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New Day

Exiles Enter Fighting in Ukraine; Buses of Migrants Head to D.C.; Mother Helps 12-Year-Old Escape from War; Hornets Have Rough Night in Atlanta; Booster for Children. Aired 6:30-7a ET

Aired April 14, 2022 - 06:30   ET



BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN ANCHOR: Salma Abdelaziz is covering this story for us from Poland.

SALMA ABDELAZIZ, CNN REPORTER: Brianna, if President Putin is weakened or impacted by a defeat or serious loses in Ukraine, there's one other country that that could seriously impact. That's Belarus, where President Alexander Lukashenko, often described as Europe's last dictator, backed by Putin, has cracked down on a mass opposition movement against them.

We met with some Belarusian dissidents who say they now want to join the fight for Ukraine because they feel the fate of Belarus might be determined on the battlefield.

Take a look.


ABDELAZIZ (voice over): With pristine uniforms and clean boots, these Belarusian exiles say they want to join the battle for Ukraine. We followed the men to their training at an undisclosed location in Poland. They call themselves the Behonia (ph) Battalion. A group of around two dozen aspiring volunteer fighters.

VADIM PROKOPIEV, BELARUSIAN DISSIDENT: The age is from 19 to 60. The occupation is from rock musician to a professional poker player, to ex-businessman.

ABDELAZIZ: Dissident Vadim Prokopiev is the organizer. Here, they can only carry Kalashnikov replicas. But they hope Kyiv will admit them into the army's international legion.

ABDELAZIZ (on camera): Why fight for Ukraine?

PROKOPIEV: That's the step one before the step two for (INAUDIBLE) for Belarus.

ABDELAZIZ (voice over): Most of them fled Belarus in 2020 when a popular uprising threatened strongman Alexander Lukashenko's then 26- year-old rule. The Kremlin-backed regime brutally cracked down. Now these exiles say they must fight President Putin, even if on foreign soil.

PROKOPIEV: If Ukraine loses this war, Belarus will have zero chance to get free. If Ukraine wins this war, that means Putin's hands are too busy and he's too weakened.

ABDELAZIZ (on camera): This is a tiny group. None of these guys have frontline experience. But they say it's about the symbolism of Belarusians standing alongside Ukrainians in their battle against President Putin.

ABDELAZIZ (voice over): There are hundreds of Belarusian exiles on the battleground. Four were killed, say opposition leader Svetlana Tikhanovskaya.

SVETLANA TIKHANOVSKAYA, BELARUSIAN OPPOSITION LEADER: Now they are defending Ukraine and who knows one day they could defend Belarus as well.

ABDELAZIZ (on camera): So, the Belarusians fighting for Ukraine are part of the wider resistance movement?

TIKHANOVSKAYA: Absolutely. Absolutely. Without free Ukraine, there will be no free Belarus.

ABDELAZIZ (voice over): And there are signs of defiance inside Belarus. Activists cut a rail line used to support Russian forces. But these are small measures.

ABDELAZIZ (on camera): What threat do you all actually pose?

PROKOPIEV: A long journey starts somewhere. So we build a small force, to build a bigger force, to change the game in Belarus.

ABDELAZIZ (voice over): The fate of two nations tied. Many believe Putin's grip on Belarus may be loosened if he is defeated in Ukraine.


ABDELAZIZ: You can see how President Putin's web of allies sort of spreads out across the region. And Belarus is key among those. It's been used essentially as a satellite base for Russian troops who have invaded from there, retreated to there, even fired cruise missiles towards Kyiv from there. That's why everyone's watching the outcome on the battlefield so closely. A weakened Putin could give opportunities for these dissidents, for these opposition movements, to try to push against Europe's last dictator.

KEILAR: That was an incredible report, Salma. Thank you so much for that. Salma Abdelaziz live from Poland for us. We do have some more on our breaking news ahead here. A key Russian

warship, really the pride of the Russian fleet in the Black Sea, severely damaged. Ukraine says it hit the ship. Russia denies that. The Pentagon is going to be with us.

Plus, back in the United States, the governor of Texas is sending a bus full of migrants all the way to Washington, D.C., in a stunt to protest President Biden.



BERMAN: So, new this morning, a protest from Texas Governor Greg Abbott against President Biden's immigration policies. He loaded a group of migrants onto a bus and sent them on a 30-hour ride to Washington, D.C.

Priscilla Alvarez has the latest from Washington.

Good morning, Priscilla.


This boils down to Texas really just picking up the tab for migrants who are interested in coming to Washington, D.C. Now, this is a step that Texas Governor Greg Abbott has taken in rebuke of Biden's border policies and specifically the terminating of Title 42 that will happen next month.

But the migrants that I caught up with yesterday at Union Station said they were quite happy. It was a long trek, over 30 hours, but they were provided food and water. And when they arrived to Union Station, a local NGO was there to help them get to their next destination in the United States while they go through their immigration proceedings.

Now, Texas Governor Greg Abbott said in a statement in part, quote, Texas should not have to bear the burden of the Biden administration's failure to secure the border. But it is Texas taxpayers who are paying for the transport of these migrants from Texas to Washington, D.C. And that is something the White House nodded to just yesterday.

Take a listen.


JEN PSAKI, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: These are all migrants who have been processed by CBP and are free to travel. So, it's nice the state of Texas is helping them get to their final destination as they await in their -- their outcome of the immigration proceedings.


ALVAREZ: Now, the White House has also slammed the Biden (ph) administration for stopping or at least disrupting trade and supply chains at port of entries as another directive from the Texas governor.


All of this, John, though, part of an ongoing feud between the Biden administration and Texas over immigration as the state digs in.


BERMAN: Priscilla Alvarez in Washington. Priscilla, thank you very much.

We're getting new information in that the Biden administration is in talks to send a cabinet-level official to Ukraine, to Kyiv.

Plus, a mother and daughter join us live after the 12-year-old escaped from the war zone where (ph) her family is still hostage to Russian propaganda.


KEILAR: As Vladimir Putin continues his unprovoked onslaught of Ukraine, the Kremlin has managed to convince many Russians, and even some Ukrainians, that it's all fake or staged.


That's the case with our next guest, Olesya Simonova, whose 12-year- old daughter, Eva, was staying in Crimea with Olesya's parents as she was finishing her degree in Massachusetts. Even as bombs fell in Ukraine, her parents could not be convinced of the reality, of the danger. And she had to find a way to rescue her daughter from the war zone.

Both Olesya and Eva are joining us now from Newton, Massachusetts.

Thank you to both of you for being with us. This is such an important story to tell.

Olesya, tell us, Eva has actually been with her grandparents, with your parents, in Crimea, while you've been completing this intensive program. She loves her grandparents. She loves her family there. And that was the arrangement that you had for the time being until you could finish.

When did you start to worry that she needed to get out of Ukraine?

OLESYA SIMONOVA, DAUGHTER WAS EVACUATED FROM UKRAINE: Hi, Brianna. Thank you for having us today.

Yes, that was an instant decision once I heard about invasion, I was terrified. And I was full of guilt because just a few weeks before the invasion, I brought her to my parents. And we -- I -- the first second I heard about invasion, I knew I should get her out of there.

KEILAR: And so her father, your ex-husband, who is a Russian citizen who lives in the U.S., he got her out of Ukraine? How did -- how did he do that?

SIMONOVA: Well, that was big trip. It was a 10-day trip for him. He had to fly from Logan Airport in Boston with Qatar Airlines. And he flew to Qatar. And then from Qatar he flew to Blissy (ph). And from there he took an overland route through Georgian border to Russia. And then he was hitch-hiking and taking buses and trains to get to Crimea.

KEILAR: And he was able to get her out through Russia, then through Armenia, as I understand it, eventually home safe to you.

I think one of the most incredible parts of this story is that both your parents and your ex-husband's parents don't believe what's happening. They actually believe Russian propaganda. Can you tell us about that?

SIMONOVA: Yes. And this is devastating because the moment I spoke to my parents, it felt like they were different people. And I have great relationships with my parents. We were always on the same page. And once I spoke to them, I could hear such weird things from them that we were completely apart in our opinions. So, they were aware that military actions were happening in Ukraine. However, they called Russian troops as liberators. And we have family -- we have -- my aunt and my cousins are in Ukraine. And it was like devastating to hear from my parents and trying to convince them that they're in danger while my parents just brush it off and were thinking that they were helping actually Ukraine, Russia is helping Ukraine to get rid of Nazi groups. And this is not a war. This is a special operation of liberation. And this was scary to hear when we all know that propaganda is huge. And -- but it was devastating to hear it from your own parents.

KEILAR: Yes. It's -- I mean, it's dividing your family. And I should have asked you this from the beginning, Olesya, but how is -- how is Eva doing?

SIMONOVA: Eva is doing great. She -- it's been a month since she arrived to the U.S. And I think she's adjusting really well. Her school is supportive. And I'm so glad that I made this decision. It was the right decision and it was the right time to get her out of there. Even though planning was difficult, I'm so -- I'm thankful for -- to my school, MGHHP, and my classmates and my faculty. And they basically stepped in at that point and we -- altogether we decided how to make a safe evacuation plan for my daughter.

KEILAR: I know that Eva is learning English, but maybe I can ask her a question about how she's doing. How is she feeling.


KEILAR: Eva, how are you doing?



I like -- I -- I comfortable here. KEILAR: You are comfortable there.

SIMONOVA: Yes, she has already started school.


SIMONOVA: I think it was a smooth transition for her.

KEILAR: That's wonderful, Olesya, she's already started school.

Sorry, go on.

SIMONOVA: Yes, I think it was a smooth transition for her. When she arrived, she was quite stressed and nervous. And she was very quiet. So, I gave her a few days to adjust, because that was a difficult trip. She was -- she was taking these crazy trip overland through a couple countries. And she was very tired. And I just decided that she needed some -- she needed a break.

And a few days later, I started talking about what has happened, and she was very confused as well. While staying with my family, she was thinking that Russia is helping Ukraine and was very confused about that as well.

KEILAR: I mean, I can't even imagine. Her grandparents and her parents are on completely different pages. And one is not, obviously, living in reality. That must be incredibly traumatic.

But Olesya and Eva, I will tell you, it is -- it is so beautiful to see you two together. We're so glad that you're safe, Eva. And we thank you both for coming on to talk about what you've been through.

Thank you so much.

SIMONOVA: Thank you.

AGUREYEVA: Thank you.

SIMONOVA: Thank you for having us today.

KEILAR: And best of luck, Eva, as you're adjusting to life there. We know that the community around you helped so much.

Russia is reportedly preparing for a large-scale offensive to conquer Donbas, the Donbas region in the east here in the coming days, just as Moscow is claiming more than 1,000 Ukrainian marines surrendered in Mariupol, something that Ukrainian officials are denying. We're going to speak to an adviser to President Zelenskyy's chief of staff, next.



BERMAN: The Charlotte Hornets had a rough night in Atlanta, and that's even before their game against the Hawks.

Andy Scholes with more in the "Bleacher Report."

Hey, Andy.


So, yes, last night, the biggest game of the season for the Hornets. It was win or go home in the NBA's play-in tournament. And it just wasn't Charlotte's night. The team bus got stuck behind a stalled train on the way to the arena, so they had to get out and walk the reset of the way, about a quarter of a mile.

And things didn't get much better when they got into the game. The Hawks blowing this one open in the third quarter. They go on to beat the Hornets by 29 points. And Charlotte getting frustrated in the fourth quarter. Miles Bridges gets ejected. And after a fan yells at him on the way out. He threw his mouth guard, hitting a girl in the stands. And after the game Bridges called his actions unacceptable and went on Twitter to see if he could contact that young lady to make up for what he did.

All right, in the other match-up last night, the Pelicans hosted the Spurs. Zion Williamson remains out indefinitely for New Orleans, but he was on the court during warm-ups doing a casual 360 dunk.

Now, the Pelicans had control of this game before the Spurs rallied with a 16-1 run in the fourth to cut the lead to six. But Brandon Ingram with some clutch buckets down the stretch, wins it for New Orleans, 113-103. Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich possibly walking off the court for the final time after 26 seasons. He would not comment on his future after the game.

All right, and, finally, the Dodgers' Clayton Kershaw had thrown seven perfect innings yesterday in his season debut against the Twins, but he was pulled from the game after 80 pitches. There have been 23 perfect games in baseball history. This was only the second time ever a pitcher went seven perfect innings and got pulled. The other was Rich Hill, also for the Dodgers, in 2016. The bullpen ended up blowing the perfect game, giving up a hit in the 7-0 win.

There's a big debate on social media yesterday, John. You know, I understand that Kershaw is coming off an elbow injury and it's very early in the season. I mean his first start. But I think you've just got to go out there, right? Just throw it. Just throw anything and see if you can get six more outs.

BERMAN: I don't know, those guys have so many injuries. I mean you'd think someone kidnapped a puppy, the outrage that's been on Twitter over this the last 24 hours.


BERMAN: Andy Scholes, thank you very much.

SCHOLES: All right.

BERMAN: Just in, news about kids and vaccines. Pfizer and BioNTech reporting a third dose of their coronavirus vaccine raises antibody levels against the omicron variant 36 times. The companies now plan to ask for FDA Emergency Use Authorization in the coming days.

CNN's Dr. Sanjay Gupta joins us now with the latest on this.



So, what they did in this particular trial, was in this age group, children age five to 11, they gave another small dose of the vaccine. So this is the 10 microgram dose, which is a third of the adult dose. They did this six months after the first two doses. And what they found is exactly what you see there on the screen.

Now, as you look at these numbers, keep in mind that what they're looking for is they're looking at safety and then basically in the lab to see how many of these antibodies are created. They're not so much looking at overall effectiveness of this because they're trying to do what's called an immunological study, trying to actually see, does this additional dose of the vaccine create more antibodies. And at least at a month, because that's how long they actually followed the participants in the study out, they found that there was a significant increase in the antibodies against omicron, a 36-fold increase.

So, that's sort of the data -- that's the data they feel is necessary to go ahead and submit for this Emergency Use Authorization.


You know, 12 and older, John, if you are that age group, getting the booster is part of being up to date with vaccines.