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Don Lemon Tonight

Zelenskyy Warns Russia Could Use Chemical Weapons; Russia's 'Butcher Of Syria' Taking Over War Against Ukraine; Polish Jews Draw On Lessons Of Holocaust As They Help Refugees; Shanghai's Chaotic COVID Lockdown; Area Near Little Rock, Arkansas, Hit by Large And Extremely Dangerous Tornado. Aired 11p-12a ET

Aired April 11, 2022 - 23:00   ET




DON LEMON, CNN HOST (on camera): This is DON LEMON TONIGHT. President Volodymyr Zelenskyy warning Russian forces could soon use chemical weapons in Ukraine, though CNN cannot confirm report of any kind of chemical strike in Mariupol. It comes as we are getting new images of Russian tanks and artillery heading towards the Donbas region of Ukraine.

And Putin is tapping a new general known as the 'butcher of Syria' to lead his invasion, sparking fears that this new phase of the war could be even more brutal.

Plus, U.S. ordering all nonemergency staff to leave Shanghai as COVID surges.


LEMON (voice-over): Those people screaming were starving in one of the world's largest and richest cities. We have a live report from inside the massive lockdown.


LEMON: We want to begin with CNN's John Vause. He is live for us in Lviv. John, hello to you. President Zelenskyy responding tonight to unconfirmed reports of a strike using chemical substances in Mariupol. Give us the latest, please.

JOHN VAUSE, CNN INTERNATIONAL ANCHOR AND CORRESPONDENT (on camera): Well, there seems to be a lot of confusion, Don, a lot of uncertainty because what happened early on Monday -- let us just go back a few hours here -- there was a report from a Ukraine military unit inside Mariupol that Russian forces had used a drone to drop an unknown chemical substance on Ukrainian fighters as well as Ukrainian civilians.

They then reported respiratory problems, also issues with their nervous systems, trouble controlling the use of their arms and their legs, that kind of thing. None of this has been confirmed by CNN, we should say that.

Also, it seems the circumstances remain unclear even for the Ukrainian government, which brings us to that statement by President Zelenskyy earlier. He talked about the fear that the Russians will use chemical weapons. Here he is.


VOLODYMYR ZELENSKYY, PRESIDENT OF UKRAINE (through translator): Today, we heard a statement from the occupiers confirming they are preparing for a new stage in their terror against us and our defenders. One of the spokespeople of the invaders said they are considering using chemical weapons against the defenders of Mariupol. We take it very seriously.


VAUSE (on camera): Okay. So, that statement from the occupiers, it's kind of hard to work out exactly what he's referring to, but we believe it came from a spokesperson for the rebel-backed separatists in Donetsk.

He was doing a television interview. He was talking about Ukrainian fighters who are embedded in sprawling iron and steel factory in Mariupol. He was saying that for the Russian forces to take that steel factory would result in very, very high casualties. And so, he then brought up the possibility of the use of chemical weapons. So, that's where that comes from.

There is also increased concern here about, you know, Putin using chemical weapons because of this new general who is in charge, Aleksandr Dvornikov, the guy from Syria. He has a long rap sheet of using chemical weapons on civilians in Syria as well as other places. Don?

LEMON: All right. John Vause, we will see you back at the top of the hour. Thank you, sir. Appreciate it.

I want to turn now to John McLaughlin. He is the former acting director and deputy director of the CIA. He is now a professor at Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies. We're happy to have you on. Good evening, sir.

So, Director McLaughlin, President Zelenskyy says that tens of thousands of people are dead in Mariupol alone. Now, Putin is bringing on a general dubbed the 'butcher of Syria' and there is an 8-mile-long Russian convoy headed to the Donbas. Brutality seems to be the point here. How much worse could things get?

JOHN MCLAUGHLIN, FORMER ACTING DIRECTOR AND DEPUTY DIRECTOR OF CIA, PROFESSOR AT JOHNS HOPKINS SCHOOL OF ADVANCED INTERNATIONAL STUDIES: Well, Don, I think they could get a lot worse here because it's going to be a different kind of battle. First, it will be on open terrain. There will be tanks involved, there will be artillery.

And now you have a general in charge whose trademark is essentially brutality with civilians, clearly the case in Syria. And this is something that just seems to be part of the Russian way of war. And clearly, in Syria, they've calculated that their failure conventionally means that they are driven to inflict terror on the population.

But, of course, once again, they miscalculate because this only drives Ukrainians closer together and more subtly against Russia. So, but I think fundamentally, your point is correct. We can expect a really bad battle here, really rough battle.

LEMON (on camera): Originally, Russia was claiming that this war was about the denazification of Ukraine. Take a listen to what Russia's foreign minister, Sergey Lavrov, is saying now. Here it is.



SERGEY LAVROV, RUSSIAN FOREIGN MINISTER (through translator): Our special military operation is aimed at bringing an end to the reckless expansion and the reckless striving for domination of the United States and other western countries under their influence on a global stage.


LEMON: So, one of Putin's closest advisers in a circle admitting that this war is about the U.S. and NATO. Your reaction to that?

MCLAUGHLIN: Well, it is clear that the whole idea of denazification was a sham from the very beginning. Perhaps they have come to their senses on this and they're looking for some other rationale for the horrors that they've inflicted on Ukraine.

I don't think this is ever actually been about NATO. This has been about Ukraine all along. Putin's real fear here is not that NATO is butting up against its borders. And now with Finland and Sweden considering membership, he has only made that situation worse for him.

I think his real fear all along has been that Ukraine could turn into a progressive, modern, democracy aspiring vibrant state butting up against Russia, and that is the real threat because Russians looking at that would want the same and that would be a threat to Putin's system of repression and authoritarianism in Russia.

So, I think this is just the latest propaganda, lie, if you will, from Lavrov. Just another false reason for what they're doing, the horrible things they're doing in Ukraine.

LEMON: Director, we are told that President Biden had a candid conversation with the Indian prime minister today, but made no specific ask regarding Russia. Putin is committing war crimes. He is murdering more civilians by the day. India is still buying Russian oil. Was this a missed opportunity?

MCLAUGHLIN: Well, I think it is a missed opportunity for India in the sense that India has been close to Russia, primarily as a way of offsetting the rivalry it has, India has with China.

But, you know, we are at a point now where most of the world with some exemptions is treating Putin as a pariah, as they should. And I think India, perhaps with its long habit of nonalignment, has trouble picking sides here. But I think as a powerful, influential nation, India, it would be wise for it to distance itself from Russia at this point.

I think history will look back on this period in time. And it will ask -- and historians will ask, who made the right ethical, the moral decision here in the face of war crimes, ethnic cleansing, genocide? And for countries that did not make the right choice and condemned it, I think that they will be paying the price historically and trying to explain their behavior for years to come.

LEMON (on camera): Director McLaughlin, thank you. I appreciate your time. We will see you soon. Be well.

I want to turn now to Austria's chancellor, Karl Nehammer, who was sitting down face-to-face with Vladimir Putin today. Here is how he described that meeting.


KARL NEHAMMER, CHANCELLOR OF AUSTRIA (through translator): Those direct talks were very open and tough. It was not a friendly visit. I really confronted the Russian president with the facts arising from the Ukrainian war.


LEMON (on camera): So, let's bring in now Lieutenant Colonel Alexander Vindman. He is the former director for European Affairs at the National Security Council, senior advisor to VoteVets, and the author of the memoir "Here, Right Matters." We are so happy to have you on as well this evening. Good evening to you, colonel.

Vladimir Putin is rarely confronted face-to-face. In fact, a senior State Department official told CNN that he has been misinformed by his top advisers about the Russian military's performance in Ukraine. So, how do you think he reacted to the Austrian chancellor really giving him the fact about this war?

ALEXANDER VINDMAN, RETIRED ARMY LIEUTENANT COLONEL, FORMER DIRECTOR FOR EUROPEAN AFFAIRS FOR NSC, AUTHOR, SENIOR ADVISOR TO VOTEVETS, BOARD MEMBER AT RENEWED DEMOCRACY INITIATIVE: I think that was probably a very difficult conversation. Vladimir Putin is not one to be pushed around by anybody, war leaders or let along Austria who he doesn't believe is really that much of a state to deal with.

He only really believes that Russia, China, and the U.S. are sovereign states. Everybody else is kind of aligned to a particular block. So, as far as he's concerned, this is somebody else talking at him. He probably allowed the chancellor to speak his piece, but in general, he was probably advocating his own point of view like he has done consistently. What we haven't seen is the readout from the Russian side over this particular meeting.


VINDMAN: And, of course, Austrian leadership is going to paint this as -- in order to even have this meeting, he needs to paint this as a very frank conversation about Russian war crimes, Russian belligerence. So, none of this is really kind of a surprise. To me, there is no real reason for the chancellor to have gone there in the first place. That is not how this is going to get resolved. It is going to be probably mediated if anybody by more significant players.

LEMON: And to your point, an Austrian official said CNN Putin had no reply to all -- you know, whatever Nehammer told him, that Zelenskyy is ready for an in-person meeting with him. As you said, we need a readout on it, but that's what -- that's what this official is telling us. Do you think a diplomatic offramp is even a possibility at this point or will this war need to end with a winner and a loser on the battlefield?

VINDMAN: I think that's exactly right. It will end with a victor on the battlefield. That is shaping up to be Ukraine, frankly, at the moment. I think the recipe right now is over the next four to six weeks.

We'll either have a resolution to this war. Russia is defeated relatively decisively and the U.S. and NATO can play a constructive role here or Russia achieves its battlefield aims after this current phase of the operation, which will become the initial phase in a longer campaign, because if Russia wins here, it's not the end of this.

There are plenty of Russian leaders that are already on the record that are saying that if they're successful in the east, Russia will continue to push.

So, it's a recipe for disaster, frankly, if Ukraine runs out of the weapons that it needs. It's been six weeks fighting at a much more powerful adversary on paper, and they just lost equipment. So, the U.S. needs to pick a side, needs to come in and provide Ukraine with the support it needs. That's artillery, that's rockets, that's vehicles, that's everything that Ukrainians needs to continue to prosecute this war.

LEMON: Listen, I also want to get your take on this U.S. intelligence assessment that Putin may respond to U.S. support for Ukraine by ramping up its efforts to interfere in U.S. elections.

You know, you just mentioned that the U.S. needs to pick a side here, but the more we get involved, the more this upsets Putin. The possibility of getting involved in U.S. elections, we have the midterms coming up, and of course the next presidential election. How worried should we be heading into these midterms now?

VINDMAN: We're in a cold war. I think the fact is it's a given that Russia is going to attempt to interfere in the midterm elections. It's going to attempt to interfere in 2024. And we are not the originators of this war. It was Russia's miscalculation in Ukraine. We can't just sit it out.

This is too large a war, too much of a risk that -- that this cold war that's already impacting economics is being fought in informational domain is going to spill out militarily.

So, we have to do something. Otherwise, this has every aspect of expanding into a larger war like the two major wars in the 20th century. So, we should accept that that's the fact. We shouldn't have wishful thinking that we're going to return to some normalcy with Russia.

As long as Putin is in power, it's a cold war, and we should plan and expect for Russia to interfere with our elections.

LEMON: Colonel Vindman, thank you for your time. I appreciate it.

VINDMAN: Thank you.

LEMON (on camera): They call him the 'butcher of Syria.' But will the brutality of the new top general in Vladimir Putin's war be any match for Ukranian forces?


JOHN KIRBY, PENTAGON PRESS SECRETARY, ASSISTANT TO THE SECRETARY OF DEFENSE FOR PUBLIC AFFAIRS: I think, sadly, we can all expect that those same brutal tactics, that same disregard for civilian life and civilian infrastructure will probably continue.





LEMON: Vladimir Putin appointing General Aleksandr Dvornikov as the top Russian general in Ukraine, known as the 'butcher of Syria.' He served as the first commander in Syria after Putin sent troops there. That was in 2015 in the Assad regime.

Pentagon Press Secretary John Kirby weighing in on Dvornikov's appointment earlier today.


KIRBY: I wouldn't pretend to say that we know for certain that this new general is going to be the author of some new additional and more bloody tactics, but we can certainly say by what we've seen in the past that we are probably turning another page in the same book of Russian brutality.


LEMON (on camera): Let's bring in now Major John Spencer, chair of Urban Warfare Studies at the Madison Policy Forum. He is also the author of "Connected Soldiers: Life, Leadership, and Social Connections in Modern War." He's been very valuable to us throughout this war giving us information. We thank you for joining us again this evening.

So, listen, this General Dvornikov is known for his appalling tactics, dropping barrel bombs on civilians. But he is facing a formidable armed opponent now. Is he going to be able to effectively lead forces that have been demoralized and already defeated up north? It sounds to me like this is going to become more brutal, obviously, considering his background, under his leadership.


JOHN SPENCER, CHAIR OF URBAN WARFAR STUDIES, MADISON POLICY FORUM: Yeah, that's right, Don. If you chase his background, actually, you can chase it all the back to Grozny, actually, which we've talked about in the past. He was dubbed the "hero of Syria," the "butcher of Syria." He's been awarded. I think he'll move on to be maybe even the head general of the Russian military. He has been brought in to try to save this.

But you are exactly right. The best leader in the world can only do so much with how much the loss of morale, the casualties, how many battle groups they've lost. He's going to be pushing these units. And I agree with the assessments. I won't even say it's possible. Clearly, he's going to try to continue to terrorize Ukrainian people and try to psychologically defeat them because of how hard it will be to defeat these forces, especially if we're talking about the Ukrainian military in the east. I mean, they've been fighting there since 2014, if not before then.

LEMON: Right.

SPENCER: They are highly trained, motivated formation that he has to move to and attack.

LEMON: You know, at least six Russian generals have been killed by Ukraine. Putting Dvornikov in charge now, is this an admission that Putin knows he is losing?

SPENCER: Yeah, absolutely. He lost. Nobody should take that away from the Ukrainians.

LEMON: You say now he lost.

SPENCER: He lost the war. He started a new war, brought in a new general. It will take decades to replace those generals. But clearly, they don't even have a military that they can fight well because they don't trust their lower leaders like we do. So, they bring in generals to get the generals killed. Now, he's starting a new war just to try to take the east.

LEMON: Okay. So, you just mentioned that -- you said it's a new war. Russia -- you know what? Our leaders, the military leaders are saying that this is signaling a major new phase in this war as it shifts its focus east. At least I should say our intelligence officials and folks at the Pentagon, what have you. Pentagon saying that they are sending hundreds of military vehicles and artillery into Eastern Ukraine.

A new satellite images from Maxar Technologies show an eight-mile-long convoy near the east of Kharkiv. Talk about the battle ahead. I mean, it is open country. What will Ukraine need to -- in order to win, in order to at least hold its ground now but to win this?

SPENCER: Yeah, they're going to -- it's a different war, a different fight, right? There still be urban fighting. Russians are headed somewhere. We believe they're headed to Izyum which is a key city or the couple cities around it that he needs to basically capture and then occupy in preparation of sealing off the eastern army, and then maybe he thinks that he can defeat them, but I highly doubt that.

It's a -- but again, it's a 400-vehicle convoy of what it needs, to be clear, but it's also extremely vulnerable. The Ukrainians need a lot bigger weapons than what we talked about in the past. They need artillery. They need tanks that can shoot these long distances. They need things that can bomb it from the air, warthogs, tank killers, the Switchblade 600, hundreds more of them.

I think -- I don't know if I'm feeling the urgency that -- and anxiety that I think is -- that we all should. This is getting down to hours, if not days, not weeks from now. This isn't about just keep on -- keep the planes coming in. I mean, the Ukrainians got to move this.

If it's coming in from Poland, in Lviv, you know this, Don, it will take a long time to get it to this fight.

LEMON: Yeah.

SPENCER: This fight is getting ready to happen in days.

LEMON: So, what do you mean -- not the urgency -- they should be getting weapons faster, sooner? Is that what you're saying?

SPENCER: They should be getting bigger weapons faster. Just look at the ammo supply that it will take to fight this amount of Russian force. And they're pushing in the Donbas, too. They're trying to push in that direction as well. We need thousands and thousands of artillery rounds. They're already burning out their artillery guns. They need more artillery guns. This is a much more lethal open warfare fight that's coming.

LEMON: Well, this is why many think, and I tend to agree with them, you can correct me if I'm wrong, that I think that it's going to get worse and there is a false sense of security in the west because if the weapons are coming in from the east, they're going to try to shut that down. So -- go on. Sorry. Go on.

SPENCER: Yeah, I think you're right. I mean, the Ukrainians do have we call interior lines, but they have to move them over great distances. In this situation, the Russians do have some lines back to Russia that they don't have to expose themselves like they are right now in the convoys. It's going to be difficult to get the Ukrainian military even over to the east to reinforce it, to resupply it. There are some challenges here.


LEMON: I want to ask you about it because remember in the beginning, we were talking about -- what was that convoy? Was it 70 miles, in the beginning 40 miles? Remember that convoy?

SPENCER: Yeah. It 40 miles or more.

LEMON: Yeah. So, 40 miles or more. But then now you have it now and it was -- it looks ominous, but I'm wondering if this is a target of opportunity for the Ukrainians to hit once again.

SPENCER: Yeah, absolutely. They should be, right, hitting them with anything they can get, to range it. You're talking about great distances here. Some open terrain that makes it harder to ambush.

I'm hoping that they still have the weapons they need. But this again is the urgency. They need huge weapons, MLRS, the surface-to-air weapons that we're talking about. This is isn't -- I'm talking about the weapons that was promised. I agree with Zelenskyy, you promised a lot, but I need this fight today, I need this stuff to fight today.

LEMON: Yeah. What was surprising to me is watching Boris Johnson and Zelenskyy walk around Kyiv, and much of that is due to, obviously, the Ukrainian military but also to the urban warfare that is happening there. Some say it was just regular civilians who have been fighting to push them back. What did you make of that moment? Were you surprised to see them walking around Kyiv so openly? Obviously with military and security around them.

SPENCER: Yeah, I'm surprised there was -- I mean, that it was Boris Johnson, and I think that's a huge diplomatic power to show the world that we stand with Ukraine. I wasn't surprised that it's safe there now. They closed the gates like we talked about. They defeated the Russian military. They stuck their tail between their legs and ran.

It still could be attacked by missiles for sure, but it's -- so much stuff is opening back up. I can't wait to go visit. But I wasn't surprised to see -- and I hope we continue to see -- world leaders visiting and showing our strength and what it sends to the world when they visit.

LEMON: Would you suggest our president do that?

SPENCER: I would. I don't want him to announce it, but I hope afterwards that we can all see it. I absolutely think that President Biden should visit Zelenskyy in Kyiv and send a message to Russia that we stand with him.

LEMON: Major, Russia's latest attacks continue to target civilians. We saw what happened at the train depot, right, and then this weekend, there was a strike at Dnipro airport. It follows that Friday's missile attack on that rail station I mentioned in Kramatorsk. They are destroying infrastructure but is that the point? I mean -- and is it the point also to terrorize as well? SPENCER: Yeah, absolutely. This is a global terrorism. Russia is a big bully terrorist. How many war crimes do we have to document before the United Nations does more than they're doing now? This isn't a political signaling. He is literally targeting massive amounts of civilians that are just trying to flee with no military targets in sight. The list of war crimes is in the thousands.

Bucha should have changed everything. But come on, what more does it take? Now we're hearing it has to be documented, I understand, and chemical warfare, but there has to be -- we have to stop it here.

LEMON: Major Spencer, thank you. Be well. I'll see you soon.

SPENCER: Thank you, Don.

LEMON: Lessons learned from the holocaust inspiring kindness decades later in Poland. We're in Warsaw next.

Plus, a COVID lockdown is so strict that people are starving in their homes. CNN is inside that lockdown in Shanghai.

Stay with us.



LEMON: The few that survived left. There are now fewer than 10,000 Jews left in Poland after World War II. But for those who are there now, the lessons of the holocaust are inspiring them to help the millions of Ukrainian refugees fleeing into their country.

Here's CNN Kyung Lah with that story in Warsaw.



KYUNG LAH, CNN SENIOR NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): This is more than Jan Gebert's Warsaw neighborhood.

GEBERT: The white one.

LAH (on camera): Oh, the white one.

(voice-over): It's a path to his family's history.

GEBERT: That's the building where my grandmom was born and raised.

LAH (voice-over): Gebert lives a block away from where his Jewish great-grandparents lived before the holocaust.

GEBERT: That's my grandmom and her mom.

LAH (voice-over): In the chaos of World War II, Sophia Peznanski (ph) was separated from her husband and child. The Nazis executed her at the Treblinka death camp. Of the six million Jews murdered in the holocaust, around half were killed in Poland's concentration camps.

But Gebert's great grandfather, Julian Peznanski (ph), escaped the horror, sheltered by a non-Jewish family.

GEBERT: We are alive because someone helped us. Thanks to God, I can help other people. The apartment is one-bedroom apartment.

LAH (voice-over): Gebert's home has little space.

GEBERT: We are sleeping over here and that used to be our bed. We gave that bed to our Ukrainian guests.

LAH (voice-over): But it is enough to share with a Ukrainian mother and child, the third family Gebert has taken in since the war began.

GEBERT: I just feel this is part of me.


GEBERT: I don't know if it's faith or tradition. It's just part of me. I have to do it.

MICHAEL SHUDRICH, CHIEF RABBI OF POLAND: It's our time to do what we needed to have done for us 80 years ago.

LAH (voice-over): Michael Shudrich is chief rabbi of Poland. In Warsaw, the Jewish community has plunged in to help in this humanitarian crisis, offering everything from child care to food and housing, counseling, and Polish lessons.

Shudrich says Jewish philanthropies, mostly American, have donated about $100 million to help Ukrainian refugees no matter where they are or whatever faith they practice. The effort is centering on Poland where in World War II, the majority did not help.

SHUDRICH: Half of the Jews killed during the show of holocaust were from Poland.

LAH (on camera): So, given that complicated history, how does that motivate the Jewish community today?

SHUDRICH: It clearly has an added meaning for those who are Jewish, understanding that this is what my grandparents needed. And if we still have somewhere in our hearts a sadness that more people didn't help, it needs then to push us to do more to help now.

LAH (on camera): You're volunteering here?


LAH (voice-over): For Jan Gebert, he feels his country changing as Poland welcomes almost 2.5 million Ukrainians. His great-grandmother's home is now a shelter for refugees.

(On camera): Do you think about what would happen if more of your family had been protected, had been taken in?

GEBERT: It's a great question. I would hope that there would be someone like me helped by grandparents and my cousins during the holocaust. That would be wonderful. I would have my great family next to me. To have a great big family in Warsaw, a Jewish family, who survived the world, that would be most beautiful thing, definitely.

LAH (on camera): The $100 million raised by Jewish organizations worldwide, again predominantly by American organizations, that's going into the child care and the language lessons that you saw in the story. And we spoke to those women who are being helped out. None of them are Jewish. In fact, one of those women didn't even know that it was a Jewish organization helping her out.

So, after seeing the incredible inhumanity in Ukraine here in Poland, they are seeing the grace of the Jewish community. Don?


LEMON (on camera): Kyung Lah, thank you so much.

Twenty-five million people under strict lockdown, running out of food and water, so desperate they are yelling for help. CNN is there in the middle. We are live in Shanghai right after this.




LEMON: The State Department ordering all non-emergency personnel out of Shanghai. The Shanghai council at the city of 25 million people in lockdown after reporting more than 20,000 new COVID cases for multiple days now, forcing its residents into a strict lockdown unlike any seen yet. People running out of food and medicine, so desperate they're shouting from their balconies.

CNN's David Culver is there.



DAVID CULVER, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): You never expect to see people in Shanghai, China's most affluent and cosmopolitan city, screaming for food. We are starving, we are starving, they yell. But after weeks-long COVID lockdown with no promise to end, desperation.

One community volunteer recording the home of an elderly woman. She says neighbors heard the 90-year-old shouting help for three days, pleading for food. Her fridge? Empty. Volunteers were finally able to get her a meal.

China's central government now in charge of managing Shanghai's COVID outbreak. In a month's time, the daily case count went from double digits to more than 26,000. A Shanghai city leader choked up at a news conference over the weekend, apologizing to Shanghai's more than 25 million residents for failing to meet expectations and promising improvements.

Those of us living here kept to our homes. CNN is the only U.S. TV network with a team living through the lockdown. In my community, we are only allowed out when summoned by workers using a megaphone. And when dark out, a flashlight.

(On camera): Getting late evening now request to go get a COVID test.

(Voice-over): My neighbors and I line up, ready for health workers to scan our QR cards, which link the results to our ID. Night or day, the testing is constant.

(On camera): Someone in the community tested positive. So, they will test now each of us once again.

(Voice-over): We can also leave the house to line up for government distributions or to get approved deliveries, usually the most exciting part of the day.

(On camera): We vacuum-sealed pork and then several boxes of traditional Chinese medicine, a bunch more face masks, a box that has a bunch of fresh fruit. On top, they had some frozen meat. And then two antigen kits.


CULVER (voice-over): Food deliveries this plentiful are rare, so most of us spend our mornings trying to order groceries online. But orders sell out quickly. Not enough delivery drivers to get through the lockdown barriers. Communities like mine resorting to group buys. We come together in chat groups and try to source food directly from suppliers in bulk.

Neighbors helping neighbors is a common theme across the city. We found a safe drop spot to trade cheese for oranges. Our community's volunteers help us source food where they can, though, they too are exhausted and hungry.

From above, you see this metropolis. Quiet. Eerily empty. But on the ground, there are tragedies shared daily online. This man recording his father who says he is unable to get admitted to hospital in this strained system. His dad later died, he says. In this video, a neighbor capturing the wailing of a heartbroken woman, crying out that her loved one had died because of the lockdown.

And this video sparked outrage on Chinese social media. It shows a worker in a hazmat suit brutally killing a pet corgi because local officials worried that it might have carried the virus. The owner was in government quarantine.

All of this as a result of China's zero-COVID policy, a directive from the top. President Xi-Jinping on Friday praising China's zero-COVID approach. State media echoing a glowing narrative, showing an orderly mobilization in Shanghai with an abundant food supply and rapid construction of more than 100 makeshift hospitals with capacity to treat more than 160,000 people infected.

But patients taken to those government quarantine centers sharing a very different reality online, posting videos of unsanitary conditions and people using isolation facilities still under construction. Some seemed frantically running at distribution sites, scrambling for food and blankets.

The uncertainty leaving this man broken, doing the unthinkable, questioning the leadership aloud, asking, where is the communist party?


LEMON (on camera): He joins me now. David, hello to you. I hope you're okay. This sounds like it's very difficult conditions to live through. Are you essentially locked into your living complex there?

CULVER: I am, Don. The door behind me is actually my exit to the alleyway, so I exit to freedom. It goes into my community compound. A couple nights ago, I actually heard them taping it closed along with my neighbors' doors just to make sure we don't leave without permission. They placed a vapor seal over it and that really is the generous way they do it.

Some people actually living in buildings with positive cases right now, they are locked shut from the outside. They are using bicycle locks or padlocks.

Our community is hopeful because we might be on this list of neighborhoods being granted some freedom. It's likely that if they do grant us that, it's going to be only to the extent of being to walk out that door, walk around our compound, just basically leave our apartments, but that's it for now. The front gate of our community that takes us out to the actual street remains blocked as it's been that way, Don, for nearly four weeks now.

LEMON: My goodness. We all know how hard it is to contain COVID, but what does this say about China's zero-COVID policy?

CULVER: I think it says that it's highly unlikely Beijing is going to change course on its determination to try and totally eliminate COVID. In fact, articles or any sort of posts suggesting China should try to live with the virus are increasingly censored online here. China's zero-COVID policy, you know, this is a directive that comes straight from the top. President Xi Jinping wants the virus stamped out.

One thing you got to keep in mind though, Don, is up until this outbreak here in Shanghai, this was a city that was mostly in control of its own COVID containment implementation. They were a bit looser here. They let folks have a bit more freedom compared to other parts of China.

But since this most recent surge, President Xi has reassorted his stance. I mean, he is determined to stick to this zero-COVID. And Beijing is now in control of Shanghai. And yet much of what is happening here, many argue, is really not based on health security so much as this politicized approach by Beijing to save face and keep control. Don?

LEMON: David, thank you. I bet you thought this was all behind you. I mean, having covered COVID and being in the region for all of 2020, 2021 and now here it is back again in 2022. You take care of yourself. Thank you.

CULVER: Yeah. All right. Thanks, Don.

LEMON: We'll be right back.




LEMON: So very serious stuff right now. We have some severe -- breaking severe weather news to tell you about. A huge storm system battering states from Oklahoma to the Midwest, bringing tornados and hail to Arkansas tonight.

Take a look at the radar. What is being called a large and extremely dangerous tornado confirmed in Little Rock. The National Weather Service saying the tornado was reported at Little Rock Air Force Base about 15 miles north of downtown Little Rock.

The weather service's storm prediction center saying there were five tornado reports in Arkansas and more than two dozen hail reports in Arkansas and Oklahoma. This is a video of the hail smacking down into a backyard pool in Arkansas.

A severe thunderstorm watch is in effect for parts of Arkansas, Mississippi and Tennessee, including the city of Memphis until 4:00 a.m.


LEMON: Be safe, everyone, hunker down. Take all the precautions.

Thanks for watching. Our live coverage continues with John Vause right after this.


VAUSE: Hello. Welcome to our viewers in the United States and around the world. I'm John Vause live in Lviv, Ukraine at the outset of what is likely to be a bloody new phase of this war as Russia prepares to go on the offensive in the Donbas region.

PAULA NEWTON, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: And I'm Paula Newton here in Atlanta following Russian President Vladimir Putin's tough first meeting with a western leader since this invasion began.