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The Situation Room
Russia Bombards Key City Of Odessa With Hypersonic Missiles; Top U.S. Spy Says, Putin's Goals Extend Far Beyond Eastern Ukraine; Biden Touts Efforts To Fight Inflation, Slams Ultra-MAGA Agenda; Sources: GA Prosecutors Interview "Fake Electors" In Probe Of Trump's Effort To Overturn Vote In The State; Sheriff: Casey White Will Be Back In Alabama Tonight For Arraignment. Aired 6-7p ET
Aired May 10, 2022 - 18:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: We want to welcome our viewers here in the United States and around the World. I'm Wolf Blitzer. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
Tonight, Russia is stepping up its offensive on Odessa, a key Ukrainian city on the Black Sea. Ukraine says three hypersonic missiles are responsible for major damage to civilian targets. CNN's Scott McLean is standing by live for us in Lviv, Ukraine. CNN's Oren Liebermann is over at the Pentagon. He's got new details on a blunt warning from top U.S. intelligence officials.
But let's first go to Scott on the latest on the relentless Russian bombardment of civilian targets in Odessa. Scott, this is a major escalation by Kremlin forces.
SCOTT MCLEAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes. And, Wolf, the Ukrainians say that it was seven missiles that hit an American sized mall, one of the biggest in Southern Ukraine. One person was killed but there almost surely would have been more were it not for the citywide curfew that kept the mall closed yesterday. There were also two hotels that was hit, one owned by a pro-Russian businessman, though it's not clear why or even if it that was, in, fact the intended target.
Now, Russia's bombing campaign in Odessa comes just as the Ukrainians make some progress in taking back territory around Kharkiv.
MCLEAN (voice over): New drone video shows the moment a Russian tank is destroyed just outside a village east of Kharkiv. It's not clear when the video was taken, but it's in an area where Ukraine is launching a counteroffensive to retake occupied land.
At the top of the frame is what's left of an evacuation convoy of civilians attempting to reach Ukrainian held territory.
Video posted to social media on Friday shows the convoy was fired on. Cars are riddled with bullet holes. Strollers, car seats, and toys are seen strewn outside the vehicle, some burned beyond recognition. Police investigators say that there were 15 cars in the convoy. It's not clear what happened to the rest. They say four bodies were found among the cars, including a 13-year-old girl. Others are still missing.
About 300 yards away is what's left of a Russian tank. Ukrainian police say the bodies of two Russian soldiers were found too.
Meanwhile, Ukraine says its flag is still flying, as Russia continues to pound the Azovstal Steel Plant, the last remaining Ukrainian stronghold in the city.
Hundreds of soldiers may remain inside the bombed out plant. Some of them thought to be badly wounded. The rest trying to keep their spirits high with one soldier on air guitar, another as a backup dancer, the 21-year-old medic on vocals belts out a Ukrainian pop tune inside what's left of part of the plant.
KATERYNA PALISHCHUK, UKRAINIAN COMBAT MEDIC: The only thing I can say is that Azovstal is holding on to the Russians. While they are here, we are fighting to the last.
MCLEAN: The soldiers inside say they won't surrender, neither will this young medic.
In Odessa, officials say one person was killed when one of Southern Ukraine's largest shopping malls was hit by seven incoming Russian missiles. There would have been many more victims were it not for the citywide curfew that kept the mall closed on May 9th, Russia's Victory Day.
MAYOR HENNADIY TRUKHANOV, ODESSA, UKRAINE: The curfew introduced saved us all. Some people asked why do we need these excessive measures of precaution? We can see now that they are not excessive.
MCLEAN: Russia still more focused on missile and artillery attacks across Ukraine, making little progress on the ground. The frontlines little different from where they were a month ago.
MCLEAN (on camera): Now, the Russians say that three of the missiles that hit Odessa were Russia's hypersonic Kinzhal missiles. Now, there's plenty of debate about the significance about these. They're undoubtedly bigger, they have a longer range, but if you ask Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin, they are not a game changer. Wolf?
BLITZER: Scott McLean reporting from Lviv, in Ukraine. Thank you very much.
Here in the United States, top U.S. officials are sounding the alarm about Putin's plans. CNN's Oren Liebermann is joining us from the Pentagon right now.
Oren, the director of National Intelligence issued a very stark warning today about Russia's war in Ukraine. Listen to this. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
AVRIL HAINES, DIRECTOR OF NATIONAL INTELLIGENCE: The uncertain nature of the battle which is developing into a war of attrition combined with the reality that Putin faces a mismatch between his ambitions and Russia's current conventional military capabilities, likely means the next few months could see us moving along a more unpredictable and potentially escalatory trajectory.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: So, Oren, what else is U.S. intelligence saying about Putin's possible next moves?
OREN LEIBERMANN, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Avril Haines said this is a war that Russian President Vladimir Putin feels he cannot afford to lose. But his eyes are larger than the capabilities of Russia's military.
Although the military is now focused on the Donbas region in Southeast Ukraine, she said that Putin is still looking beyond that, either subjugating all of Ukraine or a land bridge from Russia through to Crimea all the way perhaps to Moldova and the breakaway Transnistria region.
What could Putin do next as this becomes sort of an ad hoc management of a battle that starts to look like a stalemate in some places, even though the frontline is seeing a lot of contact and combat? On the domestic side, she said Putin may implement martial law, declare that this is war and start drafting more conscripts into the Russia's military and he may shift more of Russia's industrial base essentially towards this battle and making sure that Russia can maintain it.
On the military side, what could we see from Russia? Well, more of the indiscriminate and brutal attacks we have seen that have killed so many Ukrainian civilians, more targeting, more long-range fires. The one thing she did say is that although there is this nuclear saber- rattling from Putin and others in the Kremlin, there is not an imminent threat of a nuclear attack from Russia.
BLITZER: The director also said -- Director Haines also said that up to ten Russian generals, Oren, have now been killed since the start of the war. That's a stunning number. But give us some perspective on that.
LEIBERMANN: Stunning is absolutely the right word for that, Wolf. To put that in perspective, that's more generals than the U.S. lost in 20 years of war in Afghanistan. And this is in two and a half months of war in Ukraine.
It says quite a bit about Russia's military that these generals are on the frontline. Although it's difficult to get a perfect perspective and know why they're there, U.S. officials say it's because Russia has to send them to the frontline to make sure their orders are being followed, to make sure there is command and control on the frontlines and to see if Russia can fix its morale problem on the frontlines.
Will this continue? Has Russia learned this lesson and isn't sending generals to the frontline anymore? That's something we're watching very closely because, of course, Russia's military is largely controlled from the Kremlin. The fact it has to send generals there, a trouble for Russia.
BLITZER: Oren Liebermann reporting for us from the Pentagon, thank you for the perspective.
I want to discuss what's going with the former U.S. ambassador to Ukraine, William Taylor, who's joining us right now. Ambassador, thank you so much for joining us.
As you know, Director Haines says Putin essentially wants to slice off Eastern and Southern Ukraine, but he doesn't have the military capability. So, does that mean, Ambassador, that this war will simply drag on?
WILLIAM TAYLOR, FORMER U.S. AMBASSADOR TO UKRAINE: It may well drag on, Wolf. Because you're right, he doesn't have the capability, he doesn't have the soldiers. He's got some indirect fire. He's got these missiles. These missiles are very expensive, number one. And number two, the reports are that he's down to may be 20 percent of those precision guided missiles that he started with. And the sanctions and the export ban, the export controls on these high-tech electronic components, the chips that go into these precision guided missiles, they're having a real effect. That is, he can't replace them.
So, he's got problems on the ground, just like you just said, generals have to be there. He's got bad discipline. He's got bad morale. So, he may want to go all the way beyond where he is right now, which is, by the way, Wolf, he's not even in Odessa, not close to Odessa at this point. So, he's got bigger ambitions than he has got capability.
BLITZER: President Zelenskyy of Ukraine tonight urged Ukrainians not to expect victories every day or every week for that matter. Is he preparing his country, lowering expectations right now for what could be a very, very long fight?
TAYLOR: It could be a very long fight. President Zelenskyy knows this. The other thing that President Zelenskyy knows is where the Ukrainian people's sentiment is. That is they are not going to cede any territory. They're not going to give up claim to Donbas. They're not going to give up claim even to Crimea. And President Zelenskyy reflects that determination on the part of Ukrainian citizens and he also inspires Ukrainian citizens. So, it goes both ways.
And that may mean it's a long slog. He is not going to give up any territory, and as you reported, there is a counter offensive going on in Kharkiv, in the north. They're taking back territory. They're threatening lines of communication. So, there's good progress in the north.
BLITZER: Former U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine William Taylor, thank you so much for joining us. [18:10:02]
Just ahead, the U.S. warning that Vladimir Putin could call up thousands more soldiers if he officially declares war on Ukraine. Is NATO prepared? I'll ask the NATO deputy secretary-general who is standing by live. We'll go one-on-one for our interview when we come back.
BLITZER: The top U.S. spy warning tonight that Russian President Vladimir Putin's goals in his unprovoked invasion of Ukraine extend beyond taking just the eastern part of the country.
Let's discuss this and more with the deputy secretary-general of NATO, Mircea Geoana. Mircea, thank you so much for joining us, welcome to Washington.
The director of National Intelligence here in Washington, Avril Haines, says that the Russians may want to move beyond simply controlling Southern Ukraine and move all the way towards Moldova right now. Do you expect that to happen?
MIRCEA GEOANA, NATO DEPUTY SECRETARY GENERAL: I met Director Haines yesterday, and we compared notes together with the administration and we have similar analysis. There is a significant mismatch between the level of political ambition of President Putin that we believe he didn't abandon his original plan to basically occupy or at least decapitate a regime in Kyiv.
BLITZER: He failed to do that.
GEOANA: He failed to do that. So, he continues to have a high level of ambition while the military capabilities, what he has on the ground, the defeat they had around Kyiv, the fact they have difficulties to boost up the morale of the troops. So, in a way, we see a delta, a mismatch between political ambitions and capabilities.
Director Haines is also right. She's right in basically saying that the moment there is this kind of mismatch, the risk of somewhat ad hoc decisions that are basically not taking into account the reality on the ground, the fierce resistance of the Ukrainians, the support to get from allied nations, that could prove a certain risk.
BLITZER: So do you think NATO is prepared now for Putin and the Russians doubling down right now because the director of the Defense Intelligence Agency over at the Pentagon says Putin could call up thousands more troops by simply officially declaring a war is under way?
GEOANA: He didn't do this in the 9th of May parade.
BLITZER: He didn't do it then. GEOANA: He didn't do it then. I think there is also -- we believe there is a certain political difficulty even for him to call on the Russian people to send more of the youngsters to go into a place where most of their fellow countrymen and then soldiers basically were either killed or wounded.
So, NATO has a triple obligation and will do it at the same time. First, we continue to help Ukraine in their brave fight for their land. We do that. We do it successfully. We do it with a speed of relevance.
Secondly, the business of NATO is to protect NATO countries. So, we are boosting our presence on the eastern flank significantly. And for the first time since the creation of NATO, have activated NATO defense plans for the eastern flank of NATO.
Thirdly, the obligation we have as a corollary, first, is to make sure that we don't escalate already a very bloody war between Russia and Ukraine into a war between NATO and Russia. So, this is the role of NATO, to support Ukraine. We do that, to defend NATO allies, we do that, and also to make sure that we minimize the risk of escalation.
BLITZER: Is it already a done deal that both Finland and Sweden are about to formally officially join NATO? And Putin, he's going to react to that. How worried are you about what he might do if that happens?
GEOANA: Wolf, I'm a political person and I have full respect for the democratic processes under way in both Finland and Sweden. I can say one thing. If they decide it's the democratic role of this nations to decide, and if they would apply for NATO membership, I can say one thing, they will be welcomed warmly and expeditiously.
BLITZER: Why would they be welcomed warmly and expeditiously but Ukraine, which has been trying to join NATO for years, is not necessarily being warmly and expeditiously welcomed?
GEOANA: Listen, Wolf, I'm coming from Romania, and I was ambassador here in Washington. We worked so hard for over many, many years to get our countries into NATO and European Union. There's a huge difference between a post-communist country with many reforms to make, with economies to reform, militaries to reform. And when we look to Finland and Sweden, they are high-end democracies, exceptionally strong economies, and they are already very interoperable with NATO.
I'm not saying that our support for Ukraine or for Georgia, for that matter, should be less important, but at the moment, what's the lesson of this decision by Finland and Sweden if they make the decision?
BLITZER: You think they will?
GEOANA: I cannot prejudge, but I say, we see signs that they are preparing to take a decision. If the decision will be positive, we will respond positively. But we see that basically on every front, President Putin gets the opposite of his original intention. He hoped that we would have a weak NATO. He has a strong NATO. He hoped it would be America's allies in Europe and in the world would basically be shaky. We are stronger than ever. And also, he -- what probably he was expecting less was this fierce, brave resilience and resistance of the Ukrainian people themselves.
So, I think on everything, from Finland and Sweden eventually joining, from Ukraine resisting bravely, for NATO being united, for American leading with real leadership sense, I think that he's getting the opposite of his original intentions.
BLITZER: Yes. He thought this would split up NATO, but NATO is very much united right now. Mircea Geoana, welcome to Washington. Thank you so much for joining us. We'll continue this conversation down the road.
GEOANA: Thank you so much, Wolf.
BLITZER: I appreciate it very much, the NATO deputy secretary general.
Coming up, as gas prices soar to a record high here in the United States, President Biden now says tackling inflation is now his top domestic priority. Does the White House have a plan to tame the surge?
Also ahead, we have new details on the violent conclusion to the Alabama prisoner manhunt.
Stay with us. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
BLITZER: Tonight, record gas prices and soaring inflation have President Biden clearly on the defensive. Let's get an update right now from our Chief White House Correspondent, Kaitlan Collins. Kaitlan, the president says getting a handle on surging prices is now his top domestic priority. But he was also very quick to place blame on others. Give us the latest.
KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Yes, that blame going toward Republicans today, Wolf, from President Biden. And as he was talking about these rising prices, which of course, are a number one concern for voters. Therefore, they are a number one concern and at the top of the president's to-do list.
And so he was not just talking about the efforts that they believe they have taken, modest efforts we should note because there's only so much a president can do to bring these prices down, but also, he really wanted to criticize Republicans today. Because Republicans have really talked about those numbers where you can see that voters are not giving this president high marks for his handling of the economy right now and they channeled that, talking about it time and time again.
So President Biden was basically trying to reframe the argument today, and saying the alternative is these Republicans saying that they do not have an agenda that he believes that is going to be anyone that is better than his, saying they have no agenda.
And one thing that the White House is really zeroing in on, Wolf, is this proposal from Senator Rick Scott. It's an economic proposal that the Florida senator put out, and of course in that he had included a federal required federal middle income tax.
That is something that of course would go into effect, about half the nation, half the households in the nation don't currently pay one of those. But he was saying that if they did, because they don't earn enough, that is where basically the White House was going after that, targeting that, saying that is what they believe Republicans' alternative plan to President Biden's is.
We should note, of course, Senator Mitch McConnell has rejected that plan from Senator Rick Scott, saying that's not the platform of Republicans but it's something you have seen President Biden try to use and saying that these are this ultra MAGA agenda, the phrase that he's been using, one the White House says he personally coined.
And it's really President Biden trying to put the focus back on Republicans here. Of course, the White House is aware voters often hold the person in office accountable for things like inflation. So you saw President Biden today pointing to the Federal Reserve, those rises in interest rates that they are trying to use to tamp down inflation. But of course, there are big questions about what he's going to do. Will he remove the Trump era tariffs on some Chinese goods. That could potentially alleviate some of the prices that consumers are paying. Will they create a national gas holiday, tax holiday, something like that? Those are the things that are under consideration right now for this White House. But of course, Wolf, it remains to be seen what they can change in the next six months before the midterm elections.
BLITZER: Yes. The political ramifications are enormous right now, very, very sensitive to issues indeed. Kaitlan Collins, at the White House, thank you very much.
Let's get more on the surge in U.S. GAS prices, which jumped 17 cents in just one week to their highest level ever here in the U.S. CNN's Pete Muntean is joining us right now from Cincinnati, Ohio. Pete, is there any relief in sight for American drivers?
PETE MUNTEAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, all drivers want right now is this relief from these rapidly rising prices, Wolf. I have seen the prices go u over the course of the day here at this marathon station, 24 cents. It was $4.15, now $4.39, and Americans everywhere are feeling it.
MUNTEAN (voice over): Gas experts are now calling it a crisis from California to Ohio. Where in the span of one day, a gallon of regular at this Maraton station jumped 24 cents.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I'm really noticing it now.
MUNTEAN: Chris West is paying more than the national average, which hit $4.37 Tuesday, according to AAA. The new all-time high crushed the previous record of $4.33 set two months ago.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I'm stretching it out. I'm not going as many places. We tend to take my husband's car, which gets better gas mileage. It's just really a shame that this is where we're at.
MUNTEAN: The national average has jumped 17 cents in the last week. Experts say in part due to the ongoing war in Ukraine. At this station in Long Beach, California, gas is just shy of $6 a gallon.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It's just breaking the bank. I still have to go to work every day and I'm not making any more money. So all my money is going to gas these days.
MUNTEAN: Experts think prices will ease over the next month, but relief might not last into what's expected to be a huge summer travel season.
ANDREW GROSS, AAA SPOKESPERSON: This would be probably one of the most expensive summers ever.
TOM KLOZA, GLOBAL HEAD OF ENERGY ANALYSIS, OPIS: I think July and August is anybody's guess. And there's absolutely no relief in the price for diesel, which is going to be something that infiltrates every nook and cranny of the economy.
MUNTEAN: Addressing soaring prices Tuesday, President Joe Biden called inflation a top challenge facing families.
JOE BIDEN, U.S. PRESIDENT: They're doing everything in their power to figure out how not to have to show up at the gas pump.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I think it's a shame. I think something needs to be done. We have to get something figured out. I mean this is really hard on most Americans.
MUNTEAN (on camera): There is not much the Biden administration can do about this, but for a pause in the federal gas tax. Right now, set at about 18 cents a gallon. That would negate the cost increases of the last week, but experts caution it's just not clear if those savings will be passed along to consumers here at the pump. Wolf.
BLITZER: All right, Pete, thank you very much. CNN's Pete Muntean in Cincinnati, Ohio for us. Thank you.
Just ahead, the escaped Alabama inmate is now back behind bars and the former corrections officer who police say helped him is dead. We have new details about the dramatic end to their manhunt. Stay with us.
BLITZER: The Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer says that after the house passes the nearly $40 billion emergency Ukraine aid package, the Senate will move swiftly to get the package passed and sent to President Biden's desk for his signature.
Joining us now to discuss this and more, the former Defense Secretary during the Trump administration, Mark Esper. He's the Author of a brand-new very important new book just released today entitled A Sacred Oath, Memoirs of a Secretary of Defense During Extraordinary Times. Secretary Esper, thanks so much for joining us.
Let me get to the book shortly, but let's talk about Ukraine first. You say you had argument after argument pushing Trump not to withhold military aid to Ukraine. If this Russian invasion had happened during a Trump presidency, would Ukraine have gotten the weapons and the financial support it needed to hold off Putin's forces?
MARK ESPER, FORMER DEFENSE SECRETARY: Well, Wolf, good to see you. Thanks for having me. Let me say this much. I think President Trump deserves credit for providing Ukraine with lethal defensive aid, most notably the javelin anti-tank missiles. And so that's very important, it's been critical to their defense against the Russians.
And I know from personal experience, as army secretary, I traveled to western Ukraine, Lviv, in early 2018 and watched us train troops on the ground, Ukrainian Troops.
So those are very important factors that were going on during the Trump administration that I think the administration deserves credit for.
With regard to what would have happened, it would be all speculation I think, myself and John Bolton, Mike Pompeo and others really felt strongly about the importance of NATO and the criticality of defending Ukraine. And it was the three of us that would at times discuss and see, meet with President Trump to push the issue of releasing the security assistance in the summer, late summer/fall of 2019.
BLITZER: Yes. The three of you may have wanted to support NATO, but there's a recurring theme in your brand-new book, and it's your defense of NATO in the face of former President Trump's intense disdain for the NATO alliance.
If Trump were to run again, and if he were to win, do you believe that would put the future of NATO at risk?
ESPER: Well, it is certainly a possibility. Many NATO allies were anxious about this. I spent a lot of time meeting with them in Brussels and in our indo-pacific allies as well to reassure the myth, we value the relationship.
And look, on one hand, President Trump is right, they all should live up to their financial commitments and do more. It was wrong for Germany to continue Nord Stream 2, but on the other hand, you don't threaten to pull out of the alliance. You don't threaten to walk away out of what is the most successful alliance in history. And what I think our alliances are the asymmetric capability that we have that Russia and China do not have.
BLITZER: I know you say, Secretary Esper, that you hope former President Trump doesn't run again, even though you're a life life-long Republican. Does his actions around the January 6th insurrection, do you believe make him a threat to democracy. If he does run again though, and he were to win the Republican nomination, can you unequivocally that you would not vote for him?
ESPER: No. I would not vote for him. In my view, the people I would vote for, and this is incumbent upon all elected officials is, you have to meet basic minimums. Number one, is you have to put country before self. Number two, you have to have a certain degree of integrity and principle. And number three, you have to be willing to reach across the aisle and work with the other party to advance the nation and bring people together. Bring the American people together.
Frankly, that's the biggest thing that troubles me today. I think that's the biggest thing facing our country, It's the extreme partisanship on both sides of the aisle that's creating dysfunction in Washington, D.C.
BLITZER: I'm wondering if President Biden is again the Democratic presidential nominee and he runs against Trump again, would you vote for Biden?
ESPER: Probably not. I would probably do what I did in 2020 and put a write-in. But look, I think there are a number of candidates out there, Republican candidates who will emerge after the midterm when the 2024 race begins.
They will put forth traditional Republican policies, much like Donald Trump did, whether it's lower taxes, a stronger military, conservative judges, border security. All those things that President Trump actually made some progress on.
I think they will do the same. Can do the same and will do so with less vitriol, less coarseness and be able to grow the Republican base and bring the American people together. That's who I'm putting my money on.
BLITZER: Secretary Esper, thank you so much for joining us. This new book A Sacred Oath, Memoirs of a Secretary of Defense During Extraordinary Times. It's more than 700 pages. You got a lot packed in this book. Thanks so much for joining us. Appreciate it very much.
ESPER: Thanks, Wolf.
BLITZER: All right, coming up, Ukrainian young people dropping everything and heading to the front lines to defend their country against Russia's aggression. We have new information when we come back.
BLITZER: Russia's unprovoked invasion of Ukraine has moved large numbers of young people to drop their lives and take up arms in defense of their country. CNN's Senior International Correspondent Sam Kiley, talked to some of them on the front line.
SAM KILEY, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Oh. It's a bunny.
ALEX, UKRAINIAN TANK COMMANDER: Yes.
KILEY: Bunny is a tank.
ALEX: Yes, so bunny is a tank.
KILEY: He's got quite a carrot.
KILEY: Bunny's got a very big stick. This T-80 tank was built two years ago and was until March in the van guard of Russia's invasion of Ukraine.
ALEX: So down below, you see an auto loader. It's also slightly modernized to shoot more advanced and like better rounds. It can shoot guided missiles.
KILEY: Alex was on a sniper team when he discovered bunny, stuck and abandoned in a field in March, eight days into Russia's assault.
Within days, the tank was back in action, against Russians.
ALEX: This is like my personal tank. I am tank commander and tank owner.
KILEY: In March, he said the tank destroyed 24 Russian vehicles and two tanks.
ALEX: We are fighting like new resume, so here we already destroyed three or four enemy tanks. We had three confirmed and four is like not fully confirmed that it was our kill.
KILEY: That was in the previous couple days when Russian forces tried to break through Ukraine's lines in the bitter battle for the east.
Alex isn't a professional soldier. He's a software engineer who lived in the now smashed IT hub of Kharkiv. His home has been destroyed.
Bunny is being serviced as the battle rages a few miles away. Burning fields encroach on the tank's hideout. The front line in Ukraine is hundreds of miles long. For many Ukrainian soldiers on this front line, there's a sense that
perhaps the Russians haven't yet brought their full destructive power to bear.
But they expect to find out this week.
Russia's artillery is relentless, and Putin's tanks are massing, this army of volunteers is expecting a hard Russian push.
Anna is 22, she's been a soldier for a month and now she's a driver in a reconnaissance unit.
ANNA, DRIVER IN THE UKRAINIAN ARMY: There is a lot of opportunities to be killed.
KILEY: She just graduated from university.
ANNA: The thing that makes me angriest is the raped children and women.
KILEY: Is that something that you're afraid of happening to you?
ANNA: I can't say that I'm afraid of something like that. I'm afraid of being not useful for my country, for my people.
KILEY: This is what being useful here means, killing Russians, Russians Anna's age.
But this is a war thrust upon Ukrainians. Anna works with Vlad, a poet, author, publisher, and war vet.
Reconnaissance is a highly dangerous word. Have you lost many comrades, friends?
Vlad said, since 2014, so many of my friends, people I knew, comrades, have died. So far, the people I came with since the beginning of the latest invasion have not died and I'm very happy, it's cool.
These people are still fighting. They're already in charge of units. It's awesome. The best of the best are here.
His books are dark fantasies set in this war with Russia, an all too rich source of material.
KILEY (on camera): Now, Wolf, as this campaign is continuing right across the east of the country, of course, the worst affected area, Mariupol and the Azovstal plant where that massive steel plant where the Azov regiment and elements of the marine brigade are all fighting. That's where most civilians have been evacuated and now we're seeing the most appalling injuries of the fighters left in there during a continued attacks, another assault put in by the Russians on that location today, with the other regiment demanding access for at least the wounded soldiers to be evacuated to medical attention inside Ukrainian territory.
They don't want to have to send their wounded into the hands of the Russians. They don't trust the Russians to treat them with any kind of humanitarian -- wounds are appalling, facial injuries, amputations, no drugs. We heard from doctors in the past, drastic shortage of medicines, bandages, people are being treated with unsterilized bandages and chronic shortage of course of pain killers, and all important antibiotics, Wolf.
BLITZER: Sam Kiley in Kramatorsk for us in Ukraine, I can hear the air sirens going off. Stay safe over there. Thank you very much.
There's more breaking news up next in the ongoing criminal investigation into Donald Trump's efforts to overturn the 2020 presidential election in Georgia, which Joe Biden won. There's new information about key individuals who are now cooperating with prosecutors.
Plus, an Alabama sheriff says the escaped inmate who evaded authorities during an 11-day manhunt is expected to be back in that state later tonight for an arraignment.
Much more on that when we come back.
BLITZER: First on CNN tonight, breaking news in Georgia's investigation into former President Trump's effort to overturn the vote in that state which went to Joe Biden.
Our political correspondent Sara Murray is working the story for us.
Do you have new reporting on the scope of all the investigation in Georgia and what prosecutors are looking at right now?
SARA MURRAY, CNN POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Wolf. We have learned investigators in Georgia have interviewed and have gotten some cooperation from several of all the so-called fake electors in Georgia. Remember these are pro-Trump Republicans, who submitted these fake Electoral College tickets for Trump to win states he actually lost.
So, we know that investigators who have interviewed a handful of these folks, among them is David Shafer. He's the chairman of the Georgia Republican Party, he did not comment for the story.
One of the things we learned though that was interesting is these people are being interviewed as witnesses, not targets of this investigation, that suggests the attorney is looking at them as whether they were part of a broader conspiracy.
Did they know, were they aware they might have been part of some broader, potentially, illegal plan to try to overturn the results of the election in Georgia in 2020? Remember this is a state that Donald Trump has been obsessed with. He lost the state by nearly 12,000 presidents. He was so obsessed with it that he went to the Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger and asked Raffensperger to find the votes needed in order for Donald Trump win that state.
That is, of course, what set off this criminal investigation. That is the heart of her probe. But the fact she's interviewing these fake electors and it interested in this tells you she's looking at a broader conspiracy, Wolf.
BLITZER: Very, very excellent reporting. Thank you very much. I know you'll stay on top of this for us.
MURRAY: We absolutely will.
BLITZER: Sarah Murray working the story.
We're also following other news, the escape of Casey White, expected to be back in that state this evening for arraignment. This comes following the dramatic end to the 11-day nationwide manhunt for him and the former corrections officer who police say actually masterminded his escape and who investigators say may have ended her own life during the dramatic police pursuit.
CNN's Omar Jimenez is joining us live from Evansville, Indiana, where the couple was found.
Omar, what are police saying now about the final moments for the couple, as officers gave chase?
OMAR JIMENEZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, for starters, the Lauderdale County sheriff down there in Alabama says that they expect Casey White to arrive between 10:30 pm and 11:30 Eastern Time tonight for an arraignment. If they are driving the roughly four and a half hours here from Indiana, it means that they likely will be already on the way or preparing to leave. His arrival would essentially mark the end of a more than ten-day saga on the run.
JIMENEZ (voice-over): After 11 days, the hunt for inmate Casey White and former corrections officer, Vicky White, ended with a crash.
911 OPERATOR: They're calling 911.
JIMENEZ: Only one shot was fired.
SHERIFF DAVE WEDDING, VANDERBURGH COUNTY, INDIANA: The female suspect shot herself. The male suspect gave up.
JIMENEZ: An Indiana sheriff says numerous weapons, wigs, and $29,000 in cash were found inside the car.
Vicky White still had her service belt. WEDDING: There were at least four handguns, semiautomatics, 9 millimeters, any one of these weapons could have been used to ambush our officers.
JIMENEZ: Police chased the pair and southern Indiana after their car was spotted in a motel parking lot by an Evansville police officer.
WEDDING: Members of the U.S. tax force brand the vehicle and pushed it into a ditch. They later found out had they not done that, the fugitive was going to engage in a shootout with law enforcement.
JIMENEZ: The fugitive, Casey White, was driving. Vicky White was found in the car and died hours later, after law enforcement said that she shot herself as, the pursuit ended.
WEDDING: She was unconscious with a gunshot wound to her head. The male suspect gave up without incident.
JIMENEZ: Tuesday, Casey White waved his extradition hearing in Indiana, saying that he wanted to go back to Alabama.
SHERIFF RICK SINGLETON, LAUDERDALE COUNTY, ALABAMA: When we bring him back, he will immediately go before the judge and transported directly to the department of correction.
JIMENEZ: The pair, who are not related, disappeared from an Alabama jail on April 29th, after Vicky White told colleagues that she was taking the inmate, Casey White, to the courthouse for a mental evaluation. They never got their, and no such evaluation had been scheduled. Four days later, they found the patrol car abandoned in a shopping center parking lot.
SINGLETON: She arranged the getaway car. She got her hand on cash. She went shopping and bought clothes for him. She put the plan together.
JIMENEZ: Then, the pair fled in a pick up truck, which was later spotted at a car wash in Indiana and then transferred to a catalog, which is but it about a week later at a nearby hotel.
Sheriff, the have any idea what they did here for a week?
WEDDING: Well, I think he said that they were trying to find a place to hide out and lay low. They thought that they had driven long enough. They wanted to stop for a while, get their bearing straight and figure out the next place to travel.
JIMENEZ: The manager at the motel said that he did not recognize them when law enforcement showed them their photos.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The guys they were looking, nobody was here under that name. We do not know whether they are staying in my hotel or not.
WEDDING: There are a lot of questions that will not be answered until we have much deeper investigation.
JIMENEZ (on camera): Now, the sheriff did tell me that he would use Casey White and Vicky White initially couldn't get a room at the motel because of a lack of idea, and that they paid a separate person to rent the rooms for them. It is not clear that the person even knew who they were. The sheriff says, there are no other suspects and no plans to charge anyone else.
CNN's Omar Jimenez in Evansville, Indiana, for us -- Omar, thank you very, very much.
And to our viewers, thanks very much for watching. I'm Wolf Blitzer in THE SITUATION ROOM. You can always follow me on Twitter and Instagram @WolfBlitzer.
"ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT" starts right now.