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Civilians Suffer Constant Bombardment as Russian Forces Continue Attempts to Take Cities in Ukraine; Mayor of Mariupol, Ukraine, Discusses Battle over City between Russian and Ukrainian Forces; President Biden Announces New Military Aid Package for Ukraine to Help Defend against Russian Invasion; British Prime Minister Boris Johnson Says Vladimir Putin May Win War in Ukraine. Aired 8-8:30a ET

Aired April 22, 2022 - 08:00   ET



JIM SCIUTTO, CNN ANCHOR AND CHIEF NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: It's a remarkable eyewitness count. And U.N. human rights officers just announced the unlawful killing now of approximately 50 people in Bucha, including some by summary execution.

Meanwhile, President Biden says the war is now entering a critical window. He announced a new $800 million Ukraine weapons package. That's the second $800 million package in just over a week. This new one includes heavy artillery, howitzers, and drones, gives you a sense of what kind of war they're expecting in the east. President Zelenskyy has told the World Bank that his country will need $7 billion a month just to make up for the economic losses of this war. And that's, of course, beyond all the human losses.

In eastern Ukraine, the Russian military trying to make advances overnight. There was heavy fighting reported in both the Donetsk and Luhansk regions of the country. Evacuation attempts disrupted by Russian shelling. That's something we have seen frequently in this war, Russian forces deliberately bombing civilians as they try to flee for their lives. They stopped a bus from safely leaving the town.

CNN's Ben Wedeman, he is live in Kramatorsk, Ukraine. And, Ben, the west, the U.S. is expecting a bloody, bloody new phase of the conflict, almost World War II-like in the east in the coming days and weeks. And yet again civilians suffering so much of all this.

BEN WEDEMAN, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Jim. We were in the town of Rubizhne, which is about an hour-and-a-half's drive east of here, and that is -- it's a battle zone. The Russians control the northern part, the Ukrainians control the southern part. We were able to get on an vantage point overlooking the town and saw just artillery shells raining down, raining down on both sides, it must be pointed out.

Now, we were able to get into the southern part of the city, and there we found a very small group of people trying to survive under fire.


WEDEMAN: And it begins, again. Hell rains down. A dozen people are hiding in the basement of a bombed-out theater in the town of Rubizhne. "Let it stop, oh Lord," he says. Now there is incoming. A white flag hangs outside to no effect. The theater above has been bombed and bombed again and again. Yet they stay, too poor, too old, too frightened to flee.

Nina, 89 years old, has been here for five weeks. "I want to go home," she says. "I've suffered too much. I've seen the fire and the smoke. I've seen it all. I'm scared." Nina's plea simple. "Help us. Help us." Her daughter Lyudmila struggles to comfort her. "We're praying to god to stop it," she says, "to hear us." Ina says "I have nowhere to go. I have no friends, no relatives."

With the shelling intensifying, volunteers are finding it hard to deliver food. As Russian and Ukrainian forces fight for control over Rubizhne, there are people down there, praying as hell rains down.


WEDEMAN (on camera): And I would say they're suffering from post- traumatic stress disorder, those poor people in the shelter, but there is nothing post about it. It is ongoing. They are down there. We came with TV lights, but normally they're down there, their only illumination is essentially they take cooking oil and put wicks or pieces of cloth into it. There is no running water, no electricity. And they're barely surviving. Really when we went down there, you could tell these people were just on the edge of sanity. Jim?

SCIUTTO: You're right. And experience shows that the trauma from wars like this, physical and psychological, last many, many years afterwards. Ben Wedeman in Kramatorsk, thanks so much.

An ongoing feature of this war is not just accidental targeting of civilians, but deliberate targeting of civilians, and then attempts by Russian forces to cover up the evidence. So look at new satellite images. They show what are reported to be more than 200 mass graves just outside of Mariupol. The Russian forces there accused of secret burials.


Big picture, a besieged city now on the verge of collapse. Earlier this morning we posed questions to the mayor of Mariupol. He had some harrowing responses. Have a listen.


SCIUTTO: Vladimir Putin is claiming victory in Mariupol. President Biden said there is no evidence yet that Mariupol has completely fallen. Which is it?

MAYOR VADYM BOICHENKO, MARIUPOL, UKRAINE (through translator): The truth is that the armed forces of Ukraine are defending Mariupol. And Mariupol is the beating heart of Ukraine today. Our guys are outnumbered 10, 15 times, but they are defending. They're holding up, and they are remaining there. And they are frustrating the enemy as much as possible.

SCIUTTO: Putin also said he scrapped plans to storm the Azovstal steel plant. What will happen to all those people trapped there now?

BOICHENKO (through translator): So at the moment we have people waiting for evacuation. We would like to evacuate the civilians that are sheltering in Azovstal, and we need one clear day of cease-fire to evacuate those people. However, we have not been able to so far. The day before yesterday we planned to open up an evacuation route that these people could join. However, the Russian forces that continued bombarding the plant and shelling the plant, and we weren't able to get the people out of there.

SCIUTTO: Is there any current effort by Ukraine or other nations to get them out safely?

BOICHENKO (through translator): Everybody is uniting around this goal of helping the people trapped there. And yesterday we heard an appeal from U.S. President Joe Biden who asked for everybody to do whatever is possible to save the people trapped in Azovstal.

SCIUTTO: New satellite images seem to show mass graves just outside of Mariupol. How many civilians do you believe have been killed in your city?

BOICHENKO (through translator): According to our estimates, we have around 20,000 dead, civilian deaths in Mariupol, and these were people who were buried by enemy shelling, by enemy bombardment, buried under the rubble. And at the moment we are witnessing the enemy trying to hide the evidence of their crimes, using the instrument of mass graves.

SCIUTTO: As the leader of this city, you knew many of these people, what is it like to see this happen?

BOICHENKO (through translator): It is very painful for me to see this, very painful and sad, because for eight years we were trying to develop Mariupol as a showcase for Ukrainian Donbas, for a restored Donbas since the 2014 attempts to take it. And it was blossoming, it was turning into a modern city, we were developing it as a modern state of the art city to fulfill people's dreams as we imagined. We had a strategy for the city development to make this a showcase. And I feel as if my heart has been torn out. My life, my family, we lived there, this was our life, and for me and tens of thousands of Mariupol residents, it is extremely painful to see so many dead and the city destroyed.

SCIUTTO: The U.S. is sending another big weapons shipment to Ukraine, $800 million, heavy artillery. Tell us how this will help the fight and what's missing at this point.

BOICHENKO (through translator): Well, the number one priority now is to help save the lives of civilians. But I also want to thank Joe Biden for helping us with the military assistance and all -- thank all the partners. These weapons are very necessary. It will enable us to unlock the region, unlock Mariupol. It will help us hold up the defense and then to counterattack. And eventually free the region and entire Ukrainian territory of the enemy occupation.

SCIUTTO: Do you believe Ukrainian forces can ever take Mariupol back from Russian forces? If so, how do they do it, and when?

BOICHENKO (through translator): Well, one thing I would say that will help us get back to Mariupol is a full oil and gas embargo on Russia. Those who buy these products must realize that are financing the enemy's war and the damage that the enemy is doing to our cities, cities like Mariupol.


And they need to stop receiving this money. And once that happens, we believe that in two to three weeks, we will stop the enemy, and the enemy will be forced to retreat.


BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN ANCHOR: And 20,000 deaths in that city, he says. Very important interview there that Jim did with the mayor. And just in, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said moments ago there is a, quote, realistic possibility that Vladimir Putin may win his brutal war in Ukraine. He added that the situation is unpredictable, but he cited that Putin's large army and the ability to grind the Ukrainians down are factors here.

That is very candid, Jim. And I think the question is going to be what does a Russian victory look like? Is the cost that is exacted by the Ukrainians, if there is a Russian victory, is it a pyrrhic victory? Is it something they can hail, or are the casualties on their side going to be so large? We just heard from John Kirby where he said even this new general they brought in to oversee everything, they don't see that changing things. They're still having problems, and they are going to pay a big price, even if they do, quote-unquote, win.

SCIUTTO: So you have two schools of thought here. You speak to some of our military analysts, and they make the point that Russia, as you say, still has the same challenges faced around Kyiv -- bad morale, bad supply, losing enormous numbers of soldiers and hardware, and so on.

The trouble is Russia doesn't care, to some degree, right? It clearly doesn't care about the loss of its soldiers' lives. It's already lost more than it lost in all of Afghanistan in the 1980s. So when you have an adversary like that that has damned the consequences, what does that mean for the Ukrainians? I asked a Ukrainian member of parliament last night, Ukrainians care about lost soldiers, and of course they care about destroyed cities. Russia does not. How do you win a war when it is a war of attrition? It's a problem.

It is conceivable. And I think Johnson's warning is an important one, because all of us have a tendency, understandably, to celebrate and be amazed by, as we should be, because it's quite remarkable, Ukraine's victories and its defense so far. But nothing is written in stone. We're only two months into a war that could last months, even years, and by the way, goes back to 2014 when Russia first invaded. So all possibilities are open.

KEILAR: I also think he's painting a picture for -- a picture for European allies as if to say, if you get to the point where Russia has won this war, you may have to ask yourself, is there something more you could have done? Right now, we're seeing so much military aid flow in, but there are certainly some economic measures, oil, gas, that Europe especially could undertake, could enact that might make a difference.

So we do have some more on our breaking news this morning. A suspect has been declared in the case of British toddler Madeleine McCann, who went missing so many years ago, 15 years ago. We'll have the new details next.

Plus, House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy says it's a lie that he planned to ask Donald Trump to resign. The problem is, there is tape of him saying it.

And Johnny Depp confronted in the courtroom.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mr. Depp, you said I will -- her burnt corpse afterward to make sure she's dead.


KEILAR: How the actor responded under cross examination about his own texts about his ex-wife.



JIM SCIUTTO, CNN ANCHOR: We will be back to the war here in Ukraine in just a moment. But first, more breaking news internationally. A suspect has now officially been declared in the case of the missing British toddler Madeleine McCann. She was, you may remember just three years old when she vanished from a resort in Portugal in May 2007. And sparked an international manhunt, there's the picture there. CNN's Nina Dos Santos is live in London with more why now, and what do we know about the suspect?

NINA DOS SANTOS, CNN EUROPE EDITOR: Yeah, the timing is crucial here, Jim. Interesting that you picked up on that. The Portuguese law stipulates that statute of limitations is about to run out on cases like this. It's a 15 year statute of limitations, which would expire on May the third. And so for that reason, Lewis (ph), including the lawyer of this suspect, in particular, have hypothesized that although there isn't specific new information here, to say that he's a suspect, the Portuguese authorities have gone ahead with naming him as a suspect, essentially, to keep the case alive.

What do we know about this individual? We know that back in 2020, German authorities said that a man that they already had in custody named Christian B, you saw his mug shot earlier there, they had reason to suspect had been involved in the disappearance of Madeleine McCann. And they also said that they assumed at this point back in 2020, that she was probably dead.

They just said that they didn't have enough evidence to actually push forward with the case and secure a conviction. So what we're going to see here is the Portuguese authorities revived this case, which has been dormant as you pointed out for some years now, and then try and push forward perhaps with a view to prosecuting this individual who's currently in custody in Germany on unrelated charges.

This, as you pointed out, is one of the most heartfelt tragic cases of disappearance. It's captivated the international audiences. It's captivated people here in the U.K. and also in Portugal. So again, this will keep the question marks going about what exactly happened to this little girl who disappeared from a parent's holiday home on May the third 2007 some 15 years ago. Jim?

SCIUTTO: Yeah, just the trauma, the suffering that family, those parents have been through all those years. Goodness, Nina Dos Santos, thanks so much for that update.

Intercepted audio communications just released by the Ukrainian military before to show Russian soldiers discussing in order to kill prisoners of war. We're going to play those comments for you.

And back in the U.S. House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy. He's denied that he considered asking Trump to resign after January 6. Newly released audio tapes of him, his voice Kevin McCarthy say otherwise.



BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN ANCHOR: Brand new audio obtained by the New York Times appearing to show House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy seriously thinking about advising Trump to resign from office after January 6, a day after he vehemently denied reports that he'd done just that. Let's listen.


KEVIN MCCARTHY, HOUSE REPUBLICAN LEADER: I'm seriously thinking of having that conversation with him tonight. I haven't talked to him a couple of days. From what I know of him, I mean, you guys all know him too, do you think he'd ever back away? But what I think I'm going to do is I'm going to call him. The only discussion I would have with him is that I think this will pass, and it would be my recommendation you should resign, I mean, that would be my take but I don't think he would take it. But I don't know.


KEILAR: CNN has reached out for comment, has not heard back.

Joining us now to discuss this is CNN Senior Political Analyst John Avlon. John, how are you seeing this? How are you waiting through these differing accounts of Kevin McCarthy's?

JOHN AVLON, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: There's no waiting through. Kevin McCarthy denied the reporting. And then the audio tape got released. Kevin McCarthy lied. He got caught lying, about calling for a president of his own party to resign after the attacks of January 6. So it not only speaks to Kevin McCarthy's credibility, it speaks to the fact that now he's lying for a liar, someone he knew, was unfit to serve after inciting and attack on our capitol.

KEILAR: Doesn't that tell you a lot about what he's willing to risk being caught in a lie like this for where his loyalties lie, for his political ambitions and the favor he has to carry with President Trump and his followers?

AVLON: Yeah, Bri. Of course, it does. I mean, look, he is saying that nothing is more powerful. There's not truth doesn't matter. That's all negotiable as long as he doesn't feel that anyone's got the receipts. He will lie as much as he needs to, to grasp power. And what's particularly pathetic is that he's sucking up to an ex-president who he knows is unfit for office, who he said nobody should defend because he did -- had done something indefensible.

And let's make it real basic. This is about fear and greed. The reason people have fallen into line at a critical moment when they had that moral clarity after the attack is because they're afraid of President Trump. They're afraid of the base, and they're greedy for more power. It's fear and greed.

KEILAR: I'm really curious what you think about something that former President Obama said. He's speaking out about the growing influence of disinformation in our society, and he was talking about how it can turn deadly?


BARACK OBAMA, (D) FORMER U.S. PRESIDENT: The fact that scientists developed safe, effective vaccines in record time is an unbelievable achievement. And yet, despite the fact that we've now essentially clinically tested the vaccine on billions of people worldwide. Around one in five Americans is still willing to put themselves at risk and put their families at risk, rather than get vaccinated. People are dying because of misinformation.


KEILAR: I am so curious, Avlon, to hear him speak about it. Because I think back to, you know, when did all of this disinformation really take hold, these conspiracy theories? It was during the Obama administration? I'm not saying there's any cause here. But that was the time where it came with Sandy Hook, with birtherism. I mean, that's where you saw it just grow.

AVLON: That's right. And I mean, you know, began kind of analog old school and then proliferated via social media. And that's why it's fascinating speech to hear the former president reflect on this, and really to indicate that he is going to dedicate a significant portion of his post presidency, to combating disinformation, to strengthen democracy.

And as he said, look, we know people can die from disinformation. This is something you and I talk about all the time on reality check. The disinformation wars that we're in, and then crucially, also how we can pivot to a solution. And while he didn't claim to have a single solution, or silver bullet, one of the things he focused on is the need for algorithm reform, right? It's the algorithm stupid. He could do a lot by elevating the conversation, and forcing people to confront what's happening, and how it's a global problem, not just here in America, but we need more transparency around algorithms.

He said, there's increasingly, you know, computers and social media, the window we look on to the world, but we don't know is that the window is blurred. It's been distorted. And we need to have that information to make us smarter consumers of information.

KEILAR: Yeah, it's the battle of our time, I think.

AVLON: Big time.

KEILAR: John Avlon, thank you so much.

AVLON: Thanks, Bri, be well.

KEILAR: The candidates in Pennsylvania's Democratic Senate primary facing off in a contentious debate, sparks flying is Congressman Conor Lamb and State Representative Malcolm Kenyatta took aim at front runner Lieutenant Governor John Fetterman, who's now taking his progressive message to the heart of Trump country, CNN's Manu Raju joining me live with this story. Manu?

MANU RAJU, CNN CHIEF CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yeah, he's -- it was the big target last night at the debate because he is the front runner in this contest, which is one of the most important Senate races in the country. And when I spent time with all three candidates this week, including with John Fetterman in Trump country, it was clear that he was leaning into those progressive views and the rest of the field is following him.


RAJU: Democrats are facing the most daunting midterm environment in a dozen years, with Republicans favored to take the House. And the 50/50 Senate up for grabs. But here in the heart of Trump country in a rural Pennsylvania county that Joe Biden lost by more than 55 points, Lieutenant Governor John Fetterman is trying to buck the tide.


RAJU: Warning voters that the Senate Majority could come down to them.

FETTERMAN: Who thinks it's going to be a cakewalk for Democrats in this cycle? Not one hand, not one hand. I agree with you.