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Ukraine Pleads for West to Evacuate Civilians in Mariupol Shelter; U.K. Intel Shows Ukrainians Repelling Numerous Russian Advances; Now, Russia's Deadline for Last Mariupol Defenders to Surrender. Aired 7-7:30a ET

Aired April 20, 2022 - 07:00   ET




JEAN CASAREZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice over): Heard filed for divorce and a judge issued a temporary restraining order against Depp. In court documents, Heard claimed Depp was verbally and physically abusive during the spirit of their relationship. Depp's team said she was making up the claims.

Depp's own court filing accused Heard of attempting to secure a premature financial resolution by alleging abuse. Days after Heard's 2018 op-ed, Depp was dropped from Pirates of the Caribbean films after leading the franchise for 15 years.

Johnny Depp and Amber Heard met in 2009 on the set of The Rum Diary. And Depp said, at first, the romance that followed seemed perfect.

JOHNNY DEPP, ACTOR: She was attentive. She was loving. She was smart. She was kind. She was funny. She was understanding. So, for that year or year-and-a-half, it was amazing.


CASAREZ (on camera): And this is a very serious case because it involves the alleged domestic abuse of a man, Johnny Depp, and the alleged domestic abuse of a female, Amber Heard. And Johnny Depp is saying that Amber Heard, you wrote this, you knew it was false, you intentionally made sure it was published in The Washington Post. And for that, I lost my career, and that's not fair.


KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN ANCHOR: It's a fascinating. Jean, we will stay with you on the updates for the latest. Thank you.

And New Day continues right now.

Good morning to our viewers in the United States and around the world. It is Wednesday, April 20th. I'm Kaitlan Collins in New York with Jim Sciutto in Lviv, Ukraine. John Berman and Brianna Keilar are off. We start with breaking news and an ultimatum. Russia telling the last remaining Ukrainians hold up in the Asovstal steel plant in the battered city of Mariupol to surrender or face a bitter end. The steel plant is sheltering thousands of soldiers and civilians who say they are surrounded by Russian forces bombing them with everything they can. The Russian Defense Ministry has given the military barricaded inside a deadline to surrender that is happening right about now, 7:00 A.M. Eastern Time.

But the commander of the Ukrainian forces say that they will not surrender, and he is begging the world for help, warning that they may have only a few hours left.


MAJ. SERHII VOLYNA, COMMANDER, UKRAINE'S 36TH SEPARATE MARINE BRIGADE: This is our statement to the world. It may be our last statement. We might have only a few days or even hours left. The enemy's units are ten times larger than ours. They have supremacy in the air, artillery and units that are dislocated on the ground, equipment and tanks.

We appeal to the world leaders to help us.


COLLINS: You can hear the desperation in his voice as he is asking for help, for the people who are trapped right here, say that they are being surrounded by Russian forces.

Ukraine security service has released what it calls a communications intercept involving a Russian ground unit commander who can be heard about talking about plans to level everything to the ground at this besieged steel facility. You will hear that audio in a moment.

Now, I go to Jim in Ukraine.

JIM SCIUTTO, CNN ANCHOR: And breaking overnight, Ukraine's deputy prime minister has announced an agreement with Russia on a humanitarian corridor for the evacuation of women, children and the elderly from that plant in Mariupol. We are closely monitoring this development because the track record here for Russia, it's not great. There have been attacks on such claimed humanitarian corridors before.

In Donbas, in the eastern part of the country, Ukrainian forces have been able, they say, to repel numerous Russian advances, this according to the latest U.K. defense intelligence assessment. This, though, shelling by Russia has intensified. But as officials say, Russia continues to be hampered by environmental, logistical and technical challenges that have beset them so far. We saw very similar in the north around Kyiv.

Sources tell CNN the Pentagon is keeping a close watch on any possible movements or changes in Russia's nuclear arsenal with Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin getting two to three briefings. We should be clear that, to date, the U.S. military has not discovered of assessed any such movement by Russia in its nuclear forces. As the White House scrambles to get more weapons to Ukraine as quickly as possible with the U.S. set to announce another $800 million aid package right on the heels of $800 million in military aid just last week.


To begin, let's begin with CNN's Matt Rivers here in Kyiv. Listen, we have all been watching closely the situation in this steel plant in Mariupol because it has become a lifeboat for more than 1,000 people, many civilians, also soldiers, like the one we saw making just a frightened appeal, it seemed, for their safety.

So, a humanitarian corridor claim, what do we know about this and do we expect it to hold?

MATT RIVERS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, I mean, it's supposed to start right now, 2:00 P.M. local time. And so this is something we're obviously going to be monitoring extremely closely today. But as you just said, the track record with Russia here is not great, especially because these civilians are supposed to eventually make their way to the city of Zaporizhzhia, which is a Ukrainian-held city. But what we do know is that these people desperately need to be taken out of the steel plant.


RIVERS (voice over): For the battered and desperate cities of Mariupol, a chilling new threat has emerged. The Security Service of Ukraine, or SBU, released a purported communications intercept of a Russian ground unit commander who said Russian aircraft were planning to, quote, level everything to the ground around Azovstal.

CNN cannot vouch for the authenticity of the recording, but the SBU has previously released audio from intercepted radio traffic revealing Russian soldiers discussing killing and raping civilians, bolstering allegations of war crimes by Russian troops. Military observers have also noted a tendency of Russian troops to use unsecured communications in Ukraine.

For now, a Ukrainian commander says Russian forces are, quote, willingly bombing and shelling the plant, a sprawling complex in Mariupol's southeast that once employed more than 10,000 people. It's unclear how many Ukrainian forces are at the site. But one commander says the Russians are using free-fall bombs, rockets, bunker buster bombs and other artillery at the facility.

Video posted on government social media, which CNN cannot verify, shows dozens of women and children who say they have been staying under the facility for weeks holding out against Russian attacks. The surrender deadline Russian forces issued to Ukrainian troops has now expired, but the Russian military official in charge of the operation say they will allow the civilians safe package out of the area.

COL. GEN. MIKHAIL MIZINTSEV, DIRECTOR, RUSSIAN NATIONAL AND DEFENSE CONTROL CENTER: Russian leadership will guarantee safe evacuation of each and every civilian as well as the safety of the humanitarian convoys movement in any direction they choose.

RIVERS: It is unclear if the Ukrainians will take the word of the Russian general who has been accused of excesses during the Mariupol campaign.

Not all of Mariupol civilians are in the steel factory. Tens of thousands are trying to survive in other parts of the city. CNN is not in Mariupol, but Reuters News Agency found these people cooking outside a residential building on Monday. They are chopping wood to make a fire to boil water, some soup and even cook some pancakes. This woman, cutting a boy's hair, says, quote, they need to quickly fix the water supply system. How can we live without water? It's horrible. And this woman says that the bombardment --

OLGA, MARIUPOL RESIDENT: To be honest, we are not well. I have mental problems after airstrikes, that's for sure. I'm really scared. When I hear a plane, I just run away.


SCIUTTO: You can understand that fear. Matt Rivers, thanks so much.

And let's speak now to Sergeii Leshschenko. He is the senior adviser to President Zelenskyy's Chief of Staff. Sergeii, thanks so much for taking the time this morning.


SCIUTTO: So, you hear a Russian military commander there saying that they will guarantee the safety of the people there to let them escape that steel plant in Mariupol. Do you believe that pledge?

LESHSCHENKO: The plan is to take them as hostages. And, of course, the Ukrainian soldiers are not ready to give up. Their proposal is give up and you will be in prison in Russia maybe after this. Of course, the Ukrainian soldiers are going to fight until the end.

And what our view on this, that there has to be humanitarian corridor for Ukrainians to leave to Ukrainian territory controlled by Kyiv government, not Russia.

SCIUTTO: Now, that's for the civilians there. You heard the military commander in the steel plant ask for some kind of third country monitored path out for the soldiers as well. Are there any serious discussions? Is there any country that's offered to do this?

LESHSCHENKO: Ukrainian proposal is that global leaders, presidents, if they would be guarantors of this corridor, so they can be present in Mariupol or somewhere to arrange this corridor, it would be great. But, frankly speaking, as for today, we have maybe something going on in Kyiv because we are in Lviv now. We have to understand this.

But our proposal is open. And I know we called to some global leaders to play this role to guarantee that people who are hostages in Mariupol, they can safely leave the factory. [07:10:11]

SCIUTTO: We see situations like this virtually every day in this country, people attacked or surrounded, deliberately targeted by the Russian military, and many of them are dying. Hundreds and hundreds are dying. You hear the world protest but not stop it.

And I want to ask you to listen, because I asked the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations yesterday about this disconnect, public complaints but no action to stop it. Have a listen. I want to get your reaction.


SCIUTTO: If the U.N. cannot stop a war in the 21st century in which we're witnessing war crimes perhaps every day here, if it cannot do that, what is the U.N.'s true influence today?

LINDA THOMAS-GREENFIELD, U.S. AMBASSADOR TO THE U.N.: That's an extraordinarily important question and it's one we grapple with every single day at the United Nations. But we do have the power. We have the power to blunt the Russian veto. We have the power to isolate Russia, which we have successfully done over the course of this war. We have isolated them in the Security Council, and, as you know, in the General Assembly.


SCIUTTO: Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield there. So, she says, Russia is being isolated. Is that enough?

LESHSCHENKO: It is not enough. We are calling to recognize Russia as a terrorist state. And I'm part of a working group in our office of the president together with the and head of staff, Mr. Yermak and prominent American Diplomat and Analyst Michael McFaul, he used to the ambassador to Moscow. And we have prepared a road map, action plan to impose stronger sanctions on Russia and to avoid the loopholes.

And one of the proposals is to recognize Russia as a terrorist state. Terrorist state means its blockage of transactions. It is a much more difficult way for Russia to earn money and to spend money, which means for Russian budget, less money for army to kill Ukrainians.

This paper is going to be presented today in Kyiv and by Michael McFaul in Stanford. And we believe that all global leaders should carefully read this document and implement stronger sanctions on Russia. Because I think sanctions is one of the main instrument to stop this war, sanctions and weapons.

SCIUTTO: We are seeing both Ukrainians and the U.S. and others preparing for an even bloodier phase of this conflict in Eastern Ukraine. And now, we see an urgent effort to get new and different kinds of weapons there, particularly the artillery now.

Do Ukrainian forces have enough in the east to hold off the Russian advance as they did around Kyiv? LESHSCHENKO: You know, it's a situation when we need as much weapons as possible. So, it's never enough. And I recall one of the statements of Ukrainian President Zelenskyy to global leaders saying that you send us weapons. We very much appreciate it. But you believe these weapons are going to be enough for one week of war but we spend the weapons during 20 hours. So, please consider that this is a very brutal war, a very bloody war. And we have to defend our territory with these weapons. So, we need more weapons to not only Ukraine to defend the global order, to defend democracy.

SCIUTTO: Is there a particular category of weapon that you believe you're missing to help defend particularly in this new fighting in the east?

LESHSCHENKO: Artillery and heavy weapons. So, this is going to be a real battle. And this battle is going to start soon or even it started already. Because Russia collected enough army, enough weapons, to start this war and we consider that this global battle started already.

But the dynamics can be very different. It depends on the weather, it depends on the motivation of soldiers, it depends on different points. That is why we are still looking for more weapons to be supplied to Ukraine. And at the same time we see that Russia attacks Lviv, and one of the reasons, I believe, to destroy a railway infrastructure, which is one of the paths for weapons to be delivered. And that is why it has to be done as soon as possible.

SCIUTTO: Sergii Leshchenko, we know you have a great deal of work to do and we wish the best of luck. Thanks for joining us this morning. Kaitlan?

COLLINS: Well, Jim, these Russian forces have started on the new phase of the war, which is supposed to be this large-scale ground offensive as they are intent on capturing the eastern part of Ukraine, pitting them against these dug-in Ukrainian forces who are making one last stand for Mariupol.

Joining us now to discuss the logistics and strategy aspect of this invasion when it comes to Russia and Ukraine is retired U.S. Army Brigadier General Steven Anderson. Thank you so much for joining us this morning.

And I want to start with Mariupol, what we're seeing this deadline that has just passed about 15 minutes ago, where Russians are calling on the Ukrainian forces that are here inside this steel plant to surrender.


But they are saying, no, that they are not going to. And I know so much of this reminds you of history. So, what are you seeing right now when it comes to Mariupol specifically?

BRIG. GEN. STEVEN ANDERSON, U.S. ARMY (RET.): Well, thank you, Kaitlan. And Vladimir Putin needs to study his history, specifically the battle of Stalingrad. When I look at films like this, the over- flight of the steel factory, it looks exactly like the situation on the ground in 1941 in Stalingrad in which the Russians fought off the Germans, lost a million soldiers in the process but were able to turn the tide of World War II with their tenacity and fighting in a place just like this, a hardened structure with lots of underground tunnels and lots of places to hide.

So, I think that he needs to think about what's going on in Mariupol, and it's the same situation. You have got a steel factory, not a tractor factory, like they had in Stalingrad. They are hiding out, they're using cover and concealment. They're using the tunnels. I don't see them surrendering any time soon.

But regardless of what happens, the fight in Mariupol, just like the fight in Stalingrad, will inspire generations of Ukrainians.

COLLINS: I think that could certainly be true. They have certainly done that so far over the last several weeks.

And you say Putin needs to study history, but what about just over the last several weeks? Because we've heard from the Pentagon they think Russia is learning its lessons about what happened in the beginning of this invasion when they, of course, had repeated failures. Do you think they're actually able to learn those lessons and kind of change the trajectory of this for Russia?

ANDERSON: Well, they are a third-rate army. And it's going to take them ten years to come to our level. They have got a lot of work to do. But are they learning their lessons? I don't think so because the biggest problem with their entire strategy is the principle of mass. They have failed to mass at the right places. Vladimir Putin has a math problem in that he's fighting 44 million Ukrainians.

Now, we've heard from the Pentagon that their forces have been degraded now, already 25 percent. They're down to about 140,000 soldiers. So, if you do the math, 140,000 soldiers, they're outnumbered 280:1. They continue to try to attack on this big, wide front of perhaps 250 miles. They would be much better off if they picked a spot and attacked hard.

I'd think perhaps the area of Donetsk would be good, because, number one, they have secure supply lines, which is something that has plagued them from the very beginning. And, number two, they have friendly people there. They've got the Russian separatists who would be supporting them, so their supply lines would be interdicted.

But every element they try to do, for instance, come down here from the north and come up from the south, these efforts require at least 200 truckloads of supplies a day to sustain it. I just don't think they can do that. They need to mass. And the Ukrainians need to prepare for a massed attack of artillery, tanks online, brute force, bulldozer-type warfare.

COLLINS: Well, that makes me wonder about this arms package that the White House says that they are preparing another $800 million in military assistance to Ukraine. But you just heard what the adviser to President Zelenskyy told Jim there, saying that what sometimes people think could last them a week, they normally go through it about 20 hours. And so is this assistance getting in Ukraine quick enough to make a difference?

ANDERSON: Well, I certainly hope so. What we need to do, and I want to make two other historic references, if I could. First of all, the Berlin airlift of 1949, we were flying a plane every 45 seconds behind the iron curtain in order to support the people in Berlin, every 45 seconds.

Now, I'm not saying we need to do that, but we have established an air bridge out here in Poland from east coast bases, specifically Dover Air Force Base and Charleston Air Force Base. We have got an incredible air fleet. We're talking 225 C-17s, 125 C-5s, the most capable, strategic airlifts in the world. We need to set up a Ukraine airlift, if you will, from the United States into Poland.

Then I hearken back to World War II once again, the Red Ball Express, 6,000 trucks moving throughout from Normandy into Germany to support Patton's third army advance on Germany. We need to have a similar Red Ball Express. Let's call it a Ukrainian express, where we're pushing hundreds of trucks all the way down here to Dnipro, which is probably their significant log base in this area. We can also use 15,000 miles of rail, and we could also use the river. We can float barges that can carry a lot of equipment, perhaps some of the captured equipment from the battle of Kyiv. But we need a Ukrainian airlift and a Ukrainian express just like we did with Berlin and the Red Ball Express.


COLLINS: Retired U.S. Army Brigadier General Steven Anderson, thank you for sharing your expertise with us this morning.

ANDERSON: Thank you.

COLLINS: Also this morning, there is a new warning from the U.S. to Americans looking to go fight in Ukraine. We'll speak with an American fighter who is on the ground in Ukraine, next.

Plus, more on what happens to U.S. weapons once they're delivered to Ukraine.

And back here in the United States, could the Justice Department step in to bring back President Biden's public transportation mask mandate?

This is CNN's special live coverage.


SCIUTTO: This morning, the U.S. is preparing another $800 million weapons package for Ukraine.


This follows $800 million last week as well. This as the White House believes the war is in a critical stage here. Sources do tell CNN that without U.S. forces on the ground in the country, the U.S. does not have a lot of ways to track those weapons over the long-term, which including the new package would equal $3 billion in military aid since Russia's invasion began about two months ago.

CNN's Natasha Bertrand joins me now. So, Natasha, the U.S. is confident that the Ukrainian military is getting the bulk of these weapons. Is that right?

NATASHA BERTRAND, CNN WHITE HOUSE REPORTER: They are, Jim. Even though they can't really track what happens to each Stinger, each Javelin missile once it crosses that border from Poland into Ukraine, they do still believe that these weapons are ultimately getting into the hands of the Ukrainian forces. And that is largely because they have not seen evidence at this point that Russia is actively intercepting those shipments, those convoys, which is actually very interesting to U.S. officials that we have spoken to.

They say they do not understand why Russia hasn't made more of a concerted effort to try to intercept those shipments. Of course, they say that a big reason for that could be just pure logistical reasons, that Russia, of course, does not have air superiority, they do not have control over parts of Western Ukraine where those shipments are coming in. So, it is just difficult for them.

However, a U.S. official did tell CNN last night that they do expect Russia to start making more of an effort to try to intercept those weapons shipments.

So, U.S. officials now are acknowledging to us that they do not know exactly where all of these weapons are going once they do go in. And I do want to read a quote here that underscores kind of the extent to which some people briefed on the intelligence say. The U.S. really lacks visibility into this question, one saying, we have fidelity for a short time. But when it enters the fog of war, we have almost zero. It drops into a big black hole and you have almost no sense of it at all after a short period of time, Jim.

So, clearly, the U.S. has factored in this risk when they are sending these weapons to the Ukrainians. And they have told us that they believe that the risk of these weapons perhaps ending up in unexpected places, perhaps in the hands of some militias or the Russians, that, of course, they did not intend for them to go to, is less than the risk of not arming the Ukrainians properly to defend themselves against this Russian onslaught. That, of course, is the top priority right now for the United States, Jim.

SCIUTTO: Yes, it's one of the tough decisions they have to make. And as you noted earlier, there is history here where weapons that go to battlefields, Afghanistan in the '80s, or even more recently, the question is what happens after.

Natasha Bertrand, thanks so much.

Well, joining us now is Miro Popovich. He a U.S. military veteran who previously fought in Afghanistan. He is now here in Ukraine helping to defend his homeland. Miro, it's good to speak to you this morning. MIRO POPOVICH, U.S. CITIZEN FIGHTING IN UKRAINE: Hi.

SCIUTTO: First, I would like to talk to you about what you saw in Bucha. The last time you posted on this program, you discussed what you saw there. Tell us what you have been seeing on the ground in the wake of the withdrawal of Russian forces from the north?

POPOVICH: Yes. Well, first days after Russians ran away from Kyiv, there were so many bodies on the streets, Bucha -- basically Bucha, Irpin, Hostomel, Borodyanka, these little cities outside Kyiv, they're destroyed completely. And people were executed on the streets. And there were so many civilian casualties.

But now, I think it's been two weeks now, it is getting better and better. Actually, a lot of people, a lot of local people, a lot of people from the capital, a lot of people like us, we go there and we help them to clean up, to make it look a little bit better. I mean, of course, a lot of buildings are still completely destroyed. But all the damaged Russian tanks, they are gone. Of course, the first priority was to remove all the dead bodies and accountability of civilian casualties.

So, the process of rebuilding has started and it's slowly and ongoing. And every single day, me and my team would go there almost every single day. And every single day, we see it's getting a little bit better and better and better. So, it's a good thing to see.

SCIUTTO: It is, for sure. And I've been amazed in all my time here just at the resourcefulness, the perseverance of average Ukrainians as they respond to this and then turned things around.

I want to ask you, because you are someone with genuine combat experience in the U.S. military Afghanistan. What is your view of the fighting so far? What worked around Kyiv for Ukrainian forces, and do you think that will work against Russian forces in the east?