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Hala Gorani Tonight

Russian Forces Attacking Ukraine's Frontlines in Eastern Ukraine; Boris Johnson Faces MPs After Lockdown Fine; At Least Six Dead in Afghanistan Blasts; Russia Launches Major Offensive In Eastern Ukraine; Kramatorsk Eerily Empty As Russian Offensive Begins; At Least Six Dead After Explosions Target Kabul Schools; Ukrainian Marine Commander: Mariupol Is "Hell On Earth". Aired 2-3p ET

Aired April 19, 2022 - 14:00   ET



HALA GORANI, CNN INTERNATIONAL HOST: Special onslaught and Mariupol teeters on the brink of capture. We're on the ground with all the latest

developments. Then Boris Johnson faces MPs for the first time since being fined for breaking his own COVID laws. We'll have all the reaction from


And later, Afghanistan reels from new deadly attacks on schools. We'll bring you those details later in the program. So stay with us throughout.

We have a lot to get through. We start with the latest on Ukraine. Officials there say Russian forces are attacking on all sides as they press

ahead with a fierce new phase in the war focused on the east.

A battle for the eastern Donbas region is underway, and Ukraine is urging civilians to evacuate before it is too late. However, it might be

complicated to do so. No humanitarian corridors are open today. The last fighters holding out at a steel plant in Mariupol have refused another

deadline to surrender. This is an aerial image of some of the strikes targeting the area where they may be holed up from the sky.

The city officials there say Russian forces are striking that plant with artillery, tank and fire and bombs. Ukraine's security services say they

have intercepted communications of a Russian commander who says Russian aircraft plan to, quote, "level everything to the ground in that area." The

commander also mentions another town shown here in this video. He says it's being wiped from the face of the earth for the third day in a row. Russia's

foreign minister talked about this new phase of the war today.


SERGEY LAVROV, FOREIGN MINISTER, RUSSIA: Both direction in the east of Ukraine, it's aimed as it was announced from the very beginning to fully

liberate the Donetsk and Luhansk republics. In this operation, we will -- we will continue because beginning, I mean, another stage of this operation

is beginning, and I'm sure this will be a very important moment of this entire special operation.


GORANI: Not calling it an invasion, not calling it a war, saying it's intended to liberate regions that didn't ask to be liberated and leveling

many of these cities to the ground. Russia's assault on the plant in Mariupol could have devastating consequences, not just for the Ukrainian

fighters, but also for the hundreds of civilians reportedly sheltering there. Matthew Chance has more, and we warn you, his report contains

disturbing images.


MATTHEW CHANCE, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): These are the kids Ukrainian officials say are at ground zero in the battle for

Mariupol. This video posted on government social media but which CNN can't verify shows dozens of children said to have been sheltering for weeks in a

basement in the city where Ukrainian forces are holding out against Russian attacks.

Kids distracting themselves from the battles above. "We play with these toys, build things, and imagine things", this little boy says. Do you want

to get out of here? They're asked. "Yes", they all shout. But the adults here know that's unlikely to happen any time soon.

"I'm with my three children and conditions are not the best here", this parent says. "There's no way to study, not much food, and my kids' teeth

are starting to spoil", she says. "But the alternative, surrender to Russia, may be worse." Above ground, Mariupol has borne the brunt of

Russia's brutal invasion. The latest images show the extent of the devastation. One Ukrainian commander has called this hell on earth.

But troops defending the city concentrated at the vast Azovstal Steel works are refusing to surrender. Ukrainian officials say they will fight until

the end.

DMYTRO KULEBA, FOREIGN MINISTER, UKRAINE: The situation in Mariupol is both dire militarily and heartbreaking. The city doesn't exist anymore. It

seems from the way Russian army behaves in Mariupol, they decided to razed the city to the ground at any cost.

CHANCE: But Ukrainian forces in Mariupol are making sure that erasure is painful. This video shows a counter-attack against Russian forces by the

Ukrainian Azov battalion with the soldiers throwing grenades at Russian forces in the city. It is an act of resistance. But the outcome may be

unchanged. Already, the human toll of this battle for Mariupol has been appalling with thousands, including many civilians killed.


But Ukrainian officials say another Russian offensive is now underway, posing another deadly threat to those trapped inside. Matthew Chance, CNN,

New York.


GORANI: Let's go live now to Ukraine. We're joined by Matt Rivers in Lviv. And let's talk about this battle for the Donbas region, this new eastern

offensive. What's the latest?

MATT RIVERS, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, what is going on is what we've been anticipating, Hala, for days if not weeks now. These --

this is the offensive in the eastern part of the country that we have been expecting basically since Russian forces retreated from the northern part

of Ukraine after their failed attempt to take the capital. What you're seeing is a regrouping of tens of thousands of Russian troops.

What we've seen up until this point is weeks and weeks of shelling, of different cities across the eastern part of the country, everywhere from

Severodonetsk up to Kharkiv. But now you're adding Russian troops to the equation. You are adding artillery, you are adding tanks. This is going to

be a very different battle than what we saw in the northern part of the country. And I really think this is a turning point.

I mean, this is the second phase of this campaign, and that's what we started to hear yesterday from regional commanders and then from President

Zelenskyy himself basically saying look, we're here. This is the next battle, and what happens over the next few weeks could very well determine

the future of Ukraine. And I think we should talk about this next campaign in the timeframe of weeks, because this is going to be a more protracted


Just look at what's going on so far. You know, basically we haven't seen the frontlines move very much. We've seen one Ukrainian town fall, called

Kremin-na -- Kreminna, excuse me. That's because what the Ukrainians are saying is that they retreated strategically in order to fight another day.

But in other cities, you know, you're seeing the frontlines basically stay where they are.

There's not going to be some Russian breakout where the Ukrainian lines break down right away, at least so far, and that might give you an

indication of what we're going to see, Hala, over the coming weeks, a really dragged-out battle between both sides.

GORANI: And it's a very long frontline as well. So it's going to test both sides in terms of their ability to fight. But let's talk about Mariupol,

that martyr city where you have that last remaining group of defenders holed up in a steel plant that's actually getting hit by Russian strikes.

What's the status of those defenders? Because we've been for days now saying it's a matter of time, but there's still -- but they're still there.

RIVERS: They are still there. And we've been getting varying reports of different levels of bombardment of that steel plant, and we shouldn't --

you know, our viewers should understand, this is really more of a compound or a complex, rather. I mean, it is a very big area that is a strategic

stronghold for the people that have remained at these defenders. There's a reason why the defenders that have chosen to stay in the city have

retreated largely to a resistance point centered on this steel complex.

It's essentially a fortress that's very difficult to breach, even though there are -- the number of Russian forces vastly outnumber the number of

Ukrainian forces left, there's a reason why they're still holding out, and it's because they hold, you know, a structural advantage just based on

where they are and where they are defending.

But the question is how long they can hold out for, and as you just saw in Matthew's package, this is a fuller picture that we've got really over the

last 36 hours of the amount of civilians that are still being essentially cared for by the Ukrainian side. These are people who have no access to

food or water or medical supplies outside of the supplies that those military units from Ukraine have with them. And so now they're sharing

supplies amongst everyone.

And that, of course, will limit the amount of time that the defenders can hold out and the civilians will hold out. And yet, there is no evacuation

corridor being given by the Russians at this point or at least none that anyone in the Ukrainian-held parts of Mariupol trusts enough to let their

people go. And so they're essentially trapped with no way out, and you know, where is the off-ramp here, Hala? I'm not exactly sure.

GORANI: Yes, absolutely. And as long as they defend Mariupol, the Russians have to continue fighting them, and they can't go elsewhere, those assigned

to that particular mission. Thanks very much for that. Matt Rivers is live in Lviv. Now, the American President Joe Biden held a video call with

American allies a short while ago in the White House Situation Room. A senior aide tells CNN, the U.S., quote, "wants to continue to rally the

world to stand up to Russia's aggression". What does that mean?

Well, obviously, it includes sending more military equipment to Ukraine and imposing more sanctions on Moscow. Our international diplomatic editor Nic

Robertson is standing by. And I know the Ukrainians, you know, are happy about the new sanctions and they welcome them, but time and again, every

time I speak to a Ukrainian official, they say the same thing.


We need more weapons. We need more ammunition because we're going through what we have at warp speed.

NIC ROBERTSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL DIPLOMATIC EDITOR: Yes, and President Biden really seems perhaps of all the world leaders, the most cognizant

here of course is really driving along the alliance of western nations that are supporting Ukraine, and that was a central part of the phone call

today, continuing to have solidarity amongst the allies that are supporting Ukraine, continuing to help Ukraine with its security.

We haven't got a lot of details from that phone call, and it's interesting when you sort of take the various read-outs from the different European

capitals. From the French saying, you know, it's important to talk about the security guarantees that Ukraine will get once there's a peace deal.

That perhaps is already looking some ways ahead, but it is something Ukraine has talked about in the past. We know that there isn't a peace deal

on the table at the moment and from the Russian perspective, they're saying talk of peace is not for this moment.

From the Germans, we've heard from the Chancellor Olaf Scholz today really sort of upping the rhetoric from Germany compared to what we've heard

before about speeding the supply of weapons and saying that Germany has supplied from its inventory, already as military inventory, and will work

with the Ukrainians from their list of what they need and help pay for it and help make sure it gets -- it gets to Ukraine.

We heard from the Italians today saying they're putting their focus on, you know, how can we cut our dependence on Russian energy supplies? And I

talked with the Belgian deputy prime minister who wasn't party to that call but is in the building behind me here, meeting, having a cabinet meeting, a

shared and rare cabinet meeting with the Dutch government as well to look at ways they can continue to support Ukraine.

So that's the emphasis and the push. Not just on sanctions, but on the immediacy of Ukraine's need for weapons just now. But again, the details of

that call are not being made public, but it does seem that President Biden is really trying to make sure the momentum to give Ukraine the military

capacity that it needs at this moment to hold off the Russian advance, because if they don't hold them, Russia takes territory and nobody is

talking about going in to force Russia off that territory, Hala.

GORANI: All right, thanks, Nic Robertson. Russia's president has given an honorary title to a brigade accused of committing war crimes in Bucha.

Ukraine's defense ministry says those troops treated the town like a slaughter house, killing civilians on Mosques, committing torture. There

were reports of rape, by the way, shelling discriminately as well. You're seeing some of the aftermath there, leaving the bodies of dead civilians in

the streets for weeks.

Vladimir Putin is now congratulating this brigade for their, quote, "great heroism, valor and even their professionalism". Ed Lavandera joins me now

live from Kyiv with more. I mean, obviously, I can -- I can imagine the reaction in Ukraine, Ed.

ED LAVANDERA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Oh, yes. So, it's almost like Vladimir Putin essentially thumbing his nose at the rest of the world. This very

same military unit that is suspected of carrying out some of the most grotesque atrocities that we have seen in this war here in Ukraine now

being celebrated as heroes and exhibiting great courage in the fight here in Ukraine, given this title of -- honorary title of guards for protecting

Russia's sovereignty.

So you can imagine the reaction that this will have across not just here in Ukraine, but across the entire international community as there are

literally people on the ground here, investigators on the ground, combing through the wreckage in Bucha, through mass graves, trying to detail and

document and gather evidence on war crimes. And at the very same time, the Russian president is honoring these very same soldiers with this honorary

title and heralding their bravery.

It takes, you know, an incredible amount of gumption to carry that out, but that's where we are here at this moment in this war.

GORANI: All right, Ed Lavandera live in Kyiv, thanks very much. And as Russian troops recede and evacuate some of the areas around Kyiv, not far

from Bucha, more stories of Russia's brutal occupation in the north are beginning to come out. Russian forces withdrew from a small city just

outside of Kyiv leaving behind the remains of a giant makeshift camp site and the lingering human traumas and suffering that they caused. Phil Black

has the story, and as always, a word of caution to our viewers. The report contains graphic images.



PHIL BLACK, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The sign is a warning, "Beware, mines". The forest serves as protection too, a natural

screen concealing a vast secret. Here among the trees, about an hour's drive north of Kyiv are the remains of a sprawling Russian military camp.

We're shown around by Ukrainian special forces. This soldier says the positions were held by Russian Marines.

We see a sprawling network of underground fighting positions, command posts, sleeping areas and ammunition storage. While everywhere, there is

evidence of how the Russians lived. And that evidence suggests their existence here was neither disciplined nor comfortable.

(on camera): It is so quiet here now, just some bird noise and a light breeze. But recently, there were 6,000 Russian soldiers bedded down through

these woods in a camp that is so large you can't see where it begins and where it ends. Living here would have been hard. It was through the coldest

of the Winter days. Four weeks. Stopped here short of Kyiv after they failed to take the capital quickly.

(voice-over): The silence is broken by efforts to deal with some unidentified ordinance. This camp is damning proof of Russia's failures on

this front, poor preparation, desperately wrong assumptions about the numbers and resources needed to conquer Kyiv.

(on camera): What lessons do you take from all of this that will apply to the coming battle for Donbas in the east? He says, "we see the volume of

forces that invaded this area, and we understand that will be two to three times greater in the Donbas." This force wasn't confined to the forest. Its

commanding officers lived a little more comfortably in the nearby village of Zdvyzhivka.

Here, civilians tell disturbingly familiar stores. Vitaliy, a local mechanic says he was detained and interrogated for almost 24 hours. He says

he was beaten, blindfolded, tied up, and subjected to mock executions. He says he's never known fear like it and constantly thought, those were his

last moments on earth. A local priest, Vasily Benca describes dealing with the aftermath of even greater cruelty.

He says he found five men tortured and killed in the garden. Two more in the forest, and the Russians brought him two dead women and told him to

bury them.

(voice-over): Other Russians in this area camped out in fields with their artillery pieces and stole what comforts they could, a mattress, alcohol,

the works of Shakespeare. So, from these firing positions, Grad rockets flew through the sky towards Hostomel, which is only a relatively a short

distance away. And when they hit the earth, it was often civilians who felt their power.

DMITRI NEKAZAKOV, HOSTOMEL RESIDENT: You can see the result. So many people.

BLACK (on camera): They were hiding in there?


BLACK: In Hostomel, resident Dmitri Nekazakov shows the aftermath of a Russian rocket strike.

NEKAZAKOV: This is the epicenter of the explosion.

BLACK (voice-over): And where some of its victims were temporarily buried.

NEKAZAKOV: I feel only hate.

BLACK: Only hate?

NEKAZAKOV: Yes. We can't forgive it for one -- maybe for life.

BLACK: For now, the enemies in the forest, fields and villages have left this part of Ukraine. The fruits of their brief stay, the pain, trauma, and

loathing remain. Phil Black, CNN, Hostomel, Ukraine.


GORANI: I feel only hate. Still to come tonight, laws broken, apologies given, and a prime minister fielding some very difficult questions. We'll

bring you the latest on the party-gate scandal as Boris Johnson faces off with parliament. And in Kabul, an investigation is underway after deadly

blast targeting schools in the Afghan capital, more misery for Afghans living there. After the break, we'll have a report, stay with us.



GORANI: Today, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson faced parliament for the first time since he was fined for breaking COVID lockdown rules. Listen

to what he said.


BORIS JOHNSON, PRIME MINISTER, UNITED KINGDOM: I take this opportunity on the first available sitting day to repeat my whole-hearted apology to the



GORANI: He also recognized the public anger swelling around this scandal, but he doubled down on his explanation.


JOHNSON: Let me also say, not by way of mitigation or excuse, but purely because it explains my previous words in this house. That it did not occur

to me then or subsequently, that a gathering in the cabinet room just before a vital meeting on COVID strategy could amount to a breach of the



GORANI: Opposition parties accused Johnson of misleading parliament when he previously said no rules had been broken. On Thursday, MPs will vote on

whether an investigation should be launched over what's been called party- gate. CNN's Nada Bashir joins me now to discuss these latest developments. So what political impact, implications effect could this have on Boris

Johnson? Because It's all about whether or not his party stands behind him at this stage.

NADA BASHIR, CNN REPORTER: Yes, well, at this stage, we have seen a small portion of conservative MPs, MPs from his own party who are already calling

on the prime minister to resign. And that's reflected across parliament and opposition party certainly. And there are of course some conservative MPs

who are expressing their loyalty to the prime minister.

But this has gone on for some time now, and the fact that the prime minister's apology that we heard today in the House of Commons didn't

elaborate very much on whether or not he had knowingly misled parliament in comparison to his apology to the British public last week seems to have

angered certainly many parliamentarians.

GORANI: Yes, I was going to say, but there's not that critical mass among the conservatives to do anything, to mount a leadership contest, right, at

this stage?

BASHIR: Yes, well, the feeling at this stage is that certainly, there doesn't seem to be a leadership contest on the cards just yet. There have

been some calls for MPs to focus more on the important issues namely, Ukraine. But we've already heard from, you know, we've heard from one MP

saying that the prime minister should consider putting a vote of no confidence forward if the conservative party performs poorly in the

upcoming May local election.

We've also heard from one senior conservative lawmaker today confirming that he has written to -- he has written a letter of no confidence,

although it would require 54 letters for that vote to be triggered. But that's obviously reflected in the British public too. We've seen 61 percent

of British adults saying that.

GORANI: And those conservatives who defend the prime minister say, look, there's a war in Europe, there's a cost of living crisis, now is not the

time to get rid of the prime minister, although, those who oppose him even among conservatives say Margaret Thatcher was forced to resign right before

the first Gulf War. That too was a big security crisis.


BASHIR: Yes, absolutely. And Boris Johnson just hatched on that today in his apology, he actually focused quite a bit on those other priorities. He

said he wanted to focus on Ukraine and those domestic policy issues. He said that last week too. He said he wants to draw a line under this scandal

to move forward. But that hasn't proved satisfactory to the Labor Party. As you've mentioned, they have put forward a motion for a debate on Thursday -


GORANI: Yes --

BASHIR: To look into whether or not the prime minister knowingly misled parliament. And they are saying, you know, this is a --

GORANI: Yes --

BASHIR: Prime Minister who has broken the law, the first sitting prime minister.

GORANI: And we saw a graphic there a little prematurely, but let's put it up again, this is a snap poll that was taken on April 12th, 61 percent of

respondents among British adults believe that the prime minister should resign, 31 percent say that he should not resign over the party-gate


But interestingly, the same poll then asks, do you believe he will resign? And the answer is yes, but only 10 percent of respondents believe that he


BASHIR: Yes, and what's interesting actually is that a similar poll was taken in January just after the civil service report into the scandal was

released highlighting serious failings amongst parliamentarians, members of staff at Downing Street, 69 percent of people at that time said that they

believe the prime minister should step down. So we've seen actually that figure decline, which might suggest actually that the prime minister has

weathered the worst of the party-gate storm at least in terms of calls for him to resign.

But we are still waiting for the full civil service report. We are still, of course, waiting for the Metropolitan Police investigation to be

finished. There could still be more fines to come. So the prime minister isn't necessarily out the woods just yet.

GORANI: Right, we'll see. I think the big shock in the beginning of these parties having taken place and announcements and uncovering parties one

after the other, perhaps, this is just a confirmation of what people have already known which could explain why the number dipped a bit. But at 61

percent, that's still quite significant. Thank you so much Nada Bashir as always for joining us on this story.

Israeli defense forces, the Israeli army says they struck a Hamas weapons manufacturing site in Gaza. The official Palestinian news agency says four

rockets landed in southern Gaza on Monday night. They reported no casualties, but say civilian properties were damaged. It happened after

Israel's Iron Dome defense system intercepted a rocket fired from Gaza to Israel, and all of this comes after weeks of escalating tensions in the


Still to come tonight, Russia is now attacking Ukrainian forces in the east along a line almost 500 kilometers long. We'll speak with the CNN military

analyst about the tactics and the challenges that the Russians are facing. Plus, we'll take you around the once bustling city of Kramatorsk, now

almost abandoned in the face of Russian bombs. Stay with us.




GORANI (voice-over): Artillery and missiles are raining down on Eastern Ukraine as Russia presses its new offensive across Donbas.


GORANI (voice-over): Firefighters in Kharkiv battle to douse this fire, ignited by a Russian shell. Military officials say heavy strikes overnight

killed at least three people. In Mariupol, Ukrainian fighters and reportedly hundreds of civilians, inside a steel factory, have ignored a

second Russian demand that they surrender.

Ukraine says Russia is now bombing and shelling that very facility.

Russia's offensive extends along a front line of almost 500 kilometers. A top Ukrainian military official is urging civilians in the east to leave if

they can.


GORANI: Let's get the military perspective on this now with Colonel Cedric Leighton in Washington. He's a retired U.S. Air Force Intelligence officer

and a CNN military analyst.

Thanks for being with us. Let's talk about the length of this front line. And not just how difficult it is for Ukrainian forces to defend it but also

Russian forces. They've been quite depleted. They're going to have to fight on multiple fronts.

Do they have the men and the equipment to do so longer term?

COL. CEDRIC LEIGHTON (RET.), CNN MILITARY ANALYST: Well, that's actually an excellent series of questions. So as far as the Russians are concerned,

it's actually questionable whether or not they have the men or the equipment, the logistics set up in order to make this offensive work for


They have several advantages among them: a preponderance of force, compared to the Ukrainians. They probably outnumber the Ukrainians

somewhere two to one, three to one, somewhere in that ratio.

But having said that, they're not on their own territory. They are in Ukrainian territory. That's going to make it difficult for them for a

variety of reasons. Not only are they going to be extending some of their supply lines but they are also going to be encountering a very resistant

Ukrainian force, made up of several different elements.

So that's going to complicate some of their plans. What they really want to do along that 500-kilometer front is to unite the northern part of it with

their southern approaches to that and, in essence, take that part of that country, the eastern part of the country and control it.

So that is, I think, what we're looking at here in terms of the plans. The reality, I think, is going to be a bit different than that but, of course,

that's what we'll watch unfold here in the next few days, I believe.

GORANI: So it's not their country and they're not as familiar with that part of Ukraine as the fighters, who have been there, some of them since

2014. But at the same time, it's a lot more favorable in terms of terrain, a lot flatter, a lot easier to navigate for them and their vehicles and

their troops than, say, the territory around Kyiv.

So that gives them a bit more of an advantage.

LEIGHTON: That's true. And I think, in terms of what's relatable to people in the United States, is that it looks -- the topography in the east looks

somewhat like Kansas or Nebraska. The area around Kyiv, like you pointed out, it's different. It's hilly; parts of it are wooded and that allows for

more guerilla-style action to take place.

And that helped the Ukrainians defend their capital quite effectively. When it comes to the eastern part, I think we will see more urban warfare in

many of the towns and cities in the east.

I think that also what you're dealing with is, yes, not only are they familiar with some of the territory there but the Russians do have the

capability to come in and work in areas that they've worked in before.

However, that really depends on how well they've been able to reconstitute the forces, who were depleted in the attack on Kyiv, and whether or not

their efforts to reconstitute those forces have paid off, both in terms of training as well as morale and then finally operational effectiveness.


GORANI: And almost every Ukrainian official I speak to says the same thing, we need more weapons. We need more ammunition. We're running out.

We're going through this stuff really quickly.

And that is what's going to make the difference between us being able to defend some of this territory and not being able to defend some of this


Is our Western nations, U.S. allies, are they sending this equipment fast enough?

LEIGHTON: I think the short answer to that is no. I think it's not coming in fast enough. Now I'm not sure it's possible to speed up the airlift from

the United States to Central Europe and then into Ukraine.

At this present moment in time, it might be a bit too difficult to do. However, having said that, the Ukrainians need stuff and they need it now.

And the Ukrainians are absolutely right, that this is something that needs to be a constant resupply effort.

Maybe akin to the Berlin airlift back in the late 1940s. But that was a different mission and a different time. And this is solely a military

replenishment effort at this point. And it's going to be really vital.

If the West wants to make a stand in Ukraine against Russia, they're going to have to really ramp things up and make sure the Ukrainians get a variety

of weapons and that they continue to resupply the munitions that the Ukrainians need for the equipment that they already have.

GORANI: Yes. And even one of the Zelenskyy advisers told us, things as simple as body armor, as just -- you know, they need everything and they

need it as quickly as possible.

I guess the last question is, if we look at this as a potentially drawn- out, longer battle, where both sides are going to be fighting around a front line, even when Russia takes -- and I know in the east they took a

city called Kreminna; it's one thing, taking, flattening, leveling, the rest of it.

But then you have to hold it and manage it. I mean, this isn't -- this isn't a done deal, once you've established your dominance over a territory.

Mariupol is a perfect example of having completely bulldozed a city, basically to the ground.

And then they take control of that. And then they will inevitably be facing guerilla warfare from inside some of these positions because some of these

fighters are not going to give up that easily. So this is going to take a long time for the Russians to establish any kind of effective dominance in

that part of Ukraine.

LEIGHTON: Absolutely. And then this is one of the fundamental challenges. If they had a smart hearts and minds campaign, going after the hearts and

minds, the psychology of the Ukrainians and the Russian-speaking Ukrainians that are in that area, they might have a chance of success.

But they failed miserably at that effort because of their brutal tactics. And, of course, word has gotten out about what happened in Bucha and other

places like that. So the resistance of the Ukrainians is really at an all- time high. They are not willing to give up their country, because they know what's going on.

Now having said that, one of the key things that the Ukrainians have to watch out for is they have to be very careful not to have their forces

encircled by the Russians. And this is a big danger for them because they're extended out to the east so far.

And that very fact, from a military tactician's perspective, is very, very important. It will be better to preserve the army than to preserve some of

the territory at this point. And that's something where I think they'll have to change their tactics in order to make that happen.

GORANI: Yes. Absolutely. And it's something the Russians were able to do in 2014 and 2015 and that the Ukrainians wanted desperately to avoid going

through that scenario again. As always, thank you very much, Cedric Leighton. It's always a pleasure speaking to you.


GORANI: Thank you.

In the all but abandoned Ukrainian city of Kramatorsk, birds and stray dogs are almost the only ones on the streets now. Less than two weeks after

Russia bombed the city's train station, killing dozens of civilians, its once bustling plazas are now empty. CNN's Ben Wedeman takes us around the



BEN WEDEMAN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The playgrounds are empty. There are no children here. The pigeons indifferent

to the air raid siren and so it would seem are the people.

"I close my ears when I'm walking around," says Nikolai (ph), "because it's all the time."

As fighting flares to the east, north and south, the few residents left in Kramatorsk carry on.


(voice-over): The train station, scene, 10 days ago, of a Russian missile strike, that left almost 60 dead, is closed. Trains don't come here


The buses, oddly enough, still run. A deep hole marks where, overnight, Russian missiles struck. There were no injuries this time. Nearby, signs of

an earlier bombing.

After almost two months of war, Konstantin (ph) is fatalistic.

"I'm not suicidal," he says, "but as long as other people stay here, I'll stay here."

Cut. Kramatorsk mayor Oleksandr Honcharenk is blunt about the perils his city faces.

MAYOR OLEKSANDR HONCHARENK, KRAMATORSK, UKRAINE: It's not safe. It's dangerous in the -- in each part of the city, you know, there can be

attacked in every place of the city.

WEDEMAN (voice-over): Alisa and her husband stroll through the city's main square.

ALISA, KRAMATORSK RESIDENT: This is -- it's very wet (ph) and terrible but we won't leaving Ukraine.

WEDEMAN (voice-over): For now, they have most of their city to themselves.

WEDEMAN: Under normal circumstances, on a mild spring evening, here in the main square in Kramatorsk, there would be lots of people here. Now it's

just me and the pigeons.

WEDEMAN (voice-over): Curfew approaches and dogs abandoned by their owners roam the empty streets of an almost empty city -- Ben Wedeman, CNN,

Kramatorsk, Eastern Ukraine.


GORANI: A father is publicly and angrily demanding information about his son's fate.


GORANI (voice-over): These images apparently show the Moskva on fire, listing and with possible missile holes in its hull, shortly before it


The father says he was told his son is listed as missing but also says no one has been telling the truth.

He posted on social media, quote, "It was reported that the entire crew had been evacuated. It's a lie, a blatant and cynical lie."

This is what the father has posted. A Kremlin spokesperson refused to talk about the post, referring questions to the Russian military.

Ukraine's postal service has released a new stamp commemorating one of the country's proudest moments in the war. This was in the first few days. The

stamp honors the soldiers at Snake Island, whose defiant reply to that very Russian warship has become a rallying cry across Ukraine.

When the warship demanded the soldiers disarm, one respondent said, "Russian warship, go eff yourself."

Now, in Kyiv people formed huge lines outside the post office to get their hands on that special stamp.

Still to come tonight, two schools in Afghanistan's capital have been attacked, even though the Taliban claim to have secured the country since

taking power. We'll bring you the latest.





GORANI: A high school and a learning center in Western Kabul have been attacked. Police and witnesses say at least six people were killed. The

blasts went off Tuesday in a mostly Shia Muslim area of Afghanistan's capital. There is no claim of responsibility for the attacks so far.

I want to bring in our senior international correspondent Arwa Damon covering this.

Shias, this is not the first time they've been targeted in Afghanistan, Arwa.

ARWA DAMON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: No, it certainly is not. In fact, Afghanistan's Hazara community, predominantly Shia, have been

persecuted for years, for decades, for even longer, especially since they are the minority in Afghanistan.

And this particular neighborhood in Western Kabul was a Hazara Shia neighborhood, at least mostly so. Dozens of people were also injured in the

explosions that happened there earlier today.

And of those, we know that at least seven of them were children, because, yes, as you were mentioning just there, the targets, one was a high school

and the other was a learning center.

The images that have come out after these explosions took place have not been very extensive because, from what we heard from people on the ground,

including journalists, the Taliban was trying to block the press from reporting from the site.

But from what we have been able to glean and see in these images, I mean, it's utterly gut wrenching. Eyewitnesses describing streams of blood,

dismembered bodies. We saw images of school books splattered with blood. And then, of course, frantic scenes of people, trying to figure out exactly

what happened to their loved ones.

This particular neighborhood was targeted around a year ago, May 2021. And in that case, the target was a girls' school and that attack had left 85

people dead.

And this most certainly is an incredibly jarring experience, not just for those residents of the neighborhood but really for many across the entire

country, who will once again be questioning, exactly what kind of a security has really been put into place?

And what is the Taliban, that is now ruling this country, going to do or even be able to do to try to prevent this from happening again in the


GORANI: All right. Arwa Damon, thank you so much.

Johnny Depp's defamation lawsuit against Amber Heard is underway. The actor took the stand moments ago in Fairfax, Virginia, to make his case against

his ex-wife. The "Pirates of the Caribbean" star accuses Heard of ruining his career with false accusations of violence during their relationship. He

called the allegations "diabolical." Listen to Depp.


JOHNNY DEPP, ACTOR: There were arguments and things of that nature. But never did I, myself, reach the point of striking Ms. Heard in any way nor

have I ever struck anyone in my life.

One day you're Cinderella, so to speak, and then in 0.6 seconds, you're Quasimodo. And I didn't deserve that nor did my children, nor did the

people who have believed in me for all these years.


GORANI: Johnny Depp, testifying there at his -- at the defamation lawsuit that he's bringing against his ex-wife, Amber Heard.

Still to come tonight, for some Ukrainian refugees, the path to safety from Russian aggression is through Russia. That's next.





GORANI: "Hell on Earth" is how a Ukrainian marine commander describes the situation in Mariupol. And some of the civilians still trapped there have

faced a difficult choice: stay inside the city or find safe passage through Russia. CNN's Scott McLean spoke with two Ukrainians, who were

forced to make that decision.


SCOTT MCLEAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): It's been two weeks since these suitcases were first packed. Two weeks since Evgeny and Ludmila

escaped the hell of Mariupol to Russia. And then finally to safety in Estonia.

LUDMILA, MARIUPOL REFUGEE (through translator): Before now it was just --

MCLEAN: Stress.

LUDMILA (through translator): Here we are able to really relax. I feel that we are safe here.

MCLEAN: They lived across the hall from each other in an apartment building on the northern edge of Mariupol.

EVGENY, MARIUPOL REFUGEE (through translator): For 14 days, from the beginning of the war, somehow all the shelling was all fly past us.

MCLEAN: But their luck would soon run out, in the relentless bombardment of the city, their building was eventually hit. The damage though was

limited enough for them to stay, even without power, water, heat or a cell signal.

LUDMILA (through translator): When you hear these explosions, you have an idea the direction they are coming from. And you know what you have to do,

lay on the ground, run or sit down. But silence is horrifying.

MCLEAN: On day 38, the building was hit again, it was time to leave.

EVGENY (through translator): It was impossible to go further into Ukraine. We lived in a different part of the city, there were two encirclements

surround us, as I understand. If we went in that direction, well, the only way to leave was through the Russian Federation.

And the only thing we were concerned with at that time was leaving this ring of fire. We didn't have a choice.

MCLEAN: They made it to a school in Mariupol where Russian-backed soldiers were evacuating people east to the village of Sartana. Then a week later,

so-called filtration in Bezimenne, where at a site like this one they were searched, fingerprinted and questioned by Russian soldiers before crossing

the border into Russia to the city of (Inaudible) Likely to the shelter shown here.

EVGENY (through translator): It was the first time we took a shower in roughly 50 days, right?

LUDMILA (through translator): Forty-one or 40.

MCLEAN: With the help of ordinary Russians, they made it to St. Petersburg, then on to Estonia.


(voice-over): Their story is part of a larger trend, most of the two, sometimes 300 Ukrainian refugees arriving in Estonia every day are entering

the country through Russia.

MEELIS PILLE, NARVA BORDER GUARD (through translator): Most of them are coming from Mariupol after having passed the humanitarian corridor. But

there are also those who say they have been deported to Russia but have managed to come here and we accept them all.

MCLEAN: On this day, they're catching a train to the Estonian capital after staying at a hostel ran by volunteers.

SERGEY TSVETKOV, VOLUNTEER AIDE (through translator): Some were taken by Russians by force from Mariupol to Russia. And later they fled from camps

on the territory of Russia. But others go voluntarily.

MCLEAN (voice-over): From Tallinn they are not sure where they go but they are optimistic.

LUDMILA (through translator): We will have some difficulties along the way but if you compare what we went through, everything will be just fine. The

future must be better, we don't have another option.

MCLEAN (voice-over): Scott McLean, CNN, Narva, Estonia.


GORANI: Thank you for watching this evening and thanks for keeping us company. Stay with CNN. "QUEST MEANS BUSINESS" is coming up next after a

quick break.