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The Global Brief with Bianca Nobilo

U.S., Russia FMs Meet In Geneva, Saudi-Led Airstrikes Kill Dozens Across Yemen; Tonga International Calls Restored. Aired 5-5:30p ET

Aired January 21, 2022 - 17:00   ET



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

Tonight, the needle fails to move in the nation of neutrality. Talks in Switzerland failing to bring any breakthroughs in the tensions over


Then, families are finally able to call their loved ones in Tonga after the devastating volcanic eruption. The latest on the ground as the island

nation begins to rebuild.

Plus, two elephants, a dog, and a Betty White challenge. It's time for your much needed weekly good news wrap.

First, though, to those high stakes talks in Geneva. The U.S. and Russia are no closer to resolving their core disputes over Ukraine and its future

relations with NATO. The Secretary of State Antony Blinken says Friday's meeting with Sergey Lavrov was useful by providing a clearer path to

understand in each other's concerns. Lavrov is leading with a promise Russia has long sought. The U.S. will provide written answers to its

security demands next week. Lavrov says what happens next depends on what's in that document, and yet Russia already knows full well that its central

demands will be rejected.

Blinken again stretched that any invasion with Ukraine will be met with a swift united response, while Lavrov denied that Russia is planning any

attack. Blinken says actions matter, not words. He says if Russia wants to convince the world it has no aggressive intentions, it should pull back its

troops from the Ukrainian border. But those forces are only gaining in strength as weeks of diplomacy stretch on.

Our Fred Pleitgen reports.


FREDERIK PLEITGEN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): With Russian forces continuing their build-up near Ukraine's border and

U.S. warning that Moscow could quickly send significantly more forces to the area, there was a sense of urgency to the meeting between U.S.

Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov. The secretary of state saying the U.S. made clear of further

invasion of Ukraine would have severe consequences.

ANTONY BLINKEN, SECRETARY OF STATE: This was not a negotiation, but a candid exchange of concerns and ideas. I made clear to Mr. Lavrov that

there are certain issues and fundamental principles that the United States and our partners and allies are committed to defend. That includes those

that would impede the sovereign right of the Ukrainian people to write their own future. There is no trade space there. None.

PLEITGEN: The meeting came just after new satellite images seemed to show the Russian troop buildup progressing. With forces now stationed less than

ten miles from the Ukrainian border, well within striking distance.

Both Russia and the U.S. say Washington will provide written answers to Moscow next week, replying to Moscow's security demands, including that

Ukraine never become a member of NATO. Blinken has recently called that demand a, quote, absolute nonstarter.

While Russia claims it has never threatened Ukraine, the U.S. and its allies say the danger of an escalation is real. Russia's foreign minister

with an angry response when I asked him.

How big do you think right now the threat of war is in Europe through some miscalculation with such a large force gathering around Ukraine?

SERGEY LAVROV, RUSSIAN FOREIGN MINISTER (through translator): I think that the State Department also needs to analyze how fair CNN is in presenting

its information and the accuracy of the facts that it represents.

Antony Blinken repeated his position on the right to choose alliances. I asked how America is going to fulfill its obligation, which was approved at

the highest level in the frame work of the OSCE. Along with the right to choose alliances, the obligation does not strengthen anyone's security at

the expense of infringing on the security of others. He promised to explain how the United States treats the fulfillment of this obligation. As I told

you, this is not the end of our dialogue.

PLEITGEN: While both the U.S. and Russia say there will be further talks, Russia's military buildup goes on. Moscow saying it has now forward

deployed sophisticated S-400 anti-aircraft missiles to Belarus, Moscow says for upcoming military drills.


PLEITGEN (on camera): Both signs also raised the prospect of a possible top level meeting between President Joe Biden and Russian Leader Vladimir

Putin in the near future. The U.S. saying such a meeting could happen if it were both necessary and productive.

Fred Pleitgen, CNN, Geneva, Switzerland.

NOBILO: Our Clarissa Wards joins us now from Kyiv, where a senior Ukrainian official warns that continued diplomacy could simply be a

delaying tactic by Moscow.


Clarissa, thanks so much for joining the program.

Obviously, Ukraine understandably has had the most alarming grave assessment from Russia throughout the last few months. What's their view on

where things stand right now?

CLARISSA WARD, CNN CHIEF INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, what we're hearing today from the foreign minister is a sense of, you know, not

relief, exactly, but certainly pleased to hear that talks are continuing, that there is at least a sort of modicum of hope that there still could be

some kind of a diplomatic path or way out of this. We heard also that the foreign minister, after those talks, spoke with Secretary of State Antony


I think the Ukrainians really keen to show they're in lock step with their American allies. President Zelensky also tweeted how grateful he was to

President Biden and to the U.S. for its steadfast support and partnership, and all of this, of course, coming after the last 24 hours when there had

been a lot of consternation here in Ukraine about President Biden's comments that potentially a smaller or minor incursion wouldn't necessarily

result in the same kind of unified and robust response from U.S. allies.

So, now that the White House clarified those points and now that there does seem to be some hope -- although it remains to be seen how they could solve

their differing approaches and ideas and priorities about this situation, that at least diplomacy has not yet reached a dead end, Bianca.

NOBILO: And, obviously, all the players in this are holding out diplomacy could be a solution, at least as far as NATO and Ukraine is concerned. How

sincere to the Ukrainians' view Russia's participation in these talks and these diplomatic efforts?

WARD: I think the Ukrainians view this matter through the prism, not just the escalation of Russian forces along its border in the past few months,

but eight years of aggression and occupation and constant cyberattacks and maligned activity here. So, they are naturally very reticent to trust

figure that we hear from the Russian side, and I think there's a lot of skepticism from many analysts.

Is Vladimir Putin really interested in finding a solution here? Is he committed to trying at least to follow a diplomatic path, or is this a

diversion? And is his real intention to simply go ahead with the plan or a decision that's already been made to go ahead and launch some kind of an


It's simply impossible to know. As we have said many times, and I'm sure you have heard many times, it is so difficult. The only person who really

knows the answer to that is President Vladimir Putin himself, and it's quite possible I would say, Bianca, that he has not even made that decision


But very difficult for anyone here in Ukraine or frankly anywhere at this stage to ascertain just how sincere Russia's approach to this diplomatic

process is and what it genuinely hopes to be able to extract from the U.S. in terms of negotiations. Because on the fundamental demands that the

Russians have made, the U.S. has said all along these are nonstarters.

NOBILO: Clarissa ward in Kyiv, thank you.

We spoke yesterday with the Estonian parliament secretary for the Ministry of Defense about a plan for the Baltic State to help arm Ukraine. Well,

now, it's official. Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania have announced they will transfer some U.S. made weaponry in their arsenals to bolster Ukraine's

defense. Just before today's show, I talked about this with Latvia's foreign minister.


EDGARS RINKEVICS, LATVIAN FOREIGN MINISTER: This is a joint decision by the Baltic States and specifically Latvia has decided to provide anti-

aircraft missiles, single type missiles.

NOBILO: Is that the extent of the support that you'll be providing Ukraine with?

RINKEVICS: No, we are also considering some additional nonlethal support, but what I want to stress is that what we are going to provide is strictly

defensive weapon system.

NOBILO: And what is your response to the outcome or perhaps lack thereof of the meeting in Geneva today between Blinken and Lavrov?

RINKEVICS: First of all, I think it is very good that diplomacy still is working. I think that it is good that both the United States and Russia are

talking. I understand this is not very easy. I'm also delighted to see that at NATO we are also considering how we can do some more diplomacy as well.

But at the same time, I think that a lot depends now on the Kremlin, on Russia, or they are going to move.


I do believe the escalation is still possible. I also believe that there are issues that we can discuss, but (INAUDIBLE) know, there has been

stressed many times, there are also issues that are not acceptable in Russian demands. Those issues are not acceptable to Latvia, or to NATO as

the alliance.

NOBILO: Do you think that Russia might have a point in perhaps one route towards de-escalation, maybe removing troops or military equipment from

being so close to Russia's borders in exchange for Russian troops perhaps bringing their troops back from the border of Ukraine?

RINKEVICS: It's very difficult to say what is really the end game. I think that both Russia and let's say the Western countries have said very clearly

what are the basic principles that both sides want to achieve. I do believe that the major issue that we want to see is that Russia is not threatening

Ukraine with invasion or incursion, whatever scale of invasion or incursion there can be that, we return to diplomacy, that we return to those permits

that have been existing, like the Normandy (INAUDIBLE), the stability in that region.

But also, I have a feeling that Russia maybe now feels that this is time to push, and it's not only about Ukraine. I think it's also about the kind of

creation of division in Europe, division in NATO. You know, energy prices, you know, COVID situation, you know also that many of Western allies are

preoccupied with internal issues.

And also I do believe that somebody in Russia thinks that Ukraine is just slipping away from whatever sphere of influence or whatever empire they

want to create in the future, and I think that for them it's probably now or never, and then it's really sad.

NOBILO: I don't ask this to be inflammatory, rather elucidatory. What happen to the Baltic States, to Latvia, if Russia does invade Ukraine?

RINKEVICS: Well, first of all, I do believe that as we are both part of NATO and the EU, when it comes to military security, we are on the safe

side. I also believe that to some extent, this is also a bit kind of -- propaganda warriors trying to kind of inject some kind of worries in your

society -- look, nobody's going to help you.

Look what is happening. And you know, there were some speculations after NATO's withdrawal from Afghanistan and so on. What we are hearing from all

our allies -- from the United States, Germany, France, UK, Italy, and also countries, everyone, all 30 NATO members, that Article Five is -- and I

believe also that people in Kremlin knows that, that if they do something wrong with NATO member states, that's even more a game changer if we

compare that to Ukraine.


NOBILO: In Yemen, we want to show you what happened after today's devastating and deadly air strikes a warning, some viewer made find the

images disturbing. A Saudi-led coalition airstrike targeting a telecom building in Hodeidah led to chaos. Save the Children tells us at least

three children were among those killed. It seems they were playing football nearby.

The NGO also say that missiles hit a detention center in the city of Saada, killing at least 67 people and injuring more than 100 others. Most of them

migrants making their way through the country. Thousands have taken to the streets in Yemen's capital in protest.

CNN international correspondent Sam Kiley takes a closer look at this for us.


SAM KILEY, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Bianca, clearly, with the killing of 67 people in Houthi held territory in northern Yemen, in

retribution, effectively for the killing of three civilians earlier in the week on Monday, at the hands of Houthi air attacks, those air attacks

conducted by the Houthis using missiles and drones. Of course, the Saudis using more conventional aircraft as well as armed drones, no doubt. All

represent a significant escalation in a war that the Emiratis at least hoped they extricated themselves from.

Now, they have been accused by the Houthis and there is some support for this to suggest that they have been supporting on the ground perhaps

weapons or money. The giants, a significant brigade there fighting the Houthis and causing some Houthi losses on the battlefield. That is what the

Houthis have said caused their attack at the beginning of the week.

But the disproportionate size of the number of civilians who have been killed in the latest Saudi-led coalition air strikes against the Yemenis is

inevitably going to cause a great deal of outcry from human rights groups, and represents almost flash back to the days the Saudi led coalition was

being bitterly criticized, as were those countries supplying it with weapons, the bombs notably, the United States and United Kingdom, for the

never ending civil war in the Yemen -- Bianca.


NOBILO: Sam Kiley for us.

Officials in Ghana are investigating whether safety protocols were followed the day after a mining truck carrying explosives collided with a motor

bike, causing a massive explosion. At least 13 people died and about 59 others were injured. As you can see from these images, the blast flattened

much of this town in Western Ghana.

Aid deliveries arrived Friday. The country's vice president visited the sight of the explosion and promised the government would help find

temporary housing for the hundreds who have lost their homes. Ghana's information minister told CNN authorities say that they're still assessing

the damage.


KOJO OPPONG NKRUMAH, GHANAIAN MINISTER FOR INFORMATION: The are of impact itself and the crater, they're devastation. Buildings close to it -- some

literally gone, and those a bit further off, very, very badly damaged. Lots of persons injured.

We're expecting that either by the next 24 hours, there will be clarity on the number of residents in all of these properties and indeed the number of

actual properties that were in the area.


NOBILO: Omicron is continuing to drive mass infections and put pressure on health-care systems.

With countries from Poland to Pakistan recording their highest amount of daily cases on Friday. Russia, one of the countries seeing record breaking

numbers is now reimposing remote work plans for half of its government employees.

We're also seeing small but worrisome numbers in China less than three weeks before the winter Olympics. Beijing doubling its active cases in the

past 24 hours from 11 to 23.

Let's take a look at other key stories making international impact today. An official says 11 Iraqi soldiers were killed at a checkpoint north of

Baghdad and ISIS is claiming responsibility. The extremist group also says it attacked a prison in Syria. It was trying to free prisoners there for a

second time. The Pentagon says the U.S.-led coalition helped Syrian Democratic forces fight off the attack.

Officials for the Italian Coast Guard say they rescued more than 300 migrants who are trying to reach Europe. They say the boat was overloaded

and in distress. Italy has seen an increase in migrant boats recently and those rescued are waiting aboard three charity boats right now.

Twitter has now suspended hundreds of accounts promoting Philippine presidential hopeful Ferdinand Marcos Jr. The social media company says the

accounts violated its rules on spam and manipulation. Marcos is the son of the late dictator who was overthrown in 1986 and emerged as a front-runner.

For rock 'n' roll fans of all ages, just one line of a Meat Loaf song is enough to make them feel like a teenager again. Now, those fans are

mourning the man who defined the power ballad with hits like "Paradise by the Dashboard Lights" and "Bat Out of Hell".


NOBILO: Meat Loaf passed away Thursday. He was a working contradiction, combining an imposing persona with a sensitive voice and he started turning

out hits in the '70s. But he wasn't just a rock star. He appeared in the dozens of movies, among them "Fight Club", "Wayne's World", and "The Rocky

Horror Picture Show". Meat Loaf was 74 years old.

His family's message to fans? Don't ever stop rocking.

We'll be back after this.



NOBILO: There's a new sense of hope, however limbed in Tonga today. It comes almost a week after the volcanic eruption and tsunami caused massive

destruction. Aid is arriving from New Zealand, Australia, Japan, the U.S., and China. Ships and planes are bringing drinking water, emergency shelter

and other essential goods.

A New Zealand naval ship arrived Friday with a devalue nation plant able to produce 70,000 liters of clean drinking water per day. Meantime, a Tonga

telecommunications company said it's partially restored international call service to the main island. The company says calls are going through a

satellite link, although it has limited capacity.

Tonga was cut off from the rest of the world after the tsunami when its only underwater cable was damaged. The company's CEO explained why the new

phone link is so important.


ANTHONY SEUSEU, CEO, DIGICEL TONGA: It was very emotional when the team contacted me, because it meant that, you know, we had a breakthrough, and

the reason why that was so critical was we knew that families hadn't spoken to their loved ones in Tonga for almost four days. Some form of

communication was better than nothing. And so, that's why we were so desperate to get the service up for the Tongan people, not only in Tonga

but around the world.


NOBILO: This week the world watched and waited to learn more about the destruction caused and aid needed in Tonga. But just why do volcanoes

actually erupt? That's a question I want to unpack with you.

Volcanic eruptions have devastated communities for centuries, killing tens of thousands of people around the world, and with about 1,500 volcanoes on

Earth, it's no wonder we worry about these mountains of molten rock.

But why do they erupt? More than 80 percent of the Earth's surface above and below sea level is volcanic. And deep below the Earth's tectonic plates

are always moving. Most volcanic activity occurs where these plates collide. Deep within the earth, it's so hot that rocks slowly melt and

become magma.

Because the flowing substance is lighter than the rock around it, it rises. And then when the tectonic plates shift, the magma rises even higher and

some of it pushes through cracks in the Earth's surface like vents and fissures and reaches the surface where it's then called lava.

What kind of eruption the volcano will have depends on the properties of the magma. Thin and running magma means that gas trying to escape can do so

easily when this happens the lava will flow out of the volcano. We've seen this why Hawaii's volcanoes. Because the lave flows slowly, people can get

away quickly and it rarely results in victims.

But thick and sticky magma is an entirely different story. There's less room for gases to escape, so pressure mounts. Gas gets trapped in the magma

which then explodes at the surface. This is called an explosive eruption and we've seen at recently at the volcanic eruptions in Tonga and

previously at Mount St. Helens in the U.S.

Explosive volcanic eruptions can be dangerous and deadly. Lava, ash, debris can destroy everything in their path. In some cases, these eruptions have

buried entire communities like Mt. Vesuvius and Pompeii and Mt. Pelee in Martinique. About 500 volcanoes have erupted since we started keeping

records, many around the Ring of Fire, which goes from New Zealand all the way around to South America, where the most subduction zones and plate

movements are.


All volcanic activity is closely monitored by scientists around the world. Tracking active volcanoes can be unpredictable, but in many, not all cases,

experts can usually see warning signs and alert the public before an eruption.

We'll be right back after this.


NOBILO: It's time for your likely dose of good news, and this one's an animal edition. Let's start by taking a look at this adorable footage of

two elephant brothers cuddling as they sleep. Kavi and Asoka who are seen on a closed circuit camera are two of the residents at Sydney Zoo. That is

extremely cute.

It's also said that necessity is the mother of all invention, introducing the drone sausage. Rescuers in southern England tied a sausage to a drone

to rescue a Jack Russell called Millie from mud floods. The dangling sausage was used to help navigate and prevent Millie, who went missing two

days earlier, from drowning in the marshland where she was found. A rescue team says Millie is now reunited with her owner. Happy days.

And on what would have been Betty White's 100th birthday, fans created a challenge to donate $5 to a local animal shelter or organization, fitting

for a life-long animal rights activist. The Los Angeles Zoo where White was a board member says it alone raised more than $70,000, and a shelter in

Florida says it received more than $50,000 in donations.

Now, that's a lovely way to end the day and the week. Good-bye, everyone. Have a restful weekend and I'll see you on Monday.