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Russia Bombs School With 90 Civilians Inside; Most Vulnerable Evacuated From Azovstal; Russia Prepares For Celebrations; Beijing- Backed John Lee Set To Become Next Hong Kong Leader; Northern Ireland Nationalist Party Sinn Fein Wins Largest Number Of Seats; Finland And Sweden Weighing Possible NATO Membership; Ukrainians Find Refuge In Italian Villa; Afghan Women Ordered To Cover Head To Toe. Aired 5-6a ET

Aired May 08, 2022 - 05:00   ET




UNIDENTIFIED MALE (voice-over): This is CNN breaking news.

KIM BRUNHUBER, CNN ANCHOR AND CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Hello and welcome to all of you watching us here in the United States, Canada and all around the world. I'm Kim Brunhuber.

I want to get straight to our lead story. Ukrainian officials say 60 people are most likely dead after Russian forces bombed a school in the Luhansk region of Eastern Ukraine. Video from the scene shows the building reduced to little more than a smoking pile of debris.

The regional governor says 90 people were sheltering inside when the bomb hit. Around 30 were rescued from the rubble. So far, two bodies have been recovered. The governor says they're unlikely to find more survivors.

Some hopeful developments in the besieged city of Mariupol. Ukrainian officials say all women, children and elderly people have now been evacuated from the Azovstal steel plant. Many were trapped inside for weeks under relentless shelling, with food, water, medicine in dangerously short supply.

Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelenskyy says they're focused on evacuating the wounded and medics still trapped, as well as civilians stuck in other areas around Mariupol.

To the west, Ukraine's military says Russia fired six cruise missiles at the port city of Odessa. Strikes on historic cities like Odessa almost visibly lead to other collateral damage. Saturday Ukraine's president said nearly 200 cultural heritage sites have been damaged so far during the war.


VOLODYMYR ZELENSKYY, UKRAINIAN PRESIDENT (through translator): Today, the invaders launched a missile strike at Odessa, a city where almost every street has something memorable, something historical. But for the Russian army, it does not matter. They would only kill and destroy. Odessa, Kharkiv region, Donbas, they do not care.


BRUNHUBER: We have CNN correspondents across the region, covering the conflict from every angle. Our Isa Soares is in Lviv. Barbie Nadeau is in Rome. Nic Robertson is in Helsinki. Matthew Chance is in Moscow.

Isa, standing by in Lviv, first off, the horrific bombing of the school, what more do we know about that?

ISA SOARES, CNN ANCHOR AND CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Kim. Just truly horrific. And we are having -- listening and hearing from Luhansk officials, giving us updates on what unfolded as that bomb dropped into that school, turning that school into just a pile of rubble.

What the governor said is that, initially, like you clearly outlined, there were 90 people sheltering inside the basement of that school. And that is, for viewers to get an understanding of this, that is almost the entire population of that small village.

They were inside that building, seeking shelter, seeking cover. And then they were hit from this bomb, by a Russian bomb, which was dropped on the school. He said 60 people are most likely feared dead; 30 have been rescued from the rubble. And seven of those 37 have been injured.

This took place in the little village of Bilohorivka, 10 kilometers or so from the front lines, front lines where we're seeing intense fighting. Remember, this is part of the Donbas region, where we've seen the majority of the push and pull of battle, where the two sides have been entrenched in this battle to try to capture as well as reclaim territory.

One of the Luhansk officials, talking to us about the intensity of battle, the airstrikes they've been seeing for the last few day, he said Ukrainian troops are holding on but that they've seen artillery fire and airstrikes relentlessly for weeks now.

Incredibly dire situation, as we hear the news that 60, he said, almost, most likely dead, 60 people likely dead in this small -- in this school.

BRUNHUBER: On a more positive note, Isa, there have been some developments there on the ongoing efforts to evacuate the steel plant in the city of Mariupol. Bring us up to speed.

SOARES: Yes, and this -- I mean, a ray of hope, really, after weeks -- I think we can call it months -- of intense shelling and of horror that they have endured. We know from officials that the women, all the women, the children and the elderly have been now evacuated from the Azovstal steel plant.

Remember, the Azovstal steel plant has faced intense shelling in the last few weeks.


SOARES: And we know from those that have been hiding inside, holed up inside the steel plant, that they were running out of water, they were running out of food. And their situation was getting incredibly dire.

But we know they now have been evacuated. What we don't know at this stage, what is not clear is what will happen to the soldiers that are still inside, about 600 or so soldiers, many of them wounded, or whether they will be evacuated.

When I spoke to a government official last week, he said that the soldiers weren't part of this evacuation plan, Kim, that had been set up between the U.N. and Red Cross and Russia.

But we heard from President Zelenskyy yesterday, where he said he's working on diplomatic options to get everyone evacuated from Azovstal and, of course, from the city of Mariupol itself.

BRUNHUBER: Isa Soares in Lviv, thank you so much.

Western leaders will keep an eye on President Putin Monday for any possible announcements about Ukraine. May 9th is victory day in Russia, when the nation marks the Soviet win over Nazi Germany in World War II. As Matthew Chance reports, the event commemorates a past that Putin could use right now.


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 Muscovite. "It will show the power and strength of our country," he says.

Though 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," says 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, of 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; most of all, President Putin, whose Victory Day parades have, for years, heralded Russia's resurgence as a military power.

There's speculation this year's parade will form the backdrop for a major announcement on Ukraine. Victory Day still marks Russia's triumphant past. What the Kremlin really wants is to celebrate that elusive victory in the present -- Matthew Chance, CNN, Moscow.


BRUNHUBER: Ukrainian President Zelenskyy says what's happening in Ukraine now feels like World War II all over again.

In an emotional video released a short time ago, he compared the Russian invasion to the actions of Nazi Germany. Many countries mark Victory in Europe Day today. In Ukraine, it's a day of remembrance and reconciliation. This is what Zelenskyy said.



ZELENSKYY (through translator): This year, we say never again differently. We hear never again differently. It sounds painful, cruel, without an exclamation but with a question mark.

You say never again?

Tell Ukraine about it.


BRUNHUBER: CNN global affairs analyst Kimberly Dozier joins us from Washington.

As we've just been hearing, victory day, hugely significant event for Russians, for Putin especially.

What do you think we can expect to see and hear?

KIMBERLY DOZIER, CNN GLOBAL AFFAIRS ANALYST: Well, Putin's personal spokesperson has told us we will not hear a declaration of all-out war.


DOZIER: Even though many Ukrainian and other European officials have said that is something that they fear.

A couple of the reasons why this time he could be right, this is the same guy who told us there would be no invasion of Ukraine by Russia. But Russians are beginning to feel the pinch of those economic sanctions, especially the middle class.

They've lost access to their foreign currency overseas. They have lost the value in many of their bond savings because of the decimation of Russia's stock market in this process.

And if Putin were to declare an actual war and all-out conscription, that's something that could trigger widespread protests, not just the brave protests that we saw in the opening days of the invasion.

What we're more likely to see is Putin doubling down on the rhetoric and telling his people, we've got to keep going with this operation because this is, as he has argued before, a proxy war by NATO and the U.S. through Ukrainian forces against Russia.

BRUNHUBER: OK, so if he's not going to declare war or a mass mobilization or something, he does presume to announce a victory of some kind.

But given that Russian troops so far haven't made any major gains, how do you think he'll spin it?

DOZIER: It seems the best they'll be able to say is that they have taken Mariupol, from what we're hearing from the progress of Russian troops on the ground. We've also heard in the past 24 hours of some pretty heavy rocket fire, some toward Odessa, and some targeting that steel plant, where the Ukrainian government has said all of the civilians have been evacuated.

But we know that there are still possibly hundreds of soldiers in the tunnels beneath. It seems the Russians may be planning, since those troops won't come out, just to flatten the place. That looks like the best they're going to get, as of tomorrow or within 24 hours from now, in Russian date calendar time.

But in other areas of this conflict, the Russians don't seem to have been able to amass enough troops to take territory back from Ukraine. They seem to be digging into that trench warfare that we saw in World War I; to a certain extent, in World War II.

This is the kind of fighting, where both sides are so dug in, it could go on for weeks, months, even through this year.

BRUNHUBER: Due to all of the propaganda, many Russians actually do think they're winning. And speaking of propaganda, I want to ask you about this, the link with Nazism.

They want to make these historic echoes with fighting fascists in World War II. As we know from our reporting, as we just saw from that story there, that many Russians do buy this lie.

But why does that fabrication seem believable, when so many Russians -- they live near the border with Ukraine, they have links with Ukraine, they have family there?

DOZIER: Well, they've bought into this, in part because, early on in World War II, of course, Ukraine tried to fight Russia, had briefly sided with the Nazis. So that is a historical fact from many decades ago.

Also, there was the rise of the Azov Brigade, which is a very small part of the Ukrainian military that did use Nazi-like salutes, et cetera. But the Ukrainian military has worked over the years to weed out the more right-leaning parts of that brigade and to professionalize it.

Also, it ignores the fact that Russia has its own right-wing problem. But it is, unfortunately, propaganda, where there are enough grains of truth, even though -- look, in the United States, where I'm speaking from, there is, unfortunately, a right-wing Nazi movement that is a bit underground but it's still there.

What Russian propaganda does is they use those small grains of fact. They fabricate, they elaborate and they say it over and over and over again. And the Russian public believes it.

BRUNHUBER: Yes, unfortunately, we'll have to leave it there. Thank you so much for your analysis, CNN global affairs, Kimberly Dozier, really appreciate it.

Tune in Monday for live coverage of the victory day parade in Russia. We'll have live coverage as troops and officials gather from 9:00 am Moscow time, 7:00 am in London. The parade is expected to get underway an hour later.

It's not just Russia commemorating the end of World War II in Europe. What you're seeing now is coming from Paris. Just moments ago, French president Emmanuel Macron laying a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in the French capital.

It was this time yesterday that we saw him inaugurated for a second term, following a decisive win over right-wing candidate Marine Le Pen.


BRUNHUBER: In the speech Macron gave, he said France needs, quote, "to help democracy and courage to prevail," and to build what he described as a new European peace and autonomy.

Ahead on CNN NEWSROOM --


KRISTIE LU STOUT, CNN ANCHOR AND CORRESPONDENT: Well, as expected, the ex-security chief and sole candidate, John Lee, has been selected as the next chief executive of Hong Kong.

But what will his leadership bring?

We'll discuss that after the break.





BRUNHUBER: The Hong Kong security chief, who oversaw the 2019 crackdown on pro-democracy protesters, will become the city's next leader. John Lee was backed by Beijing and was the only candidate in a controlled, tight circle vote to replace Carrie Lam as chief executive.

Kristie Lu Stout joins from us Hong Kong.

Tell us more about John Lee and what his leadership might bring.

STOUT: I'm standing outside the Hong Kong convention and exhibition center, where, in the last few hours, John Lee was selected by a small circle group of election committee patriots to become the next top leader of Hong Kong.


STOUT: John Lee represents security and stability, law and order. He was a career police officer and the former security chief of Hong Kong. In fact, he oversaw security during the very destabilizing 2019 pro-democracy protests, as well as during the implementation and enforcement of the very controversial national security law imposed by Beijing upon Hong Kong in the following years.

But arguably, his greatest challenges right now are all economic issues. Hong Kong needs to restore its international reputation as a world-class aviation hub, logistics hub, business and finance hub.

It needs to restore business confidence. Affordability of housing is a pressing issue. This is one of the most expensive housing markets in the world.

Can a chief executive, a top leader of Hong Kong, who is so strong on national security, actually be able to deliver on economic issues?

I put that question to Allen Zeman, a businessman, a tycoon based here in Hong Kong, also one of those 1,500 election committee members, who cast a ballot to vote for John Lee earlier today. And this is what he had to say.


ALLEN ZEMAN, LAN KWAI FONG GROUP: So I believe that John will be able to address all the problems that we have had. The international community has been very worried because we're an international financial center. Finance is not his strongest point.


STOUT: "Finance is not his strongest point."

Allen Zeman says he believes John Lee recognizes that and he will be able to pick a financial secretary, a deputy, who would be able to handle these issues.

But arguably the greatest challenge ahead for the new chief executive of Hong Kong is being able to strike that balance to serve the needs of the people in Hong Kong as well as Beijing because, increasingly, especially in the wake of the 2019 protests and the national security law, accountability here in Hong Kong flows north toward the Chinese capital.

BRUNHUBER: Thanks so much, Kristie Lu Stout, appreciate it.

Voters in the Philippines go to the polls in less than 24 hours. It's an election that pits the son of the country's former dictator against a candidate with roots in the movement that opposed his father.

Frontrunner Ferdinand Marcos Jr. has led in every opinion poll. He faces Leni Robredo, who nearly defeated him in 2016. A human rights activist, she has links to the People Power uprising in 1986 that ousted Ferdinand Marcos Sr.

Other candidates include former professional boxer, Manny Pacquiao, the former mayor of Manila and a police general.

Former Brazilian president Lula da Silva has launched his campaign with a rally on Saturday in Sao Paulo. He's the frontrunner against Jair Bolsonaro, who's been criticized over his handling of the COVID- 19 pandemic.

Lula was convicted of corruption and money laundering charges which prevented him from running in the last election. But charges were annulled last year. The first round of the election is scheduled for October 2nd.

Sinn Fein is celebrating a historic win in Northern Ireland. The Irish nationalists, once considered the political wing of the Irish Republican Army, have emerged as the largest party after Thursday's regional elections.

Sinn Fein supports Northern Ireland leaving the U.K. and joining the Republic of Ireland. Vice president Michelle O'Neill looks set to be Northern Ireland's first Republican first minister.


MICHELLE O'NEILL, NORTHERN IRELAND DEPUTY FIRST MINISTER: Today ushers in a new era, which, I believe, presents us all with an opportunity to reimagine relationships in this society on the basis of fairness, of equality and of social justice. Irrespective of religious, political or social backgrounds, my commitment is to make politics work.


BRUNHUBER: Sinn Fein's victory is a loss for their rival Democratic Unionist Party, which wants Northern Ireland to stay in the U.K. Sinn Fein won at least 27 of 90 seats, compared to the DUP's 25. Peter Smith of ITN explains what this could mean for Northern Ireland's future.


PETER SMITH, ITN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): A guard of honor for Sinn Fein's party leadership, the history makers. They are a party for a united Ireland, long linked to the provisional IRA, as the terror group's political wing. The idea Sinn Fein could win an election in Northern Ireland was, once, unthinkable.


SMITH (voice-over): Now the reality.

O'NEILL: Let's have a healthy debate about what our future looks like, something that is better for each and every one of us, where we all have a valued place in our society.

So I really encourage that conversation. We have been asked what the Irish government consistently, that they must now create the conditions for a conversation around constitutional change. That has always been our perspective and that will be my perspective tomorrow as well.

SMITH (voice-over): Then an attempt to comfort unionists here, who fear what's Sinn Fein will do with victory.

O'NEILL: Don't be scared. The future is bright for all of us.

SMITH (voice-over): But Sinn Fein's idea of a bright future is the nightmare of the once dominant DUP. They have now fallen into second place, punished by their own unionist base for failing to stop the Brexit protocol and separating Northern Ireland from the rest of the U.K.

But still, their leader sees it differently.

SMITH: Has Brexit cost you this election?

JEFFREY DONALDSON, DUP LEADER: Well, the DUP has done extremely well this election. Unionism has held its ground. The unionist vote remains strong. We are the largest designation in the assembly. I think there is a lot of spin around the results. And I am very pleased with how the DUP has done.

SMITH (voice-over): This election has delivered an historic result. But it is still unlikely to deliver a functioning government for people in Northern Ireland.

FREYA MCCLEMENTS, NORTHERN EDITOR, "IRISH TIMES": The way government in Northern Ireland is set up, is it's based on cross community power sharing. So while we have all of the symbolism of Sinn Fein taking the first minister position, they can't actually do that, unless there is a DUP deputy first minister, to go alongside them. And Jeffrey Donaldson, the DUP leader and others in his party, have been making it very clear, over the course of these elections, that they will not go back into the executive, unless the issues around the Northern Ireland protocol are resolved.

SMITH (voice-over): A failure to agree what power sharing executive means, the Sinn Fein victory would be largely symbolic for now. But what it symbolizes cannot be ignored. This result is a reflection of change of the island of Ireland, a change that is no longer on the horizon but already here.


BRUNHUBER: G7 are set to meet virtually in the coming hours regarding sanctions against Russia. Joining them online is Ukraine's president. Why they chose to meet today and what they hope to accomplish.

And one Ukrainian family finds refuge from war in a historic Italian villa worth hundreds of millions of dollars. That story coming up, stay with us.





BRUNHUBER: Welcome back to all watching us here in the United States, Canada and around the world. I'm Kim Brunhuber. This is CNN NEWSROOM.

Both Ukraine and Russia are both claiming some successes in what appears to be ongoing combat in the Black Sea. That fighting is around an area called Snake Island.

Meanwhile, Ukrainian officials confirm some 60 people were most likely killed Saturday in a Russian airstrike on a school. The village is close to the front lines in Eastern Ukraine and about 90 were believed to be sheltering inside when it was hit; about 30 people were reported rescued.

In Odessa, Ukraine's military says Russia fired six cruise missiles at the city Saturday. No casualties reported but black smoke could be seen in various places.

Ukraine's president Volodymyr Zelenskyy is expected to join U.S. President Joe Biden and other G7 leaders in a virtual meeting later today. The White House says the focus will be on sanctions against Russia and shoring up international support for Ukraine. Nic Robertson is following this from Helsinki, Finland.

What's likely to come from that meeting and how significant is it ahead of May 9th in Russia? NIC ROBERTSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL DIPLOMATIC EDITOR: We know President Zelenskyy is never afraid to tell leaders what's he needs. He is expected to give an overview of how he sees the war going.

It was what you heard him say today, remembering that today is VE Day, 77 years after the Nazis declared an unconditional surrender at the end World War II. That day commemorated in Russia on the 9th of May.

Traditionally, President Putin has framed it as sort of a Soviet victory in World War II. President Zelenskyy saying today that this is, in the words that were quoted after World War II, "never again."

He said, this year we'll say never again differently. I think that's going to be part of his message to the leaders who are coming together, the G7 leaders, to look at how they can continue to contribute, to make sure that Ukraine can go the distance in this fight with Russia, to make sure that President Putin realizes that he cannot have a victory in Ukraine.

Because that's part of the expectation of how he'll try to frame his victory in Europe day. So President Zelenskyy's message, that this is never again but this year, different, really will get behind the idea that, if the G7 allies and partners want this to be never again, they need to really double down and support Ukraine in the way that he, President Zelenskyy, wants.

I think that's a broad part of how he would view the meeting. And the continuation of support is how the other members will view the meeting.

BRUNHUBER: We'll follow that story. You're in Finland, where fears of Russian aggression have prompted Finland to consider joining NATO. There's a deadline looming.

What's the latest?

ROBERTSON: Absolutely. Later this week, we're going to know one way or the other whether or not Finland's going to join NATO.

It's absolutely clear, from behind-the-scenes briefings we get, from the public polling, from the understanding of where the 200 parliamentarians sit on this issue, where the prime minister's inclinations are, the president's inclinations are, and they'll make those clear in speeches on Thursday.

This nation is almost undoubtedly at this stage going to come down on the side of wanting to join NATO. And the sea change was almost instantaneous after Russia invaded Ukraine.


ROBERTSON: Prior, there had been tepid support for NATO. Always the sense that Finland, part of the E.U. very much aligned with the West but had this nonalign position historically and NATO was good.

But it took really Russia's invasion of Ukraine to tip that tepid support from 20 percent, 30 percent of the population to where it is now, somewhere between 60 percent, 80 percent support in the population. So Russia's invasion really propelled Finland toward NATO leadership. We'll get a definitive answer in a few days.

BRUNHUBER: Appreciate your insights. Nic Robertson in Helsinki, thanks so much.

U.S. first lady Jill Biden is in Eastern Europe meeting with Ukrainian refugees. Right now she's in Slovakia. On Saturday, she visited a school in Romania and heard heartbreaking stories from women and children who fled the war. This school in Bucharest opened its doors to refugee students after Russia's invasion began in February.

Ms. Biden, also an educator, credits teachers for supporting the refugees.


DR. JILL BIDEN, FIRST LADY OF THE UNITED STATES: As a teacher, I so appreciated what that one teacher did, by saying, I'm a teacher, we're going to organize this, we're going to get it together.

And I think really, in a lot of ways, the teachers are the glue that helped these kids deal with their trauma and deal with the emotion and helped give them a sense of normalcy.


BRUNHUBER: Ms. Biden's trip is timed around Mother's Day, an occasion that will obviously feel vastly different for the Ukrainian mothers and children who fled their homes.

Imagine fleeing the horrors of war in Ukraine, then finding shelter in a multimillion-dollar Italian villa. What happened to one Ukrainian family. CNN's Barbie Nadeau spoke with them and the woman who opened up her historic home.

Incredible story. Take us through what happened here.

BARBIE NADEAU, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, you know, so many people are coming here to Italy, are using their connections. Italy had, before the invasion, the largest Ukrainian population outside of Ukraine here in Europe.

And many of those people worked in domestic service industry sector. Just like this woman, who had been a housekeeper in one of the most expensive villas in the world, was able to bring her grandchildren and daughter to safety.


NADEAU (voice-over): Ukrainian Olga Kolkovska (ph) never imagined her daughter and grandchildren would be living with her, where she works as a housekeeper, in one of the most expensive villas in the world, here, in the heart of Rome. Olga (ph) tells us her family was doing well in her home country. They

had a house, cars, money to live. They were doing so well, she tells us. Now everything is broken.

Now they live in the Villa Aurora, complete with an original ceiling mural painted by Caravaggio. It is, currently, inhabited by Texas born Rita Carpenter, who became Princess Rita Carpenter Boncompagni Ludovisi after marrying an Italian aristocrat.

This villa, with its masterpieces, is scheduled to be auctioned off in June though, twice before, no one had deep enough pockets to hit the nearly half a billion dollar minimum opening bid. Olga has worked here for the last 14 years and when bombs started dropping near Kyiv where her daughter and family lived, there was only one option.

RITA BONCOMPAGNI LUDOVISI, OWNER, VILLA AURORA: Olga (ph) and I discussed it. And as things were becoming more and more dangerous, she said -- I said, you'd better get them out of there now. They're bombing there.

NADEAU (voice-over): The trip out of Ukraine was harrowing, Olga's (ph) daughter, Mariia Brateshevska says. They left with only the clothes on their back and the raw fear for their father, who stayed behind.

They joined more than 107,000 Ukrainians, who have come to Italy since the beginning of the war. Maria has kept the worst details from her youngest children, who are just 6 and 7.

But Oleksandr (ph), who celebrated his 16th birthday last week in Rome, is old enough to hear the truth. Alexander shows us what's left of his high school, which was bombed, on a photo the director sent him.

NADEAU: Is this your school?

OLEKSANDR (PH): Yes, this is the door. We go inside there, through this door. My classroom inside.

NADEAU (voice-over): Since arriving in Rome on March 8, the children have started school, where they're learning Italian, as they settle into Olga's (ph) apartment inside the villa.

LUDOVISI: Imagine what they have gone through, having their lives disrupted and turned upside down. And their father, still being there and their grandfather being there. It is just -- it's heartbreaking. I mean, it really is.

NADEAU (voice-over): Mariia doesn't know when or if she and her family will be able to go back.


MARIIA BRATESHEVSKA, UKRAINIAN REFUGEE: We cannot have plans. Of course, all of our plans crushed.

NADEAU (voice-over): But they found relative peace with the princess in this breathtaking villa -- at least, for now.


NADEAU: When you look at the beauty and tranquility, they still would trade it all to go back to their homes in Ukraine. This villa will go back up on the auction block in June. But we're told that, even if it is sold this time around, that Olga and the princess will be able to stay there and so will that family, as long as they need safety.

BRUNHUBER: That's good to hear. Thanks so much for bringing us that heartwarming story, Barbie Nadeau in Rome.

If you want to help,, find several ways you can help.

Yet another setback for women's rights in Afghanistan. Just ahead, we'll look at what the Taliban are threatening to do if women aren't covered head to toe.




BRUNHUBER: In Afghanistan, the Taliban are cracking down further on freedoms for women. A decree issued on Saturday requires women to cover themselves head to toe, including their faces, whenever they appear in public. Michael Holmes has more on the latest blow to women's rights under the Taliban.


MICHAEL HOLMES, CNN ANCHOR AND CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): When the Taliban were in power in Afghanistan, more than 25 years ago, women were required to cover their faces in public, an order, that was reinstated on Saturday.

AKIF MUHAJIR, TALIBAN MINISTRY FOR PROMOTION OF VIRTUE AND VICE: Those women, who are not too old or young, must cover their face up and their eyes, as per sharia directives, in order to avoid provocation.


HOLMES (voice-over): The Taliban says, there will be punishments for not following the rules.


HOLMES (voice-over): A woman's father or male guardian could be visited by authorities and, perhaps, jailed. Women working in government jobs, who don't comply, could be fired.

Most women in Afghanistan wear a head scarf but many in urban areas, such as Kabul, don't cover their faces. The decree is yet another setback for women's rights and freedoms, in Afghanistan, which have been rolled back since the Taliban took control of the country, last summer.

The Taliban say, they have changed, since their previous rule, in which women and girls, were barred from education and leaving the house, without a male relative. But its series of restrictions, in recent months, seem to contradict that claim.

In March, the Taliban backtracked on a promise to reopen high schools for girls and said, instead, they would remain closed, until a plan could be made to run them in accordance with Islamic law.

That same month, the Taliban said, women can no longer fly on planes, domestic or international, without a male chaperone.

In Herat, one of Afghanistan's more progressive cities, there are reports that the Taliban has given orders to driving instructors not to issue driver's licenses to women anymore. Local authorities deny it is an official policy but some in the city say it's happening anyway.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (through translator): I have not seen any official letter banning women from driving. But unfortunately, licenses are not being issued to women. At checkpoints, some Taliban might stop us, because of their personal opinions.

HOLMES (voice-over): There have been sporadic protests by women in Afghanistan in recent months, demanding the right to education and work. But the Taliban have cracked down on them, leaving little hope that women's voices will be heard in this version of Taliban rule, anymore than they were in the last one -- Michael Holmes, CNN.


BRUNHUBER: Last hour I spoke with Pashtana Durrani. She's the founder and executive director of LEARN in Afghanistan, dedicated to women's rights. I asked her about the Taliban's intense focus on limiting women's freedoms while the country faces a devastating economic crisis and food shortage.


PASHTANA DURRANI, FOUNDER AND EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, LEARN: why are the Taliban so keen on following the real issues of girls' education so much, that they are more focused on this while the country is, at that time, the people are dying?

Why are they not focusing on those main issues?

When they wanted to be the rulers, that is actually what a government agency does, provide services. They are not following up on electricity, water supplies, civic system development.

Their only focus is how to make sure that they control women in their eyes and this clearly shows that they are making sure that they suffocate women to the extent where women will hate them for the rest of eternity. Because they are literally using the women of Afghanistan as political pawns in their own political play.


BRUNHUBER: We'll be back with more on CNN NEWSROOM, stay with us.





BRUNHUBER: The first leg of the U.S. horse racing's Triple Crown kicked off on Saturday with the aptly named Rich Strike surging past the front-runners to win the Run for the Roses.

The 80:1 long shot began the week as an alternate. But when another horse pulled out of the race, the colt was added to the 20-horse field, which Strike's owner says he never doubted.



BRUNHUBER: Before we go, one of America's most influential country music artists has died. Mickey Gilley, the original urban cowboy, died Saturday, age 86. His publicist said he had just wrapped up a 10-show tour last month.



BRUNHUBER (voice-over): Gilley played a huge role in bringing country music to a wider audience, racking up an incredible 17 number one hits in his career. In 1980, Gilley's self-named bar in Pasadena, Texas, and its famous mechanical bull took center stage in John Travolta's film "Urban Cowboy."

He's survived by his cousins, rock 'n' roll pioneer Jerry Lee Lewis and evangelist Jimmy Swaggart.


BRUNHUBER: I'm Kim Brunhuber. For our viewers in North America, "NEW DAY" is next. For the rest of the world, it's "CONNECTING AFRICA."