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New Day

Ukraine Says, Operation Planned to Get Civilians Out of Mariupol Plant; New Explosions Inside Russia Near Ukraine as War Expands; New Polls Show Biden Losing Young Adults, Black Voters. Aired 7-7:30a ET

Aired April 29, 2022 - 07:00   ET



BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN NEW DAY: It's gravity. Maybe nice not have some at some point. I just can't get past the toilet thing, right? Anyone with a one bathroom, one bedroom apartment knows that pain but it's a little different when you're in space, I think, right?

FISHER: That's why you have two toilets at least, even if you have to go to the Russian segment to use it.

KEILAR: Kristin Fisher, thank you so much for that.

And New Day continues right now.

Good morning to viewers here in the U.S. and around the world, it is Friday, April 29th, and I'm Brianna Keilar with John Berman.

We do have breaking news from the devastated port city of Mariupol, a Ukrainian operation to get civilians out of the Azovstal steel plant is supposed to begin today but there's already a snag, officials reporting that Russian troops are blocking part of the complex.

This is a site that has become something of a last line of defense for Ukraine in that city. Officials say that it was hit by 50 airstrikes here in the last 24 hours and the situation is critical.

In just a few moments, we will hear from a Ukrainian army commander who is inside of that plant and we're told that there are hundreds of people there, including dozens of children, the youngest of whom is just four months old.

Also breaking overnight, more signs of Ukrainian counterstrikes in areas controlled by Russia or inside Russia itself. A fuel depot attacked and set on fire in part of the Donetsk region controlled by Russian-backed forces. Ukraine is not commenting on that.

And the Russians also claim a checkpoint in a village in Kursk was hit by mortar fire. Kursk is in Russia near the border with Ukraine.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: All right. New images into CNN of heavy damage in Kyiv. President Zelenskyy is accusing the Russians of launching five missile strikes on the capital all while U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres was wrapping up his visit there.

And this just into CNN, extensive shelling of an important railway hub and supply line for Ukrainian troops in the eastern regions, the town of Lyman, which is in the Donetsk region, coming under heavy fire there.

And an American citizen, 22-year-old Marine Veteran Willy Joe Cancel of Tennessee killed while fighting alongside Ukrainian forces, that's according to his family. He was working with a private military contracting company when killed on Monday. Cancel's body has not been recovered.

We have breaking news just into CNN. We have learned that Vladimir Putin has accepted an invitation from the Indonesian president to attend the G20 summit in Bali in November. This is a big deal and creates a really complicated diplomatic situation. Will President Biden and other leaders attend this crucial conference if Putin is there? We are asking the White House for a response right now.

First, let's get the latest from Kyiv and the aftermath of the strikes there. Joining me, Miro Popovich, he is a U.S. veteran and now defending his homeland of Ukraine. Miro, thank you so much for being with us.

You were near the strikes last night. Why don't you tell us what happened.

MIRO POPOVICH, U.S. CITIZEN FIGHTING IN UKRAINE: Yes. Well, we were pretty close, like a mile away and we heard an explosion and what happened is, basically, I don't know what they were targeting, but they hit a high-rise apartment building and we went there to help the firefighters, but, you know, our firefighters are pretty amazing, I'm proud of them, and they took care of the situation quickly.

You know, let me tell you, it's one thing when you see an aftermath of explosion like a few days later, when you see all this rubble and damaged buildings, but another thing when you see it ten minutes after, when you see all the fire and injured people getting carried away, it's gruesome, but it is what it is, and that's what they do. They target our civilian apartment buildings.

I don't know why. I cannot explain why but it is what it is.

BERMAN: Miro, you said you arrived there not long after the blast and it was gruesome. Describe the scene there when you arrived.

POPOVICH: Well, when we arrived there, there were already many fire department vehicles there and one building was completely on fire, like the whole -- you know, you can see the whole storey is on fire, and the storey above it is on fire. And the building next to it, the high-rise apartment building, the chunk -- a chunk of it is gone up to four floors, first four floors like half gone.

I have no information if there was somebody there or not on this, but, yes, it looked really gruesome.


And it's a little bit, you know, organized chaos there, but the firefighters got it under control.

BERMAN: But you did see people injured, yes?

POPOVICH: People carried away, yes, yes.

BERMAN: Is Ukraine -- is Kyiv, where you are, obviously, the fighting there has seemed to have died down a little bit, but do you feel like the city is still a target?

POPOVICH: Well, it's -- the fighting here is completely gone because the Russian forces, they ran away. But the city is a target for ballistic rocket attacks, yes, almost on a regular basis, unfortunately, but our main mission right now here is to help the humanitarian crisis in the previously occupied areas around Kyiv. So, you know, it's not just the fighting, it's the aftermath that you have to deal with all the people that are here in the Kyiv area, because a lot of people need assistance.

You know, the interesting thing is when we go there and we bring medicine, first two things that they ask is painkillers and antidepressants.

BERMAN: People are going through so much.


BERMAN: So much, I understand the suffering and trying to move beyond it.

Miro, I want to ask you because, as I said, you are a U.S. veteran fighting in Afghanistan, you went back to Ukraine to help the efforts there. We're just learning about a former U.S. Marine, Willy Joseph Cancel, who was killed fighting alongside Ukrainian forces.

When you hear that, how does that make you feel? Does it give you pause? Does it make you worried?

POPOVICH: You know what, it makes me feel sad and I'm grateful for his sacrifices. It's unbelievable that you are able to -- that he was able to go here and put an ultimate sacrifice for my home country of Ukraine. And, you know, it's dangerous here. That's what I said in the previous interview with you guys.

For all the U.S. citizens and people from Europe that want to come to fight here, thank you, but, you know, think twice because it's no joke here. It's a legit big war and there is a big chance that you can get killed or injured.

BERMAN: Well, Miro, we hope you stay safe.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Send us big guns. We're going to deal with it ourselves.

POPOVICH: This is Andriy Klivnyuk (ph), the guy that sing with Pink Floyd.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Don't send any guys who don't know how to do it. Send the big guns and we will handle it.

BERMAN: All right. Miro, thank you.

POPOVICH: Yes, this is Andris, yes.

BERMAN: Thank you both so much. Both of you stay safe. It's nice to see you smiling, wishing you the best.

POPOVICH: Yes. yes, no problem, guys. Thank you.

KEILAR: Mariupol is the symbolic center of Ukrainian resistance against the Russian invasion and the Azovstal steel plant where Ukrainian military and also civilians are holed up is the site of the last stand there. We got some rare access to the military perspective inside of that steel plant posing questions earlier to Major Serhiy Volyna, the commander of Ukraine's 36th Separate Marine Brigade. And here is what he told us about the dire situation inside.


KEILAR: Commander, can you tell us what the current situation is where you are?

MAJOR SERHIY VOLYNA, COMMANDER, UKRAINE'S 36TH SEPARATE MARINE BRIGADE: The situation is critical, it's beyond a humanitarian catastrophe.

KEILAR: Sir, President Zelenskyy's office says an operation to evacuate civilians from the plant is planned for today. What can you tell us about that?

VOLYNA: I don't know the details. I know that a mission has arrived in Zaporizhzhia and that they are going to try and mount a rescue operation.

KEILAR: How many civilians are still sheltering inside of the steel plant?

VOLYNA: These are hundreds of people and they have dozens of children with them. The youngest is four months old.

KEILAR: Commander, you say you're keeping track specifically of the children here. How many kids are there, and can you tell us their ages? VOLYNA: I know there are about 60 young -- young people there and the youngest is 4 months old and the oldest is 17. I don't actually keep track of them because that's somebody else's job. I've got a different job.

KEILAR: Are the children there at risk?

VOLYNA: All I can say about the children is that they're looked after by the Marines. And as far as I know they're fine and there is no risk to their safety at the moment. There hasn't been any direct threat to their safety.


We're looking after them.

KEILAR: Sir, what is the food and the medical situation?

VOLYNA: The Mariupol garrison is fighting and has been fighting in the situation of full encirclement for 64 days. It's a very difficult situation. We have very little water, very little food left.

KEILAR: The chief of the Mariupol patrol police says a field hospital by you was hit by the heaviest Russian airstrikes yet. Can you tell us how bad this was?

VOLYNA: Yes, yesterday was a heavy strike on a -- a direct hit on the field hospital that is situated inside the Azovstal steel plant and the operating theater was hit directly and all the surgical equipment, everything that is necessary to perform surgery has been destroyed. So right now, we cannot treat our wounded, especially those with shrapnel wounds and with bullet wounds.

KEILAR: Sir, you say that there are more than 500 people injured at the steel factory, both military and civilians, even before this field hospital was hit. Are medical personnel there able to treat them?

VOLYNA: We are looking after the wounded right now with whatever tools we have. We have our army medics and they're using every skill they have to look after the wounded and right now we don't have any tools, any surgical tools, but we have some basics, but also we are in dire need of medication. We have almost no medication left.

KEILAR: I know you say you've spoken to or texted with President Zelenskyy daily for the last two months. What has he said to you?

VOLYNA: President Zelenskyy briefs us on the situation in Ukraine as a whole and around Mariupol. He tells us about enemy movements and is supporting us in every way and also keeps our spirits high.

KEILAR: You have held out now for two months. How much longer can you hold out?

VOLYNA: We cannot tell you for sure how long we can hold on for. That all depends on the enemy movements and also on luck. We have great hopes that we will be evacuated, that the president will succeed in either evacuating or extracting us and we will just have to hope and see what happens.

KEILAR: What do you want to say to the world about your situation?

VOLYNA: I would urge the world and the diplomatic leaders and world leaders and religious leaders to listen to us and to give us a humanitarian corridor from Azovstal, to give us an extraction procedure so that we can have a safe exit from Azovstal, either to a third country or to a territory controlled by Ukraine.

KEILAR: Serhiy Volyna with Ukrainian Army in Mariupol, thank you so much for joining us this morning.


KEILAR: This just in, Russian President Vladimir Putin has accepted the invitation to attend the G20 summit from Indonesia. So, what does this mean for the rest of the world's leaders?

BERMAN: And the battle for control of Ukraine's key southern region, our reporters on the frontlines, next.



BERMAN: Russian forces seem to be making advances in Southern Ukraine. Many civilians living in towns along the frontlines effectively trapped with evacuation as dangerous as sheltering in place.

CNN's Nick Paton Walsh went near the frontlines, he is live for us there. Nick?

NICK PATON WALSH, CNN INTERNATIONAL SECURITY EDITOR: Yes, south of here, Kryvyi Rih, the hometown of President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, there's a lot of movement, villages changing hands in a matter of hours as Russia pushes from the southern city of Kherson, the first it occupied up towards the north, Zaporizhzhia, along the Dnipro River. Here is what we saw yesterday.


WALSH (voice over): If Moscow had any surprises left in this war, it is along here. The other side of the river has been Russia's for weeks. But here, the western side, is caught in the fast-changing landscape of this week's push.

That's the prize over there, the Dnipro River up past which on the left side bank here the Russians are trying to push, wanting control of both sides of that vital part of Ukraine.

Here on Novovorontsovka, we are told there are a handful of Russian tanks just over a kilometer away on its outskirts, pushing, probing, but ultimately kept at bay by Ukrainian forces that still hold the town.

Resilience here embodied (INAUDIBLE) under the threat of rocket fire planting onions.

I'm here until victory, she said. Her children are gone, it's just her and her mother. Okay, her 80-year-old mother and her are staying here. Her mother says she's not going anywhere and she's not going to leave her alone. All her windows are blown out she says.

Ukrainian forces who don't want their positions filmed are dotted around the town, as too are the signs of innocent lives lost here.


Rockets peeking out from under the water and this boat in which 14 civilians tried to flee Russian occupation on April the 7th, four of them died when Moscow's troops opened fire when it was 70 meters out.

Yet still the desperate keep fleeing. This morning these women left behind their men to defend their homes near Novovorontsovka. We ran, ran early in the morning, said Luda (ph). They didn't let us out. We're shields for them. They don't let us out by foot and by bicycle. we go in the fields, we ran.

Our soldiers were 2 kilometers away, Nadezda (ph) adds, and we ran to them. Well, they need the Russian's tanks, she said, take cars. They draw zeds on everything.

As their new unwanted guests demanded milk and food at gunpoint they had a glimpse of their warped mindset. They say they've come to liberate us, Luda (ph) said, these aggressors, that's what they told us. They say America is fighting here but using the hands of Ukrainians to do it. That's what they say, another claim to be fueled by the violence of the long war with separatists in the east.

In general, the Donetsk militants say, she said, you have been bombing us for eight years, now we bomb you. Across the fields loathing and artillery swallow whole once happy worlds.


WALSH (on camera): Now, in Kherson, vital, because they say it was the first city occupied by Russia, there are moves by Russian-backed officials there to consolidate their control, bringing in the ruble as early as this weekend, the Russian currency, to that city. The referendum that was due two days ago, that has not happened and instead officials have been brought in who are promising to in sort of justification of ludicrous Russian motive behind their invasion to not let Kherson return to its Nazi past.

And this causing yet more people to leave along with the further offensive here in the south, not to be underestimated the impact that's having on the broader picture of Russian control across Ukraine.

BERMAN: Nick, are you still seeing any of the evidence of Ukrainian success against the Russian forces that you saw weeks and weeks ago, burnt-out Russian tanks, you know, Russian vehicles left on the side of the road? WALSH: Yes. I mean, it's very hard, frankly, given the expanses we're dealing with here and also, too, the not enormous transparency we're getting from both sides about where they always are to see who is really winning.

Certainly, Ukraine admitted that they had to give up some territory yesterday around Mykolaiv, but at the same time too, we've seen them in the previous 24 hours before that have some success pushing towards Russian positions also near Mykolalv too.

The town we're in yesterday, look, they were confident, the Ukrainians, that they held it. But in the same breath, they said, look, there are six Russian armored tanks trying to get in around here and you heard the locals talking about how they've seen Russian soldiers in their villages too.

It is so fluid and so huge, the expanses here, it's hard to give you a simple answer. I think it's fair to say Ukrainians under pressure in the south here, Russia is throwing a lot at it. Ground is changing hands back and forth.

The real question, john, is the ultimate goal here at Kryvyi Rih, the hometown of Zelenskyy or they're going to head west towards Odessa, unlikely in my opinion, or possibly east, up the Dnipro River, where we were standing in that report, towards Zaporizhzhia and the broader Russian offensive in the east. That may be their goal and they do appear to be throwing quite a lot of resources at it. John?

BERMAN: Nick Paton Walsh, we really appreciate the perspective. Thank you so much.

So, President Biden's approval rating down among two key groups. Van Jones joins us live.

KEILAR: Plus, the journalist who a sheriff threatened to charge for exposing a cover-up is going to join us live.



KEILAR: New polling shows President Biden's support slipping among black adults and young Americans, two key voting groups for the Democratic Party.

Joining us now to break this down is Harry Enten, our CNN Senior Data Reporter. Harry, just walk us through this. How steep of a decline are we talking about here?

HARRY ENTEN, CNN SENIOR DATA REPORTER: I mean, it is a big, big, big decline. I mean, if you look, this is Gallup polling approval of President Joe Biden's job as president, now look at this, just 38 percent of 18 to 29 year olds, 67 percent of black adults.

Look back to where we were last year, January to June of 2021, it was 61 percent 18 to 29 year olds, black adults was 87 percent. Look at the change, down 23 points among adults 18 to 29, down 20 points among black adults. Those are huge drops, Brianna.

KEILAR: Does that translate to voting patterns in the midterms with young voters?

ENTEN: This is interesting, and the answer is, actually, no, it does not. So, look at this, the choice for House of Rep among 18 to 29 year olds right now, look at that, Democrats hold a 21-point lead. In the 2020 election, Democrats won that group by 24 points, so just a three- point drop.

And given how the national environment has changed and become much more Republican over the last two years, I think Democrats are more than happy to see just a three-point drop among adults 18 to 29 years old.

KEILAR: And then what about black voters, what does it show there?

ENTEN: This is the total and complete opposite.


So, if we did not really see this change among young voters in their choice for Congress, look at black adults, look at this.