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Don Lemon Tonight

Traitors Don't Deserve President Zelenskyy's Time; Vladimir Putin Is Now Isolated; Russian Troops Repositioning Themselves; Kherson Region Bombed 47 Times; Ukrainians Will Fight For Their Land And Democracy; Family Finally Reunited. Aired 10-11p ET

Aired March 31, 2022 - 22:00   ET



DON LEMON, CNN HOST: Speaking of reporting, I'm so proud of the reporters here on CNN, our CNN international reporters who are intrepid and they travel all over the world to do this kind of work all the time. And they don't always get the recognition for it.

Everyone from our Ed Lavandera, to Ivan Watson, to Ben Wedeman, to Clarissa Ward, to Christiane Amanpour. I mean, just too many to name it, I don't want to leave anybody out. Michael Holmes and Hala Gorani, everyone here on CNN international. And it is just been -- I've been amazed to watch them kick into gear. Fred Pleitgen, everyone. I mean, it's just really amazing reporting that they do.

And this is, again, this is when they do every single day. They're out here risking their lives, and covering the world.

WOLD BLITZER, CNN HOST: I couldn't agree more. I've been watching them for all of the years that I've been in CNN, they risk their lives, they are courageous. And people don't necessarily appreciate how dangerous these assignments could be.

LEMON: Yes, how dangerous it is, and how they do it. and when this happens, they just kick right into gear, and it's like they are on autopilot. Because that's exactly what they do all the time. So, I just wanted to give them some love and some appreciation, not only from me, but from the world who is watching them cover this with elegance, and dignity. And showing the folks here some dignity as well.

Wolf, I'll see you tomorrow night. Thank you so much. I enjoy the program.

This is DON LEMON TONIGHT. I'm in western Ukraine in Lviv.

And this is our breaking news. Ukraine's president removing two top generals, calling them traitors.


VOLODYMYR ZELENSKYY, PRESIDENT OF UKRAINE (through translator): And today, another decision was made regarding anti-heroes. Now I do not have time to deal with all the traitors, but gradually they will all be punished.


LEMON: We're going to have more on that in just a moment here on CNN. And we have new video tonight, Russian-backed troops firing rocket propelled grenades in Mariupol.

NATO warning Russian's forces are not withdrawing, they are repositioning. And the Pentagon says that there is no indication that those forces are going to be sent home. So, the question is, will Putin do next?

The President of the United States, Joe Biden today saying Vladimir Putin may be isolated, and even putting some of his advisers under house arrest.


JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: There is a lot of speculation. But he seems to be, I'm not saying this with a certainty, he seems to be self-isolated, and there is some indication that he has fired or put under house arrest some of his advisers.


LEMON: Well, the president also saying that he is skeptical that Putin will withdraw all of his forces from and around Kyiv. And that skepticism is warranted when you see what is happening in and around the capital. At least two missiles strike, two, close to the heart of the city just today.

In the suburb of Irpin, what the mayor calls conscious shelling -- continuous shelling, excuse me. Half of the city utterly destroyed and Ukrainian forces say even now, it is one of the most dangerous places in the country.

And towns surrounding the capital, the roofs are completely blown off, home after home. Any sign of everyday lives that were live there, really just blown to bits. Look at that. Look at that video. Unbelievable. There are destroyed tanks in the streets, in a village near Kyiv.

That is what remains of the school right there. Just a few short weeks ago parents sent their children here every day expecting them to be safe. I want you to just look at it now. It is just unbelievable. In the Kharkiv region in the northeast, officials say that Russian troops have struck 47 times in one day.

In the southern city of Mariupol, a city where Russia has already attacked a maternity hospital, a theater sheltering hundreds of people with the word children in Russian visible from the sky, and a Red Cross warehouse.

In the wake of that death and destruction, buses that were meant to evacuate some of the remaining residents reportedly were held at gunpoint by Russian forces just today. Russia now saying that it will reopen the humanitarian corridors from Mariupol to Zaporizhzhia tomorrow. More than 100,000 people are still inside Mariupol.

I want to turn now to CNN's Frederik Pleitgen in Kyiv and Kaitlan Collins at the White House for us this evening. Hello to both of you.

Fred, I'm going to start with you because we're getting this new video, it's out of Kharkiv, it's showing the aftermath of that intense shelling. We're also hearing about intensifying airstrikes in Kyiv. What do know?

FREDERIK PLEITGEN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes. I mean, Don, the situation in Kharkiv is one that, you know, we've been reporting about it quite a bit, it has one -- it is one that has been catastrophic for a very long time. Because the Russians are essentially trying to encircle that city. And they've been attacking it with some pretty heavily for an extended period of.


You were just talking about the fact that the local authorities say that the city was shelled 47 times throughout the course of the day. And we can see some of that video, some of those flames coming out of those impact craters.

Adm what we're hearing from the local authorities that it was not just 47 times that that city was shelled today, but they had more than 380 rocket impacts that happened. So, a lot of this is going on from multiple rockets launching systems, and that's one of the reasons why you're seeing those big flames and those creators.

Because they're not just using the smaller version called the Grad rockets, but they're also using a very heavy rocket launcher apparently, again this is according to the authorities there in Kharkiv, called the Smerch system. And that's when that can shoot about 90 kilometers, that's a range of that, and it's 300-millimeter rockets.

So certainly, a very, very powerful weapon. But as you can see, it's being used in an urban area the Ukrainians say. They also say that there is some fighting in some other towns around Kharkiv, one called Izyum which apparently now one of the big focal points of the Russians, which could by the way, also be an indication of the Russians focusing more of their -- or shifting more of their focus towards the east of the country as they seem to be having a lot of trouble here around Kharkiv.

Adm you mentioned, Don, those two missile strikes that took place, apparently those were precision missile strikes using possibly caliber cruise missiles, those impacted not very far from where we are right now. And certainly, this building was shaking, many of the windows were shaking as well as those missiles struck. So, as you can see the capital is still very much under assault as well, Don.

LEMON: I want to get to Kaitlan Collins at the White House. Now, Kaitlan, President Biden is revealing new information about just how isolated Vladimir Putin is. What do you know about that? KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Yes. He is

echoing these intelligence assessments that show that Putin is very isolated. Something that the White House believed had happened as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. Basically, his circle grew a lot smaller, but they think that's affecting the decisions that he is making.

And it's also causing a lot of tension between the president and his top military advisers. To where they believe as President Biden told us earlier today that he believes that he is firing his senior advisers, or placing them under house arrest because he is so displeased with what's been happening in Ukraine.

Because of course, remember, going into this the U.S. says that Putin believe they could take Kyiv in about 72 hours. Obviously, that has not happened. They have tried. It has been fruitless for them so far. And so, the White House believes there is a sense of frustration between the president and his military advisers that he's not really getting this full picture.

The president did today, when he was talking to us about this at a caveat, saying that, you know, this isn't hard intelligence. This isn't hard evidence. This is just an information, an intelligence that we've gathered. But it does paint a picture of what they believe is happening inside Russia.

And it's something that's been confirmed by other government intelligence agencies, including the British foreign secretary saying today that Putin is frustrated, that he didn't know they had conscripts there, in Ukraine, those are enlistees of course. They -- he didn't know that Russia accidentally shot down one of its own aircraft.

Things of that nature, that are obviously critical to knowing what is happening and getting a complete picture of what's actually happening on the ground. And therefore, it's causing this tension between him and his top military advisers, Don.

LEMON: Fred, you know, we have been talking about the city of Irpin, you just visited today. A city that is getting pummeled by Russian airstrikes. It's horrific, but tell us what you saw.

PLEITGEN: Yes, you're absolutely right. This is one that's still very much pummeled by Russian strikes, by Russian artillery. You can see some of the video that we filmed today. And I mean, just look at the utter destruction there in Irpin. And it's not only rocket artillery fire, and regular artillery fire that's hitting that place, it's also fighting that took place.

And we have to keep in mind, just a couple of weeks ago, the Russians held almost that entire city. And this is really where the assault on Kyiv was halted. You remember that when this war started, the Russians moved very close to Kyiv in a very short period of time. And this is where the Ukrainian forces confronted them.

What you see there, by the way, some of that was Russian tanks that the Ukrainians and there is a fuel truck, that the Ukrainian say that they disabled and completely destroyed. So, that is where the assault was halted.

And if you look at there now, there is some residents who are there, it's really not many. But there's also a lot of dead bodies still in that area. The authorities are starting to bring some of them out. It seems like that there is going to be a lot more.

And the mayor of that place says he believes about 50 percent of the buildings in Irpin have been destroyed. To us that seems like he is underestimating things. We saw very few buildings that were still even somewhat intact. So, it's a place where there is a lot of devastation, a place that is still being fired on, especially by artillery.

But at the same time, also a place of big pride for the Ukrainians who fought there and who are fighting there because they have this gigantic Goliath army coming at them. They were outgunned, in many cases they were outmanned. But they took a stand, and they are pushing the Russian forces back.


And one of the things that we really did notice when were on the ground there is that morale among the Ukrainian fighters, the Ukrainian soldiers who are on the ground there, certainly was very high. And they say that they are going to continue and push the Russians even further back, Don.

LEMON: Boy. It's just, I mean, it's just heartbreaking. Kaitlan, the president making an announcement regarding the strategic oil reserves. I think gas prices, lowering gas prices. It's a historic action, isn't? It

COLLINS: It is. It's the biggest release that we've ever seen since this Strategic Reserve was created in the 1970s. And of course, this is the way that the Americans are being most directly hit by what's happening inside Ukraine, of course that is raising their gas prices.

And so, President Biden is taking this step today. He announced that they are going to release, this historic release, which is about a million barrels a day for the next six months. So, ultimately, that will be about 180 million barrels of oil that they will be releasing.

But experts do say it's only going to have really a modest impact on gas prices. And we asked repeatedly to officials today, when do you think people can see the effects of what the president is doing here. They didn't really want to put a date on it, Don, because they don't seem to think it's going to be that much.

And industry experts have said they do still think you will see those record high prices this spring and this summer. Though they may not be as high as what they were going to be. And you know, the president can only control gas prices so much, it's a global market that sets the price. But this is a step that President Biden can take, they are hoping that other countries will join in and take steps and releasing from their emergency reserves as well. But it is -- it's an acute problem that the president is facing,

obviously it's causing political issues for the president because people, even if the president only has limited tools of what he can do, they still hold him responsible for it. And the midterms are coming up this fall.

The thing is, I think that really stood out the most, Don, from with the White House is saying today is they don't think this problem is going away anytime soon, because they've got this six month of these reserves coming out. They're also calling on companies to ramp up domestic production, but they say obviously, that is not going to happen in days, that would take months to change, Don.

LEMON: All right, Kaitlan, thank you. Fred, thank you. Please be safe out there. I'll see you guys both very soon.

A senior U.S. defense official telling CNN that Russia is focusing airstrikes on Kyiv Chernihiv, Izyum and the Donbas region. Here's what Ukrainian President Zelenskyy said about the situation just tonight.


ZELENSKYY (through translator): The situation in the southern direction, and in the Donbas remains extremely difficult. Russian troops are accumulating the potential for strikes, powerful blows.


LEMON: Joining me now, former NATO Supreme Allied Commander General Wesley Clark. He is now a CNN military analyst. General, good to have you on to help me analyze some of this stuff. Good evening to you.

You heard President Zelenskyy. He says Ukrainian forces are doing everything that they can to help invaders in the Donbas. What's the most effective thing that they can do to fight back?

WESLEY CLARK, CNN MILITARY ANALYST: What they need is a, the need more equipment. They really do. Of course, they need air cover, and they've got a few aircraft left, maybe less than 50. They need those MiGs brought in from around the world that their pilots can fly. That's the first thing.

The second thing they need is heavy equipment, they need tanks, artillery, lots of munitions. What we've given them so far from U.S. (Inaudible) That's worked really well. And infantry moved out from Kyiv, and you've seen the results.


LEMON: We lost your audio for a little bit. Can you repeat what you just said, please? We couldn't hear it. It was little -- yes.

CLARK: Sorry. Yes, we have given them defensive equipment, what we need to do is give them a counter offensive equipment. We don't actually have it, our allies have it in Europe. Poland has it. Bulgaria has it. And Ukrainians are asking, why can't we get access to the tanks and the artillery and so forth? That the Polish and Bulgarians army seem to, they're willing to give it to us. They want the United State to back fill it.

Why can't we get that? Because ultimately, Don, it's not enough to push the Russians back. Those Russian forces are holding their north of Kyiv for a reason, and they'll be back. You have to have the offensive means (Inaudible) and annihilate them. That's the way mobile warfare is fought in Eastern Europe.

LEMON: Yes. Thank you. I didn't mean to interrupt you. But what you are saying is very important, and I want our viewers to hear every word of it, General.

So, also tonight, President Zelenskyy is saying that he is removing two top generals because he does not have time to deal with all traitors. During wartime that is a gut punch. What do you -- what happened, what do you think happened?

CLARK: Well, I don't have the inside details on it, Don, and I will try to find those.


But we've known from the beginning that there were always some people in the Ukrainian government maybe in the armed forces, maybe in the intelligence who work for and report to the other side. It's just natural because of the long relationships.

And I'm sure the Ukrainians have their friends in the Russian forces. Adm when they get identified, they have to be taken out. And it seems to me that's what President Zelenskyy has done.


LEMON: General, some are questioning whether Russia has essential commander on the ground in Ukraine. You and others have noted this. It seems like they're running their military campaign out of Moscow. Is that why we see what we see happening here on the ground?

CLARK: I think that's exactly right. It's run actually by Mr. Putin. This is the Russian model. He's adopted Stalin's model. Stalin ran World War II himself. He was the decision-maker. He created around him something called the Stavka or the staff. They did what he wanted, maybe they gave him advice, but he was the decision-maker.

And I think Mr. Putin is the decision-maker here. And Don, I think he's gotten some bad advice. Of course, people are going to lie to him because that is in the Russian system. They all lie to each other, they know they lie to each other. And yet, when they discovered, of course they're angry about it.

That's the flaw in the Russian military ethic. It's been there for a long time because in the Russian system, if you admit it you made a mistake, you're the first guy to get shot for it. So, everybody covers up everything. It's just the way it's always worked in Russia. And from my discussions with Ukrainian officers who served in the

Soviet army, it was still alive and well in the 1980s. That's -- that's the ethos of that army. Putin is the man in charge. He's listening to the generals, but he's measuring those generals and the shakeups are inevitable.

He's going to find people he doesn't trust or maybe they implemented his decision wrong. Or maybe they just, he made a bad decision and they get the blame for it. But that's what happens in the Russian military. It happened to Stalin at the beginning of World War II. He fired a lot of people. That's the way it works.

LEMON: General, I forget what the day that they called it when, you know, they authorized the draft for the people who just turned 18. But Putin has authorized the draft more than 134,000 Russian citizens into the army. The defense ministry claims that they won't be heading to the hotspots, but clearly, he can't be trusted.

I'm wondering what kind of impact that could have on this war and also, I'm being told by people here who I'm interviewing, who are being, you know, who are in contact with the Russian soldiers either at checkpoints or after they escaped -- escaped from the neighborhoods. They are saying that it doesn't appear that the Russian soldier's hearts are in there. They are telling them they are here because they're ordered to be here. Not necessarily because they want to be here. They -- can you talk to me about that please?

CLARK: Well, look, a lot of these Russian soldiers who came in were lied to. They thought they were going on an exercise. They didn't know they were actually going to war. And some of them are conscripts, even though Moscow says they aren't.

So, these are not motivated, well-lead soldiers. They want out. But there is one thing about the Russian military that I think they all understand. If you surrender and you're then repatriated, you're going to be viewed as a traitor or a spy and you're going to be eliminated.

In World War II, the Soviets killed thousands of their own returning prisoners of war. Because they didn't trust them. And this is simply the way it works. So, these first waves of Russian soldiers there are not motivated, they're not disciplined as well. The draftees that come in, they may not be trained and able to fight for a while.

But Putin is aiming for a long run in this. He has started a purge, just like Stalin did before World War II. He's tightened up his own security. He's arresting and eliminating dissenters. He's shutting down the opposition newspapers, he's blocking the press, the media. He's in this for the long term. And he's going to, according to the polls, the Russian people don't know any better and I think it's a great thing to attack Ukraine.

And so, and so, eventually they'll be higher motivation. Either because of the propaganda or because at the point of a gun, they know they have to succeed or die. So, this is a temporary thing. We, you know, maybe it will work, maybe the Ukrainians can win just because of this. But past records and Mr. Putin indicate to me otherwise. This is a blip or a pothole. But it's not the end of the conflict by far.


LEMON: Yes. Well, General, thank you. I'm so glad. I want our viewers to hear every word what you have to say is so valuable, General, we learn so much. Thank you very much. We appreciate you joining us.

Russian ground troops stalled near Kyiv. But from the air attacks are only increasing. CNN's Christiane Amanpour is there on the front lines right after this.


LEMON: Tonight U.S. defense officials saying Russian forces are ramping up air their air strikes on Kyiv and its suburbs. President Biden says he is skeptical of Russia's claim that it's withdrawing its troops from that area.

But in one town northeast of the capital near the front-line Russian forces didn't leave. They were pushed out or killed by Ukrainian fighters who are vowing to stand their ground if Russia's come back.

More tonight from CNN's chief international anchor Christiane Amanpour.

CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CNN ANCHOR: The first thing you notice approaching the front northeast of Kyiv are the lines of villagers waiting for humanitarian handouts. They receive a bag of bread and basics to get them through these difficult days.


"The first week of the war a shell hit us near the greenhouse. We barely survived," says this woman. "We had help from strangers around us. They gave us bread and canned food. We wouldn't have managed otherwise."

No one here knows when this war will end or whether Russia still has designs on Kyiv. The frontline is about a mile away. For now, an uneasy calm prevails ever since the Ukrainian defenders stop the Russian advance here. It was February 28th, they say, day four of the war.

They want to show us how they did it. But first, we have to clamber over the bridge they downed to see the armored column they managed to take out. The riverbank is littered with their skeletons. This was a turkey shoot, Russian armored vehicles and tanks had come off the road to avoid the anti-tank mines. Only to find themselves unable to cross the bridge and unable to reverse in time.

Ukrainian forces tell us none of the soldiers inside survived. A little further up the road, two tanks have been virtually smelted, blasted almost to smithereens. Forty-year-old Yevgeny, a veteran fighter proudly tells us, this was his handiwork. "We all here have one role, to keep the enemy off our land," he says. First thing they did after seeing the village, they started to shell

houses just like that. They didn't see us. They didn't know we were here, so they just started to work on houses. And so, I took the tank in my sights and I fired a rocket. And goodbye to him.

The destroyed vehicles are stamped with an O, the Ukrainian officers here tell us this identifies them as Russian units that entered from Belarus to the north. Oleg is the officer who commanded this operation. "As for now, looking at previous fighting we've had, I can tell you that we are trained better," he tells me. We have stronger morale and spirit because we are at home. They are afraid, but they go because they're made to."

He's been battle hardened ever since the first Russian invasion in 2014. He says his side has enough weapons, ammunition, and determination to win. "I can tell you, I'm almost sure the Russians are regrouping and not retreating," he says. "Besides, we are preparing ourselves to go forward, we're not preparing just to defend here."

U.S. and British intelligence say Putin seems to have quote, "massively misjudged the situation. And clearly overestimated the abilities of his military to secure a rapid victory."

And this old lady tells us, "I have seen one war and here we go again. I wish Putin would go away."

The people of this land remain stalwart and the soldiers remain dug in. Hoping they can continue to withstand whatever Putin has in store for them next.

Now President Zelenskyy made his 17th appearance to a world congress, a world parliament. Addressing Belgium and asking, as he does, for more weapons and more help they absolutely need it.

In the meantime, we just don't know what the future is going to be. How Putin will redirect and redeploy the forces. Will it lead to a stalemate, will it lead to an ongoing war of attrition, and concerningly, according to the allies anyway, the Polish prime minister told me today, that despite the sanctions, Putin isn't quite yet feeling the heavy pain. The ruble he points out is doing quite well against the dollar. Don?

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

Talks between Ukraine and Russia picking back up tomorrow. While Ukraine wants the U.S. to deliver the more weapons and faster. I'm going to talk to President Zelenskyy's chief diplomatic advisor right after this.



LEMON: Russian air strikes intensifying in the Donbas region of eastern Ukraine where we're told Putin's forces are shifting their focus. Ukrainian officials in the area are bracing for the worst. Here's what the governor of Luhansk told CNN's Erin Burnett earlier.


SERHIY HAIDAI, GOVERNOR OF LUHANSK REGION (through translator): Basically, all of the territory is being constantly shelled by heavy artillery. They use any possible means of heavy bombardment, they use cruise missiles, Grad rocket launchers, they attack us from the air with air bombs, and warplanes.



LEMON: Joining me now is Igor Zhovkva, he is Ukrainian President Zelenskyy's chief diplomatic advisor. We thank you so much for joining us. We really appreciate it, Igor.

So, cities across Ukraine are under intense fire, and U.S. and NATO officials say that the Donbas is going to come under renewed assaults. Ukraine is making new requests for equipment including drones, anti- drone systems and more missiles. And U.S. officials say that they are moving aid a country -- into the country as quickly as possible. Do Ukrainian forces have the supplies needed to fight back?

IGOR ZHOVKVA, DEPUTY HEAD OF THE OFFICE OF THE PRESIDENT OF UKRAINE: Well, yes, we need the supplies. And without these supplies, you know, it will be much harder for us to do on the ground. But definitely we need much more supplies.


And as you mentioned, some items will add to these like tanks, armored vehicles, are very important equipment to defend our skies. Because as you well know, NATO countries together with NATO and the institution of which they refuse Ukraine of enclosing the skies over Ukraine.

So, that's why being realistic, we please demand out of NATO nations some equipment for us ourselves to protect the skies. I mean, anti- aircraft warfare systems, and the missile systems and fighter jets. With this equipment, we will be able to defend the skies, while we are doing more or less good on the ground, with additional supply of grounds munitions, we will be very move -- quickly moving to the victory.

LEMON: President Zelenskyy says that the negotiation with Russia are -- negotiations with Russia are only words. Have the Russians made any concessions, and what can you accomplished during those talks?

ZHOVKVA: Well, Russian delegation have our proposals on the table. So we, last -- last -- during the last we presented to them the draft to Ukrainian treaty, an international legally binding treaty on security guarantees for Ukraine. And in it set of conflict of our security guarantees by major international powers such as the U.S., U.K., Germany, France, Turkey, in order to prevent such situation as Russian aggression happening in the future. So, Russians have these proposals, they took it back to their capital, you know, for consultation or whatever. We are hoping they will be coming back with a constructive proposal. But you have to understand that the real negotiations are going to be held on the level between presidents only.

For the time being, my president is ready for such a negotiation. Unfortunately, this is not the case for Putin. He all the time looks for, you know, some excuses not to -- not to have these talks. He is dragging all of the time, he is still hoping for some victories on the ground, which will enable him to be more stronger in his position during the negotiations.

But we are sure this will not happen. So, he will be -- they have no major victories on the ground. That's why it's high time for him to sit at the negotiating table with President Zelenskyy and possibly with the participation of international leaders such as the president of the U.S. and other world leaders.

LEMON: Yes. Those negotiations are tomorrow, we'll see what happens. Are there any circumstances in which Ukraine would be willing to give up territory, Igor?

ZHOVKVA: No, not in any case. We will not be giving up any single inch of Ukrainian territory, we will not trade Ukrainian territory. So, all Ukrainian territory should remain Ukrainian.

LEMON: Putin has said that Ukraine is not even a real country. So, do you think that he will ever sit down with President Zelenskyy?

ZHOVKVA: Well, that's his usual mantra, which he's speaking for the years that he is in power, that Ukraine is a failed state. That the biggest threat for him in the 20th century is the collapse of the Soviet Union, so his dream is to return Ukraine back to the Russian orbit. So definitely, generally he has these goals.

But you know, any war, any aggression, and this is a real aggression, this is a real war of Russia against Ukraine. It should end with a peaceful settlement. So, yes, we are hopeful that together with the national community, that's why I make it stress, international community should push on him to sit at the negotiation table.

We appreciate the position of many world leaders who suggest a mediation effort who suggest to us bringing him to the negotiating table. So, with the help of the international community, hopefully, he will be there at the negotiation table.

LEMON: What is the most important thing that the world needs to know about what is happening in your country?

ZHOVKVA: The world needs to know that in the 21st century, in the middle of Europe, it's not only a war, it is uncivilized war. When Russian armed forces wage a warfare, not only against the military infrastructure, not only against Ukrainian soldiers, but mostly against Ukrainian women, Ukrainian children, Ukrainian civilians. So, once again, you have to understand, you have to realize sitting by

your TV or computer, you have a war in the middle of Europe. Ukraine is able to stop the aggressor in Ukraine, otherwise, if we together will not stop the aggressor in Ukraine this aggression will spread to further European countries. And who knows, maybe to other countries as well.

So, please, let's together stop the aggression, by sanctions, by weapons, and by political support of Ukraine.

LEMON: Igor Zhovkha, thank you so much, we really appreciate you appearing on the program. Be safe.

ZHOVKVA: Many thanks.


LEMON: And I spoke with Igor just before this program.


Next, a powerful personal story from a family you have gotten to know on this show. He is an American, she is Ukrainian, and her family was trapped in the destroyed city of Mariupol four weeks. They tell me the harrowing story of their escape. That's next, you don't miss it.


LEMON: I want to turn now from southern Ukraine and the key port city of Odessa which is bracing for a possible attack by Russian forces.

CNN's Ed Lavandera is there. Ed?

ED LAVANDERA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Don, here in southern Ukraine, residents are anxiously watching what is happening with Russian forces in the north of Kyiv, as we have been reporting these Russian forces believe to be moving into Belarus, north of Ukraine, to regroup, and re-fit, and get re-supplied.

Adm everyone here is playing close attention to the fact that all of the talk right now seems to suggest that these forces are regrouping to renew their attack, and to push into eastern Ukraine.


At the early onset of the war, it is believed that these forces would try to make their way down along the southern coast of Ukraine toward Odessa where we are. This is a key port city. Losing the city for Ukraine would be a devastating loss. It would essentially mean that Ukraine is a land locked country.

So, there is a great deal of concern as forces have been in that contested areas -- area of the Donbas region. And concerned that they would be able to move, continue moving down the coastline. So far, in recent weeks, the Russian forces have been stalled out about halfway between here and Mariupol, the city that has been so besieged. So that is what they are looking at. And the real question here right

now, Don, is the timing of all of this. Where do things stand? How long will it take Russian forces to regroup and refocus their energy on this part of Ukraine?

We also heard from the United Kingdom, minister of defense tonight saying that some 2,000 Russian soldiers were going to be repositioned from Georgia into focus on the eastern part of Ukraine as well. So, a great deal of troop movement. Not a lot of trust in residents here who do not really believe with Russians are saying publicly. So, they are really monitoring where the forces are going, and trying to figure out the timing of all of this. Don.

LEMON: All right, Ed Lavandera, thank you so much. We'll be right back.



LEMON: So, I really want you to settle in for this one. OK? Are you watching? A family whose story I've been following from the start of the war. And I got to meet them all today. Reunited after surviving what everyone has been through what is called hell on earth.

So, let me explain this. You may remember Joe Reimers? If you take a look he's all the way on the left. He's an American in Ukraine. He's there with his wife Dasha who is Ukrainian. They first came on this show to talk about their own escape from Kyiv when Putin's invasion began. But Dasha's family had been trapped in Mariupol, where Russia has unleashed its most brutal and indiscriminate attacks.

So next to Dasha that is her father, Oleg. He was taking care of hospice patients and didn't want to leave them behind. And on the far right is Dasha's uncle, Gennadi, a pastor of a church in Mariupol full of people who needed him.

Well, for weeks, Joe and Dasha had been living in agony with Oleg, Dasha's mother, and Gennadi, they've all been living in hell. But they didn't want to leave Mariupol which they still call the best city in the world. To them it was. To Putin it was a target. And if Mariupol is hell, well, you can guess who they think is doing the devil's work there.

They finally had to leave or risk falling into the hands of the Russians. So, I want you to listen very carefully to what they went through and how they feel about this war. At times they seemed shell- shocked. At times they seemed OK. But tonight at least this one family in Ukraine is together alive and safe.


LEMON: So, you're waiting for three weeks for them to come.

DASHA REIMERS, FAMILY ESCAPED MARIUPOL: Yes. And we knew that every day the situation is getting worse in the city from what we understood from the news. So, yes, that part was hard.

LEMON: Are you watching the news and the pictures of Mariupol and thinking -- what were you thinking?

D. REIMERS: Yes. I was -- we were watching everything, every channel we could find. Every page on Instagram. Everything. What I was thinking, I don't know, sometimes you have hope. Sometimes you think I'll never see them again. So just -- yes. Mixed feelings.

LEMON: When you were able to communicate with them, what were you saying to them?

D. REIMERS: We were trying to make them try to go out of the city. Most of the time they would ask what's going on here.

JOE REIMERS, AMERICAN ESCAPED MARIUPOL: Part of the reason for not going I think was -- and they can answer this better. What was concern about if it was possible to leave but also, they felt responsible to care for basically between two different churches where people were sheltering.

There were, I think more than 50 people total, a lot of whom were elderly women that they were caring for. I know Oleg was going back and forth between churches almost every day.


J. REIMERS: I think through the shelling and everything.

LEMON: Oleg, why did you stay? Why didn't you get out immediately?

OLEG KADATSKIY, ESCAPED MARIUPOL (through translator): We worked for the Blue Cross mission, and we took care of hospice patients located at the outskirts of the city. When the shelling began, the area was heavily and often under fire. So, we had to move closer to the center. And we were taking care of elderly women. Hospice patients. We moved our patients closer to the center.

And when we lost our water supply and electricity in the city, we started an open fire and brought food there for these people. We used a big 30-liter cauldron to cook. And power generators to produce electricity for the other people to come charge their mobile phones and devices. We were providing food for approximately 40 or 50 people daily.

D. REIMERS: So, you have to understand, he worked for this mission, but his brother is a pastor of the church where they were hiding. So, he can maybe tell you more about this part.

LEMON: What are you thinking about now? Because it looks like you have a lot on your mind.


GENNADI KADATSKIY, ESCAPED MARIUPOL (through translator): I'm trying to learn how to smile. The pace of life there is completely different from what you can see and feel here. It was not normal life, but survival mode, because you had to give hope to those who are losing it or who were suffering from breakdowns.

And even though it was hard for yourself to be in these conditions, and as the pastor of a church, it was not possible to give up and I needed to try to hold it altogether. It has changed me forever. We talked a lot about how the only hope is in God. And as we were in the situation, our only hope was God.

LEMON: And now?

G. KADATSKIY (through translator): I continue living like that. It was an internal change. A big change. I continue living like that. My teaching is what I truly believe now. God was protecting me.

LEMON: Did this make him question his faith at all, or did it strengthen his faith?

G. KADATSKIY (through translator): Faith just leveled up. I thought I had faith, but when I had nothing else, I just realized it's really big.

LEMON: Did it ever feel like this wasn't real, as if it was a dream, did he think he was going to wake up from a nightmare?

G. KADATSKIY (through translator): When they were bombing us from the plains, because it was hard to believe the bombs were floating down so easily. I witnessed horrible things. I told myself, I see it and it's really happening.

What was the ultimate decision, the deciding factor for them to come? Because they didn't want to leave, they wanted to help all of these people. Why did they ultimately decide to come, to leave?

O. KADATSKIY (through translator): There was one day when I went out to call my son, and he said, leave the city. And my wife was cooking over an open fire, and there was an explosion, and she started shaking. I just couldn't do it to my wife anymore. I would never forgive myself if something happened to her.

LEMON: The expressions on your faces speak louder than the words. He is looking at his brother, he is worried about his brother, what is he thinking?

O. KADATSKIY (through translator): We were together. We shared our problems. Big past.

LEMON: What are you thinking?

G. KADATSKIY (through translator): Next question.

LEMON: You are looking at him almost in tears, he is looking at his brother, and I can tell he is worried because he is studying him and he is thinking about a million different things as this is going.

G. KADATSKIY (through translator): I left on the 23rd, my house was destroyed, and my garage and car. The church we were living in was shot by a tank and destroyed. I didn't want to leave because I would be the last person to leave the church as a senior worker. But there was a moment when a child sent, a director came to me. He is a man of big faith and he told me, leave Mariupol for a month or two, because you will be put in a cell, because everyone knows your pro-Ukrainian position.

LEMON: Do you feel guilty about leaving?

G. KADATSKIY (through translator): A little bit. For the members of my church that I could have taken on foot, but we were under fire.

LEMON: Are you going to go back?

G. KADATSKIY (through translator): The longer I stay here, the less likely. How can I live with people with a different understanding?

LEMON: Are you going to, do you want to go back?

O. KADATSKIY (through translator): I would love to return to Mariupol, but it is under Ukrainian control. I would happily come to rebuild the city.

LEMON: What do you think of the Russians and Putin?

O. KADATSKIY (through translator): Biden was asked about Putin and called him a butcher. I agree with him.

O. KADATSKIY (through translator): Putin doesn't understand what he is doing. He is just a tool in the hands of the devil.

LEMON: What would you say to him? What do you want him to know?

O. KADATSKIY (through translator): I would like him to come to Mariupol and see how people lived and died. I would love for him to experience that. Russians are starting to believe at their own propaganda lies, I had a heated discussion with a Russian officer. He was convinced that they had come to help us. He said he would free us from the Nazis. I looked into his eyes, and he believed it. I told him I was Russian, and I had never seen a single Nazi in Mariupol. He was surprised.

LEMON: What did he say?

O. KADATSKIY (through translator): That he has seen Nazis at the checkpoint. They checked us for tattoos, and that is how they check for Nazis.

LEMON: How many checkpoints?

O. KADATSKIY (through translator): Twelve checkpoints.

LEMON: And you had to do it every time?

O. KADATSKIY (through translator): It was only Russian military checkpoints. They said that they were mobilized. They didn't choose to go to this war, and they were made to do it, and it wasn't their choice.

LEMON: What was -- how many people left with them?

O. KADATSKIY (through translator): Seven people in the car with us.

LEMON: Were they worried that they were not going to make it?

O. KADATSKIY (through translator): Three times, we were under fire. As we were leaving a checkpoint, shelves were exploding everywhere.


People dove into the field and covered their heads. One person was hit by shrapnel, three cars ahead.

LEMON: Did they have food?