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Artists in War; Interview With U.S. Ambassador to NATO Julianne Smith; Interview With Mykolaiv, Ukraine, Mayor Oleksandr Syenkevych. Aired 1-2p ET
Aired March 07, 2022 - 13:00:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CNN INTERNATIONAL HOST: Hello, everyone, and welcome to AMANPOUR.
Here's what's coming up.
AMANPOUR (voice-over): Civilians are paying the price, as Russian forces pound Ukrainian cities. We speak to the mayor of Mykolaiv, one of Russia's
ANTONY BLINKEN, U.S. SECRETARY OF STATE: The world is saying to Russia, stop these attacks immediately.
AMANPOUR: As America tries to reassure NATO allies in the Baltics, the U.S. ambassador to NATO joins us.
Then: famed Ukrainian author Andrey Kurkov on the fate of his homeland and the role of artists in a time of war.
BILL MCKIBBEN, ENVIRONMENTALIST: The obvious way out, is to seize this moment and use it as the choice point to head definitively in the direction
of renewable energy.
AMANPOUR: Environmentalist Bill McKibben tells Hari Sreenivasan why the invasion of Ukraine should push the world towards green energy.
AMANPOUR: Welcome to the program, everyone. I'm Christiane Amanpour in London.
After 11 days of war, fierce resistance is still slowing the Russian assault on Ukraine. But, in Moscow, the Kremlin is doubling down on its
demands. Putin's spokesman, Dmitry Peskov, says they will call off the invasion if Ukraine just accepts being neutral and demilitarize, as well as
agreeing to the permanent loss of Crimea and recognizing the separatists pro-Russian regions in the east.
Since Kyiv rejects those demands, Russia is turning its wrath on civilians. And NATO leaders say they fear the -- quote -- "Syrianization" of Ukraine.
The United Nations says hundreds have been killed and 1.7 million have fled the country so far. But the European Union's foreign policy chief warns
that number could reach five million refugees.
Mykolaiv is a strategic port city in the south of the country and a Russian target.
Correspondent Nick Paton Walsh has this report from there on how civilians are bearing the brunt.
NICK PATON WALSH, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL SECURITY EDITOR (voice-over): Putin needs it, but he's having real trouble getting it.
Drive to the last Ukrainian position outside the port city of Mykolaiv, and you can see the mess made of the Kremlin's plans. Even the Z Russian
propaganda says is from denazification they ridiculously claim to be an acting is charred, its occupants captured or dead. Their missiles on
display, along with their names.
(on camera): It says the army of Russia.
(voice-over): Further down this road are the rest of the Russian tanks. But one was left behind. And now farmers, pensioners and bemused locals are
picking it over. The model may be newer, but the empire it seeks to restore is long gone.
(on camera): He is just saying, it goes forward, but doesn't turn around.
(voice-over): The same can't be said for its crew, who fled. The Ukrainians here a little gleeful this keeps happening.
(on camera): That they left the tank or...
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They needed to do that.
WALSH: Right, OK. They didn't have much of a choice there.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, they didn't another choice.
WALSH (voice-over): Then a warning.
(on camera): There's a helicopter coming.
(voice-over): A helicopter is spotted, and we have to leave.
(on camera): Bringing up a Stinger.
(voice-over): Rushing in the weapons this David has hit the Russian Goliath with again and again. But the Kremlin is sure to impose a cost on
anyone it can.
Grad rockets have slammed into homes regularly. This woman thinks she's broken her back.
"The house collapsed on me," she says, "and then they pulled me out."
There are no other patients in this hospital. All the injured treated here died in their beds, we're told, including one 53-year-old man brought in on
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Just here.
WALSH: Across town, the rockets, apparent cluster munitions that seem to fall just anywhere.
(on camera): Another rocket landed up the street here.
(voice-over): From cars to vegetable gardens.
AMANPOUR: Correspondent Nick Paton Walsh in Mykolaiv.
And I have just spoken to the mayor for the very latest. He confirms Russia's use of cluster bombs. But he says the Ukrainian fighters have
pushed a number of Russian tanks away from the airport.
AMANPOUR: Mayor Syenkevych, welcome to our program.
Your town has suffered quite a lot of bombardment. We have seen from our reporters even cluster munitions. Can you tell me the status right now,
because we understand there's been more military strikes and a plume of smoke around the city?
OLEKSANDR SYENKEVYCH, MAYOR OF MYKOLAIV, UKRAINE: Yes.
Today, we had a rocket attack on our city at 5:00 a.m. About 60 rockets fell on our city, and 60 -- 61 buildings destroyed, and about 40 rockets
fell down and exploded. So, starting from the morning, we also got an attack by heavy weapons, like tanks and heavy weapon machines around the
city, from Kherson direction and Kropyvnytskyi direction.
AMANPOUR: What are they trying to do to your city? To surround it, to force you to surrender? What is the aim, do you think?
SYENKEVYCH: They want to attack the city, but we have a good, let's say, artillery. And they don't come too far -- too close to the city, for about
20, 25 kilometers.
They are staying outside, so our artillery can't catch them. So...
AMANPOUR: And your defenders, they still have a high morale?
SYENKEVYCH: Yes, sure. They are really motivated. They want to defend their land, the motherland, our city. And they're really motivated and
ready to fight to the death.
AMANPOUR: What can you tell us about Russian tank formations? We understand that, around an airport nearby, they may be retreating.
SYENKEVYCH: They tried to catch the -- let's say to attack the airport. And our troops fought with them. And they fell back to the border that I
just said, for 20, 25 kilometers.
AMANPOUR: Mr. Mayor, has -- have you or any of your citizens in the town talked to any of these Russians? Are you able to ask them what they think
they're doing? Do they tell you what they think they're doing there?
SYENKEVYCH: I'm sure they realize what they do.
Moreover, they -- every time we catch them alive, they say that they didn't know where they go, they were on a training, they crossed the border, and
then they found out in the Mykolaiv that they are far from Russia.
But it's lie, because from Mykolaiv to Crimea, it's about 500 kilometers. So they should know where they are. They gathering near Kherson. And they
spread around the city. And they trying to attack our city.
AMANPOUR: How long can Mykolaiv hang on?
SYENKEVYCH: I can't give you any ideas about that.
We have really good military troops here, amount of people, and heavy machines. And we are ready to defend our city. And, also, we have -- still
we have a corridor to get the support, food, et cetera from Odessa region. This is the only way left for us.
And we are getting a help from our different partners, sister cities and cities from Western Ukraine. And we are gathering, collecting food with
long-term storage with the...
AMANPOUR: Well, hopefully, people are hearing you right now as you say that.
And we have seen reports and pictures, images of cluster munitions. Is that what is happening? These are illegal to be used in any civilian areas. Is
that happening? And what are they hitting?
SYENKEVYCH: Let's say 90 percent of rockets sent to the -- to our city, that launch to our city were cluster bombs.
So, this is a bomb. Inside it, there are also bombs, which -- and each bomb -- explosives and spread small metal pieces and kills alive people. So, I
mean, not the machines or buildings, but more people. For sure, they are illegal, but we have plenty of photos and evidences that they use illegal
weapon now, in 21st century.
AMANPOUR: Mayor Oleksandr Syenkevych, thank you so much indeed for joining us tonight.
SYENKEVYCH: Thank you. Thank you.
AMANPOUR: Now, the secretary of state, Antony Blinken, is visiting the Baltic nations, all NATO members, to reassure them and to warn Putin that
NATO is reinforcing its eastern flank.
Joining me now for more on this is the U.S. ambassador to NATO, Julianne Smith.
And, Ambassador, welcome to the program.
So, I guess let us just start with the secretary of state's visit. We hear the secretary of defense has said another 500 U.S. troops are coming to the
area. Tell us whether there's a -- well, how confident are you that this message is going to get through to Putin and that actually the eastern --
the border there is going to be properly defended?
JULIANNE SMITH, U.S. AMBASSADOR TO NATO: Well, thank you.
Basically, we have had a number of high-ranking officials in Central and Eastern Europe in recent weeks. As you noted, Secretary Blinken spent the
weekend in Moldova and then moved to Latvia and Lithuania. This week, he's with our friends in the Baltic states.
We also have had secretary of defense visit the region. And the message is always the same. The message is that the United States and, in fact, all
NATO allies stand with our friends in Eastern Europe. NATO's taking every step possible to reinforce the eastern flank.
Actually, before Russia even went into Ukraine, allies were coming together to move their forces into this region. And once Russia went into Ukraine,
then we took additional steps. So, this is something that we're constantly assessing. We're looking at additional medium- and long-term needs of these
allies. And NATO is prepared to act.
We have seen not just the United States, but several allies, the Netherlands, Denmark, Spain, France, the United Kingdom, all step forward
and offer additional force posture to our friends in Eastern Europe.
AMANPOUR: And yet, Ambassador, the whole world can see that the Russians continue. They not only continue, but they double down on civilian targets
and in their demands from Moscow.
You heard what I read out. The Kremlin says their maximalist demands must be met, and then the invasion will be called off. Putin doesn't seem to be
wanting an off-ramp or getting any message at all from what you're all doing and from the Ukrainian resistance.
SMITH: Well, unfortunately, we gave President Putin multiple opportunities to choose a different path.
Over the last couple of months, NATO allies, and also the United States in a bilateral format offered to sit down and we did sit down with the
Russians bilaterally. We met with them here at NATO headquarters. We met with the Russians at the OSCE.
In each instance, we urged President Putin to pick the path of diplomacy and de-escalation. Unfortunately, he's opted for conflict. And now he is
dealing with the consequences. We said that, if he went into Ukraine, we would do everything to provide additional security assistance to Ukraine.
We have. And we continue to do that.
We said we would reinforce the eastern flank of NATO. We are doing that right now. And we said that we would impose serious costs on Russia. And
those costs have been unprecedented in the form of sanctions.
We have seen multiple private sector companies pull businesses out. We have seen multiple instances where individual allies across the European
continent -- the European Union has taken unprecedented steps. So Russia is feeling this. If you look at the value of the ruble, you look at their
credit rating, the stock market, which still hasn't opened, it's obvious that Russia is feeling those consequences.
But you're right. Unfortunately, Russia is still undertaking brutal attacks in Ukraine. That is the situation on the ground tonight. You're correct.
AMANPOUR: Yes. Yes. And we can always obviously see it unfolding.
And you know as well as I do and as well as the whole world does that the Ukrainian leadership, which are heroically defending their country, are
expressing frustration. They definitely want a no-fly zone. You have all said that's not even in the offing.
And yet we heard over the weekend that there may be some deals to be made with NATO members, fighter jets, give them or send them into Ukraine and
backfill those, of perhaps Poland. But now we're hearing from the Poles that is not even on -- it's not happening.
Can you tell us if there's any airpower going into the Ukrainians right now? Or will there be?
SMITH: OK, so there's two things here.
So, first, on the no-fly zone, our goal right now is to actually stop the war. We don't want to expand this conflict beyond Ukraine. And so, right
now, the signal from NATO collectively is that NATO is not prepared to move forward with a no-fly zone.
On your specific question about providing MiGs, say, Polish MiGs to Ukraine. That is not a NATO decision. That is a sovereign decision for
Poland to take. The U.S. has noted that it is willing to sit down and talk through some of the challenges of that. There are a lot of open-ended
questions about the number of Ukrainian pilots that are available, how these jets would actually move from Poland to Ukraine.
That's all being worked right now. So I don't have a final answer for you on that. But Ukrainians -- the Ukrainians have asked some NATO allies to
provide them with those Soviet era jets. And so that is something that's currently being considered.
The other thing is, though, the Russian posture. We hear from U.S. defense officials, their briefings, say that now about 100 percent of the assembled
Russian forces around the borders, including in Belarus, have entered. And yet you see that they are bogged down.
Do you understand why? Are you seeing reasons for that? And, more to the point, can you see any signs of them gearing up to resupply, to send more
forces in, and to regroup, so to speak?
SMITH: Well, this is a really bad news story for the Russian military. And it's bad news for President Putin.
They do not have air superiority. They have not taken Kyiv, as they planned to do in the first few days of this conflict. President Zelenskyy is still
the president of Ukraine. And what we have seen is some of these convoys, the 40-kilometer convoy that everyone has been keeping an eye on, in
essence, has gone nowhere.
So this tells us two things. On the one hand, it tells us a lot about the ability of the Russian military and the challenges, particularly the
logistic challenges that the Russians are facing. It's quite astounding, actually, their inability to provide their forces with the simple things
like meals and fuel.
But, secondly, it tells us a lot about the Ukrainian forces, their determination to fight, their will to fight, the capabilities that they're
bringing to bear, their spirit. It's been unbelievable to watch the Ukrainians push back and use much of the training that they have received
in recent years, really since 2014 and the annexation of Crimea.
So we're learning a lot each day of this conflict. We're just 11 days in, but I think, honestly, this is a very bad news story for Russia when it
comes to the state of their military forces.
AMANPOUR: And yet, obviously, they have a whole lot back at home and they could, over time, resupply, as you know.
How much Russian assault is coming from the skies? How much? I mean, the Ukrainians want a no-fly zone. You have said why it won't happen. How much
of the assault is coming from the skies? And do the Ukrainians still have defenses, anti-aircraft, and the like?
SMITH: Yes, I mean, I think the Russians wrongly assumed that they could go in and just immediately take out Ukraine's air defense, and that in the
first -- the first couple days of the conflict they actually wouldn't be seeing the Ukrainians in the air. But the opposite has come to pass.
Their air defense has obviously taken some hits, but they are very much operating. Those air defenses are still operating in numerous locations
throughout the country. So, this story is not over. And for a country like Russia that wanted to have air dominance in this conflict, they just
haven't been able to achieve that.
AMANPOUR: So, you confirm that they do not have air superiority or air dominance, as you put.
SMITH: That's correct.
AMANPOUR: But we've heard many in the NATO alliance, including individual foreign ministers, presidents and the like, warning over the last several
days that the worst is yet to come.
Those who've had conversations with President Putin see no give whatsoever, as we just discussed. And we're seeing the civilians bearing the brunt of
I guess the question is, how much can NATO tolerate of an out-and-out assault on civilians before it changes its tactics and maybe puts up a no-
fly zone or something else?
SMITH: Well, right now, what I can tell you is that every single member of the NATO alliance is providing assistance to Ukraine.
It takes different forms. Many of the allies are providing direct lethal assistance to Ukraine. Others are providing humanitarian. Most are
providing both. And so the strategy right now is multifold. Continue to apply pressure on Moscow, on Russia. We want to continue to provide lethal
support to Ukraine and assess their security needs in real time.
We're in close contact with President Zelenskyy and his team. We just heard from his foreign minister on Friday when foreign ministers gathered here at
NATO headquarters. And, lastly, back to what we were talking about earlier, we want to ensure that we can reinforce NATO's eastern flank.
And as you heard President Biden state, we will defend every inch of NATO territory. NATO is prepared to do that and is already taking steps to
reinforce its eastern flank.
AMANPOUR: Let me play this little bit of a sound bite from President Zelenskyy in Kyiv, obviously disappointed about what we have been
discussing, the no-fly zone. Let's just play this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
VOLODYMYR ZELENSKYY, UKRAINIAN PRESIDENT (through translator): we believe that NATO countries have created a narrative that closing the skies over
Ukraine would provoke Russia's direct aggression against NATO.
This is the self-hypnosis of those who are weak, insecure inside, despite the fact they possess the weapons many times stronger than we have.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: So he's accusing everybody of self-hypnosis over what Russia might do.
So I wonder whether, again, you can address that. And do you, have you gained out -- and I'm sure you have -- how to deal with a cornered Putin?
SMITH: Well, first of all, President Biden, you have heard him say that we do not want to put the United States in direct conflict with Russia. And so
that is the guiding principle for the United States and, frankly, I think a lot of our allies, if not every single one of our allies agrees with that,
that we believe the right approach right now is to continue to provide lethal support to Ukraine to help it defend itself in this moment.
And in terms of your second question about thinking about the future. I mean, again, we believe that Russia is feeling the pain of these economic
sanctions that are being applied in unprecedented ways from many countries around the world, that they feel increasingly isolated, that their citizens
are understanding the consequences of this conflict in Ukraine.
We will, if there is a genuine shot at diplomacy or reciprocal dialogue with them -- you have heard Secretary Blinken say this -- we would be
prepared to engage them diplomatically. Right now, we see that they're expressing no interest in doing that. So we will carry on with the current
approach, again, getting that assistance to Ukraine, reinforcing the eastern flank and constantly looking for new ways to apply pressure on
Moscow to help sharpen the choice that President Putin is facing right now.
AMANPOUR: Ambassador Julianne Smith, thank you very much indeed for joining us.
Now, as we have said, a massive humanitarian crisis is under way, not just those targeted and killed, but those who are fleeing. Nearly two million
Ukrainians have already left, and there will be many, many more.
Correspondent Sam Kiley has this story from the Zaporizhzhia train station.
SAM KILEY, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): A collective breath is held as a long-awaited evacuation train slows to a
halt, the odds of getting out determined by access to a carriage door.
Police struggle to contain the crowd. All are desperate to flee west. The mass evacuation from Zaporizhzhia is part driven by the recent capture of a
nuclear power station by Russian invaders. Here, they're being begged by the control room over a public address system to stop their attack on the
six-reactor plant, the biggest in Europe.
They say: "You are endangering the security of the entire world. Attention, stop shooting at a nuclear, hazardous facility. Attention, stop it."
There is now a disregard as much for nuclear safety as civilian lives in cities across the country being bombarded by Russia.
(on camera): Scenes like this have not been seen in Europe since the Second World War in the 20th century, the mass evacuation of civilians from
a major city. It's been accelerated here, because the people now believe, based on the evidence that they have seen elsewhere in Ukraine, that it is
civilians who are now going to be targeted in Vladimir Putin's invasion.
SERGIY SAMKO, RESIDENT OF ZAPORIZHZHIA (through translator): When Russian troops came closer to Zaporizhzhia, I decided it was better to get my
family out before they entered the city itself.
LATONA SAMKO, UKRAINIAN REFUGEE (through translator): We hope that we can make it on the train today, because, this morning, people didn't let us in,
even though we have a baby.
KILEY: This is a war that separates lovers and parts husbands from their wives, fathers from their families. Ukrainian men here between 18 and 60
cannot leave. They're needed for the fight.
(on camera): You're staying here?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes. Yes.
KILEY: So this is goodbye, temporarily. Well, I hope, in a week or two, you can be back together again.
(voice-over): More than a million Ukrainians have fled their homeland so far. But more still are enduring these freezing conditions, in the hope of
a train to safety.
But Mykola Tymchishin, who's 80, is staying on. He's a former paratrooper in the Soviet army.
MYKOLA TYMCHISHIN, RESIDENT OF ZAPORIZHZHIA (through translator): I made Molotov cocktails. I have great rifles. I'm a hunter with 40 years of
experience. I have a medal left from the USSR. I'm staying.
AMANPOUR: What spirit there, and Sam Kiley reporting.
Next, we get some perspective from a great Ukrainian thinker. Andrey Kurkov is known the world over for acclaimed satirical novels like "Death and the
Penguin." But he's put his latest one on pause in order to speak out about what is happening to his country and his fellow citizens.
And he's joining me now from Western Ukraine.
Welcome to the program. And thanks for joining.
You -- we just showed a report from so many people trying to get on trains to leave the danger zone. You did leave your home in Kyiv. Tell me why you
left. And we're not telling -- we're not saying where you are right now. But what went into that decision?
ANDREY KURKOV, UKRAINIAN NOVELIST: Well, on the third day of the war, actually, I got a call from my friends saying that it is dangerous for me
to stay in the village.
So we decided to go to -- in Kyiv. So we decided to go to a village house which is 60 miles away to the west. And we picked up our friend with her
son on the way and got there, and actually unloaded the luggage, when I was told that it is neither safe there. So we decided to go further to Lviv.
And it took us 22 hours -- took me 22 hours of driving, including two hours' sleep on the way. And, I mean, there were constant traffic jams.
Some of the jams were 40, 50 miles' long. So, we -- in the end, we made it actually, but it took us two-and-a-half days.
AMANPOUR: Mr. Kurkov, I just want to ask you, because there's been some reporting that the latest meetings between the Ukrainian delegation and the
Russian delegation may have produced a small opening about some kind of humanitarian resolution, potentially humanitarian corridors for civilians.
We have already seen that your government rejected as very cynical the idea of Russian humanitarian corridors that just would funnel people back into
Russia and into Belarus. What do you feel about this issue of them trying to negotiate safe passage?
KURKOV: Well, I mean, the negotiations should go on, but they will not be fruitful.
Obviously, actually, the negotiators from the Russian side have instruction from somebody, from Putin's assistant, not to talk about political issues
and about the war. It's only about humanitarian aid. And even this is not working properly. So, I mean, there was no proper evacuation from Mariupol
or from Melitopol. And what is happening in Zaporizhzhia, it's just a tragedy.
I am in the place where most of the refugees are coming.
And here, they are helped. I mean, here, people are given the keys from their plants and rooms and hostels are open and campuses of the
universities are given to these people.
But, I mean, to leave from Kyiv, to leave from Zaporizhian, from Mariupol is very difficult now. It was more of less possible in the first several
days of the war but then, we had traffic jams. Now, you don't have traffic jams. You have actually some of the roads destroyed, only one road is OK to
leave Kyiv, it's southwestern road via the Obukhiv City or town. But generally, people are now -- many people are afraid to leave. So, I mean,
they think that it's more dangerous to leave than to stay.
AMANPOUR: And what -- I don't know whether you're still in contact with friends or relatives in Kyiv, but what is the feeling there? I mean, so
far, we've seen how the Ukrainians have held back the ground assault. What is the feeling there now?
KURKOV: Well, I mean, the young people who stayed on also in our block of lands, I mean, they are volunteers, they are checking on all the people who
cannot leave and helping others, but there are many aged people and families who are afraid to go out now, and they don't know what to expect.
I mean, they started suddenly -- they wanted to stay on in the beginning and now, they're asking to be taken away, but there are no means. I mean,
the trains are running from Kyiv, but the situation on key railway station is just like in Zaporizhian. So, I mean, you can come with your tickets,
but you won't be able to board the train.
AMANPOUR: Mr. Kurkov, let me ask you what you -- I'd like you to comment on President Zelenskyy. I mean, not everybody was politically in his corner
before the invasion. But now, he's really galvanized the nation, including yourself. You must have been -- you must have thought a lot about his
remarkable transformation and how he has risen to this moment.
KURKOV: Well, I think he's trying to pass a very serious exam. I mean, he's behaving now like a real statesman in a situation very dangerous for
himself and for the country and for the people. And he understands the responsibility and I assume that he is ready to die for the country,
because if he escapes or if he disappears, I mean, the morale will be down. And now, we have such a high morale in the society and in the army, and
that's why Ukraine is resisting a Russian army with such energy, with such strength.
AMANPOUR: And, Mr. Kurkov, you know, you are, you know, president of PEN in Ukraine, the Freedom of Speech Organization. We have seen how in Russia,
they have cracked down on all independent, the last remaining vestiges of any kind of independent news and how the propaganda machine is rolling. And
obviously, also in Ukraine, there's a lot of, you know, storytelling to energize the population.
Describe a little bit what you're seeing in terms of artists, journalists and how they also play into the war effort.
KURKOV: Well, I mean, of course, information in the war time is limited. I mean, like Russians don't know how many soldiers are killed, Russian
soldiers are killed and wounded and we don't know what are the losses of Ukrainian army. So, of course, I mean, we are fed and we are given more or
less positive information and successes. But, I mean, we can discuss, you can discuss in Ukraine on radio, on TV whatever you want to discuss. I
mean, we still don't have censorship.
I mean, the government imposes probably censorship or limits on the information, official information that can be given to the nation, yes.
But, I mean, people are still free, and I mean, like there is a YouTube TV, (INAUDIBLE) TV called on YouTube and they are online all the time and they
are discussing all aspects of this war, and nobody is telling them what to say and what not to say and there many YouTube channels and small cable TV
studios which are doing the same.
Of course, I mean, all major TV channels, state and private are united now, combined into one TV channel, which is working 24 hours a day, and given
more or less official information and, I mean, public addresses. So, people are watching it because it's showing also the news from the front lines.
AMANPOUR: Do you think or is it too early to even comment on the role of an artist in this moment in a country's history, the role of artist in war,
for instance, writers, artists, your community?
KURKOV: Well, I mean, PEN Central Ukraine has 140 members and most of them are active now as volunteers and they are helping each other. We are
checking on locations of different members of PEN. And one of our colleagues is now in occupied Melitopol, and we are in touch daily with
But, I mean, we have sad news, three Ukrainian artists, painters were killed in the last several days, and they were in territorial defense. They
were not, of course, professional army people. They were just guarding or standing at the road blocks. But generally, I think the situation now is
influenced in the future artistic life of Ukraine.
Ukrainian leadership became very militant from 2014, from the beginning of the annexation of Crimea and the war in Donbas, and it became very
politically engaged lately and I think it will become even more dynamic and people are trying to express in songs and poetry, in prose all the
suffering they have and all the thoughts and all the doubts. And in this sense, I think it will have a huge impact also on European literature. It's
just like European literature after the First World War.
AMANPOUR: Yes, indeed. It's so good to be reminded of that, and you have said you are 100 percent sure that Ukraine will survive independent and
strong, you have that hope. And I just wondered whether you would react to what a survivor of the Sarajevo Siege, Aida Cerkez, who was a reporter,
wrote an open letter to the Ukrainian people in part, over time, will you sing, as we did, new songs about your courage during this plight. You will
recite literature not yet written and you will come up with your own slogans that will keep you alive.
How do you react to that?
KURKOV: I feel -- I agree with this and I feel this coming. And I see, that actually, the nation is changing in front of my eyes. People are more
humane, more kind, I mean, to each other. They are helping so much. I mean, in the place where I live next to the house there are cars, private cars
with nobody inside but the messages attached that, if you need to transport humanitarian aid or somebody or passenger, please call this number, and
number of their mobile telephones.
AMANPOUR: It's amazing to hear that from you. You know, you bring humanity to what's a very dehumanizing process right now. Andrey Kurkov, thank you
so much indeed.
Now, as oil prices reach a 14-year high, the president of the European Commission, Ursula van der Leyen has said today that the E.U. has to get
rid of the dependency on Russian gas, oil or coal. Our next guest says that responding with renewables is the way to both defeat Putin and prevent
Bill McKibben is an award-winning environmentalist and the founder of Third Act, an organization fighting for climate and racial justice. He tells Hari
Srinivasan why now is the time to transition away from fossil fuels.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
HARI SREENIVASAN, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Christiane, thanks. Bill McKibben, thanks for joining us.
BILL MCKIBBEN, FOUNDER, THIRD ACT: Pleasure to be with you, Hari.
SREENIVASAN: As we watched this crisis in Ukraine unfold, one of the things that people are starting to think about are fossil fuels. John
Kerry, our special envoy for climate, recently said that Mr. Putin has "weaponized" fossil fuels, particularly gas. "It's related and people need
to see it that way. Energy is a huge part of the geopolitics of what the options are."
So, Bill, if you could, draw the line for our audience on how the crisis in Ukraine and what we can do about it is connected to fossil fuels and oil.
MCKIBBEN: Absolutely. Against stark and dramatic backdrop of the Ukraine invasion, we've also had this remarkable government from the ITCC, the
Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change 6,000 pages demonstrating just what hot water we're in. And the place, of course, that they're linked is
this place of fossil fuel. We know that's what drives climate change but it's also what drives Vladimir Putin.
60 percent of his export earnings come from oil and gas. You can check that out for yourself by looking around your house and trying to figure out what
you could boycott that comes from Russia. Unless there's an old bottle of Stolichnaya sitting in your liquor cabinet, there's likely nothing in your
house. It just produces oil and gas. And without that, he wouldn't be able to build a plundering army, nor would he have the weapon he has used most
effectively to cower Western Europe for the last 20 years, this threat to turn off the tap from his gas pipelines and let them freeze in the dark.
He is entirely a creature of oil and gas. And so, ending the dependency on oil and gas would do absolutely more than anything we could possibly
imagine to rein him in. At the same time, that it dealt with this other existential crisis we face, the one rising temperatures, burning forests,
melting ice caps.
SREENIVASAN: You know, right now, there seems to be almost a bipartisan call for trying to put more sanctions on the export of Russian oil and gas.
Now, there are probably American politics all wrapped up in this, but would it hurt Vladimir Putin more if we could restrict the oil flowing out of his
country on what we do and what the world does in terms of their needs?
MCKIBBEN: It would definitely do him damage. And the reason that we haven't done it so far is because we're afraid that we're so dependent on
oil and gas that if the price of gas goes up, people will rebel. The oil industry would like to solve this problem, in their words, by pumping ever
more oil, getting more leases. They're talking today about going into the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge Camp. But of course, that doesn't help at
all. It takes years upon years to do any of that. And in any event, all it does is make the world more dependent, in the end, on fossil fuel.
The obvious way to square this circle, the obvious way out is to seize this moment and use it as the choice point to head definitively in the direction
of renewable energy. I think the Europeans are starting to realize this. The Germans the day after the invasion, the Bundestag passed a new law that
said they would be entirely run-on renewable energy by 2035. We can help. We can make it happen much faster than that.
I wrote a piece last week that's gotten a lot of traction about the idea that we might invoke the Defense Production Act, which we invoked both
Trump and Biden to help speed up the production of vaccines. In this case, to speed up the production of one of the most remarkable technologies on
planet earth, the air source heat pump, which is in essence, just a reversible air conditioner that can heat and cool homes off electricity and
replace the gas or oil furnace in the basement.
We have spare capacity in our air conditioner companies. We could be producing millions of these just as we did with lend lease before World War
II, getting them across of the Atlantic by the time November rolls around, and November will roll around again, we can have deprived Vladimir Putin of
one of his strongest weapons, and in the process, started us down the path that we need to go down anyway.
SREENIVASAN: Even if we, the United States, decided to say, all right, we're going to start -- we're going to go through this just like it was
World War II, we're going to start building heat pumps at every factory possible, it would still take months. And right you know, you have a
humanitarian crisis that's unfolding in front ever our eyes on a daily basis and there's a reasonable chance that thousands more people are going
to die in a matter of days as cities continue to be shelled by Russian forces.
MCKIBBEN: Absolutely. None of this solves that over the next few days. You know, nothing saves, perhaps, the figuring out how to get them, you know,
anti-aircraft missiles or something to the Ukrainians over the next few days. But I think we better be prepared for the possibility that this is
going to be a grinding and enduring conflict, and we better be positioning ourselves now to make sure that we take the steps we can so that by next
winter, we're not in precisely the same dangerous position that we found ourselves in right now.
This is a perfect case for doing the things that we know we have to do anyway. And given what the IPCC told us this week, it may be the last sort
of decision point like this that we get. We're running out of time as a planet in some of the same ways that Ukraine is running out of time and
room as a country. And being serious people means taking all those things on board at once and figuring out the tools we have to meet all those
SREENIVASAN: You know, one of your recent columns the headline was, "If you care about freedom, shut up about high gas prices." Americans love
their vehicles. It is still a culture that loves to drive and driving requires gasoline and we like low gas prices.
KURKOV: Well, let me take issue just with one part of that statement, all of which is true except that any more driving doesn't require gasoline. And
I just wrote a piece the other day saying, you know what? We've now got a reasonable fleet of electric vehicles in this country. They're all driven
by people like me who are relentless borers who got how great they are, evangelists for them.
So, we should -- one of the things we should be doing right now is building out a kind of ride-sharing program. You remember those posters from World
War II, you don't remember them, but there were remarkable posters from World War II that said, when you ride alone, you ride with hitter.
Well, in this case, when you drive gas-powered car, you drive with Putin, and we don't need that to happen. We could be -- if people need to get to
the doctor or to the grocery, we should quickly be building out so at least one day a week, say, we can share what electric transportation we have. And
among other things, the people who get to go for a ride will discover that these are not only affordable, they're elegant technologies.
That's going to happen anyway. I mean, Ford starts churning out electric F- 150 pickups in the course of this spring, but we need it to happen fast, fast. Fast is always the word here.
SREENIVASAN: Why do you think it is? And you've worked in the environment movement for a long time, you understand messaging quite well, why are we
incapable of seeing the magnitude of the climate crisis? Is it because we think it's so far away even though we see example after example in the
headlines? I mean, why doesn't it personally affect us?
MCKIBBEN: I don't think it is that anymore. The polling data shows that Americans understand and want action here. We can't get our political
system to do the right thing because it is so in hock to the fossil fuel industry. We've known this for decades, watched Congress fail again and
again and again. We've gotten closer this time. Joe Biden's Build Back Better Bill, which would have been the first serious climate legislation,
has come within a vote of passing, but that vote belongs to Joe Manchin, who has taken more money from the fossil fuel industry than anyone in
Washington, not an easy contest to win, by the way. And the return on investment's been spectacular.
He's held up what we needed to do, and continues to, and, you know, that's been the story in Washington over and over and over again. It's one of the
reasons why we need Biden doing things that he can do by executive action, and the Defense Production Act is a good example of that. It's also why we
need to be training as much pressure as we can on the other players here that aren't Washington. We need to be looking hard at Wall Street.
At -- say at Third Act, we're working hard to build out this campaign on the big banks to get them to stop funding the fossil fuel industry, because
we can't rely on Washington to do this. The political ability of the fossil fuel industry is so strong, their ability to turn money into votes in
Congress is so powerful that at the moment, it's overriding the strong, strong call from Americans for real action on all these problems.
SREENIVASAN: You recently wrote in an op-ed, "Imagine a Europe that ran on solar and wind power, whose cars ran on locally-provided electricity and
whose homes were heated by electric air source heat pumps. That Europe would not be funding Putin's Russia, and it would be far less scared of
Putin's Russia, it could impose every kind of sanction and keep them in place until the country buckled."
Are we there at a price point yet where renewable energies can compete and can do better?
MCKIBBEN: So, finally, we get some -- to some very good news, and this really is the thing that should be letting us do what we need to do.
Scientists and engineers over the last 10 years have done such a good job of dropping the price of renewable energy, sun, wind and the batteries to
store them, that this is literally now the cheapest power on planet earth. There's no longer a technological or economic obstacle, and the numbers get
better with each passing quarter.
Every time we double the capacity of solar power, for instance, we drop its price another 30 percent. So, we could be doing this work at rapid, rapid,
rapid pace. The only reasons we're not are some toxic combination of inertia, which perhaps Vladimir Putin is helping us overcome, and vested
interest, and that's why we have to build movements to try and break the power of the fossil fuel industry before they break everything else.
SREENIVASAN: You mentioned it earlier in the conversation, the IPCC report. This is the latest in a string of reports that have sounded more
and more, or I should say, sounded the alarm louder and louder. What did you hear the most from that report?
MCKIBBEN: With each new iteration of these reports, the message gets more dire. As they said in the final sentence of these 6,000-page report, they
said, the window is now closing. Essentially, we've been told by the IPCC that we need to cut emissions in half by 2030 if we're going to meet those
targets we set in Paris.
2030 is, as of last week, seven years and 10 months away. We're not used to time tests in our political system. We're used to debating the same things
forever and ever and making incremental progress. That's not how this one works. Once the Arctic's melted, no one's got a plan for freezing it back
again. So, we better do what we need to do, that's what the IPCC is telling us. And you can sense the sort of desperation beginning to come off these
In fact, the next day, a bunch of them said, you know what? We're going to go on strike. We're not going to just keep producing these IPCC reports
year after year forever, forever volunteering to do this work because nobody's paying attention. We need you to pay attention. And that note of
desperation, you know, scientists, by their nature, are not political animals. That note of desperation should be attended to.
SREENIVASAN: Just recently, there was an attack by Russian forces on a nuclear plant which got everybody very concerned. Fortunately, the fire
that was reported had been put out, but should we be reconsidering nuclear energy as part of the mix of renewables?
MCKIBBEN: We definitely -- I think it's pretty clear that we should try and keep the nuclear plants that we have built and are operating open when
we can with some margin of safety. Though, of course, the experience in the Ukraine is a reminder of how narrow that margin is. That was truly a scary
I don't think that nuclear power is probably going to play a huge role in the future going forward, simply because it's extremely expensive. Part of
the reason it's expensive is because you have to build these, you know, facilities with all the kind of risks that we've seen in mind, whereas, you
know, if you shell a solar panel, what do you have in a pile of broken glass at the end.
The reason that we're going to move to renewable energy so decisively is because the cost of it is going like this, down, down, down, down, down.
The cost of nuclear power continues to go up and up. Maybe someday people will invent smaller modular reactors or fusion reactors or -- and we will
be able to take down the wind turbines and solar panels and replace them with something else. But for now, wind, sun and batteries are the off-the-
shelf technologies that make economic sense and now, we know just how much political sense they make, too.
SREENIVASAN: Do you think that this crisis, this war in Ukraine, has the ability to make people rethink climate policy in countries like the United
States who might not be affected nearly as much as European nations who are so dependent on Russian oil and gas?
MCKIBBEN: Let's hope so. Let's hope that people can see that the burning buildings in the Ukraine and the burning forests in California have a lot
of things in common, and that the solutions, at least some of them, are very similar, that we need to make big transitions. And if we do, we remove
the power of autocrats everywhere.
You know, it's not just Vladimir Putin. They all derive their power from the fact that fossil fuel is concentrated in a few scattered places around
the world. The people who control them end up with way more power than they deserve, right down to the Koch Brothers, our biggest oil and gas barons in
Sun and wind come from everywhere. And so, the world that we inhabit, when we run it on sun and wind, is a different kind of world, one that we really
should want to move to for all kinds of reasons.
SREENIVASAN: Bill McKibben, thanks for joining us.
MCKIBBEN: Hari, what a pleasure.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: Honestly, if not now, when?
Finally, tonight, a piano man for piece, Davide Martello is a German pianist who has taken his piano to conflict zones around the world. He's
played for soldiers in Afghanistan and during Gezi Park protests in Turkey in 2013 and outside the Bataclan in Paris after the 2015 terror attacks.
He's now brought his baby grand to the Medyka border crossing in Poland, trying to give some musical relief to the exhausted refugees fleeing the
bloodshed at home.
And that is it for now. If you ever miss our show, you can find the latest episode shortly after it airs on our podcast. On your screen now is a QR
code. All you need to do is pick up your phone and scan it with your camera. You can also find it at cnn.com/podcast and all major platforms,
just search Amanpour. And remember, you can always catch us online and Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.
Thanks for watching and good-bye from London.