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U.S. to Seek Russia's Removal from Human Rights Council; Mass Graves, Bodies Lining Streets as Russians Leave Towns. Aired 8-8:30a ET

Aired April 04, 2022 - 08:00   ET



BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN ANCHOR: Others says that it could be more like 400 people. The mayor of Bucha told us earlier that half of his city is destroyed. He says they will never forgive the Russians for the crimes that they have committed there.


MAYOR ANATOLY FEDORUK, BUCHA, UKRAINE (through translator): We get the impression that the Russian authorities have gotten the green light from Putin and the Russian defense minister to have a safari in Ukraine. And they weren't able to take Kyiv, so they vented their frustration of Bucha and the surrounding areas.


KEILAR: These atrocities against civilians are sparking a global outcry and condemnation from world leaders. Ukraine's president echoing those calls, going even further, saying that Russia is guilty of genocide.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Also breaking this morning, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, Linda Thomas-Greenfield, announced a push to have Russia removed from the U.N. Human Rights Council.


LINDA THOMAS-GREENFIELD, U.S. AMBASSADOR TO THE UNITED NATIONS: We cannot let a member state that is subverting every principle we hold dear to continue to sit on the U.N. Human Rights Council. Russia should not have a position of authority in that body.


BERMAN: It's images like this from Bucha triggering that move by the United States. CNN's teams saw this with their own eyes, horrifying images, the dead strewn in body bags in that mass grave. We also have new satellite images captured by Maxar Technologies that appear to show mass graves dug in the grounds of a church in Bucha.

Let me show you where Bucha is on the map just so you can get a sense. You can see Bucha so close to Kyiv right there, just to the northwest of the central part of the city. We had other activity overnight we want to tell you about right now, an air strike, the Ukrainians say, in the port city of Odessa. This follows a Russian missile strike on an oil refinery and fuel depot this weekend. And in Mykolaiv, the mayor there says missile strikes overnight killed one and injured five.

We want to return, though, to Bucha. That's where CNN's Frederik Pleitgen and his team have been on the ground doing phenomenal reporting, bearing witness to the horror there. We spoke to him live just a few minutes ago. We're trying to reestablish communications with him. First, here is Fred with the story.


FREDERIK PLEITGEN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: 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 believed 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 Dmitri (ph). Now he's convinced (ph) lies here, even though he can't be 100 percent sure.

The neighbor accompanies him with strong words for the Russians. "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 still laying nearby.

Russia's military appears to have suffered heavy losses before being driven out of the area around Kyiv, this column of armor vehicles in Bucha completely destroyed.

The way the Ukrainians tell us is that Russians were trying to go towards Kyiv, and they were 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.

A national police officer says the Russian troops were simply too arrogant. "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.


BERMAN: It is just amazing to see that tragic but also so important, Brianna, to have Fred on the ground there to bear witness, to see with his own eyes, for CNN to capture the images of that horror because we know from history that people will try to deny what has happened there. But Fred is there and documenting it. And we could find soon that there are stories even much worse than this.

KEILAR: Yes. And you see Russia already denying it, right? You heard in Fred's story there where he's saying that Russia is saying that this is made up. It clearly is not. Fred is there looking at what is going on.

We also heard from the mayor of Bucha, and he said that there were children and teenagers among those killed and in that mass grave. And he said these were people who posed no threat to Russian forces. He said it was impossible not see that this was a child, it was impossible not to see that it was a mother carrying a child. These are the horrors that we're seeing.

BERMAN: We could see so many more of them.

We do have a story I want to tell you about right now. It's a story of survival that takes place here in Hostomel, which is so close to Bucha here. All this area in yellow is area that Ukrainian forces have reoccupied. They were occupied by the Russians, and that's where we could find out more stories of just horror. But in Hostomel, again, right near Bucha, Dmytro Lisovyy was sheltered in his basement for two weeks as the Russians attacked in and around the family home. And I'm joined now, hopefully, by Dmytro Lisovyy. Dmytro, can you hear me?


BERMAN: Dmytro, tell me what it was like. You hid in your family's basement for two weeks.

LISOVYY: Yes, it's correct. Unfortunately, we were occupied in the second day of the war, and it was our hiding place to hide from bombs, because artillery works every day and every night. And there are many parts of some artillery things in our backyard. And as a result, we are hiding and trying to protect ourselves with this -- how to say -- shelter, based under our house.

BERMAN: Russian troops --

LISOVYY: No -- yes, it was Russian troops.

BERMAN: Were they present on the streets?

LISOVYY: Yes. They were present on the streets. Maybe from fourth or fifth days they decided to check all houses. They came to our house. They destroyed all electronic devices inside our house, including laptops, including TV, and so on. They're trying to find smart phones. We give them the old ones and hide our -- as a result we have some connection with the world, and we understand what is going on and what could be a time for evacuation.

And of course, it wasn't a good time, and it was horrible to understand that every minute something could fly into your house, or soldiers could come and kill someone or destroy some of your things.

BERMAN: The Russian troops, were they violent directly at all with you and your family or anyone you know?

LISOVYY: They didn't kill someone, which I know, with their hand where we were in this place. The only story I know that they took away three men who tried to defend their self. But what is the result I don't know because it wasn't possible to go out of your backyard. It's go out to street, it wasn't possible. They didn't allow this. So we only see some things through window or some things we could see. That's all.

Also, I know now from neighbors of my parents that they stole maybe everything that could have some value in our house and in houses of our neighbors.


So now they are not even destroy houses with artillery. They stole things from houses. It's impossible to understand how it is possible in our time.

And one more thing that you might understand, that they appeared in Hostomel. Hostomel, Bucha, and Irpin, it's neighbor cities close to each other. It's about seven miles from border of Kyiv. So it's very close to Kyiv. And they appeared there because they used Chernobyl nuclear station as a base camp, and our army couldn't attack Chernobyl nuclear station.

BERMAN: We can see how close it all is. Chernobyl is up here, and we can see these cities, Hostomel, Bucha, Kyiv, Irpin down here.

You were able to escape, Dmytro. You got out of Hostomel. Have you been able to reach all your loved ones in Hostomel, in Bucha, in these towns? Do you know for certain that all your friends and family and people you know survived?

LISOVYY: My family is safe now. It was some lucky day that we were unable to escape, because their closest point for organized corridor was in Bucha. It's about four or five miles from our home. And we marked our car are with white marks and decided for our own risk to go through this territory, all controlled by Russian troops, all controlled by Russian troops. And there were many civilian cars destroyed by Russia during our evacuation. We saw it. They were shooting -- it was civilian cars. It's not some other troops or something like this.

If we are saying about my friends, to my friends, unfortunately still in this area without any connection for a long time, and no one knows how they survived. Are they OK? Unfortunately, no connection for all this more than a month.

BERMAN: Dmytro Lisovyy, we're so glad you got out. I'm so sorry that you and your family lived through this. I'm wishing you better days ahead. Thank you.

LISOVYY: Thank you very much. And thank you for these opportunity to share information from Ukraine. It's very good to have such an opportunity and to share with the world.

BERMAN: People need to see what's happening, and the world is horrified by the images we are seeing out of Ukraine. And this could just be the tip of the iceberg.

The former president of Ukraine will join us live coming up.

And what message does it send to Russia still sits on the U.N. Human Rights Council? A new announcement from the United States ambassador to the U.N. just moments ago.



BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN ANCHOR: I'm Brianna Keilar live in Western Ukraine in Lviv where you can hear the air raid sirens going off behind me, actually an all-clear for this area.

We do have some breaking news this morning. A major announcement from the U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations about Russia's position on the Human Rights Council.

CNN's Bianna Golodryga is covering this for us from Romania.


BIANNA GOLODGRYGA, CNN SENIOR GLOBAL AFFAIRS ANALYST: I'm Bianna Golodryga reporting from the Central Train Station here in Bucharest, Romania where as many as 600,000 Ukrainian refugees have come through. They have fled their war-torn nation.

Shortly, we will be hearing from the U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. responding to the atrocities and the images coming out of Bucha, Ukraine. She will be returning to the United States and to the United Nations where she will then be holding a vote seeking Russia's removal from the U.N. Human Rights Council.

LINDA THOMAS-GREENFIELD, UNITED STATES AMBASSADOR TO THE UNITED NATIONS: It is our intention to call for a meeting of the General Assembly and suspend -- and call for a vote to suspend Russia from the Human Rights Council.

GOLODGRYGA: You think you're going to get the two-thirds needed?

THOMAS-GREENFIELD: I know we're going to get it because anyone looking at the scenes have to ask whether Russia should be on the Council. This is beyond horrific. It's unacceptable. And we will ask countries to support us in that action.


JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Joining us now is Ida Sawyer, the Crisis and Conflict Director for Human Rights Watch. Ida, thank you so much for being with us. Just your reaction to that news, the U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations trying to suspend Russia from the Human Rights Council there.

IDA SAWYER, CRISIS AND CONFLICT DIRECTOR, HUMAN RIGHTS WATCH: So thanks, John, for having me. So we have documented numerous cases of war crimes committed during this conflict in Ukraine and we do believe that those responsible should be held to account, so this is sending a message that there are consequences for these actions committed by Russian forces in Ukraine.

BERMAN: I have to say your organization just put out a report that is chilling to read, horrifying to read, documenting as you say, atrocities that you have found in Ukraine.

And this report actually stopped a few weeks ago, it only was the early part of the conflict, it did not include the terror that the CNN teams are seeing with their own eyes in Bucha. Tell me some of the examples that are in this report.

SAWYER: Right, so in our report, we've documented several cases of Russian military forces committing apparent more crimes against civilians in areas that the Russian forces occupied in Chernihiv, Kharkiv, and the Kyiv regions. This includes one case in Staryi Bykiv, in Chernihiv region north of Kyiv where Russian soldiers rounded up at least six men on February 27th, and later executed them.

We spoke to the mother of one of the men who was nearby when her son and another man were apprehended, and she later saw the bodies of her son and the other five men. She said there were gunshot wounds on their heads and their hands were tied behind their backs.


SAWYER: On March 6th, we documented how Russian soldiers in the village of Vorzel about 50 kilometers northwest of Kyiv threw a smoke grenade into a basement where people were sheltering, and then they shot a woman and a 14-year-old child as they emerged from the basement, and both of them died.

We also spoke to a woman from the Kharkiv region, who told us how a Russian soldier repeatedly raped her on March 13th in a school where she had been sheltering in the basement with her five-year-old daughter and others. She said the soldier forced her into a classroom and raped her. He then took out a knife and told her to do as he said, if she wanted to see her child again. The soldier then raped her once more, and he put the knife to her throat and cut the skin on her neck. He also cut her cheek with a knife, cut off some of her hair, hit her on the face with a book, and repeatedly slapped her. He eventually left and the woman was able to flee to Kharkiv to get medical treatment the next day.

So these are just a few cases that we've been able to document in detail. They are clear violations of the Laws of War, which prohibit willful killing, rape, and other sexual violence, torture and inhumane treatment of captured combatants and civilians in custody and anyone who orders or deliberately commit such acts or aids and abets them is responsible for war crimes.

BERMAN: It's horrifying, and I was circling locations on the map so people understand that it is not isolated, it is spread out over the country. And people also need to know that this report that you compiled stops on March 14th, so more than two weeks ago. Think of what might have happened in the last two weeks since then, particularly as we learn what the Russians may have been doing as they retreat from some of these areas.

Ida Sawyer, thank you for the work your organization has done. Thank you for sharing with us this morning.

SAWYER: Thanks so much for having me.

BERMAN: Brianna?

KEILAR: We are seeing new satellite images of mass graves and destruction in Bucha that highlights the horrors some of what you just heard about, but other horrors as well that Ukrainian civilians are facing at the hands of Russian forces. And there are warnings this morning that this could be just the tip of the iceberg. What we're seeing is really the floodwaters receding and we're seeing the Russian forces receding and we are seeing what they have left in their wake, especially around the Kyiv area.

I want to bring in the former President of Ukraine, Petro Poroshenko, who is in Kyiv and has joined the fight against Russia. Sir, first, just your reaction to what we are seeing in Bucha.

We're actually having a little problem with his signal there. So we're going to try to re-establish this. We have lost him, so we are going to re-establish that. But just what we are seeing in Bucha is atrocious. It is just horrific.

We're hearing those stories from Human Rights Watch. We're hearing these stories that people are telling them about rapes, summary executions, and in Bucha, we are seeing it. We are seeing the video.

Petro Poroshenko back with us now. Sir, what is your reaction to this news coming out of Bucha?

PETRO POROSHENKO, FORMER UKRAINIAN PRESIDENT: First of all, we know what's going on here because just a few hundred meters from the position of our battalion to Bucha, and this is just a road to Bucha and Bucha is here about two kilometers.

That was a massacre. This is the disaster.

This is the way how the Russian forces war in Ukraine. This is the way how Russian world were transparent whole Ukraine because I today speak with our fighters in Mariupol and they said that it is it significantly worse in Mariupol than in Bucha despite the fact that it is impossible to imagine.

Also now that 340 people killed without mercy, many of them with a tied hand. We find it exactly that day. Don't be mistaken, Bucha is not alone. And for that, there shall be immediate reaction to these atrocities.

Point number one, we should convene a mandatory meeting of United Nations Security Council and United Nations Human Rights Council. Two, present and illuminate facts of the genocide doing the international investigation team exactly as I as the President of Ukraine do in 2014 and they made 17 terroristic attacks, three to call immediate international mission to Ukraine to study and record the effects of genocide.

Ask United Nations General Secretary to send a fact finding mission. Number four, immediate strengthening of sanction against Putin, against Russia because this is not only Putin, this is the Russian soldiers doing this massacre here against us Ukrainians.

Total political, economic, energy, and international isolation of Russia and International Criminal Court shall consider the effect of genocide against Ukraine.


POROSHENKO: Any so-called peace agreement with Russia is possible only when Russians will handle with all these responsible for these war criminals to be held fully accountable for killing Ukrainian.

The weapon of Russia, you should understand that it is rape, lie, and massacre.

KEILAR: And we are hearing that from Human Rights Watch. We just heard the interview about the interviews that they've been doing with people across Ukraine really.

But Mr. Poroshenko, I also wanted to ask you about some U.S. Intel that as you see these Russian forces moving away from Kyiv, the focus of Russian forces is now shifting to the East. It is shifting to Donbas. I wonder what you think about it. But also, I wonder if you think there's a possibility of Russian forces attempting at some point to regroup around Kyiv?

POROSHENKO: I have no doubt that the escalation -- this is the escalation, Putin style. No -- just words, no deals. And with this situation, we definitely don't trust Putin. We don't afraid Putin. But we are absolutely confident that they send the troops to Russia, because it was completely destroyed here, around Kyiv, but they want to regroup in that and we are definitely confident that it would be new attack on Kyiv.

They need just some times to refresh the troops, and at the same time, they want to now within maybe 10, 11, 12 days maximum, will be increasing the pressure and attack on the Donbas, on the East of our country, to try to encircle their our troops on the East.

And I'm absolutely confident that we don't allow him to do that. But for that we need more weapons. We must stop Putin here in Ukraine, not allow him to knock at the door of the NATO member states. No matter if it is Poland, Baltic States or something.

And can you imagine to stop Putin, we need just 100 jet fighters, we need just 300 tanks. We need just 500 armed personal carriers. And we have a lot of people staying in line to be enlisted in Ukrainian Armed Forces. And unfortunately we have a lack of the weapons. That's why we need three things: Weapons, weapons, and one more weapons. And with this situation, definitely, we stop Putin and throw him away from Ukraine.

KEILAR: Sir, I really thank you for being with us and sharing your message for the West as well.

Mr. Poroshenko, we appreciate it.

POROSHENKO: Thank you very much indeed. And thank you for being together with us.

KEILAR: And breaking overnight -- of course, thank you so much.

Breaking overnight, multiple Russian airstrikes hitting the southern Port City of Odessa we are live there on the ground.

And in the United States a mass shooting leaves six dead in Sacramento the multiple suspects -- multiple -- still at large -- we will have new details ahead.