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Don Lemon Tonight

Latest Update On Putin's War In Ukraine; Witnessing Russian Atrocities Near Kyiv; Johnny Depp Cross-Examined In Suit Against Amber Heard; DeSantis And Florida Lawmakers Penalizing Disney; Navalny: Ukrainian Man Killed Because Last Name Was Also Navalny. Aired 11p-12a ET

Aired April 21, 2022 - 23:00   ET




DON LEMON, CNN HOST (on camera): This is DON LEMON TONIGHT. Russia's military adding three additional battalion of troops as it intensifies its offensive in Eastern Ukraine.

Vladimir Putin now claiming he has liberated Mariupol, but both Ukraine and the Pentagon say it is still a contested city, as Joe Biden announced his $800 million in new military aid, including heavy artillery.

Also tonight, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis versus Disney down in Florida. Lawmakers penalizing the state's largest private employer in a fight over Florida's "don't say gay" bill.

And Johnny Deep cross examined in his defamation case against ex-wife Amber Heard about text messages he sent to friends.


UNKNOWN (voice-over): After you said, let's drown her before we burn her, Mr. Depp, you said, I will (bleep) her burnt corpse afterwards to make sure she is dead. That's what you said that you would do after you burned her and after you drowned her. Did I read that right?

JOHNNY DEPP, ACTOR: You certainly did, yes.


LEMON (on camera): More on Depp's cross examination straight ahead this hour.

But first, I want to start with CNN's Isa Soares in Lviv for us tonight. Isa, hello to you. Thank you for joining. There are new satellite images, new evidence of what appears to be mass graves just outside of Mariupol. What do you know about that?

ISA SOARES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Don, good evening to you. We are hearing more harrowing details of acts of absolute savagery taking place across Ukraine, the sort of acts that frankly that one would have thought have been consigned to the history books.

But what we know from satellite evidence compiled and analyzed by Maxar Technologies is that mass burial site containing about 200 new graves has been identified in a village called Manhush. You're looking at the satellite images right at the top of your screen, that long line there.

Now, Maxar Technologies don't say that these mass graves are about 20 times larger, it is so hard to fathom this, 20 times larger than the ones found in Bucha where 70 bodies, if you remember, were found.

Now, Ukrainian officials say that Russian soldiers have been taking the bodies of people killed in Mariupol and dumping them in Manhush. And they believe, Don, that as many as 20,000 people have died in Mariupol after weeks of intense bombardment.

A city, Don, frankly, that's only a city by name. Ninety percent or so has been completely destroyed and the images we're seeing of it is charred to the bone.

Of course, a city, like you said, that President Putin claims has been liberated though there's still that last pocket of resistance inside the Azovstal steel plant.

A plant that Putin has decided not to storm, not out of the kindness of his heart, may I add, but simply because he doesn't want his own troops to face the wrath of the Ukrainian forces still inside that steel plant, Don.

LEMON: Uh-huh. And, you know, Isa, there has been so much suffering in Mariupol. Very few have been able to make it out. What is the latest on the evacuations?

SOARES: Well, let's just say, quite frankly, excuse me, Don, that it's just not going according to plan and it hasn't been for several days.

Now, Ukraine's deputy minister says the evacuation of civilians is going very slowly. And she says that on the Russian side, everything is complicated, chaotic, and dishonest. Those were her words. And the minister has even apologized the last 24 hours to residents for really failing, Don, to evacuate them.

Having said that, on Thursday, Wednesday to Thursday, just to clarify, for the first time, people were evacuated from the besieged city of Mariupol to Zaporizhzhia, but the numbers, quite frankly, are still very low. They were hoping to evacuate 6,000 people, but have only evacuated 79 civilians.

And just so our viewers get an understanding of the numbers we are talking about, to date, more than 100,000 have left Mariupol, but around 100,000 civilians are still remaining in the city.

We've also heard from the CEO of the company that owns that Azovstal steel plant, and he says, in his own words, the situation there is close to catastrophe. Don? LEMON: All right. Thank you very much. Isa Soares, we appreciate it. We'll get back to Ukraine in just a minute.

But I want to get here to United States, in studio. With us now, CNN national security analyst Steve Hall and CNN counterterrorism analyst Phil Mudd. Thank you both for joining.

Steve, I'm going to start with you because the Russian losses are piling up. As Isa was reeling them off there, thousands of troops potentially dead or injured, you were shaking your head. And the number of people who are, you know, still trying to get out, the sinking of the Moskva, the failure to take the capital of Kyiv.


Now, Putin is claiming that Russia has liberated Mariupol. He has to find something to sell, some sort of win to give to the Russian people. Are they buying it, though? It's the question.

STEVE HALL, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST, FORMER CIA CHIEF OF RUSSIA OPERATIONS: You know, at the very least, Don, I think Putin has to walk away with at least the Donbas and perhaps sort of that southern swath if he is going to be able to convince the Russian people that he had a significant victory.

Of course, he went in saying he was going to take over the whole country, remember, and now, of course, it has (INAUDIBLE) back significantly, and that's a propaganda problem for him.

Now, he does control 99% of all the information that Russians consume, so that helps him a little bit. But eventually, these truths start to accumulate, what he has lost. You know, the fact that they had to destroy 98% of the entire city of Mariupol. These things are going to get through. The dead young Russian soldiers.

So, it is going to be harder and harder for him to convince Russians that this whole endeavor was really worth it in the end.

LEMON: Phil, you just heard Steve. I mean, you just said Putin has an iron grip on what his people hear, but the sinking of the Moskva might prove hard to suppress.

"The New York Times" is reporting a network of families of missing sons starting to speak out now. One father, who says his 19-year-old son was serving as a cook on the Moskva, told the "Times" -- and I quote -- "The more we write, the harder it will be for them to remain silent about what is happening."

So, he collected the names of 15 soldiers who are missing, 14 of them conscripts. How problematic or is it problematic at this point for Putin?

PHILIP MUDD, CNN COUNTERTERRORISM ANALYST: I am not too optimistic. You're looking at Russia and pretending that it's a situation that's fundamentally different than even what we might have seen in the United States, Don. It is because, as Steve mentioned, the Russians control -- the Russian government controls almost all the media.

But let me give you two instances in this country where people were misled. Let's go way back. Vietnam war, body bags. People were told for years that body bags meant victory. That was a failure.

Let's go fast forward to Afghanistan. For years, we said we're winning, we're winning, we're winning. We persuaded ourselves we were winning. That was never the case.

So, I'm saying that even in an open society, if you repeat the message again and again, people will believe it.

Think about a close society where there aren't alternative avenues like CNN for people to listen to, and you want to tell me that Vladimir Putin can't control a message? I don't buy it, Don. I don't buy it.

LEMON (on camera): Ukraine's military intelligence on Wednesday released purported communications intercepted of Russian armed forces referring to an alleged order to kill Ukrainian prisoners of war in the city of Popasna in the eastern region of Luhansk. Listen to this.


UNKNOWN (on-screen translation): What can I tell you, damn it. You keep the most senior among them, and let the rest go forever.

UNKNOWN (on-screen translation): Let them go forever, damn it, so that no one will ever see them again, including relatives.


LEMON (on camera): Steve Hall, I need to point out that CNN cannot vouch for the authenticity of the recording. But what do you think when you hear that? Let them go forever?

HALL: You know, first of all, it amazing me that the Russians are actually speaking in the clear like this. I mean, this is horrific discipline. The SBU, the Ukrainian intelligence service, you know, has become very good at picking this stuff up and then using that. But the stuff that we're hearing, you know, is just -- it's horrific.

First of all, it's not really a professional military when you think about it. I mean, military soldiers in the west are trained to go after military targets, not to go after civilians, not to kill unnecessarily. And we're hearing the exact opposite out of the Russian troops that are currently active in Ukraine. So, it's shocking on a bunch of different levels, really.

LEMON: Phil, I want to get your reaction, because you hear those intercepted communications, you see the satellite images of the mass graves and the terror that unfolded surrounding Ukraine. How will these Russians be brought to justice? How does that happen? Will they be brought to justice?

MUDD: If you look at the war in Bosnia, there is a prospect that there will be people in leadership positions that will be brought to justice. But the concern, of course, is that those leadership positions tell an 18 or a 20-year-old that what they're doing is appropriate.

Steve is dead on. This says a lot about how the Russian military is operating. In a professional situation, an 18 or 20-year-old is going to say, the enemy is a horrible maybe person, but maybe a horrible animal. Unless they're led by leadership to say in wartime, you can attack a military target, but we don't characterize the adversary as animals.

This tells you what the Russian leadership is all about. It's a corrupt leadership that tells youth that it's appropriate to think of somebody as an expendable animal. It's incredible, Don.

LEMON: Phil, Steve, thank you both very much. I appreciate it.

I want to turn now to the latest military movement in Ukraine. Colonel Cedric Leighton is at the magic wall for us. Good evening to you, colonel. Let's start with Mariupol, shall we? What options does Ukraine have to keep that city? Are there any, really? Is it gone?



Unfortunately, the options are limited to none. I mean, what you have -- this is where the plant is. The Azovstal Iron and Steel Works is right here, basically right on the coast, has its own docking area and everything. It's surrounded on all of these sides by the Russians on land and then there also -- the sea approaches are also taken care of by the Russian presence -- naval presence in that area.

So, there's practically no way to do this. I know President Zelenskyy has said that he wants to bring in big guns to basically shoot their way out of this. There's no way that that can happen. There's no way you can get big guns into this situation right now. They are in essence surrounded, unfortunately.

LEMON: Colonel, can you talk about the conditions at that steel plant where Ukrainian forces are barricaded? If you are the Russians trying to clear it out, what are you up against?

LEIGHTON: Well, let's take a look at that, Don. That's actually a great question because what you have is a whole bunch of buildings. This is after -- this is done on Tuesday. This is after a lot of the destruction has occurred here. But you take a look at this. This reminds me of Stalingrad, the pictures that you saw of the tractor factory in Stalingrad back in World War II.

All of these buildings right here are all areas in which urban warfare would take place, in really close quarters. This is very dangerous stuff. It is no wonder that Putin doesn't want his troops to be in this. Because this is just the above ground stuff. We are not even talking about what's below ground here where they have a capacity below ground of housing about 4,000 people. We believe there are about 2,000 or slightly less than that there now, including civilians as well as soldiers, the wounded, as well as combat-capable soldiers.

So, all of this is what they're up against. It is an old industrial area dating from the 1930s. This is one of those industrial projects that Stalin put together and it was responsible for about 12% of Ukraine's steel shipments back just before the invasion.

So, this is a big, big prize for them. But from a combat perspective, this is one of the toughest environments they can go into. It's no wonder that they want to surround it and in essence starve it out.

LEMON: I'm interested in hearing about -- we learned today that the new drone that the Air Force developed for Ukraine, it's called the Phoenix Ghost drone, the Pentagon says it provides similar capabilities to switchblade drones. They won't give away exactly what it can do, but what can you -- what do you know about it?

LEIGHTON: So, the Phoenix Ghost is similar, like we said, to the switchblade. This is, of course, switchblade animation, so if there are any details that are different and I'm sure there are, it's not going to be exactly like this, but it gives people the idea of what it can do.

It can independently target different targets. So, for example, what you can do is you can assess, are you going after a combat vehicle or is there a civilian vehicle in the way here? So, it can discern that. There are ways in which it can be commandeered by Ukrainian troops so that it will go around, in particular as a wave-off capability, it can go around target and then hit the target that it was intended to hit. So, it's very capable, it's lethal, it is also apparently a kamikaze drone just like the switchblade is.

LEMON: Fascinating. Colonel, thank you so much. I appreciate it.

LEIGHTON: You bet, Don.

LEMON (on camera): Children and teenagers in Ukraine seeing things that they should never have to see, things they will never forget, and they're bearing witness.


UNKNOWN (voice-over): Why do you feel it was important to be here at this moment?

UNKNOWN (through translator): So, people can see for themselves. The whole world should see how the Russian world comes and kills civilians for nothing.




LEMON: So tonight, U.S. officials saying that Russia is adding troops to Eastern Ukraine every day as Vladimir Putin escalates his offensive there. But in towns near Kyiv, Ukrainian officials are now counting the dead, the innocent civilians killed by Russian troops before they retreated.

CNN's Ed Lavandera met up with one family that witnessed atrocities firsthand, including a 16-year-old boy who will never forget what he was forced to see.


ED LAVANDERA, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Hidden behind a row of homes in the town of Borodyanka, Ukrainian police exhume the bodies of nine civilians killed by Russian soldiers. They're documenting evidence of war crimes. This mother stands over her son's body left in a makeshift grave.

On the other side of the graves, we noticed Ivan Onufrenko staring quietly at the grave of another victim.

One of your friends is buried here?

Ivan says his friend was killed by Russian shrapnel as she tried to escape the city. The cross that is bearing Katia's (ph) name was made by his grandfather who dug this shallow grave because they couldn't store the bodies at the hospital.

I can't take this well when I see this. I cry but I'm not showing this. I feel weak. Weak because I cannot do anything.

LAVANDERA (voice-over): Ivan is 16 years old. In two months of war, he has witnessed the innocence of childhood die before his eyes. Watching Ivan makes you wonder how a teenage mind copes with the horror in front of him. His family says to understand, we must see what they experienced.

Ivan's family never left this backyard shed for more than 30 days while Russian troops occupied the city.


(voice-over): Ivan's grandfather and father showed us how they survived on nothing but homemade bread.

(On camera): So, basically, they would take the grain, the raw grain, and grind it down into flour or a version of flour, and then they would make their own bread in this oven. That's what they lived on for more than a month.

(Voice-over): Five adults and four children hid in this underground bunker. This is where Ivan heard weeks of artillery blasts and cries for help, the sounds of war that will haunt survivors forever.

I slept here, my sister and my mom slept here, and another family slept here, too. We tried to curl up and sleep here together. Sometimes, when things got really scary, our dad would come down and stay with us.

Ivan's grandfather, Serhey (ph), says Russian soldiers told him the family would be killed if they tried to escape. Police say more than 50 people were killed here, many of them shot as they tried to run away. The death toll is expected to climb.

(On camera): How frightening was this experience for you?

UNKNOWN (on-screen translation): I can't express it.

LAVANDERA (on camera): Why not?

UNKNOWN (on-screen translation): It is war. It is scary. We never felt anything like that. They were hitting everything, smashing it.

LAVANDERA (voice-over): Serhey (ph) is stoic as we talk about surviving the Russian siege. But there's one question --

(On camera): Do you worry about your grandchildren witnessing this war?

UNKNOWN (on-screen translation): I don't have words for that. Do you understand? The little ones can forget, but the older ones will remember always.

LAVANDERA (voice-over): Grandfather and father know their children will never be the same.

Why do you feel it was important to be here at this moment?

So, people can see for themselves. The whole world should see how the Russian world comes and kills civilians for nothing.

When you get older, what do you think you'll remember about this moment and this day?

I'll remember everything. I'll remember every day, and I will tell my children and my grandchildren. I will remember this all my life.

He's a teenager two refuses to look away from the raw reality of this war.

(On camera): One of the things that weighs most on this family is they look around the city that they live in, they hear of so many people not surviving, they see the damage, and they sit there and they wonder, how were they some of the lucky ones to be able to escape the horror that Russian forces brought to their hometown? Don?


LEMON (on camera): Ed Lavandera, thanks so much. We'll be right back. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)



LEMON (on camera): So, let's talk about this fascinating story involving actor Johnny Depp confronted with his own words today under intense and graphic cross-examination in his $50 million defamation suit against his ex-wife, Amber Heard.

Let's discuss now. Joe Tacopina is here. He is a criminal defense attorney. Joe, good to see you. Long time since you've been on the program. It is good to have you on.

So, I just want to play some of what we have heard during the cross- examination of Johnny Depp. Amber Heard's attorney reading text messages Johnny Depp sent to another actor. And just a warning, they are graphic and frankly, they are pretty gross. Watch this.


UNKNOWN (voice-over): After you said, let's drown her before we burn her, Mr. Depp, you said, I will (bleep) her burnt corpse afterwards to make sure she is dead. That's what you said that you would do after you burned her and after you drowned her. Did I read that right?

DEPP: You certainly did, yes.

UNKNOWN (voice-over): And you wrote that about the woman who would later become your wife?

DEPP: Yes, I did.


LEMON: Joe, I mean, it's revolting. Day three of this trial. How is Johnny Depp coming across?

JOE TACOPINA, CRIMINAL DEFENSE ATTORNEY: You know, it is revolting, and clearly, he's troubled. But, you know, I don't think it's a one- way street here, honestly, Don. Look, he has come across as someone who is troubled, who has a need to express himself in the most vile way, you know.

But as far as the damage being done on cross-examination, quite frankly, they're making -- obviously, they're using Depp's own words. But on the other hand, you know, Amber Heard's own words will come back to haunt her in this trial. I mean, she has admitted on audio recordings that she hit him, that she started and escalated fights.

So, I think both are coming across as pretty troubled people. And fact of the matter is, Don -- I mean, I think this is probably why there should be some law in this country about Hollywood actors marrying each other. I really do.


TACOPINA: It just seems to be a recurring theme. You now, we have Brad Pitt and Angelina. I just -- it's really sad to watch this unfolding. They have children, by the way. I mean, Johnny has children anyway. Just to see this unfold in public is sad. It's a private -- really horrific personal lives.

LEMON: Listen, this isn't part of a divorce proceeding, but as you know, divorce is, you know, they're tough.


(on camera): Breakups are tough, especially when it becomes public like this.

I want to play -- Joe, I want to play another -- something else that they said. Again, the warning -- I have to warn you about the language. Here it is.


UNKNOWN (voice-over): On January 17th, 2013, Mr. Depp, you texted the following. For the idiot cow, three exclamation points. Next text. Will do. I'll smack the ugly (bleep) around before I let her in. Don't worry. Apologies again to the court and the jury for this language. And then you closed by saying, did that worthless hooker arrive? Did I read that right?

DEPP: You did, sir.


LEMON (on camera): Joe, how do you think a jury is going to respond, especially when yesterday Depp was claiming Amber Heard was the aggressor?

TACOPINA: Well, look, those are words. I mean, look, I'm not trying to defend Johnny Depp here, Don. I'm not. Honestly, I don't know who to believe in this case. I really don't.

Quite frankly, I think the truth lies somewhere in the middle. I think they are both culpable. I think they're both responsible. Amber Heard acknowledged and admitted to hitting and punching and physically abusing Johnny Depp. He clearly has done the same.

So, I think this was a violent relationship. But this is a defamation lawsuit. I think part of this is going to be Depp saying, listen, you wrote this article in "The Washington Post," this op-ed, and painted yourself to be a complete victim. Nowhere in that article did you happen to mention you also physically abused me and punched me and, you know, put a cigarette butt out of my face and severed a part of my finger or bruised my teeth as well.

And again, I'm not defending him. I'm just not -- I don't know who to believe in this case, but I think the truth lies somewhere in the middle, Don.

LEMON: What do you think is going to happen when Amber Heard takes the stand, Joe?

TACOPINA: More of the same. I think what you're seeing now is going to -- look, I think she will be more -- not that Johnny Depp is not composed, but his words are vile words. They're vile words. I mean, clearly, he expressed himself. I think he clearly has a problem with substance abuse, alcohol, whatever it's going to be. I mean, he has acknowledged to both. He sounds drunk on recordings.

I think it will be more of the same. Maybe not quite as volatile what not. But there are recordings of Amber Heard where she has admitted to doing things to Johnny Depp that, you know, she wouldn't want have played in public arena.

So, I think it's going to be more of the same. It's crazy that it was brought by Johnny Depp. This is a defamation lawsuit. He brought this knowing those things were out there and knowing this was going to be part of the evidence received in this case. That's what is really troubling. Don't forget, this is a First Amendment case, right? I mean, he's considered a public figure.

So, in order for him to prevail in this case on a defamation case, Don, there has to be a showing that there was actual malice, okay? That Amber Heard made these statements, we're talking about "The Washington Post" article, with knowledge that they were false or reckless and that they were clearly, you know, not accurate.

LEMON: Yeah.

TACOPINA: It's a very high standard.

LEMON: Malicious intent. Yeah, it's a very high standard. But, I mean, listen, some of the testimony -- listen, he has a right to defend himself. He has a right to bring this case. And some of the things you're hearing from both sides are very disturbing. But, again, you don't know what's going to happen in this case. Maybe he will set a precedent.

But Joe, before I let you go, I have to ask you about this because this is news and it is very important news for country. You're representing Kimberly Guilfoyle. Everyone knows Kimberly is Donald Trump, Jr.'s fiancee, a former member of Trump's presidential campaign. Can you share anything about her meeting that just happened earlier this week with the January 6th committee?

TACOPINA: You know, Don, honestly, not really except that it did happen. There was nine hours we spent in, you know, Washington with members of the committee and counsel. And she was asked questions for nine hours, and she answered all the questions honestly, truthfully and without -- there was really no -- no fanfare.

It was very uneventful, very straightforward. There was -- quite frankly, they treated her with respect. And she answered with respect. And it was much smoother than I anticipated it was going to go. Every question they asked, she answered truthfully.

Again, you know, my position from day one on this has been, she has got nothing to hide, she can only tell the truth, and she has no legal culpability in this whatsoever. So, that's about it.

LEMON: So, there was no contention and she answered willingly, didn't take the Fifth or what have you?

TACOPINA: Did not assert the Fifth Amendment once.

LEMON: Okay. Joe, thank you. I appreciate you joining us and talking about both of those stories. We will see you soon.

TACOPINA: Okay, Don.

LEMON: Thank you very much.

TACOPINA: Thank you.

LEMON: Florida Governor Ron DeSantis looking like he is about to notch two victories in the culture wars. Now, Democrats are trying to figure out if there's anything they can do to stop him.



LEMON (on camera): So, I want you to take a look at what happened in Florida today.


UNKNOWN (voice-over): Members, we will restore order. Show us an informal recess.



LEMON (on camera): So, those are Black members of the Florida House protesting the new congressional map drawn up by their Republican governor and passed by both the state's Senate and the House.

The new map eliminates two congressional districts, both of which are represented by Black Democrats, and that's not the only controversial piece of legislation they passed today. They also ended Disney's special tax status, which used to allow them to operate as an independent government around the Walt Disney World.

Why now? Well, because Disney, the state's largest employer, criticized the governor's education law restricting talking about LGBTQ topics in classrooms, the law known as "don't say gay."

So, joining me now is Florida Democratic State Senator Shevrin Jones. State senator, thank you. I appreciate you joining us.


LEMON: So, I know you disagree with both of these bills. Let's start with congressional map, okay? Two districts happen to be represented by Black democrats, now gone. Opponents say that there's likely to be a legal challenge. But really, is there any action that can be taken here?

JONES: Well, Don, the checks and balances that have been put in place from our judicial system is what we have to wait for and the only thing we are going to be able to do at this time.

These unconstitutional maps that my colleagues -- they know are unconstitutional so much so that they filed an amendment yesterday in the Senate to ensure that when it gets challenged, they can only be challenged in the (INAUDIBLE) County courts because they know it's going to courts.

So, this is just the Republican's attempt across the country and specifically in Florida to test our judicial system just to see how far they can go.

LEMON: The House and the Senate both passed maps that maintain the level of district representative by Black lawmakers last month, but DeSantis vetoed it, had his office draw this map. What do you think the message is? What does this send to Black folks in your state from your own governor?

JONES: Well, it's the same consistent message that Gov. DeSantis has shown since he filed HB-1, restricting and telling Black folks how they can protest.

Since reconstruction, we only have had 11 congressional members in the state of Florida. Now, we only have five. And now, with this new mess, we will only have three Black access seats. The governor call it race neutral. We call it racist tactics. The governor knows exactly what he's doing.

So, I'm happy with my colleagues in the House, what they did today. They took a stand against this politically-driven special session that we just came out of, considering the fact that the governor and my Republican colleagues know what they're doing. They are stripping away the voices of Black people in the state of Florida and they continue to do it. They've been doing it for the past three years.

All the governor is doing is setting the stage up for trying to run for president and his way of running president is creating division and discourse.

LEMON: Well, I mean, you guys, as Democrats, you have to do something about it. We can talk more about that. But I have to get to the other side while I have you here. Let's talk about what is going on with Disney. I mean, this bill is fully in retaliation for Disney's criticism of the "don't say gay" bill. I mean, they admitted to it.

DeSantis in a fundraising email just yesterday saying -- quote -- "If Disney wants to pick a fight, they chose the wrong guy." Is it his state and you're just living in it? Sounds like it.

JONES: The governor wants to be the governor, the Senate president, the speaker of the House, and the chief justice all at the same time. If you disagree with him, he's coming after you. He's doing it with his own members.

He made it clear to them that our primary -- all of this is a tit for tat for Disney's opposition to the new (INAUDIBLE) education which is locally known as the "don't say gay." State law limits the discussion of LGBTQ plus issues in our schools.

And Don, let's be clear, this is a national tone that is happening across the country that, you know what, truth be told, here in the state of Florida, people are watching us, states are watching us, and they are copycatting off of what we are doing because they're saying that if Florida do it and they get away with it, then we can do the same thing.

LEMON: Thank you, senator. I appreciate it.

JONES: I appreciate you.

LEMON: Putin critic Alexei Navalny exposing Russia's brutality from prison. He claims that Russian forces killed a Ukrainian man just because he had the same last name.




LEMON (on camera): Russian opposition leader and fierce Putin critic Alexei Navalny has now been in jail for more than a year. The story of how he ended up there after surviving an alleged murder attempt and tracking down his own would-be assassins, documented in the new CNN film "Navalny."


ALEXEI NAVALNY, RUSSIAN OPPOSITION LEADER: Putin is supposed to be not so stupid to use this Novichok.


NAVALNY: If you want to kill someone, just shoot him.

UNKNOWN: Jesus Christ, like, really, Alexei.

NAVALNY: It's impossible to believe it. It's kind of stupid. The whole idea of poisoning with a chemical weapon.


NAVALNY: This is why this is not smart, because even reasonable people, they refuse to believe, like, what? Come on, poisoned? Seriously?


LEMON (on camera): Well, the Kremlin and Russia security services, of course, deny they played any role in Navalny's poisoning.

Joining me now is Christo Grozev. He is the lead Russia investigator at independent investigative outlet Bellingcat. He worked closely with Navalny and his team on the investigation into the assassination attempt against him.

Christo, we are so happy to have you here. This is very interesting story. Despite being in prison, Navalny is active on social media. This week tweeting the Russian forces killed a Ukrainian man simply because he had the same name. Posting this photo of Navalny's -- Ilya (ph) Navalny's passport and tweeting -- quote -- "everything indicates that they killed him because of his last name."

Is this why this passport was finally thrown nearby? CNN can't, by the way, independently confirm that. But tell us a lot about -- that tells us a lot about Russia's fears -- what Russia fears most, I should say.

CHRISTO GROZEV, LEAD RUSSIA INVESTIGATOR, BELLINGCAT: Got this news in jail. Probably did not know that the person who was killed was a distant relative of him. They share a paternal-great grandfather.

But what Russia has been doing there is not targeted at individuals. I am not even sure that they were aware that this was his relative. But there is so much in common between his story and the story of this war.

They basically boil down to the same desire or same reluctance of Putin to give up power, and I think both the assassination attempt on them and this war came from the same evil.

LEMON: You know, Navalny has been speaking out against the war from prison. Are ordinary Russians hearing what he has to say?

GROZEV: Well, not all of them. He does have a very, very, very strong following. He has probably about 20, 25 million people who follow everything he says on Twitter and through other social media.

He does that through a very special mix of being able to talk to his lawyers because the Russian government continues to prosecute him for other invented crimes. And the downside of that for the government is he is able to pass on these messages to social media through his lawyers.

What the evitable moment is he is the only politician, because he is a politician, who is anti-war. And this is an important place to be because very soon, the Russian' sentiment, the pro-war sentiment will be shifting towards anti-war as more and more soldiers are announced to their mothers. So, at this point, we are seeing almost 20,000 dead soldiers, the mothers -- whose mothers are not even told that they're dead. So, Navalny with his strong anti-war sentiment is going to be becoming more and more popular among people who didn't even care for him before.

LEMON: You know, you worked very closely with Navalny and his team to investigate the assassination attempt against him. That investigation was very revealing. Can you talk to us about what you uncovered?

GROZEV: What we uncovered was industrial scale machine for killing of opposition figures. We discovered that Navalny had been tailed by an FSB team of poisoners, of assassins, and not for a month, not for two months, for nearly four years, from the moment that he announced his desire to run for president in 2017. From literally from the next week, he started being tailed by this assassination corps.

So, the first explosive finding from this investigation was that it took four years to actually plot this murder or this attempted assassination. And then the question was, is he the only one? And we found that this unit has actually committed several actual assassinations, have been following many other opposition figures, nobody as intently and as long-term as Alexei Navalny.

And this finding that there is an industrial-killing machine in the 21st century country today was probably the most shocking thing I have ever discovered.

LEMON: Yeah. Navalny is now serving more than 11 years in a Russian penal colony. Earlier in his imprisonment, he narrowly survived a hunger strike. What do you think the future looks like for Alexei Navalny and his supporters, quite frankly?

GROZEV: Well, he knew what he was going for. He was perfectly open, wide-eyed about the fact that he is going to end up in jail for many years. I tried to dissuade him from going back to Russia, but he said he has to do that because the only place for a politician or Russian politician is back in Russia.

I was afraid initially that they might finish the job in jail that they couldn't finish in the hotel, trying to poison him and kill him. I think that risk has gone down now because Putin's underperformance, incompetence, cruelty in Ukraine has actually led to the understanding among Russians, even among the power elite in Russia, that he is not somebody who can be trusted to remain in power in a year.


So, I don't think anyone will take instruction from Putin to poison Alexei Navalny again simply for the fear that Putin will not be there to protect them in about a year.

I think that answers that second part of your question. I think that what is happening with the war at the moment is Putin setting himself up for becoming the pariah not only internationally but within his own population when sanctions get home.

LEMON: Yeah. Thank you, Christo Grozev. We appreciate you joining us. You be well.

GROZEV: Thank you.

LEMON: Be sure to tune in to the all-new CNN film "Navalny." It premieres Sunday, 9:00 p.m. Eastern right here on CNN.

And we thank you for watching. Our live coverage continues in just a moment with Michael Holmes.