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Stock Market Drops; Desperation in Mariupol. Aired 1-1:30p ET

Aired May 05, 2022 - 13:00   ET



ANA CABRERA, CNN HOST: Hello, and thank you for being here. I'm Ana Cabrera in New York.

We began with a possible last stand in the ruins of a steel plant in the bombed-out city of Mariupol. An adviser to the Mariupol mayor says Russia's nonstop shelling today and its forces crashing through the perimeter have reduced conditions inside this complex to -- quote -- "hell." He says, if there is hell in the world, it is in Azovstal.

Hundreds of civilians are still trapped here. And one Ukrainian commander says Russia has broken its pledge to let them evacuate. After 71 days, battle-weary Ukrainians are vowing to fight to the finish.


UNIDENTIFIED MALES AND FEMALES (singing): It is sweeter for us to die in battle than to live in chains as dumb slaves.


CABRERA: Now let me take you to a city north of Mariupol. And for the first time in a month, Russian missile strikes pounded Kramatorsk, heavily damaging a residential area, including a school and kindergarten.

Yet Ukraine says Russia has not made any significant advances in the east. This is in Northeast Ukraine. This zoo was shelled today, as staff and volunteers raced to evacuate the animals to safety. The heartbroken owner of this ecopark says a 15-year-old boy was the latest victim. The teen is now the sixth member of the ecopark's team to die.

CNN's Scott McLean is in Lviv in Western Ukraine.

Scott, what is the latest you're hearing out of Mariupol?


A glimmer of good hope, of good news, perhaps, and that is that the U.N. special envoy for Ukraine has said that there is a humanitarian convoy en route to Mariupol, specifically to get people from that steel plant, a place that he called a bleak hell. We have a brand-new video shot yesterday morning that shows the early morning shelling, and bleak hell certainly is an understatement.

This convoy was organized with the help of the Red Cross and the U.N., working in conjunction with Ukrainians and the Russians. This is how it worked on Sunday, when they were successfully able to get more than 100 people, mostly women and children, out from under that steel plant.

But there are still many more civilians trapped, including, the Ukrainians, say 30 children. Now, nothing happens quickly in this country. Nothing happens quickly in Mariupol especially. And you will recall that, when that evacuation took place on Sunday, it was actually on Friday that President Zelenskyy announced plans for that operation. Nothing came of it on Saturday, and then only Sunday did we get word.

And there was radio silence in between there. But even once those people managed to get out, it took them two days to get to Zaporizhzhia, not arriving until Tuesday. So, in this case, no news seems to be good news.

But, Ana, the Russians, they extended an olive branch yesterday, saying that they would offer civilians the chance to get out today, tomorrow or on Saturday in any direction they chose. But a deputy commander of the Azov regimen, which is leading the fighting from that steel plant, says that the Russians have not lived up to their word and obeyed any kind of a cease-fire today.

So, the latest is that no one -- there's virtually no chance that anyone is going to get out of the steel plant today, we are told. And that deputy commander made a special appeal, given the heavy fighting that they're seeing there, made a special appeal to the international community to help broker some kind of an arrangement, and especially made an appeal to President Zelenskyy to try to negotiate some kind of exit for the wounded soldiers there that he says are dying in agony.

The one thing that the Russians and Ukrainians cannot agree on right now is whether or not the Russians are actually storming that plant. The Ukrainians say that this is the third day in a row that Russians have tried to breach the perimeter of the actual steel plant. They are trying to storm it from the ground. The Russians say that is simply not true -- Ana.

CABRERA: Scott McLean, thank you for that latest reporting.

And we have a lot to unpack this hour.

I'm going to bring in retired U.S. Army Major John Spencer. He is an expert in urban warfare and author of "Connected Soldiers: Life, Leadership, and Social Connections in Modern War."

Major, how are not just the civilians, but the Ukrainian soldiers going to get out of that steel plant alive? How is this going to end?


MAJ. JOHN SPENCER (RET.), MADISON POLICY FORUM: Yes. So, Ana, it's going to be hard to get them out, to be honest, to be

brutally honest. They have already inspired a generation of Ukrainians. And I think that will come. But make no mistake. I have studied underground warfare for decades, been in tunnels in Northern Israel, in Korea.

The Russians don't have the capability to enter those tunnels. So this isn't ending soon. It is a humanitarian crisis, but it's also a big thorn in Putin's sides. He said wants this to end quickly to have something to celebrate. And I honestly don't think it will.

CABRERA: At last check, our reporting as of late yesterday was that Russians had some 2,000 soldiers there in Mariupol specifically. And, obviously, the focus of the fighting right now is that this steel plant.

Why don't they have the capability, the Russians, you said, to enter those tunnels, where at least those who are still fighting hard are holding out?


So this is a -- this isn't just a normal tunnel. This is a deep tunnel complex, that you have to have special equipment, as in to be able to see, talk, navigate underground. Even to fire your weapon will blow your eardrums if you fire your weapon underground. And we have to have what we call dual ear protection.

They just don't have the training the equipment or the will to enter that. I mean urban warfare is hell, but underground warfare is literally symbolic to fighting in hell. And they would lose thousands of soldiers, which, interestingly, they no longer have in Mariupol.

They used to have 15,000. They needed those to try to do what they're doing in the north. They just don't have it, Ana.

CABRERA: Ukrainian officials say recent Russian attacks have had no success in the Luhansk and the Donetsk regions. And a reminder, these are areas where Russia had more resources and manpower to begin with.

So, how do you think the Ukrainians have been able to hold them back?

SPENCER: Well, I mean, since the beginning, we have -- the Ukrainians have shown that the will to fight is more -- as important as your numbers on paper.

The Ukrainians in this area, in Donbass, have been there for over eight years. Those are well-prepared defenses and some of the best Ukrainian units in the Ukrainian army.

But they also have this thing called intelligence, which is a game- changer in any war in centuries, knowing what the Russians want to do, either in the east or trying to come down and encircle those units from above, which that battle, that battle we're seeing in Kharkiv and Izyum will become second only to the successful defeat of Russians in taking Kyiv. CABRERA: I want to ask you a follow-up on the intel, because we're

reporting that U.S. is sharing intelligence with Ukrainian forces, and that involves Russia force movements and locations, as well as intercepted communications about their military plans.

And we're learning they're sharing that information within 30 minutes to an hour of the U.S. receiving that intel. Is it noticeable to you in terms of how Ukraine is operating on the battlefield?

SPENCER: Absolutely.

It's been noticeable since day -- since we publicly acknowledged that we were -- the U.S. was providing intelligence to them. Russia lost the element of surprise, which is critical in any war, in any battle. So, they can't move without somebody knowing, whether that's Ukrainian intelligence or the support that we're giving them.

And that's the key to their attempted movements, is to try to surprise with massive formations, with officers, which create their weaknesses of needing officers on the battlefield. So, it makes them extremely vulnerable.

So that real-time intelligence from a wide variety of sources is the linchpin to the Ukrainians' success, along with this new weaponry.

CABRERA: Major John Spencer, I always appreciate hearing your thoughts, given your expertise and your insights. Thank you very much for joining us.

SPENCER: Thank you.

CABRERA: It is just horrific what is happening in Mariupol.

You have seen the devastating images. We are learning at least some people are managing to get out. But it is a painstaking and extremely dangerous effort.

Let's bring in somebody who has been involved.

Saviano Abreu is with the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs.

And I know evacuation efforts are under way right now and you're unable to speak about that due to the sensitive nature of all this, but you were part of an effort this week that successfully brought hundreds of civilians to safety. So what was that like? What did it take to evacuate these people, to get them out to places like Mariupol to safety?


And I think -- I think you explained it well. It's a horrific situation that we have now in Mariupol. So, bringing these people to safety is also very difficult and dangerous, as you just said. We are operating in a war zone. We are operating in a zone with active conflict. So doing this kind of process, crossing land mines, crossing areas that are experiencing hostilities and shelling is not something that is easy and safe.

We have to have -- we know how to do that, of course, but we have to have agreement from both parties to the conflict to do so. So, it was a very complicated and difficult operation. But we succeeded. As you mentioned, we brought hundreds of civilians to safety here in Zaporizhzhia, where I am now.


Almost 500 people are here now in the -- in both evacuation process that we organized in the last days.

CABRERA: A couple of things that stood out to me since we have all been waiting for any news since the first evacuation got under way this week.

And then it took days for us to learn that it was successful. People got to Zaporizhzhia. The things that stand out to me is, why did it take so long, that it took days, and why so relatively few people, given we know there are still thousands of people potentially who are trying to evacuate?

ABREU: I think that there are three reasons that I could tell you why is that so difficult and why it took so many days.

The first of all I think I mentioned already. We are operating in a war zone. So, each of the movements have to be analyzed. They have to be analyzed in the details, the most -- the minimal details to make sure that it's safe for us and for people that we're trying to help. So, it has to be agreed with both parties to the conflict as well.

The second part that made it a bit more difficult and take much more days, many -- than we would expect maybe, is that we had some security incidents. We had to cross path of the -- our path close to the Azovstal plant, where plant of mines. So, we had to wait for de-mining of this path that we could safely pass and take people out of there.


ABREU: So -- and we had a specific incident with a bomb, explosion very close to us, 500 meters from us. Didn't put our safety at risk, but it's something that we have to stop, we have to analyze and see if we can proceed.

The third reason that I would tell you that why it took too long, people are afraid. And it is genuine that they are afraid. We're talking about people that have been underneath this plant. The steel plant there, it's huge. It's giant. And they have been living in the bunkers for two months.

They don't know what to expect outside. They haven't seen the sunlight for two months. And they don't know. And it's genuine they should have this fear where they are going to be taken to.


ABREU: So, it is also part of the challenge that we have, because people, they have to be reassured of their safety to make sure that they can take the decision of leave -- leaving.

CABRERA: I can only imagine that fear for those people, and not knowing exactly who to trust and whether even the people who are rescuing them can be trusted.

Given what we have seen in the images from this steel plant specifically, how did you get people out? I imagine there was a lot of debris that they had to get out of.

ABREU: And this also made the process slower, because many of the people that we managed to bring to safety here in Zaporizhzhia, they are old people, the elderly.

And imagine with the difficult to -- of mobility difficulties. Having to climb to debris and get out of the plant wasn't something easy. So we had very small groups coming out, six people, seven people, until we complete the first operation that was 101 people that left the area.

So, yes, it's not something easy for them. And it was something that have to improvise and make sure that they could leave and they could walk onto the buses that were waiting for them to evacuate them to Zaporizhzhia.

CABRERA: You previously said it was difficult because, in some cases, you had to separate families. Can you talk about that?

ABREU: Well, this is the nature of this war here.

We have a problem with family separations, not only in this evacuation process, but in the whole war itself. People are leaving their homes. They have to flee. They have to try to find safety. And it's not clear that they can flee with the whole family; 25 percent of the country now, 25 percent of the people of Ukraine, they fled their homes in the last couple of months.

So they had to leave -- 7.7 million, if I'm not wrong, are now displaced internally here in Ukraine. And we are reaching now almost six million people that had to flee across borders to other areas. So, yes, it's stories of family separation.

I saw one yesterday with my own eyes. And it's not something that we really want to see.


ABREU: Yesterday, when we were in -- yes, it wasn't -- Tokmak is the name of the town.

It's very close to where I am. It's 60 kilometers, not that far. We are passing with the evacuation yesterday, and there was a grandmother with they -- her two grandchildren that were leaving. So, we stopped at this point, in which the mother entered the buses. They want to come here, and they came with us.

The grandmother and the grandfather, they decide to stay. I asked them why, why you wanted to stay. It is a conflict zone. We're experiencing hostilities here. There is shelling. There is a situation that is not safe for you to stay.


And she say me: "It's my home. It's where I lived my whole life. It's my place."

And it's sad.


ABREU: I was imagining my own grandmother and us having to say goodbye. And you don't really know if we're going to see your grandchildren again, because it's only 60 kilometers.

CABRERA: Exactly.

ABREU: But it's 60 kilometers that you have to cross, yes, a conflict zone.

CABRERA: Saviano Abreu, you are incredible in terms of the efforts that you're making. And thank you very much for shining light on what's happening on the ground, these evacuations, and the brave and courageous and strong and warm people of Ukraine as they are making this journey through this war zone.

Thank you very much.

ABREU: Thank you, Ana.

CABRERA: Wall Street and Main Street are both getting crushed right now back here at home, the Dow falling, gas prices rising, mortgage rates hitting levels we haven't seen since 2009. Is there relief in sight?

Plus, Amber Heard is on the stand right now detailing stunning allegations of abuse at the hands of her ex-husband, she says, Johnny Depp. Hear it for yourself just ahead.

And newly released audio of Kevin McCarthy revealing he discussed removing Donald Trump from office.

You're in the CNN NEWSROOM. Thanks for being here.



CABRERA: Let's give you a live look at the markets right now. And you can see the Dow falling about 1,000 points one day after the

Fed raised rates by half-a-percentage point. And the pain goes well beyond Wall Street, of course. Gas prices and mortgage rates are also both on the rise.

Let's get right to CNN's Matt Egan.

And, Matt, let's start with the markets. They rallied yesterday after the Fed's rate hike. Now they're falling fast. Why?

MATT EGAN, CNN REPORTER: Yes, Ana, these violent swings in the stock market are not normal, up big yesterday, down even bigger today.

But we're not in normal times. Inflation is very high. And the Federal Reserve is mounting this historic fight to try to get inflation back down towards healthier levels. And that's creating a lot of uncertainty. And we know investors do not like uncertainty. I think there's two big worries here.

One, rock-bottom interest rates that were launched by the Fed two years ago, that was great for stocks. It sent stocks soaring. Now some of the air is coming out. And we're seeing that most clearly in the tech world. We have seen technology stocks like Apple, Amazon, Facebook owner Meta, they have all fallen sharply.

The other big word here is, will the Fed be able to thread this needle? Can they slow down the economy enough to get inflation under control, but not do so much that it ends up short-circuiting this economic recovery? And the truth is, Ana, no one really knows the answer to that question, not even the Fed.

CABRERA: It's been a little bit of whiplash on the gas prices too, which are ticking back up, despite the unprecedented efforts to increase oil supply with the release from the reserve.

Is it safe to say that what's been done isn't enough?

EGAN: Well, it's safe to say that right now the energy market is facing a huge risk in terms of what happens to Russia's energy supplies. Europe is considering these sanctions.

And so the national average hitting $4.25 a gallon, up two cents overnight, and only eight cents away from that record high that we saw in March. It's come up pretty sharply over the last few weeks. And we have also seen diesel prices go. And they have hit a new all-time high. There at 35 cents in the past week. That's a big deal, because diesel is what powers all the trucks that haul the stuff that we buy.

And, Ana, that is something that the Fed has no control over when it comes to energy prices.

CABRERA: And so there's the trickle down effect on that as well.

Talk to us about mortgage rates, Matt.

EGAN: Mortgage rates, that is where we are seeing the most obvious impact from the Fed's interest rate hikes.

We have seen the 30-year fixed rate climb above 5.2 percent, highest level since 2009. Just six or seven months ago, this was below 3 percent. And this is the fastest spike that we have seen in mortgage rates in about four decades. Ana, this means that it's going to become that much harder for people to afford homes. And home prices, as we know, have skyrocketed.

CABRERA: Matt Egan, thank you.

Unsurprisingly, considering what we have just discussed, new CNN polling finds feelings about the economy are the worst they have been in a decade.

CNN senior data reporter Harry Enten joins us now.

Harry, according to this latest poll, most Americans are not happy about the economic state of things. Fill us in.


I mean, look, on the Chyron, you see "dismal." I was going to use the word awful. Essentially, if you ask Americans how they view the economy, is it poor or good, look at the percentage that say poor at this time. It is north of 70 percent. It is 77 percent said bad, bad, bad. Just 23 percent say good.

You got to all -- go all the way back to 2012 to see numbers that bad. And it's not much of a surprise. If you ask folks, what's the most important problem facing the country right now, what is the top issue? The economy number one at 55 percent. And I looked across our poll across 20 different demographic groups, political groups. The economy was the most important issue across all of them.

CABRERA: So who do most Americans blame?

ENTEN: I mean, look, they blame the Democrats. They blame Biden, but they really blame inflation.

I mean, that's really what's cooking here, right? We were talking about that. Matt was talking about that. On inflation, is the U.S. government doing enough, look at that; 81 percent say too little, too little on inflation. Only 4 percent say too much; 15 percent say the right amount, but 81 percent too little.

I truthfully look at polling data all day. You just never see that many Americans agreeing on something, 81 percent too little, awful number.

CABRERA: Do people feel President Biden is doing enough to combat that?

ENTEN: No. No, they do not.

[13:25:01] And this, to me, is the most worrisome sign if you're a Democrat, right? You essentially say, OK, has President Biden's policies affected -- how has it affected U.S. economic conditions? Look at that; 55 percent say he's worsened, worsened the conditions. That's up from where we were early -- at the end of last year. An awful number.

So, not only do they think the economy is bad. They think Biden is contributing to the bad economy. Bad numbers.

CABRERA: Harry Enten, thank you for the pulse of the people, we could say. I appreciate you.

ENTEN: My pleasure.

CABRERA: Kicked in the back, hit in the face. Amber Heard is on the stand detailing disturbing allegations of abuse from her ex-husband, Johnny Depp.

That's next.