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The Global Brief with Bianca Nobilo

Russia Lists Demands For De-Escalation Of Tensions; Kabul Blast Investigation; Canada Truckers Protest. Aired 5-5:30p ET

Aired February 09, 2022 - 17:00   ET



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

Tonight, Russia presents a list of demands to deescalate tensions over Ukraine. We're live in Moscow, asking how they're likely to be received at

the negotiating table.

Then, during last year's Taliban take-over of Afghanistan, a bomb at Kabul airport killed dozens of people. Now, a special CNN investigation raises

question about a Pentagon report's findings.

And we speak to deputy mayor of Ottawa where the trucker siege continues.

Russia says de-escalation of the crisis over Ukraine could happen very quickly if a list of its demands are met. But even as it talks about easing

tensions, it's massing even more forces around the Ukrainian borders.

Russia's foreign ministry unveiled the list today. It says arms deliveries to Ukraine must stop. Western military advisers must leave Ukraine. All

joint Ukrainian NATO military exercises must end and all previously delivered weapon shipments to Kyiv must be remove happened.

Now, that's not likely to happen anytime soon. In fact, new weapon shipments from U.S. and U.K. arrived in Kyiv just today. And while Russians

demands Ukraine stop drills with NATO, it's getting ready to officially begin vast military exercises with Belarus, just hours from now.

NATO says it's Russia's biggest deployment to the ex-Soviet state since the Cold War.

Our international diplomatic editor, Nic Robertson, joins us now from Moscow.

Nic, what do these responses from Russia mean for the future of diplomacy and also seems strange that Russia's obviously making this list of maximal

demands while denying that there is extraordinary military activity going on?

NIC ROBERTSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL DIPLOMATIC EDITOR: Yeah, they're casting all this as their military exercise. They're actually throwing it back at

NATO and saying that it's -- they had to step up the scale of the military exercises in Belarus because of what they describe as NATO's unprecedented

threat. So they are turning it around on NATO.

British foreign secretary Liz Truss is in town. She's meet with foreign minister here tomorrow, Sergey Lavrov. She's going to push for Russia to

de-escalate. But I think, you know, given the tone from the foreign ministry putting the demands on NATO to deescalate in their view, it looks

like, you know, the two foreign secretaries will be sort of talking past each other rather than actually engaging in any kind of diplomacy that can

move forward and I think the reality of the situation here is that whatever we hear from the foreign ministry, foreign ministry spokeswoman saying

these things today, we're yet to hear from President Putin about what he thinks about what President Macron said specifically to him about how,

about what his next move is going to be.

So anything we hear from lower level officials really don't mean so much until we hear them from the absolute leader himself. There are an

indication of the direction of travel perhaps of the thinking, but it's not -- it's not the kind of clarity that's going to move diplomacy forward yet.

NOBILO: And I also wonder how it's going down in the West, given macron's tacit acknowledgment of Russia and security demands and how that's going

down in terms of a negotiating position.

Nic Robertson, thanks so much joining us from Moscow.

Last August at the height of the chaotic U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan, a bombing at Kabul killed at least 170 Afghan civilians and 13 American

service members. A Pentagon investigation released Friday concluded that everyone died as a result of the blast carried out by a lone suicide


But a four-month CNN investigation is raising serious questions about if the attack has been fully investigated.

Nick Paton Walsh has our report, and a warning, it contains graphic images you may find disturbing.


NICK PATON WALSH, CNN INTERNATIONAL SECURITY EDITOR (voice-over): The blast tore into the dense crowd.

MORSAL HAMIDI, SURVIVOR: A very high bomb blast was found, I saw a lot of hands, legs, without their bodies.

WALSH: At least 170 Afghans and 13 U.S. troops died after an ISIS suicide bomber struck outside Kabul airport.

The Pentagon investigation of the attack released Friday said everyone died in the blast.

GEN. KENNETH "FRANK" MCKENZIE, COMMANDER, U.S. CENTRAL COMMAND: The single explosive device killed 170 Afghan civilians and 13 U.S. service members by

explosive directing ball bearings to a packed crowd.

WALSH: The review unearthed this brief glimpse of the bomber.

CNN spent four months investigating the incident, reviewing medical records and analyzing video photos and audio of the scene and speaking to over 70

witnesses, family of the dead, doctors, hospital staff and survivors, who insist some of the dead and wounded were shot.


The analysis and testimonies raised hard questions as to whether the bomb can explain all the deaths.

NOORULLAH ZAKHEL, SURVIVOR: I mean, the soldier came directly and they started firing. I laid down when they started firing like this.

WALSH: CNN spoke to doctors and medical staff at five hospitals who spoke of seeing or treating what they say were gunshot wounds. An Italian-run

emergency hospital told CNN in a statement about that evening, their doctors assessed, quote, gunshot wounds on nine victims who arrived dead in

the hour after the blast. Seven were shot in the head, they said.

But there was no autopsy done, it was rare in Afghanistan. So they assessed the appearance of the wounds.

An Afghan military hospital, a doctor recorded two other victims that were, quote, dead due to gunshot injuries and blast injuries from the airport


Then, there are the survivors. One Afghan survivor was treated in the U.S. military's own Walter Reed Hospital outside Washington. He showed us his

medical record asking to be anonymous for his safety. They recorded a gunshot wound to the left chest and blast injuries, too.

Another survivor Morsal Hamidi had a bullet injury to the left side of her face, say her records from the Italian hospital in Kabul.

HAMIDI: I realize the blood is coming from my face like a water from a tap. I was it by a bullet in my face, in my right jaw here, and the blood

extracted from this part of my throat.

WALSH: We spoke to a doctor who treated patients at Wazir Akbar Khan Hospital, one of the biggest hospitals in Kabul. He said he pulled bullets

out of four injured patients at the airport that night. He said he found gunshot wounds on many dead bodies, suggesting the number of people shot

may be much higher.

He asked me to hide his identity for his safety.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There was two kind of injuries. People burned from the blast with lots of holes in their bodies. But with a gunshot, you see one

or two holes, in the mouth, the head, in the eye and the chest. I removed bullets from four or five injured.

WALSH: U.S. military investigators insist that was not the case.

BRIG. GEN. LANCE G. CURTIS, U.S. MILITARY INVESTIGATOR: There were absolutely no gunshot wounds. We found no evidence that post-blast U.S.

service members killed other U.S. service members or Afghans.

WALSH: But investigators admit they did not talk to any Afghan civilians.

CURTIS: During the course of our investigation, we did not have an opportunity to speak with Afghans on the ground.

WALSH: Yet dozens of Afghans assert there was deadly gunfire after the bomb hit here at Abbey Gate.

CURTIS: We built a 3D model of the scene. Here's the canal outside the gate 45 minutes before the blast. And then just before the device

detonated, it's packed and the marines are bunched up.

U.S. military said the device was sophisticated and could be reasonably expected to have killed all the people.

The U.S. military told CNN doctors might have mistaken wounds made by these bullet bearings for bullet wound, adding, they were too similar to tell

apart without study of the internal wounds and the finding of the projectile that caused it, which the Afghan hospitals could not do in a

mass casualty event.

With a doctor who said he pulled bullets out of four patients disagreed.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: According to my 15 years of surgery in Afghanistan, bomb and bullet injuries are very different. When a ball bearing enters the

body, it makes a big hole. Different from a shard bullet. When a bullet enters, it makes a small hole with a specific border and when it leaves, it

makes a big hole.

WALSH: Other staff at his hospital told CNN, they, too, have seen bullet wounds.

There is no dispute, there was some shooting. Some in this video, three minutes after the blast, you can hear gunshots but not see who is shooting.

There is chaos and fear.

U.S. Marines are likely tending to injured near the gate. Children are being carried away. Some crouch for cover.

U.S. military investigators released drone video they said started just after this. It is patchy, but they say their analysis of the footage showed

nobody running away and panic from gunfire or any evidence of shooting.

The U.S. and U.K. militaries have said there were three busts of gunfire both at some point just after the blast. U.S. troops noticed a suspicious

military age male across the canal soon after the blast, U.S. investigators said, they fired four warning shots.

A U.K. defense official told CNN their troops on top of a tower, five warning shots at about the same time to prevent at crowd surge. U.S.

investigators said the British 35 to 45-round over the crowd from two positions.

Another marine team fired again. This time at a male on a roof armed they said with an AK-47. Investigators couldn't say how many rounds they shot.

The U.S. and British military say all the shots were fired over the crowded canal but did not hit anyone.

It's important to remember that none of the dozens of eyewitnesses we've spoken to have recalled seeing any other gunman, be it ISIS or Taliban in

that scene in the aftermath.

Doubt of the Pentagon story also emerged from Afghan survivors. They also recall troops opening fire but say civilians were hit.

Morsal was there with her sister Shogofa in the trench, 3 meters from the blast, she said.

HAMIDI: I heard, from, it was fired into my hand. I just put it under other dead people.

WALSH: You saw the soldiers on the wall of the trench shooting down into the trench?

HAMIDI: Yes. They were shooting in the trench.

WALSH: When the shooting started, did she see it or hear it?

SHOGOFA HAMIDI, SURVIVOR (through translator): Yes, I saw a soldier, exactly. Some came to save their own colleagues. Others stood there and

fired directly toward people.

WALSH: Noorullah Zakhel her uncle said he was also in the trench, hit in the head by the blast and tried to flee with his cousin, Sahel.

ZAKHEL: I told to my cousin, Sahel, run, we need to go with, I tried to go climb out from the tunnel, I succeeded but I think my cousin is killed. The

soldier came directly and they started firing.

WALSH: When did you find out that Sahel was dead?

ZAKHEL: In the morning time. When I come, my family, is Sahel okay? They said, he is murdered.

WALSH: And how was his body? What were the injuries on his body?

ZAKHEL: They were just shooting, two bullets. One hit in this side and taken out from this side, and another one on shoulder.

WALSH: A total of 19 survivors CNN has interviewed said they saw people shot, or were shot themselves.

The U.S. military said the witnesses we spoke to had, quote, jumbled memories from a concussive event and are doing their best to piece together

what their brain is likely to remember clearly.

The volume of testimony from Afghan survives, though, does present questions as to how so many witnesses could make such similar claims. CNN

hired a forensic blast analyst to see what they can tell us about the bomb.

CHRIS COBB SMITH, FORENSIC BLAST ANALYST: There was nothing to the concrete infrastructure in this area that has been damaged significantly by

a big blast. I do not believe that bomb was big enough to kill 180 people at all.

WALSH: Other experts disagreed, saying the bomb could have killed all those people. But there are enduring questions here from survivors of the

blast. For them, the Pentagon's narrative is disputed by memories that haunt them.

Nick Paton Walsh, CNN, Kabul.


NOBILO: For more on this story, head to where you'll find a detailed interactive special report by Nick and his team, "Horror at

Kabul's Gate to Freedom", at the front page of

Now, let's take a look at the other key stories making international impact today.

Iran has revealed a new long range missile in its arsenal. According to state media, it has a range of more than 1,400 kilometers and has reduced

rate that would allow for speedier launchers. The unveiling comes a day after Iran resumed indirect negotiations with the U.S. over the 2015

nuclear deal.

Protesters in India are demanding equal rights for female students of all religions. It comes after several colleges in the southern state of

Karnataka have denied entry to Muslim women wearing hijabs. This has drawn the attention of girls education activist Malala Yousafzai. She tweeted:

Indian leaders must stop the marginalization of Muslim women.

Tunisia's justice minister says President Kais Saied will not abolish the country's key initial watchdog though will change it. The president's plan

to dissolve the supreme judicial counsel prompted widespread criticism and strikes from judges and rights groups. Critics say abolishing the counsel

will help cement the president's one-man rule after seizing power last year.

You're watching THE GLOBAL BRIEF.

Coming up, members of Canadian parliament say enough is enough as disruptive protests against COVID-19 measures continue for 13th straight



That's up, next.


NOBILO: Campaigning has officially begun for Philippines' presidential election. Candidates have three months before voters head to the polls. The

current front runner is Ferdinand Marcos Jr., son of the late dictator who's thrown in 1986. Now, he's promising to overcome the country's

economic crisis.

His running mate is Sara Duterte Carpio, the daughter of outgoing President Rodrigo Duterte. She's a favorite to win the vice presidency, which is

decided in a separate contests.

Many candidates are choosing open air venues to hold their rallies, Philippines still short of its COVID-19 vaccination goals and saw record

daily infections last month.

With COVID deaths falling worldwide and hospitalizations not reaching previous peak levels, increasing number of European countries are now

looking to drop COVID restrictions.

France's top vaccine expert says if current COVID trends continue, the country may be able to scrap its controversial vaccine pass by late March.

And, Britain's prime minister is indicating that England could drop all COVID restrictions by the end of this month, one full month sooner than


In the Czech Republic, the prime minister says all restrictions there could fall by March. That's the case in Poland as well.

Meantime in Italy, healthcare workers this week began rolling out Pfizer COVID pills to those at high risk of serious illness.


DR. CESIRA NENCIONI, DIRECTOR OF INFECTIOUS DISEASES, MISERICORDIA HOSPITAL GROSSETO (through translator): These pills are intended for people who are

COVID-19 positive and who are considered frail, people who depending on their risk factors may develop serious form of disease. Clearly, these

people must not be on oxygen therapy, must not have a serious lung disease.


NOBILO: Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau met with parliament Wednesday to discuss the ongoing protests by truckers against COVID-19

restrictions and the growing disruptions that they're causing.


Mr. Trudeau has tried to appease the freedom convoy as it's known, saying that time is coming when we would be able to relax. But he's also said that

the unrest has got to stop. Some opposition legislatures grilled him, charging the prime minister that he wants to live in a permanent pandemic.


CANDICE BERGEN, CANADIAN CONSERVATIVE LEADER: It's time to shift out of the restrictions and back to normal life. So why is the prime minister so

outside not only with the science, but it would seem, like with the growing number of his own MPs?


NOBILO: Well, authorities have arrested 23 people and issued 1,300 tickets as the protest continue for their 13th day. Authorities are scrambling to

try and find ways of ending the standstill which started in Ottawa but spread to other Canadian cities and moved to other places and movements in


In the city of Windsor, the protests are immobilizing the vital Ambassador Bridge between Canada and Michigan in the U.S.

CNN's Paula Newton on the ground in Ottawa where truckers are not giving up their fight to end vaccine mandates and COVID restrictions.


PAULA NEWTON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Bianca, we are well into our second week of protests here and still an impasse, right, a stalemate. Follow me, I

want you see something, Bianca. So, you see Parliament Hill there, right? Canada's national parliament.

This, in front of it, is a parking lot. The truckers here say they can stay in their cabs and trucks for days, weeks, months if they need to. They want

these COVID-19 restrictions completely dropped.

The irony, Bianca, is the fact that provinces who are in charge of many of those restrictions have started dropping those mandates, those mask

mandates, and those COVID-19 restrictions. Right now, it does not seem to be making a difference as these movements and these protests continue to

spread across the country -- Bianca.


NOBILO: Paula Newton for us in Ottawa.

China is hoping winter sports will keep thriving after the Olympics are done. The country had poured billions of dollars into ice and snow sport

venues since being announced as the Winter Games host. And even each though much of the snow is made by machines, tourists seem to be taking to it


CNN's David Culver reports.


DAVID CULVER, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Beijing plays host to second Olympics but these are the first winter games held in China's capital city,

given many parts of China rarely see below freezing temperatures, winter sports are traditional not as popular.

But that is changing. Eric Zhang and his toddler twins just got back from a ski trip in northeastern China.

Growing up in southern China, Eric never saw snow before he moved to the U.S. for college. It was there he started skiing and now, as a dad, he has

made it a family hobby.

ERIC ZHANG, SKI ENTHUSIAST: I heard so many friends around me and they just getting starting to learn skiing, they're starting to learn

snowboarding, right?.

CULVER: Even as adults.

ZHANG: Even as adults, right? So we are bringing our kids on to the snow, industry is going to be booming.

CULVER: Booming in typical China fashion.

Take Xang City, Shanghai. A lack of snow and ice, not a problem. Artificial skating rinks like this are built annually with the help of snow making

machines, giving kids in China a luxury never before experienced, giving them slopes on ski simulators. In the past five or so years, more than 100

of these climate controlled machines have sprang up in Shanghai alone.

As people across China warm up to the idea of winter sports, you get more and more indoor ski facilities like this one in Shanghai that are opening

up and with that, a rapidly expanding market for it.

As part of its Olympic campaign, the Chinese government unveiled an ambitious winter sport development plan in 2016, aiming to construct 650

skating rinks and 800 ski resorts by the end of this year. And to grow the scale of the industry, to top $150 billion by 2025, a lucrative market

attracting both domestic and international businesses.

China is proud of the surging craze. Since Beijing won the bid for the Winter Olympics seven years ago, government says it's successfully

motivated more than 300 million Chinese to participate in winter sports a target set by President Xi Jinping in 2014.

We should take the opportunity to capitalize ice and snow sports, Xi stresses. But China's speedy growth also brings problems. The quality and

service of its ski resorts are still relatively behind more traditional ski resorts in the West. There also environmental concerns. The massive

artificial snow making in ski resorts stretches already exhausted water resources.

Back in his Shanghai apartment, ski enthusiast Eric Zhang hopeful for what's ahead.

ZHANG: I think Winter Olympics is going to be a strong booster for this.


You are going to see a huge boost in enthusiasm and passion of the Chinese people in this winter sport.

CULVER: In Olympic ambition for a once rural nation, priming to make winter sports mainstream to last long after the closing ceremonies.

David Culver, CNN, Beijing.


NOBILO: TikTok says it's making moves to fight back against dangerous content. The social media platform plans to enlist its popular creators to

combat viral hoaxes by asking users to give more thought to what they're watching. TikTok is also broadening other policies to remove harmful

videos, promoting things like eating disorders and hate speech.

The company came under fire in December, over a viral hoax that results in school shutdowns due to threats of violence. TikTok says its policy

prioritizes safety, inclusion and authenticity.

A New York couple charged with conspiring to launder $4.5 billion of cryptocurrency stolen in a 2016 hack of a virtual currency exchange.

Federal agents arrested the two on Tuesday and so far, officials seized $3.6 billion of those funds. U.S. deputy attorney general called it the

department's largest financial seizure ever, and said this case shows cryptocurrency is not a safe haven for criminals.

Well, thank you very much for watching. You can find me on Twitter, TikTok and Instagram, I will be there, most of the time, I have a love/hate

relationship with social media. But now is not the time to share my issues.

"WORLD SPORT" is next, and with the latest on reports on a positive drug test delaying the Olympic figure skating medal ceremony. That's coming up

after the break. We will see you again tomorrow.