Return to Transcripts main page

New Day

Russian Strike Hits Ukrainian Train Station. Russian Forces Knew Train Station Full of Civilians. Borodianka Demolished. Dozens Dead of Russian Strike on Train Station. Ketanji Brown Jackson Appointed. Aired 7-7:30a ET

Aired April 08, 2022 - 07:00   ET



BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN NEW DAY HOST: Breaking news out of eastern Ukraine. New imagines just in that show a Russian missile strike on a packed train station. This is a train station that has been packed, everyone knows this, for days. Thousands of people there were trying to evacuate. First responders say at least 30 were killed and that this includes at least two children. 100 more injured. Their bodies seen lying on the ground with their suitcases next to them, covered in tarps.

You can see it there. Blood everywhere, innocent civilians trying to escape from hell, and this is what they've encountered. A Ukrainian official says the Russians knew what they were hitting. Let's take a look at these images taken four days ago. Families walking on the crowded platforms waiting to take them somewhere safer.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN NEW DAY HOST: Yes. This is the part of the country where it took place. Kramatorsk here in eastern Ukraine, the city where it happened. Ukrainian officials say the Russians are planning for what they call a massive breakthrough attempt in the Donbass region of Ukraine, this area over here. The preparations for the offensive they say are nearing completion, and residents are being told to get out. They're being told to get out from this part of the country, so the thousands and thousands of people at that train station this morning were doing what they had been told to do to get out, to evacuate because this area is becoming a battlefield. And now so many of those people are victims.

I want to bring in CNN Chief International Correspondent, Clarissa Ward. She is live this morning in northern Ukraine, in Chernihiv, which is a city that itself has been devastated. And Clarissa, I want to talk to you about where you are because that city has seen so much tragedy, but first just your reaction to the breaking news this morning, this train station. Thousands of people there hit by the Russian missile strike.

CLARISSA WARD, CNN CHIEF INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: I mean, John, the images that we have been seeing coming out of Kramatorsk are so horrific, so disturbing, many of them we can't even show because they are simply too upsetting. This was, as you said, a hub for evacuations, to try to get civilians out of these areas as Russia pushes deeper, trying to launch a major offensive in the eastern part of the country.

And what was, perhaps, most disturbing to me was to see the words written on this missile, "dlya ditey", for children. Now we don't know who exactly was responsible for writing the words on that rocket, but what we do know as you said is that Kramatorsk and the surrounding area is now the focal point for this massive Russian push into the east.

And we're here in the north in the city of Chernihiv. This was also a major focal point for the Russian military as it pushed north. Russian forces have now retreated from this area, but as they have pulled back we have seen laid bear the full horror of what was going on here, the full scale of just the astonishing amount of bombardment that was raining down on this city for more than a month as it was completely encircled and besieged. Take a look.


WARD: For weeks Chernihiv was completely cut off from the rest of the country. Once a vibrant city of 300,000 people, now parts of it a waste land. Just 45 miles from the Belarusian border it was quickly surrounded by Russian forces. There was no power, no water, and little food.

71-year-old Ivan Yovanovitch (ph) survived the relentless bombardment, but his struggles are far from over.

IVAN YOVANOVITCH: (foreign language).

WARD: (foreign language) He's saying that he's hungry. He needs something to eat. He's asked us if we have any groceries.

Less than one week after Russian forces left this area, Chernihiv is reeling, and the true scale of its loss is only starting to emerge. Outside the morgue, makeshift coffins stand ready for the dead. Authorities say at least 350 civilians were killed in the bombardment, and they expect to find more.

Overwhelmed, morgue director Sergey Andrev (ph) is now using a refrigerator truck to store the bodies of those who have yet to be identified. Their relatives likely fled the fighting or were killed in it. He tells us hundreds more died because they simply couldn't reach the hospital.

There was a constant flow of dead people like this in our morgue. The main reason was heart attacks, pneumonia, diabetes he says. And I believe all of this was because they didn't get medical treatment on time.

Cut off from the main cemetery by constant shelling, the city was forced to clear a wood to make room for the dead.


Buried in large trenches, their names signposted for relatives to find. What's so heartbreaking to see is people here looking desperately trying to find their loved ones among this massive new graves.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: (foreign language)

WARD: "Did you find him?" this woman asks. She's looking for her husband, Vladimir Shulga (ph). (foreign language).

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: (foreign language)

WARD: "I can't find him," her daughter tells us. "I need to keep searching." Those who are lucky enough to find their family members can at least say goodbye. The farewell brings little solace. At one grave relatives mourn the death of Vladimir Agetenko (ph), a Ukrainian soldier who was ambushed by Russian forces as he tried to recover the bodies of his fallen comrades. His father, Leoned (ph), says it was 17 days before the Russians left when he could finally reach the place where his son was killed.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (foreign language)

WARD: "I dug the ground with my own hands. I uncovered his face, he says, and I recognized him."

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: (foreign language)

WARD: "We waited for him and then we lost him," Vladimir's (ph) wife says. "They took him and we lost him." Russia's war has taken so many from Chernihiv, and while its forces may have retreated the grief will long remain.


WARD: Now despite the ferocity and the brutality of Russia's onslaught here in the north, the Ukrainian Army was able to stop them from entering the city. They literally got just a mile away from the outskirts in that direction behind me, but what's interesting, John and Brianna, is when you talk to people here it doesn't yet feel like victory. There are still a lot of fears for many citizens of this city that the Russians could quickly come back. Remember, we are just 45 miles from the Belarusian border, and there's a sense that the Russians here cannot be taken at their word and that they could come back and that they could attack this city once again.

So not yet a sense of real victory and relief, but you are starting to see the beginnings of at least an attempt to return to normal life. You can probably see cars now moving along the road behind me. There was a long line of traffic to get into the city when we arrived here yesterday as people who fled, by the way at least 200,000 of them try to come back, make sense of what's happened to their homes, their lives, what is left of them. John, Brianna -

KEILAR: Yes, maybe they can at least catch their breath for a moment, but they can't be truly relieved. I do wonder, Clarissa, as we're looking and getting these new pictures coming out of Kramatorsk and this train station and this horrific attack on this civilian target, how is this going to affect people who are trying to get out of the east to safety? WARD: Obviously this has a hugely-damaging effect because people are already so frightened. They're already unsure of where to go, of where is safe in Ukraine because there have been so many different pushes on different fronts. And the one thing that did seem to be relatively safe for ordinary civilians was the rail system.

We have seen, of course, examples of Russian forces targeting elements of the railway, but for the most part is has been able to function largely, and it has been a crucial lifeline for people trying to get their families, their children, their loved ones out of some of the hardest hit and most highly-threatened areas. And the fact that this was a railway station that was hit, that it was full of people trying to evacuate will, of course, create a huge ripple of panic and fear among ordinary people who now will really second guess the decision to take that step, to go to a railway station and potentially risk their lives.

I also think it just infuses this sense of outrage, of anger at the level of ugliness in the sort of indiscriminate targeting that we have seen throughout this war, and I think it sends a shiver down the backs of so many people wondering what will unfold in the east. Russia has promised this renewed push.


Could it get even uglier? Could it get even worse than so many of the images and stories that we have already seen across this country? It's a question we don't know the answer to yet, but we may well find out in the coming days.

KEILAR: Clarissa Ward, thank you so, so much for that report from Chernihiv. We appreciate it.

BERMAN: And just so people know what Clarissa was talking about there, there is this image now coming from the scene of what is believed to be one of the Russian missiles used in this strike, and on the Russian missile you can you can see these letters which spells out "for children", "for children". Now again, we don't know exactly who wrote this on the missile. Was it before it was launched? Was it after? But the fact of the matter is at least 30 people have been killed. Among the killed at this train station are children.

All right, joining me now Kim Dozier, CNN Global Affairs Analyst and Contributor at "Time Magazine". Kim, thanks so much for being with us. The train station is right here Kramatorsk. You can see it. It's in the Donbass region, this eastern part of the country where they do expect the fighting to get even more intense. Tell me what is happening here.

KIM DOZIER, CNN GLOBAL AFFAIRS ANALYST: Well right now Russian forces from other parts of the country are regrouping, many of them up here in the Belgariad area, and they are preparing to head down and try to take this, to connect the areas that they partially have with this part of eastern Ukraine, and you can see that Sloviansk and Kramatorsk where the train station attack happened are right in that path. BERMAN: Boy, you look at this map, I mean, you don't have to be a cartographer. It's right in the middle of the area they're trying to take over.

DOZIER: And you have to think about their frame of mind. They're angry. They've lost many of their comrades, and Russia watchers tell us they may well be on a deadline. Just over a month from now, May 9, that is the Russia Victory Day Parade celebrating the victory in World War II over the Nazis, and this may be when t hey want to be able to declare some sort of victory and perhaps declare a ceasefire, but they've got to take a lot of territory in eastern Ukraine before they do that.

BERMAN: And just to be clear, again, as you're looking at this you can see Kramatorsk right in the middle of this region right now where the fighting could get fierce, also where thousands and thousands of civilians have been evacuating every day.

Let's just be clear about this. They've been told to leave. They were doing what they were told. They were there. Everyone knows they're there, and now they've fallen victim to this. Talk to me about the unique characteristics of what the fighting might be like in those parts of the country.

DOZIER: The problem with this part of the country is the terrain lends itself to Russian tank warfare. It is flat unlike the rest of the country where it was a lot of urban fighting and some areas even mountainous. These are the steps that make up eastern Ukraine, nowhere to hide.

So this means that the Ukrainian - the thousands of Ukrainian forces that are in that wide plain, they can't rely on the ambushes and the sneak attacks that have proven so devastating in the past. What could that mean? Well if the Russians are working towards a May 9 deadline, if we go back to the map the Russians could trap thousands of troops in here, creating a situation where the Ukrainians will not give up. They're surely not going to evacuate from there the troops. So we could have bloody fighting in this area that goes well past May 9 and creates a Stalingrad type situation.

What have Russian troops done in those - in situations in the past like Mariupol? They've used everything they go, and also look over here. This is Russian air space. Most of their air attacks have been from Russian air space. They may risk some of their jets to hit those troops in here, killing zone.

BERMAN: It could be - it could be very deadly very quickly. Kim Dozier, thank you so much for being here this morning. Appreciate it. Brianna?

KEILAR: The Acting Mayor of Borodianka says that work is underway to clear ruble in his town, now completely almost destroyed now that the Ukrainian military has driven out the Russian presence there. He does say that it's unlikely that survivors are going to be found.

I spoke with Acting Mayor Georgii Yerko just moments ago. (BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

KEILAR: Mayor, thank you so much for being with us. President Zelenskyy says that Borodianka is more disastrous than Bucha even. Can you tell us what it's like there.

ACTING MAYOR GEORGII YERKO, BORODIANKA, UKRAINE: (through translator) The situation in Borodianka is very complicated.

KEILAR: Can you tell us what you're dealing with there?


YERKO: (through translator) The multistory buildings in Borodianka were damaged and some of them were destroyed through artillery fire from tanks and personal carrier vehicles from rifle fire and mortar. So the city suffered air bombardment where Russian airplanes used unguided bombs to destroy entire streets and some buildings completely collapsed if they had a direct hit from said bombs.

So the day before yesterday they unearthed 16 bodies and yesterday they managed to extract another eight bodies. All those bodies are in mortuaries now, and they need to identified killed citizens.

KEILAR: How many people, Mayor, do you worry are missing under the ruble, and do you have any hope of rescuing anyone alive?

YERKO: I'm afraid that there is no possibility to extract any people alive because of the bombardment basically destroyed the buildings, and it's unlikely that anyone would be still alive under the rubbles. The city is completely destroyed in terms of its infrastructure. The power lines are down, water and gas supply pipelines destroyed. Even sewage pipelines are destroyed, so effectively the city was turned into the prehistoric conditions and it's uninhabitable at the moment. And a lot of the schools were destroyed, hospitals, the musical school, and many enterprises stopped working as well.

KEILAR: Mayor Yerko, we really - we're so sorry for what you have been through, and we appreciate you being with us this morning to tell us about what people in Borodianka are dealing with. Thank you so much for being with us.


KEILAR: Mayor Georgii Yerko there of Borodianka there with us. Thank you to him. Soon we're going to hear from the Head of the Ukrainian Railways about the attack on the train station in Kramatorsk where so many people have died. Plus Ukrainian Forces expecting a massive breakthrough attempt by the Russians in the east. A member of the Biden administration is going to join us live next.



BERMAN: All right, the breaking news. We are getting our first video in from the Russian missile attack at a crowded train station in the eastern Ukrainian city of Kramatorsk. We're told thousands of people were there. I do want to warn you this video I'm going to show you is very graphic.

You can see the aftermath here. We're told at least 30 people were killed, more than 100 injured. You can see - I'm so sorry - bodies on the ground there, but this is the reality of what happened. Look at their suitcases, the blood-strained sidewalk there. That missile, I should tell you, the letters on it read "for children". We don't know who wrote them or when, but that is chilling to see that because we know at least some of the victims there were children.

This area, Kramatorsk, has been an evacuation route for thousands and thousands of people trying to flee the eastern region where the fighting has become more intense but he day, and Ukrainian officials say that they believe the Russians knew what they were hitting when they attacked this train station. How could they not know?

I want to bring in Kate Bedingfield, White House Communications Director. Kate, thank you some much for being with us. We just got our first look --


BERMAN: -- at the video from that train station. What's your reaction?

BEDINGFIELD: Well obviously we are seeing horrific atrocities across - we've seen across the course of this war since Russia invaded on February 24. You know, President Biden has been very clear. He has spoken from a place of moral outrage and also from a place of the mounting evidence we have seen the Russians and the Russian Forces I should say are committing war crimes.

So obviously these are horrific and devastating images, and we are doing everything that we can to provide the Ukrainians with the security assistance that they need, the weapons that they need to push back against Russian aggression. And, of course, we're doing everything in our power to make Russia an international pariah and to strangle its economy and to hold it accountable for the choices that it's making.

BERMAN: Will attacks on civilian targets like this increase or upgrade the type of assistance the United States is willing to give?

BEDINGFIELD: Well I think we have worked very hard to provide the Ukrainians with almost everything they've asked for. You know, the way this works is they provide us a list, we go through, we work to provide them everything that we can. So, for example, for every single Russian tank currently in Ukraine there are 10 U.S.-provided antitank systems. For every armored vehicle there are three U.S.-provided anti- armor systems, and that doesn't even take into account all of the contributions from our allies and partners.

So we have been very, very - we've worked very aggressively to ensure that the Ukrainians have the weapons that they need. We've obviously seen the Armed Forces of Ukraine, the brave people of Ukraine fight in an incredibly brave and inspiring manner, and we're doing everything in our power to ensure that they have the weapons that they need to push back on Russian aggression.

BERMAN: There are some reports that the Germans are slowing down the deliver of some tanks into Ukraine, and also obviously European nations are still buying Russian gas, providing hard currency to the Russians. I mean, could you make the case that the purchase of Russian gas from countries like Germany are paying for the missiles that are hitting this train station?


BEDINGFIELD: Well you now, the president was very clear when he announced a ban on Russian gas, Russian oil I should say here in the United States that our European allies and partners are in a different position than we are. The United States is a major producer in a way that European countries are not.

And so, he was very clear when he announced our ban that they're in a different situation. They're in a different position. Obviously part of the strength of our response, the strength of the western response has been that we've been united, that we've stood together, that we've stood with our NATO allies.

So, you know, obviously the Europeans are going to make the decisions they need to make for their economy. Our aim has been to impose maximum costs on Russia and the Russian economy and minimize the impact to the extent that we can, of course, on the American people. So the president is going to continue to do everything he can to strengthen Ukraine's hand both on the battlefield and at the negotiating table.

BERMAN: In addition to what's happening overseas, obviously, history being made in the United States. The Senate did vote to confirm the President's Supreme Court nominee, Ketanji Brown Jackson. A big moment. What do we expect to see today?

BEDINGFIELD: So today we're going to see a celebration of this both historic and historically-qualified nominee and now confirmed Justice to the Supreme Court. You'll hear from - you'll hear from her today. You'll hear from Vice President Harris today. You'll hear from President Biden today.

You know, today is really a celebration of elevating somebody who has the judicial temperament, how has the experience, who is going to be as, you know, the president says an incredible Associate Justice of the Supreme Court.

And, you know, this is a promise that President Biden made on the campaign trail. Said that, you know, if he was elected he would elevate the first black woman to the Supreme Court, and he's incredibly proud to have kept that promise, and we're going to see a celebration of that today. BERMAN: You know, it's interesting. Senator John Thune - there is no vacancy - other vacancy on the Supreme Court, but Senator Thune, Republican, said that if one does come up and the Republicans take over the Senate, he says basically he would not expect a new nominee to be confirmed. I wonder what you have to say about that.

BEDINGFIELD: Well look, I'm not going to prejudged where we may be down the line. What I could say is, you know, we saw this process play out effectively. We saw serious and effective consideration of Judge Jackson, now Justice Jackson. And she earned bipartisan support. You know, the president was grateful. Three Republicans considered her and voted to confirm her.

And so, getting bipartisan support in this day and age, you know, is a really impressive feat and a testament to how qualified Judge Jackson is. So we saw that the process was able to work effectively here and certainly in the future we would hope that the Senate would play its role of advise and consent as the American people would expect it to.

BERMAN: You know, you said there's going to be a big celebration today. It made me think about the last time there was a big celebration at the White House for a Supreme Court announcement for Amy Coney Barrett it turned out to be a COVID super spreader event potentially. What precautions are being taken today? I mean, firstly, when was the last time the president was tested, the vice president? Because we know Speaker Pelosi who we're looking at right here a few days ago is now positive.

BEDINGFIELD: Well the president was tested Wednesday night, tested negative, and as we said yesterday he was also not a CDC-defined closed contact with Speaker Pelosi, but look. Certainly we have seen an increase in cases. We know that with the BA2 variant is very transmissible. We are taking many, many precautions. We take precautions to ensure that the president is protected, but I do think it's important to note that, you know, it is possible he will test positive for COVID at some point, and we're in a very different place than we were, for example, when they held that event for Justice Barrett, which is to say we have vaccines, we have treatments. You know, the president is vaccinated and double-boosted, and so, protected from severe COVID. So we go - we take every precaution to ensure that we keep him safe, we keep the vice president safe, the first lady, the second gentleman, our staff here, but you know, it is certainly possible that he will test positive for COVID. And he is vaccinated. He is boosted and protected from the most severe strains of the virus.

BERMAN: You know, it's interesting you say that because does that represent a shift in overall thinking not just at the White House but for the country that basically we should live our lives? You're saying we're going to do what we're going to do and you might get it, but if you take the precautions that you are suggesting it shouldn't be that bad.

BEDINGFIELD: Well I think that's exactly right. That's certainly - you know, the president is certainly living his life just as, as you say, all Americans across the country are, while taking precautions, while ensuring that we're following CDC guidance. For example, in an area of high transmission you wear a mask. So there are things you can do to be smart about it and to protect yourself, but you know, we are in a phase of this virus thanks, I would argue, to a lot of good work from the Biden administration to get people vaccinated, to make antiviral pills available. We have treatments. And so, people are out living their lives, and certainly the President of the United States is doing that, too.

BERMAN: Is he going to go to the White House Correspondents' Dinner after the Gridiron Dinner might have been a spreader event?



BEDINGFIELD: I don't have any news to announce at this moment.