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United Nations Security Council Briefing on Ukraine; U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken Accuses Russia of "Deliberate Campaign" to Kill, Torture and Rape; Former President Barack Obama Returns to the White House. Aired 11-11:30a ET

Aired April 05, 2022 - 11:00   ET




LINDA THOMAS-GREENFIELD, AMBASSADOR TO THE U.N.: And we are truly honored by his presence here under the circumstances that he and Ukraine face today.

Madam President, last night, I returned from a trip to Moldova and Romania. I saw with my own eyes the refugee crisis caused by Russia's unconscionable war. I spoke to refugees, who indicated to me their desires to return to their home.

And we've all seen the images on TV of the bombed-out buildings. But what we have not seen is that, behind those destroyed buildings, are destroyed lives and destroyed families.

I met with women and children, who had fled Ukraine, who stuffed their lives into backpacks and left the only home they had ever known. And these were sobering conversations.

One young woman I spoke to came with her 6-year-old brother who has autism and is struggling with cancer. Their single mother helped them escape to save their lives. But Russia's war has interrupted the care her brother desperately needs.

Another woman I spoke to fled with her 8-year-old from Odessa. The father, who they had left behind, told them there was shelling right next to their apartment that very night. And they very well could have died had they not left.

A third woman I met told me that she used to love to travel but never expected her next trip would be to flee for her life.

When I asked her where she was from, she started to say and then she stopped with tears in her eyes and said, "I'm sorry. I don't know how to say it, whether I live in Kyiv or whether I used to live in Kyiv."

She was realizing, in the moment, just how dramatically her life had changed because of this senseless war.

These are three stories of more than 10 million people -- 6 million internally displaced, 4 million who have left Ukraine altogether, 4 million people who have relied on the big-heartedness of countries like Moldova, Romania, Poland, Slovakia, Hungary and others across the region and the world to welcome and support all those leaving Ukraine in search of safety.

Ukraine's neighbors are bearing the brunt of Europe's most significant refugee crisis since World War II. And I want these countries to know that they have a committed partner in the United States.

And that is why the United States announced recently that we are prepared to provide more than $1 billion in new funding toward humanitarian assistance for those affected by Russia's war in Ukraine and its severe impacts around the world.

And it is why we are welcoming up to 100,000 Ukrainians and others fleeing Russia's aggression to the United States. We will continue to assist humanitarian efforts to help the people of Ukraine and all those fleeing Putin's violence.

But as heart-wrenching as the stories are that I heard in Moldova and Romania, there are some stories we will never get to hear: those of the people we saw in the images out of Bucha.

We have all seen the gruesome photos, lifeless bodies lying in the streets, apparently summarily executed, their hands tied behind their backs.

As we work to independently confirm the events depicted in these images, I would remind this council that, based on the currently available information, the United States has assessed that members of Russia's forces have committed war crimes in Ukraine.

And even before seeing the images from Bucha, President Zelenskyy, along with others in the region, were reporting that children were being abducted -- and we heard him that today. Also abducted are mayors and doctors, religious leaders, journalists and all who dare defy Russia's aggression.


THOMAS-GREENFIELD: Some of them, according to credible reports -- including by the Mariupol city council -- have been taken to so-called "filtration camps," where Russian forces are reportedly making tens of thousands of Ukrainian citizens relocate to Russia.

Reports indicate that Russian federal security agents are confiscating passports and IDs, taking away cellphones and separating families from one another. I do not need to spell out what these so-called "filtration camps" are reminiscent of. It's chilling and we cannot look away.

Every day, we see more and more how little Russia respects human rights. And that is why I announced yesterday that the United States, in coordination with Ukraine and many other U.N. member states, will seek Russia's suspension from the U.N. Human Rights Council.

Given the growing mountain of evidence, Russia should not have a position of authority in a body whose purpose -- whose very purpose -- is to promote respect for human rights.

Not only is this the height of hypocrisy, it is dangerous. Russia is using its membership on the Human Rights Council as a platform for propaganda to suggest Russia has a legitimate concern for human rights.

In fact, we will hear some of that propaganda here today, I know. And I will not dignify these lies with a response -- only to say that every lie we hear from the Russian representative is more evidence that they do not belong on the Human Rights Council.

One hundred forty U.N. member states voted to condemn Russia over its unprovoked war and the humanitarian crisis it has unleashed upon the people of Ukraine.

Here is my message to all of you: now is the time to match those words with action and show the world that we can work responsibly.

And I share President Zelenskyy's view that this moment requires responsible world powers and global leaders to show some backbone and stand up to Russia's dangerous and unprovoked threat against Ukraine and the world.

The Secretary-General said that confronting this threat is the Security Council's charge. It is. And it is also the responsibility of U.N. leaders and leaders around the world -- every single member state with a voice in the GA.

No one can be a shield for Russia's aggression. Suspending Russia from the Human Rights Council is something we, collectively, have the power to do in the General Assembly. Our votes can make real difference.

Russia's participation on the Human Rights Council hurts the council's credibility. It undermines the entire U.N. and it is just plain wrong.

Let us come together to do what is right -- and do right by the Ukrainian people. Let us take this step to help them to start to rebuild their lives. And let us match the courage of President Zelenskyy, who we are so honored to have with us today.

President Zelenskyy, I want you to know that we stand with the people of Ukraine as you face down this brutal attack on your sovereignty, on your democracy and on your freedom.

Thank you.

WOODWARD: Thank you, representative of the United States for her statement and I give the floor to the representative of Albania.

KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: All right. Hello, everyone. I'm Kate Bolduan in New York and Brianna Keilar is joining us live in Lviv, Ukraine.

You've been listening to the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, Linda Thomas-Greenfield, and her sobering address to the U.N. Security Council. Just before that, Ukraine's President Zelenskyy also delivered an impassioned speech to world leaders.

One day after he traveled himself to Bucha, the site where Ukraine said Russian forces tortured and killed hundreds of civilians, the Ukrainian leader accuses Russia of now trying to cover up war crimes. And he's calling for the harshest possible sanctions against Moscow.



VOLODYMYR ZELENSKYY, UKRAINIAN PRESIDENT (through translator): Today, as a result of Russia's actions in our country, in Ukraine, the most terrible war crimes of all times are -- we see since the end of World War II. And they are being committed.

Russian troops are deliberately destroying Ukrainian cities to ashes by -- with artillery and airstrike. They are deliberately blocking city, creating mass starvation. They deliberately shoot columns of civilians on the road, trying to escape from territory of hostilities.

They even deliberately blow up shelters where civilians hide from airstrikes.


BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN ANCHOR: This address coming as the world has seen horrifying evidence of massacres at the hands of Russian forces. Zelenskyy warns of even worse atrocities that have yet to be uncovered.

Let's talk about all of this with CNN analyst, retired Major General Paul Eaton and also Evelyn Farkas, a former Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Russia, Ukraine and Eurasia.

And Evelyn, I wonder what you think of what Zelenskyy said. He said -- and I'm paraphrasing but not much -- he basically said, if all you can offer is conversation, dissolve yourself.

If you can't hold Russia accountable, if you can't stop Russia, you might as well dissolve the U.N.

What did you think?

EVELYN FARKAS, FORMER DEPUTY ASSISTANT SECRETARY OF DEFENSE FOR RUSSIA, UKRAINE AND EURASIA: Well, I mean, it made me really truly sad, because he has an excellent point.

The United Nations is sitting here doing barely anything, except, frankly, talking. The talk is important because I will say that, in 2014, after the seizure of Crimea, there was some talk and then it kind of died out. So now the United Nations is fully focused.

But they need to do more on the humanitarian front. It's a real weakness because of course Russia is on the Security Council. So they're limited in what they can do. But they need to work around it. I think back to Bosnia, where I lived right after the war. The one

thing the international community got right in Bosnia, they got a lot of things wrong or delayed. But they were actively involved in alleviating the suffering.

We need to do more. President Zelenskyy is right.

BOLDUAN: General, what did you think?

We also heard the U.S. ambassador to the U.N. saying Russia needs to be booted off of the Human Rights Council, that some action does need to be taken at least.

MAJ. GEN. PAUL EATON (RET.), CNN MILITARY ANALYST: Indeed. We need to isolate Russia diplomatically, economically and, if need be, militarily. To remove Russia from any council, from any membership, to put them behind their own reestablished Iron Curtain is a diplomatic essential task before us right now.

President Zelenskyy is extremely frustrated, obviously, naturally, because of the breakdown of the post-World War II global order that we helped, we, the United States, helped build through international organizations and alliances.

And he's calling for a reinvigoration of that global order, as the primary victim in Europe today because of Russia's attack.

KEILAR: I wonder, General, what else do you think militarily the U.S. can do here?

We heard the White House talking about some coastal defense. The new thing or sort of new thing is some of these drones and more Javelins, anti-tank and anti-aircraft weapons.

What else can be done?

EATON: It would be great to see a NATO naval force come in to the Black Sea and off the coast of the Leningrad oblast and eventually, if necessary, off the coast of Vladivostok.

We need to give Mr. Putin something to worry about besides his self- initiated attack on Ukraine. Introduction of naval forces is not a military event unless we use them. But prepositioning, in the event that Odessa is attacked.

And I believe an attack on Odessa would be a stimulant to a massive response logistically and perhaps militarily through Navy forces from NATO, to open up that front and to deal with Putin on the sea.

KEILAR: Evelyn, we now hear President Biden calling this war crimes. We just heard that from the ambassador, that Russia's committing war crimes. Some of the nations have gone farther to say it's genocide.

But more nations are using this language to criticize Moscow after seeing these images from Bucha in the last couple of days. I do want to listen to what secretary of state Tony Blinken said this morning. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TONY BLINKEN, U.S. SECRETARY OF STATE: What we've seen in Bucha is not the random act of a rogue unit.


BLINKEN: It's a deliberate campaign to kill, to torture, to rape, to commit atrocities.


KEILAR: And Evelyn, despite this harsh language, we know it's unlikely the Security Council will agree to any measures to punish Russia because it has veto power. And its ally, China, has refused to criticize Russia for the war.

So what exactly can the U.N. do?

FARKAS: Well, I think the U.N. can investigate. Of course, we know the International Criminal Court is already investigating. And I need to add, Kate, the Russians are responsible for atrocities in Syria. And those have been investigated in an ongoing basis. Probably they need to receive also more attention now, frankly.

There are a lot of genocides and also war crimes we've ignored as an international community, probably emboldening Vladimir Putin. So I think the Security Council needs to continue to investigate.

And the General Assembly, there are things they can do; the independent entities of the United Nations can do more. I really hope that the International Red Cross can also do something, not just investigate the crimes but also on the humanitarian side.

KEILAR: Evelyn, thank you so much, Evelyn Farkas.

General Paul Eaton, thank you to you as well.

And I want to go back to Kate Bolduan in New York.

But Kate, these addresses we just heard, especially from President Zelenskyy, I mean, he was just going after the U.N. and basically saying, you can't just talk.

Insinuating that if they just talk about this, they're complicit, they're kind of standing by and watching this happen.

BOLDUAN: And laying out in horrifying detail what he's seen with his own eyes and what's happening in many more cities, he says, than just Bucha. Much more to come.

Brianna, right back to you very shortly and back to Ukraine.

But also coming up, former President Obama is returning to the White House for the first time since leaving office. Why he's headed there. A live report next. (MUSIC PLAYING)




BOLDUAN: In just hours, former president Barack Obama is heading back to the White House, for the first time since he left office more than five years ago. He'll be joining President Biden and Vice President Harris for an event celebrating his biggest legislative achievement, the Affordable Care Act.

CNN's John Harwood is at the White House.

What will happen there today?

JOHN HARWOOD, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: First, the two presidents are going to share a little private friend time at the White House. They're going to have lunch, something they did weekly when Barack Obama was president and Joe Biden was his vice president.

But the main event is going to be a celebration of the BFD. You know what I'm talking about, which is the Affordable Care Act that President Obama signed in 2010. That has become more and more deeply entrenched in American life, as we've gone along, despite all the Republican efforts to kill it.

Very controversial law when it was passed. And for a number of years after that, in a crescendo in 2017, president Trump and the Republican Congress trialed and failed by the margin of John McCain's thumbs down to repeal the law.

And since then, Joe Biden, as he became president in 2021, has only strengthened the law, added enrollment. Enrollment peaked in the ObamaCare marketplaces at 12.7 million when Barack Obama was president. It's now 14.5 million people signed up.

You've got 20 million people added to the rolls of Medicaid, expanded subsidies, which Joe Biden will try to perpetuate through more legislation. They run out at the end of 2022.

And they'll announce today a regulatory change that makes about 5 million Americans more eligible for subsidies under ObamaCare than previously, called the family glitch. And it's in terms of widening access to subsidies. So there's a lot for them to celebrate.

I'm sure Joe Biden will share some of the burdens with President Obama he's dealing with now in Ukraine. But the main event is ObamaCare and its preservation.

BOLDUAN: Good to see you, John, thank you for laying it out, what it was like then and how much changed now and how far it has come, pretty amazing thing.

Joining me now CNN political commentator, Van Jones, who was an adviser for the Obama White House.

It's surprising to me, I have to say, this is the first time since Biden's been president that Obama's been back at the White House. John laid out their long relationship and what it means.

But what does it mean to have him back there today?

VAN JONES, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: The hero returns. Barack Obama, one of the most beloved people on the world stage, one of the most beloved presidents in the United States.

It's not, it is unusual for a president to go back. I don't think Bill Clinton's spent a lot of time in the Obama White House. Presidents are very busy. But right now, Americans are hurting and uncertain when it comes to the future. And inflation is such a big deal.

A big part of that is when it comes to medical costs. This is a huge victory that Biden famously called the BFD -- you can Google that. We can't say it on TV this time of day.

But Biden celebrated because it really was. And I love all the numbers, 20 million (INAUDIBLE). This is personal to a lot of people. I have a personal friend, Tony Coleman (ph), we grew up together in Bay Area politics, activism.

One of the best actors, organizers; he started a bike shop, came down with cancer.


JONES: His little bike shop didn't pay him enough to get medical care. Because of ObamaCare, he's getting top quality cancer care right now in Oakland, California. And there's millions and millions of people can tell you the same thing.

It doesn't make the news every day in terms of the top headlines. But it makes a difference every day for ordinary people, ObamaCare.

So to remind people that this is the team, the duo that got it done for ordinary people and here Biden is going to fix it for 5 million more American families, this is the real stuff. It's the bread and butter stuff to make a difference for people and there's not -- no better spokesperson to remind people about it than Barack Obama, President Obama.

BOLDUAN: And John kind of teed us off, which is, when you look at the Affordable Care Act and the long road it has traveled -- it barely passed. It helped Republicans win back the House majority after that.

And then despite having control of Congress and the White House with Trump, Republicans could never could agree on how to throw it out or if they wanted to throw it out.

Now is what you're describing, it's woven into the fabric of the American health care system in such a way that both Democrats and Republicans, we find, touting the benefits. What does that say about this issue?

And what does it say having Barack Obama now back with Joe Biden, which, look, it's policy and politics wrapped into one, Van. And Democrats are headed toward a tough midterm.

JONES: Tough midterm election. Listen, you want to bring out your big guns as you get closer and closer to the midterms. You want to remind people that, when Democrats are in office, they face tough economic times.

Don't forget, this was the middle, ObamaCare was passed in the middle of the last big economic problem inherited from the Republican administration. George W. Bush handed off a pretty bad economy to Obama and Biden.

They faced it down, they fought through. People had doubts about ObamaCare all the way through and people had doubts about ObamaCare after it passed. And yet here you are, this many years later, and it is successful, it's working and being improved to this day.

I think it reminds people that, in tough times, leadership matters. And you do some tough things people may not understand at the time. But later on, it proves itself out over time. And I think the fact that we're in an economic world war right now with Russia means Americans have to suffer more than we should.

But there is a light at the end of the tunnel, when people have stood up for freedom and when Americans have maybe gotten less dependent on oil. But it's a long road. So you've got to remind people, these long roads pay off.

Again, I can tell you personal family members, personal friends, who, today, are alive and are healthy because of ObamaCare. A lot of people can tell you the same story, millions of people. And we got through that economic crisis. We'll get through this one.

BOLDUAN: It's great to see you, Van, thank you for coming in.

JONES: Glad to be here.

BOLDUAN: Thank you.

And we'll see the presidents, the former and the current together this afternoon.

Let's get back to this. It's on your screen right now.

Coming up, Ukraine's President Zelenskyy making a passionate plea to world leaders at the United Nations just now and also calling them out for not doing enough in the face of war crimes. I'll speak with a member of Ukraine's parliament -- next.