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Don Lemon Tonight

Horrific Photos From Bucha Spark Global Outrage; Russia's War Aims; U.N.: 4.2M Refugees Have Fled Ukraine. Aired 11p-12a ET

Aired April 04, 2022 - 23:00   ET




JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: And we have to gather all the detail so this can be actual -- have a war crimes trial.


DON LEMON, CNN HOST (on camera): And tonight, President Zelenskyy is warning that they're likely to find many more bodies as more town are liberated from Russian forces.

CNN's Fred Pleitgen just got back from Bucha, where he is witnessing the carnage and the devastation there for the world to see. Fred, the world is horrified by what happened in Bucha. You were there. You witnessed it. Tell us what you saw.

FREDERIK PLEITGEN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (on camera): Hi there, Don. What was devastating, the scenes that we saw, and I think one of the things that really stands out is that it has been, you know, more than four days since the Russians retreated from Bucha and the folks there are still finding dead bodies in the street, dead bodies in shot-up cars, in destroyed houses, and even seemingly executed in basements.

That is what we witnessed firsthand, and I need to do -- to warn our viewers that what you're about to see is extremely disturbing and very graphic.


PLEITGEN (voice-over): Ukrainian authorities in Bucha lead us into a basement they call a Russian execution chamber. It is a gruesome scene. Five bodies. Their hands tied behind their backs. Shot. The bullet casings collected by Ukrainian police. Pockmarks from bullets in the walls. The Ukrainians say these men were killed when Russian forces use this compound as a military base while occupying Bucha.

An adviser to Ukraine's interior minister not even trying to conceal his anger.

ANTON GERASHCHENKO, ADVISER TO UKRAINE'S INTERIOR MINISTER (through translator): After the liberation of Bucha, five corpses of civilians were found here, he says, with their hands tied behind their backs. They were shot in the head and in the chest. They were tortured before.

PLEITGEN (voice-over): Even the body collectors find it hard to keep their composure. Vladislav Minchenko is usually a painter. Now, he collects the dead left behind after Russian forces retreated from Bucha.

VLADISLAV MINCHENKO, VOLUNTEER BODY COLLECTOR (through translator): This is not what we learned in school, he says. Do you see my hands? Hundreds. Hundreds of dead. Hundreds, not dozens.

PLEITGEN (voice-over): The Kremlin has denied Russia was behind any atrocities in Bucha.

(On camera): Now, the Russians say the notion of their troops having killed civilians is all fake news and propaganda. But it does seem clear that they were here. That looks like a sort of foxhole position. And over there, they seem to have dug in a tank.

(Voice-over): On the outer wall, the letter "V," a symbol that Russian forces painted on their vehicles before invading this part of Ukraine. Now, a lot of Russian military hardware lies destroyed in the streets of Bucha and other towns around Kyiv as the Ukrainians made a stand and prevented Vladimir Putin's army from entering the capital city.

Images published shortly after Russian forces left Bucha show many corpses lining the streets. Some bodies had their hands tied behind their backs. President Biden called what happened here a war crime. While visiting Bucha, Ukraine's president vowed to bring those behind the violence against civilians to justice.

VOLODYMYR ZELENSKYY, PRESIDENT OF UKRAINE (through translator): These are war crimes, he says, and they will be recognized by the world as genocide. You are here and you can see what happened. We know that thousands of people were killed and tortured, teared limbs, raped women, and killed children.

PLEITGEN (voice-over): And still, the dead keep piling up. Many lay in this mass grave behind the main church in Bucha. Local authorities tell us around 150 people are buried here but no one knows the exact number. And here, too, the scenes are tragic.

Vladimir (ph) has been searching for his younger brother, Dmitri (ph), now is convinced Dmitri (ph) lies here even though he can't be 100% sure. The neighbor accompanying him has strong words for the Russians.

LIUBOV, BUCHA RESIDENT (through translator): Why do you hate Ukraine so much, she says. Since the 1930s, you've been abusing Ukraine. You just wanted to destroy us. You wanted us gone. But we will be, everything will be okay. I believe it.

PLEITGEN (voice-over): But more corpses are already on the way. At the end of the day, we meet Vladislav and the body collectors again. Another nine bodies found in this tour alone. It is unlikely they will be the last.


PLEITGEN (on camera): And, you know, one thing that we have to understand about those volunteers, Don, is that they go around every day searching for more bodies and they've already recovered hundreds of bodies.

And one of the things that really stood out as they were unloading that van is, first of all, how many bodies they picked up that day, but also, they had one bag that was really light, and they said that it was a single leg that was badly burned.

And those are the things that these people have to deal with.


And unfortunately, they understand it is still going to be several more days that they are going to have to do that work. Don?

LEMON: And Fred, the president, Volodymyr Zelenskyy, is warning that we will see more towns like Bucha and even more casualties. Based on what you witnessed, do you think he is right?

PLEITGEN: I think, unfortunately, he is probably right. One of the interesting things, the foreign minister of this country, he also said that he believes that this could just be the tip of the iceberg.

And, you know, one of the things that I've done this weekend, I've actually gone around the area near Kyiv, especially to the northwest, to some of the towns, some of the suburbs there, and in almost all of them, we saw utter devastation. A lot of houses that were destroyed, larger buildings destroyed. Also, quite frankly, a lot of destroyed Russian armor as well.

One of the places that stood out was a place called Borodyanka. And there, you went down the main street, and just everything there seemed to be in ruins.

And there, a family came to us and said that they had just returned and there were Russian soldiers who had been in their house, had ransacked the house, and they actually found a dead body in their backyard also with his hands tied behind his back and a bullet wound to the head. They found a shell casing.

So, that alone seems to indicate that quite possibly, there could be further incidences similar to what we've seen in Bucha. Don?

LEMON: Frederik Pleitgen, be safe. Thank you, sir.

So, let's bring in now journalist and author, Sebastian Junger. His latest book is titled "Freedom." Sebastian, thank you.

SEBASTIAN JUNGER, AUTHOR: Thank you for having me.

LEMON: Unbelievable. JUNGER: Very, very painful images to see.

LEMON: When you look at these bodies, they were strewn all about there, across the floor, some with their hands bound behind their backs. How important is it for us to look at these images? I mean, because we want to turn away. It's difficult. It's awful. But we need to see what they represent. No?

JUNGER: Yeah. I mean, in a moral sense, we have to know -- we have to know what is happening in the world. But also, if we don't process this legally, politically, there is no chance of a true accounting even if the perpetrators are not brought to justice. But just for history, it must be known.

LEMON: Do you think it puts more pressure on the west to do more for the people of Ukraine?

JUNGER: I mean, I am not a diplomat. I think the calculation about doing war comes down to a reasonable fear of catastrophic war with Russia. And so, I don't think it is going to change that calculus. But it may change -- I mean, I don't think there is going to be a no-fly zone because of this or what have you.

But I think, you know, certainly, it will galvanize public opinion and world opinion in terms of cutting off the purchasing of oil, gas, and coal from Russia, things like that.

LEMON: The question is, when you look at this, where is the line? You know, that fear of nuclear versus where is the line, that for people -- for someone just slaughtering people.


LEMON: t's genocide. No?

JUNGER: Yes, it is. And unfortunately, it's rather common. It happened in Chechnya, it happened in Afghanistan (INAUDIBLE), it happened in Bosnia, it happened in Kosovo.

I saw FBI investigators investigating the crimes scenes left behind by retreating (INAUDIBLE) soldiers in Kosovo. And very, very much the same. These villages where hundreds of people were killed. Usually, it was, you know, civilians. Usually, reprisals for attacks on soldiers. Right? So, some soldiers would get killed, they round up everyone in the nearest village and machine gun them. They did that over and over again.

LEMON: My goodness. Volodymyr Zelenskyy, the president, is there. He saw the carnage firsthand today. He said it's difficult to negotiate with the Russians after seeing what they had done. Do you think it's possible to make peace with people responsible for such barbarity?

JUNGER: I mean, peace -- I mean, you can have a cessation of war. Peace may be a different matter. I mean, the war will end when Putin realizes that he losing more than he is gaining. I don't know where that line will be. I don't know what Ukrainians are willing to give up. Kosovo got its independence. Bosnia as well.

So, the longer this goes on, the higher the price form by Putin in many different ways. And this clearly isn't the war he thought he was going to fight. And I don't think even he know how this will end.

LEMON: Yeah. I was fascinated by this interview that Fareed Zakaria had yesterday. It was the former oligarch, Mikhail Khodorkovsky, who was once the richest man in Russia. That was before he was imprisoned for going against Putin. Fareed talked to him, and he knows how Putin thinks and he said this. Watch this.


MIKHAIL KHODORKOVSKY, EXILED RUSSIAN OLIGARCH (through translator): All his life, he has always dealt with the criminal elements and was indeed himself part of that criminal world. He doesn't treat the law seriously or state institutions, for that matter. In his world, the main thing is force.


And if you don't show him force, if he senses that you are weak, as he does, for example, about Mr. Macron, he simply takes advantage of you. When he feels force, when he is afraid of force, he is ready to talk.


LEMON (on camera): Okay. So, the kind of my question, right? Where is the line?

JUNGER: Right.

LEMON: He says, sheer force. That's the only thing that is going to stop Putin.

JUNGER: Right.

LEMON: So, what does that mean for Ukrainians? I think it means that they are going to continue just to be bombarded, you know, with missiles, with artillery until Putin gets his way.

JUNGER: Well, here is the thing. Insurgencies usually win, right? I mean, the Russians were driven out of Afghanistan, then U.S. was driven out of Afghanistan. It was a toss-up in Iraq, I would say. I mean, the history of insurgency, fighting great powers, is very, very successful.

So, you know, even if he has a tactical win and takes Kyiv, which I don't think he will, he has an occupation to run. It will run indefinitely. A country like Russia, a country like the United States, way more wealthy, cannot do that indefinitely.

Eventually, the great power steps away because they are bleeding too much economically and in terms of manpower sometimes.

LEMON: You wrote this piece for "Vanity Fair" about 10 days after Putin's invasion and you laid out what makes the underdog group successful in war. You said, a clear moral purpose, fearless leadership, and women in the fight. We talked about that a little bit, right?


LEMON: Six weeks into this war, the Ukrainians still have, you know, all of that. How do you see it playing out in the coming days?

JUNGER: I mean, look, the cost to the people of Ukraine is going to be horrific. But I would guess that they are going to win this eventually.

LEMON: You do?

JUNGER: Yeah, I do. They may even lose Kyiv. But eventually, I don't think -- Russia has a tiny economy. Ukraine is 44 million people. I mean, the Russians could barely take Chechnya with one or two million people. Even if they took Ukraine, keeping it, I think, would be a nightmare for them.

Eventually, I think -- I think that -- I mean, what they may wind up happening is that there is a sort of concession, right? They divide it somehow or whatever. The idea of Putin controlling Ukraine completely, I think, at this point is kind of realistic.

LEMON: You know, being there, there is a different sense about it, right? I mean, obviously, it's awful, but just being on the ground and being able to touch the people and --


LEMON: -- experience with them -- in my particular experiences -- you know, while I was there, you know, I saw -- the only person of color I saw was the defense secretary, the photographer on the plane, and one African for two and a half, almost three weeks.

It was interesting, people's reaction to me there, all very kind, but it was a different experience for them, having a journalist of color being able to cover them.

I want to write about it. But, I mean, it was fascinating being there and having people react to me and just sort of state at me sometimes --


LEMON: -- on the street as I was walking by.

JUNGER: Yeah. I'm sure. It must have been extraordinary for both you and them

LEMON: What I'm saying, just being able to be an American in these war zones --

JUNGER: Yeah. LEMON: -- it's quite a unique experience for us.

JUNGER: Yes, it is. I mean, we are a very, very lucky country. You know, we are not doing well at the moment at managing that good luck that we have. You know, I hope we turn the corner somehow. But, I mean, you don't need to go far into the world to realize how extraordinary lucky and free we are.

LEMON: Amen. Thank you, Sebastian.

JUNGER: Thank you.

LEMON: It's always a pleasure.

Vladimir Putin's next target may be the city of Kharkiv. More than a third of the population has fled. The mayor says over a thousand civilian buildings have been hit. CNN's Christiane Amanpour reports from Kharkiv. That is next.




LEMON: A top Ukrainian military official is warning that Russian forces are now trying to surround troops in the east and capture the city of Kharkiv.

CNN's Christiane Amanpour traveled to Kharkiv to report on the intense shelling, and I have to warn you, some of the images you're about to see are graphic.


CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CNN CHIEF INTERNATIONAL ANCHOR (voice-over): Here in Kharkiv, former Ukrainian capital, second biggest city, and one of the most important cultural sites, the great 19th century poet, Taras Shevchenko, is hunkering down for the rest of this war. Workers cover him in sandbags against the kind of destruction that pounded the city center since the start.

The most spectacular strike was this one, a month ago, a missile slammed low and hard straight into the corner of the regional administration building.

(On camera): The missile struck right here. And the idea of hitting a building like this is to deny the legitimacy of the state. But the terror against civilians continues playground by playground, mall by mall, park bench by park bench.

(Voice-over): Which is what we find in this residential neighborhood. People were sitting outside, chatting on a Sunday afternoon. Kids were playing. We find the telltale part of a mortar that landed right here. Authorities say seven people were killed in this neighborhood. Many more were injured. Kharkiv sits 40 miles from the Russian border. It is the last major city before Donbas where Russia is directing its war effort to the east.


(voice-over): Just last week, the nearby village of Mala Rohan was liberated from the Russians.

This civilian says he was captured and held.

UNKNOWN (on-screen translation): I was taken hostage and they took me to the officer for interrogation. The officer said, you are a saboteur. No, I am a civilian, see all my documents, my registration. I live here. I came just to ask. Don't shoot at our houses.

AMANPOUR (voice-over): When dusk falls, children are outside playing and getting the last bit of fresh air before descending underground into one of the capital's many subway stations. After 40 days of war, they have turned their temporary homes into a neighborhood. Some have even decorated with fresh flowers.

Zenna (ph) said she has been living down here since the beginning.

UNKNOWN: Oh, this is my house.

AMANPOUR (on camera): Yeah.

UNKNOWN: This used to be my house. Now, we cannot live here obviously because it has been bombed three times in a row.

AMANPOUR (on camera): But this is a safe space for you.

UNKNOWN: Yes, absolutely.

AMANPOUR (on camera): And the kids.

UNKNOWN: Yes, absolutely.

AMANPOUR (voice-over): Kids do what kids do. Homework and handicrafts. Even this is organized. Marina (ph) works for an organization that plans ways to keep the children busy, entertained, and their minds off the trauma.

UNKNOWN: We created the playing grounds, this place for kids, where they can play with toys, make puzzles, and to do the things they did in their usual life before the war.

AMANPOUR (voice-over): But the trauma is never far away, as we found in this underground station, where civil defense is teaching kids how to protect themselves, how to recognize weapons and ordinance, and to remember never to touch. The adults are shown how to protect themselves in case of a chemical weapon attack.

Even this maternity hospital was damaged in a mortar strike. Now, the basement has been turned into a shelter and delivery room if necessary. Birth, life continues. We met Alina (ph) 30 minutes after she had delivered baby Yarislava (ph).

How do you feel?

UNKNOWN: My first daughter.

AMANPOUR (voice-over): Your first daughter?


AMANPOUR (voice-over): Your first child?


AMANPOUR (voice-over): As we are leaving, she tells us, I love my country, I love my daughter, my family, my husband. In the delirium of new motherhood, she said, everything will be great for us.

(On camera): Russian forces tried a two-prong attack to take the city of Kharkiv back in the early days of the war, but it was pushed back at the end of February by the Ukrainians. Still now, we hear regular artillery drills between both sides. Don?


LEMON (on camera): Christiane Amanpour, thank you very much.

Russia's indiscriminate violence against the people of Ukraine sparking calls for war crimes trials. Could the accusations of war crimes change how much the west is willing to contribute to this fight?




LEMON: Disturbing and graphic images emerging from Bucha in Ukraine showing mass graves and bodies in the street. As Ukrainian officials work to account for the dead, many worry things may be even worse in other towns. So, how does this grim new chapter change the battle for Ukraine?

Joining us now to discuss, former defense adviser to Ukraine and retired Colonel Liam Collins. Also, retired Major John Spencer. He is the chair of Urban Warfare Studies at Madison Policy Forum and the author of "Connected Soldiers." Gentlemen, I'm honored to have both of you. Thank you so much.

Major, I'm going to start with you. You say the horror coming out of Bucha is something beyond the war crimes. We discussed that. We have discussed up to now. Why is this different?

JOHN SPENCER, CHAIR OF URBAN WARFARE STUDIES, MADISON POLICY FORUM: So, bombing of civilian targets, war crimes, right? but the enemy can always say, in this case, the aggressor, can always say that whatever they were shooting at had military target or military people in it, right? So, we discussed this in the past. They can argue away what they did even though some of this is clear war crimes that will be investigated.

But there is a whole different level. I don't even think war crime is the right word. It is genocide. It is crimes against humanity, to tie somebody's hands and shoot them in the back of the head. As an old soldier, that is an intimate type of evil that isn't a war crime. That it's a crime against humanity.

LEMON: Colonel, for weeks now, we have heard Russian troops are poorly led and organized and that they have low morale. Does that play any kind of role here? Is there any way to explain this?

LIAM COLLINS, FORMER DEFENSE ADVISER TO UKRAINE: Yes, without a doubt. War crimes are as old as war itself, unfortunately. When you have poorly-led and poorly-trained soldiers, they are going to be far too common. And look, I mean, they sound the border for weeks or months before being sent across. Putin told them -- gave them -- did not tell them why they are winning this war.

They go across the border, they are getting slaughtered, they are seeing their friends get killed, and so they are lashing out on the only people they can find. Unfortunately, that is the civilians that happened to be on the battlefield that they won't even allowed to leave.

LEMON: Major, Russia is changing focus now. They seem to be intent on surrounding and hammering eastern cities like Mariupol.


How long can Ukrainian defenders in the end holdout? And what happens if this becomes block-to-block fighting?

SPENCER: Yes, so, I mean, there is a lot of variables on how much longer they can hold out in places like Mariupol where they've been sieged

for a long time. But that could go weeks, to be honest, depending on what the situation they have on the ground.

And you know, as I've talked before, underground -- Mariupol has an underground. But it's really what Russia is willing to pay to take the city, to be frank, and to take these objectives. Russia is falling apart everywhere.

And this isn't just -- let's focus on the east and let us move a bunch of horses over there, finish the job, and create some type of win. I think we are going to see more war crimes. We are going to see Russia pay a bigger price. So, they aren't over yet.

And to be frank, what happened in Bucha, I mean, that is a rally to these people to keep fighting. It emboldens them. Remember Bucha. Remember these crimes.

LEMON: So, let me -- let us drill into that a little bit more. You think the reports of these war crimes change not only how the Ukrainians are fighting but what the U.S. and our allies are willing to contribute to this fight?

SPENCER: I sure hope so. Look, I understand that Russia has done this in the past. I understand this is what Putin does. I understand this happens around the world. I don't care. This is our moment. We are the leaders of the free world. I think this should change everything. Those images, it's not disinformation, that's a real. You've been over there. You know these were crimes.

Look, there is four forms of national power, and military is one of them. Yes, send more Soviet tanks, send them everything. But there's diplomatic power, there is information power, there is economic power. Bring down the weight that we, the free world, can bring down, yes, without escalating to nuclear war.

LEMON: Colonel, a CNN team near Mykolaiv narrowly escaping artillery fire. We are also seeing video of strikes targeting the port city of Odessa. What can Ukrainians do to fight back if Putin's main goal now is destruction of more and even claiming even more territory -- more so than claiming more territory?

COLLINSL Yeah, I mean, as we see, right, he has failed in his attempts to really take the city. So, he is just sitting back and laying an artillery siege on it because that's about the only option he has.

So, what we've seen the Ukrainians do around Kyiv was write those smart counterattacks, attacking at a time and place with a tactical advantage, and they have superior troop, superior training, superior leader, superior culture, so they are going to defeat the Russian forces.

But they are facing overwhelming combat powers. I would say slow, steady counterattacks that they can slowly chip away at what Russia was able to cease to date. So, I think it is probably going to be more like Kyiv or it is going to take time for these counterattacks to be effective and push Russian forces back.

LEMON: Many of the place Ukrainians will be trying to liberate, major, in the coming days and weeks may be a little more than rubble by the time that they're able to wrestle them back. What is the strategic significance of taking back even a decimated city?

SPENCER: Yeah, so, I've written some papers about this. Is it possible to shore a city? The answer is no. Because the cities are the people. So, all these refugees and even the people who are hiding in the rubble, that is the city. It's not the buildings. It is the Ukrainian people that make up those cities. So, those cities will live again.

LEMON: Colonel, U.S. intel suggesting that Putin is facing pressure to have results by May 9th, when Russia celebrates its victory in World War II. How much more dangerous could not make his next moves? Will he just claim victory regardless of what is really on the battlefield?

COLLINS: I'm sure he will claim victory anyway he can, right? As implausible as it is, he will try to claim something. But I don't think there is nothing more Putin can do to really escalate other than launching more artillery in the cities and killing more civilians. Obviously, that is going to continue to likely pay a higher price for that diplomatically and economically.

So, I mean, he just doesn't have more forces to throw in the fight. They've been decimated, the ones from Kyiv, and then pulled back. It doesn't look like they are going to regroup any time soon. So, there is really not much more he can do to escalate this other than continue to shell and destroy cities.

LEMON: Colonel, major, thank you both very much. I appreciate it.

COLLINS: Thank you.

LEMON: President Zelenskyy in the war-torn city of Bucha warning civilian casualties will rise, but how will the indiscriminate killing impact negotiations with Russia? A former Zelenskyy aide joins me. That is next.




LEMON: Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy touring the Kyiv suburb of Bucha today. There, shocking images of civilian bodies strewn across the street and the discovery of a mass grave inciting international outrage.

So, joining me now from Ukraine, Iuliia Mendel. She is a former spokesperson for President Zelenskyy. We are so happy to have you on. Thank you very much. We realize it is very early there, and we thank you for joining us here. So, at points --



LEMON: -- at points during his tour of Bucha, President Zelenskyy looked disturbed, deeply affected at what he saw. What kind of a toll is this taking on him?

MENDEL: Well, he is the face of Ukraine right now. All the nation is like shaking and all this despair. And believe me, this is not something that someone can actually expect to see. He has faced his -- everything -- he has changed in the last 41 days, absolutely. It is like 40 days, but it looks like 40 years, to be frank. Of course, he is showing what Ukraine is battling through today.

For you to understand, we have recorded 500 of crimes, war crimes, in Kyiv region just in the first day and 410 bodies of Ukrainian civilians were taken to forensic study just on Sunday.

And our general prosecutor office says that Bucha is not the worst yet. We are expecting also new information coming from other cities that have been bombed heavily by Russians in the last month and a half. Mariupol had 400,000 citizens who have been blocked and bombed there. Bucha had only over 30,000 people. You can imagine what is coming up there.

LEMON (on camera): Yeah. It is -- I mean, it is just unbelievable. Zelenskyy talked about negotiations with Russia after seeing the massacre in Bucha. Listen to this and then we will discuss.


ZELENSKYY (through translator): The longer the Russian federation delays the meetings, the worse it will be for them and for this war. Every day, when our troops are liberating occupied territories, you can see what is happening here. It is difficult to negotiate when you see what they have done here. Every day, we find people in barrels, strangled, tortured in the basements. So, I think if they have any brains left, they should think faster.


LEMON (on camera): So, Iuliia, what do you think the impact of what happened in Bucha would be on potential negotiations with Russia?

MENDEL: Of course, Russia makes it super difficult to negotiate, but Zelenskyy is pretty aware that Ukraine is negotiating with a terrorist country. These negotiations are very fragile, they are very unreliable, and Russia behaves very aggressive. But what actually Zelenskyy means is if we do not see justice for all the crimes that Russia is committing here in Ukraine, then eventually it will mean that there is no justice at all and that the whole infrastructure that has been built after the World War II doesn't make any difference in this world.

We are really grateful for all American journalists who are staying right now in Ukraine. We know that it is very difficult, very dangerous to be, and that they are putting their lives at risk to cover all this for the world. But this is also Ukrainian weapon right now. This is the weapon of justice against Russian propaganda that tries to accuse Ukrainians in all those atrocities and war crimes that are happening right now.

Ukraine is waiting for justice. What American media is doing there right now is standing for this justice in the future. Ukraine will need to continue negotiations because negotiations is the way to finish all these horrors that are happening in Ukraine these days. And negotiation is the way when Putin can withdraw its troops from Ukrainian territories. It's very hard to continue but we must continue. We expect justice in the future.

LEMON (on camera): Iuliia, the president -- Ukrainian president also addressed the Grammy Awards here in the U.S. last night. Here is what he said. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ZELENSKYY: Our musicians wear body armor instead of tuxedos. They sing to the wounded in hospitals. Even to those who can't hear them. But the music will break through anyway. We defend our freedom, to live, to love, to sound. On our land, we are fighting Russia, which brings horrible silence with its bombs. The dead silence. Fill the silence with your music. Fill it today to tell our story.


LEMON (on camera): So, he wants people here and across the world to tell Ukraine story. He mentioned music. I know art is very important to the people of Ukraine. How do you want people to do that, tell your story?

MENDEL: Well, President Zelenskyy uses actually very smart strategy, going to different types of platforms and talking to those who have impact, especially, as you mentioned, those who have impact (INAUDIBLE). Ukrainian artists, Ukrainian musicians, they are in the frontlines these days.


And we already had people who are quite young and who are known here for their songs, they died on the frontlines. One of them was just 33 years old. In 48 hours before that, he published in his Instagram, he smiled, saying that that was the moment on the bombing when he would see them smile and post the photo, and that he is fighting there for us. And in 48 hours, we learned that he died.

So, Volodymyr Zelenskyy tries to talk to those people who make impact with art, who can find the best way to show people the suffering of Ukraine. And this is very smart. I know this is his personal decision. And he is very appreciative of all (INAUDIBLE) world.

It is very disappointing for Ukrainians that he wasn't able to show his record. I know there was kind of politics. It is not possible for me and Ukrainians to say that this is some kind of politics when we are killed and we need to stay silent about that. We cannot stay silent about that. We must tell the world in every platform which is possible.

LEMON: We are out of time. Thank you, Iuliia. We hope you will come back. Thank you so much. We appreciate it.

MENDEL: Thank you for having me and for telling the truth.

LEMON: Absolutely. Absolutely. We will continue to do it.

The U.N. says more than four million have fled Ukraine since Russia invaded. Many of them are children forced to leave their parents behind. The story of one 17-year-old girl now in Hungary, that is next.



LEMON (on camera): Tonight, the U.N. saying more than four million refugees have fled Ukraine since the start of Russia's war more than a month ago. One of those refugees is 17-year-old Alla Renska, who lived in Kyiv. For her own safety, her parents sent her to Hungary when Russia started bombing Ukraine. Alla is now studying at a high school in Budapest.

Here is CNN's Matt Rivers.


MATT RIVERS, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): She has got a pink backpack, a warm smile, and she has already made friends, even though 17-year-old Alla Renska (ph), a Ukrainian, has only been here in Budapest, Hungary for a month.

(On camera): Sixth of March?


RIVERS (voice-over): In an empty classroom of her new school, we sit and talk about how she never thought she'd end up here.

RENSKA: No, no war. It's --

RIVERS (voice-over): You didn't believe it?

RENSKA: Yes. It's 21st century. It's Ukraine. It's Europe. Why?

RIVERS (voice-over): Before the war, she was just a normal teenager making goofy videos with her friends, taking selfies. But then the war reached where she lived in Kyiv.

When did your family decide that you -- it wasn't safe for you to be in Ukraine anymore?

RENSKA: When we heard explosions and our house is just like --

RIVERS (voice-over): Your house was shaking?


RIVERS (voice-over): Her parents made the agonizing decision to send her to stay with friends in Budapest. Alla's dad took her to the train station on March 4th. But in the crush of people also trying to leave, they were separated.

(On camera): Could you see your dad when you -- when the train was leaving?


RIVERS (on camera): Was that hard?

RENSKA: Yeah. Yeah. I cried maybe all night.

RIVERS (voice-over): She took only these pictures from the train. A bleak landscape she says matched how she felt. But then, an idea. She wrote an e-mail to Korosi Baptist High School, one of the best in Hungary, talking about the war and what happened to her. I really want to go to school and continue studying, she wrote. I kindly ask you to help me.

And help, they did. The school converted these old containers into dorms where Alla now lives and studies. Her days are spent in classes. And at night, she chats with a few other Ukrainian girls just like her who also fled, now living there, too, even though she does still miss her family.

RENSKA: I try to not cry and I try to be strong because my parents -- I know that when I cry, they also feel not -- not very good.

RIVERS (voice-over): That strength on full display when Alla video calls with her parents later that day. It's all smiles and updates on school and work. We say hello and ask an obvious question.

(On camera): How difficult is it right now to not have Alla with you?

INDIRA RENSKA, ALLA'S MOTHER: I cannot explain what I feel because it's too hard for me. I'm happy that my daughter -- I love her very much, that she is safe now, is the main for me.

RIVERS (voice-over): A few minutes later, though, the call is over, and Alla's stoic facade falters. How was that for you?

A. RENSKA: Oh, I try to not cry.

RIVERS (voice-over): They love you very much.

A. RENSKA: Me, too.

RIVERS (voice-over): What are you thinking?

A. RENSKA: It's unfair.


It's so unfair that I should be here. My friends are there (ph).

RIVERS (voice-over): This is what war does to a happy 17-year-old. But she is determined to stay optimistic. This is a photo she wanted us to show. Her parents sent it to her right after she left. The first spring flower to push through the snow near her house. A sign, they said, of brighter times to come.

(On camera): And, Don, one detail we didn't put in that story but it's just staggering. Right after Alla got on that train and her dad tried to go home from the train station in Kyiv, an air raid siren went off in Kyiv. He was not actually allowed to leave that train station. He was forced to spend the night in the train station.

He had no idea if his daughter arrived safely in Hungary until she got there the next day and they were able to make contact after she got service and he got out of that train station.

Just an unimaginable situation as a father to be put in, not knowing if your daughter is safe after she had to get on that train in such a devastating fashion. Don?


LEMON (on camera): Matt Rivers, thank you so much.

And thanks for watching, everyone. Our live coverage continues.