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UK: Russian Troops Refusing to Obey Orders Amid Low Morale; Putin Authorizes Drafting 134,000+ Into Russian Military Amid Losses; Sen. Dick Durbin (D-IL) is Interviewed on Ukraine, Trump and Supreme Court Pick; Chris Rock at First Show Since Oscars: "Still Processing" Slap. Aired 8-8:30a ET

Aired March 31, 2022 - 08:00   ET



ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning to our viewers in the United States and all around the world. It is Thursday. It is March 31st. I'm John Berman in Lviv in western Ukraine.

Brianna Keilar is in Washington.

Breaking news, two critical new developments that suggest Russia's war on Ukraine is not going according to plan.

First, listen to the UK's top intelligence officer describing what's happening with Russian troops on the battlefield right now.


JEREMY FLEMING, DIRECTOR, UK'S GOVERNMENT COMMUNICATIONS HEADQUARTERS: We have 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.


BERMAN: Russian forces disobeying orders, sabotaging their own equipment.

And breaking moments ago, Russian President Vladimir Putin signed a decree to draft more than 134,000 Russian citizens into the military. U.S. intelligence officials say Putin is angry and feeling misled because his own military leaders failed to inform him about key failures throughout the invasion. They were apparently too frightened to tell him.

BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN ANCHOR: Also this morning, signs that Russian forces are regrouping in Belarusian territory after suffering heavy battlefield losses in Ukraine. Negotiations with Russia are ongoing, but President Volodymyr Zelenskyy calls the talks only words. He says Russian troops are concentrating in the Donbas region for a new round of attacks. And there is also new video that shows a bombed out Russian tank. This

is a tank that is on fire in Sloboda, which is about 12 miles from Chernihiv. Ukrainian troops have retaking Sloboda, further blocking efforts by Russian forces to surround Chernihiv. In the meantime, Chernihiv's mayor tells CNN the attacks are increasing, he also says that people are being injured by Russian mines including mines that are being shot into the city by artillery.

BERMAN: We're going to live to Kyiv, the Ukrainian capital, and bring in CNN's chief international anchor Christiane Amanpour who is there.

Christiane, I want your take on this news out of Russia, a new conscription, 134,000 new Russian troops. What does that tell you?

CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CNN CHIEF INTERNATIONAL ANCHOR: Well, first of all, this would be recruits, right. They wouldn't be professionals ready to go and do anything here in Ukraine. But it might mean that what he's trying to do is rotate and regroup, if in fact he has more professional troops on stand by somewhere in Russia, because clearly this first phase of the military plan has not gone according to plan.

And you just reported what the head of British GCHQ said, that low morale, sabotaging their own vehicles, in one case shooting down their own aircraft, that doesn't apply to all of them, but enough of them that has made a, you know, a difference on the battlefield. And so, you know, we wait to see whether in fact this regroup in Belarus actually means bringing much more professional, more motivated Russian troops to the battle front.

I was outside Kyiv today and in the outskirts and you know the troops that came towards Kyiv on day one came from Belarus. And I was there with Ukrainian soldiers, many of them veterans, these are not just, you know, day soldiers, these are people who fought in the Donbas, have been fighting since 2014, highly trained and armed, and we saw literally a column of armored vehicles and at least two Russian tanks that have been blown up and disabled.

Now, this happened a couple of weeks ago, several weeks ago, during the first few days of the war. But nonetheless they wanted to show us how they stopped the advance of this column into Kyiv. Now, what we don't know, John, and I think it is really important, we know that all that we're hearing about the stalling, about they failed to take, you know, obviously this big capital, but we really do need to wait and see what they do with any regroup, and whether they do intend to continue to come down and try to encircle this capital. What they do on the east, you know, whether they intend to break the country and try to encircle Ukrainian troops elsewhere.

People think it is, you know, Putin's in it for the long haul.

BERMAN: Christiane, really interested by your trip to the outskirts of Kyiv today. What else did you see when you were on the ground there? So great to have you there.

AMANPOUR: Well, it was really extraordinary because we drove, it is about an hour or so out, first thing we were able to see in the neighboring village was a lot of people waiting for humanitarian aid. And when we finally talked to them, you know, they told us that they basically are getting nothing because of all this fighting. The shops are empty.

So we pushed further on to where actually the Russian advance had been stopped. And we talked, both to the younger officer, who told us that he, with his javelin, had taken out a key Russian tank that was faced and facing the city, the town, the village, and had started to wildly and indiscriminately, he said, start shooting residential areas.


And we saw that evidence. We saw houses and homes, nothing, you know, in terms of a military target, shot up, shot up. This was during first few days of the war.

And he just -- I mean, the thing is incinerated. The road is just strewn with shells from the heavy machine gun, the 30 millimeter shells all over the floor, plus their tank shells, plus there is heavy artillery that was used, plus there was shelling from mortars.

You could see the pattern on the main floor, on the main road, so there was a lot of attempt by the Russians to take that town and to keep pushing forward. These were the initial days when they didn't know they were going to face resistance.

And as I said, we counted four armored vehicles, we were told there is another one that we couldn't actually see because it was in the woods, with tanks and they told us all the troops had died, had been killed. At one point, they told me vaporized.

So that and they said the local villages had buried some of the bodies, we saw trenches being dug, they said to us, we're not just defensive right now, we're planning to go on offensive if we have to, to push them back. They said they had enough ammo at the moment, they had certainly high morale, high training.

And yet I asked them, you know, this is an army that is much more heavily, you know, armed than you are, much more powerful than you are, but they were convinced they can continue to hold out. That's what we saw.

BERMAN: What a remarkable view. And I have to say, it is so unusual to see the amount of burnt out military equipment that we keep seeing all over this country. Really is remarkable.

Christiane Amanpour in Kyiv, great to have you there, thank you.

I want to bring in the Senate Democratic Whip Dick Durbin of Illinois, the chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee.

He did receive a classified briefing on the situation in Ukraine. Senator, thank you so much for being with us. What did you learn? What have you learned about the situation here in this country?

SEN. DICK DURBIN (D-IL): Two important meetings yesterday. The first as chair of -- co-chair of the Ukrainian Caucus, about a

dozen senators, both parties, met with six Ukrainian parliamentarians and they told us their impression of what is happening on the ground. One of them, a woman, her husband is in the fight and she's in touch with him by telephone. So, it's pretty timely information and certainly very credible.

And then we followed it with an intel briefing, I think there were over 90 senators in the room, that's amazing around here when you can draw 90 people. It shows the level of interest and commitment by the United States to the people of Ukraine.

What I learned was given a choice, and unfortunately you don't have to make the choice, but given the choice of having dedicated people with courage and resilience fighting on your side who may not have the same level of equipment, you choose that anytime over demoralized folks who are taking Russian equipment into the battle and running away from it, or seeing themselves overwhelmed.

My bottom line is this: President Biden has led the NATO alliance and European Union in a most amazing effort. The Ukrainian people continue to just amaze us with their courage. And I believe that the Ukrainians are going to prevail and the United States is going to stand by their side.

BERMAN: How much faith this delegation from the Ukrainian parliament -- how much faith were they putting in the negotiations that have been going on between the Russians and Ukrainians?

DURBIN: They didn't dwell on that. They understand it is important that we pursue diplomacy, to try to end the bloodshed that Vladimir Putin has imposed. But they were dwelling on the resistance and the lives of so many people that they know and love that are at risk every single day because of Putin's terrible, reckless conduct in Ukraine.

They want more equipment, and I certainly understand that. And military uses of weapons and ammunition have to be matched the challenge they face from the Russians.

BERMAN: Is there any equipment you don't think they should have?

DURBIN: Oh, no. Let me tell you, at this point, that's an important calculation. We want Ukraine to prevail and to reclaim their home. We do not want World War III. We certainly don't want something worse than that.

So, it's a delicate balance, keeping the alliance together, supporting Ukraine going far enough so that Ukraine can prevail, but not so far as Vladimir Putin might take to an extreme.

The president has to make that decision every day with our allies and NATO. It is not an easy task.

BERMAN: So, the West has called Vladimir Putin a war criminal, so has the president.


Yet the former president of the United States talking about the investigation, the federal investigation into Hunter Biden, which is real.

The former president of the United States Donald Trump basically asked on television for Vladimir Putin to provide which is real. The former president of the United States Donald Trump basically asked on television for Vladimir Putin to provide information on Hunter Biden.

Your reaction to that?

DURBIN: Donald Trump continues to be so out of touch with reality. He's focused on his big lie about how he actually won the election and can't think of anything else. We have innocent people in Ukraine dying every day and he's worried about his own political status.

Virtually, the world has vilified Putin for what he's done in Ukraine and this former president thinks about how he might re-establish this relationship with Putin to help him personally.

He is so egocentric and so selfish, he cannot see that there is a much larger issue here. The issue, of course, is Putin is a war criminal. What he's doing to innocent people should be treated as such.

And the notion that Donald Trump is going to gain him some way or another to help him personally is just disgusting.

BERMAN: So, you're the chair of the judiciary committee. Yesterday, Susan Collins, a Republican from Maine, came out and said she would come out to support the nomination of Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson to the Supreme Court.

Do you have any other Republicans at this point who you say will vote yes?

DURBIN: I'm working on it. It is an interesting assignment as a whip, working both Democrats and Republicans. I think our Democrats are in good shape.

On the Republican side, you don't twist arms around here. You sit down and talk to people on the floor and I had a chance to do that yesterday with a number of Republican senators. I'm hoping that they will join to make this an even larger group, bipartisan support for this great judge.

BERMAN: But no promises yet, beyond Susan Collins?

DURBIN: No, not at this point, but I'm not giving up. We're going to use every minute to make sure we build this majority.

BERMAN: Senator Dick Durbin, Chairman, thank you so much for being with us.

DURBIN: Thank you, too. BERMAN: All right. The breaking news this morning, Vladimir Putin has

authorized more than 134,000 people to be drafted into the Russian armed forces. What that means for the next phase of the invasion here.

And Chris Rock taking the stage for the first time since Will Smith slapped him. What he told the audience and why our next guest says they should sue.



KEILAR: Chris Rock returning to the stage for the first time since Will Smith slapped him at Sunday's Academy Awards, publicly addressing the incident for the first time.

He was greeted by the audience in Boston with two back-to-back standing ovations, and explained he was still processing the events and he promised to talk about what happened more in depth at some point. But he told them he was ready to tell jokes last night.

Joining us now is comedian George Wallace. He's the author of "Bulltwit and Whatnot," and he'll be performing at the Riddles Comedy Club in Chicago on Mother's Day weekend.

So, be sure to take mom for a good laugh there.

George, you think that he should sue Will Smith. Tell me why.

GEORGE WALLACE, COMEDIAN: This is going to be a stain on Chris for the rest of his life as I wrote a joke last night, I had dinner and I reached for my water and Chris flinched. I said, what's wrong with you? It doesn't matter, it is going to be -- it was an amazing moment and for slapping him and the public, millions, millions of people watched.

This is going to hurt. And I think he should sue him. And press charges and go visit him in jail and say thank you.

KEILAR: So, I mean, you think -- look, we know he has a history, right, of -- of this potentially being triggering for him. And can you tell me why you think this is something, when you say he would live with it forever, can you expand on that?

WALLACE: Yes. Being a comedian, Chris is one of us, we have a small fraternity. For someone to approach the stage, you have crossed the line when you made your first step toward the stage and you're not invited on stage. That might give precedence for people to come up on open stage with us.

So, now, we got to make an announcement every show, anyone approaching the stage will be arrested on the spot because this is dangerous. And we got to present these jokes. And you got to leave your problems at the door. This is all about laughter.

So Chris rock, personally, he's always going to remember this. This is a stain on him. So that's why I want him to sue Will Smith. I love Will Smith, I love Will Smith, but not today, you know? It is just -- it is not a good moment.

But the good thing about it is we got to turn all this into laughter no matter what. Laughter is the greatest production I've ever seen of the Oscars, hour and a half, I never went to the bathroom and then came Will and spoiled everybody's moment.

KEILAR: That is what everyone is going to remember from it. He did apologize to Chris rock. Not right away, though. He didn't on camera there. I know you're waving your hand.

You think it wasn't enough, obviously?

WALLACE: Apologies don't mean anything. Apologies are made by the press for the press. People that do apologies, they don't even write the speech. Come on.

You go, he could have apologized to Chris Rock after the show. Even if you apologize to him, it doesn't matter. Chris Rock will never, ever forget that moment.

When he walks out on stage, he's going to catch hell from people, hey, you're a punk, why didn't you fight back. You got all kind of offenders out there. That's what happens at a comedy show.

KEILAR: You said he should sue will smith and visit Will Smith in jail. You think Will Smith should be charged?

WALLACE: Hell yes. If he had hit me, had it been the real Rock, the professional wrestler, you think Will Smith would have walked up on stage? The real Rock would have put the people's elbow on his candy ass.

So it is a touching moment and everybody feels bad for Chris. I'm stuttering this morning because I'm still upset, but I know I got to deliver these jobs now. So, now I got to put laughter into it and put everything together.

Comedians are working on jokes now. We're over the -- what happened, the situation, but, yes, I feel sorry for will, and I know his mom and the nicest lady in the world, she said she never saw him act like that before.

And the joke was not that -- it wasn't really a bad joke, but, Will, he laughed, you heard everything already.


So, but, and asking him to leave, he didn't leave, so --

KEILAR: So George -- yes, let me ask you about that. The Academy says they asked him to leave. He didn't want to. He didn't. And they appear to be weighing what to do here.

How has the Academy handled this? WALLACE: They could sanction him. I'm very -- when you commit a

crime, I'm very hard. It is wrong, it is right. I don't know whether they should -- maybe they should sanction him like they did Kanye.

Don't allow him back or -- they'll come up with something good. I was very hurt they didn't escort him out at the moment. Had he hit Larry David or someone like that, the police wouldn't even ask a question, they would have locked him up on the spot.

It was assault. Millions of people saw it. You saw it, I saw it, I was hurt. Is that part of the sketch there? What is going on here?

No, it was real. It hurt me. It hurt my community. It hurt a lot of people.

Best show, Questlove, hurt his own moment there. Receiving his first Oscar. I feel sorry for him, but it is what it is. And the show must go on.

KEILAR: Always playing it straight, straight shooting. Telling us exactly how you feel. George Wallace, we appreciate it. Thank you for being with us.

WALLACE: This is Dr. George Wallace, that's the way I see it and that's the way it ought to be. This is CNN.

KEILAR: It is great to see you this morning. Thank you.

WALLACE: Always, Bri. Thank you so much. Love you much.

KEILAR: Love you much.

All right. So we do have some brand-new video just in to CNN of this heavy shelling in the city of Kharkiv. The governor there says the city was hit 47 times here, just in the last 24 hours.

Plus, actors Mila Kunis and Ashton Kutcher sitting down with CNN+ host Chris Wallace. What Zelenskyy told them directly about how the American people can help.



BERMAN: All right, we have breaking news. We have brand-new video I want to show you.

This is just in to CNN. And what you can see is the results of the heavy shelling in the Kharkiv region. That's in the far eastern part of this country. You see that -- look at that crater, burning crater of.

Officials say in the past 24 hours, Russian troops have struck 47 times in Kharkiv, with artillery, mortar, tanks and other methods. Northwest of the cities, officials add that Russian heavy fire killed one person and injured three others, and that forces also destroyed a city council building there.

One thing we should note, the heavy shelling that you're seeing here may indicate some of the failures they had on the ground. Russians thought they would be able to take Kharkiv immediately as soon as they began this invasion. It is right on the border. But the Ukrainians were able to keep them out of the city on the ground at least.

But the flip side of that is the Russians can continue this relentless assault from the air, Brianna.

KEILAR: And as the humanitarian crisis grows exponentially in Ukraine, and the surrounding border countries, thousands of people are contributing what they can to help ease the suffering. Actors Mila Kunis and Ashton Kutcher helped raise more than $35 million through a go fund me account.

And they sat down with CNN plus host Chris Wallace to talk about what happens next.


ASHTON KUTCHER, ACTOR: We had an opportunity to talk to President Zelenskyy last week and he said -- we said what else can we do? What else can be done? And one of the things he mentioned to us is that even from his perspective, it is not the citizens of Russia that are actually responsible for what is happening. It is the administration that is in place right now. And he urged us to urge companies in the United States --


KUTCHER: -- to take away the simple conveniences that exist there.

And there are companies like Nestle, like Mars, like Pepsi, like Kellogg's, Domino's, Dunkin' Donuts, that are American companies that are --

KUNIS: Cargill.

KUTCHER: That are conveniences for the Russian people and what will wake up Russian people to what their government is actually doing is those conveniences to go away. And we're going to post an index of these companies and I think the same sort of pressure that people put on companies historically to encourage them to do the right thing in the right situation, especially when democracy is at stake, I think people will do.


KEILAR: And joining us now is Chris Wallace, the host of the new CNN+ show, who's talking to Chris Wallace, which airs daily on our new streaming service.

I'm so happy to be talking to Chris Wallace right now. I'm a huge fan. I was so excited when it was announced you were coming over to CNN. CHRIS WALLACE, CNN+ ANCHOR, WHO'S TALKING TO CHRIS WALLACE?: But

that's really nice. This is my first appearance on CNN cable, linear. So, I'm very excited to be here with you and John. Be gentle with me.

KEILAR: We sure will be. And it is very special to us that you're spending your first time on CNN proper here with us. So thank you very much.

Fascinating interview there with Ashton Kutcher and Mila Kunis who is Ukrainian American. What can you tell us about it?

WALLACE: Well, I mean , that's one of the interesting things that I suspect a lot of people don't know is that Mila Kunis was born in Ukraine. She and her family emigrated to the United States when she was 7.

And she says she didn't ever feel particularly Ukrainian until this war started. And now, she's telling her 7-year-old and 5-year-old kids, you're half American, you're half Iowa, Ashton, and half Ukrainian. And, you know, the first thing they did was start this GoFundMe page, and they were able to raise -- they wanted to raise $30 million, they raised $35.7 million and counting.

And now you hear part two of the campaign, which is that they're going to try to bring public pressure to bear on these big American companies to stop doing business and make people in Russia feel the pinch, that, you know if people are dying and having to flee their homes in Ukraine, people ought to be able to do without some creature comforts in Russia.

BERMAN: It really is interesting and sort of Zelenskyy-ish in their efforts to --