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Pro-Russian Separatists: 150+ People Evacuated From Mariupol Today; Ukraine Military: Six Russian Cruise Missiles Target Odesa Region; New Details Emerge On Casey White's Criminal Background; Putin's Reputed Girlfriend Included In Proposed EU sanctions List; Fears Of Violence In DC After Leaked Draft Overturning Roe V. Wade; 148th Running Of The Kentucky Derby Today. Aired 12-1p ET

Aired May 07, 2022 - 12:00   ET




FREDRICKA WHITFIELD, CNN ANCHOR (on camera): Hello again, everyone. Thank you so much for joining me. I'm Fredricka Whitfield.

All right, fresh attacks across Ukraine today as Russia target several different regions in the south.

WHITFIELD (voice-over): The video shows the damage left today in the key port city of Odessa. Ukrainian officials say six Russian cruise missiles targeted key infrastructure there.

And in the Northeast, Ukraine says Russia destroyed several bridges in an attempt to slow down Ukrainian counter offensives underway there.

And then, to the besieged city of Mariupol. The fate of hundreds of Ukrainian soldiers and civilians remains unknown as they hold out in a massive steel plant.

Pro-Russian separatists now say more than 150 civilians were evacuated today after dozens fled on Friday. The U.S. is stepping up its efforts to assist Ukraine. President Joe Biden announcing a new $150 million security aid package.

CNN Scott McLean is following the latest developments from Lviv.

WHITFIELD (on camera): Scott, obviously a lot of concern in Mariupol, but also confusion about how many people were actually evacuated today. What is going on?

SCOTT MCLEAN, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (on camera): Correct, Fredricka. So, yes, yesterday we know confirmed by the Russians and the Ukrainians that about 50 people were taken out from under the Azovstal steel plant yesterday. 50 civilians. There were some children in that group as well. The Ukrainian say there were elderly people also.

They were taken east to a Russian checkpoint, a filtration center, and they are supposed to go today to Zaporizhzhia on Ukrainian held territory.

In terms of today's evacuations, the Ukrainian said that they were supposed to continue early this morning. They were supposed to be able to get people out from under the plant.

Hopefully, the remaining people, there may be up to 100. And that convoy was supposed to go pick other people up from the broader city. And then, they were again supposed to go through that Russian checkpoint.

We have heard nothing though from the Ukrainians, the Russians, United Nations, or the Red Cross. Those latter two organizations are helping to facilitate this evacuation on the ground.

Sometimes, no news is good news. That's hopefully one of those cases. The Ukrainians have tried to say very little. Tried to say as little as possible to avoid saying anything that might jeopardize the success of the operation.

What we have heard is from the Donetsk People's Republic, this is the separatist government of that local region. That local part of Ukraine sort of swallowed up the city of Mariupol.

They say that 152 people, including 32 children were taken out of the city today, but they didn't make clear in that statement, and we're trying to clarify whether that includes anyone from the steel plant or whether they're only talking about people from the broader city.

The other thing here, Fredricka is that it is odd, and it is different than the last round of evacuations that we saw four people to be going east toward Russia, toward this filtration center.

The deputy foreign minister of Ukraine though says that the reason people are headed in that direction is all because of Russian propaganda. Listen.


EMINE DZHAPAROVA, FIRST DEPUTY FOREIGN MINISTER OF UKRAINE: They say, oh, Ukrainian army. They are -- they're committing propaganda saying to poor people, that Ukrainian army is been shelling the city, and then they open up their territory, the Russian territory for evacuation, but indeed, and in fact, it's called forcible deportation when they bring 1000s of Ukrainians via Russian territory is thus depicting themselves as saviors.


MCLEAN: So, even if all of the civilians were to get out today, Fredricka, and again, we have no indication that they have or have not, that would still leave a heck of a lot of soldiers stuck there -- several 100 perhaps. The Ukrainians have said that there are several 100 injured soldiers on their own.

President Zelenskyy says that he's working on diplomatic options to get those soldiers out. He also says that those options are being negotiated by some influential third party states.

WHITFIELD: OK, and then, Scott, let me also ask you about Odesa, because we're learning about some Russian missile strikes there.

MCLEAN: That's right. So, local officials there say that there were six cruise missiles fired into the city. We have new video showing thick black smoke gathering on the horizon and several directions.


MCLEAN: This is targeted, we're told, the city's infrastructure. But specifically, we don't know exactly what was hit. We don't know if anything, any of those missiles were struck down. Still a lot of questions there.

Local officials said it was not only aimed at infrastructure, but also aimed at sending a message and putting pressure on the psychological state of the city's population.

And this seems to be a common theme in that the Russians, yes, they're targeting infrastructure. But some of those infrastructure strikes are a long way from the front line. And so, the Ukrainians have long said that they're just trying to terrorize the local population.

In this case, there are no casualties that have been reported. Odessa, Fredricka has been a frequent target as of late for these missile strikes. So, Odessa is still though a long way from the front lines. The Russian troops seem to be stuck at the city of Mykolaiv. Not far away, but not really able to advance any further at least not yet.

WHITFIELD: All right, Scott McLean, keep us posted. Thanks so much.

All right. Russia is preparing for its annual Victory Day celebrations this weekend, and there's growing concern about how exactly Vladimir Putin will mark the day.

CNN's Matthew Chance has more.


MATTHEW CHANCE, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Night time on the cobbles of Red Square, and Russia's military is plotting its next steps. This is a rehearsal for the annual Victory Day parade every May 9th, commemorating the Soviet defeat of Nazi Germany. And it's also a dramatic stage for the Kremlin to showcase its military power. And to celebrate.

I'm looking forward to its grand scale, says this Moscow voter. It will show the power and strength of our country, he says. That who really needs a reminder.

These are the latest brutal images from Ukraine, where Russia is continuing what it calls its special military operation. The Kremlin says this is also a fight against Nazis. And even though Ukraine has a Jewish president, it's being drilled into Russians that their country's soldiers are yet again, battling fascists. It's a comparison dismissed in the West, but which many Russians seem prepared to accept?

Every year, I go to these rehearsals, say this man, who gives his name as Misha (PH). But I think this year, it's more special because of the special military operation happening in Ukraine, he says.

Today, I waved the flag to support our army. But I hope it will end soon he adds. A hint of awareness perhaps at the horrific cost.

This is what Victory Day is meant to mark. The Soviet Union's role in the Allied victory in the Second World War.

Russia sustained millions of casualties, paying an enormous sacrifice.

But the power of a military parade to bolster national pride has never been lost on the Kremlin's leaders. Instable President Putin whose Victory Day parades have for years heralded Russia's resurgence as a military power.

This speculation this year's parade will form the backdrop for a major announcements on Ukraine. Victory Day still marks Russia's triumphant past. What the Kremlin really wants is to celebrate that elusive victory in the present.


WHITFIELD: And South Korean authorities are strongly condemning North Korea for firing a suspected short range ballistic missile.

WHITFIELD (voice-over): Officials say the missile was likely launched from a submarine into the waters off the east coast of the Korean Peninsula.

North Korea launched another missile earlier this week. This is the 14th projectile North Korea has fired this year.

WHITFIELD (on camera): And in Havana, Cuba, the death toll from a powerful explosion at a hotel has just risen to 26. That's according to a state-run web site. Dozens more were injured and people are believed to still be trapped in the rubble. A gas leak is suspected to have caused the explosion.


WHITFIELD: All right, still ahead, a key discovery in the manhunt for a missing former corrections officer and an inmate facing murder charges. We'll talk to a bounty hunter about where the missing couple could be headed.


WHITFIELD: All right, a week after a former Alabama corrections officer and inmate went missing, their suspected getaway car has been discovered. Officials say it was abandoned on the same day of the escape and as authorities persist in their manhunt for both fugitives. More details are surfacing about the inmate and what landed him behind bars. CNN Nadia Romero has the story. NADIA ROMERO, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Casey White is scheduled to stand trial for capital murder charges related to the 2015 death of Connie Ridgeway this summer. But last Friday, he escaped, forcing Ridgeway's family, including her son Austin Williams through a rollercoaster of emotions.


AUSTIN WILLIAMS, SON OF CONNIE RIDGEWAY'S SON: My feelings have been coming all over the place, just the adrenaline and stress and just you know not, not sleeping really well.

ROMERO: White's violent criminal history dates back to at least 2010. Court documents allege, he beat his brother in the face and head with an axe sledge hammer handle, landing him in prison in 2012.He was released nearly four years later.

And in October 2015, Connie Ridgeway was murdered in her apartment in Lauderdale County, Alabama.


ROMERO: Police questioned White at the time, but did not charge him. And just months later, in December, white went on a crime spree that included a home invasion, carjacking, and a police chase.

He was indicted on 15 counts in March 2016, and later convicted on seven of those charges, including attempted murder and robbery.

He was sent to prison with his first possibility of parole in 2061. But in 2020, Lauderdale County District Attorney says white admitted to killing Connie Ridgeway.

He was then brought to Lauderdale County Detention Centre to be arraigned on murder charges in October 2020. White pleaded not guilty, and that's where he is believed to have met and started his relationship with corrections officer White.

While there, deputies discovered White was allegedly planning an escape that included taking a hostage. He was sent back to prison.

RICK SINGLETON, SHERIFF, LAUDERDALE COUNTY, ALABAMA: When he was immediately returned back to the Department of Corrections that he was brought back to our facility setting on February 25th of this year, we do know and have confirmed that they were in touch via phone during that two-year period while he was in prison and she was still working here.

ROMERO: White was placed in the most restrictive custody level housing a single cell were strained and accompanied by armed guards at all times. Sheriff Singleton says White was brought back to the Lauderdale County Detention Center in February, where Officer White worked ahead of the trial for the Ridgeway murder.

Inmates have come forward with new information about the two of them. SINGLETON: White were saying, he was getting special treatment. He was getting privileges, getting extra food on his tray that Vicky White was seeing that he got, that other inmates weren't getting.

ROMERO: Austin Williams says there should have been extra eyes on Casey White and anyone who was associating with him.

Now, he's worried. More people could be hurt by White while he's on the run.

WILLIAMS: I mean, really no one is safe who's in contact with him. And he -- and could snap at any moment. You can just snap at anything. And that's it.


ROMERO (on camera): Now, we've reached out to Casey White's attorneys multiple times over the past week and we've yet to hear response.

Friday, Alabama Governor Kay Ivey adding an additional $5,000 reward for information leading to the capture and arrest of Casey White and Vicky White.

That brings their joint total for reward up to $25,000.

WHITFIELD: All right, Nadia Romero, thank you so much.

All right, for more on these developments, I want to bring in now Zeke Unger, he is a bounty hunter, who is joining me live from Los Angeles. Zeke, so good to see you.


WHITFIELD: So, so many things curious about this case, right? I mean, they had a plan, clearly, but the sheriff is saying, and we have since learned that within the same day of their escape, they dump their car -- their vehicle.

So, what in your view, do you believe their plan is?

Are things going according to their plan?

UNGER: Well, technically, we don't know what their plan is. So, what we're doing is we're looking at the totality of the circumstances surrounding the investigation.

The investigation within the prison, disseminating information to the Marshal Service. The other day, they were concerned about the vehicle, I said the vehicle would be found. It's just a series of events, sometimes prompted by the fugitive, sometimes prompted by the investigator.

Which direction did they go in? We don't know as of yet, because they're ghosting. But another series of events will occur, which will give us more information into the investigation along with the gumshoe detective work on the ground. WHITFIELD: So, we heard from the sheriff that she had, you know, sold her home, right? And she has about 90 -- she sold it for $90,000. She has cash. They have reasonably that to some degree, they are still together. What might be their mindset? Do you feel like they have, I mean, the two Whites, even though they are not related, both sharing the last name, that there is a sense of confidence that they feel like well, they carried out their plan of getting out together. That they feel fairly confident that they're able to continue to elude authorities?

UNGER: Well, fugitives always feel that they can elude the authorities, at the end of the day, they're caught tired, physically and mentally exhausted. I believe that in this case, they will be apprehended.

Do they have a plan? At this point, they do. But we can't assume, we have to investigate. They may separate, they may get in a fight. We don't know at this point what their relationship is and how strained it is.

Yes, they have money. Yes, they're ghosting, but they -- you know, law enforcement can make mistakes, but they can only make one.

WHITFIELD: Authorities are saying -- consider them both dangerous. They're both armed and dangerous. Authority is saying they may can confirm it. They know the corrections officer White had a weapon.

Do you believe that her life is in jeopardy with him?


UNGER: Again I don't believe. So, I think she is a full co-conspirator in this matter. She, you know, orchestrated everything. She is in it. They're together. The question is, is he going to sacrifice her and move on? Or are they going to move on together?

The Marshal Service is going to find them. It's just a matter of when. I believe that there will be a confrontation, both of them have nothing to lose at this point. We'll see how things progress,

WHITFIELD: You're confident that authorities are going to find them, and that it will end badly like that with a confrontation. In the meantime, Casey White, I mean, he is pretty distinctive, right? He's 6'9", he's some 300 pounds. It would seem that he would be hard to miss.

What do you think is going on that makes him so elusive that he's able to blend in so well thus far?

UNGER: Well, physically, I think they're going to have a hard time, although, they have an advantage that everyone is wearing masks right now. Some people are, some aren't.

But they can get away with wearing masks. If they go to change their appearance. There's a few things that a fugitive can't change. Their height. They can lose weight, they can color their hair, they can change their appearance, but he -- he's 6'9". So, it's going to be a little bit hard to hide that in public.

WHITFIELD: You're right. All right, Zeke Unger, thank you so much. I'm sure we'll have you back. Appreciate it.

And this programming note, a Lauderdale County Sheriff Rick Singleton will join my colleague, Jessica Dean live in the 3:00 Eastern hour today.

All right, coming up, First Lady Jill Biden, getting a firsthand look at the Ukrainian refugee crisis. The details of her visit to Eastern Europe right after this.



WHITFIELD: First Lady Jill Biden is in Eastern Europe, getting a firsthand look at the Ukrainian refugee crisis. She landed in Slovakia where she'll spend Mother's Day, visiting refugees including displaced children.

Earlier today, she met with educators in a school in Romania, where she also visited with Ukrainian children who fled the war. She is also expected to meet with political and military leaders during her four day trip.

Kate Andersen Brower is a CNN contributor and the author of the book, First Women.

So good to see you. So, talk to us about, you know, how a trip like this as difficult as it is. It really does seem to play to the strengths of this first lady.

BROWER: Absolutely. I mean, you know, as you said, she is known for her empathy. She -- the Biden's had Beau Biden, their son who was deployed to Iraq.

So, she's able to talk to families about how difficult -- you know, understanding the challenges of deployment.

She also is a teacher. And that's really the cornerstone of her time, as first lady is, is continuing to teach full time. So, when she goes to these schools and talks to these refugees, and these Ukrainian children who have gone through so much trauma, she is able to really relate to that. And you can see in the videos, you know, she gets down on her knees, and it really connects with these kids.

And it's the soft power of the position of the first lady.

WHITFIELD: And that we hear this first lady is also going to be meeting with politicians and military leaders while on this trip. I mean, what does that mean? What are those kinds of meetings constitute? BROWER: I think this is more about just showing up and showing that the U.S. cares and is going to be there for as long as the U.S. needs to be there. And it's not going to abandon the Ukrainian people.

I don't think she's waiting too deep into policy. I think a lot of this is about that empathy, and that showing up on the ground. And first ladies have always done this. You know, Michelle Obama, back to Pat Nixon going to Vietnam.

I mean, this is something that almost every first lady has done. Laura Bush in Afghanistan. But I think it's an incredibly important symbol of American engagement, and empathy, and caring about what happens to these women and children and the people of Ukraine.

WHITFIELD: And first ladies always travel with, you know, particular Secret Service detail, whether domestically or even abroad. But now we're talking about, you know, heightened risks, because of where she is during this four day journey.

BROWER: What goes into the planning of the security like this, for the first lady?

I mean, I think it's an incredibly arduous task to make sure that she is protected. And oftentimes, you know, Melania Trump, what was her husband to a warzone, but they were on the ground for through -- a few hours, you know, usually, those trips are very quick.

Of course, Dr. Biden is not in the middle of a war zone, she is on the border with these countries border in Ukraine. But it's still, obviously, a dangerous place to be, and it means a lot --


WHITFIELD: Yes, the heightened risk. But at the same time, there has to be this kind of accessibility, like we're seeing right now with her, you know, talking reaching, you know, touching, or whether it be American service members serving abroad, or whether it is refugee families.

I mean, and she really is kind of a touchy feely kind of person. Right? So, I mean, security detail doesn't want to impede what is her gift of really connecting with people.

BROWER: That's right. And one of the really interesting things I think that happened on this trip and, and Kate Bennett, the CNN reporter who's there covering it, talks about this a bit that there's a challenge coin that she gave to the members of the Delaware National Guard.

And, you know, with her son's -- a prayer that she and her husband would read when her son was deployed.


BROWER: So, as you say it's about the refugees, it's also about the service members. I mean, this place right into her strength. WHITFIELD: Yes.

BROWER: Absolutely.