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Ukraine: Russian Forces Confiscated 14 Tons Of Humanitarian Aid; Reports Of Ukrainian Strike Inside Russia Against Fuel Depot; Poll: Only 55% Of Americans Would Stay And Fight Invaders. Aired 7:30- 8a ET

Aired April 01, 2022 - 07:30   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


[07:30:00]

WILLIAM HUBBARD, AMERICAN FATHER WHO HELPED RESCUE HIS DAUGHTER FROM UKRAINE (via Skype): For them and all the other people out there who have supported us through this whole endeavor.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Aislinn, what are you going to tell your baby about this hike? This has got to -- going to be the most amazing story in that child's life.

AISLINN HUBBARD, AMERICAN WHO ESCAPED UKRAINE WITH HER INFANT SON (via Skype): Yes, I don't even know. He's still too young to understand but someday I'll have to tell him the story.

W. HUBBARD: And we kept a lot of souvenirs along the way that we can share with him that will eventually become him -- his to keep and his to sort of not remember but at least understand the story.

BERMAN: Well, it's a journey I know, Aislinn, that you will never forget. And William, I can't imagine watching the blue dot move across the screen.

The Hubbard family -- you guys as masters of understatement. It's giving me a heart attack even thinking -- even thinking about how stressful that was. But I'm so glad for both of you that you are reunited and I wish you the best of luck going forward.

W. HUBBARD: Thank you very much for your time.

A. HUBBARD: Thank you.

BERMAN: So, Russian forces withdrawing from the region around the Chernobyl nuclear power plant amid reports that the Russian forces came down with radiation sickness.

Plus, the breaking news overnight -- new video of an oil depot in Russia. The dramatic news of a Ukrainian airstrike in Russia. Ukrainian helicopters reportedly striking this fuel depot inside Russia. The new details coming up.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[07:35:58]

BERMAN: A Ukrainian official says 12 buses full of humanitarian aid carrying 14 tons of food and medication were confiscated by Russian forces in Melitopol, and Ukraine is negotiating the return of those buses not only for the supplies that are badly needed but also because the buses will be used to evacuate a large group of citizens to safety.

Joining us now is CNN+ anchor Sara Sidner whose new program on CNN+ is called "BIG PICTURE." She recently returned from the border and has done extensive reporting on the refugee situation there. Sara, you talked to so many people. What were they telling you?

SARA SIDNER, CNN+ ANCHOR, "BIG PICTURE WITH SARA SIDNER": You know, John, you mentioned that situation where apparently, 12 buses have been confiscated by Russia. They are filled with things like antibiotics, painkillers, and food for thousands of people for several months. Imagine being in that situation where you don't have what you need -- food and water, and medication -- and here, the Russians had promised a humanitarian corridor. And then, it appears they have reneged on yet another promise.

What we are hearing from those who were able to make it out -- who are not stuck in a place like Mariupol -- is that when they get out their initial feeling is of complete thankfulness that they are safe from the bombings. But then it is what are we going to do? Where are we going to go, and for how long?

Listen to this.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

OLEG MULENK, 13-YEAR-OLD UKRAINIAN REFUGEE: (INAUDIBLE). There you can get free food. There you can charge your phone. There you can sleep.

SIDNER (voice-over): Family, though, won't be here long enough to sleep. They're waiting for a man to pick them up but they have no idea what he looks like. Still, they find each other.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: OK, hi.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Hi.

SIDNER (voice-over): They pack in for the next journey after 17 hours of travel out of Ukraine.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We have like six hours -- six hours journey. And so --

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: OK.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: But don't worry. We will stop on the way.

SIDNER (voice-over): A stop on the way to their first full night's sleep in two days. The man picking them up is Rafael Zenda (ph). The moment Russia attacked Ukraine he called friends and business partners in Ukraine offering help.

RAFAEL ZENDA, HELPING UKRAINIAN REFUGEES: All of us will remember the date 24th of February and life will never be again the same, yes, in Europe.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

SIDNER: So, that was a story of a 13-year-old boy who was the only one in his family that spoke English. We met him on the border. And he took us with him as they traveled into Poland and go to where they were going to have their first night's sleep.

And that was a complete stranger, John, who -- he had a friend of a friend say that we have somebody that needs help. They've made it out. And he drove five hours to pick that family up. They'd never met before. This is the kind of beautiful response that we're seeing.

But what does every single refugee family that I've spoken to say about coming over? One, they say they hope to go back immediately or as soon as they can. And two, they don't know how long. They ask how long can you give us shelter? How long can we have food? These are families whose lives have literally been blown up, John.

BERMAN: It's a constant string of repeated moments of uncertainty that they face from the very moment they decide to leave their house.

Sara Sidner, thank you so much for that.

"THE BIG PICTURE" streams each weekday at 9:00 a.m. eastern on CNN+ and will always be available on-demand -- Brianna.

BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN ANCHOR: Breaking overnight, Russia responding moments ago to a purported airstrike by Ukrainian helicopters on a fuel depot. And this is in Russia. This is in a southern Russian city, Belgorod.

The Russians saying that this could have a negative impact on negotiations. The Ukrainian Ministry of Defense telling CNN it had no information about the incident.

[07:40:03]

Joining us now is Kimberly Dozier, CNN global affairs analyst, and Time magazine contributor.

This -- I mean, it kind of floored me, to be honest, when I woke up to this video seeing these Ukrainian helicopters, we believe, taking out a fuel depot inside Russia.

KIMBERLY DOZIER, CNN GLOBAL AFFAIRS ANALYST, CONTRIBUTOR, TIME MAGAZINE: And it is actually one of the Biden administration's worst nightmares because the more the Ukrainian forces fight back. So what we have here is -- they've come from here, across to Belgorod,

and if we look at the map of where the Russian forces are you can see why. Belgorod and the fuel there is supplying all of the troops in this area so, of course, the Ukrainian military wants to cut them off.

The problem is since the Ukrainians have been doing so well and the Russian military is on the backfoot, the worry is that will prompt Russia to do something violent, a la -- you know, Russia has said if it feels like it is threatened in the extreme that's when it will use tactical nuclear weapons and things like that.

And, yes, they want -- the Biden administration wants the Ukrainians to be able to take back territory but not go too far.

KEILAR: Because one of the things that we've repeatedly heard Russian officials say is that there is an existential threat to Russia. This is not an existential threat to Russia. This is an existential --

DOZIER: Not yet.

KEILAR: -- threat to Ukraine going into Russia. It's a cognitive leap that you can see them making.

DOZIER: But when you see pictures like this -- this is the impact in the fuel depot after the strike -- that will not get played across Russia as look what the Ukrainian military is doing to us, that's a threat.

KEILAR: What's the effect of this on troops that may be relying on this fuel?

DOZIER: You know, the Russian Army has had logistics problems all along, so this isn't going to help. But since it's inside their territory they should be able to pretty quickly truck some fuel supplies in. But it could have a short-term effect.

But it also shows us that there is stress on the Russian military system, which could explain why we've seen some withdrawals from this area, including withdrawals around the plant of Chernobyl that has made a bit of headlines overnight.

KEILAR: Yes, it certainly has and we're going to talk about that ahead in the program.

Kimberly, thank you so much for that. I really appreciate it.

Coming up, what would Americans do if they were faced with an invasion of the United States? What some new polling shows. The answers here really may surprise you.

Plus, the battle between Disney and Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis escalating over a controversial law. Michael Smerconish here to weigh in on that.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[07:47:10]

KEILAR: Two Nevada police officers going beyond the call to not only save an elderly homeless woman but to reunite her with family.

CNN's Stephanie Elam has the story.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

OFFICER STERLING CANDLAND, HENDERSON, NEVADA POLICE: She's not going to make it much longer, we didn't think.

STEPHANIE ELAM, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Henderson police officers Carlos Chorens and Sterling Candland felt they were up against the clock when they first encountered a feeble and homeless 75-year-old woman hidden behind a cement barrier.

CANDLAND: She had a makeshift sling on her arm and she just looked very run down. And we looked at each other and we're like we're going to be here all day.

ELAM (voice-over): Rose Brazdovic didn't ask for the officers' help but they spent two days with her and a man she considered her caretaker asking questions.

OFFICER CARLOS CHORENS, HENDERSON, NEVADA POLICE: She ended up selling her place and she was going to go and do some traveling in a motorhome. Apparently, that didn't work out.

ROSE BRAZDOVIC, 75-YEAR-OLD SAVED FROM HOMELESSNESS: I pretended that I was camping.

ELAM (voice-over): Chorens and Candland also reached out to Rochelle Fletcher in Henderson's Community Resource and Resiliency Center to find a safe place for Rose.

ROCHELLE FLETCHER, MANAGER, HENDERSON COMMUNITY RESOURCES AND RESILIENCY CENTER: She was a retiree from Walmart. She had finances that would keep her afloat

BRAZDOVIC: I like to help people and sometimes by helping people they take advantage of it.

ELAM (voice-over): Rose also had a son that she lost touch with nearly 30 years ago.

FLETCHER: I was determined to make sure that she got to see him.

JENNIFER MICHRINA, ROSE'S DAUGHTER-IN-LAW: I got a message on Facebook Messenger.

ELAM (voice-over): Through some social media sleuthing, Rochelle found Jennifer Michrina, the daughter-in-law Rose didn't even know she had, living in Louisiana. It turns out Rose is also a grandmother.

ELAM (on camera): And it wasn't hard for you to open your heart back up? MIKE MICHRINA, ROSE'S SON: No. No. It opened up immediately. I couldn't imagine living on the street.

ELAM (voice-over): Soon, Rose was ready to move to be with her family and they were ready to welcome her. Leaving Las Vegas, she got a special airport escort.

CANDLAND: We walked her right down to the gate.

CHORENS: She thanked us and she was very excited --

CANDLAND: Yes.

CHORENS: -- to see her family.

BRAZDOVIC: I really enjoyed the plane ride. I had never been on an airplane before.

ELAM (on camera): What's been the most fun of your transition to life in Louisiana?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: All right, good job.

BRAZDOVIC: I get to have a family. That is the best part.

M. MICHRINA: God put them in her life just to take care of her. Excuse me, I'm tearing up a little bit.

ELAM (voice-over): A family's fresh start thanks to two police officers who never stopped caring.

CHORENS: It's incredible. It makes you feel so -- like you accomplished something and you helped somebody out.

ELAM (voice-over): Stephanie Elam, CNN, reporting from Nevada and Louisiana.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

KEILAR: What a difference they made -- Berman.

[07:50:03]

BERMAN: So, new this morning, the mayor of the city of Chernihiv tells me that Russian forces shelled a local regional hospital, destroying an oncology ward. The latest on the ground, next.

And, President Biden says Vladimir Putin may have fired some of his advisers or put them under house arrest. New indications that the Russian president is becoming more and more isolated.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BERMAN: The resilience of the Ukrainian people as they fight the invading Russian army has been nothing short of remarkable. It has also sparked an interesting question. What would Americans do if they were faced with an invasion?

[07:55:01]

A Quinnipiac poll asked that question and it -- as a response, 55% said they would stay and fight, while 38% said they would leave the country.

Joining us now to discuss, CNN political commentator and host of CNN's "SMERCONISH," Michael Smerconish.

Michael, I have to say it's different when it's an abstraction than when they're actually coming over your border. I mean, I saw "Red Dawn" and I know that was only a movie -- not to make light of it. But I do think if there actually was an invasion, Americans might feel differently about that poll question.

MICHAEL SMERCONISH, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR, HOST, "SMERCONISH": I am totally with you. The 7% is the figure that I question. How could you possibly know what you would do -- whether you are a fight or flight individual -- until you're in that unfortunate circumstance?

I heard from a number of people on radio and off radio this week who said why didn't Chris Rock retaliate when Will Smith slapped him at the Oscars, and I thought the exact same thing. You just don't know until you're in the heat of the moment exactly what you'll do.

There was an interesting party divide in those figures. There's also an interesting generational divide. More Republicans say they'll stay and fight. The younger someone is the less inclined, according to Quinnipiac, that they would stay and fight. But just color me dubious as to the whole thing because I don't think any of us really know.

KEILAR: I will say I think the fact that we focus perhaps on a lot of people saying they would not stay and that you do see some of that partisan difference, I'm actually really impressed, Michael, that many people said they would stay.

I mean, when you look at the stats on who serves in the military right now it is minuscule. Currently, in the military, you've got a fraction of 1% of people. I think it's one-point-something percent of Americans currently alive that have served in the military.

So, you know, you're going up there to over half saying they'd stay and fight. That's a lot.

SMERCONISH: Yes. I guess looking at it differently, I was surprised that so many would say I would leave. Because you would think it would be a moment that people would thump their chests when a stranger calls the house or however they carried out the survey -- what would you do? Well, of course, I would stay and fight when, in fact, I'm arguing that people really don't know. But the numbers surprised me from that standpoint.

KEILAR: Yes. I do think sometimes, too -- I mean, look, we're -- we are watching a lot of people leaving with children, right? That probably changes the equation I think for people and I'm curious about some of the mitigating factors there.

SMERCONISH: Well, I, again, see a divide when you look at the data among Americans.

The economists, Brianna, just had a really interesting survey where they asked whether people's sympathies lie with Ukraine or with Russia. When you asked folks who are over 64, it's 90+ percent who say my sympathies lie with Ukraine. When you get down into younger Americans responding to that question -- 18- to 29-year-olds -- the number is in the mid-50s. So a huge difference between the two.

KEILAR: Yes, it is a huge difference.

Michael, thank you so much for that. I really appreciate you being with us this morning. Thank you.

And you can, of course, catch Michael's show at 9:00 a.m. tomorrow morning.

And NEW DAY continues right now.

ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

BERMAN: All right, good morning to our viewers in the United States and all around the world. It is Friday, April 1. I'm John Berman in Lviv in western Ukraine. Brianna Keilar is in Washington.

And we do begin with potentially significant breaking news. A really important development here. Reports of a Ukrainian strike inside Russia, across the border.

We have this new video which shows a fire at a fuel depot. This is in Russia -- just over the border in Russia near Belgorod. Belgorod's governor claims it was attacked by two Ukrainian helicopters, which entered the territory flying at low altitude. Now, it is important to note this is a claim on the Russian side. CNN cannot confirm this.

But it would be a significant development -- a bold and daring counterattack by the Ukrainians -- something of a reprisal strike. The Russians had been attacking Ukraine's fuel depots for weeks.

Moments ago, Russia did put out a response saying this could hurt negotiations. We also have been told that Vladimir Putin has been informed of this incident.

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 in that separatist- controlled area.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

PRESIDENT VOLODYMYR ZELENSKYY (through translator): The situation in the southern direction and in the Donbas remains extremely difficult. Russian troops are accumulating the potential.