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New Film Explores Russia's TV Rain; Interview With Ukrainian Defense Minister Adviser Yuriy Sak; Interview with Dozhd TV Founder Natalia Sindeeva; Interview "F@ck This Job" Director Vera Krichevskaya; Interview with "Chums" Author and FT Columnist Simon Kuper. Aired 1-2p ET

Aired June 01, 2022 - 13:00:00   ET




Here's what's coming up.


ANTONY BLINKEN, U.S. SECRETARY OF STATE: We moved quickly to send Ukraine significant amounts of weapons and ammunition so that they can repel

Russia's aggression.

GOLODRYGA (voice-over): Biden up the weapon ante in Ukraine, as the Kremlin says the U.S. is adding fuel to the fire. So will it turn the tide

on the ground? I ask Yuriy Sak, an adviser to Ukraine's Ministry of Defense.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): Good evening. It's 9:00 p.m. in Moscow, and you're watching Dozhd TV's news program "Here and Now."

GOLODRYGA: Remarkable story of TV Rain. I speak to the co-founder of Russia's now-shuttered independent news channel, Natalia Sindeeva, and the

film director who profiled it, Vera Krichevskaya.

Plus: the institution at the heart of Britain's political elite. We find out how Oxford University has shaped Prime Minister Boris Johnson and those

in his party with Simon Kuper, author of "Chums."


GOLODRYGA: Welcome to the program, everyone. I'm Bianna Golodryga in New York, sitting in for Christiane Amanpour, who will be back next week.

The United States is doubling down on its support for Ukraine, providing the country with more advanced rocket systems and munitions as its war with

Russia grinds on. In a "New York Times" op-ed, President Joe Biden said the U.S. goal is to see a democratic, independent, sovereign and prosperous

Ukraine with the means to deter and defend itself against further aggression.

The new systems will be equipped with munitions that will allow Ukraine to launch rockets about 49 miles. That's far less than the system's maximum

range, but far greater than anything Ukraine has been sent to date.

So what is Ukraine's view on the new weapons? Are they enough to hold Russia back?

Yuriy Sak is an adviser to Ukraine's minister of defense, and he joins me now.

Mr. Sak, thank you so much for joining us.

So, first, let me get your reaction to this announcement from the United States that the administration will be providing your government with

longer-range missiles.

YURIY SAK, ADVISER TO UKRAINIAN DEFENSE MINISTER: Good evening, and thank you for having me.

Of course, our reaction is one of gratitude. And we are very thankful to the American people. We are thankful to the administration of the United

States. And this is something that Ukraine needs now very much, because, as you know, the situation in the east on the battlefield is very difficult.

It's getting more and more intense by the day. This war, we as Ukraine, we would like to end it sooner rather than later, because if this war is a

protracted war, this will result among, other things, in a food crisis, a food crisis that could kill millions of people in North Africa and Middle


Ukraine is one of the largest provider of agricultural products. So and now Ukraine is unable to do that because the Black Sea is blocked by the

Russian aggressors. So we are very, very thankful for this announcement. We hope that we will get this new long-range weaponry fast, and we will be

able to use it efficiently in order to continue to liberate Ukraine, protect Ukrainian cities, protect Ukrainian people.

GOLODRYGA: As you noted, Russia is making some advancements there in the east. Russian forces now control about 70 percent of Severodonetsk in

Eastern Ukraine.

And the Ukrainian troops are pushing back as well and retreating, at least for the time being. I'm just curious. You told "The Financial Times" just

today: "Our president has said many times, had we received these weapons, these longer-range missiles, before the situation, it would be different,

with less occupied regions in the hands of Russia today."

What would the situation look like? And how can you be so confident that Russia wouldn't have made the inroads that it is currently making now?

SAK: Well, look, Ukrainian army has shown in these three months that it is very highly motivated, it is very professional.

And even with the means that we had. And, thankfully, we received some important light weaponry at the beginning of the -- of this aggression. We

were able, the Ukrainian army was able to liberate Kyiv and Kyiv region. Ukrainian army was capable of liberating Chernihiv and Chernihiv region.


Ukrainian army was most recently capable of pushing the aggressor back from Kharkiv. So -- and this is the achievement of our army. And the aggressor's

army was unable to achieve any major significant military success.

So, from this perspective, of course, when Ukrainian army gets more efficient, more long-range weapons, of course, it will be even more

efficient in resisting the enemy and in expelling the enemy from our lands. And, indeed, I will repeat that, if we had these long-range systems before,

the situation would have been different in places like Kherson, in places like Mariupol.

So, from this perspective, it is very important that we will begin receiving these weapons systems now.

GOLODRYGA: So the weapons system that you will be receiving, these missiles have a trajectory of about 49 miles.

What you had been asking for are missiles that could go up to 200 miles. Obviously, the concern from the United States is how far inside of Russia

and Russian territory these missiles would penetrate.

I want to play for you sound from Secretary of State Antony Blinken about some of the assurances he says he received from your government about the

use of these missiles.


BLINKEN: Specifically, with regard to weapon systems being provided, the Ukrainians have given us assurances that they will not use these systems

against targets on Russian territory. There is a strong trust bond between Ukraine and the United States, as well as with our allies and partners.


GOLODRYGA: How do you uphold these assurances in the fog of war? Where will these missiles hit? And where will you not be striking?

SAK: The question of military strategy, of course, is within the exclusive confidence of the general staff on the Ukrainian armed forces.

And there is a very limited number of people who, in fact, have access to that information. But what we have said many times is that Ukraine is a

peaceful nation. Throughout our history, we have never attacked any of our neighbors. And this is not the war that we began.

We -- the aggression occurred because of the large-scale invasion of Russia. So, from this perspective, the only reason we need weapons, of

course, is -- I will repeat -- to liberate Ukrainian cities, to deoccupy Ukrainian cities, to restore peace within the internationally recognized

borders of Ukraine.

And as our President Zelenskyy has said many times, and our minister of defense as well, Oleksiy Reznikov, said many times, for us, the most

important thing is to push the enemy back to achieve the withdrawal of the army of the aggressor to the level at least before February 24.

And then diplomatic means will be there to decide further important political issues. But we are a peaceful nation. We are still coming to

terms with the fact that, in 2022, Ukraine, a country in the middle of Europe, is suffering from missile strikes.

As we speak with you now, I get updates on my phone momentarily. There are air raids in most cities in Ukraine now. The cities like Mykolaiv

(INAUDIBLE) oblast, they have been hit today by Russian missile strikes.

So, in fact, those people who are in battles on the front lines of this war, they have been saying that it sometimes -- it sometimes almost feels

like Russians have built ammunition factories right there on the battlefield, because they don't stop shooting heavy artillery, air

bombardments, missile strikes.


SAK: So, it is -- yes.

GOLODRYGA: It's incessant bombardment.

And, listen, we have been reporting since that invasion began. I mean, these images we're seeing are...

SAK: Yes.

GOLODRYGA: ... akin to images that we saw in the Second World War. And it's still hard to come to grips with this happening in 2022.

Let me ask you. We spent a lot of time early in this war and in this conflict talking about the lack of morale within the Russian military and

the tremendous number of troops lost. Now we're seeing President Zelenskyy even acknowledge the impact this is having on Ukrainian soldiers.

They're fighting in the east, where he's saying that the country is losing upwards of 100 soldiers even a day. What is the morale now amongst

Ukrainian fighters? And how concerned are you that this high death toll will continue?

SAK: Well, the death toll is currently high because the fighting is very intense.

And having not achieved any significant success militarily, Russia, of course, have thrown all the firepower that it has on a relatively small

patch of the front line in the Luhansk and Donetsk regions.


So, from this perspective, of course, the death toll is higher now, because Russians are using everything they have in that direction, cities like

Severodonetsk, like Lysychansk in the Luhansk region. So, from this perspective -- and, of course, we have, in addition to those Ukrainian --

brave Ukrainian soldiers who are killed, we also have almost up to 500 wounded every day.


SAK: But what we have to understand is that the Ukrainian soldiers, they are very highly motivated, because they are fighting for their own land.

Ukrainian army, many of those who now serve in the Ukrainian army, in their life before the war, they used to be I.T. specialists, businessmen doctors,

and they're fighting for their land. Look, since the beginning of the war, 243 children were killed, and countless others were wounded.

So, the motivation of our army remains very high. We speak to our soldiers on the front lines. They continue to incur damage on the Russian aggressor,

both in manpower and in equipment. And, of course, now that we will be receiving more heavy weaponry, more long-range systems, this will, of

course, boost the motivation of the Ukrainian army even more, because they will understand that the support will be arriving soon.

So, the liberation and deoccupation will begin to happen faster and sooner. So, from this perspective, we are confident in Ukrainian army and we will

continue to fight and resist and liberate our land until the enemy is gone.

GOLODRYGA: Can I get you to respond to reports that, over the past few weeks, it seems that the narrative inside the Kremlin at least is that the

momentum has shifted, and that there are some in leadership, perhaps Vladimir Putin himself, who believe that this war can be won by the

Russians, and that perhaps they can even make another stab at going after Kyiv?

Your response to these reports, and how seriously do you take that?

SAK: Of course, it is too early to relax. And we have been saying this on a daily basis.

Russia continues to use the tactics of terror by the missile strikes. And there is not one city in Ukraine which potentially is not a target for

Russian missiles. So, from this perspective, the risk remains high. And this is why, in addition to the long-range weaponry, we are also asking our

international partners to provide us with modern NATO standard air defense systems, because they are also crucial for Ukraine.

They are crucial for us to be able to close our skies. So, yes, Kyiv now is gradually returning to, you could say, some form of normality. But at the

same time, everybody understands and appreciates that this war is far from over. And we are dealing with a very dangerous, deranged enemy who is

capable -- we have seen what this enemy is capable of, all kinds of atrocities.

There's hardly any war crime they have not committed in Ukraine. So, from this perspective, we continue to be alert. We continue to understand that

the risks are still high. And we continue to defend.

GOLODRYGA: You mentioned the assistance from other allies within NATO. We spend so much time focusing on U.S. assistance and the large scale of

weaponry coming from the United States. But, obviously, that is not the only member of NATO who has at least promised military weaponry for your


I want to get your thoughts on Germany's role in this, because some reports suggest that, since March 25, Germany has only sent two arms package --

packages to Ukraine. Is that true? And, just today, Olaf Scholz announced that Germany will supply Ukraine with an advanced air system. Are you

anticipating the delivery of that air system?

And what is your response overall to Germany, Europe's largest economy's role in aiding your country?

SAK: Like I already said, we are grateful to all our international partners. And there are now, in the Ramstein format, more than 44 countries

who have publicly made a commitment to support Ukraine in this aggressive war, in this war in which Russia threatens not just Ukraine, but, of

course, the whole of Europe.

So -- and, of course, we -- and our ambassador to Germany, for example, has been very vocal about this. We -- on the one hand, we appreciate the

support and the rhetoric that the German leadership is using. They are supporting Ukraine publicly. They are condemning Russia's aggression. And

they have been promising delivery of a variety of different heavy weaponry as well.


Modern tanks, this was an earlier promise. Now, we heard today about this air defense systems, IRIS. It is very difficult for me to evaluate. We hope

that it will happen, and we hope that it will happen soon. And we hope that there will be no procrastination or no bureaucratic delays, because we need

those systems, we need those weapons.

And it would be very useful on our battlefield.

GOLODRYGA: We, of course, will continue to follow these pledges from all these allies.

Yuriy Sak, thank you so much for your time today. We appreciate it.

SAK: Thank you so much for inviting me. Thank you.

GOLODRYGA: And coming up after: the break the women who risked everything to tell the truth.

Our look at the new film exploring the dramatic final days of Russia's last independent news channel.


GOLODRYGA: Welcome back.

From the beginning, Russia's offensive and Ukraine has gone hand in hand with an information war. The Kremlin deployed a series of lies and

distortions to justify the invasion, all while cracking down on the journalists at home who dared to tell the truth.

One of its targets, Russia's last independent news channel, TV Rain, also known as Dozhd. The broadcaster was forced to close and many of its

reporters fled the country. The story of TV Rain's founding and evolution is the focus of a new film called "F This Job."

It's directed by Vera Krichevskaya.

I spoke to her earlier, alongside TV Rain's intriguing co-founder, Natalia Sindeeva.


GOLODRYGA: Vera, Natasha, thank you so much for joining us. This is a fantastic film, and it chronicles the story of TV Rain, Dozhd TV, when it

began in 2010.

Vera, I'm just curious to get your thoughts on what this -- what this film meant to you and why it was so important for you to produce.

VERA KRICHEVSKAYA, DIRECTOR, "F@CK THIS JOB": First of all, thank you very much for having us here.

But, for me, it was -- for me, the main thing was to convey this story to the foreigners, to the international audience, and to tell them, to explain

to them a little bit about us, because the Dozhd story is completely untold for the world.

And I tried to show other Russians. I try to tell the story about different Russians, Russians who share Western values, who are, like, normal, healthy

Russians, who wants -- who want to change the world for better. It was the main idea.


The second idea was to show the trajectory of country. I used Dozhd TV and Natasha as a tool to tell the story what happened with the Russia from 2008

until now, until this catastrophe.

GOLODRYGA: And, Natasha, you approach this from a different lens. You approach this as a business person.

Vera is the journalist here, and Natasha is the optimist who wants to create a network called the Optimist Network, right, and to portray Russia

as a happy country, and to tell happy tales. How difficult was that for you over the years to continue to maintain this facade then of happiness, given

everything that unfolded in Russia after 2010?

NATALIA SINDEEVA, FOUNDER, DOZHD TV (through translator): Well, optimism, to us, it isn't about joy or happiness. It's about hope.

And much depends on you and your attitude to life, your attitude to the circumstances in which you find yourself. And that's where optimism is

important. It wasn't our task to show a happy Russia. It is important for us to show what people in Russia are feeling, what our audience are worried


So it was difficult to work in Russia all these 12 years, because, every year, every month, the situation was growing worse. In 2014, they tried to

shut us down completely. And we somehow coped and went on working. But it was more and more difficult.


And, Vera, you begin the story telling Natasha's sort of fairy tale life, how she meets her Prince Charming and gets married. And you two still

worked together to collaborate on this new venture and starting this new network. There's a real poignant scene.

And, listen, I think this speaks to how the world viewed Russia in 2010, where Putin had left power in 2008. There was a new president, Dmitry

Medvedev. And there's a scene where he comes to visit the network.

And, on the one hand, you see Natalia delighted to have the president come here. I guess that was a sign of success for her, for the network, really

gaining the attention of the Kremlin.

For you, though, Vera, you saw that differently. You saw that as a turning point, and you inevitably parted ways with Natasha shortly after.What did

you see that you think Natasha didn't at that time?

KRICHEVSKAYA: I worked many years for media, for independent television.

And, back then, at that point, I was kind of more experienced in relationship between media and the government. And I felt here that any

kind of relationship with the government, with the president might spoil the atmosphere of our company, because, for us, it was so important to hire

reporters without any self-censorship skills, without any upbringing at state TV companies.

And so I saw threat. I saw threat for our independence. I saw threat to our freedom. And that's why that I didn't -- I didn't support Medvedev's visit

the company, because, for me, it was a threat.

GOLODRYGA: You saw it as crossing a line.

And yet what we ultimately saw from the Kremlin was that they were able to tolerate TV Rain, as long as there were certain topics that were not

covered, as long as there wasn't an audience that reached a larger scale. And things changed.

The network was kicked off air after there was a somewhat innocuous poll conducted that asked Russians in 2014 whether the Siege of Leningrad was

worth it, right, and whether Russians should have just given into the Germans, instead of continuing to fight. For that, that was a red line for

the Kremlin. And you were kicked off air.

And let's show that moment when the anchor, Anna Mongait, reported the consequences.


ANNA MONGAIT, DOZHD TV (through translator): Hello. Hello. My name is Anna Mongait.

Today, I'm hosting the show. Our plan was to devote this hour to Sochi in the lead-up to the Olympics. But the situation has changed. Today, for the

first time, the show will be devoted only to ourselves.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (through translator): It was an interactive TV show. People would call in and you would talk to them.

MONGAIT: Can you hear me?


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (through translator): When I started the show, all the providers were still carrying us. But, by the time I finished the show,

everyone had dropped us.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): Now a short break, after which we will tell you who else has switched off Dozhd.


GOLODRYGA: And there you document that the sharp decline in viewership within the moment.

Natalia, what was that like for you when you had seen your company four years after taking off instantly being shut down.

SINDEEVA (through translator): I wanted to -- I wanted to clarify.

We never played games with the Kremlin, never flirted with the Kremlin, and neither me nor my team. These were all external reactions from people. We

never changed the topic. We never gave up on any conflicts, on any controversy. We never had any censorship just because Medvedev visited.

Of course, I had less experience, so I couldn't this as some kind of political gesture. For me, this was a new opportunity for the channel,

because the channel at the time had only been operating for a year. And it was very original. Or it wasn't very marginal. We never had any politicians

on the channel.

And it was very important for us to break through that wall. So, Medvedev's arrival was a new opportunity. And, indeed, Medvedev at the time was -- we

associated him with some hope. He was a modern president open to the world, just like Dozhd TV, it was open to the world.

So, it was the first time in the history of Russian media that the president came.

And, of course, what happened in 2014, it wasn't just about the survey, but we became very popular. We were watched on every TV screen. We had an

audience of two million. And so our popularity was unexpected, both to the Kremlin and for us.

We never expected to be so popular, to have such a huge audience. And that's why the government decided that it couldn't be allowed to happen,

given that this was 2014. It was one month before Crimea. So, that was the main problem. The survey was just an excuse that they found.

KRICHEVSKAYA: I want to add that it was our second shutdown, not the first one. The first shutdown of Dozhd happened on the 10th day of our


So it is the second one in 2014.

GOLODRYGA: And, Natasha, people turned to you.

Obviously, you saw a huge spike in viewership following the murder of Boris Nemtsov in 2015, and subsequently then with Alexey Navalny and his flight

and his return from Germany after being treated for being poisoned, and the protests on the street there.

What was those -- those five years as you cover from the invasion of Ukraine, the initial invasion in 2014, to the murder of Boris Nemtsov, to

Alexey Navalny, what transpired, in your mind, as someone who was leading and in charge of this company to make sure that you were on air and

available to as many people as possible?

SINDEEVA (through translator): Well, nothing really went over my head,

I had to work hard. It was difficult to gain this big audience. And it was difficult to break through this bubble that we found ourselves in this new

business model. But we were successful. We opened on YouTube, and we gained a big audience.

And we understood that we could not avoid doing this, because we became the only TV channel that broadcast about this -- these events live on air. So I

wasn't really thinking. I just realized that we needed to work very well and produce quality television because it was important to tell the story.

GOLODRYGA: And, Natasha, as someone who was responsible for your employees, the arc of your story throughout this film, you begin as someone

who admits that you never -- you didn't really participate in elections, you didn't vote, and then here you are subsequently having to constantly

answer to the Kremlin, when they were calling.

(SPEAKING FOREIGN LANGUAGE) the oversight, right, for broadcasting would call you with complaints. Your journalists would be arrested continuously.

How difficult was that struggle? And what lessons have you learned since?


SINDEEVA (through translator): Well, I can't tell this was a -- I can't say that it was a struggle. It was part of my life, part of my work. It was


The screws were tightened gradually and I knew it was important to maintain the quality of journalism. Maintain the team.

So, it was all a natural process. We had to protect the journalists, and I did. I had to tell the Kremlin something, and I did it. That was at the

beginning but we had no phone calls after that. So, it was -- they knew that they couldn't manage us.

BIANNA GOLODRYGA, CNN SENIOR GLOBAL AFFAIRS ANALYST: Vera and Natasha this film ends before the invasion now in the current war in Ukraine. I do want

to play for our audience the moment when you decided to take the network off-air after pressure from the Kremlin in terms of your reporting, in

terms of your independence, in terms of what you were and weren't allowed to refer to this war in conflict as. Here's that clip, that difficult clip.

And I want to show our viewers the faces of those journalists in that moment.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): The last person to leave has to switch off the light. The first person back will switch it on. We will end

our broadcast with that. And a small pause a channel is taking. No pasaran. No pasaran and no to war. Definitely, no to war.


GOLODRYGA: Vera, you -- I heard you talking to the team. And you said that was the right decision to make. They absolutely made the right position.

They were put in a position where they could either continue to tell the truth and report the war and continue their mission or not. And they chose

not to.

Now, Natasha, you and your team, the diaspora of so many Russians that are opposed to this war, have left Russia and are in neighboring countries.

They're in Europe. I know that you were trying to revive the network and to keep that team together. But what is the next step for you? What's the next

plan for TV Rain?

SINDEEVA (through translator): Well, because all the journalists have -- practically all the journalists have left Russia because they could not

continue without facing danger, the real danger that we all faced. So, now we're trying to try and relaunch the channel in different parts of Europe

where there are many Russians who left since the start of the war. There are many of them.

Unfortunately, it's all very complicated. It's very difficult to legalize our staff. To get the documents. And nobody's credit card works. And then,

we have many technical problems to perform this relocation. Although, the team already and many journalists are working and producing on YouTube. And

of course, we are all waiting to come together. Our audience is waiting. Our guests are waiting. But I can't give you an exact plan when we can

restart with the number of problems that all Russians currently are facing.

GOLODRYGA: Vera, if I could ask you one final question, and that is, what is the status of the news cycle in Russia now without independent news?

Without a TV Rain. We continue to hear headlines, not only about the war but what's happening internally. Alexei Navalny just sentenced to, perhaps,

another 15 years with the -- an additional charge. All of this was available to viewers on TV Rain. That no longer is the case. What is life

like in Russia now?

VERA KRICHEVSKAYA, DIRECTOR, "F@CK THIS JOB": Right now, at this moment, the audience have to be very proactive to get news -- to get independent

news from abroad. And not a single independent media in Russia -- inside Russia right now. 2,000 cases were open -- criminal cases were open based

on new law about fake news.

So, it is complicated and I know that Dozhd has to come back as soon as possible. Still, Russia haven't banned -- hasn't banned YouTube. So, it's

essential to come back.

GOLODRYGA: Vera Krichevskaya and Natalia Sindeeva, thank you so much for joining us. The film is, "F@ck This Job". It is a fascinating piece of work

that the chronicles, Dozhd and TV Rain. Thank you so much for joining us.

A reminder of the importance of independent journalism and that it should never be taken for granted.

And still to come, rule-breaking scandal and turning tied. How much longer can British prime minister Boris Johnson hold on to the reins of power?



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GOLODRYGA: We're back now with residents of China's richest city finally free. After more than two months under lockdown, the majority of Shanghai

residents are now able to go out as COVID restrictions are eased in low- risk areas. But the government has warned that it will restore the lockdown if new cases emerge. CNN's Selina Wang has the story.


SELINA WANG, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voiceover): Sprinting with shopping bags, residents racing to get out. After more than two months of a brutal

citywide lockdown, Shanghai is finally cracking open the seal. The city's main train station, packed with people trying to escape. But actually,

getting out of here is a treacherous journey. The city says it will fully resume transportation today. But earlier, people have been seen trekking

miles across highways, dragging their luggage or strapping it to bikes. Even journeys of dozens of miles or more, not swaying their determination.

The train station parking lot has become a campsite. Some, leaving days earlier than their departure time. Terrified they can be locked down again

if they stay at home. The masses outside the train station, a stark contrast to the rest of Shanghai. Hundreds of thousands still remained

locked in. But even the lucky ones allowed out face a laundry list of restrictions. There are checkpoints everywhere.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Not -- this is definitely not freedom.

WANG (voiceover): This Shanghai resident and her son, who wish to remain anonymous for fear of persecution from the authorities, were finally

allowed out after more than 80 days. Her only solace is seeing her son outside and smiling for the first time in a long time.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: My child now has depression because of the lockdown. He started waking up at night and crying and shouting, and that there were

people wearing masks in his bedroom. And he stopped eating.

WANG (voiceover): That harsh reality, miles away from what the government wants to show.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: (Speaking in foreign language).

WANG (voiceover): Watch this State TV reporter pull the microphone and camera away during a live interview when the resident starts to complain

about the lockdown.

She says, I've never lived through anything like this. Being locked inside your home and not allowed to go out. What a big joke.

Officials say the city will start returning to normal in June but residents are doubtful.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: So, this does feel like endless, endless nightmare.

WANG (voiceover): Her freedom lasted less than a week. One COVID case was found near her, so she's back to lockdown. For over two months, Shanghai

has had its freedom taken away. Residents imprisoned at home or forced into quarantine centers like these. No one knows when this nightmare will fully

end. Selina Wang, CNN, Beijing.



GOLODRYGA: Well, COVID restrictions are causing tensions of a different kind in the UK where the Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, is under pressure

for breaking the rules he sets himself. A bruising report into the so- called Partygate scandal found that his staff got drunk, brawled, and disrespected cleaners during lockdowns.

Now, members of his own party are turning against him. "Financial Times" columnist Simon Kuper has been following the story. And he's the author of

the book, "Chums" exploring how an Oxford-educated elite came to dominate UK politics. He joins us now for a literary festival in Wales.

Simon, great to have you on the program. First, let's talk about this Sue Gray report because it is quite damning. Excessive drinking, staff vomiting

everywhere, abuse of the cleaning and security staff. According to the BBC, so far 28 Conservative MPs have publicly called on Johnson to resign. How

much political danger is he in at this moment?

SIMON KUPER, FT COLUMNIST/AUTHOR, "CHUMS": The thing is, we knew all about this because there've been leaks in the newspapers for months. There've

been photographs of parties appearing. So, the Sue Gray report really confirms the impression that Downing Street was, sort of, party central

during the lockdown.

And British people are very resentful. It's politically damaging to Johnson because people made enormous sacrifices during lockdown. People were not

able to attend funerals of close relatives. They suddenly weren't partying with their friends. Police were handing out huge fines to anyone who broke

the rules. And it seems that the people who made the rules were not obeying them. So, Johnson's reputation is very significantly damaged, probably

permanently by this.

GOLODRYGA: And yet you noted that some of the details came out piecemeal. It came out before the war in Ukraine. And there is some speculation that

perhaps given that this didn't come at such a surprise and all at once, and subsequently, you have seen Johnson step up as sort of this wartime leader

in Europe coming to the aid of Ukraine, do you think that could be sort of his saving grace?

KUPER: I think it works for his base but his base is shrinking. And you see that his approval ratings have plummeted, both with the population as a

whole and also among Conservative Party members, who are the people with the most power to oust him. So yes, the war in Ukraine does enable him to

pose as a kind of Winston Churchill. Winston Churchill, of course, being his hero. But I don't think it's enough to undo the damage.

Now, his first, you know, trial is trying to get through the summer, not have a leadership challenge, not lose that leadership challenge, if there

is one. But then he faces the general election in two years' time. And it seems the views of his character of who he is have been very significantly

formed and become much more negative as a result of the scandal. And it's hard to see how that changes.

GOLODRYGA: And your book really delves into the molding of that character and who he is in his classmates at the time, going back to Oxford. And it's

interesting, you know, as an American, reading about your book and having this conversation with you, Oxford has produced 11 of the United Kingdom's

15 prime ministers since World War II. And we're not just talking about Conservatives, labor leaders as well Tony Blair. What is it about Oxford

that, sort of, is a stepping stone to Downing Street?

KUPER: I think the most significant thing is the Oxford Union Debating Society, nearly 200 years old, the kind of most storied debating society,

probably in Europe. And it's produced many future prime ministers, including Johnson, like many politicians from William Gladstone, Harold

Macmillan, Ted Heath former prime minister who went on -- former Oxford union president who went on to be prime minister. And that kind of debating

style, which is often about entertainment, much less about facts, you see that Johnson has taken the Oxford union persona almost untouched 40 years

into the future into Downing Street.

GOLODRYGA: And look, as an American, I know -- you know, there are plenty of U.S. presidents that came by way of the Ivy League. And France, as well,

has their elite universities, but so much of that seems to have been at least, historically, based on meritocracy and hard work. Oxford seems to

have a different image that it proudly portrays, at least in the past, and that is brilliance without a lot of effort, without a lot of hard work

going into it. And seriousness is the point. And that comes to embody much of what we've come to know about Boris Johnson. Talk about that a bit more.

KUPER: Yes, I mean, there's this British gentlemanly ideal of the brilliant amateur, the dilettante of effortless brilliance. And you see

that with Johnson. I mean, his tutor at Oxford said he bumps along on no hours of work a week. He is somebody who has the Oxford virtues of elegance

in speaking and elegance in writing. And often that disguises, in Johnson's case, also a lack of hard work.


I think modern Oxford today, as the university's multiple professional, serious, and hardworking. But the university of the '80s, where he came out

of, was much more in that gentlemanly tradition. And you see that as prime minister. He hasn't read the dossier. He hasn't usually focused on the

matter at hand. And he always relies on his verbal skills to get him through. And that's -- there's something about Oxford with its reliance on

essays and tutorials, these verbal arguments that encourage that. Not to mention the Oxford Union which is all about debating fireworks.

GOLODRYGA: Yes, effortless superiority you note. And you look at some of his past traits and the scandals that have trailed him throughout his

political career. He's actually been quite open about some strategy that he uses in terms of making gaffes and just laying them out in such order and

fashion that there are so many, that you sort of lose track of what you're following and what you should be focused on. And that has been, in a sense,

a winning strategy.

I mean, this man has become, sort of, a Teflon politician where controversy, crisis doesn't seem to stick. Perhaps things may be different

with Partygate. But this is something that he's really honed in on over the past few years or decades, I would say.

KUPER: Yes, I mean, I've made two points. I do think Partygate could be different. It could damage him much more than anything before because all

of Britain's had to confine and make sacrifices and it seems he didn't. One point about Johnson is he's always been a comedic performer. And so, if

you're a clown, then it's hard to accuse you of not being serious at breaking rules because that's what clowns do.

And so, he's known for pretending to be a kind of serious and responsible person. So, when you say, you're unserious and irresponsible. He can say,

well, yes. That's me. That's something authentic that he would claim about that.

The other thing, which I think you see in Partygate, is that Johnson -- you know, he went through Eton, the most privileged public school, boarding

school, private paid school in Britain. And the thing about Etonians is that they are raised to make the rules. And they're told, it's OK for you

to break the rules. The rules do not apply to you. You're the person who's going to make the rules.

And I think that you see in Johnson's rule-breaking, ever since school and university, this idea of his cast entitlement, the rules do not apply to

people like me. And so, when the whole country has the lockdown, and nobody is allowed to have drinks and parties. Of course, he has drinks and parties

because that's his expectation. He's been raised with the expectation of maximum personal freedom. And that has very much to do with the social

class that he has grown up in.

GOLODRYGA: So, that's character and behavior. But politics also weighs in here. And do you make a connection to his classmates and his time and his

circle and entourage at Oxford as well? And even make the connection that had it not been that time with his colleagues and what they did in -- at

Oxford that perhaps we wouldn't have Brexit, as we know it? Talk about that connection.

KUPER: Yes, I mean, in the book, I argued that Oxford is the fastest route to political power in Britain, and the Oxford Union in particular. And you

see that the people around him, so his Brexit minister Jacob Rees-Mogg, his right-hand man and cabinet Michael Gove, his press officer Guto Harri, they

have all come through the Oxford Union. And most of them are contemporaries of him. And they were always his supporting cast. People like Harri and

Gove 40 years ago.

So, almost intact. You create this network. You take it from Oxford to Westminster, and these bonds are very powerful. And what we're seeing now

is, sort of, student politics writ large. And their modes of behavior, and the joking, and the reliance on verbal cut and thrust have not changed so


And in a section of the book, I was astonished by how little these people have evolved. That they arrived, sort of, fully formed aged 20. When you

saw Johnson age 20, you saw the future prime minister. And I think if you'd ask a lot of students in 1984, who do you think will be prime minister in

2022? I think the most common response would have been Boris Johnson.

GOLODRYGA: So, why do you think this behavior, this type of rules don't apply to me mentality is embraced, I would say, or accepted by the British


KUPER: I think that in Britain, there is a widespread -- not universal, but there's a widespread deference. There's a widespread idea that it's

right that a man who went through Eton and Oxford should be prime minister, that that is what prime ministers look like. That there is a class system.

And that the people on the top of the totem pole are the same ones who have been on top for most of British history.

And so, I think a lot of British people when they see somebody like David Cameron or Boris Johnson they think, yes, he is the rightful prime

minister. It's an instinct that doesn't really disappear that fast.


GOLODRYGA: And we should also note that you are a graduate of Oxford yourself, and yet, this characterization doesn't apply to you. What made

you stand out and was it notable even for you, at the time, your difference as a student there?

KUPER: I didn't really stand out. I was much more like most Oxford students I came from, let's say middle class or the professional middle

class. And then the Boris Johnson group that comes from the boarding school class.

I mean, remember, only about one percent of British people go through boarding school. And so, they -- even at Oxford, they were quite a small

group. And I barely noticed them. I mean, they didn't really interact with the likes of me. And I would never have paid much attention for -- to them

but for the fact that they suddenly made Brexit and now rule the country.

So, at Oxford, this boarding school cast which particularly congregates around the Oxford Union was a minority. And it just happened to be the

minority that won the competition for power.

GOLODRYGA: Well, they clearly notice you now. I'm sure they read your work in the FT. I'm sure they are well aware of this book. You do acknowledge at

Oxford that that mentality, even among the minority there has changed for the better. Explain how.

KUPER: Yes, I was at Oxford yesterday. And it's -- you have to work hard now. You can't get by on no hours a week or even four hours a week like in

the '80s, that was very common. There are far more women. Oxford now has 68 percent of the entering student class last year were from State schools,

not from private schools, I think that's the highest on record for Oxford. Oxford is now also, for the first time, a majority graduate university. So,

it's becoming more like a U.S. university where graduate schools are very important.

So, all those things are, I would say, improvements. It's still very, very class-bound. It's, you know, still the highest social classes. A lot more

middle-class people than before but very few working-class people. It still has this reliance on rhetoric. It's still based around writing the essay

and arguing your essay in the tutorial. The Oxford Union is still going strong. So, a lot has changed but I would say not nearly enough.

GOLODRYGA: Simon Kuper, fascinating. I've been a big fan of your work. I followed you in covering sports. Obviously, you're a jack of all trades.

And now with this new book out as well and covering politics. Thank you so much for your time. We appreciate it.

KUPER: Thank you.

GOLODRYGA: And we are now hearing that a verdict has been reached in the Johnny Depp-Amber Heard trial. The jury has deliberated for about 14 hours

in a case that has captivated many around the world. Depp had sued Heard for defamation over a 2018 op-ed she wrote for the "Washington Post". Heard

then countersued. The verdict will be read out loud live in about an hour and CNN will bring that to you, live.

And still to come for us, a thrilling night at the French Open. As two all- time tennis greats and long-time rivals go head-to-head.



And finally, a showdown for the ages. Here's the moment Rafael Nadal beat Novak Djokovic, advancing to the French Open semifinals. The thrilling

match lasted over four hours. Finishing after 1:00 a.m. Paris time. And following his four-set win, Nadal told reporters the crowd probably knows

that he won't be there many more times. In this storied rivalry between the tennis greats, Djokovic has won 30 times, Nadal 29 with this latest victory

just coming before his 36 birthday this Friday. That is an early birthday present indeed.

And that is it for us for now. You can always catch us online, on our podcast, and across social media. Thank you so much for watching and

goodbye from New York.