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Mass Graves, Bodies Lining Streets as Russians Leave Towns; Mayor of Bucha is Interviewed about Massacre Left Behind by Russians; Group Pushes for Russia to Be Removed from U.N. Human Rights Council; Holocaust Survivor Flees Home Once Again. Aired 6-6:30a ET

Aired April 04, 2022 - 06:00   ET


ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.


BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning to viewers in the U.S. and all around the world. It is Monday, April 4. I am Brianna Keilar, live in Lviv, Ukraine. John Berman is in New York.

And we begin with a weekend of horror and growing evidence of Russian atrocities against civilians in Ukraine. We do have to warn you, these are images that are graphic and disturbing.

This is where we are 40 days into Russia's war in Ukraine. Just look at Bucha, a suburb northwest of the capital of Kyiv, after Ukrainian forces retook the area following a Russian retreat.

There are lifeless bodies, apparently killed execution-style, littering the street, littering yards. We spoke with the mayor of Bucha moments ago, and he said that a lot of them were elderly, adding that he got the impression that Putin had given the green light for Russian troops to have a safari in Ukraine. We'll have more on that in a moment.

These sickening scenes follow the emergence of these images, which show at least 20 men lying face down on the pavement, some of them with their hands bound, others collapsed on their backs.

Ukraine's President, Volodymyr Zelenskyy, accusing Russia of war crimes, calling the attacks a genocide. The shocking images drawing international condemnation and calls for even tougher sanctions.

Secretary of State Tony Blinken describing the killings as a punch to the gut. Russia, in the meantime, denying any involvement in the civilian killings in Bucha. They claim that the footage is fake.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Yes, but what our CNN team saw with their own eyes was not fake. It was death. At least a dozen dead in body bags.

Also, we have new satellite images captures by Maxar Technologies, which appear to show mass graves dug into the ground near church grounds in Bucha.

I want to show you where Bucha is on the map. You can see, just northeast of Kyiv here, we can give you a closer look here. It's actually a pretty wealthy suburb to the northeast -- northwest, I should say, of Kyiv.

Other action I could show you overnight, an air strike in the port city of Odessa right here. This followed a Russian missile strike on an oil refinery and fuel depot in Odessa over the weekend.

And in Mykolaiv, the mayor there says the Russian missile strike killed one and injured five.

KEILAR: Let's head now to CNN's Fred Pleitgen, who has more on this story.


FREDERIK PLEITGEN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice- over): As Russian forces retreat from the area north of Kyiv, in their wake, scenes of utter destruction.

Whole blocks of houses flattened. Ukrainian authorities saying they believe dead bodies are still lying underneath.

But here, the dead also lay in the open. Ukrainian national police showed us this mass grave in Bucha, saying they believe up to 150 civilians might be buried here, but no one knows the exact number. People killed while the Russian army occupied this town.

This is what it looks like when the hope is crushed. Vladimir (ph) has been searching for his younger brother, Dimitri (ph). Now, he's convinced Dimitri (ph) lies here, even though he can't be 100 percent sure.

The neighbor accompanying him with strong words for the Russians.


PLEITGEN: "Why do you hate us so much?" she asks. "Since the 1930s, you've been abusing Ukraine. You just want to destroy us. You want us gone. But we will be; everything will be OK. I believe it."

Video from Bucha shows bodies in the streets after Russian forces left the area. Some images even show bodies with hands tied behind their backs.

The Russian Defense Ministry denies killing civilians and claims images of dead civilians are, quote, "fake."

But we met a family just returning to their house in Borodyanka, which they say was occupied by Russian soldiers. They show us the body of a dead man, in civilian clothes, they had found in the backyard, his hands and feet tied, with severe bruises, and a shell casing, sill laying nearby.

Russia's military appears to have suffered heavy losses before being driven out of the area around Kyiv. This column of armored vehicles in Bucha, completely destroyed. (on camera): The way the Ukrainians tell us, is that the Russians were

trying to go towards Kyiv, and they were then intercepted by Ukrainian drones, artillery, and also the Javelin anti-tank weapons. It's not clear how many Russians were killed here, but they say many were, and others fled the scene.

(voice-over): A national police officer says the Russian troops were simply too arrogant.


PLEITGEN: "They thought they could drive on the streets and just go through," he says, "That they would be greeted, as though it's all right. Maybe they think it is normal to drive around, looting, to destroy buildings, and to mock people. But our people didn't allow it."

And now, it appears all the Russians have withdrawn from here. Ukraine says it is now in full control of the entire region around Kyiv. But it is only now that the full extent of the civilian suffering is truly coming to light.


KEILAR: It's just unbelievable, I think, what we're witnessing there, Berman. And this is a suburb of Kyiv. As you well know, sort of driving through this part of Ukraine here in Western Ukraine, a lot of these areas are just like neighborhoods. And it's something to imagine finding in your backyard what some Ukrainians are finding as Russian troops withdraw.

BERMAN: That was a dead body in that family's backyard when they returned home, very much looking like a civilian. And I think, Brianna, the concern, is it's not just Bucha where the Russians are pulling back from. Now there's town after town, and city after city, where the troops are withdrawing. And I think there is a legitimate concern about what will be found in all of these places.


KEILAR: I think that's exactly right. Is this just the tip of the iceberg here?

And we spoke to the mayor of Bucha for that. He had, quote, "We will not forgive the Russian people for the atrocities that happen." That, again, from the mayor of Bucha after Russian troops left this trail of horror in the streets of his city.

He says that he got the impression Vladimir Putin gave Russian troops the green light to go on a safari in Ukraine.


KEILAR: Mayor, can you please tell us what you're seeing in Bucha?

ANATOLY FEDORUK, MAYOR OF BUCHA, UKRAINE (through translator): Yes, I can tell you at the moment, there is -- half the city is destroyed. There is a lot of destroyed buildings, a lot of dead bodies on the streets; and the services are working on working on clearing mines; demining the streets, demining houses and apartments; and restoring the social infrastructure.

The city is busy now transitioning from a war -- a war footing to peacetime living and within the confines of the martial law that we have.

We are also working on identifying the bodies of the people who were shot dead in our city. They were indiscriminately killed by the Russian occupiers. A lot of them are elderly people.

We get the impression that the Russian occupiers have got the green light from Putin and Shoigu, the Russian defense minister to have a safari in Ukraine. And they weren't able to take Kyiv, so they vented their frustration on Bucha and the -- and the surrounding areas.

KEILAR: Mayor, can you tell us, were there any Ukrainians in Bucha who saw what happened? What are you hearing from survivors?

FEDORUK (through translator): All the city, which was 500,000 strong, about, two and a half, 3,000 remained and stayed there for the month of the occupation, and that includes me.

We all were witnesses to the horrific event and the horrific crimes that the Russians committed here. And we will never forgive the Russian people, not personally, not individually, but on the whole, we will not forgive the Russian people for the atrocities that happened here.

KEILAR: Mayor, have you been able to identify any of the bodies in the mass grave or on the street there where we have seen the pictures? Do you know who any of these victims are?

FEDORUK (through translator): This work is ongoing. We believe we are able to identify about 50 percent of the bodies that are collected in the streets. These are Ukrainian citizens, citizens of our city and the surrounding towns. And we were -- I believe we will be able to establish some of them are being taken to the Kyiv mortuaries. This work is ongoing.

KEILAR: Are there many people missing? Are there families worried that their loved ones are there in that grave?

FEDORUK (through translator): So at the moment, every family is -- who were forced to leave Bucha are currently worried, because they cannot find some of their relatives.

And we get a lot of applications. We get a lot of letters, messages, asking to find their brother or husband or daughter, or son, or grandchild. And I think this will take a lot of time.

We need to find out -- they're worried that they might have been killed, or they might have been taken to Belarus. Because we're getting a lot of reports that a large number of our citizens were forcibly deported to Belarus.

KEILAR: Mayor, you mentioned that there were elderly among the victims. Are there children?

FEDORUK (through translator): Well, as I said, there are different kinds of people. And there are many children, many teenagers. It -- these were children that -- they posed no threat to the Russian troops. Russia as a whole, they did pose absolutely no danger.

And it was impossible not to see that they were children, not to see that a mother is carrying a child. And this cynical -- these cynical atrocities is what the Russian troops are all about. And that's what Russia is all about. And we shall never forgive them. They will never be forgiven on this earth or in heaven.

KEILAR: Mayor, I can't imagine how people there are feeling. What are they telling you?

FEDORUK (through translator): Almost everybody who survives the occupation, who went through the occupation, will need specialists, psychological help, to get out of this state.

We Ukrainians have seen a lot through our historic -- throughout history. But what we have seen through the period of Russian war, which is still ongoing, and it hasn't stopped yet, that -- that we have experienced for the first time.


We will rebuild the cities. And I'm grateful for the support from Poland and the neighboring countries and other urban communities that we are getting, Ukrainian communities. That is fantastic, where it's really grateful for the support.

We will rebuild the cities. But we also -- we will keep the memory. We will keep the memory of what our people have gone through. That will never die. That will always stay with us.

KEILAR: Mayor, how worried are you that Bucha is just the beginning, that we're going to be seeing this in other towns and cities?

FEDORUK (through translator): So, based on what we have seen, what the occupiers, what the Russian occupiers have done here, I think we can expect to see the same picture on the entire territory, from Kyiv to Mariupol and Kherson. This will happen everywhere where the Russian occupier has stepped in.

And they cannot make progress militarily. The Ukrainian armed forces stopped them. So they are torturing civilians, and this is how they are performing. This is the so-called de-Nazification that Russian -- that the Russian president, Putin, mentioned. But it's actually dehumanization of Ukrainians.

The Russian federation, whether you call it that, or the Soviet Union or the Russian empire, has periodically committed genocide against Ukraine. They -- they engaged in two -- they forced two famines on Ukraine, and they deported Ukrainians, but the worst of it all has been what we have seen here.


KEILAR: And that's also the question. How many Buchas are there? You know, we are waking up to these scenes this morning, Berman, that are just atrocious. We have seen so many terrible things coming out of this war.

And just when you think it can't get any worse, you see what is happening there. And he is expecting this to be a trail across Ukraine, almost like floodwaters receding and showing what is underneath as the Russian troops have receded. We're going to see what they're leaving in their wake. How many more Buchas will there be?

BERMAN: There's every reason to fear that. And just so people get a sense of where that might be, you can see these areas in yellow up here. This is where the Ukrainians have been able to push the Russians back in counter offenses.

And in some of these towns, they are finding these bodies. You can see it here in Sumy, around Kharkiv right now, where there's been success pushing them back, as well. And we're also beginning to get tales down in the south also.

In all of these locations, Ukrainians are coming back into control after more than a month of the Russians occupying it and doing God knows what. And we could discover more horror, really, in the next few days.

KEILAR: Yes. We've heard about some of these things in Mariupol. We have not been able to see some of these things. It's entirely a different thing when you are seeing them as we are here with our reporters on the ground.

Coming up, the U.N. watch chief wants to remove Russia from the Human Rights Council following the horror out of Bucha this weekend. How will the U.N. General Assembly respond?

Plus, see what happened when Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy addressed the Grammys crowd last night.



BERMAN: All right. The breaking news this morning, CNN teams finding evidence of mass graves in Bucha, northwest of Kyiv. I know this is difficult footage to look at, but this is the evidence that our teams are finding bodies in bags littering the scene.

This morning, new calls to remove Russia from the United Nations Human Rights Council. The group U.N. Watch is drafting a resolution for the U.N. General Assembly to force them out.

And joining me now is the director, executive director, of U.N. Watch, Hillel Neuer. Thank you so much for being with us.

When you see these images out of Bucha, the bodies littering the streets, I'm just wondering what your reaction is?

HILLEL NEUER, U.N. WATCH: Look, when things of atrocities that shock the conscience of mankind, and I am here in Geneva, Switzerland, and I've been spending the past five weeks at a session of the Human Rights Council. And Russia is sitting there as a member.

For God's sake, Russia cannot be a member of the United Nations' highest human rights body.

BERMAN: What message does it send to the world when Russia sits on the Human Rights Council?

NEUER: Well, I think it sends a terrible message, BECAUSE TO BE ON THE Human Rights Council, there are criteria. It's not automatic. It's not a rotation. It's not a regional thing that everyone gets. Countries have to show that they have a record -- or are supposed to show that they have a record of promoting and protecting human rights. Members are obliged to uphold the highest standards of human rights.

And countries that commit gross systematic abuses can be removed. And in 2010, we campaigned to remove Gadhafi's Libyan regime. And that succeeded after Gadhafi launched a war against his own people.

We've launched the same campaign against Russia. We've drafted a resolution. We need a member state to introduce it. We're turning to the United States. Secretary of State Blinken said sort of obliquely a month ago, but asked the question when he spoke at the Council whether a country that commits terrible acts should sit on the council. The Estonian foreign minister is on the record calling for it. But we need the United States to formally introduce the resolution.

BERMAN: What has been the reaction so far from the United Nations and officials there?

NEUER: Well, sadly, and I would say strangely, when the spokesperson of the United Nations secretary-general, Antonio Guterres, was asked last week about this, he said that they have a certain level of concern about our campaign. And he said -- and there was 12 U.S. senators that wrote a letter to the U.S. ambassador, calling for her to take action. And the U.N. chief said there's a certain level of concern. And he said it would set a dangerous precedent.


Now, this is a very strange thing. The U.N. chief is not supposed to get involved. It's a member state issue. And for them to say it's a dangerous precedent, we think it's dangerous to let a government, a regime that is slaughtering innocent people, as we've seen on these terrible images from Bucha, that has launched aggression against the U.N. member state, causing millions of people to leave their homes, we think it's dangerous to have them sitting on the U.N.'s top human rights body. And there was no precedent, because the precedent was set in 2011 when

Gadhafi's Libyan regime was removed. So a very strange reaction, if you ask me, by the U.N. secretary-general.

BERMAN: Look, their presence on this council is farcical. I don't mean that in a comical way. I mean, literally, it turns the whole notion of having a Human Rights Council on its head.

Hillel Neuer, maybe there will be news today. Thank you very much for joining us, keeping us abreast of this situation.

NEUER: Thank you.

BERMAN: So, she was forced to flee the Nazis as a baby with her family. Now a Holocaust survivor has been pushed out of her home again, this time because of the Russian invasion. The incredible story of how she escaped, next.



BERMAN: We've seen the devastation from the Russian assault on Kharkiv just over the border here from Russia in the northeastern part of the country. This morning, we have the story of an 82-year-old Holocaust survivor forced to flee from her home there, this time from the Russians.

This is the second time she's on the run. The first, more than 80 years ago, running from the Nazis. CNN's Salma Abdelaziz joins us live in Poland, near the Ukrainian border.

Salma, what a tragic story.

SALMA ABDELAZIZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: John, I was really curious to learn more about the survivors of World War II. Because Kharkiv, the second largest city in Ukraine, the last time it saw death and destruction on this scale was when the Nazis invaded, when the Jewish community in Kharkiv was persecuted.

We wanted to meet someone who had survived that period in time and was now trying to survive Russia's onslaught on Kharkiv. But you can imagine it wasn't easy to find her. And it wasn't easy for the charity organizations trying to rescue here. But when we finally met Margaryta Zatuchna at this border, she had a tale to tell. Take a look.


ABDELAZIZ (voice-over): This is the moment Margaryta Zatuchna says she finally felt safe, welcomed by her Jewish community in Krakow.

MARGARYTA ZATUCHNA, HOLOCAUST SURVIVOR: I am presented with so beautiful flowers, and it was -- it smells very well.

ABDELAZIZ: We sat down to hear the story from twice a survivor.

ZATUCHNA: I was born in 1940. When the war with Germany began, I was only 1 year and a half.

ABDELAZIZ: In 1941, her family fled their home in Kharkiv, where Nazis murdered an estimated 16,000 Jews. She later returned, grew up and grew old in peacetime. That is, until Russian troops invaded, bombing and besieging Kharkiv.

"There was no water or power. We couldn't buy food. It was impossible to live," she says. "There was explosion after explosion. A real war."

Not even a monument that honors the city's Holocaust victims escaped Moscow's so-called de-Nazification campaign.

But Margaryta stayed to take care for her sick husband, Valery (ph), as long as she could.

"An explosion blew out all our windows," she says. "After that shock, he grew weaker and weaker."

After nearly a month of war, Valery (ph) passed away. His body still lies in a morgue. There are no funerals because of the fighting.

Now, age 82, the Holocaust survivor knew it was time to go. Packed only what she could carry, and fled her birthplace.

ZATUCHNA: It is very difficult when my beautiful town when I lived all my life is destroyed.

ABDELAZIZ: A driver picked up Margaryta in this vehicle, damaged in an earlier attack. For two days, they traveled out of Kharkiv and across dangerous territory to Lviv.

ZATUCHNA: It is a really hard road.

ABDELAZIZ: From there, she boarded an ambulance and was ferried into Poland. We were tracking her evacuation and met her at the border crossing.

(on camera): Hi. Welcome to Poland.

(voice-over): But Margaryta still has further to go. She wants to join her brother in New Jersey.

ZATUCHNA: I was not scared.

ABDELAZIZ (on camera): Where is this bravery from?

ZATUCHNA: It comes. It comes alone to us.

ABDELAZIZ (voice-over): Margaryta hopes to return, bury her husband of 40 years, and see her beloved city at peace again.


ABDELAZIZ: Now, Margaryta, as you heard there, still wants to travel even further. She wants to make it to the United States.