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Don Lemon Tonight

Atrocities Happening In Ukraine; Mariupol: Situation Beyond Humanitarian Disaster; Hungarians Make Risky Drive To Ukraine To Deliver Aid; Water Level At Second Largest Reservoir Plummeting. Aired 11p-12a ET

Aired April 06, 2022 - 23:00   ET



DON LEMON, CNN HOST (on camera): U.S. officials say they believe they will be able to identify the Russian unit that carried the atrocities.

Also tonight, the Red Cross is saying the humanitarian situation in Mariupol is growing worse by the day. Mariupol's mayor calling the city a new Auschwitz. President Biden is saying major war crimes are being committed.


JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: Civilians executed in cold blood. Bodies dumped into mass graves. A sense of brutality and inhumanity left for all the world to see unapologetically. There's nothing less happening than major war crimes. Responsible nations have to come together to hold these perpetrators accountable.


LEMON: Straight to CNN's John Vause, who is in Lviv for us tonight. John, hello to you. President Volodymyr Zelenskyy speaking out tonight on the horrors committed by Russian troops. What is his message?

JOHN VAUSE, CNN INTERNATIONAL ANCHOR AND CORRESPONDENT (on camera): Well, it now seems that in towns like Bucha, Borodyanka and Irpin, where there have been these revelations of atrocities committed by Russian soldiers, that has had an impact on the behavior of Russian troops.

According to Zelenskyy, those soldiers in towns and cities where they are still in control are now involved in some kind of massive cover- up, if you like, destroying evidence. Here he is. Listen to this.


VOLODYMYR ZELENSKYY, PRESIDENT OF UKRAINE (through translator): We have information that the Russian troops have changed their tactics and are trying to remove the killed people from the streets and basements of the occupied territory. Killed Ukrainians. This is just an attempt to hide the evidence and nothing more.


VAUSE (on camera): The mayor of Mariupol says that Russian troops there have been using these mobile crematoriums, these incinerators, to destroy the bodies of civilians who have been killed there. We cannot confirm that, obviously, but there are reports, at least according to Ukrainian officials, that as many as 5,000 civilians have died in Mariupol, a city which has been under siege now for weeks, Don.

LEMON: John, new Ukrainian drone footage shows Russian forces dug trenches in Chernobyl's radioactive red forest. I mean, this seems incredibly dangerous. What are you learning about that?

VAUSE: This is sort of confirmation you and I actually spoke, you know, about a week or so ago, that there were these reports initially that the Russian soldiers had become sickened by high levels of exposure to radioactivity.

And one of the reasons for that was because they were digging trenches, at least according to Ukrainian officials, in this exclusive zone. This is the highest area of radioactivity after the reactor number 4 exploded back in 1986, causing the world's worst nuclear disaster.

So, now, these satellite images showing these trenches which have been dug, it sort of confirms the reasons why these Ukrainian soldiers may have been exposed to these high levels of radioactivity, why they were actually evacuated from the Chernobyl area.

But it also points to something else, Don, that the Ukrainians say they turned up -- these Russian soldiers turned up. They had no briefing. They had no protective gear. They really had no idea what they were doing at Chernobyl. They prevented the staff there from carrying on with their safety procedures. They were ill-prepared. They were ill briefed. They had no idea about the dangers that they were facing. They were just not prepared for it.

LEMON: John Vause, we'll see you in a little bit in leading our coverage here on CNN in just under an hour.

I want to turn now to CNN's Fred Pleitgen with a report on Ukrainian civilians using drones to help hunt down Russian tanks.



FREDERIK PLEITGEN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice- over): It's like a scene from the gates of hell. The dead lay strewn across this highway west of Kyiv. Some still next to the wreckage of their vehicles, as the dogs roam around looking to scavenge. This is what Russian forces left behind when they retreated from here.

RADZIKHOVSKY: (INAUDIBLE) over there where we're going right now.

PLEITGEN (voice-over): Oleksandr Radzikhovsky tells me these were civilians gunned down from this position where the Russians had placed a tank.

RADZIKHOVSKY (voice-over): You can see it's actually been a shooting zone. You See?

PLEITGEN (voice-over): Yeah.

RADZIKHOVSKY (voice-over): And these cars, look, they're sort of in line.


RADZIKHOVSKY: There's no cars here because they would not let them come. They just shoot as soon as they approach.

PLEITGEN (on camera): The Russian government denies targeting civilians. They call such allegations -- quote -- "fake and propaganda." But Oleksandr is part of a drone unit and they filmed one incident.

It was March 7th when the Russians were still in full control of this area and a group of cars was driving down the highway. They turned around after apparently taking fire from a tank position. This car stops and the driver gets out. Then this.

RADZIKHOVSKY (voice-over): (INAUDIBLE) his head. In this moment, he was shoot by on this place.

PLEITGEN (voice-over): Two people were killed that day, Maksim Iovenko and his wife, Ksenia, who was also sitting in the vehicle. The family has confirmed their identities to CNN.

After the incident, the drone filmed Russian troops getting two further people out of the car and taking them away. It was the couple's 6-year-old son and a family friend traveling with them, the relatives confirmed. Both were later released by the Russians. The soldiers then search Maksim's body and drag him away.


(voice-over): This incident both traumatizing and motivating for Oleksandr's drone unit.

RADZIKHOVSKY: In normal life, before the war, we were civilians who liked to fly drones around casually and just like make a nice video, YouTube videos. But when the war began, we became actually a vital part of the resistance.

PLEITGEN (voice-over): Oleksandr sent us hours of video showing his team scoping out Russian vehicles, even finding them when they're hidden and almost impossible to spot, and then helping the Ukrainians hit them.

RADZIKHOVSKY (voice-over): We are eyes. We call eyes because with eyes, you can see and you can report. And as soon as you see, you can conduct strikes, artillery, airstrikes.

PLEITGEN (voice-over): How long does it take to get your information to the right places to then be able to act on the intelligence that you provide?

UNKNOWN (voice-over): In good time, it's about matter of minutes.

PLEITGEN (voice-over): And sometimes, a little mosquito can take out a whole herd of elephants. This is drone footage of Oleksandr's unit searching for a massive column of Russian tanks and armored vehicles. And this is that column after the drones found it.

Oleksandr tells me units like his played a major role fending off Russian troops despite the Ukrainians being vastly outgunned.

RADZIKHOVSKY: (INAUDIBLE) as a territorial defense. We can -- oh, we don't want to -- it's a suicide, we need to go. But the army, they have to stay. They're ordered to stay, they stay. They're dying, but they stay and they're holding this ground.

PLEITGEN (voice-over): Nobody knows how many Russians died here, but the group says it was many, taken out with the help of a band of amateur drone pilots looking to defend their homeland.

(On camera): And Don, units like that one certainly did make a very big difference.

You know, one of the interesting things that the guys from that drone unit told us is they said that essentially, they believe that the Russians were fighting a 20th century war with their tanks and big armored vehicles trying to hold terrain, while the Ukrainians were essentially fighting a 21st century war with smaller, more agile units like that one. And, of course, they believe that made a big difference. But then also the weapons that the U.S. and other allied nations delivered like, for instance, the javelin, anti-tank weapons also making a big difference as well, Don.

LEMON: Fred Pleitgen, thank you very much. Appreciate that.

Let's turn now to CNN military analyst and retired Air Force Colonel Cedric Leighton for the very latest on what's next in this war. Good to have you again, colonel.

Russia may be out of Kyiv for now, but NATO's secretary general is warning that Putin may not be giving up on trying to capture Ukraine's capital. How do you see this playing out?

CEDRIC LEIGHTON, CNN MILITARY ANALYST, RETIRED AIR FORCE COLONEL: Well, Don, good evening. It's going to be very interesting to see how they actually do this. So, of course, this right here is Kyiv, the capital of Ukraine, as you mentioned. All of this yellow right here, that's brand new. That is what the Ukrainians have captured. And we'll talk a little bit about that later, how this all worked.

But if the Russians move out of here like they have into Belarus and then into Russia itself, they will then have to move their forces down here in order to actually affect the east. If they do this, it gives them very little capability to move back into Kyiv with the current force structure that they have arrayed against Ukraine.

If they get more troops, if they get more equipment, that could change. But it's highly unlikely that they'll be able to do something against Kyiv unless they turn the forces that are now in Belarus around and don't move them into the east. But I don't see that happening at the moment.

LEMON: We are told, colonel, that Russians are going to try to surround Ukrainian forces in the Donbas. Does Ukraine need to shift tactics in the east to be ready for this?

LEIGHTON: Yes, they do. And one of the big reasons for that is what the Russians would like is they would like to get at a minimum, get this much of the Donbas region, basically extend their borders out this far. Now, if they do that, what they would be needing to do is they would be needing to bring in their forces from Russia into these areas.

Now, in Kharkiv itself, the second largest city right here, they have had some challenges getting into this city. They have never actually been able to get into Kharkiv. They have never been able to even surround it. So, there are no Russian forces here. And there is basically nothing that is moving this way.

Now, if the Russians do that, then of course that changes the picture, but they would require a large concentration in order to take this very large city. And if they move in that direction, that then prevents them from doing some of the other things they'd want to do in the east.

LEMON: Got it. So, colonel, if this becomes a battle of attrition, how important are the cities of Izyum and Slovyansk to keep supply lines open?

LEIGHTON: So, these two cities are critically important. And one of the main reasons is this. They sit on roads and road junctions. And the roads that they sit on basically take people to Dnipro or they take them into the Donbas region right here.


And they also connect to Kharkiv. In fact, they're part of the (INAUDIBLE), the province that Kharkiv runs. So, with all of that said, since they are road junctions, they are critical for both sides. If the Russians take these cities, then they get free access to this area and potentially to this area, to Dnipro, which then would allow them to divide Ukraine even further west into this portion right here.

So, if they did that, if the Russians took both Izyum and Slovyansk, that then would mean that these areas are at risk and the Ukrainian armies that are in this area would be at risk of being surrounded.

So, the Ukrainians need to keep these two cities. They also need to prevent the Russians from getting further north from here into the Dnipro area because that also would mean that they would have some difficulties keeping their forces that are arrayed against the Russians that are height here.

LEMON: So, what kind of equipment do the Ukrainians need to make sure that they hold on to these two critical cities?

LEIGHTON: So, there are several types of equipment, Don, that they could use. There are, of course, pieces of equipment that they already use. These include the Bayraktar TB2 drones which have been very effective at actually going after tank columns and also providing reconnaissance information to the Ukrainians.

More standard stuff, T-72 tanks, that allows them to actually fight force on force with the Russians. So, we could potentially see tank battles maybe not as big as the ones in World War II, but they would still be pretty big and they would still be tank on tank-type combat situations.

The other thing, of course, are drones like the Switchblade. This is an animation of the Switchblade S600. We showed you this yesterday. And it was also being used as a very carefully calibrated piece of equipment that can hit targets very, very quickly and very accurately.

Then there's German equipment. This is a Panzerfaust which goes after tanks. They use this now. If they get more of them, they can be even more effective against the Russian tanks. And that is the kind of thing that would make a difference along, of course, with the U.S.- made javelin missile.

LEMON: Colonel, the secretary of state, Antony Blinken, said today that for every Russian tank in Ukraine, the U.S. and its partners has given or will soon provide 10 anti-tank systems. How critical has that been to Ukraine's success so far?

LEIGHTON: Here's the answer. These are the kinds of things that have become really important for the Ukrainian war effort. The damaged equipment that you see here, the T-72 tanks, the armored personnel carriers that have been blown up, that has been as the result of equipment like the javelin, like the Panzerfaust.

These are the types of things that can actually make a difference. It's not the same equipment that the Russians have, but it is equipment that can combat the Russians and do it in an asymmetric fashion, which is exactly what the Ukrainians need in order to combat these forces in a way that makes sense for them. And that is why these pieces of equipment are so critical for the Ukrainian military.

LEMON: I was talking about this a little earlier in the 10:00 p.m. hour with General Hertling. But Ukraine says that more than 18,000 Russian troops have been killed in this war. They've also wiped-out hundreds of Russian tanks as well as aircraft, helicopters, armored personnel vehicles, and so forth. So, how does Russia pull off their objectives in the next phase of this war? Are they capable of doing it?

LEIGHTON: I'm very concerned -- if I were Russia -- let me put it this way. If I were Russia, I'd be very concerned that we couldn't -- that they couldn't pull it off. Here's, you know, something to really look at here. This is what the map looked like on March 30th. And with these Russian forces arrayed the way they were, one would have thought that they would have been able to take over almost anything that they wanted to.

But something happened on the way to the plan meeting the battle and we get this. So, this is what it looks like today. All that red that we used to see up north of Kyiv, that is all yellow now. This is all Ukrainian-controlled territory. We even see some of that in Kharkiv. And there's a potential that we could see it in other areas as well.

So, with the losses that you mentioned, Don, that's about 10% of the arrayed forces that the Russians had deployed against Ukraine at the start of all of this. That's just the killed in action. That doesn't account for the wounded. That doesn't account for the missing. That doesn't account for POWs.

That becomes a huge problem for them to generate those kinds of forces. They can't train the new conscripts up that quickly. And they also won't be able to move them from here to there in order to accomplish their missions. And that's something where, if I were looking at this, unless they've got some surprise in the back here, I don't see them being able to accomplish their mission.


But the Ukrainians have to hold fast. They have to understand that the battle that they're fighting is almost as critical as the battle that they fought for Kyiv.

LEMON: Thank you, colonel. Appreciate it. I'll see you again tomorrow.

LEIGHTON: You bet, Don.

LEMON: Thank you.

LEIGHTON: You bet.

LEMON: The world is horrified by the atrocities of Russian forces in Vladimir Putin's war on Ukraine's civilians. But is Putin a madman or is this the way he has always operated? And what role do the Russian people play in this conflict?


LEMON: Tonight, U.S. officials calling out Russian atrocities in Bucha, calling them premeditated and very deliberate, and saying they'll work to try and identify the military units responsible.


I'm going to bring in now CNN national security analyst Peter Bergen and Elliot Ackerman, a former marine corps captain. Good to have both of you on, gentlemen. Thank you so much. Peter, let's start with you. It is quite hard to imagine how much worse Russia's brutality can get. And then, it gets worse. The reality is that this is how Russia operates. You say you just have to look at their previous wars just to see the pattern here. Correct?

PETER BERGEN, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: Yeah. I mean, the Russian way of war, whether you look at the Soviet war in the 1980s and Afghanistan where tens of thousands of Afghans, according to Human Rights watch, disappeared, were summarily executed. You look at what happened in Chechnya in the wars in '94 and also in 2000. Again, Human Rights Watch documented summary executions of civilians.

You look at the Wagner group today, this sort of proxy force for the Russian government. They're under sanctions by the European Union because of summary executions and torture in Libya, Ukraine, Syria and the Central African Republic.

So, unfortunately, this is just the way they operate. Obviously, these pictures are shocking, but I don't think they're really surprising.

LEMON: Elliot, you so often, when discussing this war -- people call it Putin's war and they say it's his invasion -- suggesting that the Russian people don't support it. Can you separate the two? And how do Ukrainians see it?

I mean, look, do they think that Putin is acting alone without the support of the Russian people? Actually, I know they don't, quite frankly.

ELLIOT ACKERMAN, FORMER MARINE CORPS CAPTAIN: No, you're right, Don. You know, they don't. A Ukrainian friend of mine was originally saying, you know, is it Putin who is setting up black markets across the border in Russia to sell Ukrainian goods? Is it Putin and hundreds of Putins who committed the atrocities in Bucha? Obviously, it's not. At a certain point, this becomes the Russian people's war as well.

And, you know, when we look at Russian national identity, there's always been this thread that a key component of Russian national identity is standing against the decadence of the west and even saving the world from the decadence of the west, whether it's defeating Napoleon in the 19th century, Hitler in the 20th century.

And when Putin calls Zelenskyy a Nazi, it's really a gesture to his belief that Zelenskyy is just the latest iteration of this type of western decadence.

So, it's important to understand that it's not Putin's war alone because that's essential to formulating an effective strategy against Russia.

LEMON: The former president, Barack Obama, Peter, spoke out about the war in Ukraine, and he said that Putin has always been ruthless, but would not have predicted this from him five years ago. Is Putin a rational actor or not?

BERGEN: I think it's very dangerous to say people are mad or bad or dangerous or whatever. I mean, I think that Putin himself -- clearly, he made a bad decision, it turns out. He miscalculated. That doesn't mean that he's irrational or mad. Clearly, he's not an admirable human being.

But I think it's quite dangerous to sort of suggest that in some way he's mad because I don't see that. He miscalculated. I think he learned -- overlearned the lesson of Afghanistan where I'm sure Elliot served. I mean, you know, the Biden pullout from Afghanistan signaled, I think, weakness to Putin.

Angela Merkel just stepped down as German chancellor. He thought NATO was fractured, particularly because of Trump's kind of attacks on NATO. And he just thought it was the right time. That to me doesn't seem like an irrational decision. It turned out to be a very poorly calculated decision that backfired. But that doesn't mean that he's mad.

LEMON: Yeah. And he has to save face. So, he's going to dig in, correct?

BERGEN: Yeah. I mean, you know, he certainly wants to pull some victory -- something he can sort of say is victory. And I think for him, that would be, you know, getting a land bridge from Donbas to Crimea, extending control over Donbas, and then he could declare victory and go home. But right now, he's not at that point.

LEMON: Elliot, CNN's Bianna Golodryga reports that there's been an increase in pro-war, pro-denazification rhetoric for Russian state media, urging the Kremlin to go all the way in Ukraine. Does that message mean that we should expect to see far more violence in the days and weeks ahead? This is probably the propaganda part of the last question that I just asked Peter, that he has to save face, he has to dig in, so the propaganda is heating up.

ACKERMAN: I think we're certainly going to see the propaganda heat up and the rhetoric from the kremlin heat up with regards to stiffening the Russian people's resolve to fight this war in Ukraine.


But I do think it would be naive on the part of the west and the part of the Ukrainians to believe that our sanctions are going to entirely cleave the Russian people away from Putin. If anything, the sanctions and this degree of suffering that is being inflicted on the Russian people could quite possibly and it seems as though are bringing the Russian people closer to Putin.

And if we look back through Russian history, whether it's the 20th or the 19th century, what we see is the Russian people do have an incredible capacity do endure suffering, both on the battlefield but also economic depredations at home.

And so, as they enter a longer period of suffering, these economic sanctions, I think we should expect that war resolve in Russia could very well stiffen.

LEMON: Peter, using very strong language here, the U.S. is saying that the atrocities in Bucha appear -- and I quote -- "premeditated," and then also -- another quote -- "very deliberate." Do you think that the strategy is over?

BERGEN: No. I mean, I very much doubt it. Picking up on what Elliot said, I mean, I think sanctions -- the history of getting authoritarian regimes to change their behavior through sanctions is not a particularly successful one. I mean, there are very few examples.

South Africa abandoned apartheid after sanctions. And we did get -- United States got Iran to the negotiating table in 2015 because of the Obama administration's sanctions. But those are the exceptions to the rule.

Look at North Korea today. I mean, their nuclear program is accelerating despite massive sanctions. Look at the sanctions against Saddam Hussein in Iraq in the '90s. They eviscerated the Iraqi people. They did nothing to change Saddam's behavior.

So, sanctions, they feel like you're doing something, but they tend not to actually produce the outcome you want because authoritarian regimes, you know, they either have enough money, they're prepared to let their own people, you know, kind of be discomforted in a very profound way. But they won't change their -- or even the Taliban sanctions.

Before 9/11, we had sanctions, the United States, on the Taliban because of protecting al-Qaeda. That did nothing really to prevent them hosting al-Qaeda. And, of course, we had the 9/11 attacks. So, in general, the history of sanctions doesn't reflect that we're going to see Putin changing his mind, doing something different.

LEMON: So then, what will work if sanctions don't work?

BERGEN: Well, you know, I mean, I'll tell you one thing. S-300 anti- aircraft and anti-ballistic missiles are something that the Ukrainians know how to use. Slovakia has them, Bulgaria has them, Greece has them. There was an effort -- it would create an effective no-fly zone even though it wouldn't be a formal no-fly zone.

And that's the kind of thing -- those are the kinds of weapons the Ukrainians want, that they know how to use, and it would actually, I think, help on the battlefield.

LEMON: Peter, Elliot, thank you, gentlemen. I appreciate it. Be well. I'll see you soon.

BERGEN: Thank you, Don.

ACKERMAN: Thank you.

LEMON: The mayor of Mariupol, well, calling his city -- and I quote here -- "a new Auschwitz." I'm speaking with one of the mayor's s advisers. That's next. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)



LEMON: The mayor of Mariupol is calling his city a new Auschwitz after weeks of relentless Russian bombardment. The mayor of the besieged city estimating that 5,000 people died and almost half of the city's destroyed infrastructure is simply beyond repair.

So, joining me now is Petru -- Petro, excuse me, Andriushchenko. He is the adviser to Mariupol's mayor. Petro, we're happy to have you on. Appreciate it. Thank you so much.

You told my team that you agree with the mayor, that Mariupol is like Auschwitz. That is what is happening. You know, it is like a Nazi -- that what is happening is like Nazi Germany. I mean, those are very serious comparisons to make. Can you explain why you feel that way?

PETRO ANDRIUSHCHENKO, ADVISER TO MARIUPOL'S MAYOR: Yeah, of course. Good morning. So, we think Auschwitz -- it's now so powerful word about Mariupol because, really, the Russian troops made our city absolutely awful, absolutely terrible, because all our infrastructure, all our building, all our -- all around us, all in the city absolutely destroyed right now. And now people must to live inside the basement, inside the shelters. It's absolutely impossible for everyone.

You can see this awful picture from our city. But it is not the worst situation because the Russian troops stay, hold, and they keep our people inside the city like hostage. They make everything that our people can't escape from the city to other part of Ukraine.

And now, we are absolutely sure, you know, that about two filtration camps near the Mariupol, in reality, it's like more the concentration camps, what they build, the Nazi like Auschwitz. You know?

LEMON: Yeah.


ANDRIUSHCHENKO: So, what Russian makes, what they do, they try to find -- they called this operation, like they tried to find some Nazi in Mariupol. But in reality, in general, everyone in Mariupol in their mind is Nazi because they think if you like Ukraine, if you feel himself like Ukrainian citizen, you are Nazi. They did -- they do everything with civilian people like with the Nazi people. So --

LEMON: Let me jump in here, Petro. So, I know that you left Mariupol weeks ago.


LEMON: But what are you hearing from folks that have escaped lately? What have they been experiencing there? ANDRIUSHCHENKO: Oh, it's something hard story about escaping, about

what -- how it feels, how we do, because we escaped from Mariupol with something special, corridor for authorities with our special troops, you know, because it's hard. And now, if you want to escape from Mariupol, you have to go through the filtration camp first of all.

And in this filtration camp, the Russian -- you have a big conversation with a Russian what do you think about Ukraine and they look into your forms or other gadgets and find something, picture about Ukraine, and they look at your body at about some tattoo with Ukrainian symbols. All of that is problem for people.

LEMON: Yeah. I spoke to a family of seven, a family that escaped Mariupol, and they said the same thing that you did. They had to go through actually 12 checkpoints. In that some of those checkpoints, they had to pull up their shirts or take their shirts off, the men, and then pull their pants up to the knees to check for Nazi symbols, right, or to check for Nazi tattoos.

The treatment is really inhumane. But even among the inhumane, there's humanity there because there are people like you who are helping to get people out of Mariupol, organizing convoys to Zaporizhzhia. And we've heard of the struggles to get people out of the city. How many people have you gotten out, and how are you doing it?

ANDRIUSHCHENKO: For now, from the start of the blocking of Mariupol, we evacuated from Mariupol 100,000 people. And our organizing evacuations started from Berdyansk. It's the city in the middle of the road between the Mariupol and Zaporizhzhia. And Zaporizhzhia, it is the nearest city to Mariupol that is controlled by Ukrainian government.

But from Mariupol to Berdyansk, people have to evacuate (INAUDIBLE) and our people evacuated by car and by foot. Some of the people just walk from the Mariupol to the Berdyansk. But evacuation now, it's very, very hard story because the Russian do everything that it will be harder and harder. And it just -- you know, just road near the 100 kilometers, but the buses from Berdyansk to Zaporizhzhia are driving more than one day.

LEMON: Yeah.

ANDRIUSHCHENKO: Because Russians stop, stop, and stop.

LEMON: Yeah. Well, Petro, we thank you for joining us. And we want you to be safe. And hopefully, we'll have you back to talk about more people who are getting out. Let's hope this gets better. Petro Andriushchenko, thank you so much.

ANDRIUSHCHENKO: Thank you so much.

LEMON: Thank you. Putin's war sparking a catastrophic refugee crisis, and many who have fled the worst fighting still in Ukraine. Now, some Hungarians are crossing the border to help.



LEMON (on camera): The situation in Mariupol is almost unfathomable. People have had no water, no medicine, heat, light or communication with the outside world really for weeks.

But today, the Red Cross was able to bring nearly 500 residents to relative safety in Zaporizhzhia. They're some of more than 7 million internally displaced Ukrainians.

And as CNN's Matt Rivers reports, those refugees are getting help from neighboring Hungary.


MATT RIVERS, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The convoy gets loaded up several times a week. Workers with Hungarian Baptist Aid making the several-hour drive from Budapest. Destination, Western Ukraine.

Today, they're headed to Berehove, a quaint town just across the border that's become a magnet for Ukrainians fleeing the war. Upon arrival, supplies unloaded by some of the kids staying at this shelter, what used to be a school.


(voice-over): Inside classrooms, bunk beds replaced desks and photos of former students hang on the wall above the tiny shoes of the kids staying in the room today like little Yeva (ph) and her mom, Diana. They fled Kyiv a few weeks ago, leaving behind her husband to fight the Russians.

She says, we stood there and cried at the train station. My daughter was so mad at him. She thought he was leaving us. He said, Yeva (ph), come give me a kiss, but she wouldn't.

Yeva (ph) is just too young to understand the sacrifice her dad is making. Like so many other children here, scarred by the war. Even in this safe place, air raid sirens still go off.

(On camera): So, down here in the school's basement, they're using this as a bomb shelter. And the school's director says that they're coming down here on average a couple dozen times every week.

Even though no bombs have fallen in this area, but when the children come down here, the director says, so many of them are still traumatized. So, for instance, the other day, it was raining outside, there was a clap of thunder, and a lot of the children screamed, the director said, because they thought it was a bomb.

(Voice-over): Aid continues to flow into Berehove. In the beginning of the war, it was largely just a stop for refugees fleeing to other countries. Now, they're staying put.

BELA SZILAGYI, PRESIDENT, HUNGARIAN BAPTIST AID: Those who are arriving, they want to stay for the long term, and it certainly requires different kind of hosting.

RIVERS (voice-over): For Hungarian Baptist Aid, more refugees mean more need for everything else, including helping hands.

DANIEL NAGRUDNY, PHARMACIST AND HUNGARIAN BAPTIST AID VOLUNTEER: It's not really like a war. For me, I feel like it's a genocide of Ukrainians.

RIVERS (voice-over): Pharmacist Daniel Nagrudny came to help from Philadelphia, the son of Ukrainian immigrants.

NAGRUDNY: If people come together and come to the country and try to help out, then something actually gets done.

RIVERS (voice-over): It is definitely the spirit at a nearby church where a tiny volunteer operation has ramped up to hundreds of meals served every day as refugees decide to stay long term. The reasons can vary. Everything from hope that the Ukrainian army will prevail to simply not wanting to live in a foreign country.

For Diana back at the school, the reason to not flee to neighboring Hungary was simple. She says, we feel like we're closer, somehow closer to my husband. I will go back the moment it's safe for my children.

(On camera): And Don, the director of that aid group tells us that even if the war were to end right now, which we know it's not going to, they would still plan on being on the ground here trying to help people who have fled other places in Ukraine for at least a year. The reason for that, he said, is to give enough time for some reconstruction to take place, to give all those people who have fled all those different parts of Ukraine a place to go back to. Don?


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

Here at home, we're going to show you why a reservoir in Arizona, part of a system that supplies drinking water to nearly 40 million people, is drying up.




LEMON (on camera): More than 40 million people in this country get water from Lake Powell, but decades of droughts are causing its water levels to plummet to new lows.

CNN's Bill Weir has the latest on how the climate crisis is hitting home for so many Americans. (BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BILL WEIR, CNN CHIEF CLIMATE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Just a couple years ago, this part of Lake Powell was pretty enough to put in the brochure. But today, there is no water. Only sand.

(On camera): Can't paddle around lone rock anymore.

(Voice-over): If you haven't been out west in a while, haven't seen the state of the Colorado River and its reservoirs, you would be shocked. This is what Powell looked like just last spring when you could still float around lone rock. But the satellite shows it is losing island status as a lake level fell over 40 feet.

(On camera): The lake used to go -- used to go half a mile around the corner. And now, it starts way back here. I cannot believe this.

(Voice-over): While hurricanes, floods, and wildfires can upend your life in a moment, droughts are slow-motion disasters, and this one is now in its 23rd year. With the region's population booming and another winter without enough snow, there are no signs of relief.

(On camera): But when you are house boating on what's left of Lake Powell, it's still gorgeous. It's still so easy to forget that just since the mid-80s, the water level has dropped 177 feet. That's like 10 of these yachts stacked on top of each other.

This is a temporary dock. Get us access to the -- to the marina.

(Voice-over): So, the tourism industry has no choice but to adapt, making ramps longer as the lake gets lower.


WEIR (on camera): At one point, we would have been high enough that that would have been a straight angle.


WEIR (voice-over): This is not a decade or two. This is a year or two since it's dropped.

RUNNELS: Yeah, this is within two to three years.

MAX LAPEKAS, CO-OWNER, LAKE POWELL PADDLEBOARD AND KAYAK: If it continues to go down another 10, 15 feet, we might have to shut down.

WEIR (voice-over): For Max Lapekas, the changing canyons means more people eager to explore them in his rental kayaks and paddle boards, but not enough safe places to put them in.


And he knows that big picture. Forty million people and their animals and crops in seven states in Mexico depend on Colorado River water not to recreate but to live.

LAPEKAS: Manmade climate change, I do believe, is a thing to a certain extent. But I do believe the earth goes through cycles and this could just be another cycle. But I don't see any good evidence of it getting any better anytime soon.

WEIR (voice-over): In a first of its kind Gallup poll, one in three Americans say they have been personally affected by severe weather the past two years, and for those who have, regardless of party, they are much more likely to say the climate crisis demands action.

But only three percent say they have experienced drought. This may be because for most, tap water keeps flowing. And here, house boaters keep coming.

(On camera): What do you say to someone who sees this as proof, alarming proof, of sort of a manmade climate crisis?

RUNNELS: Some of it is manmade. There is no doubt about it. You got more users using the water out of the Colorado River. You've got more -- you got more of everything than you had 50 years ago. It is that simple.

WEIR (on camera): Would you label your business a victim of drought?

RUNNELS: We have had to change the way -- obviously the way we do a lot of things. At this point, I would not say we're a victim. I would say we're an adapter.

WEIR (voice-over): And from now on, it seems anyone who wants to live in the American southwest will have to be an adapter.

Bill Weir, CNN, Page, Arizona.


LEMON (on camera): Bill, thank you. And thank you for watching, everyone. Our live coverage continues with John Vause.