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Interview with Carnegie Russia Eurasia Center Director Alexander Gabuey; Interview with Friend of Evan Gershkovich and The Financial Times Correspondent Polina Ivanova. Aired 1-2p ET

Aired April 06, 2023 - 13:00:00   ET




BIANNA GOLODRYGA, CNN SENIOR GLOBAL AFFAIRS ANALYST: Hello, everyone, and welcome to "Amanpour." Here's what's coming up.


EMMANUEL MACRON, FRENCH PRESIDENT (through translator): I know I can count on you to bring Russia to its senses and everyone to the negotiating table.


GOLODRYGA: As French President Macron urges China to bring peace to Ukraine, I asked foreign policy expert Alex Gabuey, is China stepping in as

the world's key geopolitical player.

Then --


ANTONY BLINKEN, U.S. SECRETARY OF STATE: There's no doubt that he's being wrongfully detained.


GOLODRYGA: The Biden administration ramps up its push to bring Evan Gershkovich home from Russia. Journalist and friend, Polina Ivanova, looks

at what the "Wall Street Journal" reporter faces inside Russia's infamous Lefortovo Prison.

And --


BEN WEDEMAN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: OK. We are told that Russian lines are just one kilometer from here.


GOLODRYGA: Correspondent Ben Wedeman reports from the trenches in Eastern Ukraine.

Also, CNN senior legal analyst, Joan Biskupic, with a glimpse behind the scenes at the Supreme Court in her new book, "Nine Black Robes."

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

French President, Emmanuel Macron, is in Beijing today, seeking to dissuade China from supporting Russia militarily, and to use all its influence to

help bring peace to Ukraine.


EMMANUEL MACRON, FRENCH PRESIDENT (through translator): The Russian aggression in Ukraine has dealt a blow to the stability. It ended decades

of peace in Europe. I know I can count on you. Moreover, under the two principles I have just mentioned to bring Russia to its senses and everyone

to the negotiating table.


GOLODRYGA: President Macron is joined on his trip by Ursula von der Leyen, president of the European Commission. China is now the E.U.'s biggest

trading partner, and she was warmly greeted by the foreign ministry spokesperson.


MAO NING, CHINESE FOREIGN MINISTRY SPOKESPERSON (through translator): Contact between China and Europe in various fields has resumed swiftly and

comprehensively. The recent warm exchanges between China and the E.U. fully demonstrates that although there are some differences between the two

sides, there is strong desire for communication and exchange as well as wide and deep common interests.


GOLODRYGA: Von der Leyen has welcomed President Xi's willingness to hold talks with Ukraine but told her host that relations between the E.U. and

China had grown complex in recent years. The commission president says, it's a trading relationship which is increasingly unbalanced in China's

favor. And earlier today, representatives of Saudi Arabia and Iran also met in Beijing, further highlighting China's growing diplomatic influence.

Here to discuss it all is Alex Gabuey. He is the director of the Carnegie Endowment's Eurasia Center, and he was forced to leave Moscow last year

when the Kremlin shut down his office. Alex is following China's relations with Russia and Europe closely and he joins me now from Berlin.

Alex it's great to see you, my friend. A lot to talk about here. A lot of focus on what's transpiring in the meetings taking place, a high-level

meetings in China, we should say. Let's start with the French President Macron and his attempt to put more pressure on President Xi to get Vladimir

Putin to end the war in Ukraine.

Here's what Macron said to Xi that he was counting on him for. He said, to bring Russia back to reason and everyone back to the negotiating table on

Ukraine. Now, Alex. We have been here before. President Macron tried to play the diplomatic leader here with regards to Vladimir Putin, whether

it's on phone calls or in person meetings in Moscow in the months leading up to the war. That didn't result in anything promising the war continued.

There are a lot of people who are viewing this meeting with the same sense of pessimism. Are you one of those people?

ALEXANDER GABUEY, DIRECTOR, CARNEGIE RUSSIA EURASIA CENTER: I'm pretty pessimistic on the ability of President Macron to turn China's support for

Russia, and at the same time I think that China believes that it doesn't have enough leverage to bring Putin to a negotiation table if he's tunnel

vision is really to destroy Ukraine. And at the same time, China doesn't have interest to stop this war and bring Russia to the negotiation table

and deliver peace on Ukrainian terms.


GOLODRYGA: That's interesting because a lot of people would say that, oh, China and President Xi just has to snap his fingers and Russia will do

whatever he is telling him to do. You're saying that he does not have the leverage than many think that he has over Vladimir Putin to end this war.


GABUEY: His leverage is definitely growing. China now accounts for 30 percent of Russian exports, 40 percent of Russian imports, including high

tech goods like chips are coming from China, and all of the trade increasingly is clear for Chinese yuan, the Chinese currency. But at the

same time, China is fully aware that Russia's dependence on Europe was much bigger before the war started, needless to say, it was even bigger in 2014

when Russia decided to annex Crimea.

And then Putin is so fixated on Ukraine. He believes that bringing Ukraine to its knees and dominating in Ukraine is something that will define his

legacy, no matter how much leverage and influence Xi Jinping has over Putin, he doesn't really have the power to push him from these thoughts.

GOLODRYGA: I want to play for our viewers how President Xi responded to these comments from President Macron, specifically with regards to any sort

of influence he could have on negotiations between the two countries.


XI JINPING, CHINESE PRESIDENT (through translator): On the matter of Ukraine, China continues to urge for talks to reach a settlement. China is

willing to work with France to urge the International Community to exercise rational restraint and to avoid worsening the situation, to prevent the

situation from spiraling out of control.


GOLODRYGA: He went on to say that China, "Appeals for the protection of civilians. And nuclear weapons must not be used, and nuclear war must be

avoided." So, Alex, you and I know, and our viewers know there's only one party that's threatening the use of nuclear weapons, and there's only one

party in this war that's targeting innocent civilians. So, what do you make of President Xi's comments here and his "commitment", shall we say that, to

bring more negotiations about between these two countries?

GABUEY: We've heard these words before from the Chinese leader and from people down below in the Chinese system. They're saying platitudes, of

course, innocent women and children shouldn't be heard. Of course, peace is better than war. And of course, nuclear weapons shouldn't be used. It's

like saying that sky is blue and grass is green.

This is also part of what people call China's peace plan that was unveiled a year into the invasion. That's basically a laundry back of very familiar

talking points that we've heard from China. And the same time there is nothing to suggest that China is really ready to pressure Russia into

sitting down for us and sear negotiation with Ukraine.

And I think that President Biden get the same wording from Xi Jinping before that chancellor -- German Chancellor Olaf Scholz, and also say --

make to say, Xi Jinping say in platitudes. But at the same time, China doesn't show in its behavior that it's ready to use any sort of influence

and use any persuasion to make Mr. Putin abandon his current disastrous course.

GOLODRYGA: Yes, and to that point, China hasn't proven to be an honest broker here. I mean, you had Xi Jinping very publicly make a trip to

Moscow, a couple of days he spent there which was rare for him. And yet he has yet to pick up the phone and call President Zelenskyy. He says that

that may or may not happen in the future. What do you make of that decision?

GABUEY: I think that President Zelenskyy has some very unpleasant things to say about China's role in keeping the Russian system of load. China is

becoming the major buyer of Russian oil. It's the major supplier of dual use goods, including chips. We know that Chinese producers are part of

Russian military supply chain, including weapons that are used on the battlefields in Ukraine, targeting Ukrainian citizen, kidding -- killing

Ukrainian civilians.

And at the same time, China is very slow to roll out its support for Ukraine. It's pledged below $1 million in humanitarian assistance, and yet,

that's not being delivered. So, picking up this phone call and listening to all of this makes Xi Jinping vulnerable if there is a risk that President

Zelenskyy will disclose the content of negotiation, that's probably not the risk that the Chinese leader wants to take. It could be really embarrassing

for him.

GOLODRYGA: So, given these meetings now between European officials and President Xi, you have obviously President Macron there, you have Ursula

von der Leyen, you had the German chancellor visit recently, and you also had the Spanish prime minister visit China recently.


Xi cannot deliver any sort of sincere pledge to be an honest broker and end this war. But he can't deliver something economically, and that is his real

intent here, right? It's to sort of try to drive a wedge between the United States and Europe in terms of their relations economically with China. He's

said that he would like to sign a cooperation agreement over aerospace, civil nuclear energy, agriculture, supply chains. That's just for France.

Do you see this as an effective strategy on Xi's part?

GABUEY: I think that China is pulping and sensing this divisions in the Transatlantic camp. I think that the Inflation Reduction Act and the U.S.

push for European economies to decouple from China is creating rifts and discussions within E.I. Because if we take France, it was not as dependent

on Russia for its energy as Germany but it still was.


GABUEY: And now, this Russian pillar of German economic prosperity and European economic prosperity is gone because of sanctions. And then China

is a major market for Germany, France, Spain and other countries. And he or Xi Jinping senses the weakness that these leaders need to go to China and

need to secure their position in the Chinese market. And they're also in competition. Olaf Scholz went there alone, despite Macron suggestions to go


So, this competition inside Europe and the rifts in the Transatlantic camp is something that Xi is happy to exploit. And if you need to provide

diplomatic cover for this, so you go to the leader of the most powerful, authoritarian country in the world, you don't do that for petty business of

out storm and other French companies. You do that for the cause of peace in Ukraine, and that's a good length to frame these trips --


GABUEY: -- even if they are fruitless.

GOLODRYGA: Yes, because just from the economic perspective, I'm just wondering, can you really decouple the war in Ukraine and whatever leverage

that Xi may have over it and economic ties to China? Because if you look historically in the past, the United States does have a point when it says

to European countries, you tried to do the same thing with Russia when you depended on Russia for your energy supply and source there, and look how

that turned out for you.

Could this be a warning and is Europe not heeding these warnings that perhaps the same thing could come out of their relations with China?

GABUEY: There are multiple discussions around this, at corporate boards and in government quarters in Europe, and in various capitals, you have

very different schools of thought. Ursula von der Leyen, chairwoman of the European Commission who travels with President Macron has just delivered a

policy speech on China when she says that decoupling is probably the wrong word but derisking and reducing the exposure of the European Union to

China. And decreasing options for China for its predatory behavior in the European economy and technology sector is very important.

But at the same time, President Macron goes and presides over signing off a new airbus deal that envisages not only sale of 160 jets to China, but also

building a new airbus plant in Tianjin. I think China's economic leverage is much bigger than the one that Russia ever had in Europe. And at the same

time, it wants to prevent and preempt this decoupling. It says, we're not Russia. We're not invading anybody. It's the Americans who are pushing you

in the wrong direction.

GOLODRYGA: Yes, we're not invading anybody yet, right? Because we're talking about this through the lens of the war in Ukraine. And of course, a

lot of focus is on what, if ever, could happen militarily with regards to a Chinese invasion of Taiwan, and that is what a lot of military analysts and

business leaders and global leaders are talking about at the same time right now.

Before I let you go, I do want to ask you about the other meeting taking place in China, and that is the meeting of the foreign ministers of Saudi

Arabia and Iran after China successfully brokered a peace deal between these two countries. On the surface, the Biden ministrations has welcomed

this peace deal behind closed doors. As you know, there's a lot of trepidation about China's role in the region right now. And it's

interesting to note that CIA Director Bill Burns happens to be in Saudi Arabia right now as well, trying to reaffirm the U.S. commitment to

partnerships between these two countries. What do you make of the significance of this deal and China's role in it?

GABUEY: I'm always happy to hear the name of my former boss.

GOLODRYGA: I know. I know you are.

GABUEY: Before he was appointed as director of the CIA and confirmed he was president of Carnegie Endowment.


Nevertheless, I think that there is this very misleading comparison between the role that China played in bringing Tehran and Riyad closer together,

and the role it could potentially play in building bridges between Kyiv and Moscow.

In the case of Middle East, the demand came really from Iran and Saudi Arabia. Mohammed bin Salman, the crowned prince of Saudi Arabia, has very

ambitious program to reform the kingdom and prepare it for post carbon future. He needs a lot of money on that. He doesn't want to spend resources

on confrontation with Iran to the extent that the kingdom is spending on that. And Iran is in a very tough spot.

So, the demand to dial down the confrontation and greater floor for the collapsing relationship comes from both sides, and they are happy to

provide China with the avenue to be this conduit. Russia and Ukraine could not be different, because give war (ph) a chance is, unfortunately, the

attitude right now.

GOLODRYGA: Yes, much more challenging to broker any, sort of, peace there from China's perspective. Alex Gabuey, always great to see you. Thanks so

much. Be well.

GABUEY: Thanks for having me, Bianna.

GOLODRYGA: Well, coming up later this hour, protests erupt on the streets of the French capital. We'll bring you a live report.

But first, after the break, just over a week since American journalist Evan Gershkovich was arrested in Russia, we speak to one of his close friends.


GOLODRYGA: Welcome back. "Wall Street Journal" reporter Evan Gershkovich is still in prison in Moscow, one week after we learned of a shocking

arrest on spying charges. According to Russian state media, a Moscow court will hear an appeal filed by lawyers for Gershkovich on April 18th. The

Biden administration is looking into an official determination of wrongful detention, which would ramp up U.S. efforts to win his release.

Gershkovich is part of a close-knit group of young journalists, putting their lives and freedom at risk to report on Vladimir Putin's Russia.

Financial Times Correspondent Polina Ivanova is a good friend and colleague of Gershkovich. She helped launch a letter writing campaign to support him

and to keep his case in the spotlight. And Polina Ivanova joins me now from London.

Polina, it's so good to finally speak with you. I wish it was in person. I wish it was under better circumstances. Nonetheless, you are a close friend

and colleague of Evan's. And we're getting a bit more detail as to how he is doing. We know that his lawyers visited him for the first time at

Lefortovo Prison this week, as did a Russian prison monitor in his quarantine cell.

And according to this monitor, Evan appears to be in good condition. That he is not complaining about conditions there. The food applies with what

they call established norms. He has daily walks, which are provided for him. And perhaps most importantly for you, and I'm sure most reassuring for

you is to hear that he was actually joking with this monitor.


He was reading a famous novel by Vasily Grossman. As his good friend. Just hearing those details. What was that like for you?


completely uplifting and heartwarming to know that Evan is his usual self. As soon as we heard that he was cracking jokes, you know that, you know,

Evan is absolutely, you know, he's strong and himself and he's staying strong despite the incredibly tough conditions that he's in.

It doesn't surprise me that that he has not faltered, you know, that he carries on being himself and -- yes, we're just very, very happy to hear

that. And we now also know that he is receiving some letters. So, he started receiving letters, which is also something that really -- yes, it

just -- it really heartens us to know that he's hearing from us.

GOLODRYGA: That really stood out to me, Polina, because you know, I've been exchanging messages with you and other friends of Evan's. And on the

one hand, obviously, the initial reaction is shock and horror and heartbreak. But I have been stunned with how quickly you all have been able

to, sort of, mobilize and understand the circumstances under which he is in at Lefortovo Prison and understand what needs to be done to get him what he

needs and to send messages and speak with him, as you just said. Translating letters that can get to him.

I would imagine that just speaks to what you are all conditioned to accept as normal life in Russia today, and the challenges facing Russian

journalists, in particular, who have been in this very same prison for these very same charges.

IVANOVA: Yes, you're absolutely right. It's something that is quite -- almost quite normal for anyone who has worked as a journalist or has been

an activist or a protester in Russia. You know, people who have engaged in any kind of activity that goes, perhaps, against the Russian state in some

way. You get accustomed to having someone that you know get detained. Whether it's in Lefortovo Prison itself, where Evan is being held, or


And so, as soon as we heard that Evan had been detained, that he had been placed in Lefortovo Prison, a whole system kicked in of, you know, friends

reaching out, explaining exactly what you need to do. How to write letters. How to use the prison digital system to purchase food, to get products to

him that he might need, you know, basic necessities to make sure that he, you know, that he's OK there.

And we had a huge amount of support from Russian journalists as well. People who -- many of whom have had this experience themselves before in

the past because of their reporting in previous years or have had friends jailed and they started explaining all of this to us. And it just got --

speaks to how many friends Evan has made in his career in Russia. That a such a big community immediately kicked into action, both his friends from

back home, but also this kind of Russian journalist community that immediately started trying to figure out how to help him and to explain to

us how we can best help him.

GOLODRYGA: Yes, it speaks to how beloved he is. But it also speaks to the dangers of the job of being a young journalist just reporting in Russia.

And not only a Russian journalist, because we've talked about the threats facing Russian journalists in the past. But this was an accredited American

journalist, and this was a big red line that has never been crossed before, at least in modern times. You know, there obviously was an American

journalist who was detained during the Soviet Union era.

But let's talk about the Lefortovo Prison itself. I raised this question yesterday in a conversation with your friend and Evan's friend, Pjotr

Sauer, just to talk about what "The Wall Street Journal" in their very extensive detail of what this prison is. Who has been there in the past.

It's all about solitude. It's all about separating the detainees from others around them. And there have been some famous prisoners held there

with the similar charges.

Trevor Reed spent time there, as did Paul Whalen, as did a famous Russian- Jewish dissident Natan Sharansky, who spent time there in the 1970s before moving to Israel. Here's what he said about Lefortovo.


NATAN SHARANSKY, FORMER SOVIET JEWISH DISSIDENT: I had this experience many years ago. And the Lefortovo Prison means that maybe it's not the most

stuffed prisons. They were all -- but it's definitely the most isolated. It's KGB prison. And they'll make sure that you know nothing about what's

happening in the world and the world will know nothing until they want the world to know.



GOLODRYGA: "The Wall Street Journal" describes it as isolation that is very hard to endure. And the question I asked Pjotr, I'm curious to get

your thoughts too, is in a way, given Evan's reporting and given that his familiarity with this prison and what transpires there, do you think that,

in a sense, may have made things a bit easier for him in terms of knowing what to expect mentally for these next few days or weeks?

IVANOVA: I think so. It gives me a lot of confidence to know that Evan, in some way, it's a strange thing to say, but it gives me confidence that Evan

has been reporting on imprisonment of Russian journalists and the imprisonment of activists before. So, he knows exactly how this goes. He's

aware of the system. You know, he's on courtroom reporting in the past. And we've just all been covering these stories for so many years now.

It's obviously devastating that, you know, that it has to now actually affect him personally as well. But he's familiar with the language. He is

familiar with the stages of the process. This is stuff that he will have reported on extensively. So, when his lawyers come to him to speak to him

about, you know, probably coming to speak to him about the process, he will be familiar with it. He'll know what to expect. And that is that is


What's also encouraging is that I'm sure that he knows that so many people are now fighting for him. I know that he knows that his newspaper, which he

is -- which he loves so much, and where he's so proud to work, is doing absolutely everything it can to fight for his case.

GOLODRYGA: Yes, wall to wall coverage online, on social media to free Evan Gershkovich. I was touched by people even mentioning his name at the first

night of Passover and the seders that people were having, Jewish families were having around the world. Obviously, his family having fled the Soviet

Union, his parents in the late 70s as Soviet Jewish refugees to the United States.

Can you talk about Evan as a friend? I mean, we've looked at all of these pictures that you provided and posted of your times together, not only

working, but socializing and traveling. He seems like such a lovely, warmhearted, fun, exciting man. And I just want to know if you could talk

more about his nature and what made so many people love him as a colleague and a friend.

IVANOVA: Yes, Evan is super charismatic, so funny. And he really finds time for absolutely everyone. He finds time to be supportive for his

friends. You know, we all had a very tough year reporting on the war in this past year and reporting on Russia. And he has, somehow, managed over

that year to also produce, you know, incredible work. But at the same time be, kind of, rock of emotional support for all of his friends. You know,

that's really difficult to do.

And he's very generous. He's very funny. I'm not surprised he's joking around with the prison monitors who came to see him. I think some of them

were actually kind of baffled by just how much he was cracking jokes and being, kind of, being himself. So, he's a very warm person and makes

friends everywhere he goes. He's beloved by the Moscow press corps, but also by Russian journalists. And, yes, he's someone that everybody is very,

very -- would -- he's very, very dear to absolutely everyone and always finds time for people.

Also, I think it's important to kind of speak about also his generosity as a journalist, which I think is quite a rare quality, but he's always

putting other people first. Always finding time to read your stories. Share contacts, share sources, you know, and really pushes other people's careers

forward as well. And, you know, if he's applying for a position that he is interested in, he will also put other people forward for it. That's really

just the way he works. He's very collegial and always ready to help.

GOLODRYGA: Yes, one thing that's clear is his passion for journalism as well. And his passion for Russia, really to reunite with his roots and to

spend so many years in Russia over the past few years when it's been clear that Vladimir Putin's repression was becoming more and more dangerous. And

yet, he remained in the country to tell the stories of the people there affected by the Kremlin, affected by the war, affected by daily life.

And I'm just curious, you know, yourself having left Russia, it is not a safe place to be right now. You have the U.S. State Department, the U.S

government urging everyone to leave, every American, including journalists. How much more difficult is it for you and once Evan is free for Evan to

tell the stories that you are telling when you're not there in the country?


IVANOVA: Well, it's so important to have people on the ground. And it's also, very, very difficult, as you say. The parameters for reporting on

Russia changed so quickly after the start of the war. I mean, it was already a difficult place to work before that, but after the start of the

full-scale invasion of Ukraine, everything shifted, you know, all of these laws were introduced to police speech around the war, it basically

criminalized most kinds of journalism, honest journalism, almost immediately and led to hundreds of independent Russian media outlets --

independent Russian journalists leaving and media outlets closing.

So, already, the amount of information coming out of Russia shrank so much. And continuing to report there, Evan was doing an incredibly important --

was doing incredibly important work because it's such a -- it's so important right now to understand what is happening in Russia and to really

have that -- those voices that he would -- those stories that he would tell on the ground.

He would go to places like Scoff (ph) to talk to people affected by the war, to talk to families of soldiers and to get their views. That's really

-- it's very hard to get that kind of detail and to really get those stories out of Russia unless you're really there. But, of course, security

comes first and the situation now, of course, there's a huge chilling effect after Evan's detention.

GOLODRYGA: And it works for the Kremlin's advantage to have these objective journalists leave the country. He called -- Vladimir Putin

famously called Russian objective journalists, independent journalists the fifth element, right? And so -- the fifth column, I mean. And said that he

was happy to see them leave.

I should note that your work continues to be very informative and very important and very frightening, the last piece that you wrote. I still get

chills when I think about the details in your piece, talking about Russian informants and how quickly some of the Stalinist era tactics have come back

to a country that, you know, has spent so many decades trying to recover from them.

I urge everyone to read your piece and obviously, for everyone to continue to focus on freeing Evan Gershkovich. Paulina, I wish, again, we have been

speaking under better terms, but please do keep us posted and we'd love to have you back on very soon. Thank you so much.

IVANOVA: Thank you.

GOLODRYGA: And still to come, dramatic scenes in Paris as protesters take to the streets. We go to our reporter live on the ground next.

Then, life on the front lines. The everyday reality for Ukrainian soldiers.


GOLODRYGA: Welcome back. Protesters are taking to the street in France for the 11th day this year, causing dramatic scenes to erupt in the nation's



They clashed with police while protesting against President Macron's pension reform bill that would see the age of retirement rise from 62 to


Now, earlier, some union members stormed the building that houses American investment company, BlackRock, with flares and smoke bombs. CNN's Melissa

Bell joins me from the streets of Paris. Melissa, quite some scenes that we had unfold there on the streets of Paris. A lot of tension, words, violence

as well reported. Tell us what you're seeing now.

MELISSA BELL, CNN PARIS CORRESPONDENT: It's not over yet. What's happened is that the march has now ended at this destination point. The Place

d'Italie. It went from Avalit (ph) to here over the course of the day. And the marchers are continuing to arrive from that march. But this is the sort

of destination point of today's march.

You can see a number of fires are underway. The riot police have lined up just beyond that line there. There's been a lot of tear gas here on this

square, and the area's pretty thick with it now. You can see people trying to protect themselves.

All around., there are substantial numbers of riot police hoping they're going to keep this particular area calm even as the sun sets and this march

comes to an end and people then head home. It is, generally at this time, that things get worse. But it was a day of remarkable conflict and violence

over the course of the day, you're quite right, Bianna.

Where the protesters determined to continue, making their anger the government heard, for now, the French government, in the shape of the prime

minister, continues to say that they will stand firm. The plan is for the age of retirement to be raised by the end of the year. The laws gone

through parliament without a vote. The constitutional council has yet to rule.

What these protesters say, not just the violent minority that have been directly targeting the police over the course of the day, but the vast

majority of peaceful protesters who say they will continue to fight for what they say is the majority opinion here in France. Polls show, Bianna,

that the majority of the French public are against this reform and they intend to keep on coming out here. They hope to sufficiently paralyzed

France over the coming days and weeks. That these kinds of scenes will ultimately force the government back to the negotiating table, Bianna.

GOLODRYGA: It doesn't look like that will happen, at least at this point. We know President Macron is overseas. He's traveling in China for a few

days. And these protesters have vowed to return for a 13th day of protest scheduled for next Thursday -- or 12th day, I should note, scheduled for

next Thursday, April 13th. What can we expect then?

BELL: That's right, Bianna. What happens at the end of these official protest days is that we hear when the next one will be. You can see here

the riot police have moved in to try and push the protesters back from where the fires have been lit. And that tends to mean that tear gas will

follow, which is why the crowds have been running away.

What we've heard today is that the next day of protests will come next Thursday. Just today, Bianna, before that constitutional council I told you

about a moment ago, rules on the constitutionality of this particular law. And what we expect to see here, more scenes like this one with many

hundreds of thousands of people out on the street. And no doubt, again, a determined violent minority taking on the riot police on the outskirts of

that protest very much as they have done today. Bianna.

GOLODRYGA: Yes. The government blaming the unions there, especially for some of the scenes that we've seen, some of the more violent scenes we've

seen and for storming of BlackRock. We should note, they targeted BlackRock specifically because of their pension programs, the private pension

programs that they actually focus on that company as a whole.

Melissa, please stay safe and keep us posted and let us know how things are going throughout the day today into the evening. We appreciate it.

Well, Russia -- in Russia, of course, protest has stifled as the Ukraine war drags on. For now, it is a war of inches, with the real battles being

fought in the trenches. CNN's Ben Wedeman traveled to Eastern Ukraine to show us what soldiers there are facing.


BEN WEDEMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): In the trenches, the deeper you dig, the better. The front lines in the open plains of Eastern Ukraine

are a zigzag of earthworks. In this area, positions have been static for a while.

Alexei (ph) from the First Tank Brigade has been here for six months.

Sometimes it's quiet, he says, and sometimes it's loud. Sometimes they, the Russians, try to break through. So far, they haven't succeeded.

WEDEMAN (on camera): OK. You might want to get down. OK. We are told that Russian lines are just one kilometer from here. We're hearing occasional

shelling, but nothing in coming on this position yet.

WEDEMAN (voiceover): This soldier, also named Alexei (ph), peers through binoculars across no man's land, but only briefly to avoid drawing sniper



To be honest, at first, I was scared, he says, but humans can get used to everything.

They're yet to get used to one threat hovering overhead.

WEDEMAN (on camera): All right. We've now taken cover because the soldiers say there's a drone flying over in the area, which they tell us

occasionally drop grenades on their trenches.

WEDEMAN (voiceover): But not this time. To the rear, Sergeant Oleg (ph) checks that his Soviet era T-64 tanks are in good working order.

It's like an old car, easy to repair, Oleg (ph), tells me. With new cars, you have to take them to the mechanic. These are like a simple tractor.

But these tractors may soon be replaced by newer models. He says, some of his comrades are in Poland being trained to use German made Leopard tanks.

Spring has arrived in these parts, and with it, growing anticipation of a Ukrainian offensive, new more modern weapons than these old hulks could

make all the difference.

Back in the trenches, all is quiet. But as we leave a drone appears above us. Then, our ride out arrives.

WEDEMAN (on camera): 30 seconds, OK.

WEDEMAN (voiceover): An artillery, no time to waste.

Ben Wedeman, CNN, Eastern Ukraine.


GOLODRYGA: Just incredible reporting. Our thanks to my colleague Ben Wedeman for that.

And when we come back, the transformation of the U.S. Supreme Court and what it means for crucial issues on the docket this year. The author of

"Nine Black Robes" joins us.


GOLODRYGA: Welcome back. Well, here in the United States, political influence of the judicial system is a growing concern as court rulings on

abortion and other social issues sparked a backlash. And Former President Donald Trump attacks the courts over his indictment in New York.

CNN Senior Supreme Court Analyst Joan Biskupic is tracking the crisis in real-time in a new book, timely called and written, "Nine Black Robes:

Inside the Supreme Court's Drive to the Right and its Historic Consequences." Joan pulls back the curtain on complicated relationships

inside the court as well.

Joan Biskupic, welcome to the program. It's good to see you. It's great to have a colleague on here as well. A lot to get to. Let me first ask you,

though, to comment on this bombshell reporting from "ProPublica" this morning today that found that Justice Clarence Thomas, Justice Clarence

Thomas, for years had been accepting multiple luxury trips from a Republican real estate developer and MAGA donor and never declared them,

and this was over some 20 years.


Just to get your thoughts, obviously, ethics aside because I urge everyone to just go through and read this report on some of the detail and the

elaborate trips that he had accepted, but ethics aside, legally, is this legal for him to have done without disclosing?

JOAN BISKUPIC, CNN SENIOR U.S. SUPREME COURT ANALYST AND AUTHOR, "NINE BLACK ROBES": Well, first of all, I think this just shows just how much

the integrity of the Supreme Court is always on center stage. When you think of how much concentrated power there is there, the Supreme Court,

Bianna, does not have a formal code of ethics. It has rules about what gifts can be disclosed.

But until just recently, Clarence Thomas arguably could have avoided disclosing the millions of dollars of transportation that he was able to

get from this big MAGA donor, Harlan Crow, who also had other people come visit with him and be in the presence of Clarence Thomas as he vacationed,

frankly, around the world.

"ProPublica's" report is, as you say, quite impressive, extensive. Clearly, they were working on this for many years, but it really goes to the heart

of the issue of how much trust the American public can put in the Supreme Court and what sort of formal rules even apply to their behavior.

GOLODRYGA: Yes. And I'm glad you brought up the question of trust, because less than half of Americans, some 47 percent, according to Gallup, from

just last year, say that they have a great deal or fair amount of trust in the judicial branch headed by this specific Supreme Court. How significant

is this figure? And is there sort of a crisis in trust in the United States?

BISKUPIC: Right. You're talking about these high levels of distrust, and they come about for two main reasons. The overriding one is the opinions

themselves. You know, last June, the justices rolled back nearly a half century of reproductive rights in their Dobbs opinion that reversed Roe v.

Wade from 1973, and that just really shook many Americans, even Americans who might have wanted more restrictions on abortion. It's just the fact

that after all these years with so many different justices, many Republican appointed justices, voting to uphold it just because it was precedent to

have this particular five-member majority that included Clarence Thomas rolling it back.

So, it's the rulings that are suddenly really getting a lot of people's attention because of the way that they appear a little bit more political.

And just as in the side, I know we're going to get to the Donald Trump influence. But remember, Bianna, Donald Trump campaigned on the issue of

appointing only justices who would roll back Roe v. Wade, and that's what we got. So, that's one whole element of why public trust in the Supreme

Court is diminishing.

But then, also, you have things that you just brought up today, this new report about Clarence Thomas and the off-bench behavior. You know, if the

justice -- the justices have always felt like they could say to people, trust us, we can police our own. We don't need -- we will look to codes of

conduct that lower court judges are bound by, but we don't need to be bound by those, trust us.

And I think one -- you know, one episode after another, including this big one from "ProPublica" today, really diminishes the idea that we can trust

the Supreme Court in certain off-bench activities.

GOLODRYGA: Yes. That trust is being challenged to the core in ways we haven't seen. I don't -- I mean, you're the expert here, but I don't recall

how far back we have to go to get to the place we are right now.

You brought up the overturning of Roe and I want to quote from your book on the circumstances surrounding it because you wrote this about that leak

that led up to that decision. And you write, the leaked Alito draft, so, it was Justice Alito, was produced in about two months, relatively quick for

such a substantial case. The justices who joined him before the 98-page document became public never wavered after the leak. Perhaps they never

wavered because of the disclosure.

If that's the case, could it have been a justice, like a conservative actually, who had leaked it, who wanted these justices not to waver?

Because I don't have to tell you, there was a lot of controversy as to who it would benefit more to have had this leak, the right or the left?

BISKUPIC: You know, Bianna, when you think of what that leak produced, I can see why you would naturally think it was a conservative justice or a

conservative law clerk or some conservatives who indeed want to lock in those votes, which it did.

I don't believe that it was a justice or a law clerk who leaked it. You know, there's a counter argument that a liberal might have been so enraged

by what was happening that he or she leaked it. I tend to think it probably originated with somebody lower level at the Supreme Court. But irrespective

of who did it, and obviously, the Supreme Court has not been able to get to the bottom of who did it despite a very extensive investigation, the effect

-- I can tell you what the effect was, and that was to lock in those votes.


Now, arguably, Bianna, you know, Brett Kavanaugh might have never switched over or gone to the middle as Chief Justice John Roberts was trying to

encourage him to come over. He was the most likely justice given that he's not as hard and fast on the right-wing as some of his colleagues. He was

the only justice who might have been open really to overtures by Chief Justice John Roberts. And my own reporting suggested that the chief was not

making much headway with his colleagues as he tried to argue that the justices should not fully roll back Roe v. Wade.

Remember, they took that case, saying they were only going to decide whether a 15-week ban on abortions was constitutional. It was this law from

Mississippi just at 15 weeks, which to have upheld that would have been a big deal because prior to that, the justices has always said that

government states could not interfere with a woman's choice to end a pregnancy before viability, which is at about 23 weeks.

But my reporting showed that the chief was not making headway with Brett Kavanaugh to get him to move over to a more moderate position, but maybe he

could have. I kept saying, don't count out Chief Justice John Roberts to be more persuasive to, you know, pull a rabbit out of a hat here.


BISKUPIC: But bottom line, Bianna, is once that opinion was leaked there was no way anybody was going to switch. And Justice Alito, who wrote that

opinion, did not back off of much of his very harsh, unyielding rhetoric, saying, there never was a right to abortion in the constitution, and we're

going to, you know, make sure that that's now the law of the land, no right to abortion.

GOLODRYGA: Yes. And the reverberations are still being felt politically and legally, right, throughout the country right now. With Former President

Trump having appointed three Supreme Court justices, the question always came about as to whether this was still Justice Roberts' court. Has that

been definitively answered?

BISKUPIC: You know, when it comes to abortion and some other, you know, culture war issues John Roberts sees this, you know, slipping through his

fingers. He's -- the justices to as far-right are in control on things like religion now and abortion, certainly. But I do want to say that Chief

Justice John Roberts still has a fairly strong rightward march himself on things like racial remedies, voting rights, affirmative action, campaign

finance regulations, which he has voted against. You know, a lot of government regulations that he is pushing to roll back.

So, John Roberts still is chief justice. He still controls the court on many areas. But on the case of abortion and in the defining case of

probably his generation and his tenure on the Supreme Court, the Dobbs ruling of last June, he could not control the majority to his right.

GOLODRYGA: You know, during his time in office, there have always been a question as to whether Donald Trump would be the ultimate test on democracy

and the judicial system in this country, and it seems to still be continued to be asked as a question even as a former president, given that he has

once again a candidate as he is seeking the Republican nomination once again. I'm just curious to get your thoughts from your expertise on what

the -- what we saw come out of New York and the D.A. here.

BISKUPIC: Yes, yes.

GOLODRYGA: And these indictments, and the impact that they may have on the system as a whole, given that this was not the only case that this

president, former president, is being, you know, investigated under right now, and the question that that may have, ultimately, for the system as a


BISKUPIC: Yes. You know, either one of the many investigations of Donald Trump right now could end up back at the Supreme Court. But also, to your

core question about Donald Trump's effect on the judiciary, let's just pull back and consider what happened in the lead up to this indictment in

Manhattan this week, and the criminal charge -- the charges against him.

The first thing he did when he found out that the grand jury's indictment was about to be revealed is to attack the judge who is going to be

overseeing the proceedings. He said, this judge hates me. And, you know, he talked about how the judge had handled earlier case involving the Trump

organization. And this is exactly what Donald Trump did throughout his presidency, even before his even before he was elected.


He seeks -- he -- you know, I don't know how much he, you know, sets out to undermine the impartiality and the independence of the judiciary, but all

of his comments seemed aimed towards that. You know, when he was running for president, he denigrated, judges and justices.


BISKUPIC: When he when he became president, he talked about how, you know, maybe some lower court judges had ruled against him, but wait until I get

to the Supreme Court, you know, I'll show you.


BISKUPIC: And then, in time, when the Supreme Court starts, you know, ruling against him, he says, do you get the impression that the Supreme

Court doesn't like me? He's always targeting the judiciary one way or another.

GOLODRYGA: Yes. He's always viewed them as my justices, my judges.


GOLODRYGA: And not the judges of the United States and upholding the constitution. Joan, it's a fascinating book, a fascinating conversation.

There are some really important cases coming up as well. So, I urge everybody to follow you and to read this book as well. Thank you so much.

BISKUPIC: Thank you, Bianna. I appreciate it.

GOLODRYGA: And finally, a sign of spring, April's full moon, known as the pink moon, lit up the skies overnight in the Northern Hemisphere, peeking

Thursday morning. Because the moon only appears in pink in certain places, it's named after a pink wildflower native to North America that blooms

early in season. The lunar event is significant for several religions, marking Passover, Easter and Ramadan. That is a beautiful shot.

Well, that is it for now. Thank you so much for watching and goodbye from New York.