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Bodies Left Behind As Russian Troops Retreat from Kyiv Area; Russians Fire Missiles at Odessa Oil Refinery and Depot; Six Killed, Twelve Wounded in Sacramento Mass Shooting. Aired 5-5:30a ET

Aired April 04, 2022 - 05:00   ET



ANNOUNCER: This is CNN Breaking News.

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN ANCHOR: Welcome to our viewers in the United States and around the world, I'm Christine Romans in New York, it is Monday, Brianna Keilar is in Lviv, Ukraine, for us this morning. Hi, Brianna.

BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN ANCHOR: Hi there, Christine. Atrocities left behind after Russian forces retreat from the region around Kyiv. And we do want to warn you that these are disturbing images that you are going to see. In the town of Bucha, which is northwest of the capital, these are images showing the bodies of civilians, and a CNN crew was taken to a mass grave that the mayor said may contain up to 300 bodies.

Outraged western leaders accusing Russia of war crimes. They're now calling for investigations and escalating sanctions. More now from CNN's Fred Pleitgen who is on the ground in Bucha.


FREDERIK PLEITGEN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice- over): As Russian forces retreat from the area north of Kyiv, in their wake, scenes of utter destruction. Whole blocks of houses flattened. Ukrainian authorities saying they believe dead bodies are still lying underneath. But here, the dead also lay in the open. Ukrainian national police showed us this mass grave in Bucha, saying they believed up to 150 civilians might be buried here, but no one knows the exact number.

People killed while the Russian army occupied this town. This is what it looks like when the hope is crushed. Vladimir(ph) has been searching for his younger brother Dmitry(ph). Now he's convinced Dmitry(ph) lies here even though he can't be a 100 percent sure. The neighbor accompanying him with strong words for the Russians. "Why do you hate us so much?" She asks. "Since the 1930s, you've been abusing Ukraine, you just want to destroy us. You want us gone. But we will be, everything will be OK. I believe it."

Video from Bucha shows bodies in the streets after Russian forces left the area. Some images even show bodies with hands tied behind their backs. The Russian Defense Ministry denies killing civilians and claims images of dead civilians are, quote, "fake". But we met a family just returning to their house in Borodyanka, which they say was occupied by Russian soldiers. They show us the body of a dead man in civilian clothes they had found in the backyard.

His hands and feet tied with severe bruises and a shell casing still laying nearby. Russia's military appears to have suffered heavy losses before being driven out of the area around Kyiv. This column of armored vehicles in Bucha completely destroyed.

(on camera): The way the Ukrainians tell us is that the Russians were trying to go towards Kyiv, and they were then intercepted by Ukrainian drones, artillery and also the javelin anti-tank weapons. It's not clear how many Russians were killed here, but they say many were, and others fled the scene.

(voice-over): A national police officer says the Russian troops were simply too arrogant.

"They thought they could drive on the streets and just go through", he says, "that they would be greeted as though it's all right." Maybe they think it is normal to drive around looting, to destroy buildings and to mock people, but our people didn't allow it." And now, it appears all the Russians have withdrawn from here, Ukraine says it is now in full control of the entire region around Kyiv. But it is only now that the full extent of the civilian suffering is truly coming to light.


KEILAR: Let's bring in CNN military analyst, retired Major General Dana Pittard; he's also the author of the book, "Hunting the Caliphate: America's War on ISIS". Sir, thank you so much for joining us. I was able to speak last hour with the mayor of Bucha. He said that they are working to identify bodies. He said that there are teenagers and children and elderly among those who have been killed in his city. What do you think of these horrors that we're seeing?

DANA PITTARD, CNN MILITARY ANALYST: Well, good morning, Brianna. I'll say it's very disturbing, the photos that were just shown. Unfortunately, that's what war looks like when civilians are involved and there is a disregard for human life. We've seen scenes like that similar to that or worse than that in places like Syria and Iraq.


There's no place for that, for troops to fight against civilians who are unprotected as they drive through their towns and/or other part. So, it's actually very horrific.

KEILAR: It is horrific to witness. It is just horrific. It's sort of another level that we're seeing here and waking up to this morning. There are some intelligence reports suggesting that Russia is looking to shift its strategy in Ukraine to focus instead on the east, on Donbas. We're seeing that. That's why we're seeing what's happening in Bucha because troops are receding -- oh, pardon they, Russian troops are receding, and so we're seeing what they're leaving behind. What do you think about these Intel reports of this strategy shift?

PITTARD: I think it's a strategy shift that is necessary for the Russians because they've been repelled by the Ukrainians around the capital of Kyiv, the Kyiv region. So in some ways, it's a way for the Russian forces to regroup, do a temporary halt, operational halt. Out of the Kyiv region, and then move to the eastern region of Ukraine, the Donbas region where they've had more success.

In fact, there's even reports that the Russians may claim a victory in the east by declaring eastern Ukraine as almost an independent republic or nation in time for the May 9th celebration of the end of World War II, also called the Great Patriotic War in Russia, May 9, 1945. So, the 77th anniversary of that. So, that's something that we're all looking at.

KEILAR: Yes, that certainly would be a time period to do this if that's what the Russian forces are aiming for. You've also said, sir, that it could be time for NATO to take more active measures. What do you mean by that? What would that be?

PITTARD: Well, it's absolutely time. I mean, listening to Secretary Blinken who I've known for the past -- talk about a gut punch or the outrage -- well, OK, what is NATO and the United States going to do about it? It is time to do more with Ukraine, whether it's to -- and there's a number of options. Whether it's declare western Ukraine as a humanitarian assistance zone where NATO troops would help civilians and refugees. NATO troops on the ground enforcing that as well as in the air and western Ukraine.

Now, that's one option. Another option can be special operations forces to be used to advise and assist, very similar to what we did in the fight against ISIS. I mean, the majority, the fighting -- almost all the fighting is done on the ground by the Iraqis at the time, but they were supported by enablers, by the U.S. and the coalition with firepower airstrikes, medevacs, logistics and of course, ammunitions. So, there is a model of that in the past.

There are other things that can be done as far as Polish and Romanian convoys protecting Ukrainian logistics supply routes going into Ukraine. You know, there's a number of things that can be done, but right now NATO, standing on the sidelines is not helping.

KEILAR: Sir, thank you so much for being with us this morning. Major General Dana Pittard, we do appreciate it.

PITTARD: Thank you, Brianna, be safe.

KEILAR: All right, sir, I'll make sure to be. All right, coming up, new airstrikes in Odessa overnight where Russian forces have been targeting Ukraine's fuel supplies. And refugees are fleeing Ukraine on foot. We'll see the volunteers who are helping them.


[05:10:00] KEILAR: Russian forces are targeting critical infrastructure in the port city of Odessa. Missile strikes hitting an oil refinery and a fuel depot there. CNN's Ed Lavandera went to the scene and spoke with some of the people who live nearby.


ED LAVANDERA, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The missiles exploded in a startling violent barrage, about six strikes lit up the sky. Russian military officials say the attack on Odessa was launched from the sea and land using high-precision missiles. The massive plumes of black swirling smoke covered much of the city of 1 million people. The strikes landed in a largely industrial area, destroying an oil refinery and fuel storage facilities.

(on camera): Multiple airstrikes hit the port city of Odessa here in southern Ukraine just before sunrise Sunday morning. There were no air raid sirens that went off before the blast, and the explosions could be felt and seen from miles away.

(voice-over): Ukrainian officials say there were no injuries, but Tatiana Gerasim says the explosions threw her from the chair she was sleeping in and window glass shattered all over her. Tatiana volunteers in this building late into the night, cooking meals for Ukrainian soldiers. In recent days, she says reconnaissance drones were flying over the fuel storage facility. Two other residents told us they saw the drones as well.

TATIANA GERASIM, ODESSA RESIDENT (through translator): The drones were flying around and I knew they were up to something and could bomb the depot. And we've been thinking where we could hide in case something happens.


LAVANDERA: A small pocket of apartment buildings and homes sit just across the street from the bombing site. Families stood outside their homes under the clouds of dark smoke watching flames shoot up into the air. The explosions shattered windows and any remaining sense of security these residents had left.

GERASIM: Of course, I'm scared. And now, they're hitting everywhere. They're doing it in all cities. We know it. We see it.

LAVANDERA: The attack on Odessa follows a similar pattern Russian forces have carried out for weeks, hitting fuel storage facilities across the country it claims are supplying their Ukrainian military. But if the Odessa strike is a precise attack, Ukrainian officials say the strikes hours later in the neighboring city of Mykolaiv have no rhyme or reason and are designed to harass and panic civilians.

Despite being this close to the bombing and with tears in her eyes, Tatiana Gerasim says she refuses to leave Ukraine. She tells me, these bastards won't get away with it. Ed Lavandera, CNN, Odessa, Ukraine.

(END VIDEOTAPE) KEILAR: At least, 4 million refugees have now fled Ukraine since

Russia's invasion began. More than half of them to or through Poland. And that is where CNN's Salma Abdelaziz is live now just over the border which is where many Ukrainians have fled on foot. Salma, tell us what you're seeing there.

SALMA ABDELAZIZ, CNN REPORTER: Yes, so, I'm at the pedestrian crossing here on the Polish side of the border, of course. And this is a crossing where people literally come on foot. They can only bring with them what they can carry, Brianna. And what greets them is essentially a little tent village full of volunteers that want to help, that want to give them what they might not have. I'm standing at one of these little tents, and this one is focused on children, on babies.

You can see they have toys out, they have juice boxes out, they have baby powder and diapers and baby wash, and anything you might need to get by for a few more days if you're a family that wasn't able to grab these things, and, of course, to bring a little smile to these kids. And what really stood out to me, Brianna, because I was just walking through here today, is if we turn around here, you're going to see this whole stream of strollers.

And I just stopped in my tracks as soon as I saw them, and I met this gentleman here who I want to introduce you to, Lilian


ABDELAZIZ: Who came all the way from France.


ABDELAZIZ: Tell me about these strollers. Where did they come from?

BOULARD: Yes, from -- I come from Bordeaux in France, and I come here for a mission when I look at TV. And I come with a friend, and now we are 5,000 volunteers.

ABDELAZIZ: Five thousand volunteers?

BOULARD: Yes, of friends --

ABDELAZIZ: And they donate all of these strollers and toys?

BOULARD: Yes, volunteers buy strollers, and every volunteer comes with a truck, it's -- with the truck and car.

ABDELAZIZ: And so when families come across and they have a little child --


ABDELAZIZ: And they don't have a stroller --


ABDELAZIZ: They stop and they take a stroller from you.

BOULARD: Yes, if a family comes with baby -- many babies --


BOULARD: And families go into tents for other moments.

ABDELAZIZ: To get a bit of warmth.

BOULARD: Right --

ABDELAZIZ: Thank you so much --

BOULARD: Thank you so much, sure --

ABDELAZIZ: Brianna, I was talking to Lilian a bit earlier, and he said that he came all the way from France because he just wanted to offer one family a room basically at his home. And what he saw here made him stop in his tracks. He said, I saw these children, I saw the help they needed, and I decided I have to stay.

And he started helping on social media, calling for help, asking for people to donate anything they can for the children that he's seen here. Again, it's just this outpouring of support that you consistently constantly see flowing through this border.

KEILAR: You know, I think that's the thing, Salma, is, you see this kindness of strangers and it restores some of your faith in humanity that maybe some of the other things were seen especially today takes away. I really appreciate that report. Salma Abdelaziz in Poland for us. Christine?

ROMANS: Yes, Brianna, just a European tragedy in 2022, you know, you would have seen these images in 1940, not today. All right, thank you for that, Salma. Coming up, the Ukrainian president's surprised message at last night's Grammy Awards. But first, the U.S. president with a message to Congress after a new mass shooting in America.



ROMANS: Welcome back. Police in Sacramento, California, are asking for the public's help in tracking down suspects in a weekend mass shooting. Six people killed, at least a dozen others wounded. It happened early Sunday in downtown Sacramento, just a few blocks from the state capital. The police chief says a large fight broke out just before the gunfire, and that there were multiple shooters.


KATHY LESTER, POLICE CHIEF, SACRAMENTO: The scale of violence that just happened in our city is unprecedented during my 27 years here at the Sacramento Police Department. We are shocked and heartbroken by this tragedy. But we are also resolved as an agency to find those responsible and to secure justice for the victims and their families. (END VIDEO CLIP)

ROMANS: Investigators found a stolen handgun at the scene. Police are asking the public for any additional photos or video of the attack.


Sacramento's mayor says the shooting has left the city with a broken heart. President Biden calling on Congress to do more than just mourn after that latest mass shooting in Sacramento. He's asking for new action on gun violence. CNN's Jasmine Wright joins us live from Wilmington, Delaware. Jasmine, good morning. What measures is the president asking Congress to take?

JASMINE WRIGHT, CNN WHITE HOUSE REPORTER: Good morning, Christine. Yes, the president is asking Congress to pass provisions that he has introduced for months now, things that he believes would tighten gun laws, take more guns off the streets, trying to frame this really as a national issue.

And it's especially important here as Democrats continue to take attacks from the right that they are soft on crime. So, in a statement released last night, the president mourned the victims, but then cast it wider outside of Sacramento. And I want to read you a portion of it because he says, "I want to thank the first responders in Sacramento and all those across the United States who act every day to save lives.

We know these lives were not the only lives impacted by gun violence last night, and we equally mourn for those victims and the families who do not make national headlines." So that last line there, Christine, make national headlines. He is taking this beyond. He wants this to be a common national issue.

And so, in terms of what exactly the president is calling for -- getting back to your first question, he's asking Congress to take up a number of measures he proposed like banning ghost guns, requiring background checks for all gun sales, banning assault weapons and high- capacity magazines, repealing gun manufacturers' immunity from liability, and passing his latest budget proposal that we know aims to provide cities -- to provide more funding to police, but also provide more funding to these intervention programs.

And we know that this will be an issue coming up in the months ahead, especially as midterms loom.


WRIGHT: Christine?

ROMANS: All right, Jasmine in Wilmington, thank you. Nice to see you this morning. International outrage over images from a Kyiv suburb showing civilians tied and executed, a mass grave behind a church, utter devastation. What Russian troops are accused of leaving behind.

And Ukraine needs help with missile defense systems. So what's the hold-up from the Biden administration?