Return to Transcripts main page

The Global Brief with Bianca Nobilo

Ukraine FM Speaks To CNN; Boris Johnson Investigations; Italian Election. Aired 5-5:30p ET

Aired January 25, 2022 - 17:00   ET



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

Tonight, Ukraine will not accept concessions to Russia. CNN's exclusive interview with the Ukrainian foreign minister.

Then, the British police and government are now both investigating the prime minister. I've said it before, I'll say it again -- is the party

finally over for Boris Johnson?

And a secret ballot conducted by more than 1,000 parliamentarians and regional representatives. We take a look at the unpredictable process that

is Italy's presidential election.

A new push for diplomacy is under way this the crisis over Ukraine, but both the West and Russia are leaving nothing to chance, intensifying

military preparations in case of war.

A new U.S. shipment of weapons arrive in the Kiev Tuesday as the White House said the threat of a Russian invasion remains imminent. The U.S. said

that arms are meant to bolster Ukraine's defenses, warning that Moscow could fabricate pretext to move in.

President Joe Biden said he could impose direct sanctions on Vladimir Putin himself.


JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: There will be enormous consequences if he were to go in and invade, as he could, the entire

country -- or a lot less than that as well. For Russia, not only in terms of economic consequences and political consequences, but enormous

consequences worldwide. This would be the largest -- if we were to move in with all those forces, it would be the largest invasion since world war ii.

It would change the world.


NOBILO: Russia accuses the U.S. of escalating tensions even as it ramps up military drills on land and sea. Moscow says the new exercises involve

fighter jets, bombers, anti-aircraft systems and warships from the Black Sea and Caspian fleets.

French President Emmanuel Macron and German Chancellor Olaf Scholz discussed the crisis in Berlin, agreeing that any Russian aggression would

trigger harsh consequences. They also stress the need for dialogue. Mr. Macron says he will seek clarification on Mr. Putin's actions when speaks

to him by phone on Friday.


EMMANUEL MACRON, FRENCH PRESIDENT (through translator): It is not up to me to say what final objective Russia is pursuing, but I can observe that

there's currently a multiplication of destabilization actions against several sovereign states that were formerly part of the Soviet Union, and

that along with the destabilization actions, there's an increasingly hybrid Russian approach.


NOBILO: Let's go now to Kiev where our chief international correspondent Clarissa Ward had an exclusive interview with Ukraine's foreign minister.

Clarissa, what did you learn from speaking to him?

CLARISSA WARD, CNN CHIEF INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Bianca, I think there's no secret there has been some daylight between the U.S. and

Ukraine particularly in the last week. The foreign minister was very open about the fact that he was annoyed by the U.S.'s decision to withdraw the

families of embassy personnel from here in Kiev, but he also said he does not think that the U.S. is in any way overstating the threat, and that they

are very much working the Ukraine and U.S. together in lock step.


WARD (voice-over): The latest tranche of U.S. weapons arrives in Ukraine. On board, 79 tons of lethal aid, including nearly 300 tank armor piercing

javelin missiles, as the U.S. doubles down on its support of Ukraine. As many as 8,500 U.S. troops are now on high alert to be deployed to Eastern

Europe to join NATO forces.

A decision Ukraine's Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba says he welcomes.

DMYTRO KULEBA, UKRAINIAN FOREIGN MINISTER: I think it's a message to Putin that, listen, whatever you're trying to achieve, you get the opposite. If

you want us to withdraw from Central Europe, to withdraw a NATO infrastructure from Central Europe, our response to your escalation is

reinforcing the eastern flank of NATO.

WARD: Some have suggested thought that this shift might actually anger Putin and escalate the crisis further. Are you concerned about that?

KULEBA: Well, if we learned anything since 2014, is that it's a flawed logic to handle President Putin from the perspective that, let's do nothing

in order not to make him angry.


No. This is not how it works. Strength, resolve, deterrence -- these are the three elements that work with Putin.

WARD: On the other side of the border, yet another show of force from Russia's military, with the Iskander missile systems on display. The

Russian defense ministry says the exercises are, quote, to check the troops' battle readiness.

Few here have any doubt that Russia is ready to go to war. But the question remains whether that is its intention.

So do you believe there will be a military escalation here in Ukraine?

KULEBA: This depends. I cannot read President Putin's mind, frankly.

WARD: Can anyone?

KULEBA: No. I don't think anyone can do that. We are literally in a situation where anything can happen.

WARD: How does Putin at this stage de-escalate without losing face?

KULEBA: We shouldn't really care how President Putin will save his face, for one simple reason, because he himself, he put himself in this

situation. If Russia is willing to act in good faith, there is a possibility to walk out from the negotiating room and say, we made a deal.

WARD: But Kuleba warns that they will not be pushed into making concessions.

KULEBA: We will not be in a position of a country that speaks on the phone, here's the instruction of the big power and follows it. No.

We paid a lot, including 15,000 lives of our citizens, to secure the right to decide our own future, our own destiny. And we will not allow anyone to

impose any concessions on us.

WARD: With all sides dug in, the prospects for a diplomatic solution are dim. But Ukraine's leadership says the cost of failure would extend far

beyond these front lines.

KULEBA: And if the United States leadership fails here, it will be a clear message to the contesters of the United States, that America is a different

country now. And they can push.

And in the end, if they push, I'm afraid that it will be the people of America who will feel the repercussions of that push.


WARD (on camera): And the minister went on to say, Bianca, that Ukraine has given many concessions in previous diplomatic conversations with the

Russians. If someone comes here now demanding more concessions from Ukraine, he said that he would call the prodigal officer to have them led

back to the airport. So, not mincing any words here.

NOBILO: Clarissa Ward in Kiev, thank you for that, and for bringing us that interview.

An ally of the British prime minster today defended Johnson's birthday gatherings by saying the prime minster was ambushed by cake. British

politics can get farcical, but I mean ambushed by cake. The immediate mockery online and in reality reflects the public frustration at the

perceived tenuity of Downing Street's defense now.

Boris Johnson is currently fighting for his political life as the so-called party gate scandal engulfs his administration. There are new investigations

into his actions and mounting pressure for him to step down as we learn of more events the prime minister attended while the rest of the country was

stuck in lockdown restrictions. Even if Mr. Johnson doesn't believe he broke the law, he's still facing huge ramifications.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: A boozy party in Downing Street.

NOBILO (voice-over): From bad to worse. The British government was already investigating Prime Minister Boris Johnson for allegedly breaking COVID

rules. Now London's police, also known as the Met, are, too.

CRESSIDA DICK, COMMISSIONER, LONDON METROPOLITAN POLICE: I can confirm that the met is now investigating a number of events that took place at

Downing Street in white hall in the last two years, in relation to potential breaches of COVID-19 regulations.

BORIS JOHNSON, BRITISH PRIME MINISTER: I apologized for the impression that --

NOBILO: For weeks, Johnson has been struggling to contain the growing scandal.

JOHNSON: The idea I have been repeatedly assured since this allegations emerged that there was no party and that no COVID rules were broken.

NOBILO: In the New Year, new allegations. The Downing Street staffers through a raucous party on the eve of Prince Philip's funeral which Queen

Elizabeth attended on her own. Johnson apologized to the Queen and finally admitted that he did attend a bring-your-own-booze party during the 2020

lockdown, but said it wasn't his fault.

JOHNSON: Nobody told me, and nobody said that this was something that was against the rules. It was a breach of the COVID rules, that we were doing

something that wasn't a work event.


NOBILO: But now, CNN affiliate ITV reports that on Johnson's own birthday in June 2020, he attended two separate parties at Downing Street with as

many as 30 people, including the decorator redesigning his apartment. This photo was taken earlier that day. At the time, up to six people could only

meet outside, and indoor gatherings were not allowed. A source who worked at the down Downing Street at this time confirmed Johnson's wife organized

a gathering in the afternoon and they sang happy birthday.

Just months before, Johnson had written to a 7-year-old girl congratulating her for postponing her own birthday party.

MICHAEL ELLIS, BRITISH CONSERVATIVE MP & PAYMASTER GENERAL: The government recognizes and I recognize the public anxiety and indignation that it

appears as though the people who have been setting the rules may not been following the rules, and I would like to repeat that sentiment today.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Well, well, well, all too soon, the minister and I find yourselves here once again. Rather than dealing with the cost of

living crisis impacting on families, we're talking -- we're talking about scandals in Downing Street again.

NOBILO: The crisis for Boris Johnson is now political and potentially criminal. His spokesman says no laws were broken, but the police

investigation comes at a time when many in his own conservative party are actively plotting to get rid of him. Johnson has spent the past two weeks

throwing them red meat, scrapping COVID restrictions earlier than planned, upending the fees to fund the BBC, and getting tough on Russia.

Whether he stays in power may depend on the outcome of these investigations, which the police commissioner said will go where the

evidence takes us.


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

Officials in Mexico said journalist was killed on Sunday in Tijuana near the border at the U.S. An investigation is under way. In 2019, Lourdes

Maldonado Lopez told Mexico's president during a press briefing that she feared for her life. She's the third journalist to be killed in the country

in just two weeks.

The World Bank says Lebanon might be dealing with one of top three financial crashes the world has seen since the 1850s and is blaming the

country's elite. The lender accuses Lebanon's ruling class of orchestrating the economic collapse by keeping a tight grip on resources.

A storm has dropped more than 8 centimeters of snow on Athens, a city that usually gets only about one centimeter a year. Thousands of people were

trapped in the cars and power is out in parts of the Greek capital. In Turkey, Istanbul's grand airport has been shut down due to the storm.

Thousands of passengers protested, demanding to be take ton hotels. The airport has provided more than 25,000 free lunches to tourists who are

trapped there.

NOBILO: It's a question that courts have debated for decades worldwide -- should abortion be legal in the case of rape?

And now, Ecuador is back at the center of this discourse. Today was the second debate for a bill on abortion, the first being last year when the

constitutional court decriminalized the procedure. Lawmakers were meant to vote on new regulations, how they work, such as whether women will be

required to report the rape to the police. However, they've just suspended the debate.

Stefano Pozzebon joins me live now. Stefano, good to have you on the program as ever.

Was this the outcome that we're expecting from this debate? And what impact do you think this could have on the region and how they handle this issue?

STEFANO POZZEBON, JOURNALIST: I think, Bianca, that the decision to suspend the debate after several hours of discussions is a symptom of what

a thin line these lawmakers know that they will have to walk in drafting a bill that respects that historic ruling from last year by the Ecuadorian

constitutional court. But at the same time, it does not give the president, Guillermo Lasso, who's a member of the Opus Dei, who is a Catholic, a very

staunchly conservative, outspoken anti-abortion, and he protects to veto the bill and send it back to the latest legislative chamber.

So, that's why I think these lawmakers are well aware that they really need to weight every single word in that bill. But taking a step back and

looking at the broader picture across the region, this puts Ecuador right in the middle of what has been sometimes called a green wave of feminist

movements across Latin America by the color that most of these movements take and embrace in their marches and rallies.


A green wave towards larger abortion rights and that we've seen has happened in Mexico, for example, up north, where the constitutional court

ruled abortion unconstitutional in some cases at the end of 2020. It happened in Argentina when the government of the current president ruled

abortion legal for Argentina women. And it's happening here where I am in Colombia where just last week, the court was discussing a similar bill.

You see several countries across the region all coming up to answer to the same question, which is whether a woman has the right to interrupt a

pregnancy, especially in a case such as delicate as the case when they're victim of a sexual abuse or rape, as in this case, out of Ecuador.

Still too early to say when Ecuador will be going back to decide, maybe next week, maybe in a couple weeks' time, but it really seems, Bianca, that

these march is progressing and is not halting at all -- Bianca.

NOBILO: Stefano Pozzebon, thank you.

Up next on THE BRIEF, China may be trying to do the impossible and stage a COVID-free Olympics. We'll tell you about the strict rules that are in

place and how they're working.

And as Italy began a second round of voting to choose a new president, we'll explain how the election is compared to a papal conclave.


NOBILO: China confirmed 15 new COVID cases on Tuesday. Among people connected to the Winter Olympic games, which open in just over a week. Most

of the cases involve foreigners arriving in China, but three were athletes or officials already inside China's Olympic bubble.

Here's CNN's Selina Wang on the strict measures in China and how they're trying to keep COVID out of the Winter Olympics.


SELINA WANG, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): For Winter Olympic athletes, just getting to Beijing is as nerve-racking as competing for gold. Nearly

3,000 athletes will be gathering under the world's strictest COVID countermeasures. They trained their entire careers for this moment. But a

positive COVID test could derail it all.

HANNAH SOAR, U.S. OLYMPIC FREESTYLE SKIER: One positive test will do us in at this point. It's super stressful. I didn't know that I really struggle

from with anxiety to be totally honest until like the past couple months.

WANG: U.S. mogul skier Hannah Soar and her teammates have been isolating in Utah for the past month. They live in separate homes, socially distanced

on the mountains or the groceries for delivery.

SOAR: No one has looked each other in the eyes. I haven't literally been inside anywhere besides this house for the past month.

WANG: Soar even wears a KN-95 mask under her neck warmer on the slopes.

SOAR: And so, I just treat everyone like they have COVID. And it creates a lot of anxiety in my life but hopefully gets me to China.

WANG: Athletes have to test negative for COVID twice before boarding a plane. One within 96 hours and another within 72 hours before departure.

Then daily tests in Beijing.

Organizers are relying on sensitive PCR tests, which mean recently recovered but healthy athletes could potentially be isolated or barred from


WILLIAM SCHAFFNER, PROFESSOR, VANDERBILT UNIVERSITY SCHOOL OF MEDICINE: They've gone to the public health extreme. That test is so sensitive. It is

merely picking up remnants of the virus. You are not contagious to anyone else.

WANG: Organizers aren't taking any chances. The host country is sticking to its zero COVID policy where just one case can trigger lockdowns and mass


During the Tokyo Summer Olympics here, 41 athletes tested positive for COVID. At least two dozen had to withdraw from competition. Now, with

omicron, and even stricter rules at the Beijing Games, it's inevitable. Some athletes are going to lose their chance to compete.

A positive test could send an athlete into isolation at a facility in China until they get two consecutive negative tests which experts say could take


Olympians will be completely separate from the rest of China, part of what organizers are calling a closed loop system, multiple bubbles connected by

dedicated shuttles. Then, there's the mountainous venues, Yanqing and Zhangjiakou, north of Beijing, all connected by high speed rails.

British skeleton racer Laura Deas was in Yanqing last fall for training.

LAURA DEAS, BRITISH OLYMPIC SKELETON RACER: Everything we did, we -- you know, training, eating, sleeping was all within this bubble. But it felt

incredibly organized.

WANG: Ahead of the game, she's self-isolating in the U.K. and getting creative training without a gym. While Deas knows what to expect in the

Beijing, it is the next few days that are the most intense.

DEAS: I've jumped all of these hurdles over the past few years to get this point, and I'm just -- you know, just trying really hard to do all the

right things now so that I can get to Beijing safely without COVID.

WANG: For athletes this year, just stepping foot into the Olympic bubble will be a victory.

Selina Wang, CNN, Tokyo.


NOBILO: This week, the Italian parliament has begun the process to elect the country's 13th president. The election doesn't directly involve the

general public, as it's held among 630 members of parliament, 320 senators and 58 regional representatives. Electors were called to the chamber of

deputies, where they cast their vote in secret. And when they're done, the speaker of the chamber reads out the name written on each ballot paper. Any

name needs a two-thirds majority to be elected in the first three rounds of the vote. After that, a simple majority is needed.

The session continues until someone is elected and that can take days. The aim is to elect a new head of state before the 3rd of February when the

mandate of the current president, Sergio Mattarella, expires.

So who can become president? You don't have to be a politician to be considered for the role. A candidate must be over 50 years old, must hold

Italian citizenship, be registered to vote, and not legally barred from holding office.

That's why in the past, public figures like actress Sophia Loren came up as possible contenders during the vote process. Now, the rule of the president

fulfilled over seven year term is often seen as ceremonial. Presidents of the official head of state, but not head of executive power. That would be

the prime minister.

However, presidents authorize parliamentary bills and appoint new prime ministers and cabinet members. They can also refuse to appoint them, and

they do exercise those rights. For example, soon after the 2018 general election, current President Sergio Mattarella refused to appoint a Euro

skeptic finance minister, despite the nomination being approved by the majority of MPs. During a political crisis, the president can give someone

the task of forming a new government.

In 2021, Mattarella summoned the former president of the European Central Bank, Mario Draghi, and asked him to form a new cabinet that would lead

Italy through the financial crisis brought about by the coronavirus pandemic, and the political crisis created when the former Prime Minister

Giuseppe Conte resigned over the collapse of his government.

Contenders to the presidency are not officially nominated, so that's led some commentators to compare it to a papal conclave. A possible candidate

who hasn't ruled himself out yet is Prime Minister Mario Draghi. Praised for his ability to save the euro during the 2012 Eurozone price, he's

popularly known as Super Mario. But Draghi becoming president would noon leaving the prime minister seat vacant and potentially pushing the country

into a new political crisis.

We'll be right back after this.



NOBILO: As Australia is waking up today, on January the 26th, which marks Australia day, the government has announced that it will buy the copyright

to the aboriginal flag, ending a commercial dispute over the use of the symbol of indigenous identity. The yellow, black and red flag was created

in 1971 by aboriginal artist Harold Thomas.

While it was recognized as an official flag in 1995, its usage was severely restricted due to licensing issues. The government has agreed to pay the

designer U.S. $20 million, stating that the flag belongs to everyone. But members of aboriginal community accuse the government of diverting

attention from those who every year protest against this national holiday.

And that's because Australia Day marks the landing of Britain's first fleet in Sidney in the 18th century, many critics branded as invasion day and

called for the national day to be moved. However, the minister for indigenous Australians, Ken Wyatt, praised the change.


KEN WYATT, AUSTRALIAN MINISTER FOR INDIGENOUS AUSTRALIANS: Important in the way in which we move forward as a nation. As you can see behind me,

I've got both flags side by side because they are both important to all of us. And the number of non-indigenous Australians who wrote to me about the

flag was staggering.


NOBILO: Well, thank you very much for joining us. We'll see you again tomorrow, or if you want to keep a beady eye on British politics you can

stay up, and seeing reports, but I wouldn't blame you if you're going to sleep or progressing with your day. I'll see you soon. Good-bye.