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The Global Brief with Bianca Nobilo

CNN Speaks to Ukraine Defense Minister; South Sudan Flooding Crisis; U.S. Olympic Boycott. Aired 5-5:30p ET

Aired December 06, 2021 - 17:00   ET



BIANCA NOBILO, CNN HOST: Hello and welcome. This is THE GLOBAL BRIEF. I'm Bianca Nobilo in London.

Tonight, red lines, possible sanctions and lamentable relations. As the Russia and American presidents prepare for Ukraine talks, CNN speaks to the

Ukrainian defense minister.

Then, food shortages and severe illness. CNN is on the ground in South Sudan where communities are facing crisis upon crisis after the worst

flooding in six decades.

And the U.S. announces a diplomatic boycott of the Winter Olympics in China. The impact of that move, ahead.

A high stakes call is about to take place between two superpowers whose relationship is being described as lamentable. That's the Kremlin's

assessment of U.S.-Russia relations ahead of the video call between Joe Biden and Vladimir Putin on Tuesday

One issue that's bound to be discussed is Ukraine. U.S. intelligence obtained by CNN estimates Moscow could invade Ukraine as soon as next

month. President Biden has declared he was putting together what he called the most comprehensive and meaningful set of sanctions aimed at deterring

Russia. Sources tell CNN the U.S. could target President Putin's inner circle, Russian energy producers and even Russia's access to SWIFT, the

international payment system used by banks around world.

But there are concerns the Kremlin could retaliate by weaponizing energy production. As Ukraine marked its National Army Day on Monday, President

Volodymyr Zelensky said the country's armed forces were capable of fighting off any attack from Russia. Mr. Zelensky visited the Donetsk region where

Ukraine's army has fought Russian-backed forces since 2014.


VOLODYMYR ZELENSKY, UKRAINIAN PRESIDENT (through translator): Today, I would like to wish each of you health and to save your life. It is very

important because we need you to tell your grandsons and granddaughters wonderful stories about your heroic deeds when you defended our country.

With people like you, I am confident we will beat them all for sure.


NOBILO: CNN international correspondent Matthew Chance is in Odessa, a port city in southern Ukraine.

Matthew, I understand that you've spoken to Ukraine's defense minister.

How concern is he about the possibility of a Russian invasion?

MATTHEW CHANCE, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: I think he thinks it's a credible threat because Russia has invaded before, of course,

although he seems to be of the opinion that this is a game that Russia is playing, that it is trying to, you know, frighten people, frighten the

governments in Ukraine and prevent the West from forging a closer relationship through its institutions of NATO and the European Union.

You're right, I sat down with Oleksiy Reznikov, the relatively new Ukrainian defense minister, and, you know, he urged President Biden ahead

of that call with President Putin to stand firm with Ukraine. And he also warned of a massacre if Russia were to take the choice and to invade this

country. Take a listen.


OLEKSIY REZNIKOV, UKRAINE'S MINISTER OF DEFENSE: You see that this is empty plates.


REZNIKOV: I hope that they will empty forever. Just only these guys.

CHANCE: These are the guys that have already lost their lives. These could soon be filled.

(voice-over): This is the real threat Ukraine now faces. More soldiers dying in battles with Russia, something the country's new defense minister

appointed just a month ago tells me he's struggling with.

REZNIKOV: In Russia, they will have also the same places. Old reason, old saying (ph), Russians will die. For what?

CHANCE: Across the border, the Kremlin calls these its regular winter drills. Ukraine says there are now about 95,000 Russian troops within

striking distance. U.S. intel indicates that will rise to 175,000.

But even that, the defense minister tells me, is an underestimate.

REZNIKOV: One hundred seventy-five, it's not enough to go to Ukraine.

CHANCE: You think Russia will need more than 175,000?

REZNIKOV: Yes, sure.

CHANCE: How much more is unclear. But these latest satellite images from Russia suggest Moscow is now engaged in an unprecedented build up near the

Ukrainian frontier, enough to mount an overwhelming invasion, alarming the U.S. and NATO -- Although Ukrainian officials seem calm at what looks like

an imminent threat.

REZNIKOV: I would say that the different means that we're not in fear mood. So, we have no chance to be on this -- pushing of this.

CHANCE: But you're not fearful of a Russian invasion? Is that because you don't believe the intelligence?


REZNIKOV: No, no, no.

CHANCE: You don't believe Russians are going to invade?

REZNIKOV: We believe through our intel. We believe to all facts that was fixed by the United States intel and et cetera. But this is the last



CHANCE: But do you believe Russia will invade? Do you believe Russia will invade?

REZNIKOV: I'm not believe that -- I will not believe that Russia will have a victory in Ukraine. It's a different, because it will be a really bloody

massacre and Russian guys also will come back in the -- coffins, yes.

CHANCE: There's also a belief in Ukraine that Russia, which denies plans to invade, can, with the help of the United States and its allies, still be


This is the defense minister inducting two new coastal patrol boats from the U.S. into the Ukrainian navy. Part of a much broader military

modernization program Ukraine is trying to carry out with support from the West, angering Moscow.

Ukraine's growing ties with NATO and Kremlin demands for NATO expansion to be curbed is set to dominate President Biden's virtual summit with Vladimir

Putin of Russia on Tuesday, a crucial online meeting that could determine Ukraine's fate.

The U.S. president, the defense minister tells me, should double down on support for Ukraine.

REZNIKOV: If I can advise President Biden, I would like to ask him to very understandable, articulate to Mr. Putin that no red lines from Kremlin side

could be here. Red line is here in Ukraine, and civilized world will react without any hesitation.

We don't need the American or Canadian soldiers here to fighting for Ukraine. We will fight by ourselves. But we need modernizational weaponry.

We have -- we need electronic warfare and et cetera, et cetera.

CHANCE: The problem with America and NATO and others stepping up their help, their assistance for Ukraine is that it could potentially provoke the

Kremlin even further. Could be poking the bear and force them to invade.

Is that a concern for you? Do you think that's realistic?

REZNIKOV: The idea don't provoke Russia will not work. I'm sure.


REZNIKOV: Because Georgia, Salisbury, Crimea.

CHANCE: So, you think confrontation with Russia is the only way to stop Russia's malign activity around the world?

REZNIKOV: It could be not only confrontation. It could be very -- it should be strong position. We are partners of Ukraine. We will help them in

all kind of ways to do it. CHANCE: And the Kremlin will hear that and it will understand that and it

will stop?

REZNIKOV: I'm sure.

CHANCE: But it is a high-stakes gamble with no guarantee such a hard line from the White House to the Kremlin will do anything to force Russia back.


CHANCE (on camera): Ukrainian officials tonight, Bianca, are expressing their gratitude to the United States for, in their words, its continued

support. There's been a telephone call already between President Zelensky of Ukraine and the U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken in which

apparently they agreed their positions before the phone conversation with President Putin and President Biden.

Nothing about Ukraine without Ukraine. That's how President Zelensky ended his tweet. With that assurance from the Americans that he will be kept in

the loop, as it were, as Ukraine as negotiating -- the future of Ukraine is negotiated within Washington and Moscow.

NOBILO: Matthew Chance, thank you so much, in Odessa, Ukraine, for bringing thaws important interview.

Meanwhile, Russia is touting its relationship with India, even as Washington is wary about the cooperation between the two countries. Russian

President Vladimir Putin met Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi in New Delhi on Monday. The two leaders praised each other, discussed the

situation in Afghanistan and signed a flurry of trade and arms deals. Russia has long been a key arms supplier to India.


VLADIMIR PUTIN, RUSSIAN PRESIDENT (through translator): We perceive India as a great power, a friendly nation, and a time-tested friend. We also

cooperate well in the military and technical sphere like no other country.


NOBILO: This is only Mr. Putin's second overseas trip since the pandemic began.

Now, the White Houses has just announced a diplomatic boycott of the Beijing Winter Olympics. The Biden administration will not send any

officials or diplomats to the games set to begin in less than 60 days.


The move sends a message to China about its human rights record that allows American athletes to compete in the games.


JEN PSAKI, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: U.S. diplomatic or official representation would treat these game as business as usual in the face of

the PRC's egregious human right abuses and atrocities in Xinjiang, and we simply can't do that. As the president told President Xi, standing up for

human rights is in the DNA of Americans. We have a fundamental commitment and we feel strongly in our position and we will continue to take actions

to advance human rights in China and beyond.


NOBILO: China slammed the move even before it was announced, warning that Beijing would take resolute countermeasures.


ZHAO LIJIAN, CHINESE FOREIGN MINISTRY SPOKESPERSON (through translator): U.S. politicians continue to hype diplomatic boycott to the Beijing Winter

Olympics. They're completely wishful thinking, grandstanding and politically manipulative. This is a serious defilement to the spirit of the

Olympic charter, a pure political provocation and has serious offense to 1.4 billion Chinese people. It will only allow the Chinese people and

people around the world to see through the anti-China nature and hypocrisy of American politicians.


NOBILO: Tensions between the two superpowers aren't just heating up here on Earth, but beyond our planet as well. A top U.S. official says China is

developing its space capabilities much faster than America and could soon take the lead over Washington.

The vice chief of space operations spoke to a panel of experts moderated by CNN's Kristen Fisher and announced Washington is competing in a space race

with Beijing. He also has a warning.


GEN. DAVID THOMPSON, VICE CHIEF OF SPACE OPERATIONS, U.S. SPACE FORCE: The fact that in essence on average, they are building and updating their space

capabilities at twice the rate we are means very soon, if we don't start accelerating our development and delivery capabilities, they will exceed

us, and 2030 is not an unreasonable estimate.


NOBILO: Let's take a look other key stories making an international impact today.

At least 22 people have died after one of Indonesia's most active volcano erupted on Saturday. This is some of the damage Mount Semeru caused after

it sent smoldering hot ash and volcanic gas into the sky. Thousands of homes in East Java were destroyed and thousands of people are displaced.

We're learning new details about the release of three more hostages in Haiti. A U.S. official says two of them are American, a young child and

mother. They're part of a Christian missionary group that was abducted by a gang in October. Two hostages were released last month. Twelve are still

being held.

The government of Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko is retaliating against European Union sanctions on its aviation industry. It says it will

impose similar measures on carriers from the E.U., and U.K. Western nations accused Belarus of orchestrating a migrant crisis along the British border,

in part to destabilize the E.U.

The United Arab Emirates national security adviser made a rare visit to Tehran today. In a sign of thawing relations between two countries, with

being on opposite sides of regional conflicts like the war in Yemen. Sheikh Tahnoun bin Zayed met with the Iranian President Ibrahim Raisi as well as

Iran's national security counsel secretary.

An affront to justice, a gross violation of human rights, an appalling attempt to suffocate freedom and democracy. That's just part of the

international condemnation we're hearing today of the sentencing of Aung San Suu Kyi in Myanmar. A court controlled by the military convicted the

deposed leader of incitement and breaking COVID relations. It sentenced her to four years in jail but that was later reduced to two years by the ruling

junta. Suu Kyi has been detained since her government was overthrown in a coup back in February.

Crowds turned out in Yangon today to voice their outrage, a brave act given the military's crackdown on protesters. The U.N. is accusing the junta of

using any means to remove all political opposition, but warns this could backfire.


RAVINA SHMADASANI, U.N. HUMAN RIGHTS OFFICE SPOKESPERSON: This kind of a sentence for Aung San Suu Kyi and the continued detention of political

opponents we believe it will only embolden the resistance against the illegitimate rule of the military.


NOBILO: Pope Francis says he's accepted the resignation of the archbishop of Paris, but he's defending the man, saying Michel Aupetit is the victim

of petty gossip. Aupetit resigned over reports he had a relationship with a woman. He denies the relationship was sexual, but admits his behavior was

ambiguous since he's bound by the church's rule of celibacy.

The pope refuses to condemn him. The pontiff says he's accepted the resignation not on the altar of truth but on the altar of hypocrisy,

blaming gossip for taking away the archbishop's reputation.



POPE FRANCIS, CATHOLIC CHURCH: It was the failing of Archbishop Michele Aupetit, a failing of the sixth commandment. You shalt not commit adultery.

But not a total one, one of small caresses, massages given to his secretary. That is what the accusation is.

There's a sin there, but not the worst kind. The sins of the flesh are not the most serious. The most serious ones are sins like pride, hatred. These

are the most serious sins. So the Archbishop Michele Aupetit is a sinner and so am I.


NOBILO: The Omicron coronavirus variant is spreading to new places despite travel bans, just as health experts warn. Between that and the spread of

the Delta strain, we're seeing more vaccine mandates on the table today. Taiwan is requiring employees in certain sectors like education, child

care, and entertainment, to be fully vaccinated by January 1st.

The Czech government is ordering vaccines for many public workers and all citizens age 60 and older. Africa's largest telecom conglomerate is

requiring all its employees to be fully vaccinated effective next month, and New York City says everyone who works in the city must have their


Coming up, historic flooding in South Sudan. CNN's Clarissa Ward is on the ground with residents as they try to hold back the encroaching water and

save their homes.


NOBILO: Food shortages and risk of illness are key concerns in South Sudan right now, after severe flooding hit the country, the worst in nearly six

decades. The environmental crisis is affecting more than 700,000 people and isolating parts of the country.

CNN's Clarissa Ward is in South Sudan, reporting on the toll it's taken on residents.


CLARISSA WARD, CNN CHIEF INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Just four months ago, this was a bustling town of 11,000 people. Then the floods

came, biblical in scale, leaving it submerged under water and largely cut off. As we arrive in Ding Ding there are few signs of life. Just some

belongings stashed in the treetops. The only protection from the waters that have inundated much of South Sudan.

So this entire town has been flooded since August, and the waters are still getting higher and higher, even though the rainy season is now over.


A group of women catch sight of us and want to talk.

Hi. Where are your homes? Have your homes been destroyed?


WARD: They survived year of vicious civil war here.


These floods may pose the greatest threat yet.

They tell us their crops have been completely destroyed.

So what are you living on right now? What are you surviving on? The lilies? The water lilies.

Are people getting sick from the dirty water?

Many people have water-born diseases, Maskra Kasar (ph) explains. The wells were all covered so we have to drink this water.

While South Sudan is no stranger the seasonal flooding, Unity State hasn't been hit like this since the early 1960s. Scientists say the floods have

become much more intense and unpredictable in recent years in part because of global warming.

James. Hi, James.

James Blaine (ph) is one of hundreds of thousands who have been displaced. He agrees to show us what's left of his family home.

Oh, my god. That's your motorcycle.

Nothing is left except for his children's drawings on the walls.

Since the conflict erupted, we've never had a rest, he tells us. We've been constantly running, displaced. Our children have had no relief from the


Now he is forced to flee once again. The journey to the promise of dry land is long and arduous. The lucky ones travel by boat.

Most swim or wade, moving slowly but purposely through the muddy waters. Some push makeshift floats piled high with family members and possessions.

We've come across a group of women whose raft is stuck in the mud. The men of the family have gone to try save their livestock.

Norika (ph) tells us they left their destroyed home four days ago.

Have you been pushing this raft for four days?

Yes, they tell us. Along the way, they say their food ran out.

How old is your baby?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Five to six months.

WARD: Five to six months? Are you worried about your children?

Yes, I'm worried, she says, and that's why we keep moving.

They still have several miles to push before they reach this narrow strip of dry land. According to UNICEF, some 6,000 people have now settled here,

completely dependent on aid to survive.

LUEL DING, UNICEF EDUCATION OFFICER: They don't have latrine, they don't have enough food for them to eat.

WARD: They don't have bathroom, they don't have food.

DING: Nothing.

WARD: And there are more people arriving every day?

DING: People are continuing to be displaced and continue coming.

WARD: You're obviously doing everything you can, but is it enough?

DING: This is not enough, and there is reason why we are calling for donor communities to ensure that children get schools, children get health care,

they get nutrition (ph) services. We're here to make sure that, you know, we prevent them to die.

WARD: As stagnant waters continue to rise, so do diseases like diarrhea and hepatitis E. Malnutrition in children is now at its highest level since


Those who make it all the way to the state capital Bentiu find little sanctuary. Some of the main roads have been turned into waterways. Cars

replaced by canoes. Just a mile further, the ghostly remains of what was once a commercial hub. This used to be the central shopping area in town.

As you can see, completely destroyed.

According to authorities, 90 percent of Unity State has been impacted by these floods. Here the effects of climate change aren't a hypothetical

problem in the future, but rather a real disaster in the present.


WARD: Minister Lam Tungwar concedes local authorities were completely unprepared and are now unable to cope with the scale of the crisis.

KUEIGWONG: We don't have any sufficient for survival.

WARD: How much longer can you cope with the situation as it stands?

KUEIGWONG: Realistically, I can tell you we don't know, but we are just worried about the next rain, because we are told the water behind me will

not go now. They will recede right now or dry up. It's going to take a while because it's deep water.

WARD: They don't have long. The next rains are expected in May, and if the current waters don't recede, the fear is that this area will be wiped off

the map.


Dikes are being built to try to hold back the encroaching waters. The handful of diggers are no match for the vast flooding. Breaches are common,

leaving many with no choice but to take matters into their own hand, hastily improvise protection for their endangered homes, as the waters

quietly continue to rise.


NOBILO: CNN's Clarissa Ward reporting there from South Sudan. We'll be right back after this.


NOBILO: If we fail, the future generations will know why. That's the aim of the so-called "Earth black box", which is using algorithms to record all

findings and conversations about the climate emergency, every piece of research, new headlines, tweets. It's being built in the remote island of

Tasmania in Australia, because of its geopolitical and geological stability.

The structure, about the size of a bus is equipped with thick steel walls, battery storage, and solar panels to make it indestructible against climate

change itself, even though it won't be finish until next year, it starts recording during the COP26 summit in November.

You've been watching THE GLOBAL BRIEF. We'll see you again tomorrow.