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Early Start with John Berman and Zoraida Sambolin

Zelenskyy: Ukraine Won't Give Up Eastern Territory To End War; U.S. Envoy For North Korea In Seoul As Joint Military Drills Begin; China Reports Three COVID-19 Deaths In Shanghai. Aired 5:30-6a ET

Aired April 18, 2022 - 05:30   ET




KRISTIN FISHER, CNN ANCHOR: Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy tells CNN that Ukraine is not willing to give up eastern parts of the country to end the war with Russia. Speaking exclusively with CNN's Jake Tapper, Zelenskyy said that Ukraine's military would stand its ground in the east. He says if Russia manages to capture the Donbas region that it would put the rest of the country at risk.


VOLODYMYR ZELENSKYY, PRESIDENT OF UKRAINE (through translator): In the centuries-old history of Ukraine there is the story that Ukraine has either taken some territory or needs to give up some territory. Ukraine and the people of our state are absolutely clear we don't want anyone else's territory and we are not going to give up our own.


FISHER: So let's bring in Ukrainian lawmaker Lesia Vasylenko. Lesia, first of all, what did you think about what we just heard from Ukrainian President Zelenskyy? Do you agree with his assertion that the eastern parts of Ukraine should not be on the negotiating table?

LESIA VASYLENKO, MEMBER OF UKRAINIAN PARLIAMENT (via Skype): Absolutely. No parts of Ukraine should be on the negotiating table. Ukraine is writing its own new history and it's also writing the new history of the world as it goes.

And if we are under any circumstances -- if Ukraine is made to give up territories it's going to be a risk not just to Ukrainians living in Ukraine but to the whole world. Because then, a message will be sent to Russia loud and clear that it's OK to go in for land grabs. It's OK to start aggressive wars and to terrorize civilian population because nobody is actually going to be doing anything about it and the world is just going to stand by and watch. And this is exactly the kind of situation that Ukraine and Ukrainians are trying to prevent.

FISHER: Understood. So, in your opinion, is there anything that's fair game beyond the negotiating table with Russian President Vladimir Putin? VASYLENKO: I have a question. Why does Ukraine need to be putting anything on the negotiating table? Are we not clear still that Russia is the one in the wrong here? That they -- that Russia has committed a crime of aggression and international crime? It's committing multiple war crimes as we go along and it's also committing the crime of crimes -- the crime of genocide against the Ukrainian nation.

So how does, in this picture, Ukraine, or anyone else for that matter, need to give up anything? To appease the aggressor? To appease a criminal? And what kind of law system anywhere in the world does anyone play up to the criminal and say that oh, OK, maybe we can negotiate around the murders we have just committed or around the things you have just stolen? Maybe we can appease you with something.


No. Criminals are tried in court and justice is served in the form of sanctions and in the form of punishments. It's exactly the same that needs to happen to Russia right now.

FISHER: There has been so much concern that as this war -- Russia's invasion drags on that President Putin may be getting more and more desperate. That he perhaps might resort to nuclear weapons or perhaps chemical weapons. What is your level of concern about that?

VASYLENKO: Russia is prepared to do anything. I mean, Putin is a lunatic. He has long gone mad and the only way to stop him is to actually physically push back Russian forces into the territory of Russia and to help the people of Russia carry out regime changes in Russia. Because it's not healthy neither for the population of Russia to be living under such circumstances nor for the neighbors of Russia, nor for the whole world.

Russia today, under Putin's rule, is a threat to global peace and security, and such a threat must be eliminated. And it must be a common goal and common united efforts of the whole international community in respect to this. Ukraine cannot be expected to stand alone.

But we, again -- we must be prepared that until Russia is stopped, they will be deploying and threatening the world with all kinds of possible threats -- chemical, biological, nuclear, and so on and so forth. And the sooner Russia is stopped the sooner these threats will be no more for Ukraine and for the world.

FISHER: And Lesia, how about the United States? I mean, in your opinion, do you think that the U.S. and President Biden are doing enough to support Ukraine?

VASYLENKO: Look, I'm sure there's always a little bit more that can be done by President Biden, by Prime Minister Johnson, and by all the other leaders of the free world. I mean, you have many resources -- military resources.

Ukraine is carrying on its line of asking in the form of weapons, weapons, weapons. This is what we need if we are to keep standing against the largest aggressor in the world today. And there are more weapons that can be given to Ukraine and there are more resources that can be shared.

And now, to this list of needs, Ukraine is also asking for all kinds of building materials, for financial aid to rebuild and renew Ukraine, especially the de-occupied town all around Kyiv and the town which are still to be de-occupied in the east of Ukraine and other parts of Ukraine.

FISHER: Lesia Vasylenko, thank you so much for your time. Please stay safe. And I will let get back to the little one that I hear in the background. I know how that goes.


FISHER: So, thank you so much.

VASYLENKO: Online schooling, online schooling. This is what our children have. So we thought it would end with the pandemic but it continues with the war.

FISHER: I'm so sorry for everything that you're going through -- not only a member of the Ukrainian Parliament but a -- but a mom as well trying to get through this like so many other Ukrainian moms. Thank you so, so much.

VASYLENKO: Thank you.

FISHER: You bet.

So, the American envoy for North Korea arrived in Seoul today as joint U.S.-South Korean military drills began. And the envoy, Sung Kim, will also address concerns over Pyongyang increasing its ballistic missile launches -- the latest of them just this weekend.

Joining us now, CNN's Paula Hancocks, who has been following the very latest developments. Paula, thank you so much for joining us this morning. What are South Korean officials saying about these latest missiles?

PAULA HANCOCKS, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Kristin, they have been roundly condemned by the South Korean side and also the South Korean President Moon Jae-in who has been very pro-engagement for much of his presidency. He's on the way out, though. Next month there will be a new president here in South Korea -- one who is more hard-lined towards North Korea.

We have, though, just heard from Sung Kim, the U.S. special envoy for North Korea, after one of his meetings speaking to reporters. And he did say that it was very important for the United Nations Security Council to send a clear signal to North Korea that they will not accept these escalatory tests as normal.

Now, there is a very fundamental issue with that. Russia and China are on the Security Council and neither one of them is likely to be willing to side with the United States when it comes to condemning North Korea and its recent testing, or to even entertain the idea of further sanctions.

So at this point, the Security Council is not sending a clear message at all, and Pyongyang is very aware of that. They know that the timing of these tests is very fortunate and opportune for Kim Jong Un, the North Korean leader, as he is able to test more without many repercussions.

Now, Sung Kim also did say that the door hasn't shut on diplomacy, also pushing Pyongyang to come back to the diplomatic path. But at this point and over recent months, Pyongyang has shown no indication whatsoever that it is interesting -- interested in any kind of talks. Kim Jong Un really pushing ahead with testing the weapons that he has told us he wants to have the capability for.


A very significant time not just for the testing. It's also we've just passed a key date in the North Korean calendar -- the 110th anniversary of the birth of the founder, Kim Il-sung -- Kristin.

FISHER: Yes, we know how much Kim Jong Un likes those anniversaries so to speak.

Paula Hancocks, thank you so much.

Coming up, inflation, crime, migrants at the border. What can President Joe Biden do to fix them?

And the unbelievable true story of the man who took on Putin and lived to expose the truth. The Sundance award-winning CNN film "Navalny" airs Sunday at 9:00 p.m. on CNN.



FISHER: Inflation, migrants at the southern border, rising crime, the coronavirus pandemic. I mean, those are just some of the big problems that the U.S. is currently facing and problems that are weighing down President Biden's political standing. The most recent CNN Poll of Polls pegged Mr. Biden's approval at just 39%. So the question is, what can the president do to fix any of these problems?

So let's bring in CNN White House correspondent John Harwood. Good morning, John. So what do you think? Is there anything that President Biden can do to fix these mounting issues?

JOHN HARWOOD, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, there are small things he can do, small steps he can make, but it's in the nature of the American system to when things go wrong people look to the White House and see -- say what can the president do about it? Sometimes there's not very much he can do about it.

Now, in the case of inflation, which is the dominant economic problem, he had something to do with that inflation. The economists -- if you talk to them, left and right -- will agree that the American Rescue Plan was larger than it should have been -- that it needed to have been. That it fueled some of the inflation that we're now experiencing. Countries around the world are experiencing inflation but it's higher here.

The issue is, though, what can President Biden do about it right now, and the answer is not very much. That's the Federal Reserve's job to try to tackle that. They're raising interest rates. But it's kind of out of Biden's hand.

And so, when we get these monthly economic reports and people say look, the highest inflation in 40 years, and ask the White House about it, they don't have particularly good answers -- and there aren't particularly good answers for the White House.

On immigration, President Biden hasn't really implemented much of the immigration agenda that he ran on. But the flow of people from south of the border seeking to get into the United States is something that has existed for decades. It ebbs and flows with how the economy is going and now you've got a whole lot of people who want to come in. And the question is how can President Biden deal with that?

He's lifting some Trump restrictions or announcing that he's lifting some Trump restrictions, and that's likely to increase the flow. But that's just a thorny problem that there's not a whole lot the president can do to manage.

Same thing with crime. The murder rate spiked during the pandemic for reasons we don't entirely understand. It has continued to go up since then. So if a trend started before Joe Biden became president, it's difficult to pin that on him and it's difficult to identify what he can do when things are happening in states and cities around the country.

FISHER: So, John, you say there's not a lot that President Biden can do right now to fix these issues but he can do something about messaging. And you write that fellow Democrats say that the administration could be saved or salvaged with better messaging -- fixing that communications issue. So, what specifically do you think that Democrats want to hear?

HARWOOD: Well, they want a better story to tell. And the issue that you get in election seasons is each side tries to tell a dominant story about what's happened over the last couple of years. And when you have a constellation of problems like President Biden is facing, Republicans are saying look, the country is out of control and it's Joe Biden's fault. Democrats want a better answer.

The problem is that in midterm elections, almost always, the president's party loses in those elections. You've got very narrow majorities in the Congress, and if you lose any ground in the Senate and just a little bit of ground in the House, Republicans are going to be in control. Twenty-six out of the last 29 midterm elections, the party that is not holding the White House gains House seats. There is every reason to expect that to continue this year.

And however President Biden talks or his aides talk about conditions in the country, it's very difficult to see anything they can do in terms of communication that is going to alter that reality.

FISHER: All right, John Harwood. Thank you so much for your analysis this morning and for sharing your beautiful library in the background. I'd give it a 10 out of 10 on Room Raters if I could.

HARWOOD: Thank you, Kristin.

FISHER: You bet.

All right. So, to sports now. The Celtics stunned the Nets in game one of their playoff series with a thrilling buzzer-beater.

Andy Scholes has this morning's Bleacher Report.


FISHER: Good morning.

SCHOLES: So, of the hundreds of playoff games that the Celtics have had at home in their history, this was the first time ever that they won on a buzzer-beater. The Celtics -- they were down one in the closing seconds. Jaylen Brown going to go over to Marcus Smart. He pump fakes, then finds a cutting Jayson Tatum who spins beautifully around Kyrie Irving and lays it in at the buzzer.


The Boston crowd just goes absolutely nuts as the Celtics win 115-114 to take game one.

Now, Kyrie was amazing in this game. He scored 18 in the fourth quarter and finished with 39 points. But he was going at it with Boston fans all game long, flipping them off on multiple occasions. And Kyrie said he's not just going to take it from Boston fans this series.


KYRIE IRVING, BROOKLYN NETS GUARD: When people start yelling (bleep) and all that stuff, there's only so much you can take as a competitor. And, you know, we're the ones expected to be docile and be humble and take a humble approach, not (bleep) the playoffs. It is what it is, you know. I know what to expect in here and it's the same energy I'm giving back to them.


SCHOLES: All right. Elsewhere, the Bucks hosting the Bulls in game one of their series.

Picking it up third quarter, Giannis on the break -- acrobatic bucket here, plus the foul. He was pumped up and finished with 27 points. The Bulls had a chance to tie it in the closing seconds but Zach Lavine's three, no good. Bucks win the low-scoring affair 93-86.

Elsewhere, 36-year-old Suns star Chris Paul turning back the clock in a huge way against the Pelicans. He scored 30 points, including 19 in the fourth quarter, to go along with 10 assists. CP3 now the oldest player ever to accomplish that feat in a playoffs. The record previously held by Steve Nash, also for the Suns, back in 2010.

Phoenix would win that game easily over the Pelicans at 110-99.

And finally, Duncan Robinson couldn't miss for the top-seeded Heat against the Hawks yesterday. He came off the bench and set a franchise playoff record, making eight of his nine 3-point attempts as Miami blew out Atlanta in game one 115-91.

We've got a triple-header of game twos on tap tonight starting with the Raptors and 76ers at 7:30 eastern on our sister channel TNT.

And Kristin, always one of the best weeks in basketball. You've got three playoff games every single night this week.

FISHER: And Andy, I owe you an apology. I butchered your last name on the intro. Andy Scholes, forgive me -- it's early. I apologize.

SCHOLES: No worries -- all right.

FISHER: All right, we'll see you later.

SCHOLES: All right.

FISHER: OK. So, coming up next, "NEW DAY" is live on the ground in Ukraine as new airstrikes rock Lviv for the first time in weeks. And a city there -- excuse me -- a city three times the size of New York on strict lockdown. New revelations about COVID in Shanghai, next.



FISHER: New overnight, the first COVID-19 deaths officially reported in Shanghai since the city went into a strict lockdown late last month. It's had millions of residents confined to their homes. Officials have set a target this week aimed at easing the lockdown.

CNN's Steven Jiang is live in Beijing. So, Steven, what exactly is the target and how do they plan to accomplish it?

STEVEN JIANG, CNN BEIJING BUREAU CHIEF: Well, Kristin, few people actually believe in any of the targets for lockdown easing or the city reopening anymore given the huge credibility deficit of the Shanghai authorities right now. Remember, they had repeatedly denied there would even be a citywide lockdown back in late March and then did exactly that, leaving many of the city's 25 million residents very ill-prepared for dealing with this increasingly draconian lockdown.

That's also why, you know, we are seeing right now what they are focusing is, of course, dealing with the potential pitfall of this lockdown. And one thing for sure is what we are seeing the government in Beijing is doing is doubling down on zero-COVID policy, saying they're not going to change this. And also saying this has come from the very top -- President Xi Jinping himself. So leaving very little wiggle room for Shanghai authorities to change its approach right now.

That's why it's very difficult to imagine they could achieve zero COVID by the end of this week given they have been reporting more than 20,000 new cases on a daily basis for a while. The only way they could do this is by, according to many experts, manipulating the numbers. And that's why a lot of them are raising questions about a city's amazingly low rates of deaths and severe cases, including the three first officially confirmed deaths you just mentioned -- all unvaccinated senior citizens around the age of 90 with underlying medical conditions.

These amazing figures just don't really add up, according to many outside experts -- Kristin.

FISHER: Steven Jiang live in Beijing for us. Steven, thank you.

And thanks, all of you, for getting up early and joining us on EARLY START. I'm Kristin Fisher. "NEW DAY" starts right now.

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