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Don Lemon Tonight

Intense Fighting And Attacks Despite Russia's Vow To Scale Back; Ukrainian Artist In Kyiv Documenting The War; War In Ukraine Risks Global Food Shortage; U.N.: More Than 3.9 Million Refugees Have Fled Ukraine. Aired 11p-12a ET

Aired March 29, 2022 - 23:00   ET




DON LEMON, CNN HOST (on camera): This is DON LEMON TONIGHT. I'm live in Lviv in Western Ukraine where there have been air raid sirens earlier tonight despite how far west into the country we are. Kyiv hearing sirens throughout the night as well along with heavy artillery and rocket fire.

We are seeing Russian shells with our very own eyes even though Vladimir Putin's government claims Russian forces would drastically reduce their assault. It's no wonder the Pentagon is skeptical.


JOHN KIRBY, PENTAGON PRESS SECRETARY, ASSISTANT TO THE SECRETARY OF DEFENSE FOR PUBLIC AFFAIRS: We ought not be fooling and nobody should be fooling ourselves by the Kremlin's now recent claim that it will suddenly just reduce military attacks near Kyiv or any reports that it's going to withdraw all its forces.


LEMON (on camera): President Biden says he is skeptical of Russia's claims, too. The evidence backing that skepticism adding up. A new attack on the heavily bombarded city of Mykolaiv in Southern Ukraine leaving a giant hole in a government building, killing at least 12 people.

I want to bring in now my colleague here in Lviv, Hala Gorani. She joins me live. Hala, thank you very much. I want to put up these -- show you these new images we're getting, this video tonight. It's the devastation in Irpin. It's in western suburb of Kyiv.


LEMON (voice-over): That Ukraine -- it was taken by a Ukrainian non- governmental organization and provided to CNN. And I've got to warn you, it is very graphic. Look at this.


LEMON (voice-over): Bodies of civilians appear to be left on the streets. Hala, this is awful. It's horrific.

HALA GORANI, CNN INTERNATIONAL ANCHOR AND CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): It is. It's outside of Kyiv. It's Irpin. We've talked several days in a row about Irpin. This is one of the heavily contested suburban areas where Ukrainian forces have been putting up such an incredible defense of their city on the outskirts of the capital.

What we're seeing here is from the Ukrainian Witness Project. This is a non-governmental organization. We have been able at CNN to geolocate and check the authenticity of this footage. But you see it's a hollowed-out suburb.


GORANI (on camera): The mayor of Irpin said that they controlled 95% of the city, but at what cost? You see it's leveled. You see bodies left in the street because it's too dangerous simply to drag them away and give them a decent burial.

What's important to note is that in the northwest part of Kyiv, these Ukrainian forces have essentially shielded their capital city from the Russian ground advance.

We're not able to know for sure how these people died, whether it was small arms fire, whether it was shelling, but clearly it is so dangerous that, you know, their neighbors and their families are unable even to retrieve them at this stage. It has been an intense battle in those parts of Kyiv.

LEMON: Our colleagues have been hearing the explosions and hearing, you know, the war still going on. It is -- in just the last few hours. It's the exact opposite of what the Russians said that they would be doing.

GORANI: I guess maybe you can say it's not surprising. The Russians have in the past many times said that they would do something and done the exact opposite. I think this is how negotiations go. You have on both sides on the table the proposal, you're starting to get the outline of what an agreement might look like, but neither side is letting down in terms of their military activity.

The Ukrainians still say this is exactly when we need more weapons from the west because this is when we need to show that we are still in it to win, to fight, and to keep up the defenses of our cities because this is not the time to let go, to back down from the fight.


As far as the Russians are concerned right now, they are basically saying -- we get an idea of what their proposal is.

LEMON: Right.

GORANI: You know, we are starting to get a sense that it's going to be the south, the southeast. What the Ukrainians are willing to accept in terms of what they might or might not give up, whether it's territory or whether it's their status as a neutral country, that's what we're going to get a clearer picture of in the coming days and weeks.

LEMON: And, you know, the video really tells the story.

GORANI: Absolutely.

LEMON: It shows the whole world what is going on here.


LEMON: This is video. It shows the moment a Russian strike hit a government building in the southwestern town of Mykolaiv. What are we learning about this attack, Hala?

GORANI: Well, you are showing that government building. It wasn't just hit -- and there's the missile hitting that building -- it was completely leveled and obliterated. You essentially had the front of the building left and everything behind it completely gone. These are parts of cities that are basically going to have to be rebuilt from scratch.

The Russians are keeping up their attack on Mykolaiv. This is where Ben Wedeman was. I know he was live on your program last hour. And officials there are saying essentially that, you know, they may still be in control of some parts of the city, but at a cost that is absolutely, you know, horrendous. Very difficult to quantify right now.

And also, you have to remember, these cities have been hollowed out not just of their buildings but of their people, their civilian population. Once this is over, it's going to be a real uphill battle to repopulate these areas.

LEMON (on camera): Yeah. Completely rebuilt, as you said. Hala Gorani, thank you very much. We'll see you back here in just a little bit. Thanks, Hala.

CNN's Frederik Pleitgen was near (INAUDIBLE). Here is what he witnessed.


UNKNOWN: From the first days of war, it was --


LEMON (on camera): So, you can hear all of the incoming and outgoing fire in the first video that we showed you. And what you just saw there for a second, that was Fred speaking to a member of the Ukrainian defense force who says that the Russians do actually pull back their forces. If they do, it's going to be because they lost.


UNKNOWN: From the first days of war, it was obvious that the Russians will be defeated on the battlefield, in the diplomatic field, and political field. It was what was out of the questions.


LEMON (on camera): So, let's talk about all this now with the former defense secretary, William Cohen. Secretary, thank you so much. Appreciate having you on again. Good evening to you.

Russia's defense minister said today that the main task of its special military operation in Ukraine, tasks with an S, have been completed. Obviously, they have not. So, how do you interpret that?

WILLIAM COHEN, FORMER DEFENSE SECRETARY: Don't accept a word that the Russians say. They've lied consistently. They're lying now. You've had two former four-star generals on, General Clark and General Breedlove, and I think they gave you what needs to be done.

But I think that the Ukrainians have to do two things. Number one, get resupplied as quickly as possible. And the other thing is I think in any endeavor, in war, in business, in sports, if you're always playing defense the whole time, you're going to lose. So, the Ukrainians have to go on the offense at some point in time defending their cities now having to do it with long-range missiles coming at them.

We've got to provide them with the kind of capability they can start going on the offense against the Russians. And I would include anti- ship missile capability. Make the Russians pay as much of a penalty as possible, one, on the military side, and then, number two, for every day that goes by, I would impose another sanction on the Russians. I would seek to pound their economy like they are pounding the cities in Ukraine.

And I think the combination of giving them more capability militarily and then really imposing even stricter sanctions to say to Putin, your economy is going to suffer a long-term damage here, and your people, ultimately, when they see the truth, they'll be in the streets. So, you have a chance now to stop this. And I would say never give up any of the sanctions until, number one, there's a ceasefire, number two, a withdrawal of the forces. That would be something I would recommend.

Obviously, President Zelenskyy has got to make these decisions. But we're always responding to what Putin -- what is in Putin's mind. What does he want? Well, he took Crimea. He wants the Donbas. He may want Odessa. He may want Moldova (ph). What do we want to see take place in Ukraine and how can we help President Zelenskyy? That's the goal right now.

LEMON (on camera): Listen, I'm glad you mentioned it because he is calling out Putin's empty promises tonight. Here it is.


VOLODYMYR ZELENSKYY, PRESIDENT OF UKRAINE (through translator): The signals that we hear from the negotiating platform can be called positive, but these signals don't drown out the explosions of Russian bombs.


LEMON (on camera): So, then, what is the strategy here in Russia's claims that they're pulling back attacks and then attacking?


COHEN: It's part of their strategy, perhaps. They're looking like they are in retreat. If they were in retreat, I would hope that the Ukrainian military would go right after them. As they're going out if they're going out and leaving or trying to reposition, I would intensify and try to kill as many as I possibly can.

And that's when the military will see that, hey, we're losing now. We are not only -- they're defending themselves, but they're actually coming out and killing us in an offensive way.

Then I think you start to change the focus of what the -- quote -- "negotiations" are going to look like. And that's something that President Zelenskyy needs. He needs to kill more of their people, more of their soldiers. And then we need to impose more sanctions so that Putin is suffering on the battlefield and in his economy.

LEMON: Do you believe that there's a real shot at a negotiated outcome or does there need to be a clear winner and loser on the battlefield for this war to end?

COHEN: I think the Russians have to be persuaded that they're losing. I think that if they believe that just continuing this, the west not helping out as much as we could, that he will wear them down. And then I still believe he thinks that the west will fold on the imposition of sanctions.

What I would like to see is Putin, who is said to be one of the richest men in the world, and I ask you, how does a public servant get to be one of the richest men in the world other than being a kleptocrat and cheat?

And so maybe his money has to go into this pile, that has to go to the rebuilding of all that he has destroyed. He has leveled cities. He has driven 10 million people from their homes. They need to be starting to think about how they're going to pay in order to rebuild that country.

And we can start with Putin himself. Certainly, with the oligarchs. But then the Russian people are going to have to pay up. And I think that's why we need to keep the sanctions on as long as possible and not at all hint at the bargaining table that they're going to come off as soon as they stop. I don't think so.

LEMON: Secretary, always a pleasure. Thank you so much.

COHEN: Good talking to you, Don.

LEMON: We're getting new satellite images showing the mass destruction in the city of Mariupol. And you can see the entire city blocks -- the entire city blocks there obliterated. Every single building demolished. And here's what's left of the bombed-out theater where hundreds of people were killed. Now it is reduced to rubble.

I want to bring in now Inna Sovsun. She is a member of the Ukrainian parliament. Ina, good to see you again. The last we spoke, you were hearing, you know, some bombings. I know it just keeps happening. So, hello to you. I hope that you're safe.

We're seeing these new satellite images showing the utter devastation of Mariupol, apartments destroyed. Look at this image. Huge lines of people lining up outside a supermarket there. They are desperate for food and water. They need a protected humanitarian corridor to escape.

INNA SOVSUN, MEMBER, UKRAINE PARLIAMENT: Yes, they do. First of all, thanks for having me again. As we speak right now, I'm hearing some explosions as well. And this has been a very rough night here in Kyiv, frankly speaking. There have been some very heavy explosions around one o'clock in the night, which is five hours ago Kyiv time. That was a rough night and that was the de-escalation that the Russians have promised around Kyiv for you.

Of course, the situation in Mariupol is much worse. And I'm looking at those images of the cars lined up. Probably people are trying to escape or get some aid. And I keep on returning to the images in Kharkiv where people were standing in lines for humanitarian aid and the Russians have specifically bombarded the postal office where people were lining to get humanitarian aid.

It's just a dramatic situation where you have to risk your life in order to get some water and some basic food for your family. But you have to risk your life. You never know when the Russians will attack and will open fire. They're doing that specifically for people trying to get humanitarian aid and relief. And that just is terrifying, the very fact that they're doing that.

LEMON: Inna, before I ask you my next question, do you feel stuck there because -- listen, I know you're a member of parliament and you want to stay. And I'm just wondering how you're feeling and how many people feel because if there's not a corridor, right, for humanitarian aid and for people to get out, do you feel trapped? Are people feeling trapped there because they can't leave? Talk to me about that.

SOVSUN: No. In Kyiv, it doesn't feel trapped. In Kyiv, you can take a train, you can take a car, and you can leave. You have to be careful. They turn off the lights in the train when you travel to the west. But it is so much better. But people in Mariupol, people in Chernihiv, they feel trapped.


They cannot leave. And that is a scary thought. And I will tell you this. Even here in Kyiv -- again, I know that I can leave. I tried that. I went to see my son two weeks ago, 10 days ago. So, I can leave. But the day I came back to Kyiv, the next day after that, they have actually bombarded, opened fire onto the train that was leaving the city.

So, that got me thinking, like, okay, I could have been in that train as well. You know, that is the exact train that I was taking. Luckily, everybody survived there. But still, you know, that can be happening.

But again, I don't mean to say that this is nearly the same as people in Mariupol because over there, they're truly stuck. People in Irpin were stuck two weeks ago when the major fighting were taking place there as well. That is where they're stuck.

LEMON: Yeah. Russia has been -- thank you for answering that. Russia has been terrorizing Ukraine with these constant bombings, right? You said you heard them all night, into the night in cities all over Ukraine. Now, they say that they are going to drastically reduce their military activity near Kyiv, near Chernihiv. I know you don't believe Putin. So, what is the goal here? Why are they saying this and doing another? What do you think the strategy is?

SOVSUN: Well, first of all, again, they have not reduced anything. Again, I will tell you this. This was the heaviest explosions that I have heard in a very long period of time during the war around here in Kyiv. It was really heavy last night. And apparently, that was also the missiles targeted on Kyiv, not just the fighting taking place northwest, because we were getting air raid alerts during the night as well.

But I think that the major goal here is that they're trying to relocate troops from Kyiv and Chernihiv and send them to Donbas. So that is not de-escalation. That is not reducing the number of troops. That's just relocating them to a territory where they have more advantage because they have managed to proceed a little bit further around Donbas area, and they probably realized by now that with the troops they have, they would not be able to make any advances around here in Kyiv.

So, I think that is the reason why they're doing that, is they need to relocate troops to Donbas. They have been doing that in northeast around Sumy for a couple days now. And we know that some of those brigades they have pulled from Sumy region, they have already been seen around Izyum, which is in Kharkiv region and on the way to Donbas. So, I think that is what is happening there.

LEMON: Inna, thank you. Please be safe. We appreciate you appearing again.

SOVSUN: Thank you.

LEMON: Thank you. So, as you just heard from Inna there as well as our teams on the ground, they've been hearing in Kyiv these increased shellings throughout the night despite Russia saying that it will drastically reduce military activity there.

Next, I'm going to talk to a Ukrainian writer and photographer in Kyiv who has been documenting the daily lives of everyday people as the fighting continues and sharing their stories with the world.




LEMON (on camera): Millions of people have become refugees since Russia invaded Ukraine. My next guest stayed in Kyiv and has been photographing and writing about Russian aggression in Ukraine since 2014. When Russia began their current assault on Ukraine a little more than a month ago, Ukrainian writer and photographer Yevgenia Belorusets started a war diary. Her photographs and translations of her entries are posted only daily.

Earlier, I spoke with Yevgenia Belorusets. Here is our interview now.


LEMON: Thank you, Yevgenia. I appreciate you being on with us. You're in Kyiv right now. You have family there, too. And I understand that you are all considering leaving Thursday. Tell us about that decision.

YEVGENIA BELORUSETS, UKRAINIAN DOCUMENTING LIFE IN KYIV: Thank you for asking. Actually, we were considering leaving Thursday, but my parents still don't want to leave Kyiv. So, we might reconsider it again. For my parents, it is very important emotionally to stay in Kyiv in these hard times and just be with the city. And for me, it's somehow good to be also near the people I love.

I also think it's somehow easier to stay here for some people, maybe even for all who stayed, and lots of people stayed. It's easier because here, you have very strange feeling that you control what is happening around you, what is happening with your city. There's something that belongs to you, surroundings, life. And I think that leaving Kyiv is somehow hard. So, our family is postponing it constantly.

LEMON: There has been really some fierce fighting outside of Kyiv. And you write about frequent air raid sirens and lockdowns. Are you worried that if you leave, you might never be able to return?

BELORUSETS: For some time, I was really worried. And every time when I'm thinking that I will definitely leave someday, these concerns, these thoughts are coming back to me, lots of anger, fear, and this feeling that maybe I still should stay.


Yeah, that's a very powerful concern you are mentioning because you cannot be sure in this situation.

LEMON: Your writing and photography focused on the lives of ordinary Ukrainians. And you write this about a destroyed building. You said, "the apartments in the building with their small private hidden worlds no longer exist." Tell me how that captures what's been lost to you.

BELORUSETS: Maybe -- maybe I was writing about the feeling that the whole life that existed in our city in Kyiv suddenly disappeared and also the whole atmosphere is a reality. People were creating was destroyed by war, together with lives, together with people who are just dying in the city because they are where they are. Power is destroying their -- something that was created between people to create the life of the city. And it is a feeling that some are very alien and angry hand is just trying to wish away the life like it was and everything. Maybe we should start from the point zero of when this -- when this war will end.

I'm sure actually deep in my heart that Kyiv will be saved, that we will come -- all who left will come back, and that city will live again. But it will -- it has to start -- yeah. Again, I hear sirens in Lviv from your side.

LEMON: Yeah, the sirens are going off where I am. Yeah. So -- but they go off periodically here and we check every time. Are you hearing sirens in Kyiv? Do you hear them?

BELORUSETS: Yeah, like 15 minutes ago. Fifteen minutes ago, air raid alarm started in Kyiv.

LEMON: Yeah. In one of your diaries from March 20th, you write this. You said, I can't close my eyes, can't find peace. Do you think you'll ever be able to find peace after what you've witnessed?

BELORUSETS: I don't know what will happen in the future. But I see that when calm days or hours, days never, but hours are coming, I might feel even more disturbed sometimes because safety is making me feel all the pain of everything we have lost, but most of all lives we are losing. People who are dying for nothing. And then this is most clear in minutes of safety.

LEMON: Yeah. Well, we wish you continued safety, and keep doing the beautiful writing and documenting what's going on, Yevgenia. We appreciate it. And thank you for coming on CNN. Take care.

BELORUSETS: Thank you very much. I actually very strongly believe that we will build everything all over again.

LEMON: And just to be clear here, those sirens you heard aren't happening right now. That was earlier. The interview was taped earlier this evening.

The U.S. warning about a Russian troop repositioning. Is the fighting in Eastern Ukraine about to get a whole lot worse than it already is?




LEMON: Russia claiming it plans to drastically reduce its assault on Kyiv and Chernihiv following another round of talks with Ukraine today. In spite of that, we are seeing unthinkable destruction in places like Irpin and Kyiv suburbs.

Now, the U.S. is warning that Russia could be repositioning troops in other parts of Ukraine. That could include Eastern Ukraine where cities like Mariupol have been under intense Russian attacks.

I want to bring in now former defense adviser to Ukraine Colonel Liam Collins as well as Major John Spencer, author of "Connected Soldiers: Life, Leadership, and Social Connections in Modern War." I'm happy to have both of you gentlemen on. Thank you so much for joining us.

Colonel Collins, we've talked about how skeptical the U.S. and the west are about this Russian announcement. But let's look at what it actually means if Russian forces do scale back near Kyiv. You know the Ukrainian forces well. What would this mean for their ability to defend their country?

LIAM COLLINS, FORMER DEFENSE ADVISER TO UKRAINE: Yeah, I mean, first, I'd say right. I mean, it's a sign the war clearly is not going well for Putin if he's going to remove the forces from that key objective, what is probably his key objective of the war. So, that's the first thing. It's clearly a sign for that.

And I think Ukraine will clearly react to it, right? As Russia consolidates its forces somewhere else, Ukraine will respond in kind. I mean, those of us that worked with them are not surprised by the Ukrainian performance.


They embarked on a path of comprehensive review of their defense establishment in 2016 that culminated with the enactment by then President Poroshenko of the Strategic Defense Bulletin of Ukraine. And that was a commitment to reform the defense establishment because that was a thing they were worried about, a large-scale Russian invasion. So, they have that.

They have a cultural volunteerism going back to 2014 that rushed to the front to defend against the Russian invasion or the Russian support to the separatists at that time. That hasn't changed, only become a little bit more formalized and institutionalized with the territorial defense brigade so they can be able to react to that.

And then also right, a culture of -- a cultural change within the Ukrainian military that empowers junior leaders to make decisions on the battlefield. Right? The speed of battle is too fast in the 21st century, and so empowering those leaders after eight years of fighting in the Donbas, they realized hey, we need junior leaders to make these kinds of decisions on their own, give them the broad guidance and mission orders, and go out and execute.

So, as Russia shifts to other places or assuming they do move troops and reposition them, you know, Ukraine has demonstrated that they're going to be able to perform.

LEMON: Major Spencer, you've been on with me before. You predicted that Russian forces would have a hard time with urban battles. That's been especially true in Kyiv. Is there any way to look at this other than Russia failing at one of their primary goals?

JOHN SPENCER, CHAIRMAN OF URBAN WARFARE STUDIES, MADISON POLICY FORUM: Absolutely not, Don. You know, I've said since day one that Kyiv, the taking of Kyiv, was their stated strategic objective from day one. They didn't even call Ukraine a country. He wanted Kyiv.

Like we talked about in the beginning and every day, they didn't lose, they're winning. Today, that's a clear sign that they are winning and not just a little bit.

You can call this repositioning, which doesn't happen overnight. You can't just move forces from like Kyiv to the eastern part of Ukraine. These are demoralized -- taken apart units at high casualty rates. They're freezing. It's wet. The morale you and I talked about and how important that is. Ukrainians are winning big-time.

LEMON: You say that the Russians can't just pull their forces out of the Kyiv area and reposition them to the east. Why not? And where do you think they would go?

SPENCER: Well, one train matters, Don. So, where are they going to go? They will go up to Belarus all the way around. They can't go through what we call enemy territory without continuing to be ambushed and counterattacked. Look what's happened in places like Sumy and -- these places where the Ukrainians are fighting, are moving out of the defense, very protected and very well, and attacking anything moving.

An ambush is one of the most powerful attacks in history because you use surprise on a moving or temporarily halted element. What do Russians want to do? They want to move from their temporary defensive positions now, which you and I have talked about how powerful the defense is, but they're already broken apart.

You and I know this. With all the reports of their morale, the time and distance and the health of these forces matter. You can't just pull those guys out and throw them into the east into the Donbas region where one-third of Ukrainian army is positioned. And that's a hard fighting unit.

So, in all aspects, you can't just move them. You can't fly them. So, you got to drive them. Vehicles break down. I mean, this may brief well for them politically to say about the Donbas.

But Ukrainians should rejoice in this phase. Still a dangerous point, right? There are still many people suffering. But they should rejoice and use this to inspire even more of them to continue fighting. And what that does to -- you and I have talked about this. The will of those fighters. It's huge.

LEMON: John Spencer, Colonel Collins, thank you both very much. We'll have you back. We appreciate it.

COLLINS: Thank you, Don.

LEMON: It is known as the bread basket of Europe. Now, Russia's invasion is completely upending Ukraine's food production and threatening famine for millions around the globe.



LEMON: Tonight, the head of the World Food Program is warning that Russia's invasion is devastating Ukraine's wheat crop, putting millions of people around the world at risk of hunger. Ukraine provides wheat to many countries. It is known as the breadbasket of the world.

More tonight from CNN's Hala Gorani on what the war is doing to Ukraine's wheat and other crops.


GORANI (voice-over): On this farm in Western Ukraine and many like it across this country, the future of food security for hundreds of millions of people around the world is being determined. One-third of the world's most fertile soil is in Ukraine, according to the U.N. So, what doesn't grow here or what this country is unable to export because of the war, local officials tell me, will cause ripple effects around the globe.

The repercussions of the war in Ukraine began to impact everything, Vladimir Rameniak (ph) tells me, including all agricultural operations inside and outside the country, including the sowing season.


Western Ukraine, where this farm is located, accounts for a relatively small portion of total wheat and corn farmland. The most productive farms lie in the hottest conflict areas of the country like Izyum in Eastern Ukraine.

Satellite photos show the extent of the destruction in and around that city. In one video, Russian artillery positions and Ukrainian counterattacks are visible in a field. And the Ukrainian agriculture minister tells me the impact on this year's crops will be devastating.

MYKOLA SOLSKYI, AGRICULTURE MINISTER OF UKRAINE: Last season, we have approximately totally 110 million tons. This year, we expect at least 30% less than this amount. It's a very optimistic prognosis.

GORANI (voice-over): Wheat is usually planted around March and harvested in the summer. But we are told on this farm near Lviv that most farmers in the conflict zone are writing this year off completely, because it's simply too dangerous to work the land.

Back on the farm outside Lviv, we meet Pavlo Kovalchuk, who manages the fields and other crops that grow here like apple, plum, and walnut trees.

(On camera): Are you ready for the longer term? If this war lasts a long time, are you ready to dig in and keep working?

PAVLO KOVALCHUK, FARMS MANAGER (through translator): We have to be ready because we have no other choice. I and all other farmers who work with me here are ready because we're responsible for providing food not only for Ukraine but for other countries.

GORANI (voice-over): Beyond production issues, there is also a shortage of workers. Some have joined the fight against the Russian army. Others have moved to safer areas or left the country altogether. A sector that employs hundreds of thousands in Ukraine hollowing out as the war grinds on. Ukraine is known as the breadbasket of Europe. And so, a war on this country is also an attack on all those who depend on it for food.

Hala Gorani, CNN, Lviv, Ukraine.


LEMON: All right, Hala, thank you very much.

Refugees helping refugees. People who have already fled Ukraine volunteering to assist the war-weary now arriving and hungry.




LEMON: The number of people fleeing Ukraine nearing four million tonight. CNN's Matt Rivers is at a refugee processing center in Hungary for us, where Ukrainians are seeking solace from the constant shelling and destruction of their homeland. Here is that story.


MATT RIVERS, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Each time a new group shows up, it's anybody's guess how many refugees there will be. But more than a month into this war, weary Ukrainians keep coming and coming, looking for safety in the Hungarian capital of Budapest.

(On camera): So, authorities here say that as compared to a few weeks ago, things are now much more organized. So, once people come in, they get processed, and then the idea is to get them to where they want to go. If they want to stay here, they go to door number four over here to get local accommodation. Door number three, that would take them to the airport. And door number two and number one over here, this is where refugees go when they want to go to the train station here locally.

(Voice-over): Making their journey a little easier is Yiuliia Pokhylenko. She is a volunteer translating Ukrainian into Hungarian or English. And here, she helps us speak with this couple who left behind family as they fled Ukraine just a week ago.

(On camera): Are you worried about them?

LUDMILA, UKRAINIAN REFUGEE (through translator): She wants everybody would stay alive and be healthy.

RIVERS (on camera): She wants what everybody wants.


RIVERS (on camera): To be safe.

(Voice-over): Yiuliia has a gentle touch with these new arrivals. She is warm and kind and empathetic because she, too, is a refugee from a suburb of Kyiv. She fled amidst intense fighting a few weeks ago.

Yiuliia took this video just before she left of the shelter she used when the bombs were falling. And on her way out of the city, she took this video of shell casings on the ground.

(On camera): Was it difficult to leave your country?

POKHYLENKO: Yes, of course.

RIVERS (on camera): Why?

POKHYLENKO: Because it's your country. It's your land. It's so, so shock -- so surprising for what's happened and for why.

RIVERS (voice-over): She has been here for several weeks with no plans to leave. Yiuliia desperately wants to be back in Ukraine. But for now, she'll help however she can.

RIVERS (on camera): Why are you doing this?

POKHYLENKO: Little help, it's help. Everybody wants to help Ukraine, how you can.

RIVERS (voice-over): And today, that meant everything from serving up hot drinks to guiding this woman to get her medication. However, she can show people that she cares. At the end of our interview, a hug for us, too.

POKHYLENKO: Tell everybody about this story.

RIVERS (voice-over): And a message.

POKHYLENKO: Help, please. Stop this.

RIVERS (on camera): We will. Thank you.

POKHYLENKO: You're great.

RIVERS (voice-over): Matt Rivers, CNN, Budapest, Hungary.



LEMON (on camera): Matt Rivers, thank you so much. And for ways you can help people affected by the war in Ukraine, go to And before we go, I just want to make sure that you know CNN Plus is here. It's going to have live news, exclusive films, original series, and interactive interviews, including my new show. It is called "The Don Lemon Show." You can learn more today at Look at that. That was 20 pounds ago.

Thanks for watching, everyone. Our live coverage continues.


GORANI: Hello, everybody. Welcome to our viewers around the world and in the United States.