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The Global Brief with Bianca Nobilo

Spy in U.K. Parliament?; Russia and West at Loggerheads; Prince Andrew Stripped of Titles. Aired 5-5:30p ET

Aired January 13, 2022 - 17:00   ET



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

Tonight, stalemate as Russia and the West disagree on the de-escalation of the situation on Ukraine's border, with both sides refusing to budge. What

does that mean for Eastern Europe?

Prince Andrew has been stripped of his royal titles. We break down the significance of this act.

And an alleged spy threat from China. Who MI5 says it found in the British parliament, coming up.

And that's where we begin here in London, the mother of all shocks in the mother of parliaments, after warnings of a spy threat from China. Christine

Lee, who runs law firms in London and Birmingham, is accused of engaging in political interference for the Chinese Communist Party. In a rare warning,

MI5 told lawmakers she may have been attempting to influence them.


IAIN DUNCAN SMITH, BRITISH CONSERVATIVE MP: I understand that Mr. Speaker has been contacted by MI5 and has been warning the parliament that there

has been an agent of the Chinese government active here in parliament, working with a member of the parliament obviously to subvert the processes



NOBILO: Lee has publicly stated her activities are to represent the U.K.'s Chinese's community and increase diversity. CNN has reached out to Lee for

comment but has not yet received a reply.

Earlier, I spoke to British MP Mark Logan to get his reaction to these remarkable developments.


MARK LOGAN, BRITISH CONSERVATIVE PARTY MP: Well, Bianca, it came right out of the blue this morning around kind of noontime when the speaker of the

House of Commons, Linsey Hoyle, he sent an email with an attachment which has been subsequently leaked across social media. And so myself like many

other parliamentarians on both sides of the houses of parliament, we're just taken aback by the document that has been shared.

NOBILO: And we've now seen photographs of Ms. Lee and the alleged agent in question with Jeremy Corbin. She's apparently been photographed with David

Cameron, supposedly given a prize by Teresa May. How significant is this possible failure of intelligence?

LOGAN: Well, I think it's important, just having read through the documents, the ones I've seen the same as the once you'll have seen and

your viewers will have seen as well. And so, I still think there's questions around, you know, what does interference into the political

process mean? I mean, there are some quite significant words used in the document whereby that may refer to activity such as deception or coercion

or corruption.

But we don't actually know the answers to any of those questions at this point in time. So I think it will be very important in the weeks and months

ahead that we do find out as much as possible about the allegations that have been made about the particular individual or indeed anyone else that

the security services or people who you're looking after, our democracy can tell us.

NOBILO: And, Mark, do you know if that's likely to happen when you're expecting any more information so you can look at your office, potentially

your relationships, those of your colleagues, and make sure everything is as safe as it can be?

LOGAN: Well, I think, Bianca, one thing to keep in mind is that in the short-term, of course, we have to defend parliament in order to defend the

people from any sort of foreign influence that goes too far, no matter what foreign state that may actually be. But I think as a parliamentarian, it

would be very useful to know exactly what the kind of boundaries and limits are, because, you know, we are as MPs, or indeed people that are working in

the lords, you're approached by all sorts of different embassies and consulates on a weekly basis.

You're always receiving emails or attending functions with people, so you're constantly and actively being lobbied. So I think it's important for

the guidelines to be set down. But also, a very important point is also -- I think in the long-term -- is that we have to be careful that we don't

kind of follow in to a self-fulfilling prophesy whereby we're always worrying or thinking there's a constant China threat and that China is one

big monolithic entity because actually China has 4.5 billion people.

We have a successful Chinese Diaspora in the U.K. So we have to make sure we don't go too far when it comes to the kind of anxieties around these

issues, make sure we get the proper balance between China having things, which we don't agree with in this country, but at the same time also

recognizing there are opportunities when it comes to working with China.

NOBILO: So you don't read the situation as a moment to perhaps step back that once more other potential connections to parliament from Chinese

individuals. You think that this might be more of an isolated incident?

LOGAN: Well, I think it's important for our security services to protect us as much as possible. Again, that could be from, you know, any sort of

foreign country or indeed foreign entity. I think that that's -- obviously that should continue to be the case, whether there are, you know, isolated

incidents or indeed there's more kind of systemic encroachments upon our democracy.


NOBILO: The rhetoric is ominous as Russia be the U.S. failed for a third time this week to find a diplomatic solution over their standoff over

Ukraine. Diplomats met at the organization for security and cooperation in Europe and Vienna today. But with both sides refusing to budge on their

demands, the specter of war is now hanging over Eastern Europe.

Here's how the ambassador to the OSCE bluntly put it.


MICHAEL CARPENTER, U.S. AMBASSADOR TO THE OSCE: We're facing a crisis in European security. The drumbeat of war is sounding loud, and the rhetoric

has gotten rather shrill. We have to take this very seriously. We have to prepare for the eventuality that there could be an escalation.


NOBILO: And as Russian snipers practice sharp shooting near the Ukrainian border, Russia's foreign minister said Moscow won't discuss the U.S.

demand, that it will pull back its estimated 100,000 troops that are stationed there. Same with the West, which says Russia's demand that NATO

agreeing never expand further east is a nonstarter. And America's top negotiator says that she suspects Russia may be showing up at the talks

just to say it tried diplomacy.

So with the two sides at loggerheads and now, new talks scheduled, the OSCE chairman gave this bleak assessment.


ZBIGNIEW RAU, POLISH FOREIGN MINISTER/OSCE CHAIRMAN: It seems that the risk of war in the OSCE area is now greater than ever before in the last 30



NOBILO: CNN's Matthew Chance is tracking all of this from Moscow.

Matthew, I think given these developments or lack thereof this week, maybe we could take a step back and you could explain what Russia stands to gain

either from military action or from allowing the specter of military action to continue and what might be their calculus for not making a move right


MATTHEW CHANCE, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: I mean, look, Russia has set out if a couple of draft treaties what its demands are, and

they all boil down to a few things -- firstly, that NATO stop expanding eastwards because the expansion of the Western military lines is what

Moscow says threaten its national security. The second core demand they're making is that military forces inside countries that join NATO since the

collapse of the Soviet Union, so we're talking about Poland and the Baltic states, they should be scaled back, effectively creating a two-tier NATO

membership system in which countries that are close to Russia don't have the same kind of protection that countries that are a bit more distant from


Now, obviously, these are nonstarters. These are things that no western official is even going to consider discussing with the Russians, and

they've made that quite clear.

And so, you know, it raises a couple of questions. First of all, why is Russia sort of asking for these sort of undeliverable items? And one answer

may be, as the U.S. secretary of state has said, is that this whole diplomatic dance is a charade, and actually at the end of this process, the

Russians are going to say, we tried diplomacy, it didn't work. Now we're going to get to military solution, and perhaps send those tens of thousands

of troops that got massed near the border of Ukraine actually into the country to create a security buffer, perhaps, you know, actually on the


The other possibility, and it's quite complicated, I know, but the other possibility may be that the Russians are trying to shake the diplomatic

tree and to see what compromises fall out. And that actually they like the fact that the strong message they put out over the course of this week may

give the West, the United States pause for thought when it comes to even considering bringing NATO -- Ukraine, rather, closer into the NATO military


And so, we'll see what Vladimir Putin has to say about this. It's his opinion, his whim that this will turn on, and he hasn't said anything about

the negotiations this week so far.

NOBILO: Matthew, obviously, you know, we are a Western media organization, trying to see things from Russia's perspective. How sincere do you

interpret Russia's remarks when they're worried about NATO encroachment and they're worried about what the West might do and wanting this buffer? Is

that sincere? And do they really have what some experts call paranoia about Western intentions? Or do you think that is simply rhetoric as

justification for potential aggression from them?

CHANCE: Well, I think there are genuine national security concerns in Russia and they genuinely feel that they've been ignored over the course of

the past 20 or 30 years since the collapse of the Soviet Union, and, you know, they've watched, you know, countries that were once in their sphere

of influence become absorbed into Western institutions like NATO and like the European Union.

And much more recently than that, they've seen their client states in the Middle East like Iraq, like Libya, the Serbian, the Yugoslav regime -- back

on to Slobodan Milosevic in the late 1990s sort of, you know, attacked by the Western alliance, the pro-Russian governments in those countries are

overthrown. And all of that was seen as sort of, you know, a slap in the face, an insult, by the Kremlin, particularly since Vladimir Putin came to

power at the turn -- at the turn of the century.

And so, you know, I think what we're seeing now is an increase in assertiveness by Russia to sort of draw a line and to say, look, enough is

enough. You know, we won't tolerate any further, you know, degradation of our position or any further expansion of Western -- of Western power. And

this is just the latest iteration of that.

We saw it a few years ago in Syria as well when the Russians sent in military forces to back up their client state, to back up their ally Bashar

al Assad. They did that successfully. And, you know, I think what they're trying to do now is to -- is to sort of underline that they won't tolerate

any further, as I say, Western expansion.

NOBILO: Thank you, Matthew. It's so important to have that perspective, I think, well fleshed out in the midst of all these discussions. Matthew

Chance for us in Moscow.

After heart-wrenching testimony from victims of torture in a notorious Syrian prison, a German court has returned a landmark verdict against the

former senior official in Bashar al Assad's regime. It convicted Anwar Raslan of crimes of humanity, finding he oversaw the torture of prisoners

in Damascus a decade ago.

We want to warn you, our report by Jomana Karadsheh has extremely disturbing images of torture victims, but we believe the world must know

their story on the day their families finally get some measure of justice.


JOMANA KARADSHEH, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): It is in this small idyllic German city where Syria's long road to justice begins, with an end

to a decade of impunity for some of the worst atrocities of our time.

This court in Koblenz is the first in the world to convict a former senior member of the Assad regime of crimes against humanity.

A year ago, it sentenced a junior co-defendant to four and a half years in prison for his role in the case. For nearly two years, the court heard of

horrors that unfolded thousands of miles away at a Damascus detention facility where former Colonel Anwar Raslan allegedly oversaw the torture of

as many as 4,000 detainees, sexual assaults and the death of dozens during the early days of the uprising.

Raslan defected in 2012 and later fled to Germany, where his past caught up with him. Some of his victims were among the hundreds of thousands of

Syrian refugees who also made it to Germany.

WASSIM MUKDAD, SYRIAN WITNESS AND JOINT PLAINTIFF: He ordered directly to a man next to me, make him lay on his belly and raise his feet in the air,

like a stress situation, and once the answers didn't suit him, the other man, anchor man, starts to hit the resister. It's like hell.

KARADSHEH: Musician Wassim Mukdad was tortured ten years ago. He says he's been tormented by the trauma ever since. Reliving that trauma and

confronting his jailer, he says, was a duty to those who never made it out to tell their own stories.


MUKDAD: I gave my testimony on the 19th of August 2020. I felt relief. A huge burden from my shoulders. This memory that I kept willingly because I

didn't want it to be just lost and those suffering would be in vain.

KARADSHEH: Activists have been collecting evidence of the regime's rampant and systematic torture long before this trial. In 2014, some of the most

damning visual evidence of state-sponsored torture emerged after horrific photographs of thousands of detainees tortured to death in Assad's jails

were smuggled out of Syria by a military defector code named Caesar. But up until this trial, no one had ever been held accountable.

The path to international accountability has been blocked by regime allies, Russia and China.

But that is starting to change now. Here in Germany and in other European countries, victims have found a new path to justice under universal

jurisdiction. A legal principle that allows national courts like this one to prosecute grave crimes against international law, no matter where in the

world they were committed.

It is the breakthrough Anwar al-Bunni has dedicated his life to. The human rights lawyer was a driving force behind this trial and other cases in


ANWAR AL-BUNNI, SYRIAN HUMAN RIGHTS LAWYER: Crimes against humanity, it's not crimes which is committed by one person. It's committed by regime, by

state. When the charge will be crimes against humanity, that means holds the system, holds the regime, and holds the person charged now.

KARADSHEH: Bunni believes this trial sends a message of hope at a time when Assad appears to have won the war and many in the international

community seem keen to turn the page.

AL-BUNNI: We want to send message to the criminals who are still in Syria or they escape to here and think they are safe now and OK, we -- let --

there is no safe place can hide you. No safe place to you in all the world.

KARADSHEH: Victims say their battle for justice is only just beginning.

Jomana Karadsheh, Koblenz, Germany.


NOBILO: The committee that awards the Nobel Peace Prize is issuing a rare condemnation of a former laureate, saying Ethiopia's prime minister has a,

quote, special responsibility to end war with Tigrayan rebels and ensure humanitarian aid reaches those in need.

Abiy Ahmed sent troops into Tigray in 2020, just a year after he won the prize for helping end Ethiopia's war with Eritrea. Thousands of civilians

have been killed in the Tigray conflict, hundreds of thousands of others are facing famine-like conditions. Both government troops and rebels are

accused of atrocities.

A 23-year-old schoolteacher was found dead in Central Ireland, and a murder investigation is now under way.

Police say Ashling Murphy was killed while running by Canal Park while running in the middle of the afternoon. And they're urging all those who

are in the area that day to come forward. At this stage, they believe she was beaten to death by a male that she didn't know who acted alone.

You're watching THE GLOBAL BRIEF. We'll be right back after this.



NOBILO: Buckingham palace has announced that Prince Andrew has been stripped of his military titles and charity roles. A source tells CNN that

Prince Andrew will no longer use his "His Royal Highness" in any official capacity. This comes just a day after the U.S. judge rules the sexual

assault case against the duke of York can continue.

The scope of the allegations against the prince put the palace in an unprecedented situation and losing the HRH designation is rare. King Edward

VIII lost his title when he abdicated in 1936. Prince Andrews' ex-wife, Sarah Ferguson, lost her title after the couple divorced, and Diana, prince

of Wales, lost hers after she divorced Prince Charles. And in 2020, Prince Harry and Meghan gave theirs up in exchange for more independence from the


CNN's royal correspondent Max Foster is, of course, well-praised to explain the significant of this and he joins us now from Hampshire.

Max, yesterday you and I were discussing how the royal family obviously could not comment on the legal proceedings. This is not a comment, but it

does make a statement. What's your interpretation?

MAX FOSTER, CNN ROYAL CORRESPONDENT: It's the same thing, really, trying to separate themselves from all of the salacious detail, which is

inevitably going to come out now in this case. You describe the HRH there. It might not mean much to the wider world in reality, but with it come all

sorts of trappings -- a private office, you know, a position at the top table at state events.

He is no longer his royal highness, so he is no longer part of the machinery of a modern monarchy. He's still part of the family. He's still

Prince Andrew, but he's not part of the working role. And he's been stripped of his public role, all his military titles he held so dear --

he's a former military man, and also this royal patronages. They've all been taken away.

This is an effort by the Queen and Buckingham Palace, and no doubt Charles and William involve in the this, to distance themes from what's upcoming.

So, source close to Prince Andrew, not part of the palace machinery, talking about the duke wants to continue to defend against these claims.

This doesn't sound, Bianca, like the sort of settlement that we're discussing last night. Giuffre's side also suggesting she doesn't

necessarily want a financial gain out of this. She wants her day in court. So, a settlement seems less likely. So, therefore, we are going into a

period of discovery, deposition of potentially this trial later in the year, which would over overshadow monarchy over that period of time and I

think the queen simply wants to protect it and it's putting duty above her personal thoughts again.

She's had to do that often in the recent years. It's been a really tough period for her, but ultimately she's trying to protect the monarchy I think

today. Andrew, of course, denying all these charges.

NOBILO: Max Foster in Hampshire, thanks so much. I'm sure we'll be in touch with you again soon as all of this develops.

Let's take a look at the other key stories making international impact today.

Denmark is sounding the alarm on Russia, China, and Iran. It says there's a growing threat of espionage from these countries and that spying attempts

have gone up in recent years. There's worry around the arctic region where global powers are competing for resources and sea routes.

Thousands of French schoolteachers took part in strikes and protests across the country today. Union leaders say they're fed up and frustrated by COVID

testing protocols that change constantly and by government mismanagement they say put their lives at risk. French leaders have been trying to keep

the country as open as possible, even as it deals with record waves of new cases.

A crowd of people frustrating against vaccine mandates in Bulgaria nearly overran police and stormed the parliament building. About 3,000 people

showed up to demonstrate against health passes and mask mandates, that they say are a way of forcing them to get vaccinated. Bulgaria is the least

vaccinated country in the European Union.

Coming up, a decade since the luxury cruise ship Costa Concordia capsized off Italy. We hear from the survivors next.



NOBILO; It's been ten years since the luxury cruise ship Costa Concordia ran aground and capsized after hitting rocks off an Italian island of

Giglio. Thirty-two people lost their lives during a chaotic evacuation in the middle of the night. Its captain is serving a 16-year prison sentence

on multiple charges. He was blamed for bringing one of the largest cruise ships ever built, too close to shore and abandoning the passengers.

Now, a decade later, the trauma of that night still haunts some of the survivors.


ANTONIETTA SIMBOLI, SHIPWRECK SURVIVOR (through translator): We saw people pushing each other, and leave people in wheel chairs behind them. Everyone

who could jump jumped into the sea. It was traumatic. I wasn't able to board another cruise ship until last year with a lot of courage.

MARIO PELLIGRINI, GIGLIO RESIDENT AND RESCUER: The thing that stayed with us is the eyes of the children. That is the thing that remains. This

sensation that when people are terror and are afraid, it is like the image of the Titanic -- people who are lost, people who need help. These face,

afraid, terrorized, that is what has remained. But I am happy that I returned home for my children.


NOBILO: The Costa Concordia was left on its side in the sea for two and a half years before being removed in a massive operation. Some Italian coast

guard officials who are involved in saving hundreds of passengers dropped flowers into the sea to remember victims.

This has been your GLOBAL BRIEF. We'll see you tomorrow.