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CNN TONIGHT: State Department Spokesman: "Russia Will Be Strategically Defeated"; Putin Appoints General Known As "Butcher Of Syria" To Lead Troops; Ukrainian Boy's Letter To Dead Mom Read At U.N. Meeting: "Thank You For The Best Nine Years Of My Life." Aired 9-10p ET

Aired April 11, 2022 - 21:00   ET



RYAN NOBLES, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: But that's just a formality. It's ultimately going to be up to Merrick Garland, to make the final call.


JOHN BERMAN, CNN HOST: Ryan Nobles, on the Hill, thank you so much.

NOBLES: Thank you.

BERMAN: The news continues. So, let's hand it over to the aforementioned Jake Tapper, who is in Lviv, in western Ukraine, tonight.


JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: John, thanks so much. Appreciate it.

I'm Jake Tapper. This is CNN TONIGHT, live from Lviv, Ukraine.

At the beginning of yet another ominous week, Putin's army can be seen, readying, for a major new offensive, in the east of this country. And tonight, those forces have a new commander, one specifically known, for his cruelty, with a history, of targeting civilians. He's known as the "Butcher of Syria."

As brutal as Russian attacks, on civilians, in Ukraine, have been already, replete with atrocities, and slaughtered women and children, the fear is now that the worst could be yet to come here.

Also, it bears noting that you don't change a commander, if you're winning a war. So, there's a real fear, this invasion could turn even more brutal than what we've already seen.

Here was the Pentagon today, on that eight-mile long Russian convoy, believed to be headed, for the Donbas region.


JOHN KIRBY, PENTAGON PRESS SECRETARY: Another convoy of vehicles that are heading south, towards that town of Izium. We believe, these are the early stages, of a reinforcement effort, by the Russians, in the Donbas.


TAPPER: CNN has geolocated this new video that shows this large column of Russian military vehicles, inside Russia, not far from the eastern border of Ukraine. Vehicles are seeing facing northwest, in the direction of Donbas.

There is also new tape tonight, of an alleged Ukrainian strike, Ukrainian strike, on a Russian weapons depot, in the Luhansk region of Donbas. Ukrainian officials claim that they destroyed an ammunition warehouse, there. And you can see burned-out shells, and rockets, scattered all over the ground.

Meanwhile, weeks of relentless bombardment, in the southern port city of Mariupol, have left tens of thousands dead, according to Ukrainian President, Volodymyr Zelenskyy.

This is new drone video that shows the theater, as you may recall, where hundreds were killed, last month, in Mariupol, while seeking shelter, many of them women and children.

183 children have reportedly been killed, so far, in this invasion, with hundreds more wounded, according to new numbers, released today. Those numbers do not take into account, many parts of Ukraine.

We're also learning that nine volunteer drivers, working to evacuate, those stranded, in Mariupol, remain missing, after being detained, by the Russian military.

The head of the Ukrainian organization, "Help People," says 10 of his drivers, were trying to get civilians, out of the besieged city of Mariupol, when Russian soldiers, stopped their vehicles, demanded that the evacuees be driven, in those very same mini buses, into Russia.

The drivers refused. They were detained. The head of the group lost contact, with nine of the 10 drivers. One was released.

We should note CNN cannot independently verify the whereabouts of the drivers, or the conditions, under which they're being held.

So tonight, the question, are we entering an even uglier, bloodier stage, of this war? And is there more that the West could be doing, to help Ukraine?

State Department spokesman, Ned Price, will join us in a moment.

But first, to the capital of Kyiv, where CNN's Fred Pleitgen, takes us through, what he himself witnessed, northwest of the capital, today. Fred?

FREDERIK PLEITGEN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Hi there, Jake. Yes. And one of the main things that really stood out, is that the destruction, from Russia's offensive, to try and take the capital of Kyiv, which, of course, was one that was ill-fated, and beaten back, by the Ukrainians, that that caused a lot more damage than really anybody would have thought.

And, I think, one thing that really struck us, as we went through village after village that was almost completely destroyed, is that there's so many people out there, who are absolutely traumatized, by the brutality, of the occupation that was there. Of course, also the fighting that they witnessed.

At the same time, there are still a lot of dead bodies that are being recovered, in a lot of these places. And so, we do have to warn our viewers what we're about to show you, is very graphic, and certainly disturbing.



PLEITGEN (voice-over): The tour is a sad routine, for the body collectors, in the outskirts of Kyiv. Finding corpses has become eerily normal, here.

A house, destroyed by an artillery strike. A body burned beyond recognition.


PLEITGEN (voice-over): A mangled car wreck, two bodies, burned beyond recognition.

A house that was occupied, by Russian troops, an elderly lady, dead, in the bedroom.

These bodies, evidence, of a brutal Russian occupation, and then, a fierce fight, by the underdog Ukrainians, to drive them out.



PLEITGEN (voice-over): A fight, 81-year-old Kataryna Bareshvolets, witnessed up close, in her village.


PLEITGEN (voice-over): "There were explosions, explosions, from all sides. It was scary," she tells me. "I am in my house. I cross myself, and lie down. And then, I hear how it thundered. And all the windows in the house were broken."


PLEITGEN (voice-over): The Ukrainians tell us, the Russian troops didn't even bother collecting most of their own dead. More than a week after Vladimir Putin's army was pushed out of here, they showed us the body, of what they say was a Russian soldier, still laying, in the woods.

And that's not all they've left behind. This demining unit says, they found hundreds of tons of unexploded ordnance, in just a matter of days, including cluster munitions, like this bomblet, even though the Russians deny using them.


PLEITGEN (voice-over): "These weapons are extremely dangerous for civilians, who might accidentally touch them," the Commander says. "There are about 50 such elements, in one bomb," he says. "This is a high-explosive fragmentation bomb, to kill people, designed just to kill people."


PLEITGEN (voice-over): They blow up the cluster bomblet, on the spot, and then move the heavier bombs, to a different location, for a massive controlled explosion.



PLEITGEN (voice-over): The body-collecting, the mind-sweeping, and the clearing up of wreckage, are just starting, in this area. And yet, this pile of demolished vehicles, both military and civilian, already towers, in the Kyiv suburb, of Irpin.

(on camera): If you had to picture Russia's attempt, to try and take the Ukrainian capital, Kyiv, it would probably look a lot like this. Destruction, on a massive scale, and absolutely nothing to show for it. Russia's military, was humiliated, by the Ukrainians, and caused a lot of harm, in the process.

(voice-over): And they've devastated scores of families. At Irpin's cemetery, the newly-widowed weep, at funerals, for the fallen.

Alakrotkiv (ph), her husband, Igor (ph), fought, alongside their 21- year-old son, in Irpin, and died, in his arms, on the battlefield.

Yulia Schutina (ph), wife of Dimitro Pascal (ph), killed by a Russian mortar shell.

And Tetyana Lytkina, her husband, Olaksandr (ph), promised, he'd come back, in a few hours. But was killed, defending, this neighborhood.


PLEITGEN (voice-over): "I'm very proud of him," Tetyana says. "He's a hero. We have many people, in Ukraine, who have not fled, and are defending their homes. Sasha (ph) died, just 200 meters, from our house, where we lived." Laying the dead to rest, another sad task, they've become, all too efficient, at performing, in this area.

Close by, the next funeral is already underway.


PLEITGEN: And Jake, there are going to be a lot more funerals, happening there, and obviously, in many other places, also, in the - towards the northwest of Kyiv, in that very large swath of land that the Russians invaded. And there's certainly a lot of grief, a lot of anger, among the population there.

But I do also have to say, there is a lot of resilience, as well. One of the things that we've been witnessing, here, around the Kyiv areas is that many people, who fled the Ukrainian capital, are already coming back, and try to breathe life, into this area, once again.

There's a lot of traffic, on the streets, a lot of traffic, also, at the checkpoints, trying to get back into the city. Some shops also reopened.

And then, one thing that really stood out, to us, today, is there was a playground that we saw, which had been abandoned, the entire time that we were here. For the first time, today, we saw children, playing there, once again, Jake.

TAPPER: Fred Pleitgen, in Kyiv, thank you so much.

So, what might this new phase, of the war, mean, for attempts, to end it, diplomatically?

I spoke, earlier this evening, with U.S. State Department spokesman, Ned Price.


TAPPER: There are reports, this evening, from Ukrainian military and government officials that Russia has apparently used chemical weapons, against Ukrainians, in part of Mariupol. CNN cannot verify these reports, at this time.

Has the Biden administration confirmed this? If it's true, what does it mean?

NED PRICE, STATE DEPARTMENT SPOKESPERSON: Well, like you, Jake, we haven't been in a position, to confirm these reports, just yet. But here's what I can tell you.

Before today, there was credible information, available to us that the Russians may have been preparing, to use agents, chemical agents, potentially tear gas, mixed with other agents, as part of an effort, to weaken, to incapacitate the Ukrainian military and civilian elements that are entrenched, in Mariupol, using these agents, as part of an effort, to weaken those defenses. We shared that information, with our Ukrainian partners. We are going to be in direct conversations, with them, to try and determine, what exactly has transpired here. And as soon as we gain additional fidelity, we'll be in a better position, to say what this was, or what this may have been.


TAPPER: Ukraine says that the Russian offensive, in the east, in the Donbas region, has already begun. And they say, it will not be long before, those frontlines, are replenished with more Russian troops, and supplies, as evidenced by the eight-mile long convoy, of Russian vehicles that we've seen.

Ukrainians are calling, on the West, on the U.S. and NATO, to step up, with even more advanced, offensive weaponry, not just missile defense systems, but offensive weaponry, fighter jets, and more.

Where is NATO, where is the U.S., on that?

PRICE: Well, I can tell you, we met with Foreign Minister Kuleba, last week, in Brussels. The Foreign Minister met with Secretary Blinken, met with our NATO allies, as well.

And Foreign Minister Kuleba, came with three agenda items, as he put it, "Weapons, weapons and weapons." And what he heard from Secretary Blinken was three answers, "Yes, yes, and yes."

We are going to continue to surge weapon systems, into Ukraine, every single day, between the United States, and our allies and partners. So, some 30 allies and partners that are providing security assistance, to the Ukrainians, there are deliveries, being made, every single day.

And we're also providing new systems, as a result of this constant coordination with our Ukrainian partners. You may have noticed, on Friday, our Slovakian allies, were able to transfer an S-300 system. This is a long-range anti-aircraft system that our Ukrainian partners had been asking for.

What's important here is that our Slovakian allies were able to transfer this, precisely because the United States was able to backfill their S-300 with a Patriot missile defense system.

Today, you'll have also heard that we're going to be in a position, to provide our Ukrainian partners, with artillery. This is also directly in response to the requests they have made, in recent days.

So, we're in constant coordination and consultation with them, to make sure that we are providing them, with precisely what they need, to take on this threat, in precisely the scale and scope that they need it.

Over the course of this administration, we provided $2.4 billion worth of security assistance. $1.7 billion, in the past month alone. If you add in contributions, from our allies and partners, around the world, there's a lot more than that.

TAPPER: Ned, Ukraine's Foreign Minister Kuleba says, it's extremely difficult, to even think about negotiating with Russia, after the atrocities, seen in Bucha, and other parts of the country, the attack on all the civilians, at the Kramatorsk train station.

How do you see the state of diplomacy, right now? Is there any chance for a diplomatic solution, given the fact that the Russians seem to be very brazenly committing war crimes, if not genocide?

PRICE: Well, I'm sorry to say the diplomatic track doesn't seem to hold a whole lot of promise, at the moment.

I think, to the Foreign Minister's point, you don't often negotiate with allies, and close friends. You negotiate with, in many cases, adversaries and competitors. And clearly, what the Russians are doing here, is brutalizing the Ukrainian people, going after the Ukrainian state, pursuing Ukraine's territorial integrity.

But our goal, and we know that the goal of our Ukrainian partners, who are - remain engaged, and remain engaged in good faith, in diplomacy, is to bring an end, to this senseless violence.

We know that this war can only end with a diplomatic solution. That's why we're doing two things, really, to strengthen Ukraine's hand, at the negotiating table.

Number one, as I mentioned before, we're providing them with massive amounts of security assistance, so that they can use their battlefield momentum, as leverage, to make the point, to the Russians, that this is not a battle, they can win, militarily.

And number two, we are continuing to put a chokehold, on Russia's economy, Russia's financial system, to make it clear that this is not something that the Russian Federation, or the Kremlin, can endure, over the long haul.

Our hope, together with our Ukrainian partners, is that these two crosswinds, what we're doing, with our Ukrainian partners, what we're doing, to the Kremlin, will combine, to make the Russians, deal seriously, when it comes to diplomacy, and negotiations.

TAPPER: Well, you say that the only way this ends is with a diplomatic solution. But that's not true, entirely, right? I mean, it could end with Russia being defeated, or Ukraine being defeated. I mean, President Biden's calling for Putin, to be tried for war crimes.

He's not going to be facing any accountability, or any venue, for the International Criminal Court, or whatever, unless he's defeated, right?

PRICE: Well, Russia will be strategically defeated. And we've already laid the groundwork for that.

If you look at the toll, on the Russian economy, an economy that is forecast, to contract, by 15 percent, an economy, where inflation is going to reach 15 percent, an economy that is losing some 600 multinational corporations, a country that is diplomatically isolated, a leader that, is a pariah, on the world stage? This will be a strategic defeat, however, and whenever this ends.

But, to your point, about accountability? There has to be accountability. The point is that the wheels of accountability, do tend to grind slowly, especially, when it comes to war crimes.


But we're doing a couple things, right now. We have a team of American prosecutors, other experts, on the ground, in the region, helping in the effort, to collect, to analyze, to memorialize, and to share, evidence of potential war crimes, with the relevant accountability mechanisms.

And, right now, we're focused, on working with Ukrainian Prosecutor General. She has a team that is culling through this evidence that, is putting together a criminal case, against those, not only who may have perpetrated this, on the ground, but every single person, up the food chain.

And if the evidence points to Vladimir Putin, as a war criminal, and by all appearances, it seems that it will, we will pursue that accountability as well.

TAPPER: U.S. State Department spokesman, Ned Price, thanks for your time, this evening.

PRICE: Thanks, Jake.


TAPPER: Coming up, documenting evil. As atrocities mount, by the day, in Ukraine, I spoke with the country's Prosecutor General, who's trying to build a case, against Russia, for potential future war crimes trials.

Our team witnessed some of that investigation, in action, in a town, outside Lviv. We'll show you that, next.



TAPPER: And we're back live, in Lviv, Ukraine, where we continue to monitor, the growing list, of Russian atrocities, bombing a children's hospital, a train station massacre, mass graves in Bucha, other crimes, so brutal, we can't even show, or describe them, on air.

5,800 individual criminal cases, have already been opened, by the country's Prosecutor General. I spoke with her earlier, about what she's seen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) IRYNA VENEDIKTOVA, PROSECUTOR GENERAL OF UKRAINE: We see horrors of war, a lot of war crimes. Actually, it is not only war crimes. Now, we can say about a lot of crimes against humanity.


TAPPER: Over the weekend, we met with prosecutors, and witnesses, who are making their cases, against Russia.


TAPPER (voice-over): About 90 minutes, outside Lviv, at this pink school, up the stairs, past the paw prints, in this great school classroom, there's a war crimes investigation, underway.

Ukraine's Prosecutor General's Office, has deployed, teams of investigators, to villages and shelters, nationwide, with a mission. Build a case strong enough to punish Russia, in international courts.

Ukrainians, who have fled their homes, and are willing to testify, are asked to give detailed accounts, of the language, uniforms, timing, and actions, of those who wronged them, and destroyed their lives.

IRINA LEVRENKO, WAR CRIMES INVESTIGATOR (through translator): The main idea of it is to officially set the status, of these people, as crime victims, for example, because they will get their right for compensation, in the future.

TAPPER (voice-over): Irina Levrenko was a chief ecological prosecutor, in southeastern Ukraine, before the invasion. But, since March 28, she has been collecting war stories, from people, sheltering, in the west, even as her own village remains under Russian control.

LEVRENKO (through translator): After I moved here, to the relative safety, in western Ukraine, I heard the call from the Prosecutor General's Office that this group would be created. So, I went and joined. I didn't hesitate even for a second.

TAPPER (voice-over): Neither did Vasyl Shevchuk, a witness, from Bucha.

VASYL SHEVCHUK, FLED FROM BUCHA DISTRICT, TESTIFIED AS PART OF A WAR CRIMES INVESTIGATION (through translator): It was important for me to tell, but also hard to tell. I'm still shaking.

TAPPER (voice-over): He's a longtime paramedic, who says he helped the wounded, back home.

SHEVCHUK (through translator): There were people watching the equipment, moving along the street, and they were shot at. Two people were running into a cellar, and one of them was killed.

TAPPER (voice-over): Shevchuk, along with his family, sheltered at home, for 10 days.

SHEVCHUK (through translator): Me, my son, and my brother, were in the house. And my wife, and my daughter, were in the cellar.

TAPPER (voice-over): He says, he had a pitchfork ready, to defend his 13-year-old daughter, and 25-year-old son.

SHEVCHUK (through translator): If they came into my house, I would use the pitchfork, to kill them.

If I got killed, it would be easier. I don't need to see my dears, suffering from the Russians.

TAPPER (voice-over): His friend, in a neighboring village, was not as lucky.

SHEVCHUK (through translator): She called me on the 26th or 27th of February. She has a mentally-ill disabled son, who went out, on the street, to look at the tanks, and machines, and they just shot him dead.

NATALIA, TESTIFIED AS PART OF A WAR CRIMES INVESTIGATION (through translator): How many people died? And who knows, how many will die?

TAPPER (voice-over): 63-year-old Natalia, is a retiree, from Kharkiv, who testified, today, about the brutality, she witnessed, by Russian soldiers.

NATALIA (through translator): I can't say a good word about these people. I can't even call them, "People." Maybe they have no brains at all. I don't know what they're thinking, and how their mothers are bringing them up, and giving meat, to this war.

TAPPER (voice-over): She says, she sheltered, in her basement, for six days. The windows have been blown, out of her house, and her sister is dead.

NATALIA (through translator): She had a heart attack, in the cellar, where she was hiding, because of the big stress.

TAPPER (voice-over): Still, Natalia is not sure, her story, or any reparation for it, means much.

NATALIA (through translator): How can they be punished? I don't think that they will be punished severely. Only God can punish them. What they have done, it cannot be repaid by any money.

TAPPER (voice-over): By now, most have seen horrific images, of war crimes, on CNN, and other news outlets. But there is much more, too horrifying to show, and much more news media have not seen that is being added into evidence.


With a click, witnesses can upload videos, and photos, to this website, created by the Prosecutor General's Office of Ukraine. The interviews, however, are done, in-person.

LEVRENKO (through translator): People often cry, during their questionings, and so on. And it is much easier, for the person, who was, in the same room, to connect, to the people, being questioned, and to find a better line of investigation.

TAPPER (voice-over): The sad truth, this part of the world, has a lot of experience, when it comes to such prosecutions.

TAPPER (on camera): Lviv University, in fact, is the alma mater, of the two lawyers, who came up with the legal concepts, of prosecutions, at Nuremberg, for genocide, and for crimes against humanity.

In fact, one of those former law students, here, Hersch Lauterpacht, was working with the Allied powers, in 1942, preparing for those prosecutions. At the same time, members of his family, here, in Lviv, were being rounded up, and killed, because they were Jewish.

TAPPER (voice-over): Those ideas, and laws, hammered out, between U.S., British, and Soviet powers, to go after Nazi crimes, will now be used, to go after the grandchildren, of those Soviets.

SHEVCHUK (through translator): I call Russians, "Cockroaches," now, and I want to destroy these cockroaches. I want to crush them forever.

TAPPER (voice-over): Vasyl says, he would join the military, if he could.

SHEVCHUK (through translator): I would fight. But my eyesight is minus nine. I wouldn't see.

TAPPER (voice-over): Instead, he's giving the court, a clearer view, of what the Russians have done.

SHEVCHUK (through translator): Yes, I can't help any other way.


TAPPER: Is this invasion, is this war, about to get even worse, with the new Russian commander, who is notoriously ruthless, in charge? What might this looming offensive, in Donbas look like?

We're going to be back with one of our top military analysts, next.



TAPPER: Continuing now, live, from Lviv.

Russia's appointment, of a new general, to oversee its military operations, in Ukraine, is widely seen, as a sign that this war could be entering an even bloodier phase.

After all, Aleksandr Dvornikov, also known as the "Butcher of Syria," has a track record, of brutality. He led Russia's a ruthless bombing campaign, in Syria, from 2015 to 2016, one that flattened cities, like Aleppo, killing thousands of civilians, displacing millions more, from their homes. And now, amid Russia's bid, to take over eastern Ukraine, the Pentagon warns that Putin's generals may feel pressured, to deliver results, no matter what the cost.


KIRBY: I think, sadly, we can all expect that those same brutal tactics, that same disregard, for civilian life, and civilian infrastructure, will probably continue, as they now focus, in a more geographically-confined area, in the Donbas.


TAPPER: Joining us now, retired Brigadier General Mark Kimmitt.

General Kimmitt, good to see you, as always.

When I spoke with Jake Sullivan, the White House National Security Advisor, yesterday, he essentially downplayed Russia's overall chances, of success, just because this new general was going to be running the show. And he noted that Russia had already suffered strategic failure, and already been scorching the earth.

I wonder how you see it, just considering what we know about this general, in his, in the past, at least, complete disregard, for Syrian civilian lives?


This guy is going to bring in far more brutal tactics, than we've seen, up to this point. If in fact, he was the one that ordered the attack, on the railway station, at Kramatorsk, in my mind, that's just preview of coming attractions. He's got a good mind. He has a different tactical view than Gerasimov, and the other leaders in Moscow have had.

I think, he was not picked to execute the same plan that they've been playing out, for the last couple of weeks. No doubt he's told Putin he's got a different plan. They're on a smaller area, inside the Donbas. So, it'll be interesting to see, what course of action, he chooses, to show some success, before Victory Day, on May 9.

TAPPER: A Pentagon official, a senior Pentagon official, has said that fighting, in the Donbas, between the Ukrainians, and the Russians, will be like a knife fight, because both sides will be familiar with the terrain, which is a more rural and open area.

How do battle tactics change, in a place, like the Donbas?

KIMMITT: Yes, first of all, Jake, I think we've got to recognize that they've been fighting there for the last eight years. So, that's a pretty torn-up area, as it currently stands. They're all dug in. So, the knife-fight analogy is correct. But I don't think we're going to see this straight attack, to the west, that people are projecting. If you take a look at that map, you've got up there, standard Russian tactics, classic Russian tactics, would have them attacking, from the north and south, behind the Ukrainian lines, to try to envelop them, as we call that tactic, sort of isolate them, and then reduce them.

I don't think they're going to come due west. They don't have enough troops. And that's not a very much of a finesse play. And I don't think that he would have recommended that.

TAPPER: There's this new video, this evening, purporting to show, the aftermath, of a Ukrainian strike, on a Russian weapons depot, in the Donbas. Is that significant, do you think?

KIMMITT: I really do, because when you start to concentrate your forces, the way the Russians are trying to do now, that means they've got to bring up huge amount of logistics, on a very few lines of communication, lines of resupply.

So, while that gives the Russians, significantly more ammunition, supplies, fuel and water that has to be put in huge consolidated dumps, and those are wonderful targets, for the Ukrainians, to aim for.


And if they're going to stop any type of major offensive, it's not going to be at the nose, against the opposing forces. It's going to be by going against their knees, and their Achilles' heel, which is their logistics.

TAPPER: We know the U.S. has been sharing Intelligence, with Ukraine, for quite some time. Satellite images and video--


TAPPER: --also give away Russia's positioning, and what they're bringing to the fight. I mean, you can't really hide an eight-mile convoy.

What should the Ukrainians, be doing, to back up their forces, do you think?

KIMMITT: Well, I think they ought to be using that Intelligence, to find those rocket missile and artillery battalions.

Because, the Russians love to use artillery. They used 9,000 cannons in a 35-mile stretch, to get it - to blow their way, into Berlin. And they love to blow their way through frontlines and around the envelopments.

So, the short answer is use that Intelligence, to find those missile rocket, and artillery positions. Take them out. And that will probably be along with the logistics, the second most important target that they can attack.

TAPPER: Thank you so much. Brigadier General Mark Kimmitt, always good to see you. Appreciate your insights, this evening.

Coming up, he escaped the horror of Bucha. But he refuses to leave Ukraine. And even in the ugliness of this war, he is trying to bring some beauty to his family.



ALEX DAYRABEKOV, UKRAINIAN CITIZEN ESCAPED BUCHA: Yesterday love was such an easy game to play. Now I need a place to hide away.


TAPPER: He'll join us live, next.



DAYRABEKOV: Oh, I believe in yesterday.




TAPPER: Welcome back to Lviv.

Today, a fresh reminder, of the heartbreaking costs of war, through the eyes of a 9-year-old boy, who wrote this letter, to his mother. Ukraine's Ambassador read the letter, during a U.N. Security Council meeting.

And it says, in part, "Mama, this letter is my gift to you on the Women's Day on the 8th of March. Thank you for the best nine years of my life. Many thanks for my childhood. You are the best mama in the world. I will never forget you. I wish you good luck in the heavens. I wish you to get to paradise. I will try to behave well to get to paradise too."

That little boy's mother, was killed, by Russian soldiers, while trying to escape, by car. And the boy was left alone, in the vehicle, until he was rescued, and taken to a shelter.

I want to talk to another parent here, on the ground. Alex Dayrabekov was able, thankfully, to escape the horrific scenes, we're seeing, from Bucha, and Irpin, with his wife, and his 2-month-old son. He's currently living in Cherkasy, where he is actively using social media, to try to get the message out, about the atrocities that he is witnessing.

And Alex joins me now.

Alex, first, we are so glad that you're well. How are you? How is your wife? How is your 2-month-old son, who was born just two weeks before the war began? How are you all doing?

DAYRABEKOV: Thank you. We are a lot better, than a lot of other people, in the east of Ukraine, especially in Mariupol. Well, we consider ourselves, in a paradise, as compared to them.

TAPPER: Talk to me about your escape, from Bucha, and Irpin, and why you've been documenting the atrocities that you've witnessed along the way.

DAYRABEKOV: Well, I first heard about my neighbor, on this third week, of the war, who was trying to evacuate his family, and he was shot dead, in his car. I couldn't sleep at night. I was so shocked.

And then, the next day, I heard about another case, about a dozen of neighbors that they attempt to evacuate, and six of them were killed. And then, another day I heard about another case.

And so, every day, I would hear new and new cases, in Irpin, and Bucha. And so, I started to document those cases, and then talk to international lawyers, to independently investigate those cases.

TAPPER: And just to be clear, because I just want people, at home, to understand. These are not soldier friends of yours. These are moms and dads, regular citizens, just being killed, in cold blood.

DAYRABEKOV: Absolutely. Those civilians, the neighbors, I lived with, for years, and they were just trying to evacuate, with white clothes, on their cars, and the signs, "Children," on them.

TAPPER: You've been documenting life, living inside a warzone, including that very touching moment, where you saying "Yesterday," by "The Beatles," to your little baby boy, who was just born, just two weeks, before the war.




DAYRABEKOV: Why she had to go? I don't know, she wouldn't say. I said something wrong.



TAPPER: What does that song, what does that moment mean to you? What are you going to tell your boy, about this moment, in time, when he sees these videos, in years to come? DAYRABEKOV: This is like a lullaby to him. And I started singing to him before the war.

But now, when the war started, I started to realize that this song is actually about the current situation. "There's a shadow hanging over me. I'm not half the man I used to be." Those are the words that struck me like, this is a totally different life.

And I hope that his life, his tomorrow, and our tomorrow is different. And when he thinks about the yesterday that where we're just today, now, he realizes that we paid a lot for the freedom that he will have, in the future.

TAPPER: I don't know, if you saw. But John Lennon's son, did a version of "Imagine" that is on social media. Have you seen it?

DAYRABEKOV: Yes. It was so fantastic. And I thank him, a lot, for doing that.

TAPPER: You've said, this is a massacre, of your entire nation. How concerning is it that the Russian people don't see it that way? I understand, you've stopped communicating, with some of your relatives, in Russia. Have they seen the images that you've been posting?

DAYRABEKOV: I actually sent to them directly, some images, and videos, and photos, of what I see around me, starting from day one, when the military airplanes, were flying over my apartment buildings.

And then, they actually said they didn't believe it, because they thought it was fake.

TAPPER: Alex Dayrabekov, stay in touch with us, please. We want to have you back. A real honor, talking to you, tonight.

DAYRABEKOV: Thank you, sir.

TAPPER: Coming up, they're not Ukrainian. And they don't even live in Ukraine. But families, such as this one, are scared they could be next, on Putin's list, of civilian targets, because some of them have seen, what Russia did to their homeland, before.

We're going to take you to Tbilisi, Georgia. That's next.



TAPPER: Welcome back. We're live, in western Ukraine.

As Russia's bloody war, on Ukraine, drags on, people living not so far away, in the Republic of Georgia, another former Soviet Republic, they wonder what happens, if they become Putin's next target.

Again, some of them spoke to CNN's Matt Rivers.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) MATT RIVERS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Gia was born in Georgia. He just didn't think he'd be back here, quite yet. His family moved to Russia, 30 years ago, fleeing the Georgian Civil War. It was in Moscow, they built a life, where he met his wife Anya, and where his kids were born.

He's told them the truth, about the horrors, of the current war in Ukraine. And says he worried what would happen, if one of their teachers, in Russia, echoed Putin's propaganda that this war is just.

GIA, RECENTLY LEFT RUSSIA WITH HIS FAMILY: He knows what's really going.

RIVERS (on camera): Yes.

GIA: And he will say, "No, you are not right." And it could be problem for him.

RIVERS (on camera): You were worried that your son would have problems?

GIA: Yes, yes.

RIVERS (on camera): Wow!

RIVERS (voice-over): So, the family left for Georgia, just a few days, after the war began, though Anya isn't completely convinced that they will be safe here, either.


RIVERS (voice-over): "If no one stops Putin," she says, "he can easily go, both to Georgia, and to the West."

And she is not alone, in her fears. Georgians have a long brutal history, with Russia. Russian troops invaded, in 2008. And thousands of troops remain, in two breakaway provinces of Georgia.

And in 1989, in the capital of Tbilisi, nearly two dozen protesters, were killed, and hundreds, were injured, by Soviet troops, as they advocated for independence.


RIVERS (voice-over): People gathered, over the weekend, outside the parliament building, in Tbilisi, to mark the anniversary of that massacre. Georgian flags, this year, joined by those from Ukraine, for what's now called, National Unity Day.

RIVERS (on camera): It's a big day, each year, in Georgia. But this year, it's made even more important, given what we're seeing, Russian troops do, in Ukraine.

RIVERS (voice-over): Decades of Russian aggression here have left deep scars. And many now see parallels, between Putin's invasion of Ukraine, and what they fear, could happen, in Georgia. IRAKLI PAVLENISHVILI, GEORGIAN POLITICAL ACTIVIST: Russia pose dangerous threat (ph) for Georgian independence, for our sovereignty, for our territorial integrity.

RIVERS (on camera): Do you think that there's a chance that Russia could invade Georgia, again?

PAVLENISHVILI: Yes, this threat is always. Every country, across the Europe, not only Georgia, is under threat.

RIVERS (voice-over): Back in their apartment, Gia, and his family, wholeheartedly agree. They told us they don't want their children, and grandchildren, to grow up in, what they call, "North Korea 2.0."

And for that, Grandmother Galina says people must understand a crucial point.


RIVERS (voice-over): She says, "The whole world must understand that Ukraine is now really not fighting just for itself. It's fighting for everyone. And the whole world must unite, and stop Putin, because he won't stop with Ukraine."


RIVERS: And the family told us that before they left Moscow, in the beginning days of the war, they were talking to some of their friends, in Moscow.

And they said that, they were shocked, to hear from people they considered themselves close to, that they were repeating the lines of Russian propaganda that the Ukrainian government was fascist, that they were drug addicts, as we so often hear, from Russian state media. And that, the family tells us, played a role, in their decision to leave.


TAPPER: Matt Rivers, in Tbilisi, Georgia, thank you so much.

We'll be right back.



TAPPER: Thank you for watching.

I'll be back, again, tomorrow night, at 9 P.M. Eastern, for CNN TONIGHT, live from Lviv.

I will see you, 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 Tapper. So, I saw you interview, the Prosecutor General of Ukraine. And she said that her office is not only seeing war crimes, but going further to say that they're seeing crimes against humanity.

TAPPER: That's right. She said it in the context, of Bucha, where she has visited several times--


TAPPER: --where they're still exhuming bodies, from mass graves. Crimes against humanity has to do with protection of individuals and egregiously violent acts.

And actually, it's interesting. The term, "Crimes against humanity," was devised, by a lawyer, educated, right here, at Lviv University.