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Don Lemon Tonight
Russia Reveals Ukraine War Goal; Mariupol Residents Desperately Try to Escape Besieged City; Could Putin Win His War on Ukraine?; Florida Governor DeSantis Stokes the Culture Wars; Investigators Looking in Mysterious Deaths of Two Former Russian Energy Execs and Their Families; 2021 Hero of the Year Helps the Homeless in L.A. Aired 11p-12a ET
Aired April 22, 2022 - 23:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
DON LEMON, CNN HOST: This is "Don Lemon Tonight." The Russian military making crystal clear its ultimate goal is, in this war in Ukraine, Putin wants full control of eastern and southern Ukraine, creating a land corridor between Donbas in the east and Crimea with access across the south to Moldova.
Ukraine's president saying his troops are fighting to hold back Russian forces from destroying everything in their path.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
VOLODYMYR ZELENSKYY, PRESIDENT OF UKRAINE (through translator): Sloviansk, Kramatorsk, in the Donetsk region in general, in Popasna and in the Luhansk region in general, and Kharkiv and the surrounding areas, the occupiers are trying to achieve a primitive goal, to kill as much as possible and destroy everything they see.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LEMON: Also, ahead this hour, stoking culture wars in Florida. Republicans cheering as Governor Ron DeSantis signs law punishing Disney redrawing the state's congressional map which affects Black voters and putting restrictions on how schools and businesses can talk about race and gender.
I want to get straight to the war in Ukraine now and CNN's correspondent Isa Soares live for us there in Lviv. Hello so you, Isa. What is the latest on the situation on the ground tonight?
ISA SOARES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good evening to you, Don. What we have been seeing in the last 24 hours or so has been kind of the push and pull of battle. Now, the fighting has intensified in Eastern Ukraine as tens of thousands of Russian forces have amassed in the region and continue to unleash, quite frankly, a firestorm of artillery and airstrikes.
Now, this is what we know at this hour. I want to start for our viewers in the east with that new offensive. Now, in the Donbas region, in Donetsk, 42 settlements are now under Russian control, but the Ukrainian government is telling us they hope to get them back under their control. In neighboring Luhansk, which is part of Donbas, about 80% of it is
under Russian control. More than 2,500 people are still hiding in shelters and in basements. That is terrifying. And that, Don, is just in east.
But have a look at this drone video. This is a village, or I should say was a village just north of Kyiv called Moschun and it looks to be -- on trained eyes, you can see there -- like a tornado has gone through, right? But, look, this is not an act of God. It is the aftermath of a barrage of Russian artillery and airstrikes. The extent, really, of Russian atrocities that we are seeing every day.
And just to be clear for our viewers, there is no military infrastructure here, Don. Just the houses the families. Moschun was, though, a critical and vital and strategically important city to the Ukrainians because of what it did. It enabled them to kind of repel the Russian advance towards the capital, Kyiv.
So, those soldiers no doubt will be heroes today and that is not just in name only. In the last 30 minutes or so, Ukraine's defense minister said he met with the shoulders from Moschun and presented them, Don, with awards.
LEMON: And you're right, not an act of God (INAUDIBLE). So, right on. So, Russia, listen, lost its priced warship, the Moskva, a little over a week ago after it was attacked. What more is Russia saying about that key loss?
SOARES: Now, if you remember, Don, if you take your mind back to when the Moskva sank about a week or so ago in the Black Sea, the Russians did say the naval ship had gone down, but then providing what we can call just conflicting narratives and accounts of what happened. They insisted it was sunk by a fire. They blamed the weather for it.
But now, we are kind of getting more information directly from the Russians. They're saying that one crew member has died, 27 are still missing, but 396, they said, were evacuated from the Moskva to another ship in the Black Sea.
But now, we've been hearing from the father of the missing Russian soldier, whose son, his name was Yegor, he was the ship's cook, the father's name is Dmitry Shkrebets, and he wrote this on social media.
I want to read it out to you. It was reported that the entire crew had been evacuated. It's a lie, he writes. A blatant and cynical lie. And now we'll have to look into the matter as to how long this 'gone missing' in the open sea can continue.
So, there you have it, Don. A lot of unanswered questions still after what was a major military embarrassment from Moscow. Don?
LEMON: Isa, thank you so much. We appreciate your reporting. Stay safe. Thousands of people are still trapped in the besieged port city of Mariupol as Russia continues to bomb evacuation corridors.
CNN's Matt Rivers was live in Lviv today, and he spoke to some Ukrainians who had made a harrowing escape from the south.
MATT RIVERS, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The train was designated just for evacuees. If all went to plan, it would arrive here to Lviv packed with hundreds fleeing war.
Instead, just a handful of families finally found safety, including Polina and her daughter Irinya, (ph) who fled Mariupol. They are furious there are not more who got out.
She says, so many should have been evacuated but the Russians kept shelling. They are not human beings. I don't know who gave birth to them. Horrific.
Horrific. An apt word to describe what Russia has done to the people of Mariupol. Collecting dead bodies among the cities' wreckage, a task now as common place as it is morbid. Some of the dead are loaded into Russian-marked trucks while others have been buried in alleged mass graves seen here in new satellite imagery. And yet, for the tens of thousands who survive here, they need to get out and cannot.
He says humanitarian corridors declared by Russia are only on paper.
Russian troops dominate the vast majority of the city. If they wanted to let people leave safely, they could. And yet several humanitarian corridors agreed to this week have failed with Ukraine accusing Russia of repeatedly violating ceasefires. It has meant the number of evacuees following the planned route for Mariupol to Zaporizhzhia has slowed to a trickle. And even then, danger awaits.
(On camera): Ukraine's military said this train actually came under fire as it was leaving a station in Zaporizhzhia. Some of the train cars were so badly damaged they had to be left behind. And even the one that can still travel, you can see here, have some damage left over. It's another example, Ukraine says, of how Russia continues to target civilians.
(Voice-over): For those from Mariupol like Katya Yatsun, these are some of the first moments they have felt safe in weeks.
We were just thinking about our survival, she says. I don't know how I'm going to tell my son about such terrifying events. She says she'll eventually tell her son about Russian military brutality, about the needless destruction of an entire city, and maybe her son will live long enough to return to Mariupol one day. Others doubt they'll have their chance.
She says, I want to believe that I will return there. I think we'll need many years to restore the city after what they done, and I'm not going to be around that long.
Matt Rivers, CNN, Lviv, Ukraine.
LEMON: All right, Matt. I want to bring in now CNN military analyst and retired Air Force Colonel Cedric Leighton. Hello, colonel. Thanks for joining us once again.
So, one of Putin's top commanders saying today that Russia wants to establish -- quote -- "a full control of Southern Ukraine." That's more than just the Donbas. I mean, they want their land bridge but will they try to take Odessa?
CEDRIC LEIGHTON, CNN MILITARY ANALYST: Well, I think that's the big question, Don. Let's go take a look in fact at this map right here which shows Southern Ukraine. Right over here is Mariupol where, of course, all the big fighting is going on and we have the siege which in essence is getting into its final stages.
But look at how close this is. This is the farthest -- closest point of approach, I should say, to Odessa. It's not far. It's less than 50 miles. There are Russian troops on that little peninsula there. So, what the Russians could do is they could try to go to Mykolaiv and then from there go to Odessa.
Of course, the other thing that they could do if they're brave enough to do this after what happened to Moskva, they could to go in from the sea with an amphibious attack.
Now, having said all of this, this would be under ideal conditions from the Russian point of view. There is a lot of stuff that's going on that really may prevent the Russians from realizing this goal.
But the Ukrainians have to be aware that the Russians are trying to do this and the best way to prevent this from happening is, of course, to have a defensive force ready to go, postured, to make sure that none of this happens from the sea and none of this happens from land.
LEMON: The mayor of Mykolaiv in Southern Ukraine -- I see Mykolaiv there on your map -- says that one person has died and six more wounded today as shelling is increasing in his city. What can Ukraine do to reenforce cities like Mykolaiv and Odessa so those battles don't turn out like Mariupol?
LEIGHTON: So, that's a really critical question for the Ukrainians, Don, because what they're going to have to do is they're going to have to make sure that they prevent the encirclement of these cities. So, they'll have to have defensive position around here when we look at Mykolaiv and the same really goes for any land approaches to Odessa and the same, of course, for the sea.
LEIGHTON: They in essence have to use the antiship missiles that the Americans and the British are providing the Ukrainians. They have to be in place in order to be effective against anything that might happen from the sea. So, those are two things that they can do.
The other thing, of course, is to defend from the air. So, anything that they can do, whether it's stinger antiaircraft missiles and, of course, if they get tanks into this area which they're not getting into as of yet, but if they do get them, they'll have to have the proper equipment to go after them. Of course, that's part of the goal of the shipments that President Biden and the western allies have authorized.
LEMON: Listen. Speaking of -- I found it interesting that Lithuania's president is calling for more NATO troops -- more NATO troops to be sent to eastern European countries, including his own. I mean, what is the threat level Russia poses to its neighbors if Putin won't settle for biting off pieces of Ukraine?
LEIGHTON: Yeah, that's a great question, Don, because the threat level that these countries, the Baltic states, Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania where the president made that comment, they're right on the frontline. This is the Belarusian border right here, this is the Russian border, and St. Petersburgh is right there.
So, all of these areas are really at risk from the Russians going in and actually trying to take over some of these areas. It's not far to get from here all the way to the Baltic coastline of Estonia or Latvia or Lithuania and these are all NATO member states.
So, if that happened, Article 5 of the NATO treaty would be invoked and when that is invoked, of course, that means that all of the NATO countries have to defend this territory right here. So, that becomes the big issue, are we ready to do this and are all the different countries here ready to go in and make sure that they protect their territory?
I think the answer is becoming yes as we get new equipment into all of these countries and we also make sure that their older equipment, especially the Russian-made equipment, goes into Ukraine where it can be used for the fight that's currently going on against Russia.
LEMON: I want to talk more about the latest weapons package to Ukraine. That includes drone as well as a significant amount of artillery.
LEMON: How can weapon systems like this work together to give Ukrainians the edge that they need so desperately on the battlefield right now?
LEIGHTON: So, one of the key things, Don, in this area, so we know, take a look at the howitzer, for example. It's basically an artillery piece. It is ready to go, has a lot of electronic equipment that's associated with it.
This is basically a cannon that is designed to provide the kind of fire support that the ground forces need against opposing ground forces and especially against armor. So, when these weapons are fired, their targeting is based on intelligence inputs and on radar inputs. This also goes for the things like the S-600 switchblade drone.
All of these things can be put together in a way that gives you a common operational picture. The common operational picture is a fancy way of saying using all the weapon systems that you have and all the sensors that you have to give the commander exactly what he or she needs to see on the battlespace.
So, they get a picture like this, which actually gives them an idea of what is happening, when you integrate all of the sensors together. That's what the Ukrainians need in order to get a real time view of the battlespace.
When that happens, they can then act on it and provide that kind of information to each of these weapon systems so that they can target all of the different pieces that are coming towards them, whether it is a tank, an armored personnel carrier or an infantry formation.
LEMON: Colonel, thank you so much. We'll see you soon.
LEIGHTON: You bet, Don. Absolutely.
LEMON: Could Vladimir Putin actually win his war on Ukraine, and what will that mean for the rest of the world?
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BORIS JOHNSON, BRITISH PRIME MINISTER: The sad thing is that that is a realistic possibility. Yeah, of course. Putin has a huge army.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LEMON: Russia revealing for the first time the goal of its invasion, to take full control of Southern Ukraine as well as the Eastern Donbas region. A military official saying on state television that Moscow wants to establish a land corridor connecting Russia to Crimea. How will shifting goals change the trajectory of the war?
Ian Bremmer is here. He is the president of the Eurasia Group and the author of the upcoming book, "The Power of Crisis: How Three Threats - And Our Response - Will Change The World." Ian, appreciate you joining us. Good evening to you.
This war has gone on for much longer than most of the world really anticipated. And now, it is entering a new phase with Russia trying to take all the eastern and southern Ukraine. How do all sides need to adjust their expectations here?
IAN BREMMER, PRESIDENT, EURASIA GROUP: You know, the thing that the Russians have been most successful at so far in this war some two months on now has been withdrawal, the withdrawal from particularly around Kyiv. You know, I mean, they weren't routed as they took those troops out and now, they are being redeployed.
The focus of that redeployment is overwhelmingly the Donbas. The reason they're trying to mop up the city they've destroyed, Mariupol, is because they want those troops available to take the rest of the Donbas.
BREMMER: It's not going to be a few more weeks. It is probably a couple more months. But that is the intention, to take all of the Donbas. It's about 2/3 more territory than they occupied in Southeast Ukraine before they started the invasion on February 24th. It is the land bridge to Crimea, which they largely already hold.
And it's also the city of Kherson, which is very important because that was how the Ukrainians cut off the water to Crimea back when they annexed Crimea in 2014.
Those are their proximate goals. They're likely to be able to accomplish most of them in the coming months. But the war is not over at that point and Ukrainians have the ability to counterattack.
LEMON: I want to read something that you said and the economists about President Putin. I quote here. You said, "He doesn't have much more to lose. Russia already faces a transatlantic political and military alliance that has imposed historically harsh sanctions on his country. Western governments continue to support Ukraine, to accuse Russia of war crimes and genocide, and to treat Mr. Putin like a pariah. A scorched-earth approach would probably win him a limited military victory."
So, what should the world brace for?
BREMMER: Well, since I wrote that piece just a couple of days ago, today, the German chancellor, Olaf Scholz, actually made another point in that regard. He said that we will do nothing in Germany that will potentially risk World War III, kind of like what President Biden has been saying.
When you've already cut the Russians off, you already say they're committing genocide, and there's not much more you can do, you're not going to do a no-fly zone, you're not going to send your troops to directly fight against the Russians, that means that Russia doesn't have much to fear from their own further escalation.
So, if they take all the Donbas, you know, they'll get it and maybe they sit for a while. But if they don't, if the Ukrainians can push them back, the willingness of the Russians to destroy more cities, the willingness of the Russians even to use chemical weapons.
I mean, the CIA director, Bill Burns, has said that it's plausible they would even use tactical nuclear weapons in the battlefield, the worst-case scenario.
The Russians don't feel like those sorts of activities in Ukraine would risk further action against them in Russia. And that's what, I think, we are bracing for, but the reality is this war is going to continue. Don?
LEMON: The U.N. Secretary General Antonio Guterres is set to meet with Putin early next week. Can anything come from that meeting, Ian?
BREMMER: I'm glad he's going. I will tell you Antonio is a good friend. He has a working relationship with the Russian defense minister that he's had for a couple of decades when they were both in the north caucuses and they were working on deconfliction. That's helpful. He is obviously very strongly trusted by the Ukrainian president.
He has been critical of Russia. But he has maintained that relationship in a way that frankly none of the NATO leaders could do for obvious reasons, right? I mean, they're fighting against Russia. The head of the United Nations, he was the former prime minister of Portugal, but he is not fighting against Russia.
So, anything we can do to have a person who is trusted by the west that can engage directly with Putin, understand where Putin's head is, understand how he is from a health perspective, understand kind of what he's thinking.
We need more intelligence and information. At the very least, I think Antonio will be able to accomplish that when he meets with Putin next Tuesday.
LEMON: You say that there is a goldilocks scenario for the war to end. What does that look like because I can't imagine where everyone involved is satisfied with an outcome?
BREMMER: Well, that's precise to the point, is that goldilocks scenario is still much worse than if there had never been a war or never been an invasion. But it's a scenario where nobody really gets what they want.
So, I mean, the Russians aren't able to remove Zelenskyy. They are not ablet to take over Ukraine. You still have this international hero who is running a country that Putin doesn't believe is legitimate. But the Russians are occupying a piece of territory in Donbas that allows Putin to go back to his own people and say, I've averted genocide, I've now protected the Russians on the ground, I recognize them as part of Russia.
Now, that's not going to get you in negotiated settlement, but it at least potentially freezes the fighting for a while when you might be able to -- you know, one thing Antonio is going to try to do, he is going to want to talk about freezing the conflict and bringing in peacekeepers.
Frankly, there are countries out there that would be willing to send peacekeepers on the ground into Ukraine if there was a frozen conflict. That's not a happy scenario at all, but it's radically better than some of the directions we could be heading over the next three, six months.
LEMON: Listen, All the action the west has taken against Russia, including all the sanctions and cutting off energy and so on, that's going to influence economies and politics worldwide. What risks do you see there?
BREMMER: The biggest risk is about food. You had nine million people around the world that died of starvation last year. Those numbers are going way up. And they're going way up because energy prices are much higher, they're going way up because fertilizer is suddenly not available, and because food exports are more channeling.
I was just in Washington for the IMF-World Bank spring meetings and this was an absolute priority for everyone at the meeting. But even if they do what's maximally plausible in the coming months, a lot more people are going to starve, a lot more people are going to be food stressed for the next one, two, maybe three years baseline just because the largest grain producer in the world has just invaded the fifth largest grain producer in the world and all that supply chain has disrupted on the back of two years of pandemic, when we already had high inflation, we already had these challenges.
LEMON: The book is called "The Power of Crisis: How Three Threats - And Our Response - Will Change The World" and it is by the great Ian Bremmer. We are so happy to have you here. Be well. We will see you soon. Thank you, sir.
BREMMER: Good to see you, Don.
LEMON: Thank you.
Math textbooks. Disney World. Businesses addressing how to talk about race and gender. They all have one thing in common: They're caught up in Ron DeSantis's culture wars.
LEMON: So, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis signing a bill that puts restrictions on how schools and businesses can talk about race and gender.
At the same time, Florida education officials rejecting dozens of elementary school math textbooks, claiming that they contain objectionable material, including critical race theory, which one Democratic lawmaker points out is not taught in elementary schools. Education officials now releasing four images from math books that they claim prove their point.
Here is CNN's Leyla Santiago.
LEYLA SANTIAGO, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): These are the images released by Florida's Department of Education, examples of what it finds too objectionable to be included in public school math books. One of the images, which the Department of Education says were sent to them by the public, shows a bar graph measuring racial prejudice by political identification.
Another, adding and subtracting polynomials, a section that begins with what? Me? Racist? It goes on to talk about racial prejudice and measuring bias.
Public school textbooks just the latest battleground in the culture war waged by Florida Governor Ron DeSantis.
GOV. RON DESANTIS (R-FL): There are really outrageous things going on about what they're doing by basically using critical race theory to bring ideology and political activism as to the forefront of education.
SANTIAGO (voice-over): Florida's Department of Education says it's rejecting publisher's attempts to indoctrinate students. The overwhelming majority of materials they deemed problematic were for students K through fifth grade. Some of the books, according to department, did not meet state standards. Others incorporated prohibits topics or unsolicited strategies, including critical race theory.
SUMI CHO, DIRECTOR, STRATEGIC INITIATIVES, AFRICAN AMERICAN POLICY FORUM: It's kind of interesting to see this ever-expanding umbrella under this fearmongering campaign that's, you know, using critical race theory as the sort of trojan horse in education.
SANTIAGO (voice-over): Another reason textbooks were rejected references to social emotional learning in math. It's a practice that supports the social side of learning and emotional needs of children as described by the Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning.
TIM SHRIVER, CO-FOUNDER AND CHAIR OF THE BOARD, COLLABORATIVE FOR ACADEMIC, SOCIAL, AND EMOTIONAL LEARNING: This is a fight about honestly next to nothing. A lot of this is inspired by political disputes and by political advantage. There is a vast industry in this country that uses contempt and hatred to divide us politically, and I think sometimes that industry of division and contempt uses schools to advance its own aims.
SANTIAGO (voice-over): A "New York Times" review of 21 of the rejected books found many of the textbooks included socioemotional content but found little that touched on race or critical theory, perhaps not a focus in the textbooks, but a focus for the political playbook of a potential 2024 presidential candidate.
DESANTIS: Nobody wants this crap. They're trying to shove it down the throats of the American people. You're not doing that here in the state of Florida.
SANTIAGO: And Don, I should mention, the Department of Education, Florida's Department of Education, released those images that were sent to them from the public. But when I asked the press secretary exactly which textbooks these images come from, we never heard back. I've been talking a lot to math teachers, a handful of math teachers here in Florida, and they're really worried that this could delay things for them, that this sort of back and forth that will now happen in what will be the appeals process for publishers here could delay them getting their hands on these materials so that they can start planning for next year. Don?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LEMON: Leyla Santiago, thank you so much.
LEMON: Governor DeSantis also signing bills today punishing Disney, Florida's largest private employer, for opposing the so-called "don't say gay" bill and redrawing the state's congressional map, which opponents claim targets Black voters. Civil rights groups are suing to block that law.
Let's bring in now Jasmine Burney-Clark, founder of Equal Ground Education and Action Fund. Jasmine, hi. Thanks for joining us. Good evening to you.
So, let's take a look at this new map dismantles Florida's fifth district which connects Black communities from Tallahassee to Jacksonville and is represented by a Black Democrat, Al Lawson, and it shifts the 10th district represented by Val Demings east toward whiter communities. Is there any way to see this other than an attack on Black voters?
JASMINE BURNEY-CLARK, FOUNDER, EQUAL GROUND EDUCATION AND ACTION FUND: Don, you have been following the state of Florida and the governor's attack on Black voters and Black Floridians for quite some time now. This particular legislative session is no different than what we've experienced since his administration began.
There is no other way to see this than to see it as an attack or just another example of what it looks like for a governor who has created racist tactics to eliminate the Black voice and representation in this state.
Florida currently has 28 congressional districts as of the 2020 census. Four of them are considered Black access. And he has submitted a map this week and has had that map passed out of legislature that eliminates 50% of the four Black access districts in the state. That is direct targeting from this administration on to the backs of Black Floridians in Florida.
LEMON: You know, Jasmine, Congressman Al Lawson says that DeSantis is showing Florida voters he is governing as a dictator. How do you see it? Do you see it that way?
BURNEY-CLARK: I certainly see it that way. This governor wants this state to be ruled by one man, and he is the chosen one. He has bullied legislators this week into accepting a map that he thinks will benefit him after our legislators had already voted on a bipartisan map and rejected his map not twice but twice already in this state.
And so, he is hanging over their heads. The fact that he has a budget, that he's preparing to veto if they didn't follow along, and he has bills on his desk that are personal initiatives of them and their districts. So, he has created an environment and atmosphere that has made it difficult to legislative but it allows him to rule as the single ruler.
LEMON: It's pretty unbelievable or maybe it is believable. I guess it is the reality. DeSantis vetoed maps previously approved by Republicans and then submitted his own map which could help Florida Republicans gain up to four seats in the House. Does it make any sense that one person can write the map and then approve it?
BURNEY-CLARK: It doesn't. This is unprecedented. We have never had a governor in the history of our state submit his own map in the redistricting process. He is literally taking us back to a time where rigging maps were permitted in our state.
In 2010, Florida voters saw that this was an attack on them. They saw that our state was becoming blacker and browner. And they passed their district's amendments five and six that prohibited the creation of districts that would favor political party and it prohibited the elimination of minority access seats.
This governor then drew a map this year, not once, not twice, but three times that allowed for him to create 20 republican seats and eight democratic seats. He all but is doing everything to ensure that when he plans to run for president of the United States and there's no doubt about that, he can offer up two or four additional congressional seats to the Florida House -- excuse me, to the United States House of Representatives.
LEMON: Listen to this. This is Governor DeSantis earlier this week.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DESANTIS: It will, though, have North Florida drawn in a race neutral manner. I mean, we are not going to have a 200-mile gerrymander that (INAUDIBLE) people based on the color of their skin. That is wrong. That is not the way we govern in the state of Florida.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LEMON: Drawn in a race-neutral manner, he says. What does that mean?
BURNEY-CLARK: It absolutely means nothing when you think about the fact that he is targeting only two of the 28 congressional districts in the state and they just so happen to be two of the four Black. We can't say that it is race neutral when you are removing textbooks from our school and saying that they consist of critical race theory.
It is hard to say that any of this is race neutral when they are on the backs of Black people, and we are the ones who are having to suffer through this because of a governor who is choosing to acknowledge our existence. [23:40:02]
LEMON: Jasmine, thank you. Appreciate it. Have a good weekend.
BURNEY-CLARK: Thank you.
LEMON: Two former Russian energy executives both dead along with their families. One major question, was the Kremlin involved?
LEMON: Two Russian gas executives in two different countries found dead alongside their families within 24 hours. Now, investigations are underway into the suspicious deaths of the Russian business titans, and there are questions about whether the Kremlin is involved.
CNN's Nic Robertson has more on the story.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
NIC ROBERTSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL DIPLOMATIC EDITOR (voice-over): Coincidence or Kremlin revenge? Fifty-five-year-old Sergey Protosenya and his wife and daughter found dead in their home in Spain Tuesday. And Vladislav Avayev, a 51-year-old former VP at Gazprombank, and his wife and daughter, found dead in their Moscow apartment Monday.
Russia's state news agency says Moscow police are investigating the deaths of Avayev and his family as a murder suicide, tantamount to saying nothing suspicious here.
Spanish police are now guarding Protosenya's luxury house north of Barcelona. An official source close to the investigation says the bodies of his wife and daughter, which showed signs of violence, were found inside the home, and Protosenya's body was found outside in the garden. The neighbors described them as wealthy, but often traveling.
UNKNOWN (through translator): He had nice cars. I thought they were Romanian, from what I understood. And besides, you could see they were people with money.
ROBERTSON (voice-over): The investigative source says Spanish police have sealed their probe into their deaths. No leaks that might prejudge their case.
Two different investigations, two very different jurisdictions. Historically, Spain's judiciary significantly more transparent than Russia's.
Russia's investigators releasing this ultrashort four-second video of the crime scene inside the Avayev's apartment. The family's employees reportedly alerted a relative the parents and daughter weren't answering calls from within their locked apartment. Police found all three dead from gunshot wounds. Suspicious deaths of Russians overseas and at home are nothing new. Former Russian spy, Alexander Litvinenko, poisoned and killed in London in 2006.
A British coroner questioned the apparent suicide in his locked bathroom of oligarch and Kremlin critic Boris Berezovsky near London in 2013.
In 2018, the attempted murder by deadly Russian nerve agent Novichok of former spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter. So, too, in Russia. Putin's critic Alexei Navalny poisoned, nearly killed with Novichok in 2020.
There is no evidence Protosenya or Avayev were Putin critics. There is evidence, however, that despite Kremlin demands for loyalty among the elite, some previously silent Putin allies are coming out against him.
Today, as Putin's war polarizes Russians for and against, suspicions of shady Kremlin killings will likely linger long after Moscow's investigators close Avayev's case.
Nick Robertson, CNN, Brussels.
LEMON: Nic Robertson, thank you so much. We'll be right back.
LEMON: CNN heroes is our chance to spotlight those going above and beyond to affect change. In 2021, the hero of the year was Shirley Raines who works tirelessly to help the homeless in Los Angeles.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNKNOWN: Shirley Raines!
SHIRLEY RAINES, CNN HERO 2021: As much as you want to live in the moment and say it doesn't really matter, let's be real, I want to bring that prize money, that win and that recognition to the community. I really wanted them to have that platform.
UNKNOWN: Winner, winner, winner!
RAINES (voice-over): Good morning, you guys.
UNKNOWN: Congratulations, Shirley.
RAINES (voice-over): Congratulations to you all! (On camera): The world had an opportunity to vote for 10 amazing organizations. Then they chose one that dealt with homelessness, which I think to them might say, oh, my God, people really are paying attention, people really are looking, people really do care.
I'm hoping that this wind will bring more eyes down here. There's a massive need for blankets. There's a massive need for tents. I've always said this from the beginning, I don't do hero of stuff. You know, I mean, I do human stuff.
UNKNOWN: I knew there was something about you.
UNKNOWN: I know there was something about you, too.
RAINES (voice-over): Honestly, all this stuff I've been doing my personal life, I think it's amazing to have gotten this far, because I came from -- oh my, God, the bottom. And now I'm a CNN hero.
RAINES: It definitely should give hope to other people.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LEMON: To see more of Shirley's story and her work, go to cnnheroes.com. And while you are there, nominate someone you think should be the 2022 CNN hero.
And thank you for watching, everyone. Our live coverage continues with Michael Holmes and Isa Soares right after this.
UNKNOWN: This is "CNN Breaking News.
MICHAEL HOLMES, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Hello and welcome to our viewers around the world and here in the United States. I'm Michael Holmes at the CNN center in Atlanta.