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Erin Burnett Outfront

Russia Issues New Warning As U.S. Flexes Military Muscle Nearby; CNN Identifies Russian Commander Behind Shelling Of Civilians; OutFront On Ground With Ukrainian Using Drones To Help Kill Russians; Mother Of Wounded Soldier Trapped In Steel Plan Desperate For Info. Aired 7-8p ET

Aired May 12, 2022 - 19:00   ET



ERIN BURNETT, CNN HOST: OUTFRONT next, live from Kyiv, as Russia issues a chilling warning. An official says that Putin will, quote, seriously beef up ground and air defenses if more countries join NATO.

This as a Ukrainian soldier shows me just how much Ukrainian forces are relying on drones to win on the battlefield. It's an incredible story.

Plus, federal prosecutors are reportedly launching a grand jury investigation into Trump how did classified documents end up at Mar-a- Lago.

And she's surging in the polls in Pennsylvania just days before the election, scaring both Trump and McConnell. Who is Kathy Barnette? And could she win?

Let's go OUTFRONT.

And good evening. Welcome to a special edition of OUTFRONT. We are live from Kyiv tonight. I'm Erin Burnett.

And OUTFRONT tonight, Russia leveling a grim new warning of a new and massive show of force. This comes as the U.S. is flexing its military muscle, several hundred miles south of Ukraine.

Thousands of troops from America's allies are joining Americans for military exercises in north Macedonia. At one point, hundreds of paratroopers filled the sky to demonstrate just how quickly the alliance can respond to an attack.

And while it is important to note that these exercises were planned before Putin's invasion, it is always the option to hold him off, right? The U.S. has done that with other exercises since this conflict began. There is no doubt that the message was aimed directly at Putin.

And it comes as Russia's former president, Dmitry Medvedev, gave a chilling warning, saying the country will, quote, seriously strengthened the number of ground forces and air defenses as well as deploy significant naval forces if Sweden and Finland join NATO. Well, Sweden and Finland pretty much are going to join NATO. Finland

is probably going to join in the next week. They decided on Monday. Tensions are ramping up in a big way, as the war is now in its 78th day.

And to the east of where I am tonight, here is what we are seeing -- a vicious back and forth over cities and towns, of Putin is being pushed back in the north but appearing to make some gains in the Luhansk region in the Donbas, where one top military official says that Ukraine's front lines of, quote, significantly deteriorated.

Melissa Bell is with me here in Kyiv.

And, you know, Melissa, you see this vicious back and forth and significantly deteriorated, of course. It's a big mission. Where are we?

MELISSA BELL, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: It's significantly deteriorating, because of what you see in the last few weeks. As we have been seeing, the concentration of Russian forces around Donetsk and Luhansk, of course, those former bastions, they're strongholds that they have been trying to extend from, to try to make some kind of territorial gains.

They are coming up across really difficult terrain. And what you're talking about here is really a long Russia river that goes from Russia, essentially down through Eastern Ukraine, back to Russia, around which they are getting bogged down.

Now, some of those areas -- and I'm thinking particularly of Severodonetsk -- it's important to remember that this is a town of some 100,000 people and many of them have fled. But tonight, even, out there are some 15,000 people carrying their basements, hunkering down in their basement waiting to see if this town is going to fall or not, along this river, Russian forces are trying to cross twice today, Ukrainians tried to manage to blow up the pontoons that they tried to build to get across the river.

Further east, they did manage to make that crossing and are heading north. But it is that bogged down nature of their forces that is just dangerous. And what's that meant?

What that does mean is extra shelling, because, as one Ukrainian leader said today, their tactic has been the same, all along. They shell, they bomb, they destroy, and then it's into the scorched earth that they head. And, of course, that means casualties, it means more damage, and for the time being, a fairly static frontline with a lot of damage being done.

The good news for Ukrainian forces that because they have had to concentrate that manpower around that eastern area, trying to make those gains, they have had to take some of it away from Kharkiv and that, of course, that means some relief. We have seen some Ukrainians to the north of that in some villages much closer to the Russian border. Bad news for Russia, with a first Russian civilian cross border death

as the result of shelling today. But it does mean some relief for the populations of Kharkiv, for the last couple of months here that have seen the constant shelling, that artillery power raining down on them and causing tremendous damage to the city, and, of course, civilian lives.

BURNETT: Yes, civilian lives, so much damage there.

All right. Melissa Bell, thank you very much here, in Kyiv.

And it is there in Kharkiv, as Melissa mentioned, that CNN has now seen the aftermath of the attacks on civilians, and these using indiscriminate cluster munitions. This is a war crime, if they were intentionally targeted.

And now after a two month-long investigation, CNN can reveal the commander responsible for these attacks.


Tying specific generals to specific crimes has been incredibly difficult. But it is the key to actually carrying out a war crime prosecution.

Chief international investigative correspondent Nima Elbagir has this exclusive report, and I do want to warn you that you may find some of the images in her report disturbing.


NIMA ELBAGIR, CNN CHIEF INTERNATIONAL INVESTIGATIVE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): A devastation of civilian homes and lives. Throughout the last few months, we have witnessed atrocities in Ukraine.

More mortar strikes very, very close. They want us to start moving.

While we know these Russian actions, it's been difficult to draw a direct line to a Russian commander from specific atrocities. Until now.

CNN can exclusively reveal that this man, Colonel General Alexander Zhuravlyov, commander of the western military district, is the commander responsible for this. Munitions targeting civilians in the city of Kharkiv, east Ukraine, a war crime under international law.

FRED PLEITGEN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: I can see more artillery rockets apparently being fired from Russian territory towards the territory I would say about Kharkiv -- I don't know if you could hear this right now.

ELBAGIR: This is the start of the war. CNN senior international correspondent Fred Pleitgen witnessed artillery being fired from inside Russia, within Zhuravlyov's district, towards the city of Kharkiv.

Sam Kiley was in Kharkiv and could hear the shelling moments later.

SAM KILEY, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Could feel the concussion against the glass --

ELBAGIR: We soon learned from experts that these were Smerch rockets. This is what they are capable of delivering. Cluster bombs. One Smerch rocket released with many small explosives, scattering bombs, amplifying the devastation.

These attacks, captured on social media both in Kharkiv and both from the same day, are a clear example of their indiscriminate nature. When used in this fashion, against civilians, it is considered a war crime. The use of Smerch rockets are key in our findings of who is responsible because they are unique to one unit here, one commander.

After once months of forensic work, we can reveal the -- trail leading to derive of. We have return to some of the scenes of the tax, focusing on the February 27th attack, when three civilians were hit and eight more on another date. We start in the Pavlovapola (ph) neighborhood of Kharkiv.

This is shrapnel from those missiles that fell on our neighborhood, Lilia tells us. This shrapnel was found in one of the rooms.

Lilia takes us to see a Smerch rocket that fell 200 yards from her apartment block, in this once affluent area.

I remember the whistling sounds of the missiles. I know that the missiles were flying and that they were accompanied by fighter planes or drones.

You can see the hole that came through. You can see the way that the rocket buckled when it hit to the car. You can also very clearly see that this is a search it's Smerch. It's not the only rocket coming from this direction.

Less than half a half mile around the road, I another rocket hit.

Helping to situate us, this kiosk, that water cooler, they are key landmarks. The bodies landed here, down this road. Those blue doors you see, that's where the cluster munitions shrapnel embedded.

This video, filmed moments after the attack, where four people, including a child, were killed. Another Smerch launching cluster bombs. We know this because one of the unexploded bombs was found only 280 yards away.

Notice the date, 2019. Russia stopped selling arms to Ukraine in 2014. This confirms this is a Russian cluster bomb.

One and a half miles away, another strike, and more suffering, and no sign of any legitimate military targets.

People were queuing for food and then something hit. People started running here, she says. This is the exact moment of impact -- look at it again. Frame by

frame, you can see the scale of the rocket and the proximity to innocent civilians.

We are here in Kharkiv. Notice the five hits along this line from the 28. They are pretty much in a line. Apart from three here, they line up with the hits from February 27th. We can trace these lines 24 miles to a point of convergence here, across the border in Russia, well within the range of a Smerch rocket, where we have a satellite image from the 27th showing the launching position.


Notice the plume of smoke and telltale burn marks of a Smerch launch here, here and here.

In collaboration with the Center for Information Resilience, we can also tell you who is firing from this position, the 79th Russian Artillery Brigade, part of the western military district, which borders Ukraine, and is under the command of Zhuravlyov.

According to open-source information reviewed by CNN, military experts and intelligence sources, they are the only unit in this district equipped to launch Smerch rockets. And only the commander has the authority to order the 79th artillery brigade to launch the rockets.

One expert told CNN that Smerch is a district level asset. There are very few in the Russian armed forces. And therefore, they are dedicated to special missions at the order of a military district commander.

Colonel General Zhuravlyov is this commander and he is no stranger to these brutal tactics, atrocities targeting civilians. They are very similar to what we saw in Syria in 2016. So, it shouldn't come as a surprise that Zhuravlyov also led Russian troops during the siege of Aleppo. He is the architect of the devastation you see here.

For the leveling of Aleppo, he was awarded the highest honor granted to Russian officers, hero of the Russian federation. Yet, Syrians have documented his war crimes.


Despite the direct line from the impunity the world afforded Russia in Syria, to the atrocities suffered by civilians here today, the question remains, what will the world do to stop this cycle?


ELBAGIR (on camera): The Russian Ministry of Defense has not responded to our request for comment. But given the concerns around the U.S.'s inaction on Zhuravlyov and other key generals, we also saw comment from the U.S. State Department, who said they wouldn't comment on specifics but that they continue to track and assess war crimes and other reports of abuses. It is so clear though, Erin, especially where you are now, that things

could have possibly been very different if more had been done sooner on Zhuravlyov and others -- Erin.

BURNETT: Absolutely. Nima, thank you so much for that, you know, incredible the detail and the painstaking work on that report.

I want to go now to Christo Grozev. He's an investigative journalist who is executive director of Bellingcat. You may know him because he uncovered the culprits behind the poisoning of Putin's top nemesis, Alexei Navalny, all of which was documented in the CNN film "Navalny", in which, of course, Christo, you are a central figure.

And you have been investigating war crimes by Russia in Ukraine, and also been doing painstaking work on that. Were you at all surprised to learn what Nima uncovered and was able to show who was responsible on the Russian side, the commander, and how this targeting of civilians was done?

CHRISTO GROZEV, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, BELLINGCAT: First of all, good evening and thanks for inviting me back to your show, Erin. And I am also not surprised at all. Actually, Mister -- Lieutenant -- Colonel General Zhuravlyov is known to us and something that is might also need to be mention is that he is a deputy to Valery Gerasimov, to the chief of staff of the Russian army.

So, his position is very, very high up in the Russian pyramid, and a possible forensic indictment, what CNN has just shown, on him will have an extremely powerful message, will be an extremely powerful message, because he is one of the top guys in the Russian military. He's not just regional commander.

We have seen the same level of directed targeting of civilians come not only with cluster ammunitions. We have seen the same in something that we're particularly investigating in the moment, which is the use of guided missiles, of cruise missiles. We have seen that similarly, the directions, the instructions for launching such missiles come from the top. They come from three-star generals. And they are often directed, not necessarily, by mistake, to residential and to civilian areas.

And one makes -- one begins to wonder whether this is just a mistake, if this is incompetence, or if this is part of the terrorizing policy that the Russian army seems to be pursuing.

BURNETT: You are saying that these are coming from three-star level commanders. Do you believe orders to target civilians or to do -- you know, this is coming from even higher? I mean, is Putin himself involved?

GROZEV: Well, we cannot imagine what is happening in the mind of a dictator, who thought that he was waging a war that would last a week and is now bogged down in something that he cannot find a way out of. And it is quite possible -- we don't have the evidence -- but it's possible he himself has decided that, given the lack of any plausible positive outcome for him, in terms of victory, that he is instructing a revenge or vengeful tactic of terrorizing the population of Ukraine.

BURNETT: Certainly, you hear about things in villages, you know, between soldiers putting mines under carpets, and one can look at those as individual acts, but when you start to see them on a whole in so many places, in so many ways, it certainly looks quite different.

I know, Christo, you are also looking at who is providing the intelligence to Putin. What are you finding?

GROZEV: There has been a change. Obviously, the lack of success, the military success, and the obvious failures of the army have led to some rethinking of who Putin can trust. Whereas, in the initial stage of the war and the months and years preceding the war, he had trusted completely the FSB, in particular the fifth service of the FSB, with providing him on the intelligence of Ukraine. Those were the guys that misled him, that Ukraine is ready to accept the Russia as liberators, the Russian army as liberators.

So, gradually over the last three weeks, four weeks, we see that he has changed that source of intelligence, from -- away from the FSB, to the GRU, to the military intelligence, who are known for other famous assassination operations, such as the bungled attempt on poisonings the Skripals in 2018.

But we see that in 2014, 2015, he transitioned -- he passed -- Putin passed on the role of the key intelligence gathering entity in Ukraine to the FSB and now, he's moving it back to the military intelligence.

BURNETT: All right. Christo, thank you very much. I appreciate your time. And, of course, everyone appreciates all of your work.

And next, a Ukrainian soldier shows me how they're using drones to get crucial gains on the battlefield here. It is a story you'll see only OUTFRONT.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Priorities and step-by-step -- and you just like, next.


BURNETT: Plus, a major move by the January 6th Select Committee. New subpoenas issued for five Republican members of Congress, including the House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy.

And a major twist in Pennsylvania's crucial Senate primary. One woman's swift rise from obscurity is not only scaring Trump but top Republican leaders. Who is Kathy Barnette?



BURNETT: Tonight, a story you will see only OUTFRONT, a member of an elite drone unit here in Ukraine showed us up close just how drones are so unbelievably effective here at taking out Russian targets. How are they doing it? Where are they doing it?

And now, the unit is getting a major boost, and they are getting that boost from young Ukrainian video game lovers.


VOLODYMYR DEMCHENKO, UKRAINIAN SOLDIER: We used a strategy of ten days of intelligence, like making --

BURNETT: Which is you doing the drones?

DEMCHENKO: Yeah, and we have a group of eight people. I was a guy who flying, we have a commander. And then a guy who actually my security teams, there was in the bushes, just watching, so I wouldn't be killed.

BURNETT: And that happened while you are controlling the drone? So you are controlling the drone and they are backing you up? And you do that for ten days?


BURNETT: And then you mapped out?

DEMCHENKO: Yes, exactly. After that, we have this map.

BURNETT: This is Vlad Demchenko's map of the Novivikov (ph), the town we are standing in. He made it using his drone. You can see he circled target after target after target in red. Here's what happens after that.

DEMCHENKO: We invite a serious drone, one that can stay in the air for two hours. I was with them, and I was pointing to them, where they can fly. And they have a connection with artillery. And it was like working on the target.

So, we put our priorities in and step-by-step it was like -- next. It was kind of fun, to be honest.


BURNETT: We're standing at the site of Vlad's first big strike.

How many of them were there?

DEMCHENKO: I think around 20 or 30 people.

BURNETT: Twenty or 30?

DEMCHENKO: Yes. At least ten of them was killed here.

BURNETT: The drones are helping to kill so many Russians that in another village, shown here by a CNN drone, a man told me that Russian soldiers occupying his house were given bonuses of cigarette cartons to shoot down Ukrainian drones.

DEMCHENKO: We are using Chinese drones. And the Chinese give the Russians programs that can spot us.

So, the Russians see where we are starting and where we are landing. Once, it happened to us that were there was an attack, right away, I just -- where the drone was landing. And then the next 30 seconds, it was really close, gone, like 30 meters away.

BURNETT: It was a moment, Vlad says, much like this one --

DEMCHENKO: They see the whole road from up where I was landing, everywhere. They see everything. They see my form.

BURNETT: A Chinese company makes both a DJ drone that Vlad uses, and the software program, AeroScope, that tracks much of what the drone does. That's what Vlad says the Russians are using to combat Ukraine's drone warfare.

How are you able to use that for the whole ten days? Get all the information?

DEMCHENKO: Well, we have a whole strategy. If you are coming first, you don't only drone, like, walk away from your group -- you walk 100 meters. You turn it on. You come back from the drone, and then you are flying really away, like ten meters away. Then, the next position, you are going up, and then you make a search, like you are make making the pictures, and then you come back, very different directions, so they can't track in a straight away.

By now, I personally know three guys being killed, just because nobody knew how to work that before. And this is the price we pay for this tactic now.

BURNETT: Vlad says there is an American drone the Russians cannot track. He wants a lot more of those.

DEMCHENKO: Imagine like you're having in your infantry, and there is a live need, imagine how easier it is if there's a drone in front of them and telling them, hey, guys, there is a tank, there is a vehicle, there is a group of enemy on the left.


Now, in each platoon, we have a guy with a drone.

BURNETT: Well --

DEMCHENKO: It's funny to say -- but most of these drone guys are just young nerds who used to play video games.

BURNETT: Right, and now the skill is applicable?

DEMCHENKO: Yeah, it's cool skill. And you know what? Mostly, like, of course, they are the youngest guy, like 18 years old, no one will send them like to liberate the villages. But if they can do their job sitting from five kilometers away it's like, okay, it's kind of fun for them.

BURNETT: Now Deputy Commander Demchenko has moved up the ranks fast, and proved that he can risk and be nimble, has --

DEMCHENKO: The commander asked, like, did you know how to fly a drone? I said, yes, definitely of course. And once they gave me an actual drone, I was thrilled to just take it from the place I was living and try --

BURNETT: Just on your own, practicing?

DEMCHENKO: Yeah, I don't say to anybody that I did it only once in my life, but you just -- I don't know --

BURNETT: You learned, on the fly?

DEMCHENKO: Yeah, yeah.


DEMCHENKO: Right? I think it's like the main thing is pretty easy. The main thing is just to stay calm.


BURNETT: An incredible story. And those drones are just so front and center in absolutely everything here. I want to add that with that villager told me -- the Russians getting the cartons of cigarettes for shooting down drones, he said the Russians would sit there in the garden and tried to shoot down drones, and it was really hard because they were tiny, and they were rarely even able to shoot them down, but just an incredible development in this story.

And next, federal prosecutors are ramping up an investigation into whether Trump mishandled classified documents.

Plus, an election denier who repeatedly questioned whether Barack Obama was a Muslim. In fact, said he was a Muslim and was acting Muslimy -- now a major contender for Pennsylvania's open Senate seat. So, who is Kathy Barnette and why are both Trump and McConnell so scared of her?



BURNETT: Breaking news, the Justice Department has launched a grand jury investigation into whether classified documents found at Donald Trump's Mar-a-Lago home were mishandled. This is according to sources telling CNN.

And in recent days, the National Archives were subpoenaed for the classified materials that were included in 15 boxes of documents that Trump took with him to Florida. The development coming as Trump faces several legal challenges, including a criminal probe into his efforts to turn over Georgia's presidential election results.

Ryan Nobles is OUTFRONT on Capitol Hill.

And, Ryan, a lot of big developments. What more are you learning about this investigation tonight?

RYAN NOBLES, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yeah, that's right, Erin. Evan Perez and Kaitlan Collins confirming that the Justice Department has taken this step of subpoenaing the information to get these classified documents that they believe there's a possibility that former President Donald Trump tampered with and took to Mar-a- Lago in violation of the law.

And this doesn't come as a surprise. The National Archives actually requested this investigation weeks ago. They want to see if there was something wrong with the way this was handled.

And in addition to that, there was a congressional committee, the oversight committee that was interested in getting this material for themselves for their own investigation and the Department of Justice had gotten way of that happening. So this is the next step in this process. "The New York Times" is also reporting today the Department of Justice is also going to issue subpoenas for members of the Trump administration White House during that period of time where this tampering may have taken place so they can get answers.

But again, this is no longer just a theoretical conversation about whether or not the president may have done something wrong. There is no actual action taken place in the Department of Justice is increasing their efforts as it relates to this investigation.

BURNETT: And, Ryan, it's also a major escalation from January 6 committee. They have subpoenaed five sitting Republican members of Congress. That includes Leader McCarthy. What do you know about that?

NOBLES: Yeah, that's right, Erin. And this is something that we were wondering sometime if this was going to happen, five sitting Republican members of Congress including Kevin McCarthy, Andy Biggs, Mo Brooks, Jim Jordan and Scott Perry now all under subpoena, all five men were asked to voluntarily cooperate with the January 6th Select Committee.

They all turned the committee down, but the committee believes they have information that is central to their investigation. That's why they've taken this dramatic, really unprecedented step of issuing them subpoenas. The question is, Erin, will they comply and if they don't, what mechanism exists to force their compliance? Today, the January 6th Select Committee members did not have answer to that question -- Erin.

BURNETT: Right. And, of course, the time is -- the clock is ticking for them.

Ryan, thank you so much for all that reporting.

And let's go now to Elie Honig, CNN senior legal analyst and former assistant U.S. attorney with the southern district of New York.

So, Elie, when you take the top line here that Ryan is reporting, subpoenaed issued to the National Archives about Trump taking classified documents to Mar-a-Lago, right, about these documents, what does it say to you?

ELIE HONIG, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: Well, Erin, this tells me that the Justice Department believes there could be, and I want to stress that, could be, some level of criminality here. As a federal prosecutor, if you're going to issue a grand jury subpoena you can't do that based on nothing. You have to have what prosecutors calls predication, which basically just means some reasonable good faith fact or belief that there may have been a crime. It's a low bar but it's not nothing.

And I think what prosecutors are going to be focused on here is that it is a federal crime to remove or destroy classified documents, we know the documents were classified but have to show that a person, A, knew they were classified, and also have to show a person knew that was wrong. So, that's where I think DOJ is really going to be focusing here on the criminal side of things.

BURNETT: Yeah, so now let's go to January 6th and the new subpoenas coming from there. What do you think about that? Do you think that there will be any cooperation or testimony from any of these individuals?


And does it matter?

HONIG: No, I do not think any of these five individuals will comply with the subpoenas. They've already declined the polite non-subpoena request from the committee to testify and the problem as you alluded to, Erin, is the calendar. We're 28 days away from these hearings beginning.

There is no realistic way the committee can go into court and get an order from a judge, and go to the appeals and force them to justify. There's no realistic way they can hold contempt, and send them over the DOJ and get a prosecution by then.

That said, I still think this is an important statement from the committee, that they're pursuing all evidence, and it's going to give the committee the ability to say, we asked them, we subpoenaed them, they refused, what are they hiding?

Watch for the committee to say that a lot during the hearings.

BURNETT: All right. Elie, thank you very much as always.

HONIG: Thanks, Erin.

BURNETT: And next, one woman upending the Pennsylvania Republican Senate contest. It's an unbelievable development here in the final hours, now neck and neck with the Trump-backed candidate Dr. Oz, this as her false conspiracy theory about Barack being Muslim is coming back. Who is Kathy Barnette?

And I'm going to speak to a mother who is waiting desperately for word about her son. He is trapped inside the Mariupol steel plant with a serious head injury.



BURNETT: New tonight, former President Trump nervous about his candidate, Dr. Mehmet Oz, losing in Pennsylvania's Republican primary, in large part because of this woman, Kathy Barnette, an author and conservative commentator who's been surging in recent polls in the state.

Trump issuing a statement tonight, saying Barnett, quote, will never win the general election. According to a recent Fox News poll, she is now locked in a statistical tie with both Dr. Oz and Dave McCormick, who is the much more mainstream Republican candidate in the race.

Barnette gaining traction after she talked about her mother, who Barnette says was raped and impregnated with Barnette when she was 11 years old. Her mother obviously did not get an abortion, and Barnette points out that she is alive because of that decision.

OUTFRONT tonight, Julia Terruso, political reporter with "The Philadelphia Inquirer". She's at a Barnette campaign event in a suburb of Philadelphia.

And, Julia, thanks so much. I mean, there are only fives days left until election day. How much momentum does Barnette have tonight?

JULIA TERRUSO, POLITICAL REPORTER, PHILADELPHIA INQUIRER: Well, the story of the campaign five days away is she has a lot of momentum. She entered this space, like, I don't think people saw her as a front- runner. It was all about Mehmet Oz and David McCormick, and now in most polling they're running a tight three-way tie for first. She's had a couple endorsements come her way and it seems like, you know, the last few days have just been about everyone tried to vet her, her opponents trying to attack her, which is what happens when you're suddenly running in a tight three-way race for first.

BURNETT: Just incredible what's happened here. And I guess one of the things as you've been reporting on abortion rights taking center stage in these final days. Kathy Barnette has been speaking about her life story saying she was born to a woman who was raped at the age of 11.


KATHY BARNETTE (R), PENNSYLVANIA U.S. SENATE CANDIDATE: I shared my story because of my story has the opportunity to save even one life, how could I not share it? My life was valuable then. I was a person then. I took no part in how I was conceived and yet there I was. And so, I'm very grateful that our nation's having that discussion.


BURNETT: How much does her personal story seem to be resonating from your reporting? TERRUSO: I think it's a huge part of why she's doing so well. You

know, she talks about her personal story every chance she gets. She's really injected it into every opportunity she had when she was in the debates we saw.

And when you're running against two multimillionaires who have come from New Jersey and Connecticut, something she always reminds voters, having a personal story like hers, having grown up very poor, having been, as we just heard her say, you know, as she describes, the product of rape, I think it's a really compelling story that are resonating with a lot of voters and I hear them retell her story to me when I ask them kind of what do you think about her, what do you love about her?

BURNETT: That's interesting that that stands out so much they repeat it to you.

So some of her past comments are coming to light though, CNN's KFILE just reporting something she said and I'll quote that. She said: We have a president in office right now, Barack Hussein Obama -- this was back in 2015. And she continued: I tried to mention his name as much as possible, thinking at some point, a light bulb was going to go off in someone's head, don't we get it? Obama is a Muslim. Read another tweet, that was in January 16 -- in 2016, she continues: Obama is a Muslim doing Muslim-like things.

That's what we do know, there's obviously a lot we don't even know. What are your sources telling you about her past?

TERRUSO: She's getting attacked on everything. You know, there's obviously a lot of problematic anti-Islam comments she's made on social media, some homophobic things she said on social media.


You know, she's also been attacked for not being completely supportive of Donald Trump in certain tweets -- so it kind of runs the gamut -- and also for saying positive things about protesters after George Floyd's murder.

It really feels like people are trying to vet her in this moment. People are trying to -- opponents are trying to attack her with anything and to see if they can stop her momentum.

BURNETT: All right. Julia, thank you very much. I appreciate it.

TERRUSO: Thank you.

BURNETT: And OUTFRONT next, I'm going to speak to the mother of a soldier trapped inside the Mariupol steel plant. She's desperate for information tonight. She learned her son suffered a shrapnel wound to the head. I spoke to her in Kyiv.

And here in Kyiv, see how life is right now, despite the constant loud reminders of war.



BURNETT: Tonight, Ukraine's deputy prime minister saying difficult negotiations are underway for the evacuation of fighters from Mariupol's besieged Azovstal steel plant. Their families are desperately waiting for answers.

Valentina's son Nazar (ph) is inside the plant and the last time she had contact with him was April 3rd.


VALENTINA, SON TRAPPED IN MARIUPOL'S AZOVSTAL STEEL PLANT (through translator): When I asked him to send a photo, he said he had not change, but sent the photo. He had a shrapnel wound to the head, on his forehead. And his eyes went deep.

I asked what was wrong with you. He replied that he had a shrapnel wound to the head and a contusion. I asked, what number was that? He answered, now, it is his eighth.

BURNETT: Do you know if he's been able to receive any sort of medical care or have, has the Ukrainian government been able to tell you anything since I know you haven't been able to speak to him?

VALENTINA: There was also news from his comrades that he was wounded. He stayed in the basement of Azovstal. And when I wrote to his commander, called Volyna and said that I do not need geolocation, but I need to know whether he is alive, wounded or in captivity. He told me that he had no information.

BURNETT: Do you believe that he will be able to come out of that plant?

VALENTINA: I believe that he is in there in Azovstal. He said he was a paramedic. The guys there need me. I say, you're wounded. You cannot.

And he answered, people without arms and legs are wounded, and I have arms and legs so I'm fine. The wounded who were left without arms, without legs in such unsanitary condition. They are hungry. They drained the water from the batteries and gave the seriously injured to drink.

Excuse me.

I know he won't leave his boys in a difficult moment. He won't leave them. He will be with them to the end. And he cannot be taken prisoner. He took an oath always faithful.

His comrades talked to me and told me, thank you for your son, because all Ukrainians should be equal to him. I was pleased.

BURNETT: As a mother, it's so hard to imagine your fear and your agony right now. But are you proud of him?

VALENTINA: This is my pride. I am proud of my son. Even before the war when I met him, I walked with my head proudly raised.

He is a defender of his homeland. He did not go to another country to kill someone. He went to defend his land, his son, his wife, me as a mother, a sister. He went to defend all the people. Yes, this is my pride.

BURNETT: Valentina, I know that you work at a plant and you are going to work every day amidst all this worry. Here in Kyiv, life is going on. Is it hard to see all of this?

VALENTINA: It is difficult. You look like this, I look at it as if there is no war, but the thought does not leave me. My son is in danger.


BURNETT: And she read me the last text exchange that she had with Nazar (ph). She sent him: I talked to your comrade. He said everyone should be equal to you. You are my pride, my dear son. And his reply was "thank you".

She says that is the last thing he wrote to me. I write to him every day. And she believes she will see him alive again.


And next, I meet a dad with his baby girl who finds hope in a world of Putin's war.


BURNETT: People here in Kyiv have adjusted to a world where our sirens warning of incoming cruise missiles don't stop life.


BURNETT (voice-over): This, even as people here are personally impacted by the devastation we witnessed in town after town around the city, places where we saw the definition of human resilience.

In those towns, children play, a mother who lost a child feels love. And life forces its way through.

Today, I met 11 month old Sophia in a Kyiv Park. Her mother is working in Canada for the summer. And she was with her dad, Alexey.

ALEXEY, KYIV RESIDENT: I have not many jobs, but I remain in Kyiv because we are waiting for great constitution -- real great Ukrainians construction after this war.

BURNETT: To rebuild?

ALEXEY: What can I say more? Slava Ukrainia.

(END VIDEO CLIP) BURNETT: Alexey's motion rising unexpectedly. He is ready to rebuild. The day and his child are so beautiful. But there is also a great and painful sadness here.

"AC360" starts now.