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Early Start with John Berman and Zoraida Sambolin

Day 50 of Russia's War on Ukraine: Set to "Conquer" Donbas; Ukraine Claims Strike on Russian Ship, Kremlin Claims Onboard Fire; Brooklyn Subway Shooting Suspect Arrested Without Incident; At Least 44 Cities Across China Under Lockdown As Cases Surge. Aired 5-5:30a ET

Aired April 14, 2022 - 05:00   ET



ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

LAURA JARRETT, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning, everyone. Welcome to our viewers in the United States and all around the world. It is Thursday, April 14th. I'm Laura Jarrett. Nice to be back with you.

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN ANCHOR: Yeah, nice to have you back. I'm Christine Romans.

Brianna Keilar is with us in Lviv, Ukraine.

Good morning, Brianna.

BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning, Laura and Christine.

Russia is now 50 days into its unprovoked invasion in Ukraine, a war that Russian forces thought would be over as quickly as it started, but was met, of course, with fierce resistance by Ukraine. Now the battle is entering a critical new stage as Vladimir Putin has revised his strategy.

According to an assessment by the French military, Russia could be relaunching a large scale offensive to conquer the Donbas region here in the next few days. And new threats by the Kremlin warning if Ukrainian attacks on Russian territory continue, Russian armed forces will strike decision-making centers, including Kyiv.

Also new this morning, conflicting reports on what happens when one of Russia's most important navy warships. You're looking some satellite images. These were taken before Ukraine says its missile hit this ship. Hours later, Russia said it was an on board fire. CNN has been unable to verify the claims.

In the meantime, the U.S. is ramping up commitments to help Ukraine sending an additional $800 million worth of weapons and racing against time before Russia's new onslaught begins.

CNN's Matt Rivers is here to talk about this.

This ship, if Ukraine were to have hit it, this would be a very big development. But, of course, Russia say, no, that's not true.

MATT RIVERS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yeah. No matter which way you slice it, a fire on board Russia's flagship vessel in its Black Sea fleet is a very big deal. So, what we're getting in the Russian state media at the moment is that there has been a fire on board that's caused the crew of the guided missile cruiser Moskva to have to evacuate. Because of that fire there was some ammunition on board that was apparently detonated and that made the crew have to leave. That's what we're getting from Russian state media.

From the Ukrainian side, they're saying that it was actually, what they did is they fired a shore based cruise missile, one of the missile, Ukraine's own design. It just came in to service last year. And they fired that missile, they cause on that ship, and that's what the cause of all of this is.

Whether or not this is true, because we can't verify this as of yet, it's cloudy in the area so we don't have the satellite images that we would normally look at to verify this. But no matter which way you slice it, this is a very big deal for Russia's military and Russia's navy specifically. It would be the biggest blow against Russia's navy during the Ukraine war so far.

This is a flagship vessel for the Black Sea fleet. It's got military significance. Also, it's symbolic in a lot of ways if Russia struggle here during this Ukraine war.

KEILAR: If it is an act of God, I mean, what is -- what is the omen that is sending if that's the case here?

Let's also talk about, as we've seen all of these world leaders coming to Kyiv, there's been a question about, well, who is the U.S. going to send?

RIVERS: Yeah. And this is a question that the Biden administration, according to our White House team, has been mulling now for a while there. There are preliminary discussions after seeing other leaders come to Kyiv, there's discussions about sending a high level administration official.

So, Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin's name has been thrown around, Secretary Antony Blinken's name has been thrown around. Not a visit looking likely from the president or the vice president. But I think what the Biden administration is saying look who's gone to Kyiv recently. You've had British Prime Minister Boris Johnson there recently. Just yesterday, you've had the presidents of Poland, Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia, all there, so the world leaders willing to make that trip to Kyiv, show solidarity with President Zelenskyy.

We're going to have to wait to see what the United States wants to do in that regard in the next couple of days and weeks.

KEILAR: I am so curious if they send a top diplomat or if they send the head of the department of war essentially.

RIVERS: Sends deeper messages, right? KEILAR: It certainly does.

Matt, thank you so much for that report.

All right. Let's move forward here, I want to bring in CNN military analyst and former commanding general, coalition military assistance training team in Iraq, Major General Paul Eaton with us.

General, this warship, what do you make about this mixed messages we're getting from Russians versus Ukrainians?

MAJ. GEN. PAUL EATON, CNN MILITARY ANALYST: Well, good morning. Thank you very much for having me. We've advocated to open up the sea to this conflict, to give President Putin something to worry about offshore and the opportunity to start killing Russian ships was a very big plus to open the conflict up, to give something for the Russians to worry about.

And if you have a fire on a ship and I've been to the firefighting centers that the Navy operates to train their sailors on how to work fires, and to defeat a fire on a captained ship, it is a very, very intense and scary proposition to work fires aboard ship.


It's very different from fires on land. So, this development is a great development for Ukraine and for the whole NATO operation right now behind Ukraine.

KEILAR: Is there any possibility that that was real, that there was a fire on the ship that caused -- could have caused ammunition to explode or do you find -- are you doubtful of that?

EATON: I am very doubtful that fire aboard ship is a very unlikely event. Sailors fear this greatly. They do many, many things and the whole -- the whole ship's complements is trained to immediately react to fire on a ship.

This looks like a missile strike to me. It is unlikely it was a naturally occurring or as you mentioned earlier -- as was mentioned earlier, an event from God. This is an event from Zelenskyy.

KEILAR: Yeah. Is it an act of God? It would be pretty incredible if it were. Send a certain message.

The French military is assessing Russia is ramping up a large scale offensive to conquer the Donbas. What are you expecting? What is this going to look like?

EATON: This is going to be a little bit of what Yogi said, deja vu all over again. NATO and Warsaw Pact forces trained -- they manned, trained, equipped themselves for a war that blends northern Germany, and rolling hills. It's oriented and it's optimized for tank warfare. High intensity combined arms conflict, and we anticipate that that's about what's going to happen. It's a little bit more advantageous to the Russians right now given

how they are manned, trained, and equipped. Right now, we are moving significant war material to the Ukrainian armed forces to be able to manage that. It's a little different from what the Russians faced in Kyiv. It is going to be a fight the likes of which we haven't seen in a long time but at NATO and something that I did in the '70s and '80s, it's something you prepare for and you execute the armor-oriented attack and defense that the Russians appear to be setting up right now.

KEILAR: President Biden has announced that the U.S. is providing this additional $800 million in military assistance while the Pentagon hosted the CEOs of the eight largest prime contractors how quickly they can get this aide to Ukraine.

We heard from the Pentagon the other day, they said it's four to six days from the time the aid is promised, from the time it comes out of President Biden's mouth to the time it gets here in the hands of the Ukrainians.

Is that going to be fast enough for this battle that is looming?

EATON: We talked in terms of down to the soldier level, flash to bang, decision to actual military event outcome on the ground. Four to six days is an amazingly short period. This indicates that the Defense Department, the whole amazing industrial complex of the United States to provide the best we can to the war fighter, this is a stunningly short period of time and it's working very, very well.

So the real problem here is battlefield distribution of equipment that will produce the outcome you want on the ground. So the enemy, as we say, always has a decision opportunity here. So, it is distributing anti-armor systems be they tank or be they missile into the hands of the people in the particular geographic point that you need it. That's the art and it's going apparently pretty well.

KEILAR: All right. We -- some of the days ahead of us here are going to tell in that.

General Eaton, great to have you.


Thank you so much for your insights here.

Christine and Laura, back to you guys in New York.

ROMANS: All right. Thank you, Brianna.

JARRETT: Still ahead for you, telling on yourself. The odd tip that led to the subway shooting case that shook New York City.

ROMANS: And new questions about why an unarmed black man was shot and killed by a police officer in Michigan. Just released video of that shooting, ahead.


JARRETT: Now to the bizarre ending to the manhunt that had New York City on edge. The suspect in the Brooklyn subway shooting called in a tip to police on himself ultimately leading to his arrest. Sixty-two- year-old Frank James will make his first court appearance today. He was arrested without incident in Manhattan's East Village yesterday afternoon.


Police say James fired 33 shots on that Brooklyn train early Tuesday morning, hitting 10 people and injuring 29, including children who were headed to school.

Peter Licata is with us this morning. He's a CNN law enforcement analyst and head, former head of the FBI's WMD task force in New York.

So nice to have you this morning, Peter. Really appreciate you coming on bright and early.

Your thoughts on how this arrest unfolded. So many people trying to take credit for having called in to the tip line, but we have learned from sources that James actually called the tip line himself.

PETER LICATA, CNN LAW ENFORCEMENT ANALYST: Good morning, Laura. Exactly. Very unusual, right?

So, there were hundreds of thousands of calls coming in on the tip line by New Yorkers, by anyone that thought they saw them. And from what I was told is, law enforcement was literally only seconds behind him or a couple minutes behind him.

And again, as we kind of talked about yesterday, his world really started to close in on him and then finally he just decided to call a tip on himself. So, very unusual. I spoke about it a little bit yesterday. It's just -- again, this is somebody that's not in their right mind to do something like this. And then obviously to go ahead and call on the tip on himself.

It doesn't mean he's insane or anything like that. No, there's definitely a difference between the two, but he's definitely not in his right mind. It goes more that he wanted to be caught, in my opinion. That's why he left all those key pieces of evidence behind the crime season. There's no reason to drop your credit card or the keys to your get away van potentially.

And moreover, a lot of these individuals want to get caught because they want the world to understand. They want their platform so the world understands what they did and why they did it.

JARRETT: So, he's going to be in court later today. He faces a federal terrorism charge having to do with begin on mass transportation. Does it matter at all his motive in making that charge? We really don't know yet much about his motive. Obviously, the investigation is continuing. LICATA: The motive is always going to be important with regard to how

that charge sticks. Trust me, having been with the FBI and New York City, the joint terrorism task force for many years, 15 years, working cases such as this, attempted subway bombing in 2009, attempted Times Square bombing in 2010, the Chelsea bombing of 2016, the motive is important.

The prosecution of this case, the Eastern District in New York has already built the case. The case is already built. The affidavit that was made available to the public for his arrest is -- highlights the elements of the crime. And they feel comfortable that they'll be able to present that to a jury in the near future.

JARRETT: You've said while people can rest easy with the suspect in custody obviously now, it's crucial that the investigation continues. I just wonder with a case like this, you know, obviously someone with a lot of mental issues and challenges, who's posting nonstop on YouTube. But police can't scour YouTube for every nut who's posting.

How do you prevent something like this?

LICATA: Really, really difficult. I mean, we're not here to tell on our neighbors because of some rant, because they're angry one day. So, it's a fine line of not only law enforcement but the public at large to be alert for somebody that's literally -- that they feel is on the edge, may be mentally unstable, or just so angry or their rhetoric becomes so extreme that they feel they have to report it.

No one likes to do that. No one likes to that to a neighbor, to a friend, to family. That's really hard to do. But, unfortunately, this is the world we're living in.

JARRETT: All right. Peter Licata, thank you so much. Appreciate your analysis this week.

LICATA: Thank you.

JARRETT: All right. Millions of people under lockdown in China as coronavirus cases surge across the country. A live report from the city with the most cases and the strictest rules next.

ROMANS: Plus, it's still too early to ditch your masks on public transportation. How much longer you'll have to keep wearing them, ahead.



ROMANS: In China, at least 44 cities are under full or partial lockdown as authorities enforced a zero COVID policy, with coronavirus cases surging. Nearly 30,000 cases are reported across China Wednesday. The greatest number in Shanghai, where some residents are confined to their homes.

CNN's Anna Coren live in Hong Kong with more. And, Anna, how are residents reacting to these strict pandemic rules?

We've seen these videos and these people are sharing of -- oh, my gosh, just frustration and empty refrigerators.

ANNA COREN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yeah, people are fed up. I mean, they've been doing this for two weeks, some even longer. Certainly in Shanghai they've been locked down since the end of March.

But in other cities around the country, you mentioned there are 44 that are in lockdown. They've been in lockdown for up to a month. So these people are short on food, on fresh food, on medical supplies and it is causing a huge amount of anger and frustration. Yes, the focus is on Shanghai because it is the most populous city in China, it's where the rich and powerful live.

But as you mentioned, this is happening all across the country. These cities contribute to 40 percent of China's GDP.


I mean, just think about that. That is now in lockdown not functioning. So, the economic implications of this, Christine, are absolutely huge. The government is doubling down on the zero COVID strategy.

The reason being is that the health system would absolutely collapse. Analysts have been saying because, you know, they have an elderly population, many of them unvaccinated they do not herd immunity in China because there's been locked off from the rest of the world for the past two years.

I mean, there are people who believe, experts who believe that if COVID were to rip through China, Christine, there could be 2 million deaths. That is something that China's leader Xi Jinping will do anything to obviously avoid.

ROMANS: Yeah, certainly, a different strategy happening there with the zero COVID policy. We know more factories have been shut down in and around China, too. That will affect the supply chain. So, this is a story that will continue to progress.

Anna Coren, thank you so much.

JARRETT: Back here in the U.S., Americans are going to have to keep wearing the masks on planes, trains and buses a little bit longer. The CDC says the federal transportation mask mandate which was due to expire Monday will now remain in place until at least May 3rd as COVID cases rise across the country. It's the fifth federal mask mandate extension, and it comes despite pleas from the travel industry to drop it.

More than half a billion coronavirus cases have been reported worldwide. Nearly one in six of those cases or more than 80 million were in the U.S. Just incredible.

Russian President Vladimir Putin wanted the war in Ukraine to drive a wedge into the western alliance. Now though it's having the opposite effect and it's pushing two countries towards potentially joining NATO. We have the details on that, next.