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Interview With Ukrainian Defense Minister Rustem Umerov; Interview With Military Analyst And Former NATO Supreme Allied Commander General Wesley Clark; Interview With Israeli Author David Grossman; Interview With "Saving The Animals Of Ukraine" Director Anton Ptushkin. Aired 1-2p ET

Aired May 16, 2024 - 13:00   ET



CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CNN INTERNATIONAL HOST: Hello everyone and welcome to Amanpour. Here's what's coming up.

DAVID GROSSMAN, ISRAELI AUTHOR: If the Palestinians will not have a home in their country, there will not be peace between us and them. If they don't

have a home, we shall not have a home.


AMANPOUR: In a rare conversation, the esteemed Israeli writer David Grossman tells me he's still hopeful that with a lot of hard work, there

will be a future of justice and security for all there. While despite international pressure, Israel's incursion into Rafah is set to intensify.

600,000 Palestinians being forced to flee again.

Also, ahead, Zelenskyy on the front line in Kharkiv as Russia attempts to break through. I asked former NATO Supreme Allied Commander General Wesley

Clark what Ukraine needs to push Putin back.

Then --


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The Ukraine war has really been an eye opener to many of us as to the complexities of our obligations to animals in wartime.


AMANPOUR: -- "Saving the Animals of Ukraine." Filmmaker Anton Ptushkin tells Hari Sreenivasan about his new documentary showcasing the unexpected

casualties and heroes of this war.

Welcome to the program, everyone. I'm Christiane Amanpour in London.

And we begin tonight on Ukraine and with a special interview with the Ukrainian defense minister. This as the U.S. secretary of state has just

finished his trip there and is winding it up, deploying more money, promising aid to help build up the country's defense industry, and

throughout his trip, been trying to reassure Kyiv of Washington's support.

Words that hide a bitter truth, that is at seven months of U.S. delay in sending military aid has left Ukraine's troops overstretched and under

armed. And it couldn't come at a worse time, with Russia pushing against multiple fronts, including the second largest city, Kharkiv.

Now, President Zelenskyy has been on those frontlines, addressing the situation, as I said, along with his defense minister, Rustem Umerov. And

we have managed to reach him in that area.

Defense Minister Umerov, do you hear me? And can I ask you to give your perspective on the state of the frontlines around Kharkiv?

RUSTEM UMEROV, UKRAINIAN DEFENSE MINISTER: Hi, Christiane. We in the morning had a meeting with the president in Kharkiv. The situation is hard,

but it is under control. We're stabilizing the situation, but still we need more weapons to be assisted with.

AMANPOUR: And when you say stabilizing the situation, you know, we hear that there are voluntary evacuations. I want to know whether you are now

trying to evacuate people or officially pull back certain troops to more manageable and defensible frontlines. What is the military situation right

now around the Kharkiv area?

UMEROV: So, I would like to explain to the viewers that Kharkiv City has a Kharkiv region as well. So, the Russian are shelling to the civilians, to

the cities that are close to the state border. That's where our administration is evacuating people so that they're not going to be under

the Russian shellings.

But the City of Kharkiv and we are fighting near the border. So, they are crossing the border. The invasion -- the second front started. So that's

why we are repelling them. And that's why we want to save more lives of people. That's why we work with them to the city.

AMANPOUR: And are you actually repelling them? I mean, I know you want to put on a brave face, but you have had seven months of delay in the weapons

that you need. There has been a breach of the frontline, obviously around Avdiivka, as we saw, and other areas. And they're trying, as we're told by

your forces, the Russians, to take advantage of this moment. Are you Actually repelling them now?

UMEROV: Well, Christiane, and we are in 10 years of fight and two years of full-scale invasion. So, of course, we are standing as much as we can. And

the weapons are being brought with the delay and the Russians are taking advantage of it.


So, all the approvals came six months later. So, they want to take advantage and that's why they want to -- they started second front, not to

allow us -- for these weapons to arrive. But nevertheless, as I said, we're trying to stay on the ground, repel the attacks. They're using the fighter

jets. They're using the tanks.

We are also trying to evacuate from the civilians that they're shelling only from the border cities. So, we're on the ground. And as I said in the

morning, along with president, along with the chief of defense, we were in the operational zone. And I'm still in the operational zone.

AMANPOUR: Because the president said, and many of your, you know, major military leaders are saying that, you know, it is critical and you're in

the operational zone, as you've just said, you said you need weapons. Can you tell me actually whether these delayed U.S. weapons, whether the

ammunition, whether the artillery is actually on the front where you need it now?

UMEROV: Of course, we need to defend, we need air defense, and we're trying to defend the population, but we need the air defense to -- for the

critical national infrastructure. We need to protect the also frontlines, the brigades, and it's not enough.

So, we need more artillery. We need more armed vehicles, infantry vehicles. So, that's what we need at the moment.

AMANPOUR: And we're just going to ask you one more time. Has any of the American aid reached the soldiers and the lines that need it the most right


UMEROV: It's constantly reaching. All the aid is coming, but we need it on time and in a big amounts. That's what's the problem. Most of the

commitments sometimes are arriving later than what we expect. And we need weapons on time to repel the attacks.

AMANPOUR: What do you think Putin's aim is for the next weeks and months? We've heard, obviously, that he wants to create this pressure on Kharkiv.

We've heard that the aim is to take all of Donbass. What do you think? What are you prepared for?

UMEROV: Yes, his objective never changed. He doesn't want the Ukrainian independence, sovereign country to be existing. He doesn't want Ukrainians

as ethnicity to be living in Europe, being a part of NATO. So, he doesn't change any plan. He wants to open a second front. He is taking advantage

that is there is a delay of the weapons arriving to Ukraine. That's what he's doing.

AMANPOUR: And you obviously have less people, less manpower than Russia does. There is a, you know, talk about a much wider mobilization,

conscription. You've already lowered the age of conscription. Are -- it is very tough, I know, politically inside Ukraine. Are you getting more

manpower? You have exhausted troops who've been there, many of them for two years.

UMEROV: Christine, we passed the law on mobilization. And by 18th of May, it will be in act. So, it means that we're working to bring more people to

the front. We are also opening the recruitment centers. We are making trainings for them. And that's a war that we need to win on our ground.

That's why we need more people.

Of course, what we do is that we set the rules for the mobilization. We gave them best training we can have, and that's why we need to shut down

the holes in the new front. That's why we're having a mobilization.

AMANPOUR: Mr. Umerov, you know that some 18 months ago, September 2022, your forces, you know, heroically took back Kharkiv and the areas around it

after the Russians pushed very, very determinately towards it in the early days and weeks of the invasion. We're in a completely different situation


Why do you think that is? Why do you think it is? And can you reverse what Russia has reversed in these 18 months?


UMEROV: Look they're taking advantage of the trauma we have in the west thinking that Ukraine is not able or not capable. We are able. We are

capable. We are -- our strategic goal is to reach 99 to one borders. Our military goals are known to the military and we're trying to protect

people. We're trying to repel the attack and resist.

So, are they taking advantage that arms does not arrive on time? Yes. Are they taking advantage that financing is not being -- coming on time? Yes,

they are. But it's our land we have to protect it.

AMANPOUR: And I guess one last question. As I said, you know, it's been reported and we've seen the evidence of a breach, at least one major breach

that allowed the Russians to move into where they are now. Are you confident that you have the forces and the defensive lines in place, that

there aren't other breaches along your very, very long frontline?

UMEROV: We've been starting building the fortifications defense lines, like all kinds of fortifications, integrated defense lines eight months ago. So,

we reached necessary level of these defense lines that allows us to repel the attacks. But because we need more arms, we need more weapons, missiles,

air defenses, artillery, that's what is the problem at the moment. So, we brought more people, but we need more arms now.

AMANPOUR: Well, I hope your message is getting through. Rustem Umerov, Ukrainian defense minister, thank you very much for being with us out there

on the Eastern -- Northeastern front.

Now, we're joined by the retired general Wesley Clark, former Supreme Allied commander of NATO. He's recently written a public memo to the

president for "The Atlantic Council" about a new -- a strategic approach and specifically for what needs to be done to help the Ukrainians along the

lines that you've just heard from Defense Minister Umerov. He's joining me now from Little Rock, Arkansas.

Wesley Clark, welcome back to the program. Can I just ask you to react to what you heard? Quite extraordinary to get the defense minister in the area

of the frontlines where he's just been obviously inspecting what's going along -- going on along with President Zelenskyy.

GEN. WESLEY CLARK, (RET) CNN MILITARY ANALYST: Well, first of all, I'm, I'm very reassured to see that he's up there with General Syrskyi and President

Zelenskyy. I'm very reassured to see their repositioning forces and trying to hold the Russians where they are. It seems that the Russian advance

this, thus far, has sort of run out of momentum. And so, if they can contain it there, that's great. But it's too early to really know what the

outcome is.

AMANPOUR: So, tell me that. What do you mean? Because it's really interesting to try to figure out what capabilities the Russians have. On

the one hand, over the last few days, there was a certain sense of panic, you know, since they breached that vital area, since they started to target

Kharkiv, since they took those small villages, since people started to voluntarily evacuate those villages. But now, you're saying, from your

perspective, it appears to have stalled. Why is that?

CLARK: Well, it's obviously a function of -- more a function of Russian command control than it is Ukrainian response at this stage. Now, why would

that be? The Russian forces come in, they get tangled up in a village. There's some resistance there. They're being hit from the flanks. They just

haven't bulldozed through that opposition. Maybe they haven't staged their artillery effectively.

They are bringing in these glided bombs. They do have artillery superiority in the area. They just haven't effectively massed their forces. And so,

right now, it's a sort of a foot race. It's whether the Ukrainians can get enough combat power up there to hold this.

I'm sure behind the lines, the Russian commanders are trying to organize to get a greater push in. I don't think this was just an effort to distract

and bring Zelenskyy out of Kyiv and get him all upset. I think it was more than a feint. I think there could be behind it a serious effort to try to

penetrate around, isolate Kharkiv, and go deeper into Ukraine. But we don't see that yet. And the Ukrainians don't have the ability to strike inside

Russia with any significant force to break that up. So, that's why I say it's a little too early to see what the outcome is going to be.

AMANPOUR: So, this delay in weapons and aid has meant that the Ukrainians have been outmaneuvered in terms of artillery and penetration. They

certainly don't have enough air defenses. The Russians have been able to use planes and these glide bombs. And they don't have jets, obviously, the


How long can Ukraine continue without, let's just say, getting the jets?


CLARK: Well, they're not training enough pilots right now. That's our fault in the United States. We said we could only train, as the Ukrainians told

me, eight F-16 pilots. That's a policy decision by the United States.

And really, Christiane, this whole conflict has been driven by the U.S. policy to try to help Ukraine defend without getting into a confrontation

with Russia by helping Ukraine attack. And so, Ukraine is being forced back. Its forces are being bled out. And then with the six-month delay,

this has thrown another wrinkle into the Biden administration plan.

But I think if you listen to the minister of defense, he wants Ukraine back. He wants all of the Ukraine back, including Crimea. And so, it's

going to take a policy change in Washington and NATo be able to give Ukraine the forces it needs to go through those Russian obstacles, to be

able to strike inside Russia where the Russian forces can stage with impunity.


CLARK: And to put the conditions in place, Russia has to concede and pull back.

AMANPOUR: Well, let me just play this, because I don't know how you read it, but some of us read it as a slight change in U.S. policy along the

lines that you're saying. Tony Blinken talked about, you know, their ability to strike, how they seemed fit, and he also talked about, you know,

the idea of staying until victory, not just so-called as long as it takes. I want to play you this soundbite from the secretary of state.


ANTONY BLINKEN, U.S. SECRETARY OF STATE: We have not encouraged or enabled strikes outside of Ukraine. But ultimately, Ukraine has to make decisions

for itself about how it's going to conduct this war. A war is conducting in defense of its freedom, of its sovereignty, of its territorial integrity.

And we will continue to back Ukraine with the equipment that it needs to succeed, that it needs to win.


AMANPOUR: I mean, that sounds different to me.

CLARK: It is. And I think there is a dynamic reassessment going on of U.S. policy. But there's always been a difference between what Secretary Blinken

said and what the policy has been. He's always been more forward leaning, more supportive. And you know, I'm sure Ukraine really appreciates that.

Now, we've got to get the rest of Washington behind him. And this is tough.

AMANPOUR: General Wesley Clark, really good to have you with your perspective. Thanks so much. And we turn now to Gaza where battles are also

raging. In the south, Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant says their Rafah operation will "intensify" as they deploy more troops. And 600,000

Palestinians have been forced to flee the area in the last 10 days according to the U. N.

In the north, despite Israel previously stating the area was clear of Hamas, Israeli strikes in Jabalia have caused a huge explosion. Casualties

flooding a nearby hospital.

Meanwhile, five IDF soldiers were killed in a friendly fire incident on Wednesday. And even Israelis now wonder where all this is headed. Here's

the former Prime Minister Ehud Olmert.


EHUD OLMERT, FORMER ISRAELI PRIME MINISTER: Many of us from across the board, Israelis are entirely reluctant tolerate this continued military

operations without any objective that is realistic and that is useful for the Israeli interests.


AMANPOUR: And as we mentioned, the defense minister, Yoav Gallant, he has broken publicly with Prime Minister Netanyahu over what would happen in

Gaza the day after, saying that he, Gallant, would oppose any plan for Israeli rule in Gaza and that only Palestinian entities should do that.

Amidst this crisis, in a rare and exclusive interview, I spoke with the acclaimed Israeli writer and intellectual, David Grossman, author of award-

winning novel "To the End of the Land" and so many more Grossman tells me about the enduring trauma amongst Israelis after October 7th, the horror of

Hamas' hostages still in Gaza, and the huge death toll amongst Palestinian civilians.

But he told me that he still sees hope with a lot of hard work for a peaceful future between two historic victims.


AMANPOUR: David Grossman, welcome to the program.

GROSSMAN: Thank you for having me, Christiane.

AMANPOUR: I want to ask you, more than seven months into this war, this week has been Remembrance Day, it's been Independence Day. The hostages are

still not all returned, the war still goes on, and the shock is still palpable inside Israel. So, just sum up for me how you and the country are

feeling now at this point.


GROSSMAN: I think the major feeling is sadness. It's a feeling of the tectonic plates that are moving under our feet, under our soul, even under

our beliefs, hopes. Everything is different. You start to not know where you are. You don't have words to describe your situation. You're muted in a


AMANPOUR: David, can I ask you then how you believe that somehow slowly these tectonic plates might be put back together again? You wrote in your

last op-ed, this was for "The New York Times," March 1st, as the morning of October 7th recedes into the distance, it's horrors only seem to be


And then you talked about not just the dead and missing from Israel, but also at that time of writing, you talked about 30,000 Palestinians killed

in Gaza, now it's up to 35,000. And you said that many of them were not Hamas members and played no part in the cycle of war, uninvolved, as Israel

calls them, in conflict ease. And you say that, you know, leaders and maybe others don't want to face the total reality of what's going on.

GROSSMAN: It's too hard to face. It's too hard to acknowledge what we are doing. And even if, in the beginning, we had all the right, and all what it

takes in order to understand the reaction of Israel because we were attacked suddenly in the most brutal, atrocious way, and you know it, of

course, even though so many people try to forget that. And they start to count history from the 8th of October.

But history for us started on the 7th of October. And suddenly, we found ourselves in hell. And this hell continues until now. If in the beginning,

there was some justification -- there was justification for our reaction, because it's normal if you are walking solemnly and peacefully in the

street and somebody come and slap you on your face, you hit back. It's inevitable.

But the question is what happened after that, and with what we collaborate when we are surrendering to the violence inside us. When we are -- when we

refuse to take responsibility for our part in the distortion of the Middle East, not our part in the attack, the horrible attack of the Hamas, but on

the general situation, and how come we fell into this trap of thinking that we are so strong. We need peace desperately. Without having peace, we shall

not be able to live normal life here.

AMANPOUR: You've also said that, you know, on October 6th, the idea was normalization with Saudi Arabia after the normalization with the UAE and

others. But you said that the Israeli-Saudi accord is not unrelated to the events of Black Saturday between Gaza and Israel. The peace it would have

created is a peace of the wealthy. It's an attempt to skip over the heart of the conflict. These past few days have proved that it's impossible to

begin resolving the Middle East tragedy without offering a solution that alleviates the Palestinians suffering. You wrote that October 12th. Do you

still believe that?

GROSSMAN: Yes. Deeply so. We cannot overlook the Palestinians. They are in the heart of the Middle East conflict. This, of course, cannot justify what

the Hamas did, not at all. Even deeper now, I believe in that, because we need the involvement of the Palestinians. We have to solve the problem of

the Palestinians.

This, of course, cannot justify what they have done, the Hamas done, on the 7th of October. But we need to understand that if the Palestinians will not

have a home in their country, there will not be peace between us and them. If they don't have a home, we shall not have a home. If we shall not have a

home, they will not have a home.

AMANPOUR: You tragically lost one of your own sons to one of the previous Israeli wars with a neighbor. It was the 2006 war against Hezbollah. And

you obviously have a visceral connection with the perils of this continued conflict, war, unresolved conflict.

What would you say to your current government, which wants no part of a solution, it seems, other than continuing -- I don't know what to say,

continuing Israeli control?

GROSSMAN: It becomes harder and harder, not only to speak to my government, but to listen something from my government because they are refusing to

tell us or maybe they don't know and probably they do not know what is to expect to be expected now. What do they want after we fought for six months

after the October 7th?


What is the plan? Who will rule Gaza, for example? Who will be the ruler of Gaza? There are no answers to these questions. And it's -- we are paying a

heavy price for it because we are just sitting there in the heart of Gaza, absorbing wound, absorbing wounds and killings of our soldiers who are

stuck there without being able to do anything.

We are -- we wanted our home to be a home and not only a fortress. But unfortunately, we are still stuck in a fortress. And by the way, even the

fortress is not as efficient as we believe it is. It is -- and don't forget, by the way, we are speaking now for some minutes and we have not

mentioned the hostages and the kidnapped, which I must tell, you know, I feel as if a part of me, a part of my soul, even a part of my body is all

the time with them about this slow-motion nightmare that continues.

And they are there in the darkness for more than 200 days and they are there without food, without medication. And it's just unbearable to be in

such a situation.

AMANPOUR: David, I agree with you. It beggars belief to imagine what those people, elderly women, men, children are going through still being held

hostage. And, you know, again, the people of Israel have been demonstrating in front of the prime minister's office behind you, in front of his house,

in front of, you know, Parliament, et cetera, to make that a priority. But it hasn't been a priority, it seems, according to those Israelis who are

still demonstrating.

You yourself have talked about a sense of betrayal by your government. And we know that, as yet, the prime minister has not accepted any personal

responsibility for his role in October 7th. I understand, of course, that it's Hamas who committed it, but you've talked about, you know, the

government role as well in allowing it to happen on its watch. So again, where do you think this will lead?

GROSSMAN: I'm sure. I think that even Mr. Netanyahu doesn't know where it leads to. He's known for being an expert in pushing away problems and

dealing with them only when he has to. At the same -- at a certain moment, there will be something in reality that will force him to move. It might be

a pressure from Joe Biden, hopefully. It might be pressure from other countries, friendly countries in Europe.

Right now, it seems that there is no solution for him and no -- even any trial to achieve a solution.

AMANPOUR: You were famously, and you still are, one of the main intellectual leaders of left-wing politics in -- and progressive politics

in Israel. And that seems to have been dying a consistent death since 2000, since the second intifada. Do you think that there will ever be a

resurrection in your lifetime of the kind of progressive politics that might lead to a solution?

GROSSMAN: You ask me something that is hard to predict. The future is very far. A lot depends on how we behave now. If we are able to resurrect from

the ashes after the 7th of October, if we are able to remember our goal and our hope that are evaporating all the time.

We need to create in ourselves the ability to fight, to find some meaning in this life after what we have suffered and seen and has changed our mind.

We need -- you know, Israel is too precious to leave it to the messianic extremist fundamentalist that we have that are now so strong in the

government and they are, in a way, blackmailing Netanyahu, who wanted to be blackmailed by them. It's very comfortable for him.

AMANPOUR: David, when Israel began as a state, it was considered a David against a Goliath. And now, the world sees a Goliath, Israel as a Goliath,

against other Davids, like the Palestinians. And a long time ago, in 1955, Hannah Arendt wrote the following, they treat the Arabs, those who still

here, in a way that in itself would be enough to rally the whole world against Israel. That's what Hannah Arendt wrote decades ago. What do you

make of that?


GROSSMAN: I think it took us some years to realize the mistakes in our attitude. Even though it did not serve us in changing the situation, and we

found ways to continue the occupation for 56 years. Just imagine, it's unbelievable that it's so -- such a huge magnitude number of this

occupation. And I think that we are all paying a heavy price for this ignoring the occupation and finding ways to detour it, ways in reality and

ways in the mind.

I deeply believe that our way to -- not only to survive in the Middle East, but to live full life there, life with the richness and multilayeredness

and culture and inventions as we can. It all depends on the question of the occupation. I will not be tired of mentioning it again and again. I don't

want to occupy anyone. I don't want to be occupied by anyone. I want to live equal life, life of mutuality and brightness.

And it can be done. I know it sounds farfetched now, and of course it might -- and also it might heard as a very naive declaration, but I think, you

know, even Israel was created by some naive people who had a dream. This is my dream. I know it's -- again, it sounds naive, but dreams can be very,

very practical. And I like always -- when I talk to people, Israelis and Palestinians, I like those who are practical idealists. And I think I am

also like that, if I may say so.

And I don't forget, for example, for a second, that Israel, with all the terrible mistakes that it has done throughout the years, and especially in

the last years, where she nourished the idea of ignoring the Palestinians totally. But I do not forget that Israel was created three years after the

end of the Second World War and the end of the Shoah, and that it has created enormous agriculture and culture and industry and high-tech and a

military, which is also very important in the Middle East.

And without that, we wouldn't have survived. And in a way, it is -- it's a kind of a secular miracle. And I wish that we shall be able to go back to

this path of the secular miracle.

AMANPOUR: I mean, do you think it'll ever go back to being a secular? Because right now, you have extreme orthodox nationalists, religious

nationalists, in charge of the government, propping up this government.

GROSSMAN: You're absolutely right. They are the major danger for the future of Israel. As are the settlers who settled in the occupied territories, by

the way. It is an existential danger to Israel, and we all know it.

And I think that the great sin of Mr. Netanyahu is the way he whitewashed those people, Ben-Gvir and Smotrich, and brought them into the government

and gave them fines of ministers. No sane person would have done that, you know, and it shows, it just proves the cynicism of Mr. Netanyahu. And he's

willing to do everything, every dirty trick in the book, in order to save his neck from being in jail.

AMANPOUR: And we see even in the West Bank right now, I mean, dreadful violations against Palestinians, ethnic cleansing, killings, the whole lot.

It was worse last year than it has been for many, many years, and it continues.

But what I want to ask you is this, because it goes to what you've said, and you are, you know, a writer, a thinker, somebody who people turn to to

understand. And you've talked about these two tortured peoples. The trauma of becoming refugees is fundamental and primal for both Israelis and

Palestinians, and yet, neither side is capable of viewing the other's tragedy with a shred of understanding, not to mention compassion.

And it seems that right now, that's one of the most important things for everybody to internalize. Everybody is a victim, both sides are victims in

this, and there has to be a way to emerge from it. How do you think -- in your domain, writing, literature, how do you think that might be able to

help to tell these stories?

GROSSMAN: Well, literature is a good vehicle to create empathy, to create understanding, to be able to look at the context of the conflict, not only

from your own eye and an eye that is totally trapped by its situation, but also from the eye of your enemy, of your current enemy, to be able to find

new words that will ignite or reignite the feelings that we feel regarding the conflict.


To be able to understand the misery of your enemy, it's not an easy thing to do. And I'm not talking about losing my identity as an Israeli, as a

Jew, not at all. But being an Israeli, being a Jew and being a writer allows me to look at the -- our conflict from a somewhat different point of

view, which is not an easy thing to do because we are all paralyzed by our own point of view.

But if you allow yourself, even, you know, it can be used also in arguments within the family and the couple. If you allow yourself to look at this

reality from somewhat different perspective, to listen to what they say, to listen to the way your enemy is seeing you, because it is always the enemy

who see first the distortions that have occurred in us because of the long war.

I will not even use the word peace because peace, shalom, has been polluted for so many ways that I don't think it's useful to use it now. But I'll

talk about a dialogue. I'll talk about gradually being sensitive to the pains of your enemy, to their humiliation. And some -- maybe you realize

how easy it is to redeem them from their humiliation by changing your attitude towards them.

Again, I know it's very hard to do. The brain is flooded with blood, and there is such growing hatred and such impossibility of imagining better

situation. But I think this is -- if there is a role for a writer, for an intellectual, is not only writing good stories, but being able to suggest

this flexibility, to be yourself and to be your enemy at the same time, nothing will be taken from us.

Our identity as Israelis is so entrenched that sometimes it paralyzes us. But maybe this place of paralysis is the way where we can -- if we melt it

cleverly, if we massage our consciousness, then suddenly we stop being a victim. And believe me, Christiane, for me as an Israeli, as a Jew, not to

be a victim, this is a great thing.

AMANPOUR: It's a great way to end this wonderful conversation. David Grossman, thank you so much.

GROSSMAN: Thank you, Christiane.


AMANPOUR: A clear moral clarion call from David Grossman. It was an amazing conversation. So much, so much to think about there.

And from the depths of war and misery emerges a common cause in Ukraine as they are banding together to rescue people's pets left behind by those who

are forced to flee. Some extraordinary efforts documented by filmmaker Anton Ptushkin. And he joins Hari Sreenivasan to discuss why he made

"Saving the animals of Ukraine."


HARI SREENIVASAN, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Christiane, thanks, Anton Ptushkin. Thanks so much for joining us. Your film, "Saving the

Animals of Ukraine," it takes a different type of look at what is happening in this country to the people and to the animals. Why did you want to make


ANTON PTUSHKIN, DIRECTOR "SAVING THE ANIMALS OF UKRAINE": Frankly, it just -- we came up with this idea back then in 2022 when we saw in the beginning

of full-scale invasion there was a vast amount of photos and videos with people trying to save themselves with their animals, sometimes even risking

their lives. And we were so struck by this footage. So, we decided to -- just to -- you know, just to investigate this thing.

And at that time, you know, it was a horrible time. The most dark time I've ever seen in my entire life. Because like, I literally saw that I'm going

to die next day or another day. And those photos and videos with people and animals, they were some kind of light of hope amidst the darkest time. So,

we decided to follow this topic. And two years later, we came up with the film.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The entire world is seeing the depth of animal suffering.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: People understand what's going on. Animals, they don't understand.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The Ukraine war has really been an eye opener to many of us as to the complexities of our obligations to animals in wartime.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's no one's going to be left behind, including their pets.


SREENIVASAN: You introduced us to some amazing individuals, people who didn't start their lives as animal rights activists who would be surprised

to find themselves doing this. But why do you think some of the people who might not have been doing this for their whole lives, why are they now out

there taking care of dogs and cats and any kind of animal that they can find?


PTUSHKIN: You know, this war has changed forever. Everyone like, because, you know, I used to be a travel blogger before this full-scale invasion.

Right now, I'm a documentary filmmaker. So, I think that all -- a lot of people, they started to do something at least because they want to

contribute somehow to this war.

Again, as one of our talents said that, I can help animals and I just have to do that because I want to help somehow. But I mean, the bravery -- we

were amazed by the bravery of some people who are literally, you know, going to the frontlines under bombing and trying to save animals or tigers,

like a big cats. For me, it's just an extraordinary bravery.

SREENIVASAN: Yes. Tell us a little bit about it. I mean, you show us a lion that has been rescued and it wasn't alone. Tell us a little bit about the

person who risks her life to do this and what is she finding with these big animals?

PTUSHKIN: This brave woman, her name is Natalia Popova, and she has been saving like big cats. lions, tigers from military active zones for two

years. So, this brave woman, she tranquilized these big cats herself and driving from these military active zones to Kyiv or to kind of safe zones.

And she -- yes, she found this lion called Bretzel. And he was being kept as a -- like a pet in a tiny cage. He was under bombardment. So, he had

like really severe symptoms of PTSD.


NATALIA POPOVA (through translator): He was under constant bombardment in that confined space, which of course left a mark on him.

I don't want to believe this is irreversible condition.

Why am I doing this? Everyone in this war must help in whatever way they can.


PTUSHKIN: We, as people and animals, we are shame -- share almost the same suffering. So, animals could suffer really severe. And she brought this

lion to Kyiv, to a safe zone. But the truth is that there is no safe zone right now in Ukraine.

And this poor lion, again, was under Russian missile strike, and he was evacuated -- eventually, he was evacuated to Spain, and he recovered.


PTUSHKIN: He recovered. And it's an amazing story.

SREENIVASAN: Yes. So, from the biggest cats, you also have the story that seemed to capture a lot of hearts and minds in Ukraine of a very, very

small cat stuck, what, on the seventh floor of just a bombed-out building. I mean, it's remarkable that it was even spotted.

PTUSHKIN: Yes, it's actually -- it's a miracle. And not even spotted, but this cat, I mean, he survived during 60 days without food and water. And I

ask a lot of people like, how come? How did it happen? And nobody can tell me like, frankly, how did it happen. Why he survived? But the truth is he

survived and he become one of the symbols of this war. I mean, symbols of strength and resilience of Ukrainians and the name of this cat is Shafa.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): Surviving for 60 days. It's a mystery and a paradox to me. How is this even possible?

As soon as they up there, the cat immediate went right to their hands.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): My god, you're so exhausted.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): That's the real miracle. Of all the animals we rescued, I still don't understand how this car survived.


PTUSHKIN: It's such a heartwarming story, you know.


PTUSHKIN: And for me, it's just -- I don't know like why we are moved so much by animals, but for me, this whole movie, it's about, you know, this

closeness between people and animals and our pets. And I want to emphasize that, yes, this is movie about the war, but it's just a heartwarming and

kind movie.

SREENIVASAN: Can you tell us a little bit about Patron? I mean, this is this is possibly the most famous dog in the world now. But in case somebody

in our audience doesn't know about this little Jack Russell Terrier, well, what's so special about him?

PTUSHKIN: He was -- before the war, he was just a regular dog, I mean, Jack -- regular Jack Russell terrier. But because he is a dog father, dog parent

Myhailo, he is a colonel of engineer troops, Sapper. So, his basic job is to find the mines.


He teach Patron, when the full invasion started, to -- basically to look for the mines. And Patron become like a bomb sniffing dog.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Patron's training began with getting accustomed to the sound of explosions, along with the smell of gunpowder.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): He quickly got used to the sound of explosions when we destroyed the enemy ammunitions.

After the second time, he was already understanding that these are planned explosions and nothing to fear.

He went (INAUDIBLE) to inspect the area.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He passed with flying colors. Within a short period, he had traded in fetching sticks and slippers for sleuthing out explosive

objects. Even explosives hidden deep in the ground.


PTUSHKIN: He's really tiny and he weighs only four kilograms. But in order to trigger the mine, you have to press five plus kilograms. So, he has this

like a special ability, you know, he's just the invulnerable, like a Superman. So, he doesn't care of the mines.

And yes -- but you know, the most interesting thing that he's cheering up the old people of Ukraine and he's fundraising a lot of money for engineer

troops, because a lot of engineers, unfortunately, they continue to blow up on the mines and someone lost their limbs and Patron helps them with the

rehabilitation and prosthetics.

SREENIVASAN: You find throughout the film the impact that an animal is able to have, whether it's on a child who's healing, an adult who's healing in

their own way, or you even have scenes of soldiers who essentially are still fighting but they're kind of maybe adopting some of these along the

way. Why do you think that is?

PTUSHKIN: I was amazed because I went to frontline and I saw like a lot of soldiers who keep, you know, these stray dogs and cats next to them. And

they find it quite amusing, but they do it because I think that it helps, it helps drastically to cope with the stress they've been going through.

And, you know, just keeping the tiny cats close to you, it means that you are like a home, you're at home.

And, you know, what I can surely say that animals, pets, they tremendously help you to cope with the symptoms of PTSD and with the stress. And we've

seen it like many times. And I believe that keeping next -- keeping animals in your house, it just really helps to -- for your psyche, for your mental


SREENIVASAN: Yes. You go to what looked like a nature preserve type of area and you showed kind of the ecological damage that the war is taking on, you

know, other animals in the environment. Tell our audience a little bit about that.

PTUSHKIN: I've been to couple of national reserves. And one of these reserves is close to Odessa, which is the Black Sea, and we were following

the scientists who has been investigating the mass mortality of dolphins in the Black Sea.

Some of these dolphins are endemic, which means that the Black Sea is their only area of habitat. And we are talking about 5,000 or 10,000 creatures

that died at least in 2022, when there was like a lot of Russian submarines and Russian warships, you know, using their sonars. So, I believe that --

and scientists speak about that, that the sonars cause like acoustic trauma for dolphins. And that's what's caused the mass mortality.

But, you know, the real scale of these events are unknown because a lot of areas, they are still under Russian occupation. A lot of natural reserves

still are under Russian occupation. So, we don't clearly know what is happening right there.

So, Russia is committing an ecocide for sure. And consequences of this ecocide will be -- I mean, they will be tremendous and -- but we can't

clearly say right now about the total consequences. Because, again, war is still going on.

SREENIVASAN: In making this film and for other reasons, you've been going back and forth to Ukraine now for -- throughout this conflict. How have the

places that you grew up changed?


PTUSHKIN: I mean, I grew up in Luhansk, in the city which occupied since 2014. So, I don't have a home right now because, like, my city is under

occupation for more than 10 years. And, you know, Kyiv become my second home, but right now it's, again, under like threats.

And while we are speaking with you, I mean, Russians, they are taking attempts to innovate. Like they literally crossed the border of Ukraine

again and trying to assault Kharkiv, which is the second biggest city in Ukraine, and they are just like wiping out the city, trying to level it to

the ground. So yes, I see like a big threat right now.

SREENIVASAN: So, here you are, you're promoting this film, you're talking about it, and at the same time you have possibly friends who you are losing

in this war.

PTUSHKIN: Yes. And, you know, again, like this movie for me is attempt to capture these historical moments. But at the same time, you know, some of

the talents that I shot, they are they are dead right now, unfortunately. And --

SREENIVASAN: Some of the people you've shot for this film are no longer?

PTUSHKIN: In this film. Yes, yes, unfortunately. Because they were -- like, literally, I know one soldier, which I shot almost one and a half years ago

in Donbass, and he was killed in May 2023. And I shot him with a really funny dog, his name was Peng (ph), and it was a really adorable dog, but

after his death, his wife, the wife -- the wife of his -- of this soldier, she decided to adopt this dog in memory of her deceased husband. And right

now, this dog is live like with the -- with the wife. Her name was Kate (ph).

So, yes, again, for me, it's just a heartwarming story.

SREENIVASAN: Before this, you were a travel blogger and vlogger. You had a YouTube channel. It was quite successful. People in Ukraine, as well as

people in Russia watching and commenting. What happened to that life?

PTUSHKIN: It's gone, unfortunately. And, you know, for me, the story of Patron is really prominent because, you know, Patron completely changed his

life. And for me, it's really the same. So, yes, I used to be a travel blogger. But, you know, as Mstyslav Chernov, who is the director of "20

Days in Mariupol," Academy awarded film this year. He said that, I would rather not become -- not have become a documentary filmmaker for such a


So, that's my case. I -- really, I don't want to make documentaries about the war, but I have to do it because I can and I want to spread the truth

about Ukraine and what is happening right now. And that the fact that war hasn't finished.

SREENIVASAN: Because you spoke Russian, I mean, you were a little bit of a cultural bridge too, between Ukrainians and Russians who were both watching

your channel. What happened when the war started with the Russian viewers that you had?

PTUSHKIN: Yes, I had -- like I had a main -- my main channel is 5.5 million subscribers. And literally, half of them were from Russia. And I used to

speak Russian, but I completely quit Russian. And now, I'm switched to Ukrainian.

And like half of my audience -- no, actually more than a half, because -- except from Russia, there are people from Kazakhstan who used to speak

Russian as well. So, yes, I lost kind of my audience. But, again, this is my conscious decision because I have to keep and maintain Ukrainian


And again, language is the tool, is actually a weapon. So, Russia use it as a weapon against Ukraine as a culture, as a tool of culture oppression. So,

again, we don't have a choice.

SREENIVASAN: What's the consequence been? Is there action from the Russian state government to word or against you, I should say?

PTUSHKIN: Yes, they banned me to enter Russia for 50 years. That's funny. I mean, that's funny. I'm banned here. Because I think that they thought that

I'm a kind of pro-Russian guy, but obviously, I'm not.

SREENIVASAN: You know, it never fails to impress me why human beings seem to care in a different way when we see animals that are left behind or in

trouble. Why do you think that people connect to stories about animals? It's a different type of connection than when you do a story about the

human costs of war, too?

PTUSHKIN: To help such helpless creatures, I mean, I think that sometimes when we're rescuing animals, actually, animals rescue us. Because, you

know, they give us some meaning. And especially during these such horrible events, they -- when you lose your humanity, obviously, you know, I will

say some -- I can sound cynical, but you know, human life become devalued during the war. And you, again, lose your humanity a bit. But animals --

saving animals, it brings you back to being human.


SREENIVASAN: The film is called "Saving the Animals of Ukraine." Director Anton Ptushkin, thanks so much for joining us.

PTUSHKIN: Thank you, Hari. Thank you so much.


AMANPOUR: Light in the darkness. And that is it for now. Thank you for watching. Goodbye from London.