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Early Start with John Berman and Zoraida Sambolin

Ukraine; Negotiations With Russia Set To Resume April 1; Ukraine Submits Latest Weapons Wish List To Congress; Bruce Willis Stepping Away From Acting Due To Health Condition. Aired 5:30-6a ET

Aired March 31, 2022 - 05:30   ET




JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: The chief Ukrainian negotiator says talks with Russia will resume tomorrow. Meantime, a top British intelligence official claims that Vladimir Putin, quote, "massively misjudged" the situation in Ukraine.

International diplomatic editor Nic Robertson live in Brussels. Nic, what's the reasonable expectation for these talks now?

NIC ROBERTSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL DIPLOMATIC EDITOR: Low. Why? Because Russia -- in previous negotiations with Ukraine right now over this conflict and going back to 2014 and 2015, Russia has not negotiated in good faith. It's appeared at the negotiating table while continuing to prosecute the war on the ground.

The Ukrainians are very aware of this. They can see what Russia is doing in terms of moving forces and refocusing to a degree on the east of the country. They can see what the Russians are doing in terms of trying to force the Ukrainian -- force military out of Mariupol in the south of the country where they are exerting a huge amount of humanitarian pressure on the -- on the civilians in that city at the moment.

So I think the expectations for this sort of resumption of these negotiations -- virtual resumption after sort of a couple of days' pause from the -- from what was laid out by the Ukrainians on Tuesday -- the expectations should therefore be low.

And the -- and the understanding of what -- of Russia's ability to make good decision is also reduced by what we've heard from the head of the U.K. GCHQ, the rough equivalent of the U.S. NSC. Jeremy Fleming saying that Russian forces were low on morale, low on equipment -- even sabotaged their own equipment so they wouldn't have to go and fight. And mistakenly, at one point, shooting down one of their aircraft.

So it's not clear that Russia can make a good judgment on what to do next. That -- it is very clear that they're unlikely to negotiate in good faith. So, as I say, expectations should be moderated -- John.

BERMAN: Yes. People skeptical at best. Nic Robertson in Brussels. Nic, thank you very much.

More than four million Ukrainians have fled this country since the Russian invasion began. Tens of thousands arrive every day at a train station just over the border in Poland.

CNN's Salma Abdelaziz live for us in Przemysl. Salma, tell us what you're seeing there.

SALMA ABDELAZIZ, CNN REPORTER: Absolutely. So it's this train station that families -- hundreds of them -- flow through every day. And I just want to give you a look, John. You see these people behind me in high-vis jackets. They're here to give you the help you need if you have any questions. There's a reception point.

I'm just going to show down this way. This is a hallway that's basically a waiting area John because people don't know what they're going to do next. They don't know where they're going to go.

And one of those people is Dasha (ph). I just want to introduce you to her, John. We just met. And Dasha, you came from Kharkiv --


ABDELAZIZ: -- where there is heavy bombing. Tell me about your six days in the shelter in Kharkiv.

DASHA: You know, it was a terrible moment when I stand up and mom says the war start. I was very scared because I listened to sounds -- very scary sounds.

My really nice Kharkiv city here -- now it's ruined. It's not -- it's not beautiful city. It's no store, no school, no hospital. People can't buy food.

People are sitting in the shelter. And I was sitting at shelter six days with small children. It was a very terrible moment for me.

ABDELAZIZ: And I can't imagine what you went through and now, you've made it here.


ABDELAZIZ: What is your plan now? What are you going to do now?

DASHA: I think I need to search new work, maybe new friends, new people. And I don't know because it's very stressful for me. I think I have moments and --


ABDELAZIZ: You are just -- you have no plan, basically.


ABDELAZIZ: You don't know what you're doing. DASHA: My plans --

ABDELAZIZ: You're calling friends. You're trying to figure out what you're going to do next.

DASHA: Yes, yes. We now count on friends and (INAUDIBLE).

ABDELAZIZ: Thank you so much, Dasha.

And John, that's really the situation for so many of the families we're speaking to. They get here and then they've just got to figure out where they go next. They have no plan.

They're calling friends. They're trying to find a place. That's why you see so many of them just sitting here in this train station trying to make a plan.

BERMAN: Imagine traveling over 1,000 miles, getting to that train station, and still not knowing where you're going.

Salma, thank you very much for that report.

I want to bring in Vladislav Davidzon, an Atlantic Council fellow and author of "From Odessa With Love." Vladislav, it's great to see you again. I haven't had a chance to talk to you in a while.


BERMAN: One of the things that I've seen here in Ukraine, which is fascinating, is enormous pride with how the Ukrainian forces are doing against the Russians -- enormous pride. Enormous anger at the Russians; enormous pride at how the Ukrainian troops are doing.

And now, some wariness about negotiations because Ukrainians feel like they've sacrificed so much in this battle and the people I've spoken with are nervous about giving too much away.

What do you think?

DAVIDZON: Hi. Thank you for having me back.

That's absolutely right. The majority of the population are now on the warpath in terms of their psychology. I think 80 percent or maybe 90 percent of the population is deeply convinced that they are going to win. And at this rate, unless the Russians start dropping nukes or something or really carpet-bombing cities, I just don't see what it is that they can do to win this one out.

So, the population really thinks that why should we be making tremendous sacrifices when we're winning? And there's going to be a lot of pressure on the Zelenskyy administration to get them to not make certain concessions. They're going to actually have to have plebiscites of some sort or popular elections, or whatever in order to get buy-in for anything that is really difficult that they'll have to sacrifice or give up. And that's not going to be easy for them. BERMAN: If this war settles into a situation -- a battle of attrition, say, or focuses on the east where there is fierce -- been fierce fighting for a long time but it will continue, what kind of pressure -- real-life pressure will that put on the Ukrainian people?

DAVIDZON: Look, four million people are out of the country, including -- bizarrely enough, I was counted as a refugee when I was leaving for the Romanian border. As you know, I'm a journalist. I'm an American citizen. No, you're Ukrainian -- you're also -- OK.

So I've watched it three times already on the border. In fact, four times on the border. Once I, myself, was counted as a refugee, which having stood in the line for six hours you're very cold and you actually are a refugee if you stand for six hours on line and in the snow without water or food.

You know, eight million -- IDPs within the country, so that's about a third or a quarter of the population has had to move from their homes. There are tens of millions of people or more who could be forced to move from their homes if the Russians just start bombing other cities.

They've only really made the decision to destroy Mariupol at this point to send a message to Kyiv and the other cities about what it is they're capable of. But they've only destroyed one city. So they could -- they could make this much more painful for tens of millions of people. They're capable of it.

BERMAN: Vladislav Davidzon, Atlantic Council fellow. As I said, terrific seeing you again. Thank you so much for your work. I appreciate it.

DAVIDZON: Thank you.

BERMAN: Christine and Laura, back to you guys.



As all this is happening, Ukraine's government has just submitted its latest weapons wish list to the U.S. Congress.

Let's bring in CNN's Daniella Diaz live on Capitol Hill for us. Daniella, good morning. So what exactly is on the list? Anything different this time?

DANIELLA DIAZ, CNN CAPITOL HILL REPORTER: Yes, Laura. And this -- again, I want to emphasize the Ukrainian government has been requesting weapons from the West since the invasion began. This is just the latest list that they've provided.

You know, there was a briefing yesterday on Capitol Hill. Lawmakers exited this briefing saying it obtained this list. Defense officials told lawmakers -- and I want to read some of these items that they requested -- that the Ukrainian government wants reconnaissance and attack drones, tactical radars, electronic warfare anti-drone systems, and close-air support aircraft.

Now, the list also includes a request for help in treating wounded troops and in repairing equipment, including mobile military medical hospitals.

And like I said, this is just the latest request from the Ukrainian government to -- provided to Congress and the White House for materials that they need to fend off the Russian government as they invade Ukraine.


You know, Russian -- excuse me, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has been very clear from the beginning what he requests from the West. They are also asking for help with repairs for armored vehicles in neighboring countries.

And Defense officials told lawmakers yesterday during the briefing that happened on Capitol Hill that they're already working on providing the Switchblade drones. They are, quote, "in the process of being delivered." So, some of these items will be delivered to the Ukrainian government -- Laura.

JARRETT: All right, Daniella. Thank you for that -- appreciate it.

ROMANS: OK. Ukrainian troops appear to be making gains near the northern Ukrainian city of Chernihiv. The mayor of that town talks to CNN just ahead.

JARRETT: And next, a sad revelation from Bruce Willis' family. The medical condition that's making the action star step away from his acting career.




Clip from "Die Hard."


JARRETT: "Die Hard" action star Bruce Willis is stepping away from acting. His family released a statement revealing Willis is suffering from a condition called aphasia.

Let's bring in Dr. Salman Azhar, director of Stroke Services at Lenox Hill Hospital. Doctor, so nice to have you this morning.

Some sad news. What exactly is aphasia? What causes it?

DR. SALMAN AZHAR, DIRECTOR OF STROKE SERVICES, LENOX HILL HOSPITAL: So, aphasia is a condition where there's difficulty with speaking or understanding what people are saying to you, so it's really a language disorder. And it really manifests itself by having inability to really speak long sentences, remember what you need to speak. And most often, it comes in the setting of people who have had strokes or they've had trauma to the brain.

But there is -- there are conditions. And so, people with -- when you have a stroke or trauma to the brain you end up with a sudden language disorder. Because usually, the left side of the brain, which a dominant part of the brain, gets affected. In most cases, people undergo speech therapy for that condition and will show improvement after the event has taken place.

There are other conditions where the aphasia can be progressive. And so, it starts off slowly, not all of a sudden, and sort of progressively gets worse. And those conditions are oftentimes associated not just with a language problem but also memory and other cognitive issues.

JARRETT: Now, we don't know, of course, all the specifics of Bruce Willis' situation, but is this the kind of thing that could have come from a blow to the head, say, from doing stunts over a lot of -- you know, so many years?

AZHAR: Unlikely, in that when you would have had a blow to the head it would have led to aphasia at that time. So that's unlikely that was the cause of it. Now, people who've had multiple blows to the head oftentimes can get other cognitive conditions that occur later on in life.

But certainly, this sounds like it's a more progressive sort of insidious onset that slowly has been sort of maybe percolating in the background and then becomes much more obvious and much more evident to the point where people have to stop working or they have to retire from their normal lives.

JARRETT: So, I know you mentioned speech therapy but is there other -- any other treatments that appear to slow the symptoms, or is it the kind of thing that sort of just goes downhill from the time of diagnosis?

AZHAR: Well, I think -- you know, speech therapy and other sort of -- sort of therapies that we can do to sort of help the individual can sort of slow the course or slow the progression. But essentially, this diagnosis tends to get worse and gets worse over time. Again, we don't know the exact specifics, as you said.

But most aphasias that don't happen from a stroke or trauma and therefore, those kind of things happen at once and then they can get better with speech therapy. The aphasias that are progressive tend to really not do as well because it's sort of a continuous worsening of that. And situations of stress, lack of sleep -- that can make it worse just like most other disorders.

JARRETT: Yes. And, of course, sleep helps everything if you can get it.


JARRETT: Dr. Azhar, thank you so much -- appreciate it.

AZHAR: OK, take care. Thank you.

JARRETT: All right. Well, just ahead, what Chris Rock said on stage last night about getting slapped by Will Smith.

ROMANS: And next, Americans quitting their jobs like never before. The great resignation, the great upgrade, the great realignment -- what is it?



ROMANS: All right, let's get a check on CNN Business this morning.

Looking at markets around the world, you can see Asian shares closed lower. Europe has opened down. And on Wall Street, stock index futures are barely moving here.

Wednesday snapped a winning streak for the Dow and the S&P as Russia broke its promise to scale back attacks in northern Ukraine. Russia, of course, is a major energy producer and rising oil prices are spooking markets. U.S. oil prices climbed more than 3% Wednesday after U.S. inventories fell. And Germany warned it might ration its natural gas over payment disputes with Russia.

Important backdrop here. The U.S. economy remains strong. Final numbers are in for the fourth quarter. GDP rings in at 6.9%.

And the job market is in great shape. America's private sector added 455,000 jobs in March. That's according to ADP. Leisure and hospitality led the gains but growth was widespread. The government's big monthly jobs report happens tomorrow.

All right, we're really fortunate to have, this morning, Nela Richardson. She's the chief economist at the payroll service ADP. Good morning. Really nice to see you, Nela.

Look, the great resignation, the great upgrade -- that's what the White House calls it. You call it the great realignment. The pandemic has changed how people view their jobs. It's a strong job market and people have a lot of choices here, don't they?

NELA RICHARDSON, CHIEF ECONOMIST, ADP (via Skype): Yes. Good morning, Christine. Great to be with you.

And that's what it boils down to -- choice. Because even as more than four million quit their jobs in February, over 11 million jobs were posted, so there is ample opportunity. And historically, we've seen that quit rates rise when there are a lot of job openings, and the labor market is hot right now.


I lean towards the great realignment because that's what's happening. Firms and individuals, and even families are realigning to this post- pandemic economy.

ROMANS: We saw that -- you know, almost 7% GDP growth at the end of the year -- a strong job market. GDP growth will not be like that at the beginning of this year, we know, because we had the Omicron variant. We have this war in Ukraine.

You aren't concerned about rising risks for a recession, are you? I've heard some people are already starting to talk about stagflation risks. But we have a strong job market, a strong fundamental overall economy. Is -- that risk seems very small to me.

RICHARDSON: Yes. At this point, there's no indication that we are getting closer to any kind of recessionary outlet. There's always a small probability that some event could trigger something unseen, so economists are going to leave the door open a little bit for that.

But right now, you're right. The fundamentals are strong, consumer spending is strong. The labor market is strong.

What the concern is and has been is inflation.


RICHARDSON: That is very present with us and getting that under control is job number one for domestic economic policy.

ROMANS: And I know that we're going to hear from the president today. He's going to talk about gas prices. We know the U.S. is considering releasing a million barrels of oil per day from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve.

Is that important messaging or will that have a good impact do you think on gas prices for consumers?

RICHARDSON: In the short term, it could lessen the strain of high gas prices. And we know that Main Street families are feeling that at the pump.

But longer-term, when you're talking about investments in energy, companies plan out several years and they are subject to the same labor market shortages and dynamics that every other company is subjected to. So it's really hard for them to plan longer-term when oil prices remain so volatile and based on geopolitics right now.

ROMANS: The thing about gas prices and inflation, in general, is that it -- you know, the typical family -- the purchasing power is hurt, right? They have less purchasing power. And it really hurts lower- income families the most. I think that's important to note here. There's been so much money that's been pumped into the system -- COVID relief over the past couple of years.

Higher-income households, and even median-income households -- they really do have the cushion to absorb some of these higher prices. But not for lower-income families.

RICHARDSON: That's one aspect of this post-pandemic economy -- that it's been incredibly uneven. There's been enormous gains in terms of asset prices, home prices, stock prices for the wealthy. But for the low-income, they're really feeling that effective inflation for food prices, gas prices, inputs in all of their household spending.

And so, what -- that leads us back to what's going on in the jobs market. It is really about improving the quality of life -- that realignment. Maybe gaining from switching jobs.

And we have data and the Atlanta Fed has data showing that you actually, in this economy, make more money if you switch your job --


RICHARDSON: -- overall, then if you stay at the same job. And that could be driving some of the quits that we're seeing right now.

ROMANS: Yes. The job-hoppers have been paid handsomely.

A quick final on the -- on the Fed. Going to raise interest rates probably aggressively this year. The cure for inflation is actually something that cause consumers more in higher borrowing costs.

RICHARDSON: That's right. But that is not the same in impact, right? Because what the Federal Reserve is doing is taking rates from rock- bottom levels and rates that consumers don't really experience. This is short-term rates and generally, borrowing costs for consumers and families are longer-term rates. But they're taking them at rock-bottom levels and moving them up to where they were before the pandemic.

So these are not rate levels that we've never experienced before. And more importantly, Christine, they are rates in which the economy can still grow.

ROMANS: All right.

RICHARDSON: So that's an important fact.

ROMANS: Nela Richardson, always nice to talk to you. Thank you for dropping by -- ADP chief economist. Nice to see you.

RICHARDSON: Thanks for having me.

ROMANS: Always a great conversation with her.


ROMANS: All right, thanks for joining us today, everybody. I'm Christine Romans.

JARRETT: I'm Laura Jarrett. "NEW DAY" starts right now.