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Early Start with John Berman and Zoraida Sambolin

Treason Probe Launched Against Mayor Installed By Russia; Academy Award Winning Actor William Hurt Dead At 71; Biden And Macron Agree To Strengthen Sanctions Against Russia. Aired 5:30-6a ET

Aired March 14, 2022 - 05:30   ET




LAURA JARRETT, CNN ANCHOR: Thirty-one minutes -- back now.

Ukraine's prosecutor general is launching a treason investigation into this woman, the newly installed mayor of the Russian-occupied Ukrainian city of Melitopol. She appeared on television yesterday announcing that local channels will now broadcast Russian T.V. channels because, quote, "They're more trustworthy."

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN ANCHOR: Galina Danilchenko was installed as mayor after the democratically elected mayor, Ivan Fedorov, was kidnapped by armed Russian men -- right there. The surveillance video claims to show him being marched away.

CNN's Salma Abdelaziz back with us now from Lviv. And Salma, Ukrainian officials say there has now been a second mayor kidnapped by Russian troops. What can you tell us about that?

SALMA ABDELAZIZ, CNN REPORTER: Christine, this is a very worrying chapter because the Ukrainian government says that Russian troops are trying to overthrow the democracy of Ukraine. Remove by force democratically elected officials. Install puppet governments.

As you mentioned, in Melitopol, a mayor was abducted, the Ukrainian president says, in broad daylight. Now, a Russian-backed prosecutor in the eastern region says that mayor has had criminal charges, but the Ukrainian president says that's simply not true. This is a war crime. This is an attack on the very democracy of Ukraine.

And now, a second mayor, as you mentioned, has been kidnapped in the town of Dniprorudne. There, many people are concerned that yet another mayor will be installed forcing his will - the Russian government's will on the -- on the people, whether they like it or not.

It really demonstrates this is no longer just about bombs and bullets. If you ask Ukrainian officials they'll tell you when Russian troops can't advance -- can't take control of a city or town, they resort to tactics like this. They resort to tactics that overthrow the will of the people -- that remove democratically elected officials.

And it's these types of tactics that President Zelenskyy say -- says are war crimes. He's calling for the immediate release of these mayors. Of course, the Ukrainian side putting charges against that mayor that was installed in Melitopol.

But what this really proves is it's not just about the fighting anymore. This is really about how Ukraine can continue to support and maintain its democracy in the face of a Russian invasion. In the face of some cities, like Mariupol, where you are besieged.


ABDELAZIZ: Cut off from food, water, and could potentially lose the very people you elected to rule you.

ROMANS: Unbelievable. Salma Abdelaziz, thank you.

And mentioning Mariupol, we have new video from there this morning.

JARRETT: Yes, this just in to CNN. New drone footage showing damage in Mariupol -- video captured just this morning. You can see a line of buildings there destroyed. Smoke filling the air there.

Let's bring in Michael Bociurkiw, a senior fellow at the Atlantic Council, and former spokesman for the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe. He joins us live from Lviv this morning. Michael, so nice to --

ROMANS: Good morning.

JARRETT: -- have you bright and early on EARLY START.

You have your own footage from Lviv where people were in church services yesterday while air raids went off right outside. What was it like to be there? Tell us what you saw.


Yes, it was extraordinary while those air raid sirens were going off yesterday morning. And don't forget, it was a very scary morning for most people in Lviv because the air raid sirens started in the predawn hours and went on intermittently throughout the morning. And it was the first Sunday of Lent in the old calendar -- Julian calendar here.


But yes, people were in the church. And I've got to say, I've been to a lot of places of worship in conflict zones and I watch people carefully. And they were just very, very focused on listening to the priest who, by the way, was telling them keep those icons really close -- keep them on your walls. Keep holy water ready. But you are going to be protected.

So, it was a packed church and it goes to show you that in these times, people are searching for protection and faith, and reassurance, of course. ROMANS: Let's talk about this latest U.N. statement condemning the violence. Despite Russia's clear nationwide invasion of Ukraine, despite strikes hitting civilians, the United Nations has not yet specifically named Russia the aggressor.

What do you make of that, and how much more violence we need to see for the U.N. to recognize this invasion as a war?

BOCIURKIW: It's a great question. Well, I'm answering this question as a former global spokesperson of UNICEF and a spokesperson for their -- for UNICEF in many places around the world.

And in my day when we saw the Myanmar generals, for instance, committing war crimes or warring sides in the Middle East or elsewhere committing certain violations, we would call them out by name.

And why the United Nations of today cannot bring itself to call out the aggressor, Russia, or even to call this a war or an invasion -- according to internal UNICEF memos I've seen, and I wouldn't be saying this if I wasn't sure about it, they've been instructed to call this an escalating conflict, but not a war or invasion. And, in fact, that statement you referred to was, I'm told, a lot harder. It did actually mention Russia but was removed at the last minute.

So, I think it shows a lack of spine for this day of the United -- this team at the United Nations. And it doesn't bode well in terms of staff -- how they're going to feel working for the organization -- former staff like myself. And it's going to do nothing to get Russia to account for what they're doing.

JARRETT: It's hard to see what more they would need to sort of take it to the next level at this point.

I also want to ask you about this. U.S. officials say that Russia has asked China for military assistance. What does that tell you? Does that tell you anything about a position of weakness that Russia might be in?

ROMANS: I was wondering, too.

BOCIURKIW: Yes, absolutely. It's a position I think reflects desperation that Russia would do this. But I also think the Russians are telling themselves well, we've had this ongoing bromance with China for the past years -- a tighter economic union. You saw President Putin at the Beijing Games recently with. It was his first trip in a long time there.

So, I think they're banking on China supporting Russia, but I don't think actually it will happen. I think China -- they like to play the long game. You know, there's a saying that they say in China -- you may have -- you may have the watches but we have the time. So they always play the long game. They're not going to do anything irrational or short-sided.

So, I think they're going to play this very carefully, especially, again, after that U.S. warning that -- not to go onto that -- the Russia side and back them.


All right, Michael Bociurkiw in Lviv, thank you so much for joining us today. Talk to you again soon. Thanks for your insight.

JARRETT: Thank you.

ROMANS: A brand-new picture just in to CNN. We're getting a look at a satellite image of Snake Island. That's where Ukrainian defenders infamously told Russian troops "go F yourself." You can see damage to some buildings from Russian military strikes. The island's infrastructure, lighthouses, and towers destroyed. This ship seen offshore has been identified as a Russian naval ship.

Last month, defiant Ukrainian soldiers rejected surrender demands from the Russians. They are now believed to be prisoners of war.

JARRETT: The world's main nuclear watchdog now raising concerns about the staff and safety at the Chernobyl power plant in Ukraine. According to the International Atomic Energy Agency, the staff is so tired they have stopped carrying out repair and maintenance on safety- related equipment there. The more than 200 technical personnel and guards have not been able to rotate from that facility since being held captive shortly after the invasion began weeks ago.

Ukraine's national Energy Company says it recently restored power at the Chernobyl plant, which had been running on backup generators.

ROMANS: Family, friends, and fans mourning the loss of award-winning actor William Hurt.


Scene from "Broadcast News."


ROMANS: Hurt starred in a variety of classic 1980s films, including that one, "Broadcast News," "Body Heat," "Children of a Lesser God," "The Big Chill." He was a four-time Oscar nominee and won in 1985 for his portrayal of a gay South American prisoner in "Kiss of the Spider Woman."

Hurt's family says he died peacefully of unspecific natural causes. William Hurt was 71.

We'll be right back.



JARRETT: Overnight, President Biden spoke with French President Emmanuel Macron about Russia's invasion of Ukraine. The two leaders agreed to strengthen sanctions already in place against Russia. CNN's Jasmine Wright is live in Washington with more on this. Jasmine,

good morning. So, how do they plan to further punish Russia here?

JASMINE WRIGHT, CNN REPORTER: Well, more sanctions on oligarchs in Russia as well as other creative ways that U.S. and the partners deem to basically squeeze the Russian economy. Those are all things on the table, according to national security advisor Jake Sullivan. He said that on the Sunday morning programs.

Now, those are some things that could have been in the conversation with President Macron and President Biden that they had on Sunday that was read out to reporters afterwards. But we don't know exactly for sure, though we do know that both sides want to continue to punish Russia for really implementing consequences on them for their further aggression.


Now, also on that call between President Biden and President Macron, we know that Macron expressed his condolences for the American journalist that was killed in Ukraine on Sunday, as well, Laura, as he read out his latest diplomatic effort.

We know, of course, that Macron spoke to Russia's President Putin -- Vladimir -- on Sunday for -- excuse me, on Saturday, for about an hour-long phone call, along with German Chancellor Scholz. So that was likely also something that was on that phone call. Though, again, we don't know exactly for sure.

So, of course, we know that this is the first foreign leader phone call that President Biden has had since he spoke to President Zelenskyy on Friday. And there, they talked about a bevy of things. And, of course, that phone call really preceded about $200 million that President Biden ordered in security assistance for Ukraine on Saturday -- really trying to, once again, shore up their sovereignty.

So, two things that we're expecting later on today is we expect President Biden to speak to the National League of Cities where we could likely hear more about his path forward on Ukraine.

And, of course, we're looking forward to that meeting with national security adviser Jake Sullivan and his Chinese counterpart as the U.S. continues to warn China not really to get involved -- not to give Russia a leg up in their offensive -- Russia -- Laura.

JARRETT: All right, Jasmine Wright. Thank you so much -- appreciate it.

ROMANS: All right. So let's bring in CNN's John Harwood this Monday morning. Good morning, John. Nice to see you today.

You know, we're looking for off-ramps, right? We're looking for humanitarian corridors. We're looking for anything to stop the onslaught in Ukraine that only appears to be escalating.

What do you think can make Russia reach a ceasefire -- turn this thing in the other direction?

JOHN HARWOOD, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT (via Skype): Well, Christine, at some point, Russia will find the punishment that it is receiving, as well as dishing out, too much to take. We don't know when that -- what that point is. To take Kyiv, for example, that's going to be a very protracted, bloody fight.

Russia has lost thousands of troops so far. The economy has paid a punishing price, as you were just discussing with Jasmine. The ruble has crashed. The stock market's been closed. Oligarchs are getting squeezed.

So, there's -- there is punishment being inflicted on Russia as well as on Ukraine. Both sides are going to have a limit. We don't know what that limit is.

That's why you keep having these efforts at talks, both directly between Ukrainians and Russians but also with people like Israel and France as interlocutors, trying to figure out if there is an off-ramp. I don't see one at the moment but eventually, we'll get there. We just don't know when.

ROMANS: John, can I ask you about gas prices here? We've heard the White House and the President of the United States really talk about Putin's premium in the oil market, right? Putin's to blame for the hike in gas prices. The U.S. barely uses Russian oil but it is a global market, right? So, if there's a problem in Russia there's a problem for everyone with gas prices.

How should the president be framing this issue? And is it working -- this Putin gas price hike?

HARWOOD: Well, let's put it this way. Democratic political strategists are glad that he did that. Obviously, gas prices have been high and rising long before the Russian invasion. The -- by calling it Putin's price hike, the White House has a villain to confront. Of course, Putin has and the invasion has played a role but that's not the entire cause.

The reason the Democrats want to have a way to divert attention from this or divert blame for this is that gas prices are the thing that voters see so directly. They go to the gas pump, they see the dollars ticking up as they fill their tanks.


HARWOOD: It's just historically been a very -- a good indicator of economic discontent when gas prices rise. That is something that President Biden is saddled with and he's done it willingly. You know, he imposed sanctions -- punishing sanctions on Russia on various sectors, but now, specifically, on oil and gas knowing that it was going to cause price hikes. But for the sake of leading the alliance and trying to deter Russia, he decided to do it anyway. That's what leaders have to do sometimes.

ROMANS: Yes. JARRETT: Well, speaking of issues that might not help Democrats here, you say that Biden's leadership might not actually help Democrats at the ballot box. Explain some of where you think the weaknesses have been, John.

HARWOOD: Well, historically, we know that new presidents always become the focus of public discontent when they take office. That's why almost without exception -- there have been a couple in the last 100 years but not many -- you see presidents' parties losing ground in Congress in the first midterm elections.

Bill Clinton lost Democratic control of Congress in 1994. Barack Obama lost the House in 2010. That's sort of irrespective of exactly what their policies are at the time. It's just the tides of history.


Joe Biden was facing that, to begin with, and then we've had these complications of the emergence from the pandemic where you both have a strong economy but you also have high inflation. Those are cross- pressures. And Biden took office believing he was going to surf the back of a recovering economy with the pandemic. It hasn't turned out that way and that's why it's going to be a difficult election for Democrats.

The war in Ukraine changes the frame for looking at Joe Biden. All of a sudden, he's a war president. He's handled that pretty effectively in the eyes of analysts in both parties. I just don't know how much politically he's going to benefit. His approval rating has actually ticked up a couple of points --


HARWOOD: -- since this started. I don't know if that's going to continue or not.

ROMANS: All right, John Harwood. Thank you so much. We'll talk to you again I'm sure this week -- a big Fed week -- higher interest rates.

JARRETT: Thanks, John.

HARWOOD: You bet.

ROMANS: Thanks, John.

Let's get a check on CNN business this morning.

Looking at markets around the world, you can see Asian shares have closed mixed. Europe has opened higher. Look at Paris -- a big pop there -- also in Frankfurt. On Wall Street, stock index futures also moving higher here.

It was a down day though on Friday -- another down week for stocks. The Dow down two percent last week -- five straight weeks of losses. The S&P 500 and the Nasdaq both lost about three percent for the week. Russia's invasion of Ukraine only worsening the global inflation story. To cool that inflation, interest rate hikes are coming. This week, the Federal Reserve expected to raise interest rates for the first time since 2018.

And Putin's war complicates things. It's sending already high energy prices soaring. The Fed chair Jerome Powell has warned that the war could stoke inflation and cause households to cut back spending.

Russia pulling the plug on Instagram over the weekend. Instagram's parent company Meta says its 80 million users had a 48-hour grace period to grab their needed video and pictures and steer their followers to other platforms.

The crackdown follows Russia's outrage over Meta allowing Ukrainians to vent about the Russian invasion. The Kremlin is opening a criminal investigation and asked a court to consider Meta -- that's right, the Facebook parent, the Instagram parent -- an extremist organization.

JARRETT: A Ukrainian soccer player moved to tears after scoring a goal in the English Premier League.

Coy Wire has this morning's Bleacher Report. Hey, Coy.


What a powerful story and what great symbolism here -- Andriy Yarmolenko. This day for him was so much more than about soccer, Laura. He hadn't played since the start of Russia's invasion of Ukraine, taking a compassionate leave of absence from his English Premier League team West Ham.

But the 32-year-old returned to the field yesterday and receives a standing ovation from fans of both teams as he comes onto the game early in the second half. Then with 20 minutes remaining, Yarmolenko with the quick touch and then a superb finish for the game's first goal.

He drops to his knees. He breaks down in tears. He's surrounded by his teammates. You can hear that crowd.

Yarmolenko got emotional when he talked about his moment afterwards.


ANDRIY YARMOLENKO, WEST HAM WINGER: It's so difficult for me right now at this moment thinking about football because every day in my country Russia's army kill Ukrainians -- the Ukrainian people -- and it was so emotional.


WIRE: Now, also, breaking last night, Tom Brady has announced that his 40-day retirement is over. The 44-year-old coming back to the Bucs for a 23rd season in the NFL. He said on Twitter that he has unfinished business and his "place is still on the field and not in the stands."

Some of the happiest people in the world right now, Laura, are Bucs fans. Perhaps the most disgruntled sports fan in the world would be the guy who had just paid over half a million dollars the day before for his final touchdown ball. Wow -- it's still trending on Twitter -- number one this morning.

JARRETT: I don't understand.

ROMANS: He couldn't even stay away for two months. He could not even stay away for two months. I'll tell you, Laura's just -- this is --

JARRETT: Breaking news.

ROMANS: It's her favorite basketball player -- Tom Brady.


ROMANS: I like her laughing.

JARRETT: I may be bad, but not that bad, OK?

ROMANS: All right, thanks.

WIRE: You got it.

ROMANS: I guess -- I guess John Berman's happy about it.

JARRETT: Yes. You know what? That's a good thing.

Thank you, Coy.

ROMANS: All right, Coy, nice to see you.

WIRE: Thanks.

JARRETT: Some emotional scenes at Ukraine's border with Poland as separated families fleeing Russia's invasion are reunited, thankfully. Family members holding each other in long, tearful hugs as they face the uncertainty of a new life in a new country now beginning this next chapter together.

You can just feel some of the relief there. But so many men separated from their children, separated from their wives, left there to fight and --

ROMANS: And we say begin a new chapter but I think for so many of these people -- 2.7 million people on the move --


ROMANS: -- there's no chapter to begin yet. It's waiting to find out where you're going to land.

JARRETT: Yes, yes. ROMANS: How are you going to support yourself? Your family is still back in Ukraine. Just a tragic -- avoidable tragic situation for so many.


Thanks so much for joining us. I'm Laura Jarrett.

ROMANS: I'm Christine Romans. "NEW DAY" is next.