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The Global Brief with Bianca Nobilo

U.S. Warns Russia Could Invade Ukraine During Olympics. Aired 5- 5:30p ET

Aired February 11, 2022 - 17:00   ET


ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

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

We begin with breaking news, the most urgent and stark warning yet about a potential Russian invasion of Ukraine. United States intelligence suggests

it could happen during the Olympics. And for the first time during this entire crisis, it's given a time frame for evacuation.


U.S. national security adviser Jake Sullivan says Americans should leave Ukraine in the next 24 to 48 hours. He says it's not certain that Russia

will attack. But warns of the scope of the invasion, that it could be massive, predicting it would start with aerial bombardment.


JAKE SULLIVAN, NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISOR: I can't obviously predict what the exact shape or scope of the military action will be. As I said before,

it could take a variety of forms. It could be more limited, it could be more expansive. But there are very real possibilities that it will involve

the seizure of significant of territory in Ukraine, in the seizure of major cities, including the capital city.


NOBILO: U.S. President Joe Biden is expected to speak with Vladimir Putin by phone on Saturday, as is French President Emmanuel Macron.

The White House says Mr. Biden coordinated efforts to deter Russian aggression today, with NATO and European allies in a video conference. An

increasing number of countries are joining the U.S. in urging their nationals to evacuate Ukraine. They include the United Kingdom, which says

that its citizens should leave now by commercial means while they're still available. That echoes U.S. concerns that a Russian attack, if it happens,

could cripple air, road, and rail transit.

Let's bring in Alex Marquardt in Dnipro, Ukraine, Oren Liebermann at the Pentagon and Nic Robertson in Moscow.

Oren, let's begin with you. What have we heard from Jake Sullivan today and what new information have we learned about the imminence of an invasion and

what invasion could look like?

OREN LIEBERMANN, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Well, this is a new level of urgency and a new level of detail that we're hearing from the White House,

really from the entire U.S. government. Statements have until now been more generic or less specific about the threats that could happen here.

Sullivan himself, the national security adviser, was incredibly specific, saying American citizens in Ukraine should get out as quickly as possible,

within the next 24 to 48 hours.

He also detailed what an invasion could look like. It would start with aerial bombardment and potential missile attacks, which don't differentiate

between military targets and civilian targets, warning that there could very well be civilian casualties and a large number of them if and when

Russian President Vladimir Putin decides to pull that trigger and invade. It would then be followed by a ground invasion that would essentially cut

off the ways to get out, whether it's by rail, by road, or by air.

And then, of course, there's the threat of cyber attacks. That's a level of specificity that we haven't heard yet. In terms of what areas could be

targeted, you heard Sullivan say just a moment ago on your show there, large areas across Ukraine, including major cities as well as the capital

of Kyiv.

Remember, Russian forces in Belarus, only about 55 miles or so. So, what is that, 80 kilometers from Kyiv, not a long distance if that decision comes.

In terms of U.S. of forces, shortly after Sullivan wrapped, the Department of Defense said that 3,000 more troops would be headed to Poland, members

of the elite 82nd Airborne.

CNN reported previously that they're going there, units able to adapt quickly, they're going there to help U.S. citizens getting out of Ukraine

and moving west towards Poland in terms of military shelters and processing.

And this is another key moment from Sullivan, where he said, look, the U.S. military isn't coming in to Ukraine to get you out. It's not going to risk

engagement with Russian forces, should that invasion happen. So get out now.

That is not a message we've heard from the White House before, and that's a signal of the level of seriousness with which we're taking this new intel

or new information they've gotten. But they would not say what it is that has led to this level of concern.

NOBILO: And, Nic Robertson in Moscow, what has Russia's response been to this increasingly serious and alarming assessments by the United States as

outline today?

NIC ROBERTSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL DIPLOMATIC EDITOR: Yeah, quite interesting, the speed with which the Kremlin has responded. Sometimes they

don't sort of update their press position on things until the following day.

This evening, the press spokesperson at the Kremlin, Dmitry Peskov, had said Russia has repeatedly ruled out and said that it's not going to

invade. The read at the Kremlin is that what they're hearing coming from the United States and other European nations is this could be a cover for

provocations is what they're saying. And those provocations may become a way that can be used by the government in Kyiv to then launch attacks on

the pro-Russian, Russian-backed separatists in Donbas, in the east of the country.

Now, this is the sort of language we've heard from the Kremlin before. What we're hearing from the ministry of foreign affairs, the spokeswoman, she is

calling what we've been hearing from the White House today as hysteria, that this is provocations and threats, saying this is propaganda, using

some very caustic language to describe what's going on, essentially saying directly that the Anglo-Saxons need a war to cover up their failings in

other areas.


So there's a lot of pushback, I think we can call it that, coming from Russian officials this evening. Of course, also making note of the

important phone calls President Putin will have tomorrow, early afternoon and evening with President Macron and early evening with President Biden.

NOBILO: Now, Alex, to you in Ukraine. Over the last month, Ukraine had urged the United States to drop the language about the immediacy of an

invasion. America did, but now this very significant shift in tone, and warnings from the United States the invasion could happen any day. I'm

curious how that is being received in Ukraine. And also to Nic Robertson's last point, with Russia framing what the U.S. has said, as Western


Tell us about the actual evidence of military activity that you see, where you are?

ALEXANDER MARQUARDT, CNN SENIOR NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Well, we are in the city of Dnipro, which is southeast of Ukraine, in central

Ukraine. For example, we're not seeing any military action here. The Ukrainians are carrying out military exercises as we speak, the exact same

dates in fact as the Russians are with Belarus, so from February 10th to February 20th.

That was one of the big headlines out of the White House briefing today, was that Russia could stage an invasion before February 20th, before the

end of the Olympics.

But you're absolutely right, Bianca. We have not seen the same level of alarm in Kyiv as we have in Washington, D.C. in fact, we've seen a large

amount of frustration and anger in Ukraine because of what they call the alarmist messages from the United States.

We're not seeing the same sense of urgency in Ukraine tonight. That's not to say that they're dismissing it. That White House briefing happened at

around 9:00 p.m. here in Ukraine. They have not -- we've not heard from, say, President Zelensky or Foreign Minister Kuleba just yet. I imagine we

will hear from them over the weekend.

But we did hear from a Ukrainian official close to the Zelensky government, who spoke with CNN, calling the situation really serious and uncertain. We

also heard from the National Security Council, who again raised the possibility of a false flag attack being carried out by the Russians, as a

provocation, or as a pretext to launch their invasion. That's something that the NATO allies have also talked about, the possibility of Russia

doing it, and in fact they've exposed what they say was a plot for Russia to create a video that would create that pretext.

But at the same time, Bianca, we have heard from Zelensky's office about the question of drawing down embassies. And the spokesman for President

Zelensky said, no, the security situation has not shifted significantly enough to justify calling on your citizens to leave, or calling on those

embassies to draw down. And Bianca, that's on an official level.

In the streets of Ukraine, I can tell you both in Kyiv, where my colleagues are, and here in Dnipro, where we've been today, people are going about

their business as normal. It's Friday night. It's midnight. You can probably hear people behind me who are out and about.

So, there is this disparity continuing between the people and officials of Ukraine, and what we're hearing from NATO leaders as well -- Bianca.

NOBILO: And, Nic, the world is watching this. I wonder if there's a precedent for such large-scale military buildup which has been so closely

scrutinized and covered by the media over number of months. What are the potential end games, regardless of whether or not if there is an invasion,

if there's an incursion, or if there isn't? What is Russia trying to do here? What are the theories about what could be the intention behind this

military buildup?

ROBERTSON: Well, the secretary general of NATO says this is the biggest military buildup since the Cold War. The British Secretary of Defense Ben

Wallace who was here today said that this buildup is essentially without precedent, and it is not typical of military exercises that, you know, he

would expect to see in this kind of environment.

So the military read on this is that this is a force that is quite capable of becoming an invasion force. The maximalist position would be for

President Putin to decide it was in his interest, after everything that was said about invading, to invade. The maximalist position would be to take

the whole country. He doesn't have the forces at his disposal to take over the country, that would be very tough.

Perhaps to take off part of the country in the east, that would give him a land bridge to the very important and strategic peninsula of Crimea that he

an annexed in 2014. Why? That's where Sevastopol is where has warm water naval port, strategically, hugely important to President Putin, given his

northern ports can get iced up.


So he would secure potentially a land bridge to make sure that Russia has a way of supplying it with water, and it's got water issues at moment.

Supplying it, and supplying it with food at the moment, he only has a small, narrow bridge built from mainland Russia.

And the other alternative would be to secure the Donbas region completely, and annex that in a way. All the incursions would incur stiff sanctions and

penalties from the European Union, from NATO. So, whatever level of crossing the border happens, that's we're told there would be a very big

and costly reaction for Russia.

NOBILO: Nic Robertson in Moscow, Oren Liebermann at the Pentagon, and Alex Marquardt in Dnipro, Ukraine, thank you to you all for your insights and

for your reporting.

The U.S. is sending 3,000 more troops to Poland to deter potential aggression and help reassure NATO allies. NATO's secretary general is

hailing the new announced deployments, calling Washington's commitment to the organization iron-clad. He spoke to Fred Pleitgen, and he's been taking

a closer look at America's increasing military presence in Eastern Europe.


FREDERIK PLEITGEN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): As Russia has just kicked off massive military drills with Belarus right on

the border with Ukraine, the U.S. is not backing down, sending an additional 1,000 troops from the Second Cavalry Regiment to Romania.

LT. COL. BENJAMIN NAGY, U.S. ARMY: Our mission is to reassure the allies and show faith that we're here to support and deter aggression.

PLEITGEN: The reinforcements are only part of a larger deployment of thousands of troops ordered by President Biden.

That also includes additional combat aircraft, both for air policing and for deterrence.

With the deployment of forces here to Romania, the U.S. says it wants to send a clear message to allies and adversaries, that the U.S. remains fully

committed to collective defense on NATO's eastern flank.

U.S. troops will be training with allied NATO forces, to make sure the alliance can operate as a single, coherent force, in case of aggression

from Russia.

LT. COL. DANIEL HILL, U.S. ARMY: If the time were to ever come, they know they can trust us, and we know we can trust them.

PLEITGEN: The U.S. says Russia has over 100,000 troops at the border of Ukraine, and Vladimir Putin could order an attack at any time. Though

Russia claims it would not.

The next few days could be critical. NATO's secretary general told me in an exclusive interview.

JENS STOLTENBERG, NATO SECRETARY GENERAL: Russia is increasing both the number of troops but also their readiness and the capability to act and to

conduct aggressive actions on very short notice. So the number of troops is going up while the warning time is going down.

PLEITGEN: And the secretary general tells me that's exactly why additional U.S. support is so important.

STOLTENBERG: I strongly welcome the deployment of more U.S. forces borrowed partly because the United States is by far the biggest ally, and

they contribute thousands of troops, but also because it's, of course, sends a very strong message of the Iran - commitment of the United States

to NATO and to European security.

PLEITGEN: Both the U.S. and NATO say they hope diplomacy can prevail, but they are stepping up preparations in case it fails.

Fred Pleitgen, CNN, Bucharest, Romania.


NOBILO: Next, we have more on the crisis in the Ukraine. We'll hear from the Ukrainian ambassador to the U.K. about the war of words. And one word

in particular.



NOBILO: This just in to CNN. We're now hearing that British Prime Minister Boris Johnson has received a questionnaire from police. They're

investigating that series of parties at Downing Street and the cabinet office while the nation was under COVID lockdowns. This reportedly means

that Johnson will have to explain why he was allegedly at some of these disturbing events at the time. And we know that about 50 people at least

have been sent these questionnaires who were suspected to have attended. So, this makes sense. And many opposition figures and some within his own

party have called on Johnson to resign over these accusations.

Now, let's get back to our breaking news. U.S. and Russian presidents will hold a phone call on Saturday. A stunning new intelligence suggests that

Russia could launch an attack on Ukraine before the end of the Olympics. The warning about possible war comes only days after the U.S. said that it

would stop using the word imminent to describe a potential Russian invasion, Ukraine had said that the word caused panic and economic turmoil.

But the rhetoric is again shifting dramatically.

Earlier, I spoke with the Ukrainian ambassador to the U.K., Vadym Prystaiko, about why language is so critical under these current



VADYM PRYSTAIKO, UKRAINIAN AMBASSDOR TO THE U.K.: I read this article about the word -- how imminent is translated correctly in Ukrainian. When

Ukrainians rather translate it like, subsequently play words. And this is what Ukrainians fear very much, that our (INAUDIBLE) see that war is

coming, regardless of whatever, in spite whatever you do. This is what creates panic in Ukraine. This creates panic in the markets, especially

the high liquidity resources that have been pulled out.

This hurts the Ukrainian economy, it hurts its people, so the Ukrainian government is asking our partners and colleagues, please keep the message,

we understand it -- we're prepared. We've been fighting the Russians for seven years already. We do realize the danger of it, thank you for

providing the assistance, it's making us our army more strong and our society more resilient, but please be careful of the message.

Why it is different today? Russia also today announced they will pull out their diplomatic staff from Kyiv. Believe it or not, they still had their

embassy open in Kyiv. This makes us, again, worried that war is coming again after all these efforts, diplomacy and political.

NOBILO: It's also interesting about the potential language miscommunication. So, do you mean to say that in Ukraine, perhaps imminent

is translated more as inevitable, as in there are no more --

PRYSTAIKO: That's the correct word in English. Yes. We don't have correct translation of this same term.

NOBILO: Okay. I think that's a very significant point. And now, when we think about the level of military buildup that we're seeing over many

months, with the media scrutinizing it heavily, and covering it as much as it has, surely for Russia to make a move, to attempt an incursion would be

so brazen with the eyes of the world so closely fixed upon their activity.

PRYSTAIKO: I agree, it would be very unusual when Russians would cross -- especially after what they did in Crimea, hiding behind these green little

men, and then recognizing in the years that, yes, actually, we came. We did it.

What makes the whole difference right now that maybe, just maybe, they have different plan in mind, different scenario. This is to show the strength,

to threaten us to the point where the economy can't operate anymore. Ukrainians lose the will to fight and survive. And maybe in turn the

political situation will come to the point where society will collapse by itself, implode inside.

This is the worse scenario. This will allow Moscow, later until, you know, we told you. Ukraine is (INAUDIBLE). They were telling all these years.


NOBILO: And do you see evidence of Russia trying to wage an information war in terms of what you were saying in Ukraine currently, trying to win

people over to that way of thinking, to try and foment those ideas that those territories, in fact, are Russian and not Ukraine's?

PRYSTAIKO: The approach is very wide. There are so many tools in the tool kit, disinformation, pure propaganda, which, you know, some of us start

forgetting that Soviet Union collapsed 30 years so. Some cyber, we have just been attacked by cyber, my own embassy site was for almost a week


So they're doing everything. I believe there are groups of Russians infiltrating Ukrainian in Ukraine territory, just waiting to move. And all

these banking, everything they can, they will bring it before they will attack.

This is not nothing new. It's been used, and has been directed, Russian ones, military ones, you can actually read them. So there's not new, but

the scale of this operation, you know, the -- how much at the same time has been used.

This is really worrying and it's not just war by the military means but everything is put on task.


BURNETT: U.S. stocks feel sharply on heightened fears of a Russian invasion. The Dow and the S&P dropped more than one percent, while the

NASDAQ feel by more than two. Meantime, oil prices have hit seven-year highs over concerns of tight crude supplies. Two of the top bench marks are

up about 4 percent.

Let's look at the other key stories making international impacts today. The premier of Ontario, Canada, has declared a state of emergency after days of

protests. Doug Ford says demonstrators have disrupted the economy, and warned if they don't clear out, they could face up to $100,000 in fines and

one year in prison.

In Paris, well, they're on high alert. A convoy inspired by the truckers' movement in Canada is trying to make it into the city. And supporters are

waiting for it to arrive. Thousands of police have been deployed across the French capital to keep the so-called freedom convoy out. And so far, it's

blocked on the city's outskirts.

We'll be right back after this.


NOBILO: The United Nations reports that around the world, 1 in 3 children endure bullying and discrimination from their peers at school. But one

young boy is trying to put an end to bullying with the help of rap music.

Meet Alexander Jimenez, a very cool youngster who has a strong message. Take a listen.


NOBILO: I'm joined now by Alexander Jimenez and his mother Wendy.

Thank you so much for joining the program, both of you. Welcome to THE GLOBAL BRIEF.

WENDY JIMENEZ, ALEXANDER'S MOTHER: Thank you for having us.

NOBILO: Alexander, what made you decide to make this music video?

ALEXANDER JIMENEZ, TIKTOK AND INSTAGRAM RAPPER: Because I was getting bullied, and a lot of the other kids are getting bullied. And the song just

-- it's helping you to make you learn to speak up and use your voice, and how to stop it.

NOBILO: So, what would you tell other kids your age to do, if they're confronted by a bully?

A. JIMENEZ: I would say tell the nearest adult, and don't be afraid to speak up.

NOBILO: And why do you think people do bully others?

A. JIMENEZ: Probably because they're just broken people, and they were broken by somebody else. And they take it out on other people.

NOBILO: Have you noticed that your music has had an impact on your friends? Have they responded to it, can they relate well to it?

A. JIMENEZ: Yes, they can.

NOBILO: And what are your musical influences?

A. JIMENEZ: Probably Nas, KRS-One, and my cousin OJ Shah (ph).

NOBILO: I was just about to asking, because your cousin, Omar Jimenez, is a correspondent on CNN, and that's how we both came across your music.


NOBILO: What do you think of his style and his music?

A. JIMENEZ: I like his music because it's one of the rappers that inspired me to make my own music.

NOBILO: Wendy, what do you think about the music Alexander is making, and how he's standing up for things he thinks is important?

WENDY JIMENEZ: You know what, I'm very proud of him. Because he's just very hard-working, and he was passionate about promoting this topic. I saw

firsthand how bullying was messing with his confidence, and he would shut down when he came home. So I was inspired by the fact that he wanted to

turn this into a message for other children.

NOBILO: That was Wendy and Alexander Jimenez. And it's not over yet. Alexander also gave us a quick snippet of his rapping. I'll say good night,

and let him close the show.


A. JIMENEZ: If you see a bully you got to do the right thing. Tell the nearest teacher, don't listen to what bullies said, all they're to do is

scare you and that's why (ph), but they're scared when they hear the click- clack of the teacher's shoes.