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Uptick In Gun Violence Adds Strain To Overburdened Hospitals; Reporter Captured And Detained For 2 Weeks By Russians; World War II Veterans In Ukraine Fear They May See Another World War. Aired 7:30-8a ET

Aired May 09, 2022 - 07:30   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


[07:30:00]

JOHN AVLON, CNN ANCHOR: All right. New reporting this morning revealing just how much of a strain gun violence put on already overwhelmed hospitals early in the pandemic.

BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN ANCHOR: And U2 putting on a surprise show in Ukraine.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

U2, ROCK BAND: Singing "With Or Without You."

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

AVLON: New this morning, the spike in gun violence that the United States witnessed during the first year of the pandemic added strain to an already overwhelmed healthcare system. And while the number of COVID hospitalizations are down now, the country's hospitals are still in the grips of a gun violence epidemic.

Let's bring in CNN senior medical correspondent Elizabeth Cohen to tell us more -- Elizabeth.

[07:35:00]

ELIZABETH COHEN, CNN SENIOR MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: John, this is so unfortunate. So many lives have been taken by gun violence and I think just now, we're beginning to get a real picture of how much worse it got during the pandemic.

Take a look at these numbers. Now, this is from a study that was recently published in the medical journal JAMA. They were looking at March 2020 through February 2021, so some of the worst parts of the pandemic.

And they said that there 60 -- more than 62,000 firearm-related incidents during that time -- 62,000. That means 10,000 excess non- fatal injuries among people in the United States and more than 4,400 excess deaths. Now, that's 15% higher than we would have expected based on previous trends. In other words, if it had stayed the way it was pre-pandemic, then we would have expected it to have been much lower than this.

Now let's take a look at an analysis that CNN has done based on government data. What we found is that in 29 states, if you look at April to December -- so, sort of, the pandemic time versus the non- pandemic time before then -- overall, E.R. visits went down 26% pre- pandemic versus during the pandemic. They went down because fewer people were in cars having car accidents, et cetera.

But overall, E.R. visits for firearm injuries went up 34%. So in other words, just at the time when E.R. visits were going down for other things they were going way up for firearm visits -- John.

AVLON: A 34% spike in E.R. visits because of firearms.

COHEN: Yes.

AVLON: Elizabeth, thank you very much for sharing that insight to us -- gosh.

COHEN: Thanks.

AVLON: All right. An American citizen who was ambushed and held at gunpoint for more than 300 hours -- he's going to tell us his time in Russian captivity. He joins NEW DAY next.

BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN ANCHOR: And several states laying out their anti- abortion laws ahead of Roe v. Wade's anticipated reversal. We'll have the breakdown ahead.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[07:41:18]

KEILAR: G7 nations have committed to ban oil imports from Russia, the latest move by the West to put pressure on Russian President Putin for the war in Ukraine.

CNN has reporters around the globe bringing you the latest developments, starting with Nic Robertson in Finland.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

NIC ROBERTSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL DIPLOMATIC EDITOR (on camera): I'm Nic Robertson in Helsinki.

The G7 leaders have agreed to end Russian oil imports in a timely and orderly way. No hard fixed date but that commitment clear. They've also made commitments to counter Russian disinformation -- to hold Russian officials accountable for the killing of civilians, which they say is completely off-limits. And that they say that they are going to continue to support President Zelenskyy in his position of sovereignty and territorial integrity for Ukraine.

NADA BASHIR, CNN REPORTER (on camera): I'm Nada Bashir in London.

And in a surprise visit to Kyiv on Sunday, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau reaffirmed his support for Ukraine in a meeting with President Zelenskyy. In a joint press conference, Trudeau announced a boost in military support for Ukraine, including small arms and ammunition, and called for Russian President Vladimir Putin to be held accountable for war crimes in Ukraine.

Trudeau also announced the reopening of Canada's embassy in Kyiv, as well as the removal of trade tariffs on all Ukrainian imports into Canada for the next year.

CLARE SEBASTIAN, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (on camera): I'm Clare Sebastian in London.

Amidst the wave of military and diplomatic support for Ukraine, there was some musical support on Sunday. Iconic U2 singer Bono and guitarist The Edge gave a surprise performance at a Ukrainian metro station that also serves as a bomb shelter.

BONO: Singing "With Or Without You."

SEBASTIAN: In a tweet, the band said that President Zelenskyy had invited them to perform, quote, "as a show of solidarity to the Ukrainian people."

And together with Ukrainian pop and rock singer Taras Topolia, they performed a version of the Ben E. King song, "Stand By Me."

BONO, THE EDGE, TARAS TOPOLIA: Singing "Stand By Me."

(END VIDEOTAPE)

KEILAR: What a moment, right?

AVLON: How about that?

KEILAR: Unbelievable.

AVLON: I mean, look, Bri, cards on the table, I am a huge U2 fan. But seeing Bono and The Edge play in (INAUDIBLE) station in Kyiv during wartime -- just the comfort and the courage that gives. Just a great moment.

KEILAR: Yes, it really is. And I don't know if I'm more surprised just to see him pop up there or if I'm more surprised that he can still hit those high notes. He's --

AVLON: He can still do it on a good day. I mean --

KEILAR: Wow.

AVLON: -- you know, he sounded --

KEILAR: He did it.

AVLON: -- better than the iconic concert in Sarajevo, which was -- is a similar moment in some respects. But man, "With Or Without You." You've got to love it. KEILAR: Yes. It really sends a message.

AVLON: All right.

On March fourth, just hours after filing an on-the-ground assessment of the first few weeks of the Russian invasion of Ukraine, Kyiv-based Breaking Defense contributor Reuben Johnson disappeared. While driving to the train station, he says he was ambushed and his car riddled with bullets. Now, miraculously, he survived but he says he was robbed and captured by Russian soldiers and detained at gunpoint for two full weeks.

[07:45:11]

Reuben Johnson joins us now to tell his story. First, Reuben, you must feel so lucky to be alive. Tell us what happened when you were driving to the train station near Kyiv.

REUBEN JOHNSON, DETAINED BY RUSSIAN TROOPS, KYIV-BASED BREAKING DEFENSE CONTRIBUTOR (via Skype): Well, thank you for having me, first of all, and thank you for staying on this very important story.

What was happening was we were driving to a train station to try to get an evacuation train that would have taken us to the west of Ukraine and eventually to Poland. And the road that we were told was open was blocked.

And when we tried to go around a roadblock, there were -- there was no one present, but as soon as we tried to skirt the roadblock out of nowhere appeared Russian soldiers and they just began shooting. They never asked us to stop. They never gave a warning. It was just shooting at anything that moves.

AVLON: Well, specifically, what did you learn when you were in captivity? I mean, you were there for days upon days. And specifically, I'm wondering if the Russian soldiers' conversations gave you a glimpse of what was happening with the invasion from their perspective?

JOHNSON: Well, they're like everybody else -- they -- in Russia. They were cut off from almost any news sources of any kind, so they -- so they wouldn't know -- they wouldn't know from the media what was happening. But there was plenty of news trickling in from elsewhere.

And they, first of all, were mystified why they were still in Ukraine because they were told they'd be -- they'd be in Ukraine for four or five days and the war would be over. And here they were weeks later still there.

And then next to us was a medical triage unit where you could hear casualties coming in and lots of screaming, moaning soldiers in pain. And then occasionally, even a soldier being wrapped up in a body bag. You could hear all of this.

And this was all -- well, I should say not great for morale and caused Russian soldiers -- at least some that I spoke to -- to wonder exactly how long this could last.

AVLON: That may be indefinitely.

Can you explain how and when you were released from captivity?

JOHNSON: Well, we had been told a couple of times that oh, we're organizing your release. We can't release you because there's shelling going on everywhere and you wouldn't live -- you know, you wouldn't get 50 meters without being killed.

And suddenly one day, we were told we were being released and we were driven through Chernobyl all the way out to the border near Belarus and then dumped in the middle of nowhere and were told to start walking. Belarus is that way. And that's all it was. It was -- it was simply no notification of where we were going. We weren't given our passports back until we were dumped by the side of the road.

AVLON: Well, we're grateful that you got out with your life. That's more than many.

But you've said, though, that the U.S. weapons are making a big difference. You've seen evidence of that. But the problem is that the supply is running low. Tell us more about that insight.

JOHNSON: Well, not just U.S. weapons but it's the weapons that have been coming from everywhere, especially the NLAW, which is a weapon provided by the U.K. -- jointly developed by the U.K. and Sweden. And simply, what everyone is saying is the same thing now -- that we've given away all that we can give away without depleting the stocks that we need to have for our own military should our own military need to engage somewhere in the world.

So, after two months of fighting in Ukraine, there's no more surplus left. It leaves you with the impression that there's not enough equipment being produced on a regular basis to sustain anything like a long-term military operation.

And the timelines to replace this stuff are just unbelievable. I'm told it will take two years to replace the Javelins that have been given to Ukraine. That's a very, very long time when you're in the middle of a war.

AVLON: Well, it certainly is. But we are grateful that you are back to the United States and safety. Reuben Johnson, thanks for joining us on NEW DAY.

JOHNSON: Thank you.

AVLON: All right.

JOHNSON: Thank you. Have a good day.

AVLON: CNN is live in Moscow on Victory Day in Russia. The claims made by Vladimir Putin and Zelenskyy's response.

KEILAR: And after witnessing the horrors of World War II, we meet two Ukrainian veterans who fear a repeat in their lifetime.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[07:53:48]

KEILAR: The painful realities that Ukrainians are seeing day in and day out during the Russian bombardment are producing flashbacks for some. They're also introducing fears some veterans of World War II never thought they'd live to see.

CNN's Sara Sidner live in Kyiv with this part of the story. Tell us about these two people that you met and what they are so worried about that they never thought they'd have to be, Sara.

SARA SIDNER, CNN SENIOR NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Look, Victory Day used to be a day of celebration for these two gentlemen. Both of them served during World War II and they served with the Soviets. And now, they're sitting here watching the former Soviet Union wage war on their people.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

SIDNER (voice-over): Vasyl Kluy helped battle back the German advance in World War II when Ukraine was part of the Soviet Union. His proudest moments, helping liberate Mariupol by sea.

VASYL KLUY, WORLD WAR II VETERAN: (Speaking foreign language).

SIDNER (voice-over): "We liberated Mariupol from the Germans in 1943. We went there with three warships and wrecked 11 different German ships," he says.

[07:55:00]

Seventy-seven years after Victory Day, he has mixed feelings about Russia. It pains him to say it but the country he once fought for has turned into the enemy, leveling the very same city he fought so hard to save from Hitler's onslaught.

V. KLUY: (Speaking foreign language).

SIDNER (voice-over): "For all of us who went through the war at the time it hurts. I want to take up arms now and go to defend the same places and my country," he says.

His wife cannot contain herself as she listens to him and lashes out at the man she sees as responsible for the new war, Vladimir Putin.

SVITLANA KLUY, WIFE OF VASYL KLUY: (Speaking foreign language).

SIDNER (voice-over): "There shouldn't be anything like him on Earth," she says. "He kills, destroys our cities and villages. He destroys our defenseless people."

On the anniversary of Victory Day, there are no celebrations here -- only mementos and memories. V. KLUY: (Speaking foreign language).

SIDNER (voice-over): "It's no longer a holiday. It's very difficult," he says. "There aren't many of us left."

But Metodiy Volynets is still here. The 96-year-old World War II veteran doesn't have to remember the terror of war. He's been given fresh memories. Russian tanks blasted a hole in the front of his home in the tree-lined suburb of Walsall.

He fought as a Soviet against the Germans but has never had any love for the Soviets after he says he was jailed for speaking up against them.

METODIY VOLYNETS, WORLD WAR II VETERAN: (Speaking foreign language).

SIDNER (voice-over): "I was awarded medals and orders for victory, but I did not recognize them and never wore them," he says.

He says Putin's Russia has started a war it cannot win.

VOLYNETS: (Speaking foreign language).

SIDNER (voice-over): "It's an atrocity. It's vandalism," he says. "Probably the leadership is stupid. Only idiots would do this -- start a war against Ukraine."

Both men say they have the will to fight again, if not with their bodies then with their words.

VOLYNETS: (Speaking foreign language).

SIDNER (voice-over): "Why am I smiling? Because I believe that we will rebuild this house and that Ukraine will win."

(END VIDEOTAPE)

SIDNER: And we should mention that the one thing he was really concerned about after his house ended up getting struck is his cats and all the books and his poems that he's written that he recited to us. It really was an incredible day -- Brianna.

KEILAR: Yes. He -- I mean, I look at his house. He has a beautiful little home with -- you know, it's the sign of a life well-lived. You see that there.

SIDNER: Yes.

KEILAR: And that is what so many Ukrainians are fighting to hold on to and are fearful it's going to be taken away.

I am curious, Sara because the first gentleman that you spoke to with all of the medals -- he was telling you that he has these mixed feelings about Russia. Can you tell us a little more about that?

SIDNER: You know, he was really proud of fighting alongside the Soviet Union. That's when Ukraine was part of the Soviet Union. He was very proud of the work that they had done to push the Germans back. He had even met, years later, Vladimir Putin himself.

And so, he felt this allegiance at first and he said he just could not believe that they would turn on the Ukrainian people like this. And so, he said he did feel a bit torn.

His wife, however -- every time he would say something she would shake her head in anger and she would start murmuring things next to him. She said she just could not keep her mouth closed because she is just disgusted with Putin -- Brianna.

KEILAR: Sara, really great report. Thank you so much for sharing it with us.

And NEW DAY continues right now.

Good morning to viewers here in the U.S. and around the world. It is Monday, May 9. And I'm Brianna Keilar with John Avlon. John Berman is off.

This morning, a show of military might in Moscow. Vladimir Putin defended his actions in Ukraine at Russia's Victory Day ceremonies. Putin claiming the West was creating threats and preparing to invade Russia.

AVLON: The big plan to have 77 aircraft flying over Red Square to commemorate the 1945 victory over Nazi Germany didn't happen. The Kremlin blamed bad weather.

Now, let's go to CNN's Matthew Chance live for us in Moscow. Matthew, what stood out to you about Putin's speech this morning?

MATTHEW CHANCE, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, I mean, look -- I mean, the atmosphere in Red Square was absolutely incredible -- a real military spectacular of the kind we've come to expect from Russia when it puts on this kind of commemoration every year.

Eleven thousand troops, all marching in step with each other and singing and chanting patriotic slogans. A display of military hardware as well, including rocket launchers and tanks, and intercontinental ballistic missiles. I mean, it's truly incredible to watch.

And I was right there in the middle of the crowds, sort of in the stands, right in the middle of Red Square watching this parade take place across the cobbles of Red Square.

[08:00:00]