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Erin Burnett Outfront

Ukraine Says Explosions In Neighboring Moldova The Work Of "Planned Provocation" By Russia; Zelenskyy's Hometown Now On Front Lines Of Putin's War; Russians "Striking More Intensely Using All Kinds Of Weapons;" Ukraine: Heavy Fighting In The East, "Razing Everything" To Ground; Officials Warn Town It Could Become Next Mariupol; WSJ: U.S. Holds Off On Sanctioning On Putin's Reputed Girlfriend; GOP Candidates Backing Trump's Election Denials Gain Traction; Shanghai Officials Put Up Steel Fences To Contain COVID. Aired 7-8p ET

Aired April 25, 2022 - 19:00   ET


BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Today Donald Trump told Fox News that even if Twitter moves to reinstate his account under Elon Musk's leadership, Trump himself says he's not going back to Twitter. He says he's going to join his own social media platform called TRUTH Social within the next few days, Wolf.

WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: Brian Todd reporting for us. Brian, thank you very much. And to our viewers, thanks very much for watching. Erin Burnett OUTFRONT starts right now.

ERIN BURNETT, CNN HOST: OUTFRONT next, Russia ramping up. Ukraine accusing Putin's forces of attacking Moldova as a Ukrainian military chief tells OUTFRONT Putin is using phosphorus bombs.

Plus, untouchable, why the United States reportedly is holding back on sanctioning an incredibly close ally of Putin's, someone rumored to be his longtime girlfriend.

And going to the extreme to stop the spread of COVID. Shanghai now putting up fences to keep residents from leaving their homes, six feet high. One reporter, our reporter is the only American television crew living inside the lockdown on the growing desperation tonight. Let's go OUTFRONT.

Good evening. I'm Erin Burnett.

OUTFRONT tonight, the breaking news, Putin's war may now be spreading beyond Ukraine. Russia now accused of targeting the Ministry of State Security in Transnistria. It's a pro Russian separatist region of the independent country of Moldova, which is all the way on the other side of Ukraine from Russia. Explosions rock the area blowing out windows. A strike, of course, could open the door to a much broader conflict and show much greater ambition by Putin.

And that comes as Russia tonight intensifies its assault on civilians in Ukraine. The head of the Luhansk region in the Donbas accusing the Russians of 'raising everything to the ground', including the village that you see on your screen right now.

It almost - it looks like someone painted it, right? I mean, it's completely destroyed. Rockets also coming down in at least five railway stations across Ukraine, taking out more of the country's vital infrastructure and we're told there are casualties there as well.

Over the past 61 days, Ukraine's rail system has been crucial, especially from the west coming all the way into the east foreign weapons coming in that way also millions of Ukrainians coming out.

Earlier, I spoke to Oleksandr Vilkul, he is the head of the Kryvyi Rih military administration. That is the hometown of Volodymyr Zelenskyy. That town now finds itself on the front lines of Putin's war. And Oleksandr told me what he's witnessing tonight.


OLEKSANDR VILKUL, HEAD OF THE KRYVYI RIH MILITARY ADMIN.; FRIEND OF PRESIDENT ZELENSKYY (through interpreter): In the last few days, they increased intensity of shelling and we do notice that the Russians have been striking more intensely than before using all kinds of weapons. And we're talking here about Smerch and Grad, all kinds of different artillery. And they're definitely striking civilian settlements such as these different little towns and villages around Kryvyi Rih.


BURNETT: So you heard him talk about the different weapons systems and some of the new weapons systems and he's saying the Russians use, so I asked him about these types of artillery that he referenced, what were they and this is what he told me.


VILKUL (through interpreter): Well, at the moment what we clearly see is that Russians are using planes that are dropping huge bombs and that includes vacuum bombs as well. Besides, they're using missiles prohibited by the Geneva Convention and that includes cartridge missiles, as well as phosphorus. The ones they've already used in their strike on Kryvyi Rih.


BURNETT: CNN is not able to independently verify these claims, but obviously these are incredibly serious vacuum bomb use, phosphorus use and cartridge missiles.

Now, the State Department says it is aware of such claims they have not been able to confirm them. Also tonight, a bold show of support for Ukraine, the Secretary of State Antony Blinken and the Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin went to Kyiv to meet with Volodymyr Zelenskyy and other top officials. At that meeting, Austin made it clear that no one should count Ukraine now.


LLOYD AUSTIN, SECRETARY OF DEFENSE: We want to see Russia weakened to the degree that it can't do the kinds of things that it has done in invading Ukraine.

ANTONY BLINKEN, UNITED STATES SECRETARY OF STATE: We don't know how the rest of this war will unfold, but we do know that a sovereign independent Ukraine will be around a lot longer than Vladimir Putin is on the scene.


BURNETT: Obviously, very significant statement there about Putin and his regime. We are live across Ukraine tonight.

I want to begin with Sam Kiley in Kramatorsk. And Sam, what is the latest where you are tonight?

SAM KILEY, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, yes, Erin, here in the east and I'm in a salient of territory, if you like, on a map it looks like a kind of Pac-Man shaped bite if you like within Ukrainian government-held territory. Now, the Russians are continuing to try to advance from the north down from Kharkiv and Izyum, from Russian territory very short run into Ukraine there.


They've drastically foreshorten their supply lines. Local people were telling us that the town of Lyman had either fallen to the Russians or had become unlivable for Ukrainians as a consequence of shelling and that has been the case in a number of smaller villages settlements, they call them around here.

A couple of days ago, the Ukrainian government is talking about 42 of these settlements having fallen. Now, not all of them fall permanently. This is a back and forth war with the Russian forces being stretched very, very thinly, but are being reinforced now directly from other parts of Ukraine, particularly around the fight in Kyiv and also, of course, from the Russian motherland itself.

But the Russians are also saying that they're going to prosecute the war all the way in the southern sector. And again, down there, Zaporizhzhia and pushing east from that area. We've also seen an increase in military activity with the local government in Zaporizhzhia saying that they're not only seeing an increase in military activity in terms of shelling attacks on their own positions, but they're also aware of a significant Russian buildup of forces.

So I think worse is yet to come is really the summation here, Erin.

BURNETT: All right. Sam, thank you very much and we'll be talking again with Sam in just a few moments.

In Mariupol tonight meanwhile we have some striking new images of the suffering that is going on inside that steel plant, right, that's the plant where Ukrainian forces and civilians still in Mariupol have taken cover. Little food and water, people just - as you can see there in the dire circumstances, because Russia has the plant surrounded, there is no way to get necessities in.

You can actually even in one image we have see a child wrapped in plastic as the only cover they have for the child because there aren't even any diapers. It's all part of life inside that steel plant, but it's become the last stand in the fight for Mariupol. Matt Rivers is OUTFRONT.


MATT RIVERS, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice over): Before Mariupol became a hellscape, before Russian military depravity turned the city into a cemetery, there was love here.

Just two weeks before the war began, Natalka Zarytska spent Valentine's Day with her boyfriend in the city. They took this picture at a cafe and this one after eating. And a few days later, she snapped this one of him from her window seat on the train that would take her back to Kyiv.


NATALKA ZARYTSKA: She kissed me and told, "Natalia, I don't know when I will see you again."


RIVERS (voice over): Resignation from a man who understood the realities of the war to come. Natalka's boyfriend who we are not naming or showing for security reasons, is a soldier in the Azov battalion. A unit that has fought the Russians in Mariupol for months.

We went to see Natalka at her home in Kyiv where she told us her boyfriend was given a command to 'fight until the last drop of blood'.


RIVERS (on camera): What did you think when he told you that?

ZARYTSKA: I recommended him to save his life, but he answered no. I should keep on the command. I'm a soldier and I have to be here.


RIVERS (voice over): She says her boyfriend loss cell service on March 3rd. His silence was as deafening as the bombs that by then had started to fall around Kyiv, forcing her and her family down into this cellar. It was in here that after two weeks she heard from him.


ZARYTSKA: When she called it could be 10 or 15 seconds and then bombing and no connections.

(END VIDEO CLIP) RIVERS (voice over): But with what connection he did have he would

send her videos of the utter destruction that surrounded him. We can't show you those for security reasons.


RIVERS (on camera): What do you think when you watch these videos?

ZARYTSKA: I think empty. I feel empty, absolutely empty.


RIVERS (voice over): Along with the videos were selfies and texts. And on his birthday, a particularly special message.


ZARYTSKA: He gave me a proposition that I couldn't ...

RIVERS (off camera): Say no to.

ZARYTSKA: ... say no, yes.

RIVERS (on camera): What did he write to you?

ZARYTSKA: (Foreign language), so I love you and do you want to be my wife?


RIVERS (voice over): A few days later a marriage certificate made it official. Now a wife, she says she refuses to cry. Her husband is stoic in the face of death so she will be too. How else to describe her reaction to the last message he sent.


ZARYTSKA: My husband told me that Natalia please be glad because very soon it will finish.

RIVERS (on camera): When you say it's going to finish very soon, what are the two options?

ZARYTSKA: Very simple ...


... they will alive or they will be killed. Just two options.


RIVERS (on camera): And Erin, the last message that Natalka got from her husband was a few days ago now. She hasn't heard directly from him since. In that message, he actually sent a series of pictures of a letter, a handwritten letter that he had been writing over the past few weeks. He told her that that was his 'final goodbye letter'. He said that she should only read it if he is killed in Mariupol in the steel plant complex.

She said that in her heart, she hopes that he will get out of there but in her head, she knows that there's a very small chance of that happening. Erin.

BURNETT: Incredible story. Matt, thank you very much.

And I want to go now to retired Army Lieutenant General Mark Hertling, former Commanding General of Europe and the 7th Army. General, these personal stories are the ones that I know capture people's hearts and minds and have them understand what truly is at stake here.

You think about what's happening and the lives being lost, yet, Antony Blinken today said that Russia has failed in its goals. Failure, of course, could still mean such incredible loss of life to come.

Today, Russia struck five railway stations in central and western Ukraine, targeting supply, targeting weapons coming in. So when you look at the situation right now, do you believe Russia has failed? Do you believe Ukraine can still win?

MARK HERTLING, CNN MILITARY ANALYST: Well, I'll start by saying, Erin, first of all, that was a very moving testimony by that young woman about her husband who's fighting. It is been repeated over and over throughout history and I've had a little bit of experience with that too with spouses who know what their husbands, what their wives are doing when they put on the uniform of their country. It's tough.

Going to your question, do I believe Ukraine can win? I absolutely do. I've been saying that from the very beginning. It is tough. We're now close to eight weeks into this conflict. You're going to hate me saying this, but this is a relatively short war. But it has caused so much terror, such grief, such inhumanity because of the way Russia is fighting it.

And I think the will of the Ukrainian people is going to is going to persevere. They're going to win this fight. You see that in every kind of interview that you do, with those who are fighting for the black and gold and I think this will continue on. Russia has been placed in a very dire situation, both with manpower and their leadership.

And even though we see this repeated pictures, like you're showing now, of terrorized cities and civilian inhumanity that Russia has created, Ukraine is fighting for their sovereignty, is fighting for their freedom and I think they will carry on.

BURNETT: So let me ask you about what Oleksandr Vilkul said there. He's the head of the Kryvyi Rih Military Administration. So he specifically told me general that Russia has used in Kryvyi Rih, which is also the hometown of Volodymyr Zelenskyy, vacuum and phosphorus bombs and cluster munitions, those are also banned, but vacuum bombs.

We saw them go into Ukraine and no one's yet been able to show exactly where they've been used. He says they've been used there. He says phosphorus bombs have been used there. Do you think this is the case and what would that tell you? HERTLING: No, I'd say I know this is the case. We have seen evidence

of it. They have used fuel air explosives, the so-called vacuum bombs, which are horrific in their extent of destruction. The Russians have used phosphorus munitions. You see that from photos where the phosphorus chemicals are - is coming down from the sky either from rocket artillery or from bombs that are dropped. The Russians will claim they're using those for illumination to see in the night.

We have seen multiple instances of cluster munitions, munitions that are meant for aerial denial in military combat actions, to deny the enemy a place to either set up artillery or maneuver their force. But in this case, they've been used against apartment buildings and schools and kindergartens.

So all of these things, I think, will eventually determine that Russia has been guilty of multiple instances of war crime, of the use of the unauthorized munitions against the civilian population. And I think the mayor of the town who said all those things has probably seen it up close and personal as many of us have seen it on films and understand the way the Russians conduct military operations.

BURNETT: And, of course, he's seeing it in his own city and the villages around it. Gen. Hertling, thank you very much.

HERTLING: Thanks, Erin.

BURNETT: And next, Ukrainian suddenly finding themselves on the frontlines of Putin's invasion who are refusing to leave, even when they're being warned their town could become the next Mariupol.

Plus, she is the one person in Putin's inner circle but sanctions experts say one after another, after another they say you've got to sanction her.


Yet, the Biden administration is holding back on sanctioning Putin's rumored girlfriend, why?

And a CNN exclusive, Mark Meadows' 2,300 text messages from the day of the election through Biden's inauguration tonight revealed. Desperate pleas from Republicans to the president on that list asking to stop the violence.



BURNETT: Breaking news, Ukrainian officials tonight reporting heavy fighting in a village just west of Izyum, where the Russian military has amassed forces in eastern Ukraine as part of its onslaught, a major effort underway in that region to convince reluctant Ukrainian civilians to evacuate, to leave their homes even amidst warning that their towns could be the next Mariupol as Russian troops advanced. Sam Kiley is OUTFRONT.


SAM KILEY, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice over): At 21, Maria Shtern is a war veteran. She has been a volunteer on Ukraine's frontlines in the Donbas for five years.

Today she's delivering medicine and food to villages within range of Russian artillery. A new phase in Vladimir Putin's invasion of Ukraine is underway and it's sometimes hard to understand why people stay in frontline villages.


MARIA SHTERN, UKRAINIAN VOLUNTEER (through interpreter): I'm asking people this specific question.


I'm (inaudible) to hear children crying and saying, "Mom, I'm scared to die." It gives me the creeps to hear them say that to myself.


KILEY (voice over): Russian forces have captured Izyum a few miles to the north, pounding nearby towns with artillery and rocket. They're slowly advancing south towards Sloviansk and the city of Kramatorsk. Russia's aim is to capture this territory. To do so, it needs to overrun this landscape.

Maria is heading towards them about three miles from the latest reported Russian forces and heavy shelling. She ignores the air raid sirens. A family who've become friends are hanging on in their home and she's bringing them food on arrival.

On arrival, good news, they've agreed to pull out. A last run in the springtime garden for Yevgena (ph) and Alexandra (ph) who ignore the town's sirens.


NATALIA MALIGON, RESIDENT OF MYKOLAIV, UKRAINE (through interpreter): My sister woke up this morning and said we have to leave, so we packed up. We didn't want to leave until the last minute. But then something made her want to, so we have to.


KILEY (voice over): It's an emotional wrench, but it's a relief.


KILEY (on camera): The importance of groups like Maria, a part of a volunteer army right across Ukraine here in the frontline villages is not just humanitarian, it's political. It's about trying to hold on to as much Ukrainian government territory as it's possible for as long as it's possible.


KILEY (voice over): The lessons from Bucha and other towns captured by Russia is that many civilians may not survive occupation. A neighbor herself frightened and confused, still refuses to go out. She's got a job at the local power plant. Joining Ukraine's millions of refugees risks a life of deeper poverty.


SHTERN (through interpreter): It's simply a genocide of the Ukrainian people. I don't know how else to explain it to you, you just ask for what.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (through interpreter): We're not planning to live here. This is my homeland and my relatives are here, I cannot leave anyone here. My elderly grandmother is 80 and can hardly walk. I can't leave her, do you understand?


KILEY (voice over): There's no joy in escape for grandmother, Luba (ph), not for anyone in this family.

Tens of thousands of people are staying on in their homes across this region. In a nearby church, Orthodox Easter services are dominated by prayers for peace. But the unholy ghost of war looms heavily here.


KILEY (on camera): Now, Erin, there has been substantial increase in the level of violence coming from these Russian efforts to push down from the north and indeed the push up from the south and particularly to the east, if you like, of Zaporizhzhia, that important southern city on the evacuation routes - at the end of the evacuation route for the occasional evacuations from Mariupol.

But the sense in this region is also given the levels of reinforcements going in on both sides that the big fight is yet to come, Erin.

BURNETT: All right. Sam, thank you very much for that.

And next, a CNN exclusive. More than 2,000 text messages former Trump chief of staff Mark Meadows sent and received, we've got them all, Congressman Marjorie Taylor Greene now making a case to impose martial law.

And why isn't the United States sanctioning her, this Putin insider. Is it because she's his rumored girlfriend? The reporter who broke the story for The Wall Street Journal is OUTFRONT.



BURNETT: The untouchable person in Vladimir Putin's inner circle. According to The Wall Street Journal, the Biden administration is refusing to sanction Alina Kabaeva. She's Putin's rumored girlfriend and a former Olympic gymnast. This refusal to sanction the one person that every sanctions expert tells me she'll be at the top of the list coming even as the White House says today, "No one is safe from sanctions."

Now, Putin has never confirmed having a romantic relationship with Kabaeva and the Kremlin previously denied reports that Putin fathered multiple children with her. A report coming amid a rare public sighting of Kabaeva in Moscow this weekend at a gymnastics event that she hosts, Russia state-owned Channel One airing this video of her in front of multiple Z, a symbol for support of Russia's invasion of Ukraine.

In a moment, I'm going to be joined by the reporter who broke the story for The Wall Street Journal, Vivian Salama. And Vivian is now with me. All right. Vivian, thanks so much.

So can you tell me what - we see her appearing this weekend with all the Z symbols behind her, what is holding the U.S. Bank back from sanctioning Alina Kabaeva?

VIVIAN SALAMA, NATIONAL SECURITY REPORTER, WALL STREET JOURNAL: Well, Erin, there's a lot of debate going on within the administration now. And ultimately, they've decided that it's not that they're never going to sanction her, it's just that they did not want to sanction her right now. And the reason for it that they said exactly our sources told us that it would be exculpatory.

Now, a lot of people out there hear that and they say, "Well, that's exactly what we want. We want to be exculpatory." But there are some actions within the government that they do believe maybe have greater consequences with regard to maybe slowing Russia's invasion of Ukraine and this just doesn't happen to be one of them.

What this one is, though, is a major personal blow to Putin something that he would likely take very personally and there still is this looming hope within the government that they would be able to find a negotiated settlement to end the bloodshed in Ukraine. And that may be one day very far down the line, probably, we would have normalized relations with Russia.

And to do that, it's really hard to take a personal attack like that and so they've decided they'll save it in their back pocket for when it's absolutely necessary, but there are other actions that would be much more effective right now.

BURNETT: Right. Right. And, of course, when people say sanction her, they - obviously, she's the key to a lot of money and living what appears to be maybe a life of leisure in Switzerland, lots of you speculation out there.


And this brings me to my question to you, Vivian, of the questions about her. We know she won an Olympic gold medal in 2004. Then suddenly, she's a Russian lawmaker, then she's the chair of Russia's new media group which runs pro-Putin television channels and websites -- you know, all these things suddenly happened.

What else do you know about her relationship with Putin?

VIVIAN SALAMA, NATIONAL SECURITY REPORTER, WALL STREET JOURNAL: She's a very mysterious figure and has been very elusive, even with the Russian media. Any media organizations that even have tried to speculate about their relationship have either been shut down or shot down in terms of just a denial, flat out denial from the Kremlin. Vladimir Putin himself has been very elusive about it and has not confirmed the relationship.

In fact, in 2008, while he was still married to his previous wife, a lot of reports started to surface that he was dating Kabaeva and he responded saying, I have always disliked those with their snotty noses and neurotic fantasies break into peoples' private lives. So, not exactly a denial but, you know, in Vladimir Putin's way very much not answering the question.

And that's been the case some 14 years now even as we believe that they have at least three, maybe four children together.

BURNETT: Yeah. It is pretty incredible, right? When you say at least three, maybe four, I know, you know, anyone can look up the tabloid stories about that, but incredible that some of the most insiders don't know the answer to that question. It is incredible.

All right. Vivian, thank you very much for sharing your reporting with me.

I want to go now to retired four star Army general and former CIA director, David Petraeus.

In both those roles, General, you understand a lot of about this. "The Wall Street Journal" reporting that the Biden administration was ready to sanction Alina Kabaeva, Putin's rumored girlfriend with whom he apparently has several children, but they held off the last minute, and you heard Vivian's reporting as to why, that this would could be a personal blow and could actually be escalatory, the one thing that would really get to him.

What do you make of that? Do you think that something like this would have that, you know, substantial of an impact on Putin?

GEN. DAVID PETRAEUS (RET.), FORMER CIA DIRECTOR: It could. It could be deeply personal. And I think you also have to ask, as I'm sure was asked by the individual at the head of the table in the Situation Room what meaningful impact would this really have? Is this going to truly advance the effort of putting enormous pain, doing considerable damage to the Russian economy, financial system, business community, and indeed, Putin's inner circle in ways that will be really quite transformative, hopefully, that could help persuade President Putin as also battlefield developments help persuade him, that it's time to go to the negotiating table. In that regard, I think they set back and they say, well, you know,

what we did over the weekend is vastly more important. What Secretary Austin, what Secretary Blinken did in Kyiv, this is really important and what Secretary Austin will do tomorrow when he hosts the nearly 40 countries, I believe, ministers of defense's counter parts in Ramstein Air Base in Germany, how significant that could be? Because what this is essentially establishing is that it's no longer Ukraine in a sense fighting on its own with the support of the U.S. and a couple of other countries, it's now Ukraine enabled by the world's arsenals of democracy.

And I think this is very, very significant and indeed, if all of these weapon systems can get into Ukrainian hands, and be employed as effectively as I think is possible, they can not just stop the Russians over time. Now right now, they're probably giving some ground in the east and southeast.


PETRAEUS: But I think in the future, they can start to push Russia back, and again, the combination of what's being done, again, economically, financially, business and so forth, plus what happens on the battle field hopefully will persuade President Putin that it's time to sit down at the negotiating table and maybe at some point, there are going to be intermediaries that spring back into action between him and President Zelenskyy and also the U.S. and other countries that imposed the sanctions because, of course, President Zelenskyy is not in a position to negotiate their removal.

But that has to be the focus and I think -- again, people look at this and said, come on, why are we doing -- this is almost petulant what we are doing. And I suspect that was what happened in this particular case.

BURNETT: So, you know, when you talk about what's going to bring Putin to the negotiating table, obviously, nothing has, and those intermediaries you referred to, you know, some of them, Macron and others have sort of given up for now, obviously, had an election to pay attention to. But, you know, it comes in the context of the U.S. seeming to up the ante at least rhetorically in admitting what they want.

And so, in that, General, let me play what the Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said after meeting with President Zelenskyy.


Here he is.


LLOYD AUSTIN, SECRETARY OF DEFENSE: We want to see Russia weakened to the degree that it can't do the kinds of things that it has done in invading Ukraine.

(END VIDEO CLIP) BURNETT: Now, look, it's not that he's saying anything surprising, right, but he's admitting it, General. He's saying we want to see Russia weakened to the degree it cannot do the kinds of things in it has done in invading Ukraine. Does that concern you in any way in how it impacts Putin?

PETRAEUS: Well, it doesn't concern me in that we actually will weaken his capabilities to open another front, perhaps actually invade a NATO country or pursue some other unprovoked aggressive action. I do think we have to be a bit measured, obviously, in rhetorically making him feel as if he is in a corner with nothing left to lose. Now, I don't think that's the case, to be fair, and I have enormous respect for our defense secretary having served with him three times over the years, twice in the battlefield.

But I do think we have to be cautious with this. It's the same as when President Biden inserted an ad lib comment in the speech in war saw which folks then spent the next 28, 48 hours clarifying.

So we do have to be careful. We do have to be sure that Putin never feels as if there's nothing left to lose at which time he could take the kind of action that we most fear and after he's already rattled the nuclear saber a couple of times and one of his senior official discussed their doctrine that does exist of escalate to deescalate. Those are concerning and we should be concerned about that.

And I know those in the pentagon and state and White House are very concerned about it. They are convening meetings to discuss those possibilities and how we might on the one hand, deter, dissuade Russia from taking them and how on the other hand we respond to them.

So I think it's a reasonable question to ask. I don't think it's something that's crossed any particular line or threshold, but it's something we need to keep in mind, especially now as we convene all 40 countries and assuming that there is a strong communique out of that session tomorrow, this really puts Russia on notice, knowing, as we do, that Russia has, for example, expended at least two, lost at least two and maybe as many as three years of production of tanks, vehicles, weapon systems, because their losses on the battlefield and gives measure to the horrific personnel losses, their equipment losses have been staggering.

BURNETT: Yeah. It was incredible the way you put it, right, two or three years, if you have to think about it in those terms, it's -- it's not just the immediate losses.

PETRAEUS: Yeah, we do.

BURNETT: You can't replace it, and you got to look at your lead time before you can put it back in there.

All right. Well, General, thank you.

PETRAEUS: And now, he can do it without microchips, because with sanctions, the export of microchips based on U.S. intellectual property, another huge limiting factor for him. BURNETT: Right, right, these are the things, sort of level upon level

we all so often miss.

General, thank you so much. I appreciate your time.

PETRAEUS: Erin, thank you.

BURNETT: All right. And next, a CNN exclusive. You will see some of the 2,000 text messages that reveal what Trump's inner circle was saying about the election before, during, after, and it includes urgent pleas to get Trump to act on January 6th.

And, Elon Musk, it's official, he will buy Twitter for $44 billion. He says his goal is to save free speech on the platform. So does that mean President Trump is coming back?



BURNETT: Tonight, CNN obtaining more than 2,300 text messages sent and received by Trump's former chief of staff Mark Meadows. Now, the time frame for these messages basically election day on the one hand, Biden's inauguration on the other. These texts revealed new details about how people in Trump's inner circle responded to January 6th as rioters stormed the Capitol.

Mick Mulvaney writing, quote, Mark, he needs to stop this. Can I do anything to help?

Donald Trump, Jr.: They will try to F his entire legacy on this if it gets worse.

And Reince Priebus, appropriately in all caps: Tell them to go home.

Ryan Nobles is OUTFRONT.

And, Ryan, I just shared three, right, of the thousands of messages that the January 6th committee is looking at now. What else do they reveal?

RYAN NOBLES, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Erin, it is remarkable when you look at all these texts together, because it gives us an interesting picture as to why the January 6th committee is so interested in Mark Meadows as part of the their investigation. He was really the nexus of all this activity that was working very hard to prevent the recertification of the election results. He had a foot in the White House as the chief of staff, a foot in the campaign, has connection to campaign leaders.

And, of course, as a former member of Congress, he also had a foot in that world. All these different factions working, leading up to January 6th to try to prevent the election from being certified.

But to that end, he was also getting a lot of advice and was also hearing from people that were very concerned what was happening on the days leading up to January 6th and January 6th in particular, including some names that may surprise you, like Marjorie Taylor Greene, the firebrand conservative Republican, big supporter of President Trump who on January 6th texted Mark Meadows this: Mark, I was told there was an active shooter on the first floor of the Capitol. Please, tell the president to calm people. This isn't the way to solve anything.

And while Marjorie Taylor Greene was among many Republican members of Congress who were very concerned about what was happening here on January 6th, her tone was still one of defiance, still believed that the election was the stolen and that Meadows should encourage the president to take dramatic steps to prevent Joe Biden from being inaugurated. Listen to what she texted Meadows on January 17th, just three days before the inauguration, she said, quote: In our private chat with only members, several are saying the only way to save our republic is for Trump to call for Marshall (ph) law, she spells it wrong, I don't know on those things, I just wanted you to tell them, they stole this election. She goes on to talk more about her belief as to what led to the election.

There is so much information in these text messages, Erin, but there's also a lot that Meadows did not hand over to the committee, more than a thousand text message that are redacted citing privilege over. So there's a lot the committee still has to learn but we already know this is a key part of their investigation.

BURNETT: All right. Thank you very much, Ryan.

And so, these thousands of messages coming to light as Republican candidates around the United States are embracing election conspiracies, as part of a quest to edge out opponents.

Sara Murray is OUTFRONT.


DONALD TRUMP, FORMER PRESIDENT: The presidential election was rigged and stolen.

SARA MURRAY, CNN POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The big lie is still the big motivator for many Republican voters.

KRISTINA KARAMO (R), MICHIGAN SECRETARY OF STATE CANDIDATE: We're insurrectionists. We're (ph) big lie proponents for asking questions.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The 2022 Michigan state convention will come to order.

MURRAY: In Michigan, Republicans overwhelmingly endorsed Kristina Karamo who spread conspiracies about the 2020 election and the January 6 insurrection to be their nominee for secretary of state, the state's top election official.


KARAMO: Thank you. MURRAY: While there are other candidates with election experience,

Karamo is on track to take on the Democratic incumbent this fall.

KARAMO: Guess what, Jocelyn Benson? I am your worst nightmare.

MURRAY: In the run up to the midterms, national Republicans stay they're focused on economy and inflation and crime but in Republican primaries, the magic words are Donald Trump and a litmus test are denying the results of the 2020 election without any evidence of widespread fraud.

TRUMP: Kristina Karamo, she is a fearless champion for election integrity.

MURRAY: In Georgia --

DAVID PERDUE (R), GEORGIA GUBERNATORIAL CANDIDATE: Brian Kemp sold us out and allowed radicals to steal the election.

MURRAY: David Perdue is going after Governor Brian Kemp for certifying the election in 2020, as the two face off in a GOP gubernatorial primary.

In Colorado, State Representative Ron Hanks, an election denier, running for U.S. Senate with an ad featuring footage from January 6 insurrection --

AD ANNOUNCER: Restore grassroots political parties.

MURRAY: -- was awarded the top slot at a Republican primary ballot from conservatives at the GOP assembly.

Mesa County clerk Tina Peters, who faces criminal charges for her alleged role in election security breach, charges she calls politically motivated, is running for Colorado secretary of state.

TINA PETERS (R), COLORADO SECRETARY OF STATE CANDIDATE: Pleasure to be here to sound the alarm. I'm Tina Peters --

MURRAY: And also Republicans backing for top billing on the GOP ballot.

In Arizona, home of the infamous Cyber Ninja's review, GOP Senate hopeful and sitting Attorney General Mark Brnovich is getting hammered on the airwaves by other Republicans for his role in certifying the state's 2020 election results.

AD ANNOUNCER: Mark Brnovich says President Trump is wrong on voter fraud, really?

MURRAY: Putting up election deniers in November could prove risky for the GOP.


MURRAY: Republican strategist Jason Cabel Roe says even with the challenging environment for Democrats, Republicans still need to strike a broader appeal.

ROE: Relitigating the 2020 election is popular with Republican voters. It's not popular with non-Republican voters.

MURRAY: Over at the GOP endorsement conventions, appearances from election deniers like Mike Lindell and Rudy Giuliani, as Republicans convene more than 10 hours and Trump-backed candidates cleaned up.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Support the America First agenda. Support the President Donald Trump.

MURRAY: With Matt DePerno securing party support for attorney general after months of trying to revive an unsuccessful election lawsuit and spreading lies about 2020.

MATT DEPERNO (R), MICHIGAN ATTORNEY GENERAL CANDIDATE: We've proved how corruptible our election is and how fraud occurred in this state.


MURRAY (on camera): Now this convention in Michigan involved two rounds of votings by Republican delegates, two rounds of hand-counting those votes, also Republicans can get on the same page for the official nominating convention in August. But when I asked Matthew DePerno and Kristina Karamo, tried to, how they plan to draw in voters beyond the Republican Party, neither of them would answer -- Erin.

BURNETT: All right. Sara, thank you.

And next, Elon Musk, one of Twitter's most prolific provocateurs, to be the new owner of Twitter. So, will he lift the ban on former President Trump?

Plus, Shanghai residents reaching a breaking point, as that city's brutal lockdown is getting even worse. Now, they got six-foot fences being put up to literally keep people caged in their homes.



BURNETT: Bombshell news rocking the business world tonight and political world, Tesla CEO Elon Musk who happens to be the richest man in the world has reached a deal with Twitter, and he will buy the company for $44 billion. Now, actually, news of the deal sent Dow soaring. The Dow is having all kinds of trouble lately, but was down nearly 500 points, closed up 213. So, you can do the math there, that's a nearly 800-point spread.

The deal has caused many on the far left to slam Musk, fearing that he'll let anyone including former President Trump who's banned from the platform to tweet whatever they want, true or not. So Musk went to Twitter to tweet: I hope even my worst critics remain on Twitter because that is what free speech means.

OUTFRONT now, Dan Primack, business editor at "Axios". And, Dan, so, okay, it's been amazing to watch, you now, people getting so twisted up about this. In his statement about acquiring Twitter, Musk said today he's exciting about authenticating all humans. What does he mean by this? What's he going do here?

DAN PRIMACK, BUSINESS EDITOR, AXIOS: What he mean as if you're on Twitter, there's a lot of bots on there essentially spam accounts, if you tweet about something positive or negative, particularly maybe even a hashtag, you're often get tons of automated response from things that look like people but aren't. So Musk feels that's one of the things that ruins the Twitter experience.

One thing to note though, some bots are useful. For example, weather alerts are bots. So you don't want to eliminate all bots, but he does want to get rid the spammy ones.

BURNETT: Right. Well, you know, it's actually, if you can come out with an algorithm to solve some of these problems, you're going to be solving problems that have so far been completely intractable for the biggest tech companies of all, beyond Twitter, right? Facebook, and the list goes on.

So, one of the big questions, as you know that as the left and right all in arms if you visited Twitter recently, is whether Twitter will once again be dominated by Trump, who's currently banned. Trump tonight says, oh, he's not going to return no matter what.

He's called Musk a genius. In fact, he's called one of the great geniuses that we have, and we have to protect our genius. He's gone on and on about Musk.

Musk, though much different when it comes to Trump. Here he is.


ELON MUSK, TESLA CEO: The president is amazingly good at Twitter.

INTERVIEWER: Do you see any similarities, between you and him?

MUSK: I mean, not zero similarities.

INTERVIEWER: Do you support him?

MUSK: I think there are some things that I think are good, like the space force. I -- there are some things that I think aren't good, like support for oil and gas.


BURNETT: So, you know, it's interesting to, and when you listen to that. Musk then stepped down as a White House adviser when Trump pulled out of the Paris climate accord. But if you pay attention to many on the far left on Twitter, they think that this deal is the undoing of civilization as we know, it because musk is essentially going to allow a lot of lies, and some sort of pro-Trump situation to take over. What do you think really happens?

PRIMACK: Look, Musk is certainly going to re-platform some people have been deplatformed, and I -- if Trump is one of them, my guess is he will end up back on Twitter. I don't see him sticking on Truth Social alone, just from a scale perspective.

You know, Musk is a very easy person to caricature, particularly because some of the things he does mostly on Titter, but he's more of an iconoclast than a liberal, or a conservative, or a left winger or a right-winger.

So, I think that a lot of these reflective reactions we've seen today, in the end, on both sides, kind of cheering on the right, the freaking out on the left are going to be overreactions.

BURNETT: Yeah, I have to say. I have been enjoyed (ph) watching him.

All right. Dan, thank you so much. I appreciate it. And, of course, we will see what will happen with this.

Next, giant shipping containers arriving in Shanghai but these containers not bringing what is so desperately needed there, food and medicine. Rather, they are bringing in fences, giant 6-foot high fences to keep people from getting out.



BURNETT: Tonight, Chinese government officials now installing fences in Shanghai, blocking people from leaving their homes, for fear that they'll spread COVID. The panic is now spreading to Beijing where authorities are testing nearly 20 million residents at least three times this week.

David Culver as, you know, is part of the only American television crew living through the harsh lockdown in Shanghai and he is, once again, OUTFRONT.


DAVID CULVER, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): It's the video Chinese censors do not want you to see or share, as it sparked a rare digital uprising on social media this weekend, highlighting a shared misery and helplessness felt across Shanghai.

Video points at dysfunction, mismanagement, a city in chaos struggling to cope with a surge in COVID cases. It resonates with so many of Shanghai's 25 million residents, feeling trapped turning to the most popular Chinese communication platforms Weibo and WeChat to event amidst what is government-controlled Internet with any dissent quickly suppressed and erased, China's censors over the weekend struggle to keep up, no sooner they blocked one version of the video did another resurface, rapidly multiplying, flooding China's cyber space, some versions even disguised as QR codes to throw off the censors. The online rattling of social stability was a growing rejection of

China's harsh COVID containment measures.

Some even sharing this clip from the 2012 movie "Les Mis", referencing a 19th century uprising in Paris, the censors swiftly clamped down, extinguishing the spread. But the users also taking aim at the obvious censorship itself, sharing clips of their own officials proclaiming China's citizens have a right to freely express themselves.

Seemingly ironic given even the first line of China's own national anthem is now blocked online, the words: "Rise, who don't want to be enslaved" now used as a veiled reference to criticize their own government.

For some, Shanghai feels like the world's largest prison. CNN witnessing it firsthand.

The extent of my freedom is all the way to my terrace door here, lucky enough to at least get fresh air outside. Our community volunteers sending me this image of what's on the other side of our door, a freshly taped paper seal, a reminder not to leave.

And if I manage to get out, there's now a COVID guard posted day and night. Outside several apartment compounds, fences going up. Neighbors showing shocking images of new barriers on social media.

Listen to them howl from their balconies as they're further caged in, some finding workarounds buying groceries through the added layer. Others desperately rattling locks hoping to escape. And then there were those who managed to tear down the walls.

For folks locked into their homes, scenes like this are a terrifying reality, a apartment fire over the weekend in Shanghai's district, report that everyone got out safely but it raises questions, might these COVID barriers might be more a danger than the virus itself?

And if you thought the city might be near reopening or easing lockdowns, images from the Streets of shanghai show giant containers not bringing in much needed supplies but helping to build blockades. This, as more positive cases and close contacts are round up and sent to government quarantine facilities.

Some, left to sleep in tents in the middle of deserted streets as their dormitories are disinfected. As the rising tune of discontent echoes throughout the eerily empty metropolis, for many, Shanghai has fallen.


CULVER (on camera): And, Erin, you mentioned the outbreak now spreading in Beijing and the mass testing underway there. Well, the government within Beijing trying to reassure residents in the capital, saying, hey, don't worry we have plenty of supplies but people there are still panic buying nonetheless, with this mentality of, hey, we saw what happened in Shanghai. We're not taking any chances.

BURNETT: Well, amazing.

All right. David, thank you very much.

And thanks so much to all of you for being with us. See you tomorrow.

"AC360" starts now.