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Reports of Ukrainian Strike Inside Russia Against Fuel Depot; Putin Turns Deadly Intentions to New Target of Eastern Ukraine; U.S. and Allies Weigh Security Guarantees for Ukraine. Aired 7-7:30a ET

Aired April 01, 2022 - 07:00   ET


JOHN BERMAN, CNN NEW DAY: It would be a significant development, and a counterattack, a reprisal attack by the Ukrainians.


The Russians had been attacking Ukraine's fuel depots for weeks.

Moments ago, Russia did respond, saying this could hurt the negotiations. We also know that Vladimir Putin has been informed of this incident.

Christiane Amanpour will join us live in a moment to discuss this.

BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN NEW DAY: Now, in the meantime, six weeks of war, six weeks of loss, of horror, needless suffering that you have been watching all illustrated by the new video that we are about to show you. A three-year-old boy named Dima wounded during shelling in Mariupol, he's now lying in a bed in the Zaporizhzhia Hospital Children's Ward crying out for his father. And I do want to warn you that this video is distressing, it is heartbreaking, it is also the reality of war.

So, Dima's father reportedly alive and recovering inside of the same hospital.

BERMAN: Also this morning, new Russian attacks in the Donbas region, that is in Eastern Ukraine. Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelenskyy says Russia continues to prioritize military operations there. He also sent a warning to all what he calls traitors within Ukrainian military. He fired two generals saying, quote, if you don't decide where your homeland is, you will be punished.

Russian forces also attacked the city of Chernihiv in the last few hours. The mayor of that city told me a short time ago that the Russians hit a local hospital.


MAYOR VLADYSLAV ATROSHENKO, CHERNIHIV, UKRAINE: Some shells hit the regional hospital direct. And one of the buildings of the hospital, in fact, the oncological unit, was completely destroyed.

(END VIDEO CLIP) BERMAN: I want to go to Kyiv right now and bring in CNN's Chief International Anchor Christiane Amanpour.

Christiane, the breaking news, the reports of this Ukrainian airstrike from helicopters inside Russia at a fuel depot, what to make of this?

CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CNN CHIEF INTERNATIONAL ANCHOR: Well, first, it is important to know the Ukrainian defense ministry and any other government agency has not commented on it. They don't want to talk about it as yet anyway. If it's verified, it is a daring and bold attack. Of course, it is tit-for-tat. This is war. If Russia could attack inside Ukraine, well, then, presumably, Ukraine can attack fuel depots just like Russia did in Lviv, right? So, that was all the way over to the west of Ukraine, where you are, last week. And now this is by the border precisely where they are, we're told, regrouping to really concentrate on that Eastern Ukraine, Donbas region.

Again, we don't know the full details, but if, in fact, it's proven to be as we have said it and that the video seems to show, it would mean that Russia doesn't actually have control of those skies at that place nor apparently control of the skies yet here in the Ukraine area.

However, despite the fact that some troops, some forces and units are moving back from the Kyiv region, the capital, so important and symbolic at this place, yes, we are still being threatened, harassed by Russian air and missiles. There were two very strong missile impacts just down here, really very close to where we are, and we're not sure the strategic location, but it was in the downtown area. So, that's that.

On the other hand, I went up yesterday to a place on the outskirts of this capital city. And there, we saw what the Ukrainians had done to stop the advance of an armored column, including T-90 tanks. Now, I'm told that these T-90s are the most advanced tanks that Russia has in operation and deployment at this time anywhere.


AMANPOUR (voice over): The first thing you notice approaching the front northeast of Kyiv are the lines of villagers waiting for humanitarian handouts. They receive a bag of bread and basics to get them through the difficult days.

The first week of the war, a shell hit us near the greenhouse. We barely survived, says this woman. We had help from strangers around us. They gave us bread and canned food. We wouldn't have managed otherwise.

No one here knows when this war will end or whether Russia still has desires on Kyiv. The frontline is about a mile away.


For now, an uneasy calm prevails, ever since the Ukrainian defenders stopped the Russian advance here. It was February 28th, they say, day four of the war. They want to show us how they did it. But, first, we have to clamber over the bridge they downed to see the armored column they managed to take out. The riverbank is littered with their skeletons. This was a turkey shoot. Russian armored vehicles and tanks had come off the road to avoid anti-tank mines only to find themselves unable to cross the bridge and unable to reverse in time. Ukrainian forces tell us none of the soldiers inside survived.

A little further up the road, two tanks have been virtually smelted, blasted almost to smithereens. 40-year-old Yevgeny (ph), a veteran fighter, proudly tells us this was his handiwork. We all here have one role, to keep the enemy off our land, he says. First thing they did after seeing the village, they started to shell houses just like that. They didn't see us. They didn't know they were here. So, they just started to work on houses. And so I took the tank in my sights and I fired a rocket and good-bye to him.

The destroyed vehicles are stamped with an O. The Ukrainian officers here tell us this identifies them as Russian units that entered from Belarus to the north. Oleg is the officer who commanded this operation. As for now, looking at previous fighting we've had, I can tell you that we are trained better, he tells me. We have stronger morale and spirit because we are at home. They are afraid but they go because they are made to.

He has been battle hardened ever since the first Russian invasion in 2014. He says his side has enough weapons, ammunition and determination to win. I can tell you I'm almost sure the Russians are regrouping and not retreating, he says. Besides, we are preparing ourselves to go forward. We're not preparing just to defend here.

U.S. and British intelligence say Putin seems to have, quote, massively misjudged this situation and clearly overestimated the abilities of his military to secure a rapid victory. And this old lady tells us I have seen one war, and here we go again. I wish Putin would go away.

The people of this land remain stalwart and the soldiers remain dug in, hoping they can continue to withstand whatever Putin has in store for them next.

Christiane Amanpour, CNN.


AMANPOUR (on camera): So, as we mentioned, the talks between Ukrainians and the Russians are meant to be continuing via video, via Zoom. The Kremlin spokesman, Dmitry Peskov, said that that attack on the Belgorod fuel depot may have a negative impact on those talks.

At the same time, the Ukrainian defense ministry is saying that they are noticing Russians repositioning their missile deployments to the southeast of Belarus, maybe to concentrate that area of Donbas that they are presumably, according to them, refocusing on. We'll see. John? BERMAN: Yes, we'll see, indeed. Christiane, I do have to say, first of all, thank you so much for that report. To see that much Russian military hardware, I hope everyone understands how extraordinary it is to see that much equipment burned out and destroyed on the side of the road. I guarantee you Vladimir Putin never thought that the world would be seeing images quite like that. It really is something. Thank you so much for that report.

KEILAR: We do have some new CNN reporting this morning, sources saying that the U.S. and its allies are weighing alternative security guarantees for Ukraine should the country forgo its bid for NATO membership as a concession to Russia to end the war. They say that it's unlikely the west will offer Ukraine all of the protections that it is requesting.

CNN's Natasha Bertrand is joining us now. Because this has been obviously one of the main concerns of Russia, they didn't want Ukraine to join NATO, they are very concerned about Ukraine's overtures. So, how then does Ukraine, the U.S. and it allies thread the needle here on security guarantees?

NATASHA BERTRAND, CNN WHITE HOUSE REPORTER: That is exactly what they are trying to figure out. So, obviously, the Ukrainians have said in the last week that they might be willing to forgo NATO membership, that this might be a concession that they are willing to give for the Russians in exchange for ending the war, in exchange for peace. But at the same time, they say, if they are going to do that, then they need security guarantees from the west in some form.

Now, the form that they want not to take is in the form of an Article 5-type commitment. So, Article 5 of NATO is mutual defense. If we get attacked, everyone has to come to our defense. That, of course, runs into the same kind of problems as NATO membership for Ukraine, right, not only because it would be probably a no go for the Russians who do not want Ukraine to have that kind of support from the entire NATO alliance, but also because it puts the U.S. and the western forces in the same position that they have been in, which is we do not want to put our troops in a direct confrontation with the Russians.


And so the United States and its allies, including the U.K., they are kind of having these conversations with Ukrainians that are very preliminary still because they just do not know how these negotiations between the Russians and Ukrainians are going to play out. But they are weighing certain things because, of course, the Ukrainians are saying, as long as we border Russia, we are really never going to be safe here.

KEILAR: It is up to the Ukrainians, though, because this is in the constitution, right? You will have members of -- you will have lawmakers there who have to be on board if this is going to change. The Ukrainians themselves will have to be on board

BERTRAND: that's exactly right. And they put this in their constitution because, of course, this is not the first time that Russia has attacked. They annexed Crimea in 2014, they occupied Eastern Ukraine. And so they feel like the NATO alliance is really the only option for them to protect their security. And Ukrainian members of parliament who were here in Washington, D.C. this week kind of pleading for more weaponry, pleading for more support from the U.S., said, look, NATO neutrality for us is simply not an option.

And, of course, it's not going to be up to Volodymyr Zelenskyy on his own to concede NATO membership. It's in their constitution. They would have to have a referendum. Some European countries are saying, well, look, maybe we can find some kind of middle ground here and allow Ukraine to join the European Union. That would provide some kind of security perhaps to the Ukrainians because it would allow them to have more support from the entire block. But the Ukrainians that we spoke this week said that is just not enough. The E.U. will not provide us the kind of military support that we need against the Russians that NATO could.

KEILAR: Natasha, great reporting, thank you so much for that. Berman?

BERMAN: All right. Breaking moments ago, word of what could be a development in the besieged city of Mariupol where thousands are trapped in Hungary after the Russians have just been bombarding the city for weeks and weeks.

I want to bring Mariupol City Council Deputy Maxim Borodin. Maxim, thank you so much for being with us. Can you give us an update on the humanitarian corridor? Have people been able to get out of the city on these buses?

MAXIM BORODIN, MARIUPOL CITY COUNCIL DEPUTY: Hello. The situation is still catastrophic. Russians tell all the world that they give the green corridor but there are no real green corridors. Yes, they allow some people with their foot or with their own cars to get out from the city or into the site of Berdyansk, but our Ukrainian buses are only hours to get into Berdyansk. And Berdyansk is about 80 kilometers from Mariupol. So, we are a long way and only not big quantity of people can go out from Mariupol freely. So, it is not a real green corridor. If Russians really want to help people to get out from the theater of war, they allow Ukrainian buses and trucks to go into Mariupol to get help, with Ukraine and humanitarian help. But they do not allow this for about three weeks.

BERMAN: So, to be clear, there are no buses that have been allowed all the way into Mariupol?

BORODIN: No. The buses only allowed to Berdyansk, like it was before.

BERMAN: Only to Berdyansk?

BORODIN: And there are no buses --

BERMAN: Only to Berdyansk?


BERMAN: And you need the buses desperately, yes? BORODIN: If we can get buses to Mariupol, we can help thousands of people. But they're not allowed here. Russians only allow their buses from the Russian side, from the occupied territory to Mariupol and to show that to be a picture that only Russians help to get out people from Mariupol. It's (INAUDIBLE) that, for them, they're not important, the people, but the picture.

BERMAN: I appreciate you clarifying this because we had been told that there were 2,000 people who were able to get out on buses. But, apparently, they were only able, according to you, to board those buses in Berdyansk. They had to get to Berdyansk even to get on the buses, so it is a very different situation than boarding the buses in Mariupol. I appreciate you clearing that up.

Sir, can you give me a sense, are the Ukrainians, are you still in control of Mariupol right now?

BORODIN: Yes. As I know, Russians occupied forces take some parts of Mariupol but they don't have a majority in the city.


There are a lot of forces in comparison with Ukrainian forces but our soldiers are holding the place and no one wants to give up.

And we all understand that this picture, Russians use only these negotiations only to take sometimes because they get in the (INAUDIBLE) near Kyiv. And now, they don't want to stop the war. They only regroup to kick harder to the Donetsk region and Luhansk region, and Mariupol exactly. They need a victory, and so they use it. They don't want peace negotiations.

BERMAN: Maxim, I understand that you say you can't get a true count of how many people have been killed because there's just no way to do it. And in some cases, the bodies are just everywhere.

BORODIN: Yes. I think the numbers is tens of thousands. It is very terrible.

BERMAN: 10,000 killed?

BORODIN: Yes. I think the really number is near here because a lot of people are dead, a lot of people under the rubbles and no one -- before the Ukraine take control over Mariupol, no one can count the real situation on civilian deaths.

BERMAN: Well, Maxim Borodin, we do appreciate you joining us, helping us to understand the situation there. Be well as much as you can, stay safe. Thank you.

BORODIN: Thank you.

KEILAR: A rescue convey of people evacuated from Mariupol is on its way to Zaporizhzhia, where people are anxiously awaiting its arrival. CNN's Ivan Watson is in Zaporizhzhia. Ivan, earlier this morning, the Red Cross was saying it wasn't yet clear if they were going to be able to make it from Mariupol to Zaporizhzhia, get these people out. Has that cleared up? Do we have a sense that it is happening?

IVAN WATSON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: We have been getting indications from the ICRC, that's the International Committee of the Red Cross, and from the Mariupol City Council that the convoy is on the move, that has left Berdyansk and is on its way to Zaporizhzhia. On a good day, that would take three, three and a half hours. But there are many military checkpoints to go through and we are being told that it is a convoy of some 52 buses carrying some 2,000 people joined by many civilian privately owned vehicles.

Let's come this way, Tom, while I keep walking. They are going to be coming to this place where police, where ambulances, where volunteers are standing by to help process.

Now, this has been kind of improvised hub. This is a superstore where people have been coming on their own with their own privately owned vehicles day after day to try to escape Russian-occupied territories, some people escaping from Mariupol, others escaping from villages and towns in the countryside in between Ukrainian-controlled territory and Russian-occupied territory. And they kind of come in here and they are processed.

And there is a tremendous volunteer effort of people who have suddenly been made homeless. I'm going to take you into this -- there is a metaphor here, perhaps, the superstore is called the epicenter, and I would say it is the epicenter of trying to help out the tens of thousands of people who have been displaced by this terrible conflict. So, many of the people, when they come in, they can get donated clothing here, which was stacked up to the ceiling just a couple days ago and come in here and you have free food, hot tea, you have medics standing by and you have support networks, such as information about how to get deeper into Ukrainian-controlled territory, free transport, free vans being offered.

And this is particularly poignant for me, this bulletin board where people post all sorts of things, like offering to fix people's shattered car windows, which have been hit by Russian shells in Mariupol or information about missing loved ones. So, this entire center has been functioning for weeks. But it now is poised to get an enormous influx of potentially thousands of, I would argue, quite shell-shocked and traumatized evacuees who have been making a long and very difficult journey from Mariupol. John, Brianna?


KEILAR: Yes. Let's hope, Ivan, that they make it. There are so many people still trapped in Mariupol, where they have spent weeks underground without food, without water, without medicine. Ivan, keep an eye out for those folks, hopefully, coming in there. Thank you.

An American father saves his daughter and grandson in a daring escape from Ukraine. They are going to join us live next. Plus, Ukrainian officials say Russian forces confiscated 14 tons of food and medication off a dozen evacuation buses. We'll learn what they're doing to get it all back.

And a new poll asked Americans if they would defend their country against an invasion like the one in Ukraine. How they responded may surprise you ahead.



BERMAN: This is an amazing story. An American woman, more or less, trapped in Ukraine made a daring escape over the mountains with her nine-month-old baby to escape the war here.

Joining me now to share her story is Aislinn Hubbard along with her father, William Hubbard. Aislinn, thank you so much for being with us. We're so glad you were able to get out.

Explain to us what happened. You were inside Ukraine when the war started with your baby, who had been born at home, so had no birth certificate. So, why did that make it hard for you to get out?

AISLINN HUBBARD, AMERICAN WHO ESCAPED UKRAINE WITH HER INFANT SON: Well, I had given birth at home during the COVID pandemic because I thought that it was a safer option at the time. Because of that decision, it made it a lot more difficult for me to obtain a birth certificate in Ukraine. I was in the process of getting a birth certificate when all of this had started. But the war, of course, put a pause on that.

We had heard that people were able to leave Ukraine, like cross through the border if they had some kind of documentation. I mean, I had a DNA test. So, we thought that that would be sufficient. And the State Department have told us that that would be sufficient. But when I got to border control, Ukrainian authorities ended up getting us, bringing us to a military camp where we stayed for like a week or a week and a half.

Eventually, they let us out. We had to figure out a plan of what we were going to do. I was told that it would take six months for me to get a birth certificate. So, I would have to stay in a warzone for six more months. I said, no, I can't do that. I ended up making a plan of how I would cross the border and I tested it out of a couple of times. I saw the coast was clear, and I went for it.

After about a seven-hour-long hike in the cold and up steep mountains, I made it to safety in Slovakia. Of course, it was a very difficult hike though.

BERMAN: I think you are short changing the hike you've made to get over to Czechoslovakia. You basically hiked a pretty arduous path through, what, the Carpathians. Explain to me how you decided to go the way you went. A. HUBBARD: Well, I was just looking at Google Maps and I chose an area where I thought that there wouldn't be a bunch of border control or that there wouldn't be like military officials watching the zone. And I tested it out. I did a couple of dry runs to see and make sure that the coast was clear and then I went for it.

BERMAN: Hiking over the mountains to escape a war.

And, William, how were you following this escape?

WILLIAM HUBBARD, AMERICAN FATHER WHO HELPED RESCUE HIS DAUGHTER FROM UKRAINE: I was using the Apple app Find A Friend. And so I was watching this dot on satellite map as it moved. But that was pretty nerve-racking, to be honest with you, because the dot never moved fast enough. Furthermore, the dot would pause at times. And, of course we knew that this was -- could have been a dangerous hike and that the soldiers could have intervened at any point. But, luckily, they were just stopping to take a rest.

There were a couple of times when they stopped. Aislinn had slid down a hill into a small little river. Luckily, the baby didn't get wet. But they finally made it to the other side and presented to a little pub in the middle of nowhere covered in mud from head to toe. And the Slovaks were so nice to them. They gave them warm drinks. Of course they had asked Slovaks to call the police at that point because they must report to the police to ask for the protective refugee status from the Slovak authorities.

And the police showed up and they took care of everything in quick order. It was amazing that they produced documents within six hours or so, considering that our government couldn't produce documents in four months, or the Ukrainians were telling us we were going to have to wait six months in a war zone. It is just very strange how that happened.

But the best part of this whole story was that Aislinn made it to safety with the baby unharmed. Her boyfriend was with her during that hike, to assist here in hike because it would have been very difficult for her to do it at the same time. My job was to haul all of their belongings across the border, which I did.

And the Slovaks were so warm and accepting and we are so grateful for them and all the other people out there who have supported us through this whole endeavor.


BERMAN: Aislinn, what are you going to tell?