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Executed Civilians Removed from Basement in Bucha; Satellite Images Prove Russia's Lying about Bucha Atrocities; Ukrainian Deputy Prime Minister is Interviewed about Russian Brutality. Aired 6-6:30a ET
Aired April 05, 2022 - 06:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.
BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning to viewers in the U.S. and around the world. It is Tuesday, April 5. I'm Brianna Keilar in Lviv, Ukraine, with John Berman in New York.
There's a new warning this morning. We have yet to see the worst of the horrifying atrocities at the hands of the Russians in Ukraine. Worse than Bucha, we are told, a Kyiv suburb that Russian forces turned into a killing field before withdrawing from. The world left reeling by their unimaginable brutality.
We do want to warn you that the images that you're about to see are disturbing. A CNN team witnessed the removal of five bodies from a basement in Bucha. They were in an advanced stage of decomposition, found in an area that was held by the Russian military. A Ukrainian official says that they were tortured and executed.
Ukraine's president, Volodymyr Zelenskyy, warning civilian casualties could be even worse in other cities. The death toll in Bucha alone is believed -- believed to be well over 300.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
VOLODYMYR ZELENSKYY, PRESIDENT OF UKRAINE (through translator): There is already information that the number of victims of the occupiers may be even higher in Borodyanka and some other liberated cities. In many villages of the liberated districts of the Kyiv, Chernihiv and Sumy regions, the occupiers did things that the locals had not seen, even during the Nazi occupation 80 years ago.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BERMAN: This morning, President Zelenskyy will speak to the U.N. Security Council, on which, of course, Russia is a permanent member.
Breaking overnight, the Russians on the attack in Eastern Ukraine, this region here, the Donbas region. We can push in and get a closer look at where all this fighting is right here.
A Ukrainian military official calls the situation there difficult, with heavy Russian bombardment. Ambulance and rescue teams unable to reach some districts where civilians are now being buried in their yards.
And this just in to CNN. An evacuation convoy of seven buses heading to the bombed-out port city of Mariupol, right here, unable to get through. Blocked and turned back by Russian troops. We hear that day in and day out for weeks. There are 100,000 people, at least, trapped in that city.
Just moments ago, the Russian military claimed it carried out long- range strikes with sea-launched missiles on what it described as a training center for Ukrainian special forces in Southern Ukraine.
We're going to begin, though, with the situation in Bucha, up here. We're going to start with CNN's Frederik Pleitgen and the horror he found there. We do want to warn you some of the images you're about to see are graphic.
FREDERIK PLEITGEN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice- over): Ukrainian authorities in Bucha lead us into a basement they call a Russian execution chamber. It's a gruesome scene: five bodies, their hands tied behind their backs, shot.
The bullet casings collected by Ukrainian police. Pockmarks from bullets in the walls.
The Ukrainians say these men were killed when Russian forces used this compound as a military base while occupying Bucha. An adviser to Ukraine's interior minister not even trying to conceal his anger.
"After the liberation of Bucha, five corpses of civilians were found here," he says, "with their hands tied behind their backs. They were shot in the head and in the chest. They were tortured before."
Even the body collectors find it hard to keep their composure.
Vladislav Minchenko is usually a painter. Now, he collects the dead left behind after Russian forces retreated from Bucha.
This is not what we learned in school," he says. "Do you see my hands? Hundreds, hundreds of dead. Hundreds, not dozens."
The Kremlin has denied Russia was behind any atrocities in Bucha.
(on camera): Now the Russians say the notion of their troops having killed civilians is all fake news and propaganda, but it does seem clear that they were here. That looks like a sort of foxhole position, and over there, they seem to have dug in a tank.
(voice-over): On the outer wall, the letter "V," a symbol that Russian forces painted on their vehicles before invading this part of Ukraine.
Now, a lot of Russian military hardware lies destroyed in the streets of Bucha and other towns around Kyiv as the Ukrainians made a stand and prevented Vladimir Putin's army from entering the capital city.
Images published shortly after Russian forces left Bucha show many corpses lying in the streets. Some bodies had their hands tied behind their backs.
President Biden calls what happened here a war crime. While visiting Bucha, Ukraine's president vowed to bring those behind the violence against civilians to justice.
"These are war crimes," he says. "And they will be recognized by the world as genocide. You are here, and you can see what happened. We know that thousands of people were killed and tortured, teared limbs, raped women and killed children."
And still, the dead keep piling up. Many lay in this mass grave behind the main church in Bucha. Local authorities tell us around 150 people are buried here, but no one knows the exact number.
And here, too, the scenes are tragic.
Vladimir 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 has strong words for the Russians. "Why do you hate Ukraine so much," she says? "Since the 1930s, you've been abusing Ukraine. You just wanted to destroy us. You wanted us gone. But we will be -- everything will be OK. I believe it."
But more corpses are already on the way. At the end of the day, we meet Vladislav and the body collectors again. Another nine bodies found in this tour alone. And it's unlikely they'll be the last.
BERMAN: The body collectors. Yes.
KEILAR: Thank you to Fred Pleitgen for that report.
No, it's -- We heard from the mayor of Bucha yesterday, John. He said the de-Nazification by Russian troops is the dehumanization of Ukrainians. And I think we're seeing that in full effect there on the ground.
BERMAN: Yes, indeed. And again, I just -- the idea that there's a profession right now of body collectors in what will be many towns of Ukraine is chilling.
And this morning, despite what the world is seeing in Bucha, the Russian defense ministry calls it fake and staged, but these new satellite images from Maxar Technology prove the bodies have been lying on the streets for weeks, including when the town was under Russian control.
CNN's Nic Robertson is live in Brussels with the latest on this.
We have the images from the satellites. We have our reporters on the ground, Nic, simply telling one story here despite what the Russians are saying.
NIC ROBERTSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL DIPLOMATIC EDITOR: Yes. It's not just the defense ministry, Sergey Lavrov, the Russian foreign minister is jumping in on this, as well, claiming that this is fake, that the Russians weren't in control of the town at the time.
He said that the bodies had sort of suddenly appeared on lots of television outlets in the days that after Russian forces left on the 30th of March.
The satellite images, though, do not lie. They tell a different story. They place the bodies on the streets of Bucha exactly where reporters and Ukrainian government officials saw them when they drove into Bucha when the Russians left. They placed them there on the 18th of March at a time very clearly when Russia was in control.
Russia is trying to do what it's done in so many wars before, which is deny the obvious, lie and obfuscate, say that they aren't responsible, that it happened by other means.
But now they're up against technology, which can -- could catch them out on their conspiracies and lies. And this is something Russians haven't faced before, and potentially, this Puts president Putin in a more precarious predicament when it comes to the potential prosecuting of him for war crimes.
Not just President Biden saying he's committed war crimes. So many leaders here are, as well. The president of the European Parliament, who was in Kyiv last weekend, called it a war crime. The president of the European Commission here, Ursula von der Leyen, going to Kyiv this week, has called it a war crime.
So, too, the Latvian, Lithuanian, Estonian, Bulgarian, Finnish, Spanish, Austrian prime ministers, all calling it a war crime. The Polish prime minister going further, calling it a genocide.
There is no doubt here that Russia's lies won't wash. and they have been exposed for what they are -- John.
KEILAR: Yes, and also President Zelenskyy, Nic, saying that it's going to be worse, right? These are towns and cities that have been cut off for so long. And this is the first glimpse that the world is getting.
If it is worse, you know, what does that trigger? At what point does more accountability -- is it triggered?
ROBERTSON: this is what the European Union is struggling with now. And I think many countries are.
Their leaderships know that their publics are outraged. They are morally outraged as national leaders, as well, about what is happening. The European Union there, sort of constrained to a degree by what they
can do, what sanctions they can impose by the pain it may inflict home -- inflict on their own countries and trying to keep unity within the European Union.
But the real struggle here is that the bigger the outrage has become, the greater the pressures are on them to act. And you have, you know, there are some analyses that would say don't go too far, because you'll essentially potentially trigger World War III if you react too strongly.
But undoubtedly if more atrocities are unearthed, the pressure will grow, the sanctions will likely be stronger. The hands of the politicians here will be firmed up.
It's an interesting point here to be made that Russia is using the tactics that it's always used in the past. But through history, we've seen that the side that has the advantage of a new technology, be it going back to the Middle Ages and Henry V at Agincourt with his longbow arches, the English defeating the French; or First World War and the use of tanks, it gave those sides an advantage.
Here, the advantage is on the side of those who can expose and tell the truth. And that is through the technologies, the satellite technology here that wasn't available in such real time in the public domain in previous wars; is now catching Russia out and may yet be part of their undoing.
But how to undo them, that's the tough thing at the moment.
BERMAN: Indeed. Look, you hope the truth would be an advantage, in and of itself.
Nic Robertson in Brussels, thank you so much for your reporting.
Ukraine's deputy prime minister accusing the Kremlin of conscious genocide and referring to Russian forces as animals.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BERMAN: That's a CNN crew trapped by incoming artillery fire. One of their vehicles badly damaged. You'll hear from the correspondent and the team that, thankfully, survived this.
KEILAR: "Animals in military uniforms." "Conscious genocide" by Russian forces. That from the deputy prime minister of Ukraine on these shocking images that are coming out of Bucha.
She detailed the horror that she's seen on the ground and what more she wants the West to do about it.
KEILAR: President Zelenskyy saying that casualties may actually be much higher in places besides Bucha. He specifically talked about Borodyanka. What are you hearing about potential atrocities in that area and other areas?
IRYNA VERESHCHUK, DEPUTY PRIME MINISTER OF UKRAINE (through translator): President Zelenskyy is right. Bucha is just one city. I -- I'm responsible for humanitarian corridors. And I can tell you, I can confirm, that there hasn't been a single day where we could open a humanitarian corridor fully for women and children to escape.
And today, in Mariupol, people are dying. There are atrocities going on just as we speak in Mariupol. Putin is killing people there. 100,000 people in Mariupol are dying as we speak.
KEILAR: Are you expecting that what we've seen in Bucha is just the beginning? Will we see other scenes like this?
VERESHCHUK (through translator): We will see such atrocities in many more places if Putin is not stopped. Putin is a war criminal. He must be stopped. His army chiefs are responsible for war crimes, and they must be found. And they must be stopped.
There must be an international effort to get them -- to hold them accountable in an international criminal court. If we don't do this together, then Ukraine will have to do this on its own because we have no other way. We have to find them.
KEILAR: Why, Deputy Prime Minister, did Zelenskyy mention Borodyanka? What has happened in Borodyanka?
VERESHCHUK (through translator): Indeed, he mentioned Borodyanka, because Borodyanka was also fully occupied for a while, and we had no access. We could not see what was happening there.
Therefore, we are inviting journalists, criminal experts and anybody with relevant experience to come and witness what we will discover in Borodyanka, because we know that the animals in military uniform, there's no other way to call them, were torturing women and children.
KEILAR: They were torturing women and children. What have you learned?
VERESHCHUK (through translator): Yes, because there are -- there are witness accounts. We know that women were raped, and civilians were killed, just for walking in the street or hiding in the basement. Thousands of such people have been tortured and killed. And we have thousands of witness accounts.
And we need -- we -- I agree with President Zelenskyy when he says that this was conscious genocide of Ukrainian people. KEILAR: You have been updating about the status of the mayors who are
detained and about one mayor in particular, Olga Sukhenko, who was killed along with her husband and son. And I just wanted to clarify something that you said last night. Were you saying that her son was decapitated?
VERESHCHUK (through translator): We found her son's head in the same ditch where they were buried.
KEILAR: I am so sorry. These are horrific things that we are hearing about, that the world must know about. I'm wondering what President Zelenskyy is going to be saying to the U.N. here shortly? What will his call to the world be?
VERESHCHUK (through translator): I think he will tell the whole world about what's happened.
And if the world is still thinking how to minimize losses from the sanctions against Putin; whether to introduce an oil and gas embargo on oil and gas imports from Russia; if the world is still thinking about that and how to evade sanctions, then they are all complicit.
And they need to realize that these are the dollars that go to Putin and that he uses to kill Ukrainian women and children. And that makes everyone complicit and everyone responsible for these -- for these crimes.
So, if they want to evade sanctions, then they are responsible for these crimes, as well.
So, you are a great American nation, and you have a great president, Joseph Biden. You are the No. 1 country. And you need to take the lead and -- and show people that we together, we can stop Putin.
We have to stop him. And together, we have to say no to Russian oil and gas. We have to stop these atrocities.
KEILAR: What more do you need from President Biden and America?
VERESHCHUK (through translator): We need air defense. We need to make our skies safe, because we are getting thousands of bombs, thousands of missiles dropping on the heads of our women and children. We need to protect civilians.
And we also need an embargo on Russian oil and gas. Because that's the only thing that will stop Putin. You -- we stop him with our arms and hands, and you stop him with the oil and gas embargo. And that's the only way we can keep our civilians safe.
KEILAR: America has stopped imports of Russian energy, but of course, America is not as reliant on it as Europe. What do you want from America when it comes to influencing Europe in that regard?
VERESHCHUK (through translator): I would like America to do what it can to make Europe less dependent on Russian energy.
If in 2015, Germany knew full well that Crimea has been annexed and our Donbas and Luhansk regions have been -- have been annexed and occupied, and yet they continued to develop Nord Stream 2, and if that's what they do, then Germany is not fully aware of the danger and the threat that's facing Europe.
And if France and Germany, while being mediators in the Normandy format over the agreement between Russia and Ukraine, and yet while being mediators, they continue selling arms to Russia. They sold hundreds of millions of euro worth of arms to Russia that were used to kill our women and children, and while being mediators in peace talks.
Then I think President Joe Biden and the American people must put all the influence, put every pressure and use all their influence to make Europe to -- to rid Europe of this dependence on Russian oil and gas, which stink, frankly speaking, with the blood of our children. They smell.
And so President Biden and the American people need to stop Putin and stop this campaign.
KEILAR: And if Bucha doesn't change their mind, doesn't change Europe's mind, what is your message to them?
VERESHCHUK (through translator): Then I want to say that the blood of our children is on their hands. They are responsible for what is happening in Bucha, Hostomel, Borodyanka, what happened in those places and what is happening in Mariupol.
KEILAR: We heard yesterday the former president, Petro Poroshenko, saying there needs to be an international commission or an international mission, I should say, to investigate and document war crimes. Has that been initiated? Is that going to be requested, if not?
VERESHCHUK (through translator): Two days ago, President Zelenskyy announced the creation of an international commission with the involvement of experts in these -- in these areas. And anybody with experience can take part in investigating these war crimes.
And we especially want to thank journalists and your channel, CNN, who are risking their lives to uncover and expose these crimes, live on air, expose these atrocities that should not be happening in the 21st Century.
KEILAR: Finally, Deputy Prime Minister, I know, as you mentioned, you are in charge of these humanitarian corridors. For yet another day, we've seen the corridor to Mariupol not work. The International Committee of the Red Cross has not been able to get through.
Why is Russia doing that? Why is Russia preventing this, in your opinion?
VERESHCHUK (through translator): They are doing this, because they want to demonstrate their contempt. Putin wants to demonstrate his contempt for international humanitarian law and for the leaders of world who have asked for these corridors to be open; for Macron, and Biden and Johnson, and for the pope. Because the pope asked for humanitarian corridors to be open.
But Putin and Russia disrespect. They -- they despise us and humanitarian law and the leaders, the democratically-elected leaders. And that's why Putin has to be stopped so to prevent him spreading his dictatorship over Europe and the whole world.
KEILAR: Deputy Prime Minister Iryna Vereshchuk, thank you so much. We know that you're incredibly busy this morning. We really appreciate you joining us and talking to us about the challenges that you're facing.
VERESHCHUK (through translator): Thank you.
KEILAR: The Pentagon issuing a very specific and candid warning about where Vladimir Putin is heading next and how this war may last.
Plus, back in the United States, two more Republican senators say they'll vote for President Biden's Supreme Court nominee, and one of them attacking her own party.
BERMAN The Kansas Jayhawks are the kings of men's college basketball after the biggest comeback in championship game history. Andy Scholes was there in New Orleans, and with some blurry eyes this morning, has this morning's "Bleacher Report."