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Erin Burnett Outfront
New Video Shows Dozens Of Russian Vehicles Nearing Donbas; Sources: U.S. Believes Putin May Increase Efforts To Interfere In U.S. Elections Over Support For Ukraine; Ukraine's Top Commander: Heavy Fighting Underway In Mariupol; Zelenskyy: Tens Of Thousands Killed In The City; White House Warns More "Atrocities" Expected Under New Russian General; Shanghai Residents Fight Over Food, Blankets Amid Lockdown. Aired 7-8p ET
Aired April 11, 2022 - 19:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
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WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: Very beautiful indeed. Thanks for doing that, Julian. I'll be back in half an hour in our new streaming service CNN Plus with my new show called The Newscast.
"ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT" starts right now.
ERIN BURNETT, CNN HOST: OUTFRONT next, new pictures of Russian tanks and troops on the move tonight headed toward Ukraine as Zelenskyy warns tonight that Putin could soon use chemical weapons.
Plus, Putin's new general working with the Wagner Group that's dubbed Putin's private army. My guest tonight warns what's next will be brutal for civilians.
And Shanghai shut down, what's it like to live in one of the world's biggest, richest cities and not know where your next meal will come from? Our reporter is there inside that lockdown. Let's go OUTFRONT.
And good evening. I'm Erin Burnett.
OUTFRONT tonight the breaking news, Russia flooding Ukraine with more tanks and artillery. These are new pictures tonight of Russian military vehicles as far as the eye can see. Just look at this, driving the other way and they're coming one after another, after another. Right now they are just about 15 miles away from the Donbas region of Ukraine.
Ominous images as Zelenskyy warns tonight that Russian forces could soon use chemical weapons, saying they take this threat in Ukraine seriously now. While the offense continues, Ukraine's top commander says there is still heavy fighting in Mariupol. In Kharkiv, Russian forces have launched more than 60 attacks.
According to the Pentagon, this is just the beginning of a full-scale assault.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) JOHN KIRBY, PENTAGON PRESS SECRETARY: I think, sadly, we can all
expect that those same brutal tactics, that same disregard for civilian life and civilian infrastructure will probably continue as they now focus in a more geographically confined area in the Donbas.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: This focus in the Donbas is why Zelenskyy is pleading with the West to help Ukrainian forces on the battlefield by sending more weapons. The reality is Putin is going all in with what he has left. He has now named a new commander to lead his invasion, Gen. Alexander Dvornikov, a man known as the Butcher of Syria, thanks to his strategy of destroying hospitals, water supplies and targeting civilians in serious, brutal war.
In a moment, we're going to have more on Putin's new general. His appointment comes as Putin held his first face-to-face meeting with a European leader. He sat down with the Austrian Chancellor Karl Nehammer.
Afterwards, Nehammer said the sit down was not a friendly visit. He said he wasn't optimistic after the meeting. He said Putin point blank defy reality. He said Putin said Ukraine was responsible for the civilian killings in Bucha.
And it is clear that Putin's view of the war is now far from being about Ukraine, if it ever was, just listen to what his inner circle parroted today.
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SERGEI LAVROV, RUSSIAN FOREIGN MINISTER (through interpreter): Our special military operation is aimed at bringing an end to the reckless expansion and the reckless striving for domination of the United States and other Western countries under their influence on a global stage.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: Sergei Lavrov, the Foreign Minister said it, this war is about the United States apparently now. Fred Pleitgen is OUTFRONT live in Kyiv. Natasha Bertrand is in Washington where officials are bracing for Putin to turn his attention to the U.S. I want to begin with Fred in Ukraine. And Fred, what is the latest on the ground where you are?
FRED PLEITGEN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Hi there, Erin. Well, one of the things that the people here certainly are bracing for is that this war is shifting into a new phase. Of course, you saw some of those and you showed some of those images of those Russian forces going towards the Donbas region. No one here in Kyiv, either is under any sort of illusion that this could be over or heading for a longer term haul.
Nevertheless, in this region here, what you do have is you have the people here and the authorities here picking up the pieces. And I think they're finding, especially in the area to the north of the city, that the destruction is on a much larger scale than anybody would have thought. We traveled around this region and we found so many traumatized people who, obviously, witnessed terrible things while they were under that Russian occupation and still the authorities are finding dead bodies on mass. And we do have to warn our viewers that what you're about to see is very graphic and very disturbing.
PLEITGEN (voice over): The tour is a sad routine for the body collectors in the outskirts of Kyiv. Finding corpses has become eerily normal here.
A house destroyed by an artillery strike, a body burned beyond recognition.
A mangled car wreck, two bodies burned beyond recognition.
A house that was occupied by Russian troops, an elderly lady dead in the bedroom.
These bodies evidence of a brutal Russian occupation and then a fierce fight by the underdog Ukrainians to drive them out.
A fight 81-year-old Katarina Varashvoletz (ph) witnessed up close in her village.
"There were explosions. Explosions from all sides. It was scary," she tells me. "I am in my house. I cross myself and lie down and then I hear how it thundered and all the windows in the house were broken."
The Ukrainians tell us the Russian troops didn't even bother collecting most of their own dead. More than a week after Vladimir Putin's army was pushed out of here, they showed us the body of what they say was a Russian soldier still laying in the woods.
And that's not all they've left behind, this demining unit says they found hundreds of tons of unexploded ordnance in just a matter of days, including cluster munitions like this bomblet, even though the Russians deny using them.
"These weapons are extremely dangerous for civilians who might accidentally touch them," the commander says. "There are about 50 such elements in one bomb," he says. "This is a high explosive fragmentation bomb to kill people designed just to kill people."
They blow up the cluster bomblet on the spot and then move the heavier bombs to a different location for a massive controlled explosion.
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UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (Foreign language).
(END VIDEO CLIP) PLEITGEN (voice over): The body collecting, the mind-sweeping and the
clearing up of wreckage are just starting in this area. And yet this pile of demolished vehicles, both military and civilian already towers in the key of suburb of Irpin.
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PLEITGEN (on camera): If you had to picture Russia's attempt to try and take the Ukrainian capital Kyiv, it would probably look a lot like this. Destruction on a massive scale and absolutely nothing to show for it. Russia's military was humiliated by the Ukrainians and caused a lot of harm in the process.
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PLEITGEN (voice over): And they've devastated scores of families. At Irpin's cemetery, the newly widowed weep at funerals for the fallen.
Ala Krutkiv (ph), her husband Ihor (ph) fought alongside their 21- year-old son in Irpin and died in his arms on the battlefield. Yulia Ishkutina (ph), wife of Dymitro Pasko (ph) killed by a Russian mortar shell. And Tetyana Blisniuk (ph), her husband Olexander Lytkina (ph) promised her he'd come back in a few hours, but was killed defending this neighborhood.
"I'm very proud of them," Tetyana says. "He's a hero. We have many people in Ukraine who have not fled and are defending their homes." Sasha (ph) died just 200 meters from our house where we live.
Laying the dead to rest, another sad task, they'd become all too efficient at performing in this area. Close by, the next funeral is already underway.
PLEITGEN (on camera): And Erin, as you can see, there's obviously a lot of sadness, a lot of anger among the people here in the Kyiv region. But one thing that we need to point out is that there is also a great deal of resilience as well.
And one of the things that we've been seeing, which certainly is a positive sign here for this country, and for this city, is that there are actually a lot of people who are already returning from being in the west of the country and being abroad to this city. And what we saw today was areas that had been completely empty for a long period of time now even had children playing on playground is a sign that life is coming back, Erin.
BURNETT: All right. Thank you very much, Fred. And this comes as U.S. officials now say Putin may retaliate against the United States for supporting Ukraine. Natasha Bertrand broke this story. So Natasha, what more are you learning?
NATASHA BERTRAND, CNN WHITE HOUSE REPORTER: Yes, Erin. So what U.S. officials are telling us is that Putin's risk tolerance here has gone up dramatically. And that is because Russia has essentially been backed into a corner here. They're isolated from the international community. They have been losing the war in Ukraine and they are angry, and Putin may lash out as a result.
And what they're saying is that that could manifest in him targeting U.S. elections. Of course, he doesn't exactly need an excuse to do that. He did that in 2016 and 2020, but what they're saying now is that his actions that he orders could actually be even more aggressive than we have seen in the past and that includes potentially targeting election infrastructure itself.
Now, of course, there is no direct intelligence right now. We are told that Putin has actually made a decision to interfere in the elections, of course, the midterm elections could be one of his targets here. But it just goes to show that the U.S. intelligence community really is bracing for any possible action that Putin might take here because of how he wants to retaliate against the West and the American elections might be a prime target for him, Erin.
BURNETT: All right. Thank you very much, Natasha, with that breaking news.
I want to go now to retired Lieutenant General Mark Hertling, the former Army commanding general for Europe and the 7th Army and Steve Hall former CIA Chief of Russia operations.
So Steve, let me start with you. You here Natasha that U.S. believes Putin may be willing to take more aggressive action against the United States. You heard her words that his risk tolerance is up dramatically why now and how serious is this?
STEVE HALL, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: Yeah, you're taking that sort of point by point, so I think the most alarming thing that I hear with Natasha's reporting is the risk tolerance piece of this.
HALL: I think there was no doubt that most of us understood that as things continue to go poorly for Putin, that he was going to become less predictable, compounding that problem as this reporting that we've heard that he continues to be isolated and is not hearing everything, all the bad stuff that's happening, but clearly he understands things aren't going well. So yeah, that has increased sort of the question mark over what are the plans and intentions of the Kremlin.
The reporting about targeting us midterm elections is really fascinating and you have to ask yourself sort of, well, what's the point, why, they were very successful doing this before in 2016. The goal there was not only to increase the likelihood of the candidate that they like, Donald Trump, but it was also primarily to divide the West, to divide the United States, something that they have successfully done.
So what are they after at this point? Do they want to get some Congress seats? Do they want to get senators? Do they want to continue to divide because this is an issue where there actually is considerable - certainly for the times that we're in now, bipartisan support against Putin's war in Ukraine.
So that's a really interesting piece of intelligence. I'll be curious to see what happens. Cyber-wise, we're definitely still very vulnerable, setting aside the elections piece though.
BURNETT: Right. Absolutely and an important point. But it's the same - hear the same words that you hear, risk tolerance up dramatically in the context of an isolated dictator autocrat with 6,000 nuclear warheads is something that everybody takes pause when they hear.
Gen. Hertling, Putin has now appointed a new general to lead his war. There's that eight mile long Russian convoy headed to the Donbas that I briefly showed. Is this war about to change, General?
MARK HERTLING, CNN MILITARY ANALYST: Erin, it's going to be much tougher, for sure. We've known this is coming. The appointment of Gen. Dvornikov, the butcher, as you stated earlier, an interesting dynamic there. He's been given orders to have this mission completed by the ninth of May. I personally don't think he's going to be able to do this.
This is a guy, as you pointed out, he fought in Chechnya, he fought in - he was the commander of the Russian forces in Syria. He certainly has the reputation and the career experiences in the Russian army.
But I'd suggest there are no military skills required to kill civilians and that's what he's going to attempt to do. He's going to continue with the scorched earth or scorched earth policy. But there's good news associated with this, he is now going to be the key military person right underneath Putin who is going to be held accountable for war crimes.
So we will continue to see the kinds of things we've seen in many of the Ukrainian cities. There will be attempts by the Russian military to come up from Mariupol and to the south from Kharkiv and Sumy and Izyum. I'm personally thinking even though you've shown this very long column, they are still going to run into the problems with logistics and they are going to continue to run into an even more determined Ukrainian force, a Ukrainian force that has seen the kind of terror tactics that the Russians have used over the last month, and they're going to be even more fierce in their fighting capability.
The point is, this is going to be a very tough battle in the Donbas, the Russians are going to attempt to encircle the Eastern elements of that country and trap Ukrainian soldiers. I believe the Ukrainian soldiers will fight through this with very mobile and adaptive tactics and they will counter the efforts by the Russians. And they will continue to go after the very long logistic trails of the Russian army that are going to be still coming from three different directions.
BURNETT: Right. Right. I mean, you look at these, again, these long convoys and you think about how the Ukrainians are operating, send up your drones and they've been able to attack these slow moving - sloth speed moving convoys.
So Steve, the Austrian Chancellor, I mentioned, Karl Nehammer, so he met with Putin. He said after the meeting that it was important to confront Putin one-on-one in the facts. He said, it was not a nice conversation. He said and I quote him, "What is important is a personal meeting." Phoning is one thing, but you really need to look each other in the eye, you need to talk about the cruelty of war.
But he made it clear that while he tried, he doesn't feel that this did anything, that he just emphasized, again, how isolated Putin is and how he believes things that are not true. Do you think there can be any impact from a meeting like this at this point, Steve?
HALL: Yes. I think there probably can be, Erin. I mean, let's face it, I don't think anybody thinks that any head of state or anybody else is going to sit down in front of Vladimir Putin and all of a sudden change his mind, the light bulb is going to go off and Putin is going to go, oh, yes, boy, I guess that's a bad idea.
That's not going to happen. You had the Polish had this to say - the Polish President say, anybody, any senior Western official who meets with Putin that's a mistake and I understand that school of thought that sort of like Putin does crave attention. He craves recognition from the West, even if it's negative recognition or attention, he still wants that.
But on the other side of it, the Austrians are a little different. They're not NATO members. They're a little different from other Western European allies, but they still are Western European. They're members of the EU. And I think him going in to meet with Putin sends a message that even those of us who are not NATO members, but we're just part of the EU are still united against you and they're going to still hold you accountable.
In that sense, I'm okay with it, because I think it makes sense to have Putin hear that from somebody who's not American or British or German or any of the other large NATO members. I think it's a good thing.
BURNETT: So Gen. Hertling, Zelenskyy is asking for more weapons within days, he says, or Ukraine could lose the war. And he's asking for a whole long list of things, including tanks and drones. What can the United States do that would actually help right now, putting aside Putin's response to it just from a technical and tactical perspective?
HERTLING: Well, from a technical perspective, Erin, what I would suggest is the Ukrainian fight in the Donbas has to be very rapid in its approach. It cannot have a very large logistics tail, because that's what's hindering the Russians. They have to establish units that can move quickly and counter attack on a moment's notice whenever Russia breaks through some of the cities.
They're going to be going through several cities like Izyum. I'll use that as an example. This is a city of about 45,000 people. It has a river running through it in two different directions, but it has roads going in four different directions.
You want to make sure you trap Russian forces in a city like that and ensure that you have a reserve, if you will, from Ukrainians that can counter attack and continue to conduct these hasty attacks that the Ukrainians have been so good at on the first phase of this war. They have to be light, fast and use a lot of weapons they're familiar with.
And I think shipping them a lot of brand new weapons with high technology, certainly a lot of people are craving that. I'm one of the ones that says you can't create a large logistics trail and you can't build an army within a week with all new equipment. It's just an impossible task.
So we should continue to ensure that they get the kind of small weapons and old weapons they need and ensure their mobility in the eastern part of the country.
BURNETT: Thank you both very much.
And next, Russian forces turning their attention to the south, as I said, the governor of one port city, which has been a target since the start of the war under constant attack is OUTFRONT.
Plus, a top Putin critic who survived two poisonings. He actually was a guest on this show a couple of weeks ago and today he was reportedly arrested outside his home in Moscow.
And tonight, screams in Shanghai.
The COVID lockdown there has people fearing starvation, screaming from their apartments. Our David Culver is the only American reporter there to see firsthand the hardship.
BURNETT: Ukraine's top commander saying heavy fighting continues in the besieged southern city of Mariupol and hailing his forces for 'doing the impossible', doing the possible and impossible to win against the Russian invasion. It comes as the U.K. Defense Ministry says Russia continues launching cruise missiles into other southern cities like Mykolaiv. As Putin moves his aim at Ukraine south and east.
OUTFRONT now Mykolaiv Governor Vitaliy Kim. And Governor, I appreciate your time. Obviously, Mykolaiv has been a target since the start of this war and now, obviously, we understand that the Russians could increase their assault in the east, in the south Mykolaiv could come under brutal assault. How worried are you about what is coming?
VITALIY KIM, GOVERNOR OF MYKOLAIV REGION: We are worried and we're preparing for any situation, because we do not know what exactly Russians are planning. So we're going to defense, we're making our defense, fortifying the city. But for now - we're afraid but not a lot, because in the south, our army is in attacking position for now toward Kherson region.
BURNETT: So the Kremlin right now does admit that there's been Russian casualties and that they've been significant. So that's a big shift for them. They say they've suffered significant losses. I know though that the troop deaths were so high where you are for Russians that you called on your residents to be decent to help, to collect the corpses that were piling up.
And your quote, Governor, was, "We aren't beasts, are we?" And your people who have been attacked by those same Russians came to try to collect the dead. How significant are the Russian losses in Mykolaiv?
KIM: It was two weeks ago, so the war changed a little bit. For now they're defending, they're digging through the earth and for the last two weeks, we pick up all the bodies and move to a refrigerator and send them to the north of our country. So for now we almost cleaned up our territory from the bodies of Russians.
But on the line of - taking line, we cannot pick them up. We do not know exactly how much of them on that line. Also Russians started to pick up their bodies and their wounded people for now only after four weeks of war.
BURNETT: Only after four weeks, but you're saying that the bodies that you did collect the corpses, you sent them - you put - you refrigerated them, you took care of them and you sent them to the north.
KIM: We have, like I said, protocol on what we should do, not we, our military forces.
So they made contacts to them et cetera that there are different protocol to what should we do with their bodies of Russian occupants.
BURNETT: Governor, what is if you had to say the thing that you need most right now at this point in the war, what would it be?
KIM: To tell the truth we need weapon and we need it right now, because you can't understand this because our people are dying every day and every day that your weapon, your help are moving to us or not moving to us, every day our people are dying in our country, especially in the east of Ukraine. This is a big problem, a huge problem.
Also Russians attacks with rockets, bombing cluster bombs and the main problem that civilian people die every day, so that is a problem, time. We need weapon and we need it quickly.
BURNETT: Gov. Kim, thank you.
KIM: You're welcome.
BURNETT: And next, he's called the Butcher of Syria and he is now leading Putin's invasion of Ukraine. My next guest says it is about to get more brutal for Ukrainian civilians.
And then he was once a guest on this show. You saw him if you watch regularly, a Putin critic. He survived two suspected poisonings. He joined us from Moscow. And today he was detained there.
BURNETT: Tonight, a grim warning from the White House about the new Russian general overseeing Putin's invasion of Ukraine, saying things could get even worse under the so-called butcher of Syria.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JEN PSAKI, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: This is a general who was already responsible for overseeing atrocities in Syria. And that we would expect that it would be a continuation of the type of atrocities we've already seen take place in Ukraine. We should have no illusions that Russia is going to adjust their tactics and make them less brutal.
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BURNETT: So, what else do we know about him and what does this mean for Putin's invasion of Ukraine?
Oren Liebermann is OUTFRONT.
OREN LIEBERMANN, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): A new face in Russia's invasion of Ukraine comes with a new commander. Army General Alexander Dvornikov will take over as theater commander, according to U.S. and European officials, as the offensive shifts to southeast Ukraine.
The 60-year-old career soldier is a veteran of Russian wars in different countries, each campaign there is the same savage hallmark.
JOHN KIRBY, PENTAGON PRESS SECRETARY: We can certainly say by what we have seen in the past that we are probably turning another page in the same book of Russian brutality.
LIEBERMANN: Russian forces destroyed the city of Grozny and Chechnya, part of the war where Dvornikov spent three years climbing the military ranks, first, as a division chief of staff, then division commander.
Years later, when Russia sent its forces into Syria to prop the regime there, Dvornikov was the first commander. His ruthless tactics decimated the city of Aleppo on an all out assault for a little regard to civilian life. It earned him the award hero of the Russian Federation and a reputation as the butcher of Syria. The campaign left hundreds, if not thousands dead. LT. GEN. MARK HERTLING (RET.), CNN MILITARY ANALYST: He certainly has
the reputation and career experiences, but I suggest there is no military skill required to kill civilians, which seems to be the focus.
LIEBERMANN: Officials say Vladimir Putin's decision to appoint Dvornikov it's an acknowledgment of Russian failures on the battlefield, the invasion of Ukraine from the north, south and east ground to a halt amid a cascade of problems and lack of coordination. Russian troops run out of fuel, and food, easy targets for Ukrainian forces. Russian morale suffered. Communications broke down and supply lines fell apart.
Officials say the appointment of Dvornikov is an attempt to fix that.
PSAKI: Even a change over in personnel or leadership at the top is not going to erase the fact that this is a strategic failure for Russia.
LIEBERMANN: Russia has already destroyed entire sections of the Ukrainian cities, killing civilians and committing atrocities. U.S. officials warn, it maybe get worse under Dvornikov.
In Syria, his forces worked alongside the infamous Wagner group, Russian mercenaries known for their brutal tactics.
U.S. officials say Wagner is now operating in southeast Ukraine, where Dvornikov is expected to focus his fight.
JAKE SULLIVAN, WHITE HOUSE NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISOR: This general will just be another author of crimes and brutality against Ukrainian civilians and the United States, as I said before, it's determined to do all that we can to support the Ukrainians as they resist him and they resist the forces that he commands.
LIEBERMANN (on camera): One other aspect of this to keep an eye on is Dvornikov 's status. Do we see more of him? It is worth noting that although at the beginning of Russia's invasion, we saw quite a bit of Russia's chief of defense and its minister of defense. We have not seen much of this as this has gone from days to weeks to months. Is Dvornikov perhaps in line for a move there? That is another aspect to be keeping an eye on.
BURNETT: Yeah. That is interesting. We know that there is a commander, right, before events sort of perceived just commander-less in so many ways.
Oren Liebermann, thank you so much for that report.
And I want to go now to Andrei Soldatov, Russian investigative journalist, familiar face to our viewers, and the founder and editor of Agentura.ru, a watchdog of the Russian secret service's activities that's now blocked in Russia.
So, Andrei, when you hear Oren's reporting, what do you think of Putin's appointing General Dvornikov as the commander of the Ukraine war now?
ANDREI SOLDATOV, RUSSIAN INVESTIGATIVE JOURNALIST: Well, it's probably a good news for the Russian forces because Dvornikov is known, his army and his previous position, as a commander in southern military district means that he knows personally most of the commanders of the troops now involved in the fighting in Ukraine.
But unfortunately, it is bad news for civilians in Mariupol and Donbas because the way Dvornikov fights, well, let's start in the storming of Grozny, well, just known for complete disregard for the plight of civilians.
BURNETT: So, you know Vladimir Kara-Murza, a top Putin critic. He survived two poisonings. He was reportedly arrested today outside his home in Moscow.
Now, I spoke to him in March and he said, and I quote, talking about the war, there are absolutely no limits to what Vladimir Putin can do. The tragedy is that this is predictable. So many people for years and years warned the world about just who Vladimir Putin is and what this will lead to.
Now, Andrei, I was amazed that he did that interview with me and then he got in a plane and went back to Moscow. What information do you have on his situation now?
SOLDATOV: Well, Vladimir Kara-Murza is an absolutely amazing character. He is of a generation of Russian political opposition politicians who live in two countries, in the United States and in Moscow, and found a way how to actually to be extremely effective as a politician in Moscow. And it looks like, right now, as the Kremlin decided that that is enough.
So, what Vladimir is facing now is 15 days in prison. But usually, this is a way to send a message that you are not tolerated anymore in the country, you would face more and more prison time until you leave.
BURNETT: So, in that context, President Biden has suggested that Putin is firing his top advisors. He's putting others under house arrest, right? You have Kara-Murza being put in prison as an opposition leader. There just seems to be a slew of this. But a lot of this also in Vladimir Putin's inner circle itself.
What is the latest you're hearing about that, Andrei?
SOLDATOV: Well, the latest news is absolutely astonishing. We have the former head of the foreign intelligence branch, FSB, being sent to the Lefortovo prison. And Lefortovo prison is a horrible place. It's the only prison, which is under the control of the FSB, Russian domestic counterintelligence service. It is impossible to communicate with anyone outside if you are in this prison. It is not for harsh psychological conditions.
So, to place a general, general of the FSB in this prison it's meant to be a very strong signal that Putin now means business. And he demands more from his security people.
BURNETT: Andrei, thank you.
And next, a Russian family flees to the country of Georgia. Now they fear Putin will go after them there.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REPORTER: If no one stops Putin, she says, he can easily go both to Georgia and to the west.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: And we're going to take you inside Shanghai tonight, where people, including our reporter, David Culver, are getting ration food.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DAVID CULVER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: A vacuum sealed fork and then, several boxes of traditional Chinese medicine.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: A Russian teacher, now under criminal investigation for making anti-war comments in her classroom. The English teacher says it was because she was turned into authorities by her own students, who secretly recorded her. This is one Russian family who decided to flee the country so their son would not have to hear Putin's lies about the invasion of Ukraine in his school.
Matt Rivers is OUTFRONT in Tbilisi, Georgia, with more.
MATT RIVERS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Gia was born in Georgia. He just did not think he would be back here quite yet.
His family moved to Russia 30 years ago fleeing the Georgian civil war. It was in Moscow they built a life, where he met his wife Anya (ph) and where his kids were born. He has told them the truth about the horrors of the current war in Ukraine and says he worried what would happen if one of their teachers and Russia echoed Putin's propaganda that this war is just.
GIA, RECENTLY LEFT RUSSIA WITH HIS FAMILY: You know what is really going.
GIA: And he will say, no, you are not right, and it could be problems for him.
RIVERS: You are worried that your son will have problems.
GIA: Yes, yes.
So, the family left for Georgia just a few days after the war began. Though, Anya isn't completely convinced that they will be safe here either.
If no one stops Putin, she says, he can easily go both to Georgia and to the West.
And she is not alone in her fears. Georgians have a long, brutal history with Russia. Russian troops invaded in 2008 and thousands of troops remain in two breakaway provinces of Georgia. And in 1989, in the capital of Tbilisi, nearly two dozen protesters were killed and hundreds were injured by Soviet troops as they advocated for independence.
People gathered over the weekend outside the parliament building of Tbilisi, to mark the massacre anniversary. Georgian flags this year joined by those from Ukraine, but what is now called national unity day.
It's a big day each year in Georgia, but this year it is more important, given what we are seeing Russian troops do in Ukraine.
Decades of Russian aggression here have left deep scars and many now see parallels between Putin's invasion of Ukraine and what they fear could happen in Georgia.
IRAKLI PAVLENISHVILI, GEORGIAN POLITICAL ANALYST: Russia posed threat for Georgian independence, for our sovereignty, for our territorial integrity.
RIVERS: Do you think there's a chance that Russia could invade Georgia again?
PAVLENISHVILI: Yes. This threat is always -- every country across Europe, not only Georgia, is under threat.
RIVERS: Back in their apartment, Gia and his family wholeheartedly agree.
They told us they don't want their children and grandchildren to grow up in what they call North Korea 2.0. And for that, grandmother Galina says people must understand a crucial point.
She says, the whole world must understand that Ukraine is not only fighting for itself, it is fighting for everyone and the whole world must unite and stop Putin because he won't stop with Ukraine.
(END VIDEOTAPE) RIVERS (on camera): And, Erin, the family tells us that when they were still in Moscow during the first few days of the war, they would talk to some of their Russian friends about the war, and they were shocked to hear the people they considered close to, we're actually just parroting lines of Russian propaganda, things like the Ukrainian government is fascist. They are drug addicts. And those relationships and people's reactions to the war, the family tells us that played a war in their decision to come here to Georgia -- Erin.
BURNETT: Amazing. Matt, thank you very much.
And OUTFRONT next, an unbelievable firsthand account of the extreme COVID lockdown in China's most affluent city. Pets beaten to death. People fearing starvation. Our David Culver is there, and he says he's never seen anything like this.
Plus, the prime minister of India, speaking with Biden, despite choosing to, still, line Putin's pockets with billions.
BURNETT: Shanghai shutdown. Tonight, there's growing outrage over the Chinese government's increasingly harsh COVID restrictions in the biggest city in China. People are struggling to get access to food, screaming on the streets in frustration. There was a dog beaten to death by a COVID prevention worker after finding that its owner was infected.
And it comes as Shanghai, despite this unbelievable shutdown, saw more than 26,000 new infections on Sunday, which is a record.
David Culver is OUTFRONT, and I want you to know he is part of the only American TV crew, living through Shanghai's lockdown.
DAVID CULVER, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): You would never expect to see people in Shanghai, China's most affluent, and cosmopolitan city, screaming for food.
We are starving, we are starving, they yell. But, after weeks-long COVID lockdowns, with no promise to end, desperation.
One community volunteer, reporting the home of an elderly woman. She said, neighbors are the 90 roles shouting help, for three days. Pleading for food. Her fridge, empty. Volunteers were finally able to get her a meal.
China's central government, now in charge of managing Shanghai's COVID outbreak. In a month's time, the daily case count went from double digits, to more than 26,000.
A Shanghai city leader choked up in a news conference over the weekend, apologizing to Shanghai's more than 25 million residents for failing to meet expectations, and promising improvements. Those of us living here kept to our homes. CNN, the only U.S. TV network with the team living through the lockdown.
In my community, we are only allowed out when summoned, by workers, using a megaphone. And, when dark, a flashlight.
In the late evening, now, there is or quest to get a COVID test.
My neighbors are nine lined up, ready for health workers to scan our QR codes, linking the results to our ID. Night, or day, the testing is constant.
Someone in the community tested positive, so they will now test, all of us, once again.
We can also leave the house to line up for government distributions, or to get approved deliveries. Usually, it the most exciting part of the day.
It looks to be vacuum sealed pork, and then, several boxes of traditional Chinese medicines. A lot more face masks, a box with fresh fruit. On tap, they have some frozen meat, and then two antigen kits.
Food deliveries this plentiful are rare. So, most of us spend our morning certain to order groceries online. But orders sell out quickly. Not enough delivery drivers to get through the lockdown barriers. Communities, like mine, resorting to group buys. We come together in chat groups, and try to source food, directly from suppliers, in bulk.
Neighbors, helping neighbors, is a common theme across the city. We found a safe drop spot to trade. Cheese for oranges.
Our community volunteers help a source food where they can. Though, they too, are exhausted, and hungry.
From above, you can see this metropolis. Quiet. Eerily empty. But on the ground, they are tragedies, share daily, online.
This man recording his father who says he's unable to get admitted to a hospital in the strained system. His dad later died, he says.
In this video, a neighbor capturing the whaling of a heartbroken woman, crying out, her loved one had died because of lockdown. This video sparked outrage on Chinese social media. It shows a worker, and a hazmat suit, brutally killing a pet corgi, because local officials worried it may have carried the virus. The owner was in government quarantine.
All of this, as a result of China's zero COVID policy, a directive from the top.
President Xi Jinping, on Friday, praising China's zero COVID approach. State media, echoing a glowing narrative, showing an orderly mobilization in Shanghai, with an abundant food supply. And, rapid construction of more than 100 makeshift hospitals, with capacity to treat more than 160,000 people infected.
But, patients taken to those government quarantine centers, sharing a very different reality online. Posting videos of unsanitary conditions, and people using isolation facilities, still, under construction.
Some seen frantically running at distribution sites, scrambling for food, and blankets.
The uncertainty, leaving this man broken. Doing the unthinkable. Questioning their leadership, allowed, asking -- where is the communist party?
CULVER (on camera): And, Erin, as we look at this latest surge, it is worth noting that China has only approved its own Chinese made vaccines for use here. The country's national health commission says nearly 90 percent of folks have been fully vaccinated, but among those 80 years old, and older, talk about the most vulnerable, that drops to about half. Chinese health authority, however, vaccines here are effective in reducing illness severity, and death, though some are skeptical of the official numbers.
And, Erin, there's this -- there is growing concern, once again, and this reminds me of Wuhan, that China is, once again, underreporting COVID deaths.
BURNETT: Well, I guess that's a crucial question. You mentioned Wuhan, David, I mean, your report, by the way, is just phenomenal. Thank you. I know the mental duress that you are under, along with everybody where with.
But, you are in Wuhan when the COVID outbreak first began. I remember putting on the hazmat suit, you witnessed it, you witnessed that total shut down. But you're saying it pales in comparison to what you're living through now?
CULVER: Yeah, I don't think I go through that type of lockdown. I mean, the scale alone of this one, goes well behind Wuhan in 2020. Shanghai's population is more than twice the size of Wuhan. It's about three times the size of New York City's population.
And most shocking is that this is happening here in what is the country's cosmopolitan, most affluent, financial hub. Only get a tooth of shifted more than that initial outbreak. They were so terrified of contracting the virus. Now, it seems there's greater fear for Chinese extreme isolation, and quarantine measures, as you'd have fatigue, frustration, desperation, all of it setting in.
BURNETT: All right. David Culver, thank you very much.
And next, Biden's candid conversation with the leader of India. Did the president get India to stop buying Russian oil? (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
BURNETT: President Biden today having what the White House called a candid conversation with a country still funding Putin's invasion. The president speaking with India's prime minister, Narendra Modi. The candid conversation, according to a senior administration official, did not include a specific request to take a side and did not result in a firm commitment from Modi to back off buying Russian oil, and gas.
India buys a lot of that. According to "Reuters", India has purchased at least 13 million barrels since February. And that's not all, India buys somewhere between 60 percent and 80 percent of its weapons from Russia. And, they are still under contract to buy a $5.4 billion dollar air defense system and a $3.5 billion line of tanks, all from Putin.
And, while much of the world has condemned Russia, India's been on the sidelines, refraining from criticizing Putin, all the while giving him a continued, much needed, cash lifeline, to fund the war.
Thanks so much for joining us.
"AC360" starts now.