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Russian Missiles Hit Ukraine's Capital During U.N. Chief's Visit; Ukraine Plans to Get Civilians to Get Civilians Out of Besieged Steel Plant Today; Biden Asks Congress for $33 Billion Package to Support Ukraine. Aired 5-5:30a ET

Aired April 29, 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. I'm Laura Jarrett.

Nice to be back with you.


I'm Christine Romans.

We begin with our breaking news this morning. Our coverage begins with Vladimir Putin sending a not so subtle message to the west if not the entire world. Five Russian missiles fired at Kyiv just after the U.N. secretary-general wrapped up a meeting there with Ukraine's President Zelenskyy. And just two days after Antonio Guterres met face-to-face with Putin himself in Moscow. The secretary-general unhurt in the Russian strike.

And breaking just moments ago, Ukraine now says that it plans to evacuate hundreds of civilian holdouts from a besieged steel plant in Mariupol in just a matter of hours.

CNN's Isa Soares is inside Ukraine right now for us.

Isa, what do we know about this planned operation?

ISA SOARES, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRRESPONDENT; Good morning to you, Christine, and good morning, Laura.

We are very short on details in regards to this operation, but it could be potentially good news if it happens today and if it happens safely for the civilians holed up inside that Azovstal steel plant. Now, they have been inside for days now without seeing sunlight. There are about 1,000 or so civilians inside, and they have obviously been there are women, children, soldiers inside. And we've been told in the last couple of days that they are running out -- shortages of water, of food as well as some medicine.

We also have seen the last 24 hours and hearing from inside the Azovstal steel plant, they have seen intense shelling taking place directly hitting that steel plant, and so, incredibly worrying situation inside the steel plant. And so perhaps we shall see an evacuation for them.

This is something that the U.N. Secretary General Antonio Guterres has been working on the last couple of days. He, of course, met like you said with president Putin in Moscow and following that meeting, he promised in principle to allow the U.N. and Red Cross to create an evacuation for those civilians. Of course we shall keep an eye when that happens and how that happens. We shall bring that to you.

As you've mentioned off the top of your show, this promise of evacuation coming less than 24 hours when we saw those missile strikes in Kyiv when the U.N. secretary-general was still in the country. Now, the U.N. secretary general is unharmed but shocked by what is happening.

We know a missile hit an apartment building. And you're looking at some of the aftermath of that apartment building, ten people being hurt.

This is what President Zelenskyy had to say.


VOLODYMYR ZELENSKYY, UKRAINIAN PRESIDENT (through translator): Today, immediately after the end of our talks in Kyiv, Russian missiles flew into the city. Five missiles. This says a lot about Russia's true attitude about global institutions, about the Russian leadership's efforts to humiliate the U.N. and everything that the organization represents, and therefore requires an appropriate powerful response.


SOARES: And, Christine, while Russia pushes into the east of the country, we are hearing from the U.S. and NATO officials telling CNN that Russia is making slow and uneven progress in the battlefield, only advancing a couple kilometers a day or so.

Christine, back to you.

ROMANS: All right. Isa, for us. Thank you so much for that -- Laura.

JARRETT: All right. President Biden is asking Congress for $33 billion in funding to support Ukraine over the next several months. But the process could take weeks or even longer before final votes are taken in the House and Senate.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We either back the Ukrainian people as they defend their country or we stand by as the Russians continue their atrocities and aggression in Ukraine. We need to contribute arms, funding, ammunition, and economic support to make their courage and sacrifice have purpose.


JARRETT: And Daniella Diaz joins us live from Capitol Hill this morning.

Daniella, Democratic leadership wants to pass this package by Memorial Day. How realistic is that?

DANIELLA DIAZ, CNN REPORTER: Well, Laura, they're going to try to do that any way, even though the first step, of course, is to figure out what's going to actually be in this package and what can pass through Congress.


Now, Democratic leadership, of course, wants to honor Joe Biden's request for $33 billion to continue helping Ukraine during this invasion from Russia. However, of course, Republicans have already said that they don't agree with all the provisions that President Biden requested Congress to commit to in this package.

So, there is going to be negotiations over the next couple weeks over what this bill will actually look like. Of course, they got to write the bill after that. And, look, the House is in recess next week, so it is looking like the Senate will take this up first and they will have to figure out if they want to pass the legislation with a COVID- 19 funding package that they already agreed on that they tabled before congressional recess a couple weeks ago that they still want to pass as a priority to the Biden administration.

Now, some Republicans have said they don't want to pass these bills together, but Democratic leadership are hoping that they can do this and get enough votes through the Senate to be able to do that. But really all of this is up in the air. But a Democratic leadership aide told me yesterday that they actually signaled that this is going to take a long time. They said in a statement that there will be bicameral, bipartisan talks on the supplemental request.

Language must also be drafted and it is also unresolved which chamber will work to advance the supplemental first. This will not be an instant process. So that really sums up that this is going to take a couple of weeks, Laura, and there is going to be a lot of back and forth between Democrats and Republicans. But there is a sign here that they will work together to try to pass a bipartisan bill on this because it is a priority for both parties to help Ukraine -- Laura.

JARRETT: Certainly a priority, but nothing moves quickly in Washington. Thank you.

ROMANS: All right. Six minutes past the hour. Coming up, details about an American citizen killed fighting the Russians in Ukraine.

JARRETT: Plus, the American citizen wondering why he was left in Russia after the prisoner swap that brought home another noon and a quite home front turned battle front as Russian tanks lurk nearby.



JARRETT: In Ukraine, the battle front is dotted with villages filled with civilians who are trapped. Some by personal circumstance, many by Russian forces who make evacuating as dangerous as staying put.

CNN's Nick Paton Walsh visited one of those towns. Here's what he found.


NICK PATON WALSH, CNN INTERNATIONAL SECURITY EDITOR (voice-over): If Moscow had any surprises left in this war, it is along here. The other side of the river has been rushes for weeks, but here the western side is caught in the fast changing landscape of this week's push.

That's the prize over there, the Dnieper River up past which on the left side bank here, the Russians are trying to push, wanting control of both sides of that vital part of Ukraine.

Here in Novovoronstsovka, we are told there are a handful of Russian tanks just over a kilometer away on its outskirts pushing, probing, but ultimately kept at bay by Ukrainian forces that still hold the town. Resilience here embodied in Ludmila under the threat of rocket fire, planting onions.

I'm here until victory, she said.

Her children have gone. It's just her and her mother. (INAUDIBLE) OK, an 80 year old mother and her staying here.

Her mother says she's not going anywhere and she's not going to leave her alone.

All our windows have blown out, she says.

Ukrainian forces who don't want their positions filmed are dotted around the town. As to other signs of innocent lives lost here, rockets peeking out from under the water. And this boat in which 14 civilians tried to flee Russian occupation on April the seventh, four of them died when Moscow's troops opened fire when it was 70 meters out.

Yet still, the desperate keep fleeing. This morning, these women left behind their men to defend their homes near Novovoronstsovka.

We ran, ran early in the morning said Luda. They didn't let us out. We're shields for them. They don't let us out by foot or by bicycle. We go in the fields, we ran.

Our soldiers were two kilometers away, Nadeszha adds, and we ran to them. What they need they take, she said, they take cars. They draw Zeds on everything.

As their new unwanted guests demanded milk and food at gunpoint, they had a glimpse of their warped mindset.

They say they've come to liberate us, Luda said, these aggressors, that's what they told us. They say America is fighting here but using the hands of Ukrainians to do it. That's what they say.

Another claim to be fueled by the violence of the long war with separatists in the east.

In general, the Donetsk militants say, you've been bombing us for eight years, now we bomb you. Across the fields, loathing and artillery swallow whole once happy worlds.

Nick Paton Walsh, CNN, Novovoronstsovka, Ukraine.


ROMANS: Thank you, Nick, for that excellent reporting.

Let's bring in now, Bobby Ghosh, a columnist on foreign affairs at "Bloomberg".

So nice to see you. Thank you for dropping by.

You know, overnight, the five Russian missile strikes on Kyiv after the U.N. secretary-general met there with Ukraine's President Zelenskyy, and just days after he was in Moscow meeting with Vladimir Putin to talk about de-escalation here.


Is this Putin sending a deliberate message to the rest of the world?

BOBBY GHOSH, COLUMNIST ON FOREIGN AFFAIRS, BLOOMBERG: Yes, it is Putin demonstrating the scorn for the international order, specifically for Antonio Guterres, the United Nations secretary- general, and the United Nations as a whole. It is impossible that the Russians were not aware that Guterres would be there, and impossible that this is just a coincidence that it happened.

Remember when Secretary of State Antony Blinken was there recently, officials traveled by train shortly after they left train lines and Ukraine was struck by Russian missiles. This is part of a pattern. We shouldn't kid ourselves. This is Putin saying here is what I think of your attempts at diplomacy.

JARRETT: You say that Putin knows this war is going badly for Russia, but in some ways that could make him even more dangerous. Can the U.S. stay united in its resolve with its allies and engaged here as long as Putin can stay engaged here? GHOSH: Well, so far the alliance is holding pretty well, remarkably

well. I don't think that many of us who follow foreign affairs and especially follow Europe very closely, many of us would not have thought that this alliance would have held this long. But it is going to be a constant test of our resolve and our patience. The longer a conflict lasts, there is a tendency as human beings that we have a tendency to look away and care less by other concerns.

The package of $33 billion that Biden is asking for Congress, that is also going to be a test. Congress has supported the administration's efforts so far and will it continue to support it. It is quite a lot of money.

And so this will be tested on a continuous basis. We know that Putin won't stop until he stops. And we can't predict when that will happen. We have to keep supporting Ukraine until such time Putin reaches that decision.

ROMANS: And now we're nine weeks in to this and what was an initial bloody invasion is a grinding long term war it could be here. And the worry is this war in Ukraine spills over into other countries. You've seen Russia use energy as a tool, cutting off Russian gas to Poland and Bulgaria. You have the concerns about the Russian separatist region between Ukraine and Moldova. And whether there could be a hot spot there.

You know, is this inevitable that it spreads beyond Ukrainian borders?

GHOSH: Well, I think that there is certainly a strong tendency in Russia to try to expand the conflict. But at the same time, we have to recognize the fact that they have done very poorly in Ukraine. If your soldiers aren't doing well in one theater of war, is it wise to expose them to a second and a third one, which might lead to more embarrassment, more reversals and defeats in other places.

So that is the big calculation for the Russian high command, for Putin. Can he risk sending his soldiers to open a second and third front in other countries while they are taking such a shellacking in Ukraine?

JARRETT: A good point.

Bobby Ghosh, thank you so much for joining us. Appreciate it.

ROMANS: Thank you.

JARRETT: And just ahead, why job says he job Joe Biden says he is not worried about a recession.

ROMANS: But first, the American military veteran who lost his life fighting for Ukraine.


[05:23:28] ROMANS: A U.S. citizen killed while fighting alongside Ukrainian troops. The family of 22-year-old former marine Willie Joseph Cancel confirming his death to CNN. Cancel was being paid by a private military contracting company to fight with Ukrainians. He was a full- time corrections officer in Tennessee before heading to Ukraine.

His mother says that he wanted to go because he believed in what Ukraine was fighting for and he wanted to contain it before it spread here.

JARRET: Ex-marine Trevor Reed wakes up in his home state of Texas this morning a free man, after nearly three years of imprisonment in Russia. The Kremlin released Reed this week in a prisoner exchange but another U.S. citizen and former marine was left behind. Paul Whelan is serving a 16 year hard labor sentence accused of being a spy, something he denies.

CNN's Jennifer Hansler has been following the story for us.

Jennifer, good morning. Really nice to have you on EARLY START.

How did Whelan react after hearing the news of Trevor Reed's release?

JENNIFER HANSLER, CNN STATE DEPARTMENT REPORTER: Well, good morning, Laura. And it brought up a mix of emotions for the Whelan family I'm told.

First and foremost, the question of why he was not included in this release and why he continues to be a prisoner in Russia. And I want to read you the statement that Paul Whelan gave to his family after he learned the news that he was staying behind and Trevor Reed was going home.

He said, quote, why was I left behind, while I'm pleased Trevor is home with his family, I have been held on a fictitious charge of espionage for 40 months.


The world knows this charge was fabricated. Why hasn't more been done to secure my release?

And now, his sister says that they are crushed by the news that he is remaining in Russian custody and there are also questions about why the family wasn't given more head's up, they just got a little bit of my before Elizabeth was able to inform her family before it broke on the news.

And now, Paul found out from Russian state television that he was not part of the prisoner swap which made him very upset and she spoke with the special presidential envoy for hostage affairs office and let them know that she believes that it is a terrible decision that Paul was left behind while Trevor was going home. But of course they are also happy that the Reeds are reunited in Texas.

JARRETT: They are being gracious about that. So what comes next for Paul Whelan?

HANSLER: Well, it's a good question, Laura. The administration has said that they will continue to press for the release both of Paul and other Americans who are detained in Russia, including Brittney Griner. The U.S. ambassador to Russia, John Sullivan, was on our air yesterday and said that he has had vow indicated for Paul's release since he was detained in Russia in late 2018, while he was serving as deputy secretary of state. He's now the top U.S. envoy.

He said most of his conversations with Russia are about securing hostage releases and he called Trevor Reed's release just first step in the process and he will continue to advocate for Whelan's release. But it does remain the case that prisoner swaps are rare and this is how Trevor Reed was able to be released.

The administration said that it was a difficult decision for the president to authorize the release for Yaroshenko to get Trevor Reed home driven by a number of factors, including Trevor Reed's ill health. So the question remains how long will Paul still be in detention. And I know his family and advocates both inside and outside the government are hoping that that becomes a question of sooner rather than later for both Paul Whelan and a number of Americans who are still in Russian detention.

JARRETT: None of these decisions easy, all of them painful for the families.

Jennifer Hansler, so nice to have your reporting. Appreciate it.

ROMANS: All right. Twenty-seven minutes past the hour. Economy shocker, U.S. GDP shrank last quarter but president Biden says he is not worried about a recession. The first quarter marks the weakest quarter since the early days of the pandemic because of a sharp drop in exports, an increase in imports and a decrease in government spending that also took a tool. But consumer spending remains strong and president says it doesn't mean a recession is coming.


JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I'm not concerned about a recession. I mean, you are always concerned about a recession. But the GDP, you know, falling 1.4 percent, but here is the deal. We're at last quarter consumer spending and business investment and residential investment increased at significant rates both for leisure as well as hard products.


ROMANS: Remember the omicron variant was spreading wildly in the beginning of that quarter. The economy stumbling, yes, but the president reported to a low unemployment rate and record 4.5 million businesses created as signs of U.S. economic strength.

JARRETT: Just ahead, what the president says about forgiving loan debt.

ROMANS: But, first, mysterious and severe cases of hepatitis in children, what parents should watch for.