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CNN TONIGHT: Biden: "Major War Crimes" Happening In Ukraine; Zelenskyy: Hundreds Of Kids In Russian-Speaking Regions Have Died In Russian Air Strikes; Polish President To CNN: No Doubt Russian Aggression Could Extend To Poland In The Future. Aired 9-10p ET

Aired April 06, 2022 - 21:00   ET




ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST: One piece of late news, before we go.

The House voting, to refer two former Trump advisers, to the Justice Department, for criminal contempt of Congress charges. Dan Scavino and Peter Navarro, both been refusing to cooperate, with the committee, or appear, for scheduled depositions.

That's it for us. The news continues. I want to hand it over to Jake Tapper, and CNN TONIGHT.


JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: Thanks, Anderson.

This is CNN TONIGHT. I'm Jake Tapper, live, from Lviv, Ukraine, which is close to NATO's doorstep, in the West, just about 40 miles, from Poland.

This region was targeted by Russian cruise missiles, within the last 24 hours or so, about an hour, northeast of where I'm standing. But Ukraine's military claims to have shot those missiles down.

The fiercest fighting, is underway, right now, however, in Eastern Ukraine, according to government officials, there. That's where Vladimir Putin has shifted focus, for what seems to be a new phase of his war.

Heavy fighting, reported today, by local officials, in the Donbas region of Luhansk and Donetsk. Also, more than two dozen strikes, reported, on residential areas, residential areas, in the city of Kharkiv.

The Pentagon assesses that Russian forces have completely withdrawn, from areas, around the capital of Kyiv, and nearby Chernihiv, to close in on that note, Donbas region. But Putin has not necessarily given up, on trying to capture the capital of Kyiv. He's just moving his troops, and the targets, of his brutal strikes, elsewhere, for now.

And as Russian troops move elsewhere, their horrific actions are being revealed in towns that they once occupied, such as Bucha. A warning, again, this evening, some pictures that we will show you, throughout this hour, such as these, are graphic, and disturbing.

A senior U.S. defense official now says the slaughter of perhaps hundreds of Ukrainians, in Bucha, does appear to have been premeditated and planned. And the U.S. government also believes it will be able to identify the Russian units that carried out these atrocities. That, of course, would be key in any possible war crimes trial.

And President Biden declared, again, today, these are war crimes.


JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT, UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: There's nothing less happening than major war crimes.

Responsible nations have to come together to hold these perpetrators accountable.


TAPPER: The President also announced plans to keep ratcheting up the pain, for Putin, to try to stop his invasion, issuing new sanctions, on Russia's elites, including Putin's two adult daughters.

Meanwhile, the City Council of Mariupol, is accusing Russian forces, of trying to hide, its alleged war crimes. They're saying they're doing this because by Russians starting to operate with mobile crematoriums that they're using to dispose of bodies, so as to destroy evidence. That is not a claim that CNN has been able to yet verify.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, is also saying tonight that he believes Russian forces are engaged in cover-ups.

Take a listen to Zelenskyy, this evening.


VOLODYMYR ZELENSKYY, PRESIDENT OF UKRAINE (through translator): We have information that the Russian troops have changed their tactics, and are trying to remove the killed people, from the streets, and basements, of the occupied territory, killed Ukrainians. This is just an attempt to hide the evidence and nothing more.


TAPPER: The Mayor of Mariupol, is referring to his city now, as "The New Auschwitz," claiming that the city has been turned into a, quote, "Death camp," like those, from World War II. Auschwitz, of course, was the largest of the Nazi concentration camps, located in Poland.

Before this war, more than 400,000 civilians, lived in Mariupol. We have no idea how many have been killed there, or how many have been able to escape. CNN's Dana Bash exclusively spoke, with Poland's President, earlier today. He said, he believes what's happening in Ukraine now, is also genocide.


ANDRZEJ DUDA, POLISH PRESIDENT (through translator): The fact that civilian inhabitants of Ukraine are being killed shows best what the goal of Russian invasion is. The goal of that invasion is simply to extinguish the Ukrainian nation.


TAPPER: We turn now to Senior International Correspondent, Fred Pleitgen, who has seen firsthand, so many of these horrors, up close. Fred witnessed those mass graves, in Bucha, with his own eyes, those bodies strewn, all over the streets.

Fred, you also saw what unfolded, in Western Kyiv, from another vantage point. Today, that vantage point being drone video. Tell us about that.



It really is one of the things about this war, so far, is the big question, how Ukrainian forces which, of course, were massively outgunned, by the Russians, managed to yet push the Russians back. And, of course, now, the Russians have essentially left the region, around Kyiv.

And one of the main reasons, why they were able to do that, was regular civilians, both taking up arms, but also using other skills that they have, like, for instance, flying drones, to act as force multipliers.

And we were indeed with one unit that certainly plays an important role, especially in the west of Kyiv. And we went to the region that they helped take back, from Russian forces. And there, like in so many other places, like in Bucha, like in Borodianka, there were a lot of dead bodies that we ourselves saw, while we were on the ground, there.

So, we do have to warn our viewers once again that what you're about to see is very graphic, and also very disturbing.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Be careful. Just move, move. Move from the road.

PLEITGEN (voice-over): It's like a scene, from the gates of hell. The deadly, strewn, across this highway, west of Kyiv, some still next to the wreckage, of their vehicles, as the dogs roam around, looking to scavenge.

This is what Russian forces left behind, when they retreated from here.

OLEKSANDR RADZIKHOVSKY, BUGATTI COMPANY, UKRAINE TERRITORIAL DEFENSE FORCES: They organized ambush, over there, where we are going, right now.

PLEITGEN (voice-over): Oleksandr Radzikhovsky tells me these were civilians, gunned down, from this position, where the Russians had placed a tank.

RADZIKHOVSKY: And you can see, it's actually building the shooting zone. You see?

PLEITGEN (on camera): Yes.

RADZIKHOVSKY: And this cars, look, they're sort of in line. There is no cars here, because they would not let them come. They just shoot, as soon as they approach.

PLEITGEN (voice-over): The Russian government denies targeting civilians. They call, such allegations, quote, "Fake" and "Propaganda."

But Oleksandr is part of a drone unit, and they filmed one incident.

It was March 7, when the Russians were still in full control, of this area, and a group of cars was driving down the highway. They turned around, after apparently taking fire, from the tank position.

This car stops, and the driver gets out. Then, this.


RADZIKHOVSKY: He's raised his head above his head. And, in this moment, he was shot by, on this place.

PLEITGEN (voice-over): Two people were killed that day. Maxim Iovenko (ph), and his wife Ksenia (ph), who was also sitting in the vehicle. The family has confirmed, the identities, to CNN.

After the incident, the drone filmed Russian troops, getting two further people, out of the car, and taking them away. It was the couple's 6-year-old son, and a family friend, traveling with them, the relatives confirmed. Both were later released by the Russians. The soldiers then search Maxim's (ph) body, and drag him away.

This incident, both traumatizing, and motivating, for Oleksandr's drone unit.

RADZIKHOVSKY: In normal life, before the war, we were civilians, who like to fly drones around, casually, and just like make a nice video, YouTube videos. But when the war began, we become actually a vital part of the resistance.

PLEITGEN (voice-over): Oleksandr sent us hours of video, showing his team, scoping out, Russian vehicles, even finding them, when they're hidden, and almost impossible to spot, and then, helping the Ukrainians hit them.

RADZIKHOVSKY: We are eyes. We're called eyes, because with eyes, you can see, and you can report. And as soon as you see, you can conduct strikes, artillery, air strikes.

PLEITGEN (on camera): How long does it take, to get your information, to the right places, to then be able to act on the Intelligence that you provide?

RADZIKHOVSKY: In good time, it's about a matter of minutes.

PLEITGEN (voice-over): And sometimes, a little mosquito can take out a whole herd of elephants.

This is drone footage, of Alexander's unit, searching for a massive column, of Russian tanks, and armored vehicles. And this is that column, after the drones found it.

Oleksandr tells me, units, like his, played a major role, fending off Russian troops, despite the Ukrainians being vastly outgunned.

RADZIKHOVSKY: We are agile. As a Territorial Defense, we can - we don't want to - just like it's a mission (ph), we need to go. But the army, they have to stay. They're ordered to stay, they stay. They're dying, but they stay, and they're holding the ground.

PLEITGEN (voice-over): Nobody knows how many Russians died here. But the Group says, it was many, taken out with the help of a band of amateur drone pilots, looking to defend, their homeland.


PLEITGEN: And they certainly were very effective, at doing that, Jake.

Nevertheless, of course, this drone unit, like pretty much all the units that we spoke to, of the Ukrainian military that were involved, in the operation, to drive the Russians away, from the capital of Kyiv, they say, on the one hand, of course, they're very proud of their achievements. They, of course know that they were the underdog in this.

But they are also very saddened and, of course, very angry, at the fact that so many civilians were left behind, dead. And it's something that now, in many places, is being discovered, not just there but, of course, as we've seen in other places, around Kyiv, as well, Jake.

TAPPER: All right, Fred Pleitgen, in Kyiv, for us, this evening. Thank you so much. Really appreciate it.

I want to turn now, to the frontlines, where the youngest member, of the Ukrainian Parliament, is taking up arms, against the Russian invaders. He's with a battalion that liberated a town, near Bucha. His girlfriend was a journalist. She was killed, by Russian shelling, in mid-March.

[21:10:00] Sviatoslav Yurash joins us now, from Kyiv.

Sviatoslav, good to see you again. You're part of a battalion that liberated that town, near Bucha. Tell us what you saw there.

Sviatoslav, can you hear me? Sviatoslav, can you hear me?

I don't think he has his--


TAPPER: --his volume turned on.

Oh, now you can?

YURASH: (inaudible).

TAPPER: Tell us what you saw in that town. Your--

YURASH: (inaudible).

TAPPER: OK. Tell us what you - tell us what you - what you saw, what you witnessed, in that town, near Bucha that you helped liberate?

OK. We obviously have to work out some comms issues. We're going to squeeze in a quick break. When we come back, we're going to bring you that interview. Stay with us.



TAPPER: We're back live, from Ukraine. Apologies for the communications issues, which can happen, especially in a war zone. We have now established communications, with Member of Parliament, Sviatoslav Yurash, who's in Kyiv. I am in Lviv.

Sviatoslav, thanks for joining us.

You were part of a brigade that helped liberate a town, near Bucha. Tell us what you saw.

YURASH: We saw a site, marching to the stationed (ph) Russians, basically are leaving. Destroyed communities, destroyed towns that they are wrecking with, every single day on that this war goes on.

And believe me, I think, Bucha, is just the beginning. As we liberate more of our country, you will see much more horror, on your TV screens. So, we are seeing that horror, in real life. And we cannot but state our utter shock, at the fact that it is possible, in our time.

TAPPER: Did you see evidence, of brutality, against Ukrainian citizens, as we all saw, in Bucha?

YURASH: I was in Borodianka, yesterday. It's a town, which was badly mauled, by the Russians. And this is a town, which has no military base, had no brigade, had no airport. And Russians hit it with everything they've got. And they basically destroyed the national buildings with air power.

There are still people in the rubble. There's national buildings that they destroyed. There are unexploded shells, lying around the city. And they basically have shown that this war is about destroying the common people of Ukraine, in the Borodianka area, like nowhere else.

TAPPER: You and I last spoke on March 4. After all you've seen, in the past 42 days, all of the horrors, after your girlfriend was killed, in this war, how have you changed?

YURASH: We are determined, determined, to keep this fight going, until we get Russians out. That was always our idea. They leave our nation alone. And all the sacrifice, all the losses, all the people there, are so dear and so near to us, must mean something. That's why we must win this.

TAPPER: You're in Kyiv. Tell us what the mood is like there, now that the Russians are at least gone, for now.

YURASH: Well, the city has essentially become a citadel, in every single way. The point now, is to make this a center hub, of keeping up the fight, everywhere else. I mean, they are attacking, some of our biggest cities, in the east, right now.

So, the point is to get the soldiers, the supplies, to help there, to defeat the Russians, and to keep them out of the major cities, keep them from making more Buchas war on Ukraine.

TAPPER: We know you have satellite technology, and you've been tracking Russian military movements. Tell us what you're seeing.

YURASH: Well, as you have been, and the American Intelligence service very cleared, tell the world, the Russians are basically focusing on the east. And this is a tactic, they developed in Syria, of destroying cities, and then going - come into them, and declaring them, "Conquered."

You see that with Mariupol. Mariupol essentially is no more. Russians have demolished that city in, which was just two weeks before the war, was beautiful. Half a million people town, on the sea. And now, every building that is hit, we don't know - we can't imagine how many casualties are being lost there. But the reality is something that broke the imagination (ph).

TAPPER: Some of our top generals, are assessing the war, and saying he thinks that - saying they think that this war might last, for years. Do you agree with that? And what are your biggest concerns, about having to fight in a war that lasts that long?

YURASH: Well, it depends on Mr. Putin. He has been very clear, about his goal, of destroying our statehood, our nationhood. And he is unlikely to give up on that quest, as he has not given up, in 20 years of his rule. So, the point is that for us just remember that we have no other nation to go to, we have no other nation to leave to. This is the battle, for our future. So, we will not stand idly by, as he goes on killing, and destroying, everyone, in this country.


TAPPER: Member of Parliament, Sviatoslav Yurash, thank you so much. And our deepest, deepest condolences, on your loss.

YURASH: Thank you.

TAPPER: President Zelenskyy is saying this evening that Russian airstrikes have killed hundreds of children, in Russian-speaking regions, of the country.

Zelenskyy gave an interview, to a Turkish TV station, earlier today. Take a look.


ZELENSKYY (through translator): Their narrative is that they are protecting Russian-speaking people. Look what is happening in Mariupol. What happened in Kharkiv? What is happening in Melitopol, in Berdiansk? Especially in Mariupol, and Kharkiv, there are a lot of Russian speakers there.

The majority of people they killed there, were the very people they said they were coming to defend.

Hundreds of children, in these Russian-speaking regions, have been killed, by their airstrikes.


TAPPER: I want to bring in Oleksandra Matviichuk, from Kyiv. She is the Head of the Center for Civil Liberties in Ukraine, which is collecting evidence, of war crimes.

Thank you for joining us.

You're leading hundreds of volunteers, who are documenting, and reporting, and storing, in databases, accounts of war crimes, atrocities against civilians. What are some of the war crimes that you have documented, so far?

OLEKSANDRA MATVIICHUK, HEAD, CENTER FOR CIVIL LIBERTIES IN UKRAINE, MET BIDEN IN 2014, NOW COLLECTING EVIDENCE OF WAR CRIMES: We united ordinary people. That's why we are focused on very visible war crimes, like deliberate shelling, on civil objects, hospitals, schools, residential buildings. Deliberate shelling, on civilian population, for example, during the evacuation, from the destroyed by Russians, cities. Also enforced disappearances, extrajudicial killings, tortures, and other kinds of actions, which now is going on, on the occupied cities, and regions, by Russians. TAPPER: Are you talking to any prosecutors, or authorities, with the International Criminal Court? Are you getting any guidance, from any outside groups? And once you collect all that information, what are you going to do with it?

MATVIICHUK: We had big experience of cooperation with International Criminal Court, because we have been - documented war crimes, for eight years, already. And the first submissions, from Ukraine, which international community - International Criminal Court received, it was our submission, in 2014.

So, we plan to work with ICC, and with all other international mechanism, which can help us, to bring Putin, and his surrounding, to justice, as well as other perpetrators, who committed these horrible atrocities, by their own hands.

TAPPER: President Zelenskyy said that Russian troops are now, taking the corpses, of the innocent Ukrainians, they have murdered, and either attempting to hide them, or even we've heard of mobile incinerators, in Mariupol.

Have you seen any evidence of this? And if Russians are attempting, to cover up war crimes, what can you do about it, if anything?

MATVIICHUK: We try to check this information. But it's very difficult, because Mariupol, is isolated, and people here have no connection. Also, they have no water, they have no food, they have no medical care, and electricity.

But this war has informational dimension. And it can be. Because Russians understood that when the atrocities become very visible, that can increase international pressure, to Russia. And that's why I think that we can, after our checking prove this, but we are still in process.

TAPPER: Your team also works to provide immediate aid, to people, in danger, who have requested to be evacuated. How are those efforts going? What are you hearing from those individuals still trying to escape?

MATVIICHUK: We receive hundreds of requests of help, from people, who're stuck in cities, because Russians use the deliberate policy, of isolation, cities and villages, and don't provide people to regulate (ph).

For the whole this period, they provide permission for the only one humanitarian corridor, for International Committee of Red Cross, from Sumy to Lubny. And this deliberate policy, because they want to stop their resistance of locals. And it's why they bring so pain, for people, who couldn't leave and stay without appropriate sources for survive.

TAPPER: You want international organizations, to hold, not just Putin to account, but individual Russian soldiers, who have committed these war crimes. What does accountability look like to you?

MATVIICHUK: I want to stop this - this atrocities, to - going on, because now we speak not about Ukraine.


Putin wasn't stopped whatever sin, which he did in Chechnya. Putin wasn't stopped for war crimes, which he did, in Transnistria, Abkhazia and Ossetia. Putin even wasn't punished, when he used chemical weapons, against civilians, in Syria.

So, if we will not be able, to stop the circle of impunity, and to bring Putin, his surrounding, to justice, it will encourage him more and more. And it will be only a matter of time, which next country will be a target.

TAPPER: You're a human rights attorney, and you're calling for more weapons, fighter jets, tanks, air defense systems. That is an unusual combination, to be talking about human rights, but also talking about weapon systems. Talk to me about that balance.

MATVIICHUK: I have never expected to be in this situation. But I devoted 20 years of my work, and my life, for law. And law was my main instrument. But now, I see that the law is not work. I couldn't protect people.

Ukrainians are dying. I want Ukrainian people to survive. That's why I ask, to provide Ukraine, weapon. We need to protect our civilians. We need to protect our cities. That's why we need fighter jets. We need air defense systems. We need tanks, and much more.

TAPPER: Oleksandra Matviichuk, thank you so much, for your time, this evening. We really appreciate it.

So far, economic sanctions have done little, to stop Putin's invasion - nothing to stop Putin's invasion. So, will new sanctions, imposed today, really have any effect?

We'll talk to a key U.S. lawmaker, recently briefed, on Putin's state of mind. He's the Co-Chair of the Congressional Ukraine Caucus. That's next.



TAPPER: Welcome back. I'm live, in Lviv.

The horrific images, of atrocities, in parts of Ukraine, such as Bucha, only reinforce, what the people, I've spoken with, here, in Ukraine, have been hearing, from loved ones, and friends, and acquaintances, for weeks.

Yet, there are still allies, of the U.S., and the European Union, who continue to straddle the fence, including the governments, of Israel and India.

For more, on how the world is responding, I'm joined, this evening, by a Member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, and the Co-Chair of the Congressional Ukraine Caucus, Republican congressman, Brian Fitzpatrick, of Pennsylvania.

Congressman, good to see you.

You also sit, on the House Select Committee on Intelligence. How does the world, hold those responsible, for these atrocities, accountable?

REP. BRIAN FITZPATRICK (R-PA): Thanks for having me, Jake.

Well, it starts with holding Vladimir Putin, and the Russian government, accountable. By completely tightening the noose on sanctions, we have not yet done that.

Number two, getting the Ukrainians all the defensive equipment that they need. We have not yet done that.

And lastly, holding other countries accountable that are dragging their feet. We got reports this morning that Germany is hesitant, on a complete oil embargo, out of Russia. I met, just yesterday, with the Ambassador of India, regarding their abstention at the U.N., which we're very disappointed in.

So, we got to take a 360-degree paradigm approach, to make sure we're doing everything, to protect Ukraine, and hold Russia accountable, both militarily and economically.

TAPPER: Would you - do you think the United States should recognize the authority of the International Criminal Court? We are not signatories to the ICC. Or at least would the U.S. - should the U.S. increase funding for the Court?

FITZPATRICK: Yes, yes, to both, Jake. There needs to be an investigation. It needs to be done quickly, not 20 years later, as is often been the case with them. The evidence is there now. It ought to be collected now. And Vladimir Putin ought to be investigated and prosecuted now. That's what needs to happen. And I hope that we do that.

And yes, if it's a matter of increasing funding, pushing whatever levers, we need, to do to make that happen. Never again, needs to mean never again. And we are witnessing images that we thought were permanently relegated, to the history books. They're happening, right before our eyes.

And I listened in on a few of your previous guests, Jake. Bucha, you think that's bad? Wait till they uncover Mariupol, and all the devastation and travesty that's going to be uncovered there.

TAPPER: I know. It's hard to even imagine. I have to say, you have been an unequivocal supporter, of the NATO alliance.

But just yesterday, the House passed this non-binding resolution, just reaffirming the House's unequivocal support, for NATO, as an alliance, founded on democratic principle.

And I frankly was rather shocked to see that 63 of your House Republican colleagues voted against that, voted against something that calls for supporting small-d democratic values. What's going on with this big chunk of your party?

FITZPATRICK: Yes, that'd be a question for them, Jake. I don't understand the vote. I obviously cast the opposite vote, to support NATO. The NATO alliance is critically important.

What I am - I will tell you. Would I like to see NATO be doing a lot more, right now? Yes. I don't think NATO has stepped up, to the plate, to the extent they need to. But certainly, I support NATO, unequivocally. It's critical, for all freedom-loving democracies, across the globe.

I spoke with a member of the Biden administration, the Deputy National Security Adviser, today, about these latest sanctions. Let me play for you a little bit of what he said.


DALEEP SINGH, DEPUTY NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISER FOR INTERNATIONAL ECONOMICS: We've already banned Russian energy, Russian oil, Russian coal, Russian natural gas, in the U.S. We are in discussions, with the rest of the world, to follow suit.



TAPPER: So, I had said to him that all the sanctions they're doing are - they're very aggressive. And yet, it really seems, as though, the only thing that would stop Putin, would be to cut off, all of the funding, the hundreds of billions of dollars that go to Russia, for these oil and gas exports, from Russia.

What else should the U.S. be doing?

FITZPATRICK: A lot more, Jake. The sanctions are helpful. But they have not gotten the job done. The ruble is now trading at a rate pre- invasion levels, it's now bounced back.

We can't sanction 80 percent of the banks. Vladimir Putin controls 100 percent of the Russian banks. We have to sanction 100 percent of the banks. We can't sanction half of their economy, when 50 percent of their GDP, which is oil, and energy, is being accepted, and carved out, from the sanctions package.

And moreover, something not many people are talking about, Russia has had $650 billion, in gold reserves, as a way, to write out sanctions, and stabilize their currency, in anticipation, for the sanctions, that were going to be thrown their way. We have not yet touched that. There's a lot more we can be doing.

And the fear that's being put forth is economic backlash, from these sanctions. That is no time to worry about this when you have civilians, being beheaded, being raped, being tortured, and being murdered. Human life is much more important, than economics, at this point. TAPPER: You're a former FBI agent. What can you tell us about what you think or what you've been briefed, on Vladimir Putin's state of mind? I mean, how far is he willing to go here?

FITZPATRICK: Well, I'll leave it to the Administration, to declassify what they want.

I'll give credit, to the Administration, for declassifying a lot of the Intelligence that we were getting, on the Intelligence Committee, dating back to September. It allowed the world to know exactly what Putin's false flags were going to be, and his pretext were going to be, so that nobody bought his story. The Administration deserves credit for that.

But there's a lot more we can be doing, Jake. And particularly, when it comes to the defensive equipment, the MiG-29s, Poland has exportable inventory, TB2 drones, Turkey as exportable inventory. The S-300 missiles, Bulgaria, Croatia, Romania and Slovakia have exportable inventory.

All that needs to make its way, into the hands of the Ukrainians, because that will allow them to both create and enforce their own no- fly zone. They're not asking for U.S. technology. They're not asking for U.S. boots. So, we ought to be at least giving them that which they're asking for.

TAPPER: Congressman Brian Fitzpatrick, Republican, from the great Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, thank you so much, for your time. We appreciate it.

Coming up, our visit, to a cemetery, here, in Lviv, a cemetery tragically, filling up, with Ukraine's fallen troops. The death toll now to the point where this graveyard is looking for new land, to which they need to expand. That's next.



TAPPER: We continue now. We are live, from Ukraine.

Thousands of Ukrainians joined the military, and went to the frontlines, after Russia invaded this country, in February. And since then, thousands have returned home, in body bags. Here, in Lviv, it has gotten so bad that one local cemetery, was forced to dig, into new ground, to accommodate the dead.

I attended one of the Ukrainian military funerals, here, in Lviv, earlier today, and I witnessed the pain of these people, as they said goodbye, to their loved ones, many of whom, just enlisted, in the military, a few weeks ago.


TAPPER (voice-over): Gravediggers, at Lychakiv cemetery, in Lviv, Western Ukraine, today, had to break ground, in a fresh field, to make room, for the new war-dead, repurposing the cemetery's adjacent World War II Memorial.


TAPPER (voice-over): To find space for the influx.

Today, it's Ukrainian Army Sergeant Ubivolkyacheslov (ph), 43, killed March 28, and Private Hudzilaklubamer (ph), 33, killed on April 1, both killed in Luhansk, in the Donbas region. Both men called to service, after the Russians invaded.

The soldiers' family started this grim day, at the Saints Peter and Paul Garrison Church, in Lviv.


TAPPER (voice-over): As their caskets passed the crowds, on the way, into the church, their loved ones wept, for those whom they lost, to Putin's invading army.


TAPPER (voice-over): The sounds of grief combined with that of prayer.

Inside the formerly Jesuit church, built in the 1600s, locals have wrapped historic statues, to protect them, from debris, in case of expected Russian shelling.


TAPPER (voice-over): After the service, a military tribute, as mourners paid respects, and gave flowers, to the families. Flowers, always in even numbers.

Ruslan Stefanchuk, the Presiding Officer, of the Ukrainian Parliament, basically the Speaker of the House, stopped by, to honor the fallen.

RUSLAN STEFANCHUK, UKRAINIAN PARLIAMENT: I come here, and to all my honor, and all my heart, I put there.

The Russia is guilty for everything, crimes, for everything, genocide, which they do, in my land. I want the whole world knows that we never forget for nobody.


TAPPER (on camera): The church is right next to this monument, to famous and beloved Ukrainian poet Taras Shevchenko, who was exiled, by Russia's tsar, in the 1800s, for advocating, for Ukrainian independence, from Russia, and for human rights.

One of Shevchenko's most famous poem, "Zapovit," or "Testament," reads, "When I am dead, bury me In my beloved Ukraine, My tomb upon a grave mound high Amid the spreading plain."

TAPPER (voice-over): Cars, vans, and buses, full of mourners, traveled the short distance, to the cemetery. Caskets were unloaded. Prayers offered.

YEVHEN BOIKO, REPRESENTATIVE FOR LVIV MAYOR'S OFFICE: The ceremony of burial has been simplified and made shorter. In order not to decrease the morale and the spirit of our other military, every day, we have two, three burials, here, in Lviv. That is the price for our victory.


TAPPER (voice-over): And the military pay tribute, with instruments, of both arts and instruments of war.

BOIKO: (FOREIGN LANGUAGE). We say "Heroes never die." We bury the body. But the glory of these people will live forever, in our hearts, and in our history.

TAPPER (voice-over): A spokesman, for the city, would only say dozens, when asked how many locals, have been killed, fighting to defend their homeland, from the latest Russian threat.

The spreading plain, here, next to Lychakiv cemetery, spreading now, in order to make room for the dead.


TAPPER: Coming up, how Ukrainians, who are escaping the war, are not escaping Vladimir Putin's attempts, to weaponize them.

Kyung Lah is in Poland, and talks to retired U.S. Lieutenant Colonel and Ukrainian native, Alexander Vindman. That's next.



TAPPER: And we're back live, from the city of Lviv, located, less than 50 miles, from the Polish border.

Roughly 2.5 million Ukrainians have escaped, into Poland, since this war began. And while they have found refuge there, Poland's President tells CNN's Dana Bash, they're under no illusion that Putin's aggression ends with Ukraine.


DUDA (through translator): I think that under these circumstances, nobody has any doubt that Poland is potentially threatened, by a Russian aggression, in the future.


TAPPER: Already, Poland says that it is in the midst of its own battle, with Russia, as it seeks - Russia, seeks to weaponize refugees.

Let's bring in CNN's Kyung Lah.

Kyung, what can you tell us about how this migration crisis is actually part, of Putin's long strategy, to destabilize the West?

KYUNG LAH, CNN SENIOR CORRESPONDENT: Well, if you think about it as a numbers game? Using human beings. That's the way it's being described to me. More than 4 million refugees have fled Ukraine. A good portion of them have ended up, here, in Poland.

They are pushing people, out of Ukraine, with the very goal, of trying to destabilize NATO.


LAH (voice-over): Poland is already waging a war, with Russia. It's just not the kind you imagine.

Nearly 2.5 million Ukrainian refugees, have crossed, into the safety of Poland, as war ravages their country.


LAH (voice-over): Packing Poland's arenas.


LAH (voice-over): Lining up for government benefits, and sending their children to public schools. These innocent faces are part of Vladimir Putin's war of mass migration.

LT. COL. ALEXANDER VINDMAN, U.S. ARMY (RET.): It's a kind of a callousness that we just don't understand here.

LAH (voice-over): Retired Army Lieutenant Colonel Alexander Vindman is known as a crucial witness, in former President Trump's first impeachment proceedings. But he was also a child refugee, from Ukraine, whose family moved to the U.S., in 1979.

VINDMAN: Refugees have been a weapon, for a long time. Russia's used refugees, as weapon, for years.

LAH (on camera): How do you deploy refugees as weapons?

VINDMAN: Where you bomb cities, and those cities result in civilian populations, are women and children, in particular.

LAH (on camera): What is the theory behind that?

VINDMAN: Well, they're weaponized, just by the mere fact that they're - these are large numbers of people flowing into a country that is not prepared to handle refugee camps that has to now spend funds, on those refugees.

LAH (voice-over): The alleged goal? Destabilize Poland, a NATO country, from within. But that hasn't happened. Yet.

VINDMAN: Poland, which was having a mixed record, with regards to their democratic activities, and democratic backsliding, has actually kind of gone back to its roots. It has been extremely welcoming, to the Ukrainian population, welcoming Ukrainians, into their homes, as members of the family. That's, to Putin, probably unexpected.

LAH (voice-over): But Warsaw's Mayor says the pressure on his country grows by the day.

RAFAL TRZASKOWSKI, MAYOR OF WARSAW: Putin wants to destabilize Europe, and the whole Western world. I mean, he miscalculated, because he thought that he's going to divide the Ukraine's society. He lost. He wanted to divide us, in the West. He lost.

We are also waging a war, against his effort to destabilize us. And we have to prove to him that we stand united that we share the burden.


LAH (voice-over): "We're just so thankful, to Poland," says Marina Lesyk, something we hear again, and again, from Ukrainians. Nearly six weeks, into this war, they hope that goodwill lasts.


LAH: Now, there is no outward sign, at least, here, in Poland, of any break, in that stability. But Jake, we are just six weeks into this war. And the strain, on countries, like Poland, grows, every week.


TAPPER: Kyung, in your conversations, with Ukrainian refugees, in Poland, what are their expectations, for the future? Do they expect to stay, in Poland, at least, in the short-term, if not the long-term?


LAH: Well, without exception, every single refugee, we've talked to? And we've spent every single day, here, talking to people, in Warsaw. A number of refugees, not a single one has said that they plan, in the long-term, to make any place home, but Ukraine.

The goal is, they're going to tread water. They're going to do what they can. They're going to wait. And then, they want to go back home.


TAPPER: All right. Thank you so much. Kyung Lah, in Warsaw, Poland, for us.

We'll be right back.


TAPPER: Thanks for watching CNN TONIGHT.

I will be back again, tomorrow night, at 9 P.M. Eastern, live, from Ukraine.

And I will see you before then, tomorrow afternoon, on "THE LEAD," which begins, at 4 P.M. Eastern. "DON LEMON TONIGHT" starts, right now.

Hey, Don?

DON LEMON, CNN HOST, DON LEMON TONIGHT: Jake, I've been learning a lot, from your coverage.

I saw your piece about the military funeral. I wanted to do one, when I was there. But it's kind of tough, right? You got to - it's hard to coordinate, because they don't usually announce them.

So, I thought that it was breathtaking. And I loved your reporting. What stuck out the most about - what struck you about it?

TAPPER: I guess, two things. First of all, thank you, Don.