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DOJ Collecting Evidence On Potential Russia War Crimes Prosecutions; U.S. Imposes New Sanctions On Russia, Including Putin's Daughters; Russian State TV Spews Lies About Bucha: "Fake Atrocities". Aired 12:30-1p ET

Aired April 06, 2022 - 12:30   ET



EVAN PEREZ, CNN SENIOR JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: He says that Justice Department prosecutors are in Europe right now. They're meeting in Paris with a war crimes prosecutor there in France. They're also working with EUROPOL to try to help gather evidence, some of those images we saw in Bucha in other locations in Ukraine, where civilians are clearly according to the U.S., being deliberately targeted by Russian forces. So we expect that this is going to be a major effort by the Justice Department to try to bring charges perhaps against the people who are behind these crimes, these alleged crimes.

JOHN KING, CNN HOST: And you heard the attorney general at the top there, referencing malware. The Justice Department also saying they've disrupted a Russian bot network after nefarious activity. Tell us more.

PEREZ: Right. This was essentially an effort by the GRU, the Russian Military Intelligence Service, to go after infrastructure in Ukraine. The U.S. says it worked with other countries to try to disrupt that to prevent that from happening. At the same time, they also brought down a marketplace, one of the largest marketplaces using cryptocurrency to essentially sell everything from illegal drugs to malware.

Again, this is something that the Russians was being operated by Russian nationals. This is all part of an effort that they're making to try to go after people connected to the Russian government, who essentially are supporting what is happening in Ukraine. John?

KING: Evan Perez, important reporting. Appreciate your bringing it to us. Let's get back to Ukraine now for the latest on the major fighting. The bulk of the Russian attacks today are in the east and they include a reported strike on a children's hospital. Let's get to CNN's Phil Black he is live for us in Lviv. Phil, what's the latest?

PHIL BLACK, CNN CORRESPONDENT: So John, Ukrainian officials are reporting heavy Russian assaults in three key eastern regions. These are Kharkiv, Luhansk, and Donetsk. We're going to hear a lot more about these places in the coming weeks, because these are the regions that are expected to be the focus of new Russian offensive operations. The point is those new operations have begun and the fighting there is already very intense. It is expected to get worse once Russia resupplies and repositions the forces that were up until recently close to the Capitol of Kyiv. But for now, they are still launching heavy assaults. For example, in the Luhansk town of several Donetsk, we are told there are 10 large high rise apartment buildings on fire as we speak, as a result of heavy shelling of residential areas.

In the Luhansk Region, officials are really urging civilians to get out now, while they still can before things get much worse. And yes, in the south and Mykolayiv Region, that is where officials have released a video which they say shows shelling of a children's hospital. It appears to show munitions hitting parked ambulances outside the building. That was from an attack on Monday where there was also a Doctors Without Borders team at another hospital right next door, and they say they experienced multiple explosions from continued attacks over a course of about 10 minutes.

And that shelling, that artillery fire has continued across the region because officials say in the last 24 hours, 55 people have been injured as a result of that very heavy continuous shelling and artillery fire. John?

KING: Phil Black live for us in Lviv. Phil, thank you very much, important reporting.


And up next, the United States and the E.U. unveiled new sanctions, some of them targeting Vladimir Putin's children. Ukraine says thanks but also says what it really needs is more military firepower.


KING: Today escalating sanctions on Russia, the United States now banning all new investments in Russia, it is tightening the squeeze on Russia's largest financial institution and promising to freeze or seize assets of Russian government officials and their family members, including Vladimir Putin's two adult daughters.

With me to share their reporting and their insights, Margaret Talev of Axios, CNN's Jeremy Diamond, and Laura Barron-Lopez of POLITICO. So new sanctions including Putin's daughters which makes it personal, some people always question, why do you keep have -- why -- how can you keep escalating? Why don't you do it all at once? How do they explain that at the Biden White House?

LAURA BARRON-LOPEZ, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, the White House is saying that, you know, they're trying to respond in proportion to the actions that are being taken, going on along with what they feel is the necessary step. Also Biden all along, has been trying not to get ahead of the E.U. and of NATO and allied countries going at the pace that they're ready to go at rather than just, you know, full bore from the United States, because he wants to show that there is a, you know, unified front.

And so much of what the White House has been focused on is making sure that the U.S. is supporting allies is helping allies, is helping Ukraine at the pace that they think is accurate. You know, that's also why you haven't seen the E.U. countries fully get rid of, you know, their reliance on Russian oil and institute that ban because they're not ready to do that. And the White House wants to be constantly communicating with them on that and understanding the politics of their home countries and whether or not they're ready to do it.

MARGARET TALEV, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: But also until that happens, we're not, I don't know what we're doing. So look, that's the thing that has the biggest impact. And without that the other stuff has impact, but not that kind of impact. I think a strategic question for the White House and for Western Europe for that matter is what is Vladimir Putin's end goal? If his end goal is really just to completely control the eastern half of Ukraine and dominate that and the horrific civilian casualties are the -- his price for doing that that is different than whether -- then if he has like a push around satellite countries or continued long term encroachment that goes beyond kind of Ukraine and Russia.


And I think the strategy and the tools and the sanctions and all of these decisions about escalation, provocation, matter -- what he's trying to do matters. And some of what they've been doing is trying to buy enough time to get the intelligence to understand what his real goal is.

KING: But if, as President Biden says 2014, when he was vice president was a mistake, yes, that allowing Putin to annex and keep Crimea was a mistake. And therefore, even if he takes land temporarily, he must not be allowed to keep it. The question is, is the United States and in the West in this for the years it might take, which is why as the NATO foreign ministers meet, you know, Ukraine is saying great. Do all the sanctions you can do, inflict any economic pain or personal pain you can, but that's not changing Putin's behavior. He is leveling our country with these strikes. Is the Biden White House prepared to support any escalation of NATO military tactics and no-fly zone, humanitarian corridor, anything?

JEREMY DIAMOND, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: It doesn't appear, so at least in terms of anything that would potentially put U.S. or NATO troops in the way of potentially getting or engaging directly with Russian forces, which would be the case if there was a no-fly zone, enforcing humanitarian corridors would likely be lead to very much the same kind of situation.

One thing that the Biden ministration is clear eyed about is the fact that these sanctions that they're imposing, even as they escalate, they are not going to and they do not expect them to immediately change the calculus of the Kremlin or Vladimir Putin. They say that this is a long term game. We heard Jake Sullivan on Monday talking about the fact that it takes time to grind down the gears of power in Russia. And to really hit them where it hurts as it relates to their industrial base as it relates to what Jake Sullivan called the kleptocracy of the Kremlin. And beyond that, I think it's also about making a statement, right? As two days after President Biden says these are war crimes that are being committed in Bucha, you now see this next escalation of sanctions coming today in the form of these more severe sanctions on the largest financial institutions as well as on Vladimir Putin solder. So it's also about making a statement, a symbolic statement, that we will not tolerate these kinds of atrocities, and we will react, even if it doesn't necessarily prevent the next one.

BARRON-LOPEZ: One of the steps that was taken today that I think is really striking and would be good to pay attention to right is that the Treasury Department is making it so Russia cannot make debt payments using dollars at U.S. banks. And so what that threatens Russia with is default, which, you know, experts are saying could have a psychological impact on Russia and on Putin, because they've been trying to avoid that in that country since the last financial crisis in 1998.

KING: And so as this plays out, you see the individual pieces, and they're all important, but then you hear Secretary General Stoltenberg today, this could go on for years. The question is, does the West have the spine to keep the sanctions in place? The U.K. Ambassador Karen Pierce was here earlier, she says Britain can be essentially delinked from Russian energy, probably by the end of the year, because it's less dependent. But those other European countries, she says five years, six years, maybe a decade, because otherwise you're inflicting pain on your own economy. The question is, does the Biden -- does President Biden, as his team understand, this is the rest of the first term, maybe more?

TALEV: President Biden, his team acutely understand it. And it's why you see Janet Yellen out there setting expectations. We're hearing talk about should Americans brace themselves for recession, the cost of holding Russia's feet to the fire or Russia accountable, is going to be paid, in addition to Ukrainian civilian lives is going to be paid by Americans and Westerners at, you know, in the pocketbook.

DIAMOND: And that's a huge communications challenge for the White House, especially as the midterms come, inflation was already baked in, it was already a thing before this war started. And so many Americans are going to say, well, hey, how are you now blaming Vladimir Putin, even though prices and oil and gas have gone up since this invasion, it's going to be a real communication.

KING: Right. And just the price of gas, just the price of gas, and again, to those of you watching, sometimes it seems almost crass to do this, in the middle of a country of 41 million people being devastated and pushed out of their own country. But here it is. That's the current average. It's actually down a little bit from a couple of weeks ago, but a year ago is 287. Janet Yellen telling the Congress today that this war is going to have enormous economic consequences globally, but including here in the United States and that's part of how the President has to sell that to the American people that this hurts, I know. But it's important.

BARRON-LOPEZ: Yes, a lot of it is about he's going to be trying to communicate to the American people explaining why these gas prices are staying elevated, why it's more expensive when you go to the grocery store. You know, and that's a difficult thing to communicate, especially when the rest of his agenda is stalled right now. There was a poll out this morning from Morning Consult that showed that voters that had received the child tax credit from Democrats, don't have it anymore. They're starting to move more towards Republicans so it's imperative for the White House to pass, you know, a lot of the other stalled agenda items that could help Americans that are hurting right now.


TALEV: And you're about to see politics play out over the break. Also there is a Kevin McCarthy and now the Republican leader in the House taking the CoDel now to the Ukraine border. Steny Hoyer announcing there's going to be another CoDel to the areas around Ukraine. There will be a lot of politicking about this, but you can be sure the Republicans are already lining up to say, both that we have to be tougher on Russia, and that it's Biden's fault that the economy is in bad shape. So that's what we should look forward to.

KING: It is. It's a difficult conversation sometimes but just a fact, this is playing out in the middle of a dicey political year here at home.

Up next for us, cracking Putin's propaganda machine, the Russian people are told the Kremlin is winning the war, and that Ukraine staged those horrors in Bucha.



KING: It is important to remember every day that Russians live in Vladimir Putin's parallel universe, told by the Kremlin propaganda machine that Ukraine belongs to Russia and it is run by Nazis, told the war is just and that it is going well, told the images from Bucha that clearly show Russian atrocities are fake, part of a fabrication meant to smear Russia.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (through translator): Russia has requested an emergency meeting of the U.N. Security Council in connection with the blatantly cruel provocation by Ukrainian Nazis in the town of Bucha in Kyiv region. Fake atrocities were instantly blamed on Russian army. Foreign media began to spread it synchronously and without a break.


KING: Here to share his insights, the former CIA chief of Russia operations and CNN national security analyst Steve Hall. Steve, grateful for your time. That is the parallel universe that Russians see. It was not the Russians that requested that meeting, it was the West after the Russian atrocities in Bucha. It was the Zelenskyy who addressed. But how, is there anything the United States and its allies can do to crack that, to try to get more truth to the Russian people?

STEVE HALL, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: Yes, I think, I think there is John. And I think we're working on that, or at least I hope we're behind the scenes as a government. I mean, we've, for a long time had, you know, Voice of America, Radio Free Europe, you know, alternatives to try to broadcast, you know, essentially the truth into places that were formerly behind the Iron Curtain.

And so I hope that there are things going on behind the scenes, probably technical things to make sure that information gets through. But I also wouldn't rule out the possibility of, you know, young, tech savvy Russians who actually want to get at the truth, perhaps they don't want to make a big deal out of it. But they do want access. And I think they're trying to find ways around a lot of the firewalls that the Russian government has erected around the internet.

KING: And one of the things that the United States and NATO Allies other countries are trying to do with all these sanctions, is put economic pressure on Putin, maybe stir up some dissent within Russia by making it so hard for Russians to do a normal everyday business, today sanctions on two of Putin's adult daughters. Obviously, it sends an important symbolic message. Does it do anything to get under Vladimir Putin skin?

HALL: You know, I think it probably does. And it's not necessarily that Vladimir Putin is a warm and loving father somehow I just don't see that. So it's a little bit less that he can -- that he's that concerned, I think about his daughters. But it does show that, you know, sort of like a mafia boss. If you are a mafia boss, if you are Tony Soprano, your family is a potential liability. It's something that your adversaries can target and try to manipulate against you.

And so I think that's part of like a closing of the walls around Putin perhaps if he begins to see that from the West, it's going to have more of a psychological impact, I think, than an actual, you know, economic impact.

KING: On the military front, senior U.S. defense official says the Russians have now completely withdrawn from the Kyiv area, from the Chernihiv area a bit more to the north, east of Kyiv gone back into Belarus, gone back across the border into Russia in some cases. But there's still a debate about what next for them and whether Vladimir Putin would again, launch an offensive on Kyiv, the NATO Secretary General says he believes Putin still wants all of Ukraine, not just a piece of it. How do you assess when you see these changes by Russia? What do you assess as the reasons for them and the what next?

HALL: Well, the first part of the war is over and Putin lost the first part of the war, much to his chagrin, I think he was told he was it was going to be no problem. So now we're in the second phase where decisions have to be made on the Russian side. I would agree with General Milley's comments that this is probably going to turn into a long term thing, because as you just alluded to, I don't think Vladimir Putin is going to say, ah, OK, so it didn't work well, for the, you know, for the first part of this, but I'll just settle for the Donbass area and, you know, maybe part of the south as well, that's not a victory for him. It's not something that he can sell at home, I don't think.

And it doesn't usually go well, for Russian and in the past Soviet leaders who have not been able to fulfill their military promises. So I think he's going to, well, I think we're going to be in this for the long run. And it's going to be a war of attrition, and it's going to be very hard on Ukraine.

KING: And if you're in it for the long run back to the question about the information war, you talked about young Russians, you talked about the United States or other allies trying to use whatever assets at their disposal. If you were in your old job, what would you be trying to do right now?

HALL: You know, I really hope and, you know, something that I would be absolutely interested in was, OK, what are the best technical ways that we can help the Russians get access to this information because that's what's really critical. The reason that you're seeing high popularity now for Putin, the reason that you're seeing support for this war is because Putin is spoon feeding his own population as to what's going on. And of course it's all propaganda. So we have to find ways, both technical means, but also just stuff that's already out there sort of on the open market that Russian, young Russians can get ahold of.


KING: Steve Hall, grateful for your time and your insights. And thanks for joining us today on inside politics. We'll see you back here this time tomorrow. Ana Cabrera picks up our coverage after a quick break.


ANA CABRERA, CNN HOST: Let's go live to the President set to speak after his administration just lobbied new sanctions on Russia. Let's listen in and see if he says anything about it at the top of this event.

JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: It's good to be home. Whoa. Thank you, thank you, thank you. Thank you.

CROWD: Joe, Joe, Joe, Joe, Joe, Joe, Joe, Joe, Joe, Joe, Joe, Joe, Joe, Joe, Joe, Joe, Joe, Joe, Joe, Joe, Joe, Joe.

BIDEN: Thank you. Thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you. You better stop, I'll start believing it. Please have a seat if you have one. It's good to be home.

You know, I look out there and I see an awful lot of you who as a say in Claymont, Delaware who brung me to the dance. And no, I really mean it. There is no exaggeration. I would not be standing here without labor without union, union labor.

Folks, as I used to say when I was a Senator, if you excuse a point of personal privilege, before I turn in my main remarks, I like to have to briefly address the horrifying reports of the atrocities taking place in Ukraine. And the steps United States is taking to respond in close coordination with our allies and our partners.


And I'm sure you've seen the pictures from Bucha and I'll suggest outside of Kyiv --