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Erin Burnett Outfront

Russians Dug Trenches In Highly-Radioactive Part Of Chernobyl; U.S. Official: Russian Forces Have Withdrawn From Kyiv, Chernihiv Areas; NATO Bracing For "Concentrated" Attack In The East; Ukraine Says Russia Has Lost 684 Tanks, 150 Aircraft, 135 Helicopters And 1800-Plus Armored Personnel Vehicles; Biden Admin Imposes New Sanctions On Putin's Daughters; Journalist Captures Graphic Images Of Brutality In Kyiv Region; Putin Tries To Destabilize Countries By Exploiting Refugee Crisis. Aired 7-8p ET

Aired April 06, 2022 - 19:00   ET


WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: I'm Wolf Blitzer in THE SITUATION ROOM. I'll be back in half an hour on our new streaming service, CNN Plus with my new show called The Newscast. Until then, thanks very much for watching.

"ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT" starts right now.

ERIN BURNETT, CNN HOST: OUTFRONT next, new drone video in to CNN tonight of trenches dug by Russian forces in Chernobyl's highly radioactive Red Forest. This as we're getting images of newly uncovered atrocities.

Plus, Ukraine now saying more than 18,000 Russian troops have been killed. Does Putin even have the manpower to seize control of eastern Ukraine?

And the U.S. for the first time sanctioning Putin's daughters, who are they and who in Putin's inner circle right now is getting away with no sanctions at all? Let's go OUTFRONT.

Good evening. I'm Erin Burnett.

OUTFRONT tonight, the breaking news. New video just in of the trenches Russian forces dug in Chernobyl's highly radioactive Red Forest. This is an area that is completely off limits and considered highly contaminated and toxic. People who work at the nuclear power plant aren't even allowed to go there, yet you can see the tank tracks in the drone video right through that forest as well as what clearly appeared to be trenches dug by those Russian troops.

Ukraine's nuclear energy operator says that if the Russian troops weren't wearing specific anti-radiation protective equipment, which they most certainly weren't, they could have received significant radiation exposure, which could result in serious injury or death. We don't know how it happened to those troops, but now you can see the trenches, the pass through the Red Forest.

It all comes as Putin is ramping up his assault in the east and south of Ukraine. In Kharkiv, officials say Russia has carried out at least 27 strikes on residential areas. And in Mariupol, the situation for those still in that besieged city is getting worse and worse. The Red Cross says there is no food, there is no water, there is no medicine, there is no electricity and there is no way to get out.

The mayor also saying that 90 percent of the city's infrastructure has been destroyed. Tonight, he says 40 percent has been damaged beyond any repair. The city council there also accusing Russians of trying to cover their tracks by using mobile crematoriums to burn the bodies of the innocent to cover up the evidence that is now so painfully clear in the north. The mayor comparing the city of Mariupol to a Nazi concentration camp, calling it the new Auschwitz.

And yet despite the new Russian attacks, the Defense Department says it is still possible for Ukraine to beat back Putin.


JOHN KIRBY, PENTAGON PRESS SECRETARY: Of course, they can win this. And if you look at what they've been able to do thus far, Mr. Putin has achieved exactly zero of his strategic objectives inside Ukraine.


BURNETT: One of the Putin's objectives that he's so far failed to achieve was seizing control of Kyiv, the capital, the heart of the country. He's completely withdrawn from there now, according to the U.S. Defense Department, but the threat is not over.

Today, Ukraine's Deputy Prime Minister, Iryna Vereshchuk, going before cameras, delivering a message to Ukrainians in the east saying, and I quote, "You have to evacuate if this is possible."

And tonight, we're seeing horrific new images that show why she's telling them to do that. Because just outside the capital, where Russian troops came in before Ukrainians could leave, a journalist today who travelled to Irpin sent to OUTFRONT these images. I'll warn you that they are graphic.

You see the lifeless body of a Ukrainian just left on the street surrounded by debris. Another picture shows entire blocks demolished, a burned out vehicle parked outside. You're going to hear more from that journalist in just a moment and more of his painful footage. You'll hear what he saw after traveling to the town of Bucha today as well where the innocent were tortured and executed and there are mass graves.

And today Biden hitting Russia with more sanctions because of these images we've seen.


JOE BIDEN (President of the United States): Bodies left in streets as Russian troops withdrew, some shot in the back of the head with their hands tied behind their backs. Civilians executed in cold blood. Bodies dumped into mass graves. A sense of brutality, inhumanity left for all of the world to see, unapologetically. There's nothing less happening than major war crimes. Responsible

nations have to come together to hold these perpetrators accountable.


BURNETT: Fred Pleitgen is OUTFRONT live in Kyiv to begin our coverage. And Fred, what is the latest where you are tonight?

FRED PLEITGEN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Hi there, Erin. Well, the latest here is also that the Russian forces obviously have withdrawn from here. Nevertheless, we did have some air raid sirens that actually went off a little earlier.


But it was so interesting to see, for instance, John Kirby from the defense department saying that the Russians hadn't achieved that objective of taking the capital city of taking Kyiv. And, of course, one of the reasons, and you've been reporting about this a lot is the fact that so many Ukrainian civilians took up arms and some of them also use the skills that they had to act as force multipliers.

We were actually with a drone units that we filmed with and they were civilians. They just sort of likes to fly drones and then they decided to help the Ukrainian military and they made a big difference. But we do need to warn our viewers because the video you're about to see is very graphic and disturbing because the area that we went to with them where they drove the Russian forces out, thereto we found a lot of dead bodies. Here's what we saw.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Careful, just move, move. Move from the north.

PLEITGEN (voice over): It's like a scene from the Gates of Hell. The dead lay strewn across this highway west of Kyiv, some still next to the wreckage of their vehicles as the dogs roam around looking to scavenge. This is what Russian forces left behind when they retreated from here.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They organized ambush over there, where we're going right now.


JEANINE NESVIK: Olexander Ratsihovsky (ph) tells me these were civilians, gunned down from this position where the Russians had placed a tank.


OLEXANDER RATSIHOVSKY: And you can see it's actually building a shooting zone, you see?

PLEITGEN (off camera): Yes.

RATSIHOVSKY: And this cars look, they sort of in line. There's no cars here because they will not let them come. They just showed as soon as they approach.


PLEITGEN (voice over): The Russian government denies targeting civilians. They call such allegations 'fake and propaganda'. But Olexander is part of a drone unit and they filmed one incident.

It was March 7th when the Russians were still in full control of this area and a group of cars was driving down the highway. They turned around after apparently taking fire from the tank position. This car stops and the driver gets out, then this.


RATSIHOVSKY: He's raised his head above his head and in this moment he shoot by on displace (ph).


PLEITGEN (voice over): Two people were killed that day, Maxim Eyuvenko (ph) and his wife Senia (ph) who was also sitting in the vehicle. The family has confirmed the identities to CNN.

After the incident, the drone filmed Russian troops getting two further people out of the car and taking them away. It was the couple's six-year-old son and a family friend traveling with them the relatives confirmed. Both were later released by the Russians. The soldiers then search Maxim's body and drag him away.

This incident both traumatizing and motivating for Olexander's drone unit.


RATSIHOVSKY: In normal life before the war, we were civilians who liked to fly drones around casually and just like make a nice video, YouTube videos. But when the war began, we become actually vital part of the resistance.


PLEITGEN (voice over): Olexander sent us hours of video showing his team scoping out Russian vehicles, even finding them when they're hidden and almost impossible to spot and then helping the Ukrainians hit them.


RATSIHOVSKY: We are eyes. We're called eyes, because with eyes you can see and you can report. And as soon as you see, you can conduct strikes artillery, airstrikes. PLEITGEN (off camera): How long does it take to get your information

to the right places to then be able to act on the intelligence that you provide?

RATSIHOVSKY: In good time, it's about a matter of minutes.


PLEITGEN (voice over): And sometimes a little mosquito can take out a whole herd of elephants. This is drone footage of Olexander's unit searching for a massive column of Russian tanks and armored vehicles and this is that column after the drones founded.

Olexander tells me, units like his played a major role fending off Russian troops, despite the Ukrainians being vastly outgunned.


RATSIHOVSKY: We are agile as a total offense. We can - oh, we don't want to, just like it's a suicide (inaudible) to go, but the army, they have to stay, they're order to stay, they stay. They're dying, but they stay and they're holding place in the ground.


PLEITGEN (voice over): Nobody knows how many Russians died here, but the group says it was many, taken out with the help of a band of amateur drone pilots looking to defend their homeland.


PLEITGEN (on camera): And it was so interesting to meet these drone pilots. One of the things that they told us is that while they were scoping out those Russian tanks, they sort of felt like the Russians were fighting a 20th century war. But they were fighting a 21st century war with their little drones sneaking up on the Russians and then giving through their positions.

Of course, one of the things that also helped the Ukrainians on the ground there as well when they were able to attack was those weapons that the U.S. and some of the U.S. allies sent as well. Erin?

BURNETT: All right. Fred, thank you very much.

And I want to go now to the Ukrainian Ambassador to the United States, Oksana Markarova. And Ambassador, I very much appreciate your time. We just saw in Fred's piece some of the horrors that we are seeing now in town after town, including the town of Bucha where there seems to have been such incredible numbers of civilians killed. Do you expect that we will see more towns where the death is the scale of what we've seen in Bucha?

OKSANA MARKAROVA, UKRAINIAN AMBASSADOR TO THE UNITED STATES: Thank you, Erin, for having me here. And thank you for spreading the true information which is so important in this war.


Unfortunately, yes. Unfortunately, as much as the scenes that we see from Bucha, Vorzel, Irpin, Borodyanka and all the towns and villages to the north of Kyiv are colorific and it's very difficult to find a war crime Russians did not commit their from killing civilians, leaving the bodies on the streets, to tortures, rapes. I mean, it's painful to even watch or discuss it, especially painful for me because that's where I'm from. And so many people in so many streets that I see now on these pictures are the streets that I took my kids to school to.

But unfortunately, this is just one very, very small part of every war crimes that happen in Ukraine right now. Because Mariupol, a city of the size of Tampa, Florida is under siege and encircled completely by Russians for the past 20 days without food, water, been shelled at, being shot. People are abducted there.

So unfortunately, it's everywhere in Ukraine now. And as much as Russian would like this to become something of the ordinary, everyday we read about the cities somewhere in western Ukraine, central Ukraine, everywhere have been hit by missiles, but also this horrible atrocities on the ground where they temporarily occupied the territories.

BURNETT: So, I mean, it's just - it is unbelievable to hear you talk about that you took your kids to school on those streets and what it's like to see them now. I want to ask you, Ambassador, about a couple of things. Mariupol, you mentioned is one of them.

The other is the new video that we just got in literally before you and I spoke at the top of the hour, it is of trenches that were dug by Russian forces and they dug those trenches in the most highly radioactive contaminated forest around Chernobyl called the Red Forest. That they came in there, we see tracks from their tanks, trenches that they dug in this area that could have caused - who knows what happened to these soldiers, we don't know what they have suffered as a result of doing this. How do you think that this could have happened?

MARKAROVA: Well, the Chernobyl tragedy is something that Ukrainians are very, very mindful about. It's when Ukrainian suffered the most not only Ukrainians, but Ukrainian mostly and it was one of the crimes of the Soviet regime which is a predecessor of this Russian regime that we're dealing with right now, where not only the catastrophe in Chernobyl happened, but also the authorities lied to people about it.

People - I'm one of the children who marched for days after at the demonstration, because nobody was told, actually, children were forced to even be out to be affected. And we've spent so many years together with our European and American partners covering it and protecting the site and doing this new confinement so that actually it's not a threat to anyone anymore. And especially we're very careful not to disturb the ground and carefully working where only it was possible.

And it just shows the little respect for life that Russians are showing everywhere in Ukraine, even to their own soldiers. I mean, how - I don't even know how to say it, how cruel or stupid you have to be to tell your own soldiers to dig in the radiation place where they knew it's not allowed to do so, so ...

BURNETT: It's I believe. It's unbelievable that it occurred. And I wanted to ask you about Mariupol because you mentioned the horrors happening there. The mayor there calls it a new Auschwitz. There are also, Ambassador, reports of mobile crematoriums that the Russians may be using to hide the death.

So the world does not see what that they have done in Mariupol where the numbers of dead that one has any idea. These numbers could be unbelievably high. We simply do not know. We do know hundreds of thousands of people live there as you point out, a city that was the size of Tampa. Do you have any clear picture of how bad things are in Mariupol right now?

MARKAROVA: Well, it's very bad. Again, 20 days without food, water, any supplies, 20 days been constantly under fire, we have this report from the local authorities in Mariupol about the crematoriums. We also see that they're trying to erase the cities from the earth. So they are bombing indiscreetly, specifically targeting all the areas not only in Mariupol but specifically in Mariupol, but also in Kharkiv and other places, essentially trying to kill, exterminate all the Ukrainians, but also eliminate, hide the evidence. So it's really horrible pictures.

But one of the things you ask, how it is possible that they dug Chernobyl zone ...


... but one of the other things that I think shocked everybody in Ukraine is that when the troops were retreating from the Kyiv (inaudible) to the north to Belarus and they - when they were fleeing, they looted Ukrainian houses, and they took out to Belarus truckloads of goods stolen from Ukrainian houses while leaving their soldiers and even their officers on the ground.

And they use postal offices in Belarus to send this to their families, this stolen goods, even the personal things from the people they murdered. I mean, what kind of people do that?

BURNETT: Ambassador, thank you so much for your time.

MARKAROVA: Thank you. Thank you very much.

BURNETT: And next, U.S. officials believe Putin may not be giving up on Kyiv, that he could try to re-invade the capital if he can tighten his grip on the east. So does Putin actually have the manpower at this point to succeed at that? My next guest says no and he's going to show us why.

And then who is Alina Kabaeva? Questions are growing tonight over why she hasn't been sanctioned yet.

And as Ukrainians head to Poland, schools there are stretched thin, hospitals overflowing. Putin hoping to talk that up as a win, we'll explain.



BURNETT: Tonight, racing to resupply. A senior U.S. defense official says Russian troops have completely withdrawn from Kyiv. But they are now regrouping in Belarus and Russia and preparing for a concentrated second attack in eastern Ukraine.


OUTFRONT now Phil O'Brien, Professor of Strategic Studies at the University of St. Andrews who has been tracking Russian troop movements and retired Air Force Colonel Cedric Leighton. Great to have both of you with me.

Professor O'Brien, I have been following your work here now for, obviously, a well over a month and I want to show everyone what it looked like just a week ago in northern Ukraine near Kyiv. You see all the red lines and now I'll show you what it looks like now. And everyone can see the Russian withdrawal, totally in the north.

But these are defeated troops. Some have spent weeks living under their tanks or in some places we've seen them in places with no heat, and water, and electricity, file cabinets jammed against the door. They've taken incredible losses as well in their battalion groups. And these troops are now, Professor, redeploying?

PHIL O'BRIEN, PROFESSOR OF STRATEGIC STUDIES, UNIVERSITY OF ST. ANDREWS: Well, the part of the problem that the soldiers are not commodities that you can simply put on one shelf, put on a truck and then move to another shelf. These are human beings that have spent five weeks in some of the worst conditions a human being can be in. They have been in quite constant contact with the enemy or fear that the enemy might attack and they've been defeated and while they've been defeated, they've lost a huge amount of their equipment.

So they've now been pulled out after losing the battle of Kyiv. The plan for the Russians now is to move the great majority of them, if possible, around the front to eastern Ukraine to fight in the Donbas. But these troops are going to have to be rested before this. I mean, if the Russian send them quickly, that's a sign that the Russians are panicking and that they feel they have to get whatever they can into the Donbas as soon as possible because they're worried about the situation there. Any rational army would allow these soldiers time to rest, regroup and be re equipped.

BURNETT: And this is the crucial question, I want to get to the equipment in a moment, but Col. Leighton, they need time and yet a lot of the forces that were in the north, let's be clear, these were some of the most elite Russian forces. These were the highly trained professional soldiers that were supposed to know what they were doing, their best fighters.

And Ukrainian troops have released new numbers today saying about 18,600 of those Russian soldiers have been killed. Now, this is - what is this math mean? By the way, this matches with other numbers we're getting, so it may not be exact, but it is not some astronomically inflated number that does not appear to be that way at all. What does this map this kind of loss, Colonel, mean for an upcoming Russian assault on the east?

COL. CEDRIC LEIGHTON (RET.), CNN MILITARY ANALYST: Well, Erin, it means like about 10 percent of the forces have died. I mean, that's incredible. Casualty rates of that type are absolutely unsustainable. I don't care which army you are and that's a huge problem for the Russians, that doesn't count people who have been captured, soldiers who've been captured or soldiers who are wounded and otherwise out of commission.

So the Russians are going to have a major personnel crisis on their hands and I don't see them replenishing those forces with forces from other areas, insignificant enough numbers to overcome this deficit that they have.

BURNETT: And Professor O'Brien, you mentioned equipment. So all these pictures, the piece that Fred just did a few moments ago, where you saw the destruction, I talked to a drone captain. He said, literally, our job was to fly our drone up, find out where their equipment is and then they just go in and take out one after the other. And now we see this equipment, littering the streets.

These are completely destroyed. As of today, Ukraine says when you actually look at the numbers, Russia has lost 684 tanks. And you've done the numbers, Professor. You say that is half of the tanks they went to Ukraine with. They've lost 50 percent of their tanks. I mean, that is - I can't even comprehend such a thing, 150 aircraft lost, 135 helicopters lost, more than 1,800 armored personnel vehicles lost. Put this in context, Professor, in terms of what Russia's fighting capability is after that sort of loss?

O'BRIEN: Well, I mean, these are actually unprecedented in a post World War II period and in many ways the unprecedented losses in World War II. To lose so many - so much of your equipment in such a short period of time puts an extraordinary strain on your supply system, too.

I mean, again, soldiers need to be provided with a whole range of equipment if they're going to be able to do the job that they're going to be asked and we have some really interesting estimates at the moment. I don't want to be too mathematical and too boring about it. But the Russians fight in what are called battalion tactical groups. They went in with 130 of them, each one has about 10.

What we heard today from a Western intelligence briefing is that 39 of those became combat ineffective.


So that's a huge number of the battalion tactical groups that they went in, were considered now combat ineffective. They're having to break them down and recombine them. That's what we mean that they are actually the original force is going to break down. The longer it's in combat, the more it sustains these losses. Any talk of it, by the way, of going back to Kyiv is fanciful. They'll be lucky if they can set up a defendable perimeter in the Donbas and hold on.

BURNETT: I mean, it is incredibly you're talking about a quarter there of the battalion tactical groups. And, again, those are some of their most highly trained and prepared forces.

Colonel, so U.S. and Western officials, though, do say Putin hasn't given up on capturing Kyiv. You hear the professor saying that that's fanciful. But they say that Putin still has this goal of trying to reinvade Kyiv and removing Zelenskyy if they can consolidate control over the east. It's the if that is so crucial.

You look at this map and I don't think it's in the weeds at all, Professor, because I think this is what it comes down to when you're talking to military strategy. Colonel, do you think it's possible?

LEIGHTON: Well, I think it's possible only if they use a weapon of mass destruction of some type. And that, of course, would be a disaster. I think that the way in which the Russian forces have treated this, as we say in the military, is something that is, as the professor mentioned, completely unsustainable.

It is completely inconceivable actually that a unit of this type or units of these types like the battalion tactical groups can reconstitute themselves in time to have a meaningful assault on any place, let alone Kyiv, in the not too distant future. And we know that they're looking at May 9th as their deadline to do this. If they do this, they're going to have to do something really drastic in order to get to that point.

BURNETT: All right. It's a sobering way to end this conversation. Thank you both very much. I appreciate it.

O'BRIEN: Thank you.

LEIGHTON: You bet, Erin.

BURNETT: And next to U.S. sanctioning Putin's daughters. What do we know about them?

Plus, a car crushed by a Russian tank with the driver still inside, another person killed on the right. I'm going to talk to a journalist who just traveled and witnessed the horrors of Putin's war in those suburbs in Kyiv.



BURNETT: The United States for the first time is targeting Vladimir Putin's daughters. The Biden administration today announcing it has sanctioned Putin's two adult daughters from his previous marriage -- Katerina Tikhonova, who is on the left, and Maria Putina.

Also hit with sanctions, the wife and daughter of top Putin ally, Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov.

OUTFRONT now, Alina Polyakova. She is a Russian foreign affairs expert who leads the Center for European Policy Analysis.

And, Alina, I appreciate your time because you know more about these individuals and others like them than anyone. I know the sanctions against Putin's daughters in many ways are largely symbolic. You know, their assets are in many ways hidden.

How do you think Putin will react to a move like this? A move that was held back and is now being unleashed for a certain reason now.

ALINA POLYAKOVA, RUSSIAN FOREIGN AFFAIRS EXPERT: Well, certainly, this is very much about making the war personal for Putin. There's no question about that. As you said, it's unlikely the sanctions will truly and profoundly affect Putin's wealth or financial circumstances.

But Putin has been always a very private person. We know very little about his daughters, Maria and Katerina. He's only mentioned them once in public. Their lives are very much shrouded in secrecy.

So, this is very much a calling out of Putin as being personally responsible for the war. And that means that those around him, the people closest to him, are, in fact, enablers. That's the message of the sanctions in my view. It's going to hit Putin where it hurts, his family.

BURNETT: Well, and, also, you know, it's putting their faces and their names out there. As you point out, in a way that he has -- he has categorically refused to do. He doesn't talk about them.

We could really find two times in history, entire history of Vladimir Putin where publicly he ever mentioned them. Here is one of them in 2015.


VLADIMIR PUTIN, RUSSIAN PRESIDENT (through translator): I never discuss questions related to my family. They have never been star children and have never enjoyed being in the spotlight. They simply live their lives and do it with great dignity.


BURNETT: They have never been star children, but they live their lives with great dignity.

What else do you know about his daughters, his adult daughters?

POLYAKOVA: Well, again, we know that they spent some time abroad. Reportedly, Putin's ex-wife, Lyudmila, still resides in the Netherlands herself. At some point, before they lived with their mother, we assumed they attended school somewhere abroad as well at some point. At some point, they returned to Russia. Their husbands, as far as we know, are also sons of various oligarchs, trying to keep the wealth in the family. One of them leads some kind of oncology institute for supposedly

mostly private. Another runs an AI institute. But, most likely, both of them have those positions as a way for Mr. Putin and the Russian government to funnel what is likely a very absurd annual income to both of them to make sure they are secure and safe. Besides that, there's very little that we know out in the open about both of them.

BURNETT: Which is incredible. I mean, the only other time, he talked to Oliver Stone about them and said they are into science and education. Doesn't have time to spend with them.

Maria Pevchikh is the head of Alexei Navalny's Anti-Corruption Foundation. Of course, you know here, and she told me one big name is missing from this sort of deeply personal inner sanctions, inner list of Putin not on the sanctions list. That's Alina Kabaeva, a former Olympic gymnast turned chairman of the board of Russia's National Media Group, quite an ascendancy.

The country's largest media company is the National Media Group, stakes in put multiple channels, including Channel 1, which is the main state television channel in Russia.


So, I also want to point out here in this context, Alina, that her bio and her photo suddenly disappear from the group's website. What do you think about her? And do you think it's time to sanction Alina Kabaeva and why?

POLYAKOVA: Well, certainly, if Putin's adult daughters live a life of secrecy, Alina Kabaeva has been kept really like a state secret from the media from everyone else. Reportedly, in her role as leading this media group, she makes something around $11 million a year, quite significant. There's reports that she lives in Switzerland with four of Putin's children, supposedly two boys and a set of twin girls that were born in Switzerland, presumably has Swiss passports. Presumably, she does as well.

But Putin, you know, as a former KGB agents, he sees close ties and personal connection as a deep and potential vulnerability, which is why he is likely hiding her. She's his closest person. Not his ex-wife at this wife. He is keeping her protected because he knows she can be used as leverage against him.

So, certainly, this in my view is absolutely the time to hit Putin where it hurts. What he fears the most, where he sees his vulnerability, the war in Ukraine is absolutely brutal and it's, frankly, absurd that, you know, his closest partner, the mother of potentially four of his children is getting to live a luxurious life in Switzerland. That just doesn't make sense.

BURNETT: No, it doesn't. And it really begs the question as to what -- what specifically the U.S., UK, others are waiting for as they know that information as well. Thank you so much. I appreciate your time and expertise.

POLYAKOVA: It was my pleasure. Thank you.

BURNETT: And next, I'm going to talk to a journalist who saw the horrors of the war outside Kyiv. But he found a glimmer of hope. People trapped under the rubble for three weeks, trapped, completely trapped, surviving on food able to be passed in from strangers.

And then, overcrowded schools after a surge of Ukrainian refugees, how it's playing into Putin's hands tonight.



BURNETT: Dramatic new images into CNN shared by a photojournalist in Ukraine showing the horrors on the ground in Bucha. This is graphic video. A car crushed by a Russian tank, the driver is inside. And this man killed riding his bike.

Some of the victims' bodies wrapped in plastic, placed in makeshift graves.

OUTFRONT tonight, Oleksandr Khomenko, a Ukrainian photojournalist who has been reporting from Bucha, Borodianka and Irpin this week.

And, Oleksandr, I am grateful for your time.

I know you were in Irpin today, which was recently liberated from Russian troops. And you sent us some incredibly graphic images of what you saw there. One of them, a picture of a man clearly in civilian clothes lying face down in the street. Tell me about this.

OLEKSANDR KHOMENKO, PHOTOJOURNALIST, HROMADSKE, A UKRAINIAN NEWS OUTLET (through translator): This man is a middle-aged man. His face can not be seen because he is lying face down. He is clothed, slightly lowered. Sorry for the graphic detail.

His trousers are pulled down. His t-shirt is raised a bit so we can see the middle of his body. The body had begun to decompose.

Judging by the clothes, he was a civilian, very clearly. He is either from Irpin or from Bucha or from any of the adjacent villages.

He was killed as he was crossing the street or passing by. And he was either killed by accident or deliberately, we cannot tell. But, yeah, he was murdered.

BURNETT: Okay. So, there are some images, Oleksandr, you took in Borodianka that also just -- you know, are hard to see but are crucial to see -- just the remnants of people's lives.

You saw a doll on a pile of rubble in a collapsed building. You can see that doll lying there. It was a little girl's doll not long ago. The keys -- keys right next to it to someone's home perhaps.

A Polaroid photo of two people looking carefree and happy you filmed. A children's book. You saw all of these things. Did you see any signs of people who these items belonged to?

KHOMENKO: I'll start by saying that Borodianka is almost 80 percent destroyed. There isn't a single building there that is whole. Some are completely ruined, completely destroyed.

And some buildings were destroyed right on day one of the aggression by a bomber jet. There were three buildings destroyed this way. It was destroyed -- they were destroyed purposefully by a fighter jet dropping bombs on them, on the three buildings.

These photos are from those three buildings. It is not possible, because they are completely ruined, it isn't possible to see any evidence of where these photos come from, who they belong to. But I do know from the locals, local people told me in one of the buildings, one of the piles of rubble, there were people who were still alive. And the locals fed them for 20 days.

BURNETT: But they were pulled out alive, to be clear? They were alive?

KHOMENKO: Yes, they were alive (ph).

BURNETT: OK. Well, Oleksander, I know -- I guess a small ray of hope amid so much loss. A miracle there that they survived.

Thank you so much for sharing your images and your experiences with us.


Heartbreaking images of what you are seeing in your country. Thank you.

KHOMENKO: Thank you.

BURNETT: And next, hospitals and schools in Poland are now packed with Ukrainian refugees. You have seen this. Now why it's all part of Putin's playbook.

Plus, a crucial source that helps to supply water for more than 40 million people in serious danger. Our Bill Weir with a special investigation.



BURNETT: Pope Francis unfurling a Ukrainian flag at the Vatican today, inviting a group of young Ukrainian refugees to stand with him as he implored the world to, quote, not forget the Ukrainian people.

It comes as the Polish president tells CNN his country needs international support badly, as Poland copes with nearly 2 million Ukrainian refugees.

Kyung Lah is OUTFRONT in Warsaw, but Poland's generosity is being exploited by Vladimir Putin.



KYUNG LAH, CNN SENIOR CORRESPONDENT: Poland is already waging a war with Russia. It's not the kind you imagine. Nearly 2.5 million Ukrainian refugees have crossed into the safety of Poland, as war ravages their country, packing Poland's arenas, lining up for government benefits and sending their children to public schools.

These innocent faces are part of Vladimir Putin's war of mass migration.

LT. COL. ALEXANDER VINDMAN (RET), U.S. ARMY: It's kind of a callousness that we just don't understand here.

LAH: Retired Army Lieutenant Colonel Alexander Vindman is known as a crucial witness in former Trump's first impeachment proceedings, but he was also a child refugee from Ukraine. His family moved to the U.S. in 1979.

VINDMAN: Refugees have been a weapon for a long time. Russia has used refugees as weapon for years.

LAH: How do you deploy refugees as weapons?

VINDMAN: You bomb cities and those cities result in civilian populations, women and children in particular.

LAH: What is the theory behind that?

VINDMAN: Well, they're weaponized just by having the mere fact that these are large numbers of people flown into a country that is not prepared to handle refugee camps that have to now spend funds of those refugees.

LAH: The alleged goal, destabilize Poland, a NATO country, from within. But that hasn't happened yet.

VINDMAN: Poland was having mixed regards to their democratic activities and democratic backsliding has actually gone back to its roots. It's been extremely welcoming to the Ukrainian population, welcoming Ukrainians into their homes as members of the family. That's to Putin probably unexpected.

LAH: But Warsaw's mayor says the pressure on his country grows by the day.

RAFAL TRZASKOWSKI, MAYOR OF WARSAW: Putin wants to destabilize Europe and the whole western world. I mean, he miscalculated because he thought he was going to divide the Ukraine society, he lost. He wanted to divide us and the West. He lost.

We are also waging a war against this effort to destabilize us, and we have to prove to him that we stand united, that we share the burden. LAH: We're just so thankful to Poland, says Marina Leslek (ph),

something we hear again and again from Ukrainians. Nearly six weeks into this war, they hope that goodwill lasts.


LAH (on camera): So far there isn't an outward sign in any shift or break in that solidarity, but remember, we're just six weeks into this war. What the leaders here in Poland are telling us, Erin, if they can't keep up with city services, they can't keep people here in Poland living life as they're accustomed to, then that's when they're really going to start to see a shift in attitude -- Erin.

BURNETT: All right. Kyung, thank you very much.

And next, 40 million people across seven states and Mexico partly rely on this reservoir you're looking at for water, but it's running dry. Bill Weir reports next.



BURNETT: Tonight, running dry. The urgency of the climate crisis laid bear as water levels plummet in a lake that partially supplies water to more than 40 million people across seven American states. It hits close to home for a growing number of Americans as severe weather continues to sweep the country.

Bill Weir is out front.


BILL WEIR, CNN CHIEF CLIMATE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Just a couple weeks ago, this part of Lake Powell was pretty enough to put in a brochure. But today, there is no water, only sand.

Can't paddle around Lone Rock anymore.

If you haven't been out west in a while, haven't seen the state of the Colorado River and its reservoirs, you would be shocked.

This is what Powell looked like just last spring, when you could float around Lone Rock. But the satellite shows it losing island status as the lake level fell over 40 feet.

And the lake used to go -- used to go half a mile around the corner and now it starts way back here. I cannot believe this.

While hurricanes, floods and wildfires with upend your life in a moment, droughts are slow motion disasters and this one is now in its 23rd year. With the region's population booming and another winter without enough snow, there are no signs of relief.

But when you're houseboating on what's left of Lake Powell, it's still gorgeous. It's still easy to forget just since the mid-'80s, the water levels have dropped 177 feet. That's like ten of these yachts stacked on top of each other.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is the temporary, gets us access to the marina.

WEIR: So the tourism industry has no choice but to adapt, making ramps longer as the lake gets lower.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This was connected straight up there. So --

WEIR: At one point, you would have been high enough that would have been a straight angle.


WEIR: This is not a decade or two. This is a year or two it's dropped.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yeah, this is within two or three years.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If it continues to go down another 10, 15 feet, we might have to shutdown.

WEIR: For Max Lapekas, the changing canyons means more people eager to explore them in his rental kayaks and paddle boards, but not enough safe places to put them in. And he knows the big picture, 40 million people and their animals and crops in seven states and Mexico depend on Colorado River water not to re-create but to live.

MAX LAPEKAS, CO-OWNER, LAKE POWELL PADDLEBOARD AND KAYAK: Manmade climate change I do believe is a thing to a certain extent, but I do believe the Earth goes through cycles, and this could just be another cycle. But I don't see any good evidence of it getting any better anytime soon.

WEIR: In a first of its time Gallup poll, one in three Americans say they've been personally affected by weather in the past two years. And for those who have, regardless of party, they are much more likely to say the climate crisis demands action.

But only 3 percent say they've experienced drought. This may be because for most, tap water keeps flowing, and here house boaters keep coming.

What do you say to someone who sees this as proof, alarming proof of sort of a manmade climate crisis?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Some of it is manmade, there's no doubt about it. You've got more users using the water out of the Colorado River. You've got more of everything than you had 50 years ago. It's that simple.

WEIR: Would you label your business a victim of drought?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We've had to change the way obviously the way we do a lot of things. At this point, I would not say we're a victim. I would say we're an adapter.

WEIR: And from now on it seems, anyone who wants to live in the American southwest will have to be an adapter.


WEIR (on camera): Science says this is the worst drought in 1,200 years, Erin. And there's no telling if it could last another decade or so. So adapting means learning to live with a lot less water. In Vegas, they're paying people to tear up their lawns. California's governor urging people to voluntarily ration water. And, meanwhile, they're bracing for up to 4 million visitors here this summer, fighting for space on that shrinking Lake Powell -- Erin.

BURNETT: Four million people on that space, wow, it's amazing. Yeah, I think just over the past few years, the different images in our heads.

Thanks very much, Bill. Amazing report. Thanks.

And thanks to all of you for watching.

"AC360" starts now.