel, really understands deeply the mission. So, when communications break down and the chaos and fog of war, everything breaks down, they're able to get the mission done.

The Russian form of warfare, the Soviet form of warfare, everything is very centralized. Individual initiative is not encouraged. And we're seeing that breakdown on the battlefield. I think most representative of that is we've seen so many Russian generals killed. The generals have to go forward when the plan falls apart.

And so, we are seeing, for instance, that 40-mile-long traffic jam outside of Kyiv early on in the war was indicative of the fact that when their plan didn't work, when the Russian plan didn't work, you could see a total breakdown of command and control because everything was so centralized.

LEMON: Interesting. Great information. Okay, so listen, let's talk about the marine again. I know you don't want to use his name, but can you explain why these marine and so many other foreigners are choosing to come to Ukraine to fight, Elliot?

ACKERMAN: I obviously can't speak unequivocally for everyone, but, you know, I think one thing that's very interesting is, you know, we have in the United States, in Britain, and many western countries, a whole generation of veterans who were defined by fighting in wars in which the rightness or the wrongness of those wars in places like Iraq, Afghanistan, and even Syria was very sort of murky.

I think many of these veterans who are showing up in Ukraine as foreign fighters see this war as being a very clear case of right versus wrong and are very are happy to lend their skills to the plight of the Ukrainians.

LEMON: Elliot, I really enjoyed this segment. It was fascinating and it was very informative. Please come back and talk to us more about it. We'd love to have you back. Thanks again.

ACKERMAN: Good to be with you, Don.

LEMON (on camera): Thank you.

Next, I want to bring in a man you first heard from on this show just last week. He's an American in Kyiv who came here to document the war and he has captured what it's like when everyday life is shattered by bombs raining down from the sky.


KEVIN RICHARDS, ADVERTISIG EXECUTIVE (voice-over): This is a destroyed gas station and adjoining market. Four bombs going off nearby. Complete and utter destruction.





LEMON (on camera): Now, I want to bring in an American in Kyiv. I first spoke with Kevin Richards just a few days ago on this show. He is an advertising executive from New York who came to Ukraine to document the war on the ground and to help in any way that he could. We asked him to shoot a video diary of what he's seen in and around Kyiv. Here's that video diary right now. Here it is.


RICHARDS: On the front line, Michael and I met up with friends of his, two brothers named Sasha (ph) and Demon. That's his nickname because of how fast he drives. And they took us further in to deliver the flag jackets. We passed by all sorts of carnage and destruction, houses that have been blown up, buildings that had been blown up, gas stations, stores, you name it. Awful, awful, awful.

This is a destroyed gas station and adjoining market. More bombs going off nearby. I can't even fathom being in here while all this was going on. The fear, the panic. Unbelievable.

You know, your life is in your hands and actually in the Russians' hands. And a bomb could go off, a shot could come in. In fact, the car we were in, there was a bullet hole in the glass, in the back glass that had come through the window and right out the ceiling. This house had been bombed, literally bombed two hours after we had been there the day before. Two hours.

Unbelievable. The house we were at yesterday got bombed at 1:00. So, that's just -- a wife and two children are in the bunker underneath the house now.

Demon was upstairs taking a nap with two kids. Sasha's (ph) two kids were in the study with the dog. The bomb apparently spits out projectiles at such a velocity that they ripped through the wall.


They ripped through the ceiling of the first floor, up through the second floor, and out again through the roof. You can imagine the velocity of those projectiles. Unbelievable. He showed me the pieces of metal that the bomb spits out. I can't even imagine what that's like.

When you look at the house, you see that there's literally hundreds of holes from the bomb. Hundreds. Meaning it is like the house got strafed by a machine gun, but not one bullet at a time, everything at the same time. I can't imagine what it's like to be in a house that's under attack like that.

What happened is that Demon was saved somehow. Bullets or the projectiles didn't hit him, although he showed me holes in his jacket where the bullets went through or the projectiles, I'm sorry, went through.


LEMON: Kevin Richards joins me now. Kevin, thank you for joining us. That was really an impressive report right there. You had an intense couple of days since we last spoke. The two brothers driving you around. Their house was hit, as I understand. The kids and family are thankfully okay. But how is everyone doing? And what happened?

RICHARDS: What happened is that a bomb went off in their yard and basically destroyed their house. That happened two hours after we were there, the day before. When we got there, everybody was in a bit of shock, understandably. I was told the story that an hour before, they had just buried the family dog. The family dog had gotten hit because it was standing in front of the kids. The dog gave his life for the kids.

LEMON: So, everyone is okay. I asked you how everyone is doing. Everyone is fine?

RICHARDS: Sorry. Everyone else is fine, yes.

LEMON: Yeah. So, you're there, you're handing out flak jackets, you're seeing this horrible devastation, you're documenting it for everyone, you're hearing bombs go off. What are some of the stories that you're hearing from Ukrainians living through all of this?

RICHARDS: The stories range from very sad stories about families getting split up, about losing homes, about being worried that they'll never see each other again, men bringing their wife and children to Western Ukraine or across the border and then returning to Kyiv to fight or to contribute to the efforts here.

It's really heartbreaking when you think about it. I mean, from one day to the next, these people had a life and that life stopped. And now, it's a moment-to-moment thing about survival and hopefully about defending the country.

LEMON: Kevin, on one hand, you're seeing homes and stores destroyed, people's lives really destroyed there. You know, everything that they own. But you're also seeing people in the streets, some dining outdoors. It's got to be strange. Some of the video that you're playing, you could hear the bells. And one moment, I'm sure you hear a bell and maybe an explosion or even an air strike siren or something. But that must be a strange dichotomy.

RICHARDS: It's -- mean, you put your finger on it. The one difference I can tell you -- and I noticed this when I was in Lviv and certainly here in Kyiv -- people outdoors, they might be sitting in a cafe, they may look like they're being social and having a good time, but they're not. They're not smiling. And that's a big difference. These people are worried. They're also defiant and acting normal is a way of being defiant to what's going on.

LEMON: So, Kevin, you're out here doing all of this stuff and chronicling everything. I just want to know if you're being safe. It's a protocol for journalists to wear flak jackets, helmets, and that sort of thing. I just want to make sure that you're being safe and taking care of yourself.

RICHARDS: The people I'm with, Alexey (ph) and Igor (ph), provided me with a flak jacket. I do feel safe in that respect, although I'm not sure what a flak jacket would do for a bomb. But generally, I'm being safe, yes.

LEMON: Yeah. Well, we want you to be safe and we thank you for joining us. Thank you, Kevin. We appreciate it, okay? And you stay safe.

RICHARDS: Thank you.

LEMON: Hundreds of Ukrainian children awaiting adoption by American families now stuck in limbo. Some of them right outside Lviv. And I had a chance to hear their stories.




LEMON (on camera): Half of the almost four million refugees from Ukraine who have arrived in the E.U. since the start of the Russian invasion are children. But many orphans in Ukraine are still stuck in limbo because of the war. I visited an orphanage right outside of Lviv to find out more about the efforts to get these children to their families.


LEMON (voice-over): It was after midnight when the children from battle-scarred Donetsk arrived in Lviv.

STEPAN MASHCHAK, ORPHANAGE DIRECTOR (through translator): They were very tired and seemed to be lost. Some of their friends were separated. They were scared arriving in the new city.

LEMON (voice-over): A train full of children fleeing the war.

MASHCHAK (through translator): It took two days. They were stopped by shelling alert at several stations. [23:34:58]

LEMON (voice-over): Now, they're relatively safe in this orphanage outside of Lviv, but their journey to find permanent homes has been halted by the war.

(On camera): Does the process slower now because of the war?

MASHCHAK (through translator): Definitely yes, because all their files and court decisions are still in Donetsk, and all the documents have to be prepared by regional authorities, and it is impossible now.

LEMON (voice-over): One of those children in limbo is Morrie (ph), who American Colleen Holt Thompson is trying to adopt.

COLLEEN HOLT THOMPSON, ADOPTIVE MOTHER FROM KENTUCKY: We had the paperwork in Donetsk region to adopt, and a day and a half after we had everything to submit, Putin invaded and all the kids in the orphanage had to be evacuated to Donetsk.

LEMON (voice-over): What has this been like for you? Five weeks, right?

HOLT THOMPSON: I have been here five weeks, yes.

LEMON (voice-over): She and other perspective adoptive parents are pushing the Biden administration to allow about 300 Ukrainian children, whose adoptions are pending, to come to the U.S. temporarily for their safety while the war is raging.

Right now, 73 U.S. lawmakers have signed on to a letter asking the State Department and President Biden to make it happen. Until then, Thompson remains in Lviv, bringing supplies to the orphanage, visiting Morrie (ph) when she can, and worrying about her when she can't.

HOLT THOMPSON: I'm messaging her. Yesterday, she spent almost six hours in a bomb shelter. We had missile strikes near both of us. And so, it is scary enough to have that happen, but when you can't physically be there to know your child is okay and to help protect them -- and all the other parents, some in Poland, a lot back in the U.S., they are getting the same phone calls I'm getting. It is scary.

LEMON (voice-over): Morrie (ph) meanwhile waits for the chance at a new start.

(On camera): Are you ready for a new life in America?


LEMON (on camera): Tell me why.

UNKNOWN: I want to make a new life, make new friends.

LEMON (voice-over): With her new mom.

UNKNOWN: I really love my mom. And -- (END VIDEOTAPE)

LEMON (on camera): Look, it is -- Morrie (ph) is one of the older kids there. Even though she is 18 now, she still can't leave because of the paperwork. She is technically an adult, but they are holding her here because of paperwork. The children we visited were little tykes, two older kids.

I don't really know what to say because they are starved for affection and for attention. They are just sitting there, languishing, in these orphanages when there are people who want to help them out, but they are stuck. So, the Ukrainian government needs to do something, the American government needs to do something. They need to get together to figure out how to get these kids at least temporarily into good homes.

I know that is -- you have to be careful with kids, all that trafficking and all that. We need to be cognizant of that. But something needs to be done to get these kids out of limbo. Every moment counts. So, do something, please. I hope the story helps.

Ukrainian firefighters battling fierce places after Russian attacks. And this weekend in Lviv, one was spotted wearing gear with the word "Edmonton" on it. How that jacket made all the way from Canada to Ukraine, we are going to explain. That is next.




LEMON: So, this week in Lviv, a firefighter battled a raging inferno wearing a jacket with the word "Edmonton "on the back. He had his extra protective gear, thanks to firefighters in Edmonton, Canada, who had been donating to Ukrainian firefighters for several years now.

So, I want to bring in Kevin Royle, a firefighter with Edmonton Fire Rescue. He is the founder and project director of a group called Firefighter Aid Ukraine.

Kevin, I really appreciate you joining us. Thank you so much for what you're doing. Let's talk to the world about the great work that you're doing. You and your team volunteer daily at a Ukrainian donation warehouse in Edmonton preparing boxes of equipment and gear that will be sent over here. I saw firsthand the good that your equipment does. How does it make you feel seeing your equipment in action?

KEVIN ROYLE, FIREFIGHTER, EDMONTON FIRE RESCUE: You know, I guess it was midday that I got a phone call from a firefighter in Calgary that we work with him. He said, tell me you're watching CNN right now. I logged in really quickly and I saw the gear there.

To be honest with you, I wasn't really surprised because we received images and videos all the time about our gear being used in evolutions and emergency situations. And I guess, you know, I've never seen it used in this type of scenario, in a theater, a war or anything.

But I was happy to see it being used the way it's supposed to be, the way it was intended, to keep the firefighters safe so they can go home to their families, do their duties of protecting life, property, and environment. I was happy to see it being used.


I wasn't really surprised, but I was a little disheartened that it was being used in that type of a scenario, in wartime.

LEMON: Yeah. Listen, I mean, speaking about that, I know firefighters risk their lives all the time. They run towards the danger. I was just, you know, amazed and inspired by those guys running into the inferno in that gear. And you believe still they need more equipment. They don't have adequate equipment now. Am I wrong?

ROYLE: That's right. I mean, you saw them all running in there. They may have had the jackets and stuff, helmets, but I didn't see a single SCBA, breathing apparatus, on any single one of those firefighters, right? So, they do need more help, that's for sure.

LEMON: You've been doing this for how long?

ROYLE: Well, it will be 10 years ago this spring that I made my first trip to Ukraine with a rotary Group Study Exchange, and it was then that I saw the conditions that firefighters and first responders were working in. Shortly after that, I returned home, and we were going through an equipment swap-out. I made a pitch to my then-chief and deputy chief to try to get some of that gear, and they liked the plan.

So, it was about two years later that our first deployments shipped out to Ukraine. I'd say it's about eight years. And we've shipped out thousands of sets of bunker gear literally from all over world. Not just bunker gear. We shipped out equipment, tools, medical supplies. But hundreds of sets of bunker gear just like that one in my video.

Actually, there are actually two sets of bunker gear in that footage. One has the "Edmonton" wording on it. One has the wording removed. You can see the silhouette of the panel that was removed if you look closely.

LEMON: Yeah. So, now what? I know you come off and what's your plan for -- are you planning a fundraiser for Ukraine?

ROYLE: Yeah. We just -- it was two weeks ago that we shipped a plane load of 14 tons of equipment and Lviv was one of those communities that received some of that gear. I was able to confirm that just days before that fire they had received the equipment that was allocated to them.

We've already started collecting more equipment and we're holding a fundraiser in Edmonton with the Ukrainian chamber of commerce. We're holding a fundraiser. As long as there's a need and as long as there's support here, we'll continue doing what we're doing.

LEMON: Kevin Royle, you're a good man. Thank you for everything that you do there, in your daily life, and everything you've done for the firefighters of Ukraine and for the world. Thank you so much.

ROYLE: Thank you for being over there in Ukraine. It can't be an easy task yourself. So, thank you.

LEMON: We'll be right back.




LEMON: Tonight, Will Smith apologizing to Chris Rock for walking on stage during the Oscar ceremony and slapping Rock for making a joke about Smith's wife, Jada. Smith saying -- quote -- "Violence in all forms is poisonous and destructive. My behavior at last night's Academy awards was unacceptable and inexcusable."

CNN's Stephanie Elam has more now.


STEPHANIE ELAM, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): A slap to the jaw that had jaws dropping all around the world. And the academy condemning Will Smith today, announcing a formal review to explore a further action and consequences. This, after Will Smith confronted Chris Rock onstage for a joke about Smith's wife.

CHRIS ROCK, COMEDIAN: Jada, I love you. G.I. Jane 2, can't wait to see it.

ELAM (voice-over): At first, Smith appeared to laugh. But watch Jada Pinkett Smith's face. Their mood changes as the joke sinks in.

ROCK: Oh, wow! Wow! Will Smith just smacked me.

WILL SMITH, ACTOR: Keep my wife's name out your mouth!

ROCK: Wow, dude!


ROCK: It was a G.I. Jane joke.

ELAM (voice-over): The Dolby Theater crowd was stunned. Denzel Washington and others stepped into council Smith as Sean Combs called for calm.

SEAN COMBS, RAPPER: Okay, Will and Chris, we are going to solve that like family at the party.

ELAM (voice-over): Rock's words, a reference to the head shaving character from 1997's G.I. Jane. Over the years, though, Pinkett Smith has spoken publicly about her struggles with alopecia.

JADA PINKETT SMITH, ACTRESS: Look at this line right here.

ELAM (voice-over): An autoimmune disease that causes hair loss. It is unclear if Rock knew this when he made the comment on stage.

UNKNOWN: Will Smith.

ELAM (voice-over): When Smith won best actor later in the night, the world waited to hear what he would say.

SMITH: I want to to apologize to the academy. I want to apologize to all my fellow nominees.


SMITH: Art imitates life. I look like the crazy father, just like they said.

ELAM (voice-over): Obviously missing from his apologies, Chris Rock. The actor's day back to at least the mid-90s.

UNKNOWN: Which one of your handsome man's big Willie?

ELAM (voice-over): When Rock appeared on "The Fresh Prince of Bel Air." But it was in 2016 when Rock hosted the Oscars that he took aim at the Smiths for boycotting the show during the OscarsSoWhite campaign, joking that Pinkett Smith wasn't invited anyway, and poking fun at the size of Smith's paycheck for "Wild, Wild West."


It's unclear if any of that fed into the Oscars fiasco. Smith later joining the party circuit with Oscar in hand, dancing to one of his own songs.

Stephanie Elam, CNN, Hollywood.


LEMON: All right, Stephanie Elam, thank you very much for that.

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