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Hundreds Still Trapped in Mariupol Steel Plant after 100 Evacuated; Ukrainian Drone Destroys 2 Russian Patrol Ships off Snake Island; Israel Condemns Russia's Lavrov Saying 'Hitler Had Jewish Blood'; Manhunt for Inmate, Officer Who Mysteriously Disappeared; Trump Confuses J.D. Vance, Josh Mandel in Ohio Senate Primary. Aired 6-6:30a ET

Aired May 02, 2022 - 06:00   ET


JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning to viewers here in the United States and all around the world. It is Monday, May 2. I'm John Berman with Brianna Keilar.


Happening now, the successful evacuation of at least some of the civilians trapped for months in the steel plant in Mariupol, a plant that has become a last line of defense for Ukraine in that city. About 100 civilians seeing sunlight, essentially for the first time. They've been trapped in a basement underground. They got out, but others have not.

And overnight, a Ukrainian military commander said the shelling of the site resumed, hit, he said, by all kinds of weapons. Hundreds still remain there, including innocent women, children, and elderly who are running out of food, water and medicine.

New satellite images exclusive to CNN show the plant, parts of it, just leveled, destroyed by Russian strikes. Every building touched in some way.

BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN ANCHOR: In the meantime, eight days of hell. President Putin's rush to bombard Ukraine could have everything to do with May 9, Victory Day in Russia.

Despite the war going very differently than he pictured it, Putin could use the occasion to declare a symbolic victory in this war. The Ukrainian military says Russian forces are pressing their offensive towards Sloviansk, an important town in the Donetsk region. Drone video showing the village of Novoselivka being hit by heavy incoming fire.

The Ukrainian military says Russian forces are trying to break through in the area, but they have been repelled. In the Belgorod region there were two explosions reported. This comes after a large fire Sunday at a defense ministry installation there in Belgorod.

Russia has accused Ukraine of mounting cross-border attacks on fuel depots and military installations. In Kharkiv, Ukrainian military officials say three people were killed

and eight others were injured in Russian shelling on Sunday.

And right now, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is in Poland meeting with the Polish president in Warsaw after her trip to Kyiv this weekend. She says the visit will send an unmistakable message to the world that America stands with NATO allies and in support of Ukraine.

Let's go first now to CNN's Nick Paton Walsh. He is live for us in Zaporizhzhia, Ukraine, with the very latest. Nick, what can you tell us?

NICK PATON WALSH, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Brianna, it's here, really, where expectations have been mounting for, well, weeks frankly, but most specifically in the last hour as to when we may start seeing the first people arrive here as part of this wave of evacuations.

It's important to point out occasionally individuals arrive here, one car just arriving from Mariupol, but that broad evacuation arranged by the United Nations Red Cross, part of broader discussions between capitals Moscow, Kyiv, as well, is, I think it's fair to say, underway at this point.

There's a little uncertainty as to exactly its progress at this stage. There's suggestions from officials, in fact, the buses haven't yet reached the rallying point yet, but there are also other suggestions, too, that it is, in fact, en route.

There are two different phases to this, it's important to remember. There is the Azovstal Steel plant, those hundreds of civilians. And it seems also, too, hundreds of wounded Ukrainian soldiers caught under that enormous sprawling factory and also slowly coming out. You saw those dramatic images of the first dozens emerging to sunlight for the first time.

And then also the broader evacuation in which hundreds, thousands, certainly tens of thousands of civilians still in Mariupol will make their way out.

Now, there's potential here for them to go through Manusk (ph) and Berdyansk, two towns on the way here, at which point they may pick up other civilians trying to leave those areas, too. So we could be seeing a significant movement of people, as well.

I should point out, as well, there is also the possibility for here, things to go in a different direction. Perhaps we might -- the discussion has always been whether or not these particular evacuees head towards the Russian direction or towards Ukraine.

It appears, though, Ukrainian officials are confident they're headed in this direction, and suggestions they might tonight or tomorrow morning arrive here in Zaporizhzhia at this converted car park outside a good center (ph). Some cars have been arriving in this car park here, at which point

they are kind of met by media, frankly, and a lot of aid workers, too, trying to assist, trying to be sure that they can give them all the things that they need inside this tent here and then also to buses like this, as well, which would take them on to their next destination.

But huge expectations here for this to get the most, frankly, besieged people in Ukraine out of Mariupol as fast as possible. Great risk here, too. Ukrainian President Zelenskyy has made it clear he believed this was going to be starting this morning. It clearly has seen some delays here.


And the information we're getting, of course, not entirely clear as to the progress of this convoy at this stage for completely understandable reasons, given the peril they're traveling through.

But one car, as I say, had just arrived from Mariupol earlier, three individuals there and their dog, saying that they'd headed out, got through a Russian-held town where dozens of similar people were trying to get out, too, and they say they managed to bribe their way through the Russians to finally get to safety here.

But this quite seminal moment, frankly, because of the fate of that port city so heavily fought over and destroyed and the need for the civilians there to get themselves to safety, Brianna.

KEILAR: Yes. We're kind of holding our breath to see how this day ends there in Zaporizhzhia. Hopefully, with buses and cars headed your way. Nick Paton Walsh, we'll be checking in with you. Thanks.

BERMAN: All right. Joining me now, retired Army Major Mike Lyons.

Major, great to see you. I want to get your take on an operation we're just learning about overnight, and that's the Ukrainians saying that they've struck some Russian ships in the Black Sea not far from Snake Island. And we actually have video released by the Ukrainians of this incident.

They say these Russian vessels were hit by Ukrainian drones. Tell us the significance of what we're seeing here.

MAJ. MIKE LYONS (RET.), U.S. ARMY: Well, first, the fact that the Ukrainian military is being creative now and coming from the sea, or coming from the land to attack these targets in the sea, because they recognize that this is a strategic place that they're going to have to potentially use to evacuate civilians. We'd like to think other forces will kind of get there and reinforce, as well.

These are massive explosions, the kind of things that, again, Ukrainian military, in concert with the kind of equipment that the West has provided, has allowed them to do.

BERMAN: Let's stay on the subject of Ukrainian attacks on Russian sites or Russian vessels. This has to do with Belgorod, a town over the border, inside Russia, that's been a staging point for Russian forces here.

We're getting more word of strikes that are taking place there, and I believe we've got some video of one of those types of strikes that we've seen. Again, what's the strategic significance of the Ukrainians taking the fight to Russia?

LYONS: Well, Russia knows it has to reinforce those troops from the Donbas region, and they've failed at it in Kharkiv, and they failed at it in Kyiv and the other places. And now this is their last chance to shine here.

So if the Ukrainian military can attack somewhat deep into Russia, attack those logistics and communications and supply chains, it causes tremendous amount of upset for the troops that are forward that need that logistical support. They're likely using drones, maybe some helicopters or so. They're kind of quick hits. We call them raids in the military. Quick over the border, hit the enemy in the nose and then get back.

Again, very important and very strategic from the Ukraine's perspective to stop the Russian logistical supply chains.

BERMAN: I know that you think the major fight, really, may materialize here in Donbas where the Russians have concentrated most of their troops. And you see this as an artillery battle. Quoting Joseph Stalin, artillery is, what, the god of war.

LYONS: The god of war, the king of battle. Napoleon has always used it as the primary method. Now the race is on to get that artillery equipment coming from the West, not just U.S. supplies, not just the M-777 Howitzers, the French and Germans are providing Howitzers, as well. The PCH-2000 self-propelled armored Howitzers that will give crew protection, that will allow mobility.

That's going to be the key here as they fire on artillery units themselves of Russia. They've got to fight and then scoot. Move, scoot, communicate is the motto of the artillery. And so they've got to be able to survive that with mobility.

BERMAN: Can the Ukrainians, with the help of the United States and the West, can the Ukrainians match what the Russians already have in Donbas?

LYONS: Well, you know, they don't necessarily have to match. They just have to be good enough, and they have to just make sure that they can resupply themselves and make sure that they can defend what they can.

With the kind of budget that now the West is providing the Ukraine military, it's going to allow them to eventually go on the offensive.

That message, I think, is to Russia, not just to Ukraine. The $20 billion provides strategic weapons to Ukraine. That's going to allow them to eject the Ukraine from these areas in the Donbas. Likely, you could even argue that they could even take Crimea back. That is the level of military support they're getting.

That kind of money is the military budgets of Canada, Israel. It is just a tremendous amount of money that they're going to be able to use to buy strategic weapons with.

BERMAN: What's the time frame?

LYONS: Well, that's the issue. The race is on to get that equipment to the front, to get that equipment in their hands as fast as possible, but I think this is going to take place over six to nine months as a minimum.

The question is, in the short term, can the Ukraine military hold off in the Donbas? The Russians just can't break through. They get up every day, look at the intel reports. They are grinding it out right there, and the Ukraine military continues to throw back any kind of Russian advances.

BERMAN: All right. Major Mike Lyons, great to have you here. Thank you very much.

Jews around the world, including top Israeli officials, outraged by new comments from the Russian foreign minister about Hitler.

KEILAR: Plus, a manhunt in Alabama for a corrections officer and an inmate charged with murder who have both gone missing. What we are now learning.


BERMAN: And the eve of the Senate primary that could tell us everything about the waxing or waning power of Donald Trump.



KEILAR: New comments from Russia's foreign minister sparking outrage in Israel and beyond after Sergey Lavrov repeated Russian claims that it's trying to de-Nazify Ukraine and going so far as saying Adolf Hitler had, quote, "Jewish blood."

CNN's Scott McLean is live in Lviv with more details. Pushing back, Scott, on this obvious reply to this de-Nazification, that the president of Ukraine is Jewish. And here he is trying to say that doesn't even matter.

SCOTT MCLEAN, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, so the Russian foreign ministry's Sergey Lavrov made these comments in an interview on Italian television yesterday.

And of course, Russia has justified its invasion of Ukraine in part, Brianna, by saying that this country needs to be de-Nazified.

Now, Ukrainians often point out the absurdity of that by the simple fact that their president, Volodymyr Zelenskyy, is himself Jewish. And so Lavrov was responding to that by saying, quote, "I may be wrong, but Hitler also had Jewish blood. It means absolutely nothing. The wise Jewish people say that the most ardent anti-Semites are usually Jews."

Now, the chair of the Yad Vashem Holocaust remembrance site in Israel said that that was completely unfounded that Hitler had any Jewish ancestry. He also said that calling Ukrainians Nazis was a serious affront to the actual victims of Naziism.

Now, today the Russian ambassador to Israel was summoned by the foreign ministry in that country, and the Israeli foreign minister, Yair Lapid, said, "Foreign Minister Lavrov's remarks about [SIC] -- are both an unforgivable and outrageous statement, as well as a terrible historical error. Jews did not murder themselves in the Holocaust. The lowest level of racism against Jews is to accuse Jews themselves of anti-Semitism."

Now, the Ukrainian foreign minister, Dmytro Kuleba, also weighed in on this, saying that this is evidence of deeply rooted anti-Semitism amongst Russia's elites. He also said that it's simply offensive to the Ukrainian president -- Brianna.

KEILAR: Yes, it certainly is. Scott, thank you so much for that, live for us from Lviv, Ukraine.

A trusted Alabama corrections officer was supposed to take an inmate charged with murder to the courthouse for an appointment that it turned out wasn't actually an appointment. Now no one has heard from either of them for days, and a manhunt is under way.

BERMAN: The Buckeye brawl. A bruising Senate primary in Ohio, a huge endorsement and an epic gaffe from former President Donald Trump.


KEILAR: This morning a manhunt is under way for Alabama Corrections Officer Vicky White and an inmate named Casey White -- no relation, by the way -- after she left with him for a supposed mental health evaluation at the courthouse on Friday.

CNN's Nadia Romero is live for us in Atlanta with more here. And Nadia, she's actually the assistant director of corrections in Lauderdale County, a trusted official.

NADIA ROMERO, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, and Brianna, the sheriff says he's shocked, just like everyone, that this could happen, because she's been with the department for nearly 17 years. She's had that title for the past several years. And she would have had access to all of the prisoners, including inmate Casey White.

Now, the sheriff tells us she put in her retirement papers on Thursday, which would have been the day before the escape.

Now, the big question everyone is asking: is she an accomplice or is she a hostage? The sheriff says he just doesn't know that answer at this point, but he believes that she was well-liked, well-respected and that she is in danger.

So you're taking a look right now at pictures provided to local affiliate WAAY from Pat Davis. She's a woman who says she's the mother of Corrections Officer Vicky White. And she says she's shocked that this happened, and she believes that her daughter is in danger. She can't believe that she would be involved in this in any way, and she's pleading for her safety.

And this is all because of the man she was with, inmate Casey White, who has a long criminal history dating back to 2015, when he went on a crime spree. He was actually in prison serving 75 years for those crimes, for those convictions, when prosecutors say he told them he killed a woman, 59-year-old Connie Ridgeway.

Now, Connie Ridgeway was murdered in her apartment back in 2015, and prosecutors say that White admitted to it, although he did -- he pleaded not guilty for those capital murder charges.

But that's what brought him back to the county detention center for court proceedings related to those capital murder charges in the Ridgeway death.

We spoke with her son, Austin Williams. Listen to him talk about what it meant to his family to hear that Casey White had been charged in connection with his mother's death and now learning about White's escape.


AUSTIN WILLIAMS, SON OF CONNIE RIDGEWAY: I was really surprised to get the call about the confession. At that point I was thinking, well, do you know what? We may actually never know. This person may have just somehow gotten away with it.

We feel like, even though, you know, the trial hasn't started, we feel like justice has been served for her and that she kind of rested in peace. Even though things are chaotic right now, we feel like justice will be served.


ROMERO: And justice can't be served until, of course, they find inmate Casey White and Corrections Officer Vicky White. We are expecting to hear updates from the sheriff's office in a press conference later this morning -- Brianna.

KEILAR: All right. Nadia, thank you so much for that. I should mention, as well, we'll be speaking live with the sheriff next hour on NEW DAY.

BERMAN: All right. Twenty-four hours until primary day in Ohio, a huge race for the Republican nomination for Senate. Author and former venture capitalist J.D. Vance desperately sought and earned the endorsement from former President Trump over Ohio's former state treasurer, Josh Mandel, although for a moment overnight, it wasn't clear to anyone, apparently even Trump, exactly who he endorsed. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We've endorsed Dr. Oz. We've endorsed J.P., right? -- J.D. Mandel, and he's doing great. They're all doing good. They're all doing good.


BERMAN: All right. Joining me now, Harry Enten, CNN senior data reporter.

J.P. -- J.D. Mandel, such a person doesn't really exist in Ohio.

HARRY ENTEN, CNN SENIOR DATA CORRESPONDENT: No, that person does not exist, and you know, I actually have a slide on this, just so we're entirely clear who endorsed who in this race.

Donald Trump endorsed J.D. Vance.


Josh Mandel -- that is his name, Josh Mandel -- who desperately sought Donald Trump's enforcement, is in fact, endorsed by Ted Cruz.

And then, of course, interestingly enough in this race, we have Matt Dolan, who says the party must move on from Trump. So we have one guy who wanted the Trumps' endorsement, didn't get it, sort of almost got it last night; one guy who actually did; and then there's another guy in there who doesn't want -- didn't want the Trump endorsement at all.

BERMAN: So basically, Trump took "J.D.," married it with "Mandel," and created, you know, person "D" here.

ENTEN: That's correct.

BERMAN: "J.D. Mandel."

ENTEN: It was the face-merge machine that happened. Donald Trump had done this. Maybe he was having a little too much fun on the Internet.

BERMAN: All right. Where does this race stand right now?

ENTEN: So let's take a look where this race stands right now. This is a FOX News poll that came out last weekend. What does it show?

It shows that J.D. Vance was, in fact, leading the field at 23 percent; Josh Mandel, not J.D. Mandel, at 18 percent right behind him; Mike Gibbons, 13 percent; Matt Dolan, 11 percent; Jane Timken, who's basically fallen flat in this race, endorsed by Rob Portman, at just 6 percent.

But here's something I'm going to emphasize over and over and over again this primary season, and that is this undecided column. Look at that, 25 percent. That actually leads the field at this point, so we're not exactly sure what exactly will happen tomorrow.

BERMAN: What does history tell us about where this race may be headed?

ENTEN: Yes. You know, this is, again, something I just want to note in terms of when we see this polling data, look, it's instructive as to who's probably ahead here.

But this is primary polling errors in the final poll. The margin between the top two candidates, which was five points -- right? It was five points in that FOX News poll. Look at our history.

The average error since 2000, plus or minus 8 points. The true margin of error, that is 5 percent of the time, we may get a polling miss of plus or minus 22 points. There could be a big blowout tomorrow. We're not exactly sure.

And when you look and you say, OK, you know, Matt Dolan back here at 11 percent, he could still win. That would -- that's a possibility, given the past polling errors that we've seen with this 95 percent confidence in a poll.

BERMAN: Yes, look, even at 8 points, you know, anyone could really win at that point.


BERMAN: All right. The Trump endorsement, J.D. Vance really, really wanted this. This is a guy who actually said not-so-nice things about Trump in 2016.


BERMAN: Tried to, you know, reverse it all for now. What has the endorsement done?

ENTEN: It's done a lot. And I'll point out that, you know, Josh Mandel had really, really, really wanted that Trump endorsement, was you know, arguing a long time ago that Trump, in fact, had won the election when that, in fact, of course, is not true. Joe Biden won the election.

Take a look here. This is a FOX News poll. We're going to compare the late April numbers that we just saw to the early March numbers. Now, look at Vance's overall support -- overall share of primary support. Now it's 23 percent. Back in early March, Vance looked dead in the water. He was just at 11 percent -- look at that -- more than doubling his percentage of the vote.

And more than that, remember, primaries are not just about support. They're also about turnout. And look at the percentage of Vance voters who are extremely interested in voting. That's up to 57 percent now. It was just 48 percent. So not only did he pick up more support, but that support is now more solid.

BERMAN: Talk to us about Donald Trump's overall popularity right now among these primary voters.

ENTEN: Yes, so you know, one of the things that I think is interesting about this, you know, we looked at the earlier slide. And we said, OK, Ted Cruz has endorsed Mandel, and J.D. Vance got the Trump endorsement.

And as we look forward to 2024, I'm interested as to whether or not, you know, Cruz can actually get a candidate over the line, or does Trump still have that magic touch?

And one of the things that I'm looking at right now is in that FOX News poll: Should Donald Trump run for president in 2024? Among Ohio Republican primary voters, look at that: 60 percent say yes. Just 32 percent say no.

So, you know, if Vance is able to, in fact, win tomorrow and in fact, of course, he does have that Trump endorsement, despite Trump's stumbling over those words, that's another sign that Trump is in a pretty good position with Republican primary voters going forward.

BERMAN: Harry Enten, great to have you.

ENTEN: Thank you, sir.

BERMAN: Watch this.




BERMAN: That's actress Angelina Jolie moving at a brisk pace as air raid sirens sound in Ukraine. We'll have details on her visit.

Plus --


UNIDENTIFIED MALE (singing): Now, your Zelenskyy as the man with the iron balls.


KEILAR: You heard that correctly. Primus front man Les Claypool teaming up with a Ukrainian artist for a tribute song to President Zelenskyy. We'll show you the track. We'll have more on it and other musical greats featured on it, ahead.