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New Day

Poland Worries of Russia Moving Across Border; Heavy Fighting Reported in Donbas Region; Russians Using Crematoriums to Dispose of Corpses. Aired 7-7:30a ET

Aired April 07, 2022 - 07:00   ET



ANDRZEJ DUDA, PRESIDENT OF POLAND (through translator): So, there is this help for Ukraine. It is being provided. It comes from the United States and it is also coming from other places. And this help is also provided from allies. We tried to separate Ukraine as good as we can.


DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: And Brianna, President Duda wasn't cagey about the weapons that this country. That Poland, is giving to Ukraine because he didn't want to say it's clearly because this is Russia's neighbor and this is a country, Poland, that has been in a very confrontational relationship for hundreds of years with Russia. And so, they are very worried.

And he admitted to me, they are very worried here in Poland about the security here despite the fact that, of course, Poland unlike Ukraine is a member of the NATO alliance and does expect to have the backing of the NATO alliance if Russia would move across the border here to Poland, Bri.

BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN ANCHOR: Yes. So interesting to note though, because Ukrainian officials here, Dana, saying that other countries should be worried and Poland is indeed. Thank you so much for that interview. Dana Bash live from Warsaw.

New Day continues right now.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is CNN Breaking News.

KEILAR: Good morning to viewers in the United States and around the world. It is Thursday, April 7. I'm Brianna Keilar in Lviv, Ukraine with John Berman in New York. And we begin with some breaking news. Heavy fighting reported in the

Donbas region. Vladimir Putin shifting the Russian onslaught to eastern Ukraine, as expected. This is according to Senior U.S. Defense Official -- one Senior U.S. Defense official that Russian forces have now fully withdrawn from the Kyiv and Chernihiv areas, but they could return.

NATO's chief warning that war could stretch on for years with Putin determined to control the whole of Ukraine.

There is no end to the Russian's leader brutality. Ukrainian military officials say at least two civilians were killed and five others injured in an attack on a humanitarian distribution point in the town of Vuhledar in Donetsk.

And then last night Ukraine said three Russian cruise missiles were shot down near Zaporizhzhia. A CNN team did hear what sounded like an aircraft and a loud explosion, one loud explosion.

Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelenskyy pleading with the west to impose stricter sanctions on the Kremlin. He says that a weak response will be seen by Putin as permission to start a new bloody wave in Donbas.


VOLODYMYR ZELENSKYY, PRESIDENT OF UKRAINE (through translator): It seems the Russian leadership really got scared of the world's wrath, that what we saw in Bucha may repeat because of what we may see in other cities. From where we will inevitably kick out the occupiers. We have the information that the Russian military has changed its tactics and is trying to hide kill people from the streets and basements in occupied territory.


JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: And the devastated city of Mariupol, Ukraine claims that Russia is using mobile crematoriums to dispose of the corpses there, perhaps to cover up the scale of the killing.

In Bucha, where CNN teams witnessed the presence of mass graves, the U.S. says the killings appear to be deliberate and premeditated. The Pentagon claims they can identify the Russian units that are responsible.

We also have disturbing new video this morning, this new drone footage shows the moment that a couple was killed on a highway near Kyiv. The man's name is Maksim Iowenko. The civilian gunned down with his hands in the air. His wife Ksjena also killed. The family has confirmed their identities to CNN.


KEILAR: I do want to bring in CNN's Phil Black here with me in Lviv. Berman was just talking about those mobile cremation facilities. We'd heard reports, I'm not sure if we've been able to confirm them ahead of the invasion, that Russia might be bringing these. And the thought was, this would be for Russian soldiers because it had been so unpopular in Russia that body bags were coming home back in 2014.

Now, we're hearing from Ukrainians they believe this is being used on Ukrainians.

PHIL BLACK, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: So this is from Mariupol City Council. They say that within that besieged city Russian forces are now bringing in these mobile crematorium facilities in order to burn bodies to cover up whatever has taken place in this besieged city over more than a month now. That's the accusation.

Keep in mind, no one really knows how many people have died in Mariupol, but we have a sense of the destruction and the suffering that has taken place there. We've seen videos of the buildings, 90 percent of that city is damaged or destroyed. We have no idea just how many people were killed or lie within the rubble or have been killed more directly by Russian forces.


The estimates, again from the city council, are conservative. But they point to more than 5,000 people, of which more than 200 children. So, I guess, the dark implication of this claim which we can't -- which we can't confirm, but if true then what it means is that we may never know precisely what has happened in Mariupol, how many people have been killed as a result of this incredibly brutal siege that has been going on for so long now.

KEILAR: Especially because we've also heard from Ukrainians that Russians have been -- Russian forces have been abducting Ukrainians and taking them over the border. Very hard to keep track of the numbers here.

Phil Black, thank you so much for that report.


BERMAN: So, you will remember, the mayor of Melitopol was abducted by Russian forces last month, held captive for several days. He was freed in exchange for nine Russian soldiers. This is the video of him being snatched off the street. Happened right there. Again, he has now since been freed and that mayor of this city right here joins me now. Ivan Fyodorov, thank you so much for being with us.

The moment that the Russians took you, grabbed you, what did you think was going to happen?

IVAN FYODOROV, MAYOR OF MELITOPOL, UKRAINE: I understand that the Russians was very angry because they just wait and that when they came to Melitopol cities and city government will raid (ph) them and (inaudible), but we didn't wait for them and our citizens go to protest the streets, to squares and to on this protest was more than 3,000 citizens. This is why Russian occupation was very, very angry. And they think if they kidnapped me they will solve all the -- all the problems. BERMAN: How did they treat you when you were in captivity?

FYODOROV: It was very hard situation. First of all, they left me without any connections, any information. They take my phones. Didn't give me any information. I didn't understand where is my parents, where is my family, where is -- what is the situation in city, in the country and where is my team.

Then they make a very, very long speech with me at night with seven, six soldiers with all guns, weapons and it was maybe three or four hours at night. And they start to make tortures (ph) in nearest camera with some guy who they take from the street and they think that it's a Ukrainian soldiers.

But, you try to understand that for Russian soldiers, life it's costs zero. That's why it's (ph) that they can come from the next camera to my camera and make the same. That's why it was very dangerous situation. And, of course, it's scary for me.

BERMAN: So you, of course, have been released now. You can't go back to your city, it's under Russian occupation. What are you hearing about what conditions --

FYODOROV: Of course.

BERMAN: -- or what are you hearing about what conditions are like?

FYODOROV: I understood -- I understand all situation in my city because every day, every hour I have connection, have communication with my citizens, with my team who now are leaving Melitopol. It's a very hard situation because when the Russian soldiers understood that they can't take the love from our citizens and can't have support from our citizens they start to make a (inaudible).

Now in Melitopol there is no food, there is no pharmacies, there is no food for emergency services. And now the soldiers take -- kidnapped businessmen, they kidnapped civilian people to take their money, to take their clothes, to take all the equipment from their houses and bring it Crimea to Russian Federation. Very dangerous situation.

There's agriculture and farms because Russian soldiers tried to find all agriculture agreement and take it off to Crimea elsewhere (ph). that's why it's a very dangerous situation, because --

BERMAN: Right.

FYODOROV: -- Ukraine gave -- because we can't make anything in our land. And, of course, at summer and autumn I mean we can't take anything from the land. And now Ukraine gave 30 (ph) percent of agriculture of production -- of some agriculture production of all over the world.


And it's a hard situation.

BERMAN: Right.

FYODOROV: Not only for Ukraine but --

BERMAN: It's a terrible situation.

FYODOROV: -- (inaudible). Yes, it's (inaudible) situation (ph).

BERMAN: Mr. Mayor, Ivan Fyodorov, mayor of Melitopol. We hope you get to go back soon. We wish you safety. Thank you so much for being with us.

FYODOROV: Thank you so much, John.

KEILAR: And now a story about one of the many innocent Ukrainian civilians killed in this senseless war.

"The New York Times" reports that 52-year-old Iryna Filkina was killed by Russian occupiers in Bucha. Her makeup instructor learned of her death when a close-up photo Filkina's very distinct red manicure covered in dirt spread widely in media reports.

That makeup artist, Anastasiia Subacheva is with us now. Anastasiia, I'm -- I am so sorry. I am so incredibly sorry. We have seen what has happened in Bucha. Many people do not know the people who have been killed. But you knew immediately because of her manicure.

ANASTASIIA SUBACHEVA, MAKEUP ARTIST: Yes, so Iryna was my student during all February. And during all February she had the same manicure with these beautiful red color and a big heart on her finger during all of the lessons. And when I saw first this picture I didn't believe that this is true. So, I started to recheck my conversation with Iryna and I started to compare all these pictures and I realized this is Iryna.

And my first reaction was like I felt that I am empty inside because how you can -- we had our last lesson on February 23, so one day before the war started. And one day you just have Iryna, you can have Iryna, you can teach her how to do makeup. But, another day you see her dead body on the ground and you know she just went to own home on the bicycle and that's all. She didn't do anything wrong. She just wanted to go home. And that's all.

KEILAR: We saw -- we saw the video. There's drone video from Ukrainians of someone walking their bike. And now we know who this -- who this person is and how much she meant to so many people. And one of the things that I think is most amazing about her, Anastasiia, is she could have left. She got her daughters to Poland, but she stayed behind to help, right?

SUBACHEVA: Yes. So, her daughter thanks to all people and to whole world (ph) because you now support us and support Iryna's daughter. And because of this support, Iryna has opened her phone (ph) like moms hand and she will help all children which suffer from war now. And this is amazing, and this is so great because you hear our pain and you hear what happened in Bucha. And, you know, I want to say that Iryna told me during our each

lesson, Anastasiia please live your life now, because she started to doing this very late or at when she was 52-years-old. But, she constantly told me, please Anastasiia live your life right now because you have only one life.

KEILAR: And she was living her life. I know that she was, you know, starting to kind of turn a corner into a different phase of her life and knowing you was part of that as well.

Anastasiia, I'm so sorry, this is heartbreaking, your loss and the loss of her family. And we appreciate you speaking with us about it. Anastasiia Subacheva, thank you.

SUBACHEVA: Thank you. Goodbye.

KEILAR: We do have some more on our breaking news. A full-blown ground war breaking out in eastern Ukraine as the Russians are changing their strategy.

Plus, he spent weeks on the ground in Ukraine reporting on the resistance of its people. Now back in the U.S., journalist Terrell Jermaine Star will join us live next.

And dozens of Russians and Belarusian athletes now banned from participating in the Boston Marathon and 5K.




BERMAN: All right, happening this morning, the Russian onslaught accelerating in eastern Ukraine in the Donbas region.

We're getting new reports of heavy fighting there. This even as new evidence of atrocities emerges in the area around Kyiv, an area in which the Russian forces have withdrawn from the last few days.

Joining me now is Terrell Jermaine Starr, who just returned to the United States after reporting on the ground in Ukraine. He's a Senior Fellow at the Atlantic Council's Eurasia Center and the host of the Black Diplomats podcast.

Terrell, it's great to see you in person.


BERMAN: We had a chance to talk to you so many times when you were there. And one thing I want to ask you, is because you lived in Kyiv for some time.

STARR: Yes. BERMAN: You know, we talk about these towns where we've seen the atrocities, Bucha, Borodyanka, Irpin. But, what are these towns like? Or what were they like?

STARR: Well, they were -- you know -- they were really quaint towns depending on which one you go to. And so, you know, people have their -- kind of like their little small homes and their gardens, very picturesque. And so, it's just for people if you don't want to live in the big city of Kyiv and you want to take about a 30-minute commute inside, you see that.

So, I mean, there are towns where people were, for Ukrainian's terms, like middle class per se. And so, they were actually pretty nice. And so, but to see them just in complete rubble is just -- it's just unthinkable.

BERMAN: Well talk to me about that. I'm going to put the pictures up now. Some of the destruction we've seen in places like Bucha and Borodyanka. Just buildings in rubbles. Graves with dozens of people inside them. Again, given that these are all areas where you've been or areas like them, what's it like for you to see images like this?

STARR: Heartbreaking, because you -- first of all, you think about are any of your friends, the people that you love and care for who are unaccounted for, are they in these buildings? Because the first thing you think about is how precarious it is.

And another irony of this is that during the beginning of the war people thought it would be these towns outside of Kyiv that would be the safest. And so, you had a lot of people who were actually going to their dotches (ph) into the suburbs thinking that they would be safer. But what we know is that the vast majority of the, you know, what we say as a reported, war crimes, et cetera, and genocides that's been done in these small villages as opposed to Kyiv, where so far it's been the most safest.

BERMAN: Wow. So, what you're telling me is this is where people were going to get safe?

STARR: Yes, absolutely. I mean, no one -- because when we were -- we were all contemplating where to go. I had friends contact me, I had people in security contact me and saying, what should we do.

And so, everyone just assumed that Kyiv was going to be the city that was going to be bombarded, that was going to be run over by Russian troops per se, if it really got to that.

And so, they figured that the best place to be would to be in these towns where they think maybe Russian troops would not be as interested. But, you know, unfortunately, and tragically that just wasn't the case at all.

BERMAN: So, one of the things we're seeing as the Russian forces have left this area, and I was in Lviv for two weeks, I left just Saturday, beginning to hear people talk about going back. Have you talked to people -- you know so many people in so many of these towns. STARR: Right.

BERMAN: Are people considering going back home?

STARR: Well, yes. So, for a wide range of reasons. I've spoken to a number of people who are refugees outside of Ukraine and for some people who probably thought that the west was an ideal place to be, but they realized that one, just adjusting is a lot more challenging than they assume. And so, you have some people, we don't have the exact numbers, who are actually going from Poland, from Slovakia back from Europe back into Ukraine.

And then you also hear -- people are just getting used to war, unfortunately. I know for me it took about six or seven days to be acclimated to the sounds, to the prospect of, as my friends say, oh it's a lottery. You know your building could get hit, possibly not.

Certainly not in the case of Mariupol or, you know, Kherson for example. But, you know, you just get used to the prospect that this could happen to you. But, then the more days that pass by you don't think so and you just get acclimated.

And so, it makes people a bit more comfortable, you know. Of course, people are worried about -- people are cautious about it. But they -- but they -- people want to move forward.

BERMAN: All right, one thing you had told me, which is extraordinary, you have been to so many different places in this country. One of the areas you've been is Chernobyl.


BERMAN: The region around Chernobyl. And we're getting word that the Russian troops literally dug in, in the forest there, dug into the ground in these forests. Explain why that's such an epically bad idea.

STARR: I -- you know, I've been to Chernobyl twice and part of the reason why I wanted to go, is I wanted to take people there through -- for -- through a tourism business there I'm going to be starting.

And so, Chernobyl, when you go there you have guides that specifically tell you, they point to the forest, do not go to the forest. They say this is where you take photos, this is where you shouldn't take photos. And you have devices where you can assess the radiation levels and you go to -- you can't even go to the forest area.

But what we've been told time and time again, it's a death trap. You are committing suicide. So, how we got it and how these Russian troops didn't get it is beyond me. Maybe their commanders don't care.

But, you know, clearly, if I were those Russian troops I would be scared to death and worried about contamination because you're instantly told that if you go into those forests you're signing your death certificate.

BERMAN: Don't touch the ground. STARR: Yes, don't -- yes, we're -- don't -- don't touch the ground, but then also what's really -- what really kicks me -- what really is incredibly interesting is that the people who work there don't go into those forests.


STARR: And so, it's just maddening that even the troops themselves would take it upon themselves to commit suicide. I mean, the commander could say, if you don't dig these ditches then, hey, I'll shoot you. But, hey, you take the bullet or you take the slow death, because that's definitely what's going to come to them. At least that's what we've been told about our warnings about never to go into the red forest, you never do it.

BERMAN: Terrell Jermaine Starr, we're so thankful for the help you gave us in the early days of the invasion. We're glad you're back here safely. I know that your heart is still there. You may very well go back soon and there are a lot of people --

STARR: July.

BERMAN: -- you care about in Ukraine. So, we wish you the best of luck and we look forward to speaking to you again.

STARR: Absolutely. Thank you.

BERMAN: Thank you, very much.

So a new report revealing that Russian troops are using band landmines that do not need to be stepped on to activate. And the foreign ministers from NATO nations meeting this morning. We're going to give you new information about what is coming out of those talks.




KEILAR: Happening now, NATO foreign ministers meeting in Brussels, Belgium to address the war in Ukraine. As Russia moves to concentrate its invading forces in the east, global powers are stepping up their efforts to help Ukraine defend itself.

CNN's reporters are covering the latest.

NIC ROBERTSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL DIPLOMATIC EDITOR: I'm Nic Robertson at NATO headquarters in Brussels where Secretary of State Antony Blinken is meeting with NATO foreign ministers.

He says he's come to consult, coordinate and collaborate. One of his early meetings with the Ukrainian foreign minister, and the Ukrainian foreign minister had three messages he said, weapons, weapons, weapons.

NATO foreign ministers trying to make sure that the Ukrainians are in a position to fight a long war and perhaps a tougher one --