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New Day

U.K. Says, Russian Troops Refusing to Obey Orders Amid Low Morale; Chris Rock at First Show Since Oscars Says, Still Processing Slap. Aired 7-7:30a ET

Aired March 31, 2022 - 07:00   ET



SHERIFF JOE FRANK MARTINEZ, VAL VERDE COUNTY, TEXAS: People walking up and down the streets everywhere.


ROSA FLORES, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice over): The Del Rio border patrol chief taking to social media to show how large groups of migrants are trying to cross into the U.S. Customs and border protection in Del Rio saying some migrant processing facilities have reached capacity.

Your message to the Biden administration?

MARTINEZ: You know, it is time to execute a plan. If they've got a plan, let's start executing it.

FLORES: Are you doing okay?

As for Allison and migrants like her who make a shortstop at this respite center, it's back on buses, this time they taking their dreams to destinations across America.


FLORES (on camera): According to a federal law enforcement source, between 30,000 and 60,000 people are waiting in Northern Mexico for Title 42 to lift, which we now know the Biden administration is planning to lift on May 23rd. Meanwhile, customs and border protection ramping up resources, they have already deployed 400 agents from other parts of the country here to the southern border. John?

JOHN BERMAN, CNN NEW DAY: All right. Rosa Flores, thank you very much.

And New Day continues right now.

BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN NEW DAY: Good morning to viewers in the U.S. and around the world. It is Thursday, March 31st. I'm Brianna Keilar in Washington and John Berman is in Lviv, in Western Ukraine, this morning.

A stunning development on the battlefields there in Ukraine. Listen to the U.K.'s top intelligence officer describing what is happening with Russian troops.


JEREMY FLEMING, DIRECTOR, U.K.'S GOVERNMENT COMMUNICATIONS HEADQUARTERS: We've seen Russian soldiers short of weapons and morale, refusing to carry out orders, sabotaging their own equipment and even accidentally shooting down their own aircraft.


KEILAR: Russian troops disobeying Kremlin orders.

And breaking moments ago, Russian President Vladimir Putin signing a decree to draft more than 134,000 more Russian citizens into the military. The operation clearly not going according to his plan. U.S. intel officials say that Putin feels he was misled by his own military leaders who failed to inform him about critical failures throughout the invasion. They were apparently too scared.

BERMAN: Also this morning, there are signs Russian forces are regrouping on Belarusian territory. This is after suffering heavy battlefield losses here in Ukraine. Negotiations with Russia, between Russia and Ukraine, ongoing, but the Ukrainian president, Zelenskyy, calls the talks only words. He asked that Russian troops are now concentrating in the east, in the Donbas region for a new round of attacks.

There is also new video that shows a bombed-out Russian tank on fire in Sloboda. This is right next to Chernihiv, a suburb of that city, that city that the Russians claimed that they were reducing the operations around. Ukrainians say they have retaken Sloboda, which might block the efforts by the Russians to keep encircling Chernihiv. The mayor tells CNN the attacks on his city are increasing. He also told me that people are being injured by mines being shot into the city by the Russians.

But joining us from another region of the country, Ben Wedeman is live for us in Mykolaiv. Mykolaiv has been a key strategic area that the Ukrainians have been able to protect. Ben, what are you seeing there?

BEN WEDEMAN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, what we know today is that the death toll from Tuesday's Russian strike on the regional governor's office has now reached 20. Two days after that strike, and workers are continuing to pull more bodies from the rubble.


WEDEMAN (voice over): Somewhere in this jumble of concrete, bricks and twisted metal are more bodies trapped in the ruins of the office of Mykolaiv's regional governor. Tuesday morning, a Russian missile struck the building, killing more than a dozen people, wounding many more.

MAYOR OLEKSANDR SYENKEVYCH, MYKOLAIV, UKRAINE: They bombard our city. And only civilians are dying here. WEDEMAN: Mykolaiv Mayor Oleksandr Syenkevych doesn't normally come to city hall like this but he saw a war coming long ago and prepared himself.

SYENKEVYCH: Starting from 2014, I thought that the war will be like this. So, everything for me is bulletproof vests, boots, anything, I bought it a couple years ago. So, I started to learn how to shoot. I was in a special school for that.

WEDEMAN: On the outskirts of this city, recently downed Russian attack helicopters suggest that Ukrainian military also saw this war coming. They've managed to stop Russian forces in their tracks, regaining territory lost at the start of the war.


Five-year-old Misha is recovering from shrapnel wounds to his head in the basement turned bomb shelter at Mykolaiv's Regional Children's Hospital. His grandfather, Vladimir, shows me phone video of the bullet-riddled car Misha's father was driving with his family to escape the Russian advance. Russian soldiers, Vladimir calls them bastards, opened fire on the car, killing Misha's grandmother and mother.

As we speak, the air raid siren goes off. Taking shelter is an oft- practiced drill. Stay calm and carry on.


WEDEMAN (on camera): And the city is carrying on, but preparing also for the very real possibility of another Russian assault. In fact, what we see here, city workers are going around. This is one of the main boulevards, cutting down these massive trees. They're going to use the larger trunks to reinforce trenches on the outskirts of the city and to provide firewood to soldiers on the frontline. John?

BERMAN: I've got to see it. Look at that. I have not seen that yet, cutting down the giant trees that line the city to buttress the trenches.

Ben, the Russians claim that they are redirecting some of their operations around Kyiv and Chernihiv. That's in a different part of the country. And say they were going to relocate their efforts in the east.

Where you are is sort of a separate area from either of those. I'm very curious if there's been any change in the intensity of the Russian efforts around you.

WEDEMAN: Well, what we're seeing, John, in recent weeks, in the last, say, ten days, is Russian forces have really been pushed back from the city. But nobody really believes that somehow this is the beginning of the end of the Russian assault in this part of the country. There is a feeling that things could easily change.

And this city, Mykolaiv, is extremely strategic. The Russians, it's believed, one of their objectives in this war is to control the entire Black Sea coast of Ukraine. So, if they take Mykolaiv, then they can take Odessa, which is the main port for this country, effectively creating a landlocked country, which would obviously cripple it economically.

So, there is an understanding that whatever the Russians are saying, there is a very high possibility they will do the exact opposite. John?

BERMAN: Ben Wedeman, great to have you on the ground there in Mykolaiv. Thank you so much for your report.

KEILAR: Just really arresting images there in Ben's report.

Joining us now to talk a little bit more about where Ben is is CNN Military Analyst and retired Air Force Colonel Cedric Leighton. Can you take us Mykolaiv and the area surrounding it?

COL. CEDRIC LEIGHTON (RET.), CNN MILITARY ANALYST: Absolutely, Brianna. And here is Mykolaiv, right here. This is where Ben is right here now. Odessa is right here. And it is not too far-fetched for the Russians to try to go over here through Mykolaiv. It is easier to do that and then down to Odessa.

The reason for that is exactly as Ben described. They want to take this port, or they could want to take this port. And what that would do is effectively make Ukraine a landlocked country. That is a prime economic goal that they have.

KEILAR: That image that you are seeing of the trees in Ben's report being cut down, I mean, this is -- these cities are being just decimated from what they were by Ukrainians in the name of supporting their troops, but it's really an arresting image.

LEIGHTON: It is. And what's amazing about this is it shows how much the civil defense aspect of this is important. You have an entire population that is preparing for war. Even if there's no movement by Russian troops yet in this direction, it is still very possible. And Mykolaiv is the key to the rest of this part of Ukraine.

KEILAR: And then taking a look at Kyiv and Chernihiv, there have been, as we understand it, a little bit of repositioning of some Russian troops. It's hard maybe to fully understand what's going on there.

LEIGHTON: Sure. So, let's take a look here, Brianna. This is Kyiv right here. This is, of course, the capital of Ukraine, the largest city. There have been major movements in and around this. But Chernihiv, in the northeast of Kyiv, in this part of the country, this is where a significant battle has taken place.

And note one big thing here. This is the Belarusian border right here. That is really close to where Chernihiv is. And the Russian forces are, of course, in the red here. The ukrainians are breaking out or trying to break out here. If they cut the Russians here and circle back this way or do something like this, they could potentially keep the Russians at bay.


They would have to have a three-pronged motion here but the basic idea is for them to move the Russians back so that they can protect what's left of Chernihiv.

KEILAR: Talk to us a little bit about what the Ukrainian forces need at this point in time.

LEIGHTON: So a lot of what they have is things like the Javelin, for example. This is the anti-tank guided missile system. And they have the stinger. They need more of each of these. This is the air defense system that shoots down aircraft, especially low-flying aircraft.

One of the other things that they need are drones, such as -- this is a switchblade drone. It's actually a very light drone, very easy to use. One person can actually launch this. It can be used both as a surveillance tool but, more importantly, as a weapon. So, this is the kind of weapon system they need in a tactical sense.

They, of course, want other things, like fighter jets, the MiS-29s, they are still on the shopping list. But the likelihood of them getting that at this point is probably minimal.

KEILAR: Yes. It may remain on the shopping list. And these have been authorized. They haven't received them yet, as we understand it. So, this is going to be incoming here soon.

LEIGHTON: Exactly.

And then one other thing that they have that they have used to great effect is the Bayaraktar TB2 drone. This is a Turkish-made drone. The Ukrainians have used these to great effect. And the Turks have provided those or sold those to the Ukrainians over the years. And they are probably going to be selling more of them to the Ukrainians as well.

KEILAR: Cedric, thank you so much for that. I really appreciate it.

LEIGHTON: You bet.

KEILAR: An emotional Chris Rock breaking his silence on the slap from Will Smith. What he said last night, we're going to ask an audience member who was there.

Plus, former President Trump claiming ignorance on burner phones but John Bolton says he heard Trump use the phrase numerous times. He's going to join us live.

And Actor Bruce Willis stepping away from his legendary career after being diagnosed with a serious health condition. We'll have more on Willis' battle with aphasia, ahead.



KEILAR: Comedian Chris Rock making his first public experience since Will Smith slapped him at the Oscars. Chris Rock kicking off his comedy tour last night in Boston and he briefly addressed the incident saying, quote, "I'm still kind of processing what happened. So, at some point, I'll talk about that S word and it will be serious and it will be funny. But right now, I'm going to tell some jokes."

Joining me now is Alex Avram who attended the show last night at Boston's Wilbur Theater. He had two shows last night. So, you were at one of these shows, Alex. Can you just tell us a little bit about what he said, how that struck you what he said about what happened at the Oscars?

ALEX AVRAM, ATTENDED CHRIS ROCK'S SHOW LAST NIGHT: Yes. So, like you said, he didn't -- he kind of said that he was still processing the event. And it really seemed that he didn't want to touch on it too much. But, yes, it seems like he is just trying to avoid any like controversies or any anything like that. I don't think he wants it to be a super big deal. It's just what I got from what he said.

KEILAR: It seemed to you that he hadn't absorbed really what happened and all of the fallout from it?

AVRAM: Yes. He, like, as like everyone saw that night, he seemed pretty in shock about that. And, yes, he definitely didn't seem like he was ready to talk about it.

KEILAR: I understand he got a lot of support from the audience. Obviously, they were there to see him, but a lot of support, probably an outsized amount of support because of what happened at the Oscars. What was the mood there?

AVRAM: Yes. Like the beginning, there was a standing ovation that lasted for at least over a minute. He actually addressed it. He was like, can I -- he was like, thank you, thank you, but can I get to my jokes? And the audience definitely was very supportive, like people really were -- liked the show, it seems like. And, you know, yes, people were yelling things about Will Smith and stuff like that, but he kind of ignored it.

KEILAR: Really interesting. Alex thank you so much for being with us, kind of being our eyes there, telling us what this was like where Chris Rock appeared for the first time after the Oscars. We do appreciate it

AVRAM: Thank you for having me on.

KEILAR: So, joining me now is Criminal Defense Attorney and former Prosecutor Yodit Tewolde. Also with us is the owner of the New York Comedy Club Caroline's on Broadway, Caroline Hirsch.

Yodit, to you first. I wanted to ask you about something we've learned, which is that the academy says, after Will Smith slapped Chris Rock, they asked him to leave but he refused. He didn't want to go. And so he stayed. Obviously, they have security at an event like this. So, I'm just wondering what you think about how the academy handled this.

YODIT TEWOLDE, CRIMINAL DEFENSE ATTORNEY: You know, I think the academy doesn't want to appear as complicit or in competent, right, because I'm thinking about the situation and how it unfolded. That was a pretty long walk to the stage that Will Smith.


And I'm thinking where was security? Remember, (INAUDIBLE) the academy was thinking this was an off-script moment, it could be a viral moment. Of course, you understand that the Oscars has struggled with viewership. So, they're probably thinking this was going to be one of those times that millions of people would remember, so security didn't approach Will Smith but they should have.

And so this idea that now, three days later on Wednesday -- this happened on Sunday. The academy says we asked Will Smith to leave, and he refused. I've got to question that. Because why was that not, one, included in their initial statement on Monday? It would have been the first thing I would have said if I were the academy, and they didn't. So, my question would be how did you ask Will Smith to leave? Did you ask him directly or did you ask his handlers? Was it forceful enough for him to believe that they were serious?

So, I'm very skeptical in believing that they actually asked him.

KEILAR: Yes, maybe in the way that they're describing, very good questions there.

Caroline, I know for you this raises a whole host of issues about safety for performers for comedians.

CAROLINE HIRSCH, OWNER, CAROLINES ON BROADWAY AND NY COMEDY FESTIVAL: Well, I hope that this incident doesn't mislead people to think that this might be acceptable behavior. I think this is something that just happened in this -- of course, in the spur of the moment. I really feel that it was wrong. And I feel bad for Will Smith. I'm sure he really wishes he could take this back. And I feel really bad for Chris for what had happened.

And the look on Chris' face that might as I watched it was like he was in total shock. But he still carried on and he performed the duty that he needed to do to be there. And thank God he was surrounded by a lot of his great friends, which is Amy Schumer and Wanda Sykes. These were all people he works with all the time. And, actually, he met Wanda when she was performing at my club. She was an opening act for Chris years ago.

KEILAR: But you worry about copycats?

HIRSCH: I don't know if we're really that worried about copycats, but we want to make sure that comedians feel safe on stage. And that behavior of -- even heckling at certain point is really not tolerated in my club. We try to put an end to that. We have security around always. And, you know, people are asked to leave or to be quiet or sometimes we just take them out and say you have to leave right now because you are making too much noise and you are bothering whosever on stage.

KEILAR: Behave, children, right?

Okay, Yodit, I wanted to ask you -- I'm so glad that we had you on, because we just learned something from Chloe Melas, who went to both of Chris Rock's shows last night, and Chris Rock had basically said that he is weighing what to do. What does that tell you? Could he press charges? What do you think?

HIRSCH: I doubt. I doubt if Chris --

KEILAR: Sorry. I wanted to ask Yodit about obviously the legal ramifications of this.

TEWOLDE: Yes. So, yes, the idea of having charges pressed, criminal charges, I don't think, is going to happen. I don't think Chris Rock wants to hurt Will Smith in any way. I don't think he wants this dragged out any more than it already has been given what your previous guest has stated, the audience member. Chris Rock just wanted to move on, right? So, I don't think he wants to have this thing dragged out more than it has been.

And, again, the L.A. City Attorney's Office won't actually prosecute on their own without a police referral. We know from the LAPD that Chris Rock refused to create one. So, there is that.

There is civil action that he could take, the mental anguish, the pain that this experience has caused him. And from what we know about Chris Rock, he has struggled with childhood trauma of violence. He still sees a therapist. It could have been very damaging to him physically, mentally. So, he could pursue that avenue. I still don't think that that's going to happen.

I think what he may be suggesting there is what to do about his relationship with Will Smith, how he perceives addressing this moving forward, right? He's still going to be going on comedy tour, how he addresses the situation moving forward. But I don't think that he's going to be (INAUDIBLE).

KEILAR: Yes. Obviously, he's going to speak about that. I think he made that very clear. You both seem to be in agreement there that no charges will be pressed there, but we'll see how this proceeds. Caroline, Yodit, thank you to both of you.

Take a look at video. This is what is left of a kindergarten in Kharkiv, demolished in a Russian bombing.


We're joined next by a woman whose boyfriend has stayed there to fight on the frontlines.


BERMAN: Millions of Ukrainians are fleeing their homes and making the difficult choice to risk their lives by living or risk their lives by staying. We think it's important to keep telling you the personal stories of these refugees so we don't lose sight of the human toll of this war.

I visited a refugee shelter in a village outside Lviv and met brave Ukrainians starting with Mark and his mother, Natalie, who fled the Kherson region. This is part of that conversation.


BERMAN: What happened to you with when the war started?

MARK MAKHINYA, FLED KHERSON, UKRAINE: In February 24 at 4:00 A.M., we just woke up, me and mom, because we hear the big explosions.