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Russian Forces Launch Missiles Strikes at Targets across Ukraine Including Western City of Lviv; Mayor of City Near Kyiv Interviewed on Russian Atrocities against Civilian Population. Aired 8-8:30a ET

Aired April 18, 2022 - 08:00   ET



BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning to viewers here in the U.S. and around the world. It is Monday, April 18th. I am Brianna Keilar, and John Berman is off. And John Avlon is with us. Great to have you here.


KEILAR: Great to have you here.

Breaking news, a barrage of Russian air strikes overnight in cities all across Ukraine. Four missile strikes hitting Lviv in the west. And this is pretty extraordinary because officials now say three missiles hit military infrastructure or warehouses -- we're trying to sort that out -- but a fourth hit a tire repair shop destroying dozens of cars. At least seven people killed here, 11 others injured including a child, we have learned. Lviv, though, just to put it into context here, has largely been spared from the Russian assault. No civilian targets had previously been hit. So this is quite a new development here.

Just last week, in fact, the curfew in the city was relaxed, and so were the people. There was certainly a feeling of that. This western city practically on NATO's doorstep, about 40 miles from the border with Poland. Then overnight there were also strikes in Dnipro and Luhansk in eastern Ukraine. The military governor in Luhansk urging civilians to evacuate, saying there are no safe places left in the region.

AVLON: Officials say control over the city of Kreminna has been lost. They say Russian forces entered the town with a huge amount of equipment, and as some residents tried to escape, the Russians opened fire on their car, killing at least four. Ukraine's President Zelenskyy telling CNN they are not willing to give

up territory in the eastern part of the country to end the war. He says the coming battle in the Donbas region could influence the whole course of the war.

Meantime, the situation in Mariupol grows more desperate by the day, Russia telling Ukrainian fighters defending what's left of that city, lay down your weapons or be eliminated. That ultimatum rejected, yet another example of Ukrainian resistance. Today Russian officials say Mariupol, which is surrounded by Russian troops, will be closed for entry and exit, and the men remaining there will be, quote, filtered out.

Let's bring in CNN's Jim Sciutto. He's live in Lviv. Jim, tell us what's happening behind you? What is the feeling in the streets after these missile attacks?

JIM SCIUTTO, CNN ANCHOR AND CHIEF NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: What you have this morning is proof, evidence that Russia maintains the capability to strike targets across the entire country here. The fighting increasingly concentrated in the east and the south, in fact, intensifying there. But Russia still striking cities across the country including here in the west, and maintaining an ability to do so, and that then proving once again that civilians, Ukrainians living across this country face enormous risks.

The death toll in Lviv this morning, seven with about 11 wounded at this point. Four targets hit, three of them military infrastructure, the other a tire factory. We went to one of the military targets this morning, and just as a measure of the nervousness here, soldiers there forced us or attempted to force us to go away, not to film it. There are laws in this country about that. But one of the soldiers so nervous about it, if you want to call it, that he cocked his weapon as he shouted at us to get away. We did manage to get some images. But of course, you have to respect Ukrainian laws.

But it does show how the Ukrainian military, frankly, is aware of the threat, right, because they're concerned about follow-on strikes. There were air raid signals that followed the initial strikes, but they're also worried about those images getting out there, that they can be used by Russians for targeting or even for targeting individual soldiers. It's the nature of the war right now that while the fighting is focused in the east and the south, the danger extends across the country.

KEILAR: So what is the objective here, do you think, Jim, on the part of the Russians? I've heard people talk about, oh, this makes forces that are based in the west have to stay in the west so they can't go out and join, really, the larger fight in the east. But also it seems like they're just trying to scare the hell out of people.

SCIUTTO: The latter absolutely. Part of this war is to terrorize. We've used that word before. You see that in strikes like this, and then you see it in the deliberate targeting of civilians in a whole host of ways, razing cities, targeting apartment buildings, shooting at people even as they flee and attempt to use these humanitarian corridors. So yes, absolutely explicitly to instill fear.

But also, as you say, the more the Russians show the ability to strike across the country, the more they believe Ukrainian forces will have to spread themselves around the country, right, to protect targets not just in one part where the fighting is focused now in the east and the south. So there's a military objective here, and there's also, frankly, just a psychological objective, right, to scare people. And that's a quality of this war that we see every day.


KEILAR: Jim, thank you so much for bringing that to us live from Lviv. We appreciate it.

AVLON: The city of Brovary located just 20 miles from the center of Kyiv was hit by a rocket attack yesterday according to the town's mayor, Ihor Sapozhko. He joined me earlier this morning. Here is part of that interview.


AVLON: Mayor, what can you tell us ability the impact of yesterday's rocket attack in your town? Was anyone killed?

IHOR SAPOZHKO, MAYOR, BROVARY, UKRAINE (through translator): Fortunately, nobody has been killed. We had a rocket attack at around 6:30 in the morning on our infrastructure, and there was some damage. The rescue teams went to work, and we have managed to restore electricity and water.

AVLON: The Ukrainian prosecutor general said last night that six civilians in your town had been found shot dead in a basement in Brovary. Can you tell us more about that incident?

SAPOZHKO: You must be talking about Brovary region. That was in Brovary region rather than town. This was in the village of Shevchenko in Brovary region. Yes, indeed, six bodies were found of tortured civilians.

AVLON: Tortured?

SAPOZHKO: Yes, indeed, they were tortured. And this is unheard of in the 21st century. This is worse than Naziism, any sort of Naziism. These people were tortured to death.

AVLON: President Zelenskyy has said the retrieving Russians have been leaving mines on houses and even corpses in Brovary. Can you tell us more about that?

SAPOZHKO: Yes, indeed. The retreating forces have mined all the occupied territories that they're retreating from, and that includes Brovary. And mine clearance teams are working before civilians can get back to their homes. So at the moment, civilians can only get back to their homes with the permission of the military.

AVLON: Given what you've been seeing and hearing, what most concerns you about what could happen next?

SAPOZHKO: Well, whatever happens next, Ukraine is going to be around, and Ukraine will always be, and we are going to fight for our traditions, for our nation, and for our territory. And that's what I'm going to say.

AVLON: Final question, given all of this, what isn't the world seeing in Brovary that you want the world to know about?

SAPOZHKO: I'd like the world to know that Ukraine is currently defending the world's democracy, the democratic order against an occupier, against an aggressor. And that means children are being killed and women are being raped and people are being pour tortured. And this is unheard of in the 21st century, an age of technology and progress, and yet we can see that the biggest part of a European country has to defend the world and has to defend the world's democracy.

I just wanted to say that Brovary is not special in this situation. It could be Brovary or Bochua or Borodyanka, Mariupol, Kharkiv, we're all the same. We are defending our country. And we want to live at home in our home country, and we want to live in our democratic country. So Brovary is nothing special in that regard.

AVLON: You're all something special, and we thank you for your courage. Mayor, thank you for joining us on CNN.

SAPOZHKO: Thank you, and glory to Ukraine.


KEILAR: Let's talk about what is happening right now in Ukraine with CNN military analyst, retired Air Force Colonel Cedric Leighton. Let's talk first about Kreminna, Colonel, and what this means that Russians are now in control of it.

COL. CEDRIC LEIGHTON (RET), CNN MILITARY ANALYST: Yes, and this is actually a very interesting piece, Brianna, because Kreminna is right here. So if you look at where it is, it's right by the Donbas region, and it's right on the edge of where the Russian forces are right now. So this advance is not a major advance in terms of the kinds of movements that the Russians will have to make in order to capture more of the Donbas, but it is a key element in their way to doing that.

So what they're doing is they're moving through here. One of the key things to note, though, Kreminna is actually a city that was run by a pro-Russian mayor before he was killed earlier this year. So these kinds of movements here are in some ways revenge probably for that killing.


In other ways, it's also a way forward from a tactical military standpoint for the Russians to move forward into a region where they can then control the rest of the Donbas. PAUL: Let's talk about Lviv now. Lviv has been so safe there on the

west. And I like to remind people that if you were to turn California on its side, that distance is about the same of how wide Ukraine is. This is a very, very wide nation here. And Lviv is very far in the west there away from the front. And yet here we saw a strike on a civilian target, and we haven't seen that before, Cedric.

LEIGHTON: That's right, Brianna. And what's key here, you had mentioned earlier, it's so close to the Polish border. It's about 40 miles from Lviv to Poland, which is also 40 miles to NATO. So when the Russians are looking at targeting these particular areas, not only are they looking at critical infrastructure in terms of hitting major cities like Kyiv, but Lviv is not only a major city, it has a few installations and it is critical to the western resupply effort for the Ukrainians. A lot of stuff goes through Lviv, and the idea that the Russians have is of not only spreading terror, as Jim mentioned in his reporting from there, but it also shows a key element in going after the civilian population, going after them not only in their daily lives but in their ability to function and their ability to carry out things like moving around, like even potentially escaping.

So what the Russians are trying to do is they're trying to cut off all means of supply around here and in other areas, too. And when they do this kind of thing, they're doing it in a way so that the rest of the civilian population is cowed and, in essence, prevented from doing what they need to do. And it could also prevent the Ukrainian military from moving into other areas.

KEILAR: Do you think the Russians can effectively do that? Lviv, which is obviously actually so far away from Russia, there's not pro- Russian sentiment there. So they're able to keep secret, I think, more of what they are doing there in that region.

LEIGHTON: I think that's very true, yes. It's a very different Ukraine in the western part of the country as opposed to the east. And if you look at the broader map here, what you see is more or less in the past, before the invasion, pro-Russian areas kind of in here -- pro-western areas right in through this area. And what that really means is these are different parts of the same country.

And the other thing to keep in mind is the areas that were once pro- Russian are no longer as pro-Russian as they once were. A lot of this is changing politically. That means a lot for the Ukrainians, and it also will prevent the Russians from achieving their goals. The Ukrainians see what's going on here. Their resolve is going to be stiffened, and they're going to fight more than they have in the past. Not to say anything about what they've done in the past because it's been actually phenomenal, but this stiffens their resolve, and they're coming into this with a really hardened attitude towards the Russians and the potential Russian occupation.

KEILAR: They certainly are. Colonel, thank you so much for taking us through that. We do appreciate it.

LEIGHTON: You bet, Brianna.

KEILAR: Right now, the last fight is under way for the besieged city of Mariupol. The Ukrainians who are refusing to surrender.

And more from CNN's exclusive interview with President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, what he refuses to concede in any future talks with Russia. This is CNN's special live coverage.



JOHN AVLON, CNN ANCHOR: President Zelenskyy says Ukraine refuses to give up territory in the east to end the war with Russia.

In a CNN exclusive interview with Jake Tapper, Zelenskyy explains the battle over the Donbas region is extremely critical because the outcome of the battle could set the course for the rest of the war.


JAKE TAPPER, CNN ANCHOR: The new Russian offensive in the East, in the Donbas could start any day, your administration officials have warned that it could look as big as World War Two.

You won the Battle of Kyiv. Are you going to win the fight for the Donbas?

VOLODYMYR ZELENSKYY, UKRAINIAN PRESIDENT (through translator): For us, the battle for Donbas is very important. It is important for different reasons, for the reason of safety.

First of all, our grouping that is located in Donbas is one of the best military we have. It is a large group and Russia wants to encircle them and destroy them. It is nearly 40,000 people. It is 44,000 professional military men who survived a great war from the beginning of 2014.

This is why it is very important for us to preserve that part of our army. That is one of the most powerful. This is why it is very important for us not to allow them to stand our ground because this battle, and it can happen, so there will be several battles, and we don't know how long it is going to take.

It can influence the course of the whole war, because I don't trust the Russian military and Russian leadership. That is why we understand that the fact that we fought them off and they left and they were running away from Kyiv from the north, from Chernihiv and from that direction, it doesn't mean if they are able to capture Donbas, they won't come further towards Kyiv.

That is why for us, this battle is very important for many reasons. It is very important to win this battle.

TAPPER: What do you say to people either in Ukraine or elsewhere in the world who say, just give Putin the Donbas; just give Putin Eastern Ukraine, stop the bloodshed. Let him have the territory. What would your message be about that? ZELENSKYY (through translator): In the centuries' old history of

Ukraine, there is the story that Ukraine has either taken some territory or needs to give up some territory.

Ukraine and the people of our state are absolutely clear.

We don't want anyone else's territory and we are not going to give up our own.


TAPPER: You've inspired a lot of people, including not just here in Ukraine, but around the world. Who inspires you? Who are your heroes? Whose story do you look to for inspiration during dark days here?

ZELENSKYY (through translator): Only the people. I believe our people are genuine and unique, and I just can't afford to be worse than them. When it is certain moments, I feel like all of this is dangerous, I understand that all the rest of us are going through this as well. What people are feeling like, who are in basements, who lost their children, what our soldiers feel like right now.

I understand I have to be the strongest one in this situation, and this is all. And the most important is the way my children look at me. They have to be proud of me. This is the most important thing. I do everything for this.

TAPPER: Is Ukraine going to win this war?

ZELENSKYY: Yes, of course.


BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN ANCHOR: You know, talking with people there, that's how they feel. If they don't fight, if they don't win, then their sons and some of their daughters are going to have to fight and win as well.

We heard from the spokesperson -- a former spokesperson to him and said it's like they're being blackmailed. That's the thing. Do you negotiate with a terrorist? If you do, you know you're just going to be right back there negotiating again or paying another ransom.

AVLON: That's exactly right. And this is where I think that sense of generational responsibility inspires people to think of something bigger than themselves, their own short term self-interest.

Now, you heard President Zelenskyy there say he gets strength from the people and he knows he has to be the strongest. But there is that relationship between leaders and citizens in times of crisis, that everyone is inspired to do their best and to be their best, and to think bigger, because it's not about you, it is about the future, it is about your children and your children's children. Powerful.

KEILAR: A prominent Kremlin critic who called the Putin government a regime of murderers is detained in Russia, we're going to speak live with his wife next.

AVLON: Plus, back in the United States, an emotional discovery: The moment a mother learns that her teenager who had been missing for three years is alive.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: My sweetheart is alive. Oh my God.




KEILAR: This morning, well-known Kremlin critic, Vladimir Kara-Murza remains in Russian custody after being arrested last week, the same day that CNN published an interview where he called Putin's government a regime of murderers and predicted that Russia's invasion of Ukraine would lead to the Russian President's downfall.

Joining me now is his wife, the wife of Russian opposition politician, Vladimir Kara-Murza, Evgenia is with us now.

Evgenia, thank you so much for being with us to discuss this. I'm so sorry for what you're going through. Can you tell me what was on your mind when you found out that your husband had been detained?

EVGENIA KARA-MURZA, WIFE OF KREMLIN CRITIC, VLADIMIR KARA-MURZA: Good morning, and thank you very much for giving me this opportunity for speaking out on behalf of Vladimir who has been speaking out on behalf of so many oppressed Russians over the years.

Well, I cannot say that I was very much surprised when I learned that my husband joined the list -- the ever growing list of prisoners of conscience in the Russian Federation.

Even before the war, according to Russia's Memorial Human Rights Center that was shut down in December of last year on government's orders.

There are over 400 people serving unlawful sentences in Russian prisons for their political views or religious beliefs. Now, since the beginning of the war, there have been over 15,000 arrests.

People have been arrested for opposing this war for saying no to the bloody Putin regime and its war in Ukraine. And for spreading as the government calls it fake information, not only fake information, but actually objective truthful information about the Russian Army's atrocities in Ukraine, and that number continues to grow daily.

Just in the recent days, a St. Petersburg artist, Alexandra Ovchinnikova got arrested and is now facing a jail sentence, a prison sentence of up to 10 years for replacing tags at store, price tags, with anti-war messages. Similar actions had been carried out in Kazan and other Russian cities

where people replace price tags in local stores with messages with anti-war messages with information about the war in Ukraine with just numbers of civilian casualties.

Two people were arrested, one in Ufa and another one in Moscow for holding silent actions with copies of "War and Peace," Leo Tolstoy's "War and Peace" in their hands. They got arrested just for that.

So the number of prisoners of conscience in Russia continues to grow daily and it's -- the numbers that's terrifying.

KEILAR: You know, Evgenia, it's amazing to hear you speak because I know you must be so concerned about your husband, and yet you're doing the work, you're doing some of his work here. He is in prison right now and you are raising the alarm. You are sounding the alarm for what he would sound the alarm for.

Have you been able to speak to him at all?

KARA-MURZA: I am able to speak to him. Thankfully, he gets one phone call a day. He calls me and we'll discuss everything and yes, of course, I'm going to continue doing his work for as long as it takes and I will do everything possible to bring him back home and to raise my voice in support of all those prisoners of conscience in Russia and against Putin's war in Ukraine.

I will continue to work for as long as it takes.