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New Day Sunday

Officials in Mariupol Reject Russian Demand to Surrender; Pope Celebrates Easter Mass at St. Peter's; North Korea Touts Successful Weapon Test; Task Force: Children Age 8 and Older Should Be Screened for Anxiety; Ukrainian Girl Orphaned In Mariupol Now in Russian Custody; Gulf and East Coast Brace for More Severe Storms. Aired 7-8a ET

Aired April 17, 2022 - 07:00   ET



AMARA WALKER, CNN ANCHOR: Hi, everyone. It is Sunday, April 17th. Happy Easter to you if you are celebrating. Welcome to your NEW DAY. I'm Amara Walker.

ALEX MARQUARDT, CNN ANCHOR: It's great to be with you, Amara.

I'm Alex Marquardt. Boris and Christi have this Easter morning off.

We begin with Ukrainian officials who are defying the Russian demand to leave the battered city of Mariupol in Ukraine's south.

WALKER: Russia ordered Ukrainian fighters still defending the city to lay down their weapons and leave by today. What is left of Mariupol and surrounding areas is reported to be under Russian control. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy calls the situation inhuman, and he says the unrelenting assault makes any negotiations with Russia unlikely.


VOLODYMYR ZELENSKYY, UKRAINIAN PRESIDENT (through translator): The situation in Mariupol remains as severe as possible, just inhuman. This is what the Russian Federation did, deliberately did and deliberately continues to destroy cities. Russia is deliberately trying to destroy everyone who is there in Mariupol.


MARQUARDT: Now, Russian forces have stepped up their attacks in the eastern part of Ukraine, that area known as the Donbas ahead of what is expected to be a major offensive there. Ukrainian officials are saying two civilians were killed and 18 injured in a cruise missile strike in the northeastern city of Kharkiv. That's near the Russian border.

We're also hearing from officials that three workers were killed and four wounded while clearing cluster bombs in that region in Kharkiv.

WALKER: The latest shipment of military aid from the U.S. has begun arriving in Ukraine. The shipment includes helicopters, drones, canons and other heavy-duty weapons. It's part of a $800 million package of security assistance to Ukraine.

Let's bring in CNN correspondent Matt Rivers now.

And, Matt, we know the Russian imposed deadline has come and gone for Ukrainian troops to surrender. What can you tell us about what might happen next?

MATT RIVERS, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yeah, Amara, that deadline imposed by the Russians ended one hour ago. They said by that time they expected all remaining Ukrainian resistance in Mariupol to lay down their arms and surrender, but that did not happen with Ukrainian officials saying their defense of that city even if it's a lot smaller than it used to be, will continue.

So, what the Russians have done now is acknowledged the fact the Ukrainians have ignored that deadline, and they said as long as resistance will continue to be put up in that city, they will eliminate as the Russian defense ministry said all remaining resistance fighters.

So essentially that means what we have seen over the last few weeks in Mariupol with Ukrainian resistance continuing to fight these Russian troops, that this siege of this city is going to continue. Now, what the Russians are saying, that they believe the majority or all, rather, of Ukrainian resistance is centered on the Azovstal steel plant. But what the Ukrainians are saying they actually have more pockets of resistance in and around the city.

For example, they said according to the Ukrainians last night there was fighting going on 5 kilometers away from that steel plant. So they're clearly trying to push the message from the Ukrainian side there's more fighting going on in Mariupol than the Russians would have us believe. What should not lose in all of this is that there are still tens of citizens, ordinary people in Mariupol who have been there for weeks without water, without power, and they cannot leave.

Because as of today we're told the Ukrainians and Russians have not been able to agree once again on any evacuation route for citizens, meaning there is no way at any sort of scale for citizens to evacuate from Mariupol. Which means as the siege and fighting continues between both sides the suffering of an enormous civilian population continues as well.

MARQUARDT: And, Matt, despite the fact Russian troops have withdrawn from the around the capital, pulled their troops away from Kyiv, we have seen over the course of the past few days including today continued Russian strikes around the city.

RIVERS: Yeah, overnight, Alex. This is the third straight day where we have seen a strike in and around Kyiv. This time the strike taking place in a suburb of Kyiv called Brovary. The city's mayor there says infrastructure has been targeted and the city will now have problems with its water supply. It was yesterday that a southeastern district of the city of Kyiv was

targeted by a Russian missile, at least one person was killed, several others injured. So as we see more sustained shelling, a troop build up from that prepared offensive in the east Russia will likely launch in earnest within the coming days and weeks, we are still seeing these individual, more isolated attacks on cities like Kyiv as we wait for that offensive to begin.


WALKER: The terror and suffering continues as you point out. Matt Rivers, thank you. That constant shelling, the relentless attacks, that is life right now for people unable to escape Eastern Ukraine.

MARQUARDT: And CNN's Ben Wedeman takes us to the front lines of those attacks and he speaks with some of the people who have been trapped by the Russian invasion.


BEN WEDEMAN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The shelling comes early and often with Russian forces massing nearby this is portent of things to come. Firefighters brave the threat of shelling but few others brave the streets of Severodonetsk.

Life for those who haven't fled has moved underground to stuffy shelters where safety Trumps comfort. Around 300 people call this temporary home, on the grounds of a sprawling chemical plant.

Maksym (ph) and his wife Ira try to keep the 7-month old Artum (ph) distracted. Their recent arrivals having fled their home ten days ago. Maksym shows me cellphone pictures of the cellar they hid out in before coming here.

Disabled, Tatiana, stays in bed most of the time. She'd prefer to be at home but what home?

There's no electricity, no cellphone signal, no water, no gas she tells me. Everything is shaking from the bombing, the windows are shattered.

Tamara tutors her grandson, Timor. A retired English teacher, she's been here for more than a month.

TAMARA, SEVERODONETSK RESIDENT: A lot of people come here because of problems with health and they don't have enough money to live on in other places, and they have to stay here.

WEDEMAN: Seventy-three-year-old Vasily struggles to move about the shelter. He's not leaving town.

I was born here and I'll stay here, he says.

Nearby, tanks at an oil refinery burn after a Russian strike, not the first time it came under bombardment. The shelling here comes early and often. Ben Wedeman, CNN outside Severodonetsk, eastern Ukraine.


MARQUARDT: Our thanks to Ben Wedeman for that report.

CNN political and national security analyst David Sanger is with us now to dive deeper into all of this. He's also a White House and national security correspondent for "The New York Times."

David, thanks so much for being with us this morning.


MARQUARDT: Let's start in Mariupol. We have made a lot of all the Russian failures over the course of the past few weeks, but now, it looks like the Russians are poised to take this key strategic southern port city. You've got this small pocket of Ukrainian fighters who are refusing to surrender, but things do not look good for them.

How significant will it be for Russia's campaign if and when they do manage to take Mariupol?

SANGER: Well, it would be the first city they take, but I think more importantly, Alex, it indicates we really have entered a very different phase of this war nearly eight weeks in. If the first two months were all about the Russians making a series of tactical errors, dividing their force over six or seven axes of attack, trying to take the entire country, stretching themselves too thin, we now see a big move back.

They are focusing on Mariupol. They are focusing on the Russian speaking southeast. This was Putin's initial objective back in the fall.

And they're moving to a different form of warfare, one they know a whole lot better. The Donbas is as one Ukrainian official said to one of my colleagues last week, more like Kansas, which is to say big open spaces that lend itself to artillery barrage. So the Russians are likely to be able to do a lot there.

MARQUARDT: As conflicts go on, David, as death tolls mount on both sides and they're significant on both sides, you generally hope the two sides will be more incentivized to talk and try to find a way out of this, but at this point, it looks like talks are not -- not likely or at least productive talks are not really in the cards.

SANGER: Well, certainly we heard President Putin say earlier in the week that talks were at a dead end.


And for him he's got to be calculating that he will be in a much better position to negotiate if he has seized a good part of the Donbas, this area where there's been a sort proxy war under way for, what, eight years now. But that once he's grabbed that territory if he thinks he can and it's not at all certain he will do it or do it on the time scale he has in mind, that that's when the moment is to begin to talk.

And the problem, Alex, is no one really thinks that whatever agreement they reach is terribly permanent, that he may use this time to go regroup and then try again for the entire country.

MARQUARDT: Adding to the list of Russian failures we now know from the mayor of St. Petersburg that yet another Russian general has been killed. His name was Major General Vladimir Frolov. So that list of top Russian officers killed by Ukrainian forces is growing.

Have we seen any impact that's having on the way Russia is carrying out their campaign and changing their tactics?

SANGER: Only one. They've brought in a general who's responsible for the truly brutal techniques used in Syria to basically run the entire war for the Russians in Ukraine. And my suspicion is that you're going to see that brutality play out now. I think they've recognized they've stretched themselves far too thin. The casualties they've taken are remarkable, and the sinking is remarkable because that should have been a predictable, fairly easy to defend target.

MARQUARDT: Yeah, and very little detail about the Moskva actually coming out now.

David, when you see this growing list of weaponry from NATO countries going into Ukraine, when you see the battle changing into the east in the Donbas area and the setbacks the Russians have suffered, do you think and do your sources believe that it is more likely now that Russians may use nonconventional weapons, some kind of tactical nuclear weapon or some chemical weapons?

SANGER: I think the possibility of using chemical weapons is relatively high, and once they do that then you'll see that we may well be on a different pathway.

MARQUARDT: I think even Vladimir Putin would be hesitant to make use of a tactical nuclear weapon with a possible exception of the warning shot, basically something over the Black Sea that says, you know, stay away, I'm willing to reach into my nuclear arsenal.

I think the chances of that are pretty low, but I thought it was notable that Bill Burns, the CIA chief, in a speech that he gave down in Georgia last week actually specifically raised that possibility, and that tells you how much it is in the forefront of American officials minds.

MARQUARDT: Yeah, he said they're obviously keeping a close eye on it, but so far they haven't seen any kind of movements.

David Sanger, we have to leave it there. Thanks as always for your expertise.

SANGER: Great to be with you. MARQUARDT: All right. Well, coming up later this morning, our own

Jake Tapper has sat down with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, and that interview will be on "STATE OF THE UNION" live from Lviv at 9:00 a.m. Eastern Time, right here on CNN.

WALKER: All right. Still to come, police in Pittsburgh are searching for the gunman behind an overnight shooting that left two children dead. We'll have the latest on the investigation.

Plus, North Korea sends a message, calling the launch of a new type of guided tactical weapon a success. The growing concerns over the country's nuclear capabilities.

And next, for the first time since the pandemic, thousands packing St. Peter's Square for Easter Sunday mass. How the war in Ukraine has impacted Pope Francis' message.



MARQUARDT: Tens of thousands of refugees trying to escape the fighting in Ukraine have fled to Estonia, the small Baltic country.

WALKER: Yes, yes. CNN's correspondent Scott McLean, he's joining us from there in Estonia.

And, Scott, we know there's been a lot of focus on Ukrainian refugees streaming into Poland. But now, Estonia playing a growing role, and it's quite a ways away from Ukraine.

What exactly are you seeing now?

SCOTT MCLEAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Certainly an outsized role, Amara. This is a small country, 1.3 million people. They've taken in more than 30,000 Ukrainians.

Of course, Estonia wants to help Ukraine as many other countries do. They see a lot of parallels between their own country and Ukraine. Of course, both countries have a very large Russian speaking minority population. They're also both formerly part of the Soviet Union, and, of course, they've also lived for decades now with this constant threat, this constant fear of Russian invasion, of Russian aggression right on their border.

And so, it's easy to see why Estonians want to help and want to make sure Ukrainians have what they need. The difference, of course, with Estonia it's a member of the EU and NATO, so it has that protection. But even still it's not resting on its laurels. The prime minister, the president, they've both been vocal advocating for NATO countries to beef up their own defense spending and also arguing for European countries to start spending more to give Ukraine the aid that it needs.

MARQUARDT: And, Scott, Estonia doesn't share a border with Ukraine, so logistically how are people getting there, and what's your impression of whether they just want to stay there for the duration of war and go back, or are they looking to resettle?

MCLEAN: So, this is quite interesting. At the beginning, at the outset of the war, a lot of people were getting to Estonia primarily because they had family connections here. There were about 30,000 Estonians here before the war began who were working in Estonia. There were also buses going between Estonia and Poland and Hungary and Romania, picking people up and taking them to Estonia. And this is pretty attractive place for people to come because of that large Russian speaking population.

Lately, though, officials tell me that most people are actually coming in through Russia, which is bizarre to think but a lot of people as we know especially in places like Mariupol are kind of stuck. Russia has a chokehold, a stranglehold on that city and the easiest place for people to go is through Russia. So, even if they're reluctant, even if they're forced to go in that direction, they're going there, and many of them are finding their way back here to Estonia.

Every Ukrainian that I met want to go back to Ukraine at some point, some at the earliest possible moment. The reality, though, is many of them won't be able to. The minister for refugees acknowledges that. She'd actually like some of them to stay around because, of course, this country has a small population and an aging population that can really use an influx of new people especially young ones -- Alex, Amara.

MARQUARDT: That would be a long journey through Russia to get out to Estonia from Mariupol. Scott McLean in the Estonian capital, thank you very much.

WALKER: Thanks so much, Scott.

Well, thousands of people packed St. Peter's Square for Easter services, the celebration of the most joyous day on the Christian calendar.

MARQUARDT: But Pope Francis used his address to call for peace and condemn the violence in Ukraine. Take a listen.


POPE FRANCIS, CATHOLIC CHURCH (through translator): May there be peace in war-torn Ukraine, so sorely tried by the violence and the destruction of the cruel and senseless war in which it was dragged.


MARQUARDT: CNN's senior Vatican analyst and editor of "Crux", the independent Catholic news site, John Allen, joins us now.

John, the pope has been outspoken not just today but over the past two months about this war in Ukraine.


First of all, good morning, Amara and Alex, and happy Easter to both of you.

Yes, the pope has been increasingly vocal I would say as this conflict has gone on. Traditionally, the Vatican tries to be super parte, that is above the parties, and not take sides. But as the cruelty and barbarity of this war has become increasingly clear, the pope has become increasingly outspoken and we heard that today. In his traditional address to the city and the world, the pope called this an Easter of war, as we heard in the clip you just played he called this war cruel and senseless.

Later, he also expressed compassion for the victims of this war including refugees and internally displaced persons, children who have been orphaned by the war and others. Now, he did mention several other global hot spots including the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, Syria, Yemen, Myanmar situations, in Africa and Latin America. But it is clear in a particular way, this war in Ukraine is in his heart and on his mind, Amara and Alex.

WALKER: Yeah, a lot of mixed feelings on this Easter holiday for many Christians around the world.

John Allen, thank you so much.

Well, a group of musicians in Ukraine formed a street orchestra to boost spirits in the city of Dnipro.

MARQUARDT: The orchestra played several well-known pieces, including, as you can hear it there, the theme music from James Bond as well as traditional songs popular in Ukraine. The orchestra's conductor says they did it to bring some levity, some positivity to people at a difficult time.

We'll be right back.



MARQUARDT: We are coming up on half past the hour. Here are a couple of stories we're following at this hour.

Police in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, said that two minors were killed on Saturday night and several others were injured after gunfire broke out inside a large party at an Airbnb. You can see it right there. Early reports revealing as many as 200 people were at that party when dozens of rounds were fired inside the home that prompted many to jump out of the windows to try to escape. Authorities say they are still searching for a suspect and are reviewing video from last night.

An arrest has been made in connection to another shooting at a mall in Columbia, South Carolina, this time. That was on Saturday. It left 14 people injured, 22-year-old Jewayne Price has been charged with the unlawful carrying of a pistol, and police say at least two more people displayed firearms in the mall that day. Investigators believe the shooting was not random but rather an isolated incident that likely came from an ongoing conflict. Over to North Korea where they have test fired what we believe to be a

new type of missile according to North Korea. South Korea says that Pyeongyang launched two projectiles on Saturday that fell east of the Korean peninsula.

The state media North Korea released these photos of the country's dictator, Kim Jong-un. He observed the missile test, which called it a new type of guided weapon that will boost North Korea's nuclear capabilities.

Tomorrow, Philadelphia will be the first major U.S. city to reinstate an indoor mask mandate after a dramatic surge in new COVID cases driven by the BA.2 variant, and nationally, cases are trending upward in more than half of the states but especially in New York where officials say they're on alert for two sub-variants accounting for more than 90 percent of new cases and spreading 25 percent faster than the BA.2 strain.

Well, the pandemic has brought to light the growing mental health crisis among America's youth. And for the first time, the U.S. Preventative Task Force, which is an independent panel of experts that makes recommendations on-screenings and preventative medicine, this panel is recommending that children as young as 8 years old and older should be screened for anxiety.

Joining me now is a member of that task force, Martha Kubik. She's also a professor at the George Mason School of nursing.

Good morning to you, Martha. Thanks so much for joining us.

So, right now, we should mention this is only a draft, right, but how did a task force -- how did you all come to this decision especially coming down to age 8, and what would these potential screenings look like?

MARTHA KUBIK, MEMBER, U.S. PREVENTIVE SERVICES TASK FORCE: Yeah, thank you so much for the invitation to speak about this really important topic.

The task force identifies topics of interest to the public and prioritizes topics based on public health importance. Certain certainly as you note anxiety is an increasing problem among our young people, children and adolescents. So with our approach we reviewed the research evidence, the studies that look at screening and the effectiveness of screening and identifying anxiety in children and adolescents who actually present to the primary care clinic setting without signs and symptoms.

So that's important. Screening and scores young people without signs and symptoms of anxiety. But that's also the benefit of preventative screening strategy is. We were able to identify several studies that included children as young as 8, so felt confident in making that recommendation regarding that screening starting at age 8.

WALKER: So, how -- I mean, obviously the pandemic exacerbated I'm sure rates of depression and anxiety especially among our youth, right, because they're at a very impressionable age. How has COVID-19 worsened the situation?

KUBIK: Well, prior to 2019, prevalence rates were at about 9 percent to 10 percent among young children between the ages of 3 and 17. Some of the early data coming out of -- since the pandemic in say 2020 is looking at potentially even doubling the rate. So it's an important area that continues to be of concern. And to have an effective evidence-based strategy that we can utilize to identify young people early and connect them to the care they need is so important.

WALKER: So if symptoms don't present early and this is why screening is important, what can parents do? What do we need to be look out for? Are there any red flags even if symptoms aren't as obvious as you say?

KUBIK: Well, there are red flags to anxiety. You know, anxiety can be perfectly normal, and sometimes it can actually be protective. But what would be concerning could be anxiety -- signs of worry, signs of fear that are persistent and intense. To the point that a young person doesn't want to go to school, they're not engaging in family life. You know, they're sleeping, they're not eating correctly.

So changes in typical behavior are something for parents and care takers to be alert to.

WALKER: You were quoted to say and I think it was in a "the New York Times" article that, quote, it's critical to be able to intervene before a life is disrupted. Why is early intervention so important?

KUBIK: Well, you know, I think you yourself said childhood adolescence is such a critical period for young people. They have a lot of work they're doing, right? They're going to school, engaging, learning with their peers, developing socially and emotionally.


So it's a very critical time in life. We know that anxiety and depression diagnosed in childhood and adolescence can actually carry through to adulthood. So it has a lot of consequences both now during childhood and later in adulthood.

So it's very important that we intervene, we connect them to care and provide children and their families the support they need to get better.

WALKER: And I'm sure teachers are the first line of defense as well because they're the ones reporting behavioral problems among students who finally return to the classroom because they spend so much time at home and are now transitioning to being back in person at this critical point in their lives.

Martha Kubik, appreciate you. Thank you so much.

KUBIK: Thank you. Thank you very much.

MARQUARDT: Wounded, orphaned and taken by Russian soldiers. Coming up next, we have the story of this 12-year-old girl from the Ukrainian city of Mariupol and the worry that her surviving relatives will never see her again.



MARQUARDT: In the ravaged southern Ukrainian city of Mariupol, we've seen disturbing reports of local citizens being forcibly removed, relocated to areas that are under Russian control and perhaps even into Russia itself.

WALKER: Now imagine this, that you're a 12-year-old girl, your care- free life upended. You're orphaned during the relentless attacks and then captured by Russian soldiers.

CNN's Phil Black lays out a grim future for this child caught in the midst of war.


PHIL BLACK, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): It's almost hard to comprehend. This was Mariupol, not long ago when its people knew safety and happiness.

The girl in pink is Kira Obedinsky, joyful, loved, 12 years old. This is Kira after the Russians came -- orphaned, injured, alone, in a Russian-controlled hospital.

Russian media released this video showing Kira in Donetsk, the capital of a separatist backed Russian region in Ukraine's east. It shows her telling some of her story, why she fled Mariupol.

There was a lot of shooting, she says, our building was hit.

So was her father, Yevheny Obedinsky, the former captain of Ukraine's national water polo team was shot from a distance and killed as Russian forces fought their way into Mariupol on March 17th.

Days later, Kira, some neighbors and her father's girlfriend tried to flee the city on foot, but someone stepped on a mine and Kira was injured in the blast. Russian soldiers then took her to Donetsk.

The Russian military which killed your son now has your granddaughter.

Kira's grandfather Oleksander tells me her mother died when she was a baby and now she watched her father die. She misses her remaining family and she wants to return to them.

Oleksander is scared he may never see Kira again. He says an official from breakaway government in Donetsk phoned and invited him to travel there, to claim her, but that is impossible because of the war. When Oleksander spoke to the hospital, he says he was told Kira will eventually be sent to an orphanage in Russia.

They took her documents, he says, and said they'll provide new ones when they send her into Russia. The Russian government says it's helped move at least 60,000 Ukrainian people into safety across the Russian border. The Ukrainian government has said around 40,000 have been relocated against their will describing it as abduction and forced deportation.

The Russian media video shows Kira talking happily about how she's sometimes allowed to call her grandfather. I called him today, she says. I also called him in the evening.

A Russian TV presenter called the video proof Kira wasn't abducted, proof of yet another Ukrainian fake.

Kira also sometimes sends her grandfather audio messages like this one.

She first tells him not to cry, but she can't stop her own tears. I haven't seen you for so long, I want to cry, she says.

A voice of a young girl who's lost her family, her home, her freedom all to Russia's war.

Phil Black, CNN, Lviv, Ukraine.


MARQUARDT: Children caught in the middle of the news and the information war.

Now, new this morning, violence has once again erupted around Jerusalem's Al-Aqsa mosque, which is one of the holiest sites in Islam. Video that was posted on social media showed new clashes today outside the mosque. You can see it right there, people fleeing the violence for safety but also showed the heavy Israeli police presence there as Jewish groups went up to the holy site.

Israeli police say they have made nine arrests for rock throwing and other public disorder offenses today.


More than 150 people were injured in clashes on Friday.

Now, he's considered to be the Ukrainian Bruce Springsteen. Coming up next, how he's using music to help lift the spirits of others during these very dark hours.



WALKER: Snow in the Midwest. Severe storms in the Gulf States this Easter Sunday. Could be messy for some.

MARQUARDT: Let's go straight to Allison Chinchar, the CNN weather center.

Allison, what are you seeing out there? ALLISON CHINCHAR, CNN METEOROLOGIST: A little bit of everything. Kind

of a mixed bag. Some folks are going to need the umbrella, others may need their snow boots because we're talking about possibly a much of a foot of snow.

But let's begin along the Gulf Coast, where we have the potential for severe storms. This stretches from Texas over to the east coast of Georgia. Damaging winds, large hail and, yes, even an isolated tornado is possible today.

The first round of storms moving through areas of Arkansas. That's going to continue to spread off to the south and east as we make our way through the day. So, cities like Atlanta, Birmingham really starting to see things ramp up in the afternoon and continuing into the evening hours.

Into the Upper Midwest, snow is the focus here. In some cases you're talking a significant amount of snow. You have winter storm warnings and weather advisories that stretch from Idaho over to Eastern Minnesota. Some of these places could pick up 6 to even 10 inches of snow. There's also going to be very gusty winds around 30 miles per hour. Visibility will drop, especially as that snow gets blown all over the place.

Let's do more of a city by city breakdown and focus on what the today forecast is really going to be. New York City, Washington, D.C. and Cleveland, a nicer day today than they had yesterday, while they've been dealing with rain showers, a little bit dryer today in the forecast. Atlanta and Orlando, however, quite the opposite. You have showers and even thunderstorms in the forecast for today.

Also showers and thunderstorms for New Orleans. Dallas, St. Louis, Kansas City, Minneapolis is going to see a little rain and transition to snow mix tonight. Dry for Seattle and Portland but rain returns tomorrow.

MARQUARDT: All right. Lots going on out there. Allison Chinchar, thanks very much.


MARQUARDT: A Ukrainian rock star is using his voice and influence to lift civilian spirits during this war in Ukraine. CNN's Rafael Romo has that story.


RAFAEL ROMO, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): There was the orchestra that performed the concert for peace in the public square in the middle of the day in spite of the danger of an air strike.

And the cellist who defied the invaders by playing his instrument in front of bombed out buildings.

And who can forget the little girl with the sweetest voice who made those around her forget they were in a bomb shelter? One by one, singers and musicians in Ukraine have defied the Russians by using their talent to unite a nation and soothe a terrified population.


ROMO: The most famous one is Sviatoslav Vakarchuk, better known as Slava, who some call the Ukrainian Bruce Springsteen.

VAKARCHUK: Dignity and freedom are basic values.

ROMO: At the beginning of the invasion, Slava could have chosen to flee the country, instead -- he decided not only to stay but to visit terrified civilians like these people seeking shelter in Kharkiv subway station.

You went to a subway station by yourself, where there were many people, and unannounced, and you started singing. Why did you do something like that?

The whole idea, Slava says, is to help people forget, even if is for a fleeting moment about the horror of war.

VAKARCHUK: Imagine someone like me comes and says, okay, guys, everything is fine. Let's sing together. Let's have some fun.

ROMO: Let's forget for a moment we're at war.

VAKARCHUK: Yeah, this is it.

ROMO: And so he's visited hospitals like this one to cheer up victims of a rocket attack, survivors of an airstrike at a train station in Kramatorsk, and troops on the front lines.

Songs, Slava says, are his answer to Russian bullets. Empathy and goodwill are more powerful than any bomb.

VAKARCHUK: Ukrainians are one of the most -- the freest nations in the world. We have this gene of freedom in our DNA. That's why probably many Americans instinctively, intuitively support us now.

ROMO: In the streets people greet him and ask for pictures. Slava happily obliges and takes the opportunity to give everybody the same message, everything will be all right, which happens to be the title of one of his songs, his most popular nowadays.

I hope that everything is going to be all right for everybody, the song says. Our time is going to come.

Rafael Romo, CNN, Lviv, Ukraine.


WALKER: What a way to bring a message of hope. An extraordinary human there.

Well, it is an iconic American symbol that towers above the streets of New York.


Now, the Empire State Building is using its lights for a special purpose. The world's most famous building will shine bright in the colors of the Ukrainian flag for the first 15 minutes of every evening now through June 1st. It is part of a partnership with CNN's impact your world initiative.

And so far more than 80,000 CNN viewers have come together to raise $7.5 million to send to the people of Ukraine through 40 vetted charities. Fantastic.

To find out how you can help, visit our Impact Your World site at

And that's all the time we have. It was great to be with you, Alex.

Thanks for starting your morning with us.

MARQUARDT: Great to be with you, Amara.

"INSIDE POLITICS SUNDAY" with Abby Phillip is coming up next. Take care.