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Russia Reveals Ukraine War Goal, Full Control of South and East; Refugees Who Just Escaped Mariupol Describe Horrors There; Two Russia Titans & Their Families Found Dead Within Days; Manhunt Under Way After DC Shooting That Injured At Least Three People. Aired 6-7p ET

Aired April 22, 2022 - 18:00   ET



JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: Our coverage continues now with one Mr. Wolf Blitzer. He's right next door in a place I like to call The Situation Room. I will see you on Monday.

WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: Happening now, breaking news, as Russian invaders leave cities in ruin, a top general reveals for the first time that Vladimir Putin's war goals are bigger than we knew, the Kremlin now aiming for full control of southern Ukraine as well as the eastern region. This hour, the Ukrainian prime minister joins us with his reaction to Putin's chilling ambitions.

Also breaking now, urgent new pleas for evacuations in Mariupol, as Russia tightens its grip on the southeastern city and blockades the factory where Ukrainian civilians and troops are holding out. We're getting new firsthand accounts of the horrors in Mariupol from refugees who just escaped.

Our correspondents are covering all that and more from key locations in the war zone.

We want to welcome our viewers here in the United States and around the world. I'm Wolf Blitzer and you're in The Situation Room.

This hour, the full extent of Vladimir Putin's war plan is clear and even more alarming. Russia, now apparently looking to seize control of a very wide swath of Ukraine across the south as well as the east, both regions hit with fresh attacks, including shelling in the city of Mariupol where Putin has made a disputed claim of victory.

CNN's Matt Rivers has the latest on the dire conditions there and the desperate efforts to get out.


MATT RIVERS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice over): The train was designated just for evacuees. If all went to plan, it would arrive here to Lviv, packed with hundreds fleeing more. Instead, just a handful of families finally found safety, including Polina and her daughter, Irinia (ph), who fled Mariupol. They are furious there are not more who got out. She says so many should have been evacuated but the Russians kept shelling. They are not human beings. I don't know who gave birth to them. Horrific.

Horrific, an apt word to describe what Russia has done to the people of Mariupol, collecting dead bodies amongst the city's wreckage, a task now as common place as it is morbid. Some of the dead are loaded into Russian-marked trucks while others have been buried in alleged mass graves seen here in new satellite imagery, and yet, for the 10s of thousands who survive here, they need to get out and cannot.

He says humanitarian corridors declared by Russia are only on paper. Russian troops dominate the vast majority of the city. If they wanted to let people leave safely, they could, and yet several humanitarian corridors agreed to this week have failed, with Ukraine accusing Russia of repeatedly violating cease fires.

It's meant the number of evacuees following the planned route from Mariupol to Zaporizhzhia has slowed to a trickle, and even then, danger awaits.

Ukraine's military says this train actually came under fire as it was leaving a station in Zaporizhzhia, some of the train carries so badly damaged had to be left behind and even the ones that can still travel, you can see here, have some damage left over. It's another example, Ukraine says, how Russia continues to target civilians.

For those from Mariupol, like Katya Yatsun, these are some of the first moments they felt safe in weeks. We were just thinking about our survival, she says. I don't know how I'm going to tell my son about such terrifying events.

She says she'll eventually tell her son about Russian military brutality, about the needless destruction of an entire city, and maybe her son will live long enough to return to Mariupol one day. Others doubt they'll have their chance. She says, I want to believe I will return here. I think we'll need many years to restore the city after what they've done, and I'm not going to be around that long.


RIVERS (on camera): And Wolf, it's not just people leaving Mariupol who are risking their lives to flee this war. Earlier today, Ukrainian officials say some 25 people fleeing the war in eastern part of the country leaving from a city called Popasna actually came under fire by Russian forces. Thankfully, no one was injured inside the bus they were traveling in. But it shows you just how dangerous it is to be an evacuee all over this country right now. Wolf?

BLITZER: Certainly, it's awful indeed. Matt Rivers, reporting for us, thank you, Matt.

And now the big picture of Russia's ambitions in Ukraine. Let's discuss the new revelations with CNN's Chief National Security Correspondent, Jim Sciutto. He's joining us live from Lviv, in Western Ukraine. Jim, we're learning more about Russia's broader takeover plans right now, and those takeover plans that apparently go well beyond a special operation, as they call it, in the Donbas region.


Tell us more, what are you learning?

JIM SCIUTTO, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: This had been a concern for administration officials, military officials for some time now, just the Russians have said it out loud, and the idea of being, not taking over the entire country, not confining themselves to this land bridge between territory annexed in Crimea in 2014 and territory taken over in the eastern part of the country there as well.

Connecting just that sort of southeastern part of the country that you see on the map in red and yellow but to extend control all the way across the southern coast of Ukraine, cutting off Ukraine's entire access to the Black Sea which of course has both commercial and strategic significance for Ukraine and then extending into Moldova, the north eastern portion of Moldova known as Transnistria, that's quite a goal. That would make Ukraine, in effect, a rump state, cut it off from the Black Sea, as I said.

Now, there is, of course, day light between the ambition and the capability of carrying that out. That said, it does show, Wolf, the prospect of a very long war here, right, one that cannot be satisfied just with gains so far in the east and the south, but perhaps could extend for some months down the line.

BLITZER: As you know, Jim, Russia's prized warship, the Moskva, sank just over a week ago after it came under attack. What more is Russia saying about that humiliating loss?

SCIUTTO: Well, we should start with the fact that Russia lies about military casualties all the time in every war it's been in the last two decades, so we should start with that. What Russia's claiming now is just one sailor died in that attack there, you see the pictures there and all the damage done to their flagship, that 27 are missing but that 300 -- more than 300 survived. And they're telling a heroic story of how that one sailor who died played a role in saving all those lives.

Now, the U.S. does not have its own hard count or estimate of the number of sailors who actually died on board that ship but they have believed since it went down that those losses were significant and some of that is based just on the simple calculation of looking at all the damage to the ship and the fact it did sink after an effort to tow it back to shore and that there was no major Russian rescue operation visible to the U.S.

So, this is a story from Russia that we should take with not just a grain of salt but a, you know, 30 pound bag of salt, right, because Russia's track record in giving reliable information about those losses is lousy, similarly with its losses on the ground in Ukraine as well.

BLITZER: Good point, indeed. JIM Sciutto reporting live from Lviv, in Ukraine, thank you, Jim, very much. Stay safe over there. Let's get some more right now on Russia's war strategy. Joining us, CNN Military Analyst, Retired Major General Spider Marks. General Marks, thanks so much for joining us.

As you know, as all of our viewers know, Russia tried and failed to take the capital of Kyiv, in Ukraine, now they say they want full control of southern Ukraine. But does Russia have the military capability to actually pull that off?

MAJ. GEN. JAMES SPIDER MARKS (RET.), CNN MILITARY ANALYST: Well, what we're going to see is Russia right now moving to try to establish control of Mariupol. We've been a kind of following that with great clarity. What is necessary is that for the Russians, in order to achieve this objective of really knocking Ukraine access off from the Black Sea is Mariupol must get into their hands.

That needs to be a secure flank before they turn south and west to continue their operations in the direction of Kherson, which is essential in the next step. Then the next step after that, they got to get across the Dnipro River and to Odessa. And then the greater goal that you've been describing, potentially, is the move toward Moldova. Those are the necessary steps. Russia has the capability right now to at least, and they've demonstrated it, to level and annihilate anything that happens to be in Mariupol. If they want to claim that victory, I would imagine they can do that. It's necessary then to make those additional steps happen and they've been demonstrating some success over the course of the last few weeks.

BLITZER: And they've been killing a lot of wonderful, innocent civilians in the process.

President Zelenskyy of Ukraine reacted to that Russian statement saying, this confirms that -- and I'm quoting him now, this confirms that the Russian invasion of Ukraine was intended only as a beginning, then they want to capture other countries. Does Putin have ambitions beyond Ukraine despite real failures in that operation, at least so far?

MARKS: Yes, he has the ambition to do it. He has stated that. That's the narrative. But what we have seen is an inability over the course of these two plus months to achieve objectives in Ukraine that now have been narrowed.


I mean, let's bear in mind, four attack accesses (ph) over the course of the last two months, failure on three of those, now the Donbas and this land bridge to connect Crimea, he can establish this as an objective but he hasn't demonstrated a capability. And I think it's fair to say the level of kinetic war warfare that we're seeing right now is going to play itself out over the course of the next couple of months.

They're going to completely spill so much blood, they don't have the ability to sustain this level of combat, nor do the Ukrainians, irrespective of the successes that the Ukrainians have been having tactically. And then I think what we're going to see is some form of stasis that's going to be not dissimilar to what we saw the Soviets experienced in Afghanistan during the decade of the '80s.

BLITZER: General Spider Marks, thanks so much, as usual, I appreciate it very much.

MARKS: Thank you, Wolf.

BLITZER: The breaking news here in The Situation Room continues next with more on Putin's newly revealed goal of, quote, full control of the south and eastern parts of Ukraine. We're going to talk one-on-one with the Ukrainian prime minister right after this.



BLITZER: The breaking news tonight, a Russian commander exposing Vladimir Putin's broad ambitions in the Ukraine war right now saying the Russian president wants, and I'm quoting now, wants full control of Southern and Eastern Ukraine.

And joining us now, the Ukrainian prime minister, Denys Shmyhal. Prime Minister, thank you so much for joining us, we really appreciate your being here in Washington and joining us.

As you know, Russia now says, it aims to establish what the Russians are calling full control over Southern Ukraine. Do you believe they can do that?

PRIME MINISTER DENYS SHMYHAL, UKRAINE: They can do this. So, Ukraine is -- the Ukrainians are absolutely brave and Ukraine now protecting our country, all of our guys and girls, our military forces, protecting their land, their families, and Russian can't control because Ukrainians wouldn't like to have Russians on our land.

Our big idea and great idea to belong to the civilized world, to be part of European Union. So, we're fighting for this and will never surrender to Russians.

BLITZER: Is the fear, Prime Minister, that Russia will try to take the whole of Eastern and Southern Ukraine, essentially carving up your country?

SHMYHAL: For now, Russia is attacking, really, Donbas region and South of Ukraine. And for the last four to five days, we feel and see this beginning of this big battle for Donbas, as they say. And they try everything, everyday, everywhere, try to push our soldiers, our army from their positions. But our military forces are very brave and protect all, and all the positions and every square meter of our east.

We also have great and huge support from our partners and technical and by weapon and by finances. So -- and we feel and we have support all civilized world and especially support from United States and from President Biden personally, tomorrow morning, actually, we have perfect and great meeting with the president. I'm sure that we will protect our country and protect democracy on the European continent and in the world.

BLITZER: In the southern city of Mariupol, in Ukraine, the mayor there says 20,000 Ukrainian civilians already have been killed. The people holding on there are clearly suffering right now without access to food or water. What do the thousands of people still trapped in Mariupol, what do they need from the U.S. and its allies and partners right now?

SHMYHAL: The situation in Mariupol is terrible. We understand that Russians surround this city. And there is really a human catastrophe because about more than 100,000 civilians were there for a long time, without electricity, water supply, without water, without heating, without food. So, now, we know that some thousand of our military people are on the Azovstal. It's big part of Mariupol's city and they protect some thousands of civilians.

We don't know actually how much civilians are killed in Mariupol, but we know the fact that there are some small children, some babies were dying there because of dehydration in Mariupol, early two weeks and three weeks ago. So, it's really great human catastrophe and one of the biggest war crimes of Russians against humanity in Ukraine, in Mariupol.

BLITZER: The British prime minister, Boris Johnson, today said, and I'm quoting him now, he said it's a realistic possibility, his words, realistic possibility that Russia can win this war. How do you respond to that?

SHMYHAL: Russia can't win this war because we will protect our land until our end or until the end of this war. Understand that this war should finish on the table, but, in any way, our soldiers are strongly motivated to protect our land.


Our government is working 24 hours, seven days per week. We have support all civilized world, sanctions against Russia are also working, and we are absolutely sure that Ukraine will win in this war and victory will be in very short period. I hope so and I believe this.

BLITZER: The Ukrainian prime minister, Denys Shmyhal, thank you so much for joining us. Good luck to you, good luck to everyone in Ukraine. We appreciate you joining us.

SHMYHAL: Thank you so much, all the best.

BLITZER: Coming up, we're going to take you inside a village in Ukraine where Ukrainians say Russian forces put them in the basement to die, trapping them for a month, and using them as human shields.



BLITZER: We have some new drone video just into CNN that shows significant damage in small village just north of Kyiv the capitol. It's a fresh look at devastation left behind by Russian forces just before they pulled back from northern Ukraine.

CNN's Ed Lavandera went to another village in the region where Russians terrorized hundreds of Ukrainian civilians holding them hostage in a basement for a month.


ED LAVANDERA, CNN SENIOR NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice over): War has stopped time here. Bombs and artillery scorched this village in Northern Ukraine. Russian occupation ravaged the minds of its people. The story of what happened in Yahidne is just emerging, revealing how the Russian army held this village hostage for more than 30 days.

Sofia shows us the underground bunker in her shed where she first hid from the fighting. She says she had food stored here that the Russians ate. This is where she slept. Sofia says Russian soldiers went door to door rounding people up and taking them at gunpoint into the basement of the village school.

Sofia tells us that when the Russian soldiers moved them all into the basement of the school building, that they were put down there, and that the soldiers told them that they were being put in the basement to die.

A woman named Natalia took us into the basement where she was trapped.

I was in a stupor, Natalia tells me. I was just sitting there, praying, hoping it would all stop soon.

Residents tell us that there were about 350 people held hostage in the basement of this school building, men, women and children, forced to live in these horrific conditions. In fact, it was so strangulating, there was so little air circulation that one resident told us that 12 elderly people died here because they couldn't breathe and their bodies were left while the fighting raged outside.

These are some of the only known images captured in the school's basement. The faces say it all.

She is telling me that about 35 people slept in this small room, nobody could lay down. They slept kind of sitting with their knees up against their chest. The rooms littered with makeshift beds, schoolbooks and Russian troop meal boxes. But it's the art on the walls that stops you in your tracks. This is how the children passed the time, colorful drawings on a canvas of anguish.

The people who were trapped down here etched names on to this concrete wall. They marked the days with a calendar crossing out the days as they went by. Everything down here has the feel of a World War II era concentration camp.

Above the basement, Russian soldiers took over the school building. Residents say they were used as human shields. They knew the Ukrainian military wouldn't fire at the school with civilians inside. Olena grabs food from a humanitarian delivery truck and takes us to her home. Russian soldiers threw grenades through her windows and defecated on the house floors. She was also held hostage in the school basement with her one-year-old daughter.

Did you think you were going to survive that?

I thought my child would not survive, she tells me. I asked them to let me out so the child could breathe fresh air because she felt bad. They said let her die, we don't care.

Sofia, how did you feel when you got out of the basement of the school? She says, one of the villagers opened the basement door and said the Russians left. The trapped villagers were surprised. In the morning, our guys entered the village, she said, we cried, we hugged them and cried.

What will you tell your daughter about this experience?

Nothing, she says. Her daughter will not remember it and she will tell her nothing.


LAVANDERA (on camera): And, Wolf, the number of people killed in this village is unknown. And many of the villagers we spoke to believe that Russian soldiers were burying victims in the woods around the village but it's impossible to get to right now because the area is covered with landmines, or that's the fear.

And if you notice, we only spoke with women in the village, only used their first names, they ask we not use their last names. The men did not want to go on camera because Russian soldiers, they say, were going through the village questioning them, pulling them aside.


The Russian soldiers told them they were there to look for Nazis. Wolf?

BLITZER: Ed Lavandera doing excellent reporting for us. Ed, thank you very much.

Let's bring in the former U.S. ambassador to Ukraine, Bill Taylor. He's joining us right now. Ambassador, thanks so much for joining us.

The Ukrainian prime minister, just moments ago, told me that Russia can't maintain control over Ukraine because Ukrainians don't want Russia in charge. Does this type of Russian cruelty which we just saw only increase Ukraine's resistance?

WILLIAM TAYLOR, FORMER U.S. AMBASSADOR TO UKRAINE: Wolf, it absolutely does. The horrifying stories that you're telling, the disgusting treatment of Ukrainians by Russian soldiers reflects what the Russians have been saying, what Putin has been saying. It's just hard to take but it does exactly what you say, that is it increases the determination of the Ukrainians never to live under the Russians again. They will fight. They will continue to fight as long as we provide the weapons, the assistance, the fuel, all the things that they need to fight, the Ukrainians will fight and you can see exactly why.

BLITZER: President Zelenskyy just moments ago thanked the U.K. for moving to reopen its embassy in the capital of Kyiv, the U.K. being now the 21st country to do so. As the former U.S. ambassador to Ukraine and you spent years there, you know the country well, are you concerned the U.S. isn't, at least so far, among this group?

TAYLOR: So, Wolf, I've talked to many of all the diplomats that would very much like to be back in Kyiv. And I am sure that this is going to be high priority for the State Department in their thinking. They're doing exactly the right thing of being careful. They have to do that. They take seriously the safety of the diplomats. However, it's clear that you can only do your job as a diplomat in the capital with the government that you're there to talk to and to listen to. So, they need to be back in Kyiv. I am sure they will be back very soon.

BLITZER: I suspect you're right. Ambassador Bill Taylor, thanks so much for joining.

And to our viewers for information about how you can help with humanitarian efforts in Ukraine, go to and help impact your world.

Leaked recordings contradict claims by the House minority leader, Kevin McCarthy, about conversations the days after the Capitol siege.

Plus, far-right Congresswoman Marjorie Taylor Greene testifies at a hearing on whether her actions on January 6th disqualify her from seeking re-election.

We'll be right back.



BLITZER: New major developments tonight in the insurrection investigation. The House minority leader, Kevin McCarthy, is doing serious damage control right now after new audio revealed. He said former President Trump admitted some responsibility for the January 6th insurrection and we're also learning new details of Congresswoman Marjorie Taylor Greene's testimony in a hearing on whether to disqualify her from seeking re-election.

CNN Senior Legal Affairs Correspondent Paula Reid has all the late breaking development.


PAULA REID, CNN SENIOR LEGAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT (voice over): Two top Republicans on the defensive about their actions around January 6th. In the days following the insurrection, House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy told Republican lawmakers on a conference call that then-President Trump had admitted to bearing some responsibility for the deadly attack.

REP. KEVIN MCCARTHY (R-CA) (voice over): I asked him personally today, does he feel bad about what happened? He told me he does have some responsibility for what happened and he needs to acknowledge that.

REID: On a separate call the day before, McCarthy said he was done with Trump.

MCCARTHY: I've had it with this guy. What he did is unacceptable. Nobody can defend that and nobody should defend him.

REID: To date, Trump has never publicly accepted any responsibility for January 6th. His state of mind and whether he has privately admitted any culpability has been of keen interest to the House select committee investigating the insurrection. McCarthy has refused to cooperate with the committee and previously evaded a question about whether he remembers telling House Republicans that Trump took responsibility.

MCCARTHY: I'm not sure what call you're talking about.

REID: McCarthy hasn't commented on the newly released audio. The New York Times also revealed another bombshell audio recording Thursday, where Representative Liz Cheney asked McCarthy if there was any chance Trump would resign in the wake of the deadly attack.

MCCARTHY: I've had a few discussions. My gut tells me no. But what I think I'm going to do is I'm going to call him.

REID: Before that audio was leaked, McCarthy vehemently denied the Times reporting as totally false and wrong.

The fallout from January 6th also playing out in a Georgia courtroom today during a hearing about Representative Marjorie Taylor Greene potentially being disqualified for running for re-election over the insurrection.

Lawyers representing voters challenging Greene argued she helped facilitate violence at the Capitol, but Greene's lawyers argue her constitutional rights are being violated.

JAMES BOPP JR., ATTORNEY FOR REP. GREENE: The question of voter fraud in the 2020 election is a quintessential example of political speech, legitimate political disagreements about what happened.

REID: Greene, who still pushes the big lie that Trump won the election and denied ever opposing a peaceful election of power testified for more than three hours, repeatedly saying she doesn't remember many key events or even her own actions leading up to January 6th.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: My question was just about whether anybody at all ever mentioned to you the possibility of violence? [18:40:05]

REP. MARJORIE TAYLOR GREENE (R-GA): I don't remember. I don't recall.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They were going to flood the Capitol with people.

GREENE: No. I don't remember ever hearing that. No. I do not remember that.


REID (on camera): Judge who presided over today's hearing will issue a recommendation to the Georgia secretary of state on whether Greene should be disqualified, now Representative McCarthy is expected to address his colleagues about those leaked audio recording when's they meet privately next Wednesday, while some Republicans predict he may face uncomfortable questions but they also ultimately believe this controversy will blow over.

BLITZER: We shall see, Paula Reid reporting for us, thank you very much.

Let's get some more on what's going on, joining us now, CNN Political Analyst, Maggie Haberman, the Washington Correspondent for The New York Times. Maggie, thanks for joining us.

how much do you think it really matters to the House Minority Leader that his been caught in this blatant lie?

MAGGIE HABERMAN, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Wolf, it should matter to the house minority leader and it should matter frankly, to everyone, that the potential next speaker of the house told this bold-faced lie when he was on tape and it became clear several hours later a huge tip of the hat to my colleagues Jonathan Martin and Alex Burns for what they did here.

It doesn't seem to matter particularly to McCarthy that he was caught in a lie, it seems to matter to McCarthy that there's tape and he then has to grovel to Donald Trump and grovel to his colleagues in the House Republican conference to try to keep them on his side, to try to keep them supporting him in his effort to become speaker and not to toss him out now, but that's where things stand. Whether it is going to matter, Wolf, in January, assuming House Republicans retake the house majority in November in the midterm election, remains to be seen, will Donald Trump still stand by him remains to be seen. But right now his in a very uncomfortable position.

BLITZER: Knowing how former President Trump operates, Maggie, as you certainly do. Do you buy McCarthy's assessment that he's, quote, fine with all of this?

HABERMAN: I do, actually, Wolf. Look, I think that it depends on a couple of factors, one is how many people get in his ear of them, how many segments like ours he is watching on television, how often he hears that audio played. But I do think that there's a part of him, a big part of him and I had this told to me by several sources that is really enjoying knowing in his mind that he has something over McCarthy right now. That to show Donald Trump is strong and McCarthy as having to grovel to him because, you know, Donald Trump's world view tends to break down in pretty simple terms that way.

That's where it is now. Will it be there in a couple of months? It's hard to say, but for today, yes. I believe that's true.

BLITZER: Do you expect the former president to use this as leverage over McCarthy down the road?

HABERMAN: I don't even know if it will take down the road, Wolf, I expect him to use it as leverage as soon as he can. The way that it was put to me by two different Trump advisers was that Trump is going to try to extract something from McCarthy.

What could that mean is anybody's guess, but it's certainly clear that he is going to try to get a pound of flesh out of McCarthy and remember, McCarthy was the first Republican that I know of to go down to Mar-a-Lago, shortly after former President Trump left office in disgraced after January 6th. He was trying to smooth things over pretty early on so Donald Trump has been extracting some measure of something out of Kevin McCarthy for some time. He's only going to be able to up the ante now.

BLITZER: In terms of Congresswoman Marjorie Taylor Greene, she conveniently seems to forget her own previous comments in court today, that kind of forgetfulness seems to be a pretty familiar move, doesn't it, and what's your sense of what's going on down there?

HABERMAN: I mean I didn't watch that closely Wolf, so I don't want to suggest I have intimate knowledge of her testimony but from what I read of it she appeared to be either trying to avoid saying that she remembered something or legitimately didn't, but the thing she was being asked about it's hard to imagine one would forget being part of those conversations.

There were things she said that she didn't say that evidence was then shown to her that she did say, you know, I think that this is an important case that she is in the middle of right now, it's being watched by a lot of people about what it will mean in terms of whether there's 14th amendment challenge that can be brought to other office holders or potential future office holders like Donald Trump based on the activities that Marjorie Taylor Greene is accused of being involved with.

BLITZER: Maggie Haberman of The New York Times, thank so much for joining us.

HABERMAN: Thanks for having me.

BLITZER: Coming up, the violent and suspicious deaths of two wealthy former Russian gas executives and members of their families. We have new details. That's next. Also breaking news, multiple law enforcement agencies right now, including the U.S. secret service are on the hunt for a suspect after at least three people were shot right here in Washington D.C.



BLITZER: Investigations are underway tonight into the violent and suspicious deaths of two Russian business titans and their families.

CNN's Brian Todd is working the story for us.

Brian, what are you finding out?

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, these two cases are so bizarrely similar, that Kremlin watchers are saying there's got to be more to all of this than we're seeing.

We have no information today on these mysterious deaths in the investigations.


TODD (voice-over): Two unsettling cases, similar, fueling more intrigue around the Putin regime tonight. Within the span of 24 hours this week, two wealthy foreign Russian gas executives found dead with their families.

On Monday, Vladislav Avayev, his wife and daughter were found dead in Avayev's apartment in Moscow. Russia state news agency TASS citing a source in law enforcement says authorities were investigating the incident as a murder-suicide.

The next day, Sergei Protosenya, his wife and daughter found dead at their home and a resort near Barcelona, Spain. A source close to the investigation tells CNN Protosenya's wife and daughter were likely murdered inside the luxury home. Protosenya found dead in the garden outside.

BILL BROWDER, FINANCIER, PUTIN CRITIC: When Russian business people die, I think one kind of has to assume the worst first.

PROF. LOUISE SHELLEY, GEORGE MASON UNIVERSITY: I think these deaths in my book are very suspicious. Because they are so similar and they're of prominent individuals who they'd I made their money in the oil and gas sector.

TODD: If these were murder-suicide, could these men have been under financial pressure from fallout over the Ukraine war?

BROWDER: We're in a very thought moment, money is scarce, all sorts of people are under a lot of pressure.


There might be people in Russia connected to the security apparatus who don't like things that these individuals are doing.

There could be patterns of retaliation against individuals who may be collaborating with foreign qualities for people in Russia that don't want certain information shared.

TODD: What's not clear tonight, whether Vladislav Avayev and Sergei Protosenya knew each other or communicated recently with each other, and the analysts we spoke to say it's not clear if either man has spoken out against Vladimir Putin or the war in Ukraine. Could they have been targeted by Putin, himself?

ELISABETH SCHIMPFOSSL, AUTHOR, "RICH RUSSIANS': It would almost be something, we need Putin to take measures against people of law- breaking (INAUDIBLE). What he goes for is the big fishes and only very few of them in order to set an example of risk and tame them and bring them under control.

TODD: Still, some experts say, if there was foul play, it wouldn't be the first time among Russian tycoons.

SHELLEY: There is a pattern of suspicious deaths overseas. We will be seeing more pressures among the elite, because there is a lot of suspicion and recriminations in Russia.


TODD: Professor Louise Shelley says there is another level of suspicion to these cases. She says Spain where Sergei Protosenya died has among the highest numbers of Russian organized crime figures operating inside its borders of any country. Many of whom she says have ties to Russian oligarchs -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Brian Todd reporting for us -- Brian, thank you very much for that report.

There is breaking news coming up next, very disturbing breaking news. A manhunt under way right here in Washington, D.C., the nation's capitol, following a shooting that injured at least three people.



BLITZER: There's breaking news, a manhunt is now under way right here in Washington, D.C. tonight following a shooting that injured at least three people.

CNN senior Washington correspondent Joe Johns is working this story for us.

So, Joe, I understand you are at a family reunification center, not far away from where this shooting took place. Tell us what you are learning and what happened as far as we know. JOE JOHNS, CNN SENIOR WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Wolf.

This is the Cleveland Park Library in northwest Washington, D.C., off of Connecticut Avenue, one of the busiest thoroughfares in Washington, D.C. This is a place where people who've been displaced by the shooting have been told to come to be reunited with their loved ones.

Now, in 3:20 this afternoon here in Washington, D.C., shots rang out and we're talking about a lot of shots according to eyewitnesses I spoke with. Bursts of five, some say there were at least 20 shots. Others have said dozens and dozens of shots. Three people injured as you said not seriously as far as we know. At least not life threatening.

More importantly, a massive amount of the city in northwest Washington has been cordoned off near the University of the District of Colombia, some embassies, including the embassy of Israeli are in the area where police have been searching for the shooter, and also just talking to people to try to figure out what happened.

What's curious, Washington, is as we came down Connecticut Avenue, we are almost a half a mile away from the university where the shooting happened at least. We saw evidence of rounds that hit windows in at least two stores as well as a vehicle that was parked on the street.

It's not clear if that's related. But we do know the police were investigating. A lot of shots fired, fortunately, no indication of any fatalities -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Fortunately. This is an area that's very popular in northwest Washington, Connecticut Avenue. We know this area well, Joe. You and I do. We lived here quite a while.

What else are folks saying? You have spoken to people there in the area when the shooting happened. What did they tell you?

JOHNS: Well, the people have to be put into two or three categories. There is a category of people who understood that shots were being fired and they needed to get out of the way. One woman told us she had to hit the deck of her minivan. This is a residential area where we are.

There was another man who was a soccer player at UDC who said he knew it was shots and he just hit the floor until they've stopped.

Wolf, back to you.

BLITZER: I suspect we'll get more information -- Joe Johns, thanks very much.

And to our viewers, thanks for watching.

"ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT" starts right now.