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The Global Brief with Bianca Nobilo

The Plight Of Ukrainians; Chernobyl Warning; Concert For Peace. Aired 5-5:30p ET

Aired March 09, 2022 - 17:00   ET



CHRISTINA MACFARLANE, CNN HOST: Hello, and welcome. I'm Christina Macfarlane in London, in for Bianca Nobilo. This is THE GLOBAL BRIEF.

The human tragedy in the war in Ukraine grows. Ukraine says a Russian strike hit a maternity hospital despite a ceasefire.

Then, the U.N. nuclear watch dog says that the power supply cut at Chernobyl doesn't currently pose a threat. We'll debrief concerns about

radiation leaks.

And the Kyiv symphony orchestra holds a concert for peace in the capital's main square while soldiers patrol the streets surrounding it.

But we begin with a look at the devastating human toll of Russia's attempt to force Ukraine into submission at the barrel of a gun. Civilians are

bearing the brunt of this war, but those who remain in Ukraine and those who fled the country with little more than clothes on their backs.

This is Europe in 2022. Ukrainian officials say Russia bombed a children and maternity hospital today in Mariupol. At least 17 wounded, some women

were actually in labor when the bombs hit.

We warn you, the next images showing victims are disturbing, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy calls the attack an atrocity. He's again

urging NATO to impose a no-fly zone now, saying, quote, you have power but seem to be losing humanity. Mariupol officials estimate some 1,300

civilians have been killed so far in that city alone.

Of course, that's just one of many cities under attack in Ukraine.

Our Nick Paton Walsh has been doing some incredible reporting from Mykolaiv, and he's joining us now from Odesa.

Nick, Mykolaiv, another city under siege. Tell us what you've been seeing there.

NICK PATON WALSH, CNN INTERNATIONAL SECURITY EDITOR: Yeah, it does appear increasingly concerning for residents of Mykolaiv, the Russian military

trying to move round towards north to essentially limit access to it, still relatively free to come in and out of. But last night, there was quite

significant panic when the regional head asked everyone to put tires out on the streets, suggesting there might be at some point Russian troops in the

midst of that dense urban area. But still, the bombardment of that city persists indiscriminate toward residential areas.

And here's what we saw of the toll it's taking on ordinary civilians.


WALSH (voice-over): This is probably when Russian forces tried to cut off Mykolaiv, pushing to its north to encircle it, Ukrainian shells here not

holding them back.

The governor told locals to bring tires to the streets which they did, fast.

And in the dark, Russia's punishment of just about everyone here did not let up.

An airstrike flattened this warehouse.

And if you needed proof the Kremlin seeks to reduce all life here, 1,500 tons of onions, beer, and pumpkins were an apparent target for a military


So, Wejenia (ph) and Rudmila (ph) in the back bedroom when a missile hit. Jenia (ph) built this home himself 43 years ago and knows he lacks the

strength to do so again. Rudmila (ph) says she doesn't even have her slippers now.

The hospitals are steeped in pain. Their corridors running underground.

Svetlana lost three friends Tuesday when Russian shells hit the car they've been traveling in, to change shift at a disabled children's home. When she

ducked she saved her life. She names her three dead friends.

Nicolai (ph) was badly burned by a missile in his yard.

Moscow targets hospitals and so they perversely need their own bomb shelters where sick children wait for the sirens to end.

Stass is 12 and alone.


But he doesn't know the reason his father is not here just now is because he is burying Stass's mother and sister.

STASS (translated): I was in the neighbor's basement when the bomb hit the roof on my side. We ran to my granny's house. Another hit there. My arm is

broken. My dad and neighbor brought me here. I was in a coma for two days.

WALSH: Sonia has shrapnel in her head causing her to spasm.

Her mother explains they were outside taping up the glass windows when the blast hit, while all the time, trying to get Sonia to keep still.

LUDMILA: I cut the tape turned around to hear a noise and I saw the missile flew behind us and I said, "Sonia, let's go". We ran, Sonia in

front of me and then I heard the blast. Little Sonia, quiet, quiet. Sonia, little Sonia, don't worry, everything will be okay.

SONIA: I am cold.

WALSH: Outside, it is cold and loud.


WALSH (on camera): You can see there, the toll that is simply a daily thing in Mykolaiv, and that's not even a city that's besieged like

somewhere like Mariupol where you get an idea of the cynicism behind Russian maneuvering when they suggest the kids in maternity hospital had in

fact got Ukrainian military positions in it.

We've seen in the past that Russia has very few qualms about bombing medical facilities. And so, it's a sign I think of the indiscriminate

nature of the violence we're beginning to see in Mykolaiv. Its regional governor warning they're under attack from the north and northeast. They

fended that off before, but Mykolaiv is a key part of Russia's route to the standing here, the strategic port city of Odessa where people are certainly

on edge and watching the events in Mykolaiv very closely -- Christina.

MACFARLANE: I'm sure they are on edge, Nick. What is happening is inhumane.

Thank you so much to you and your team for your reporting there, Nick Paton Walsh.

Food is hard to come by in some Ukrainian cities under siege, and people are desperately trying to escape.

The U.S. secretary of state is urging Moscow to let them through safely, immediately and is calling the Kremlin proposal to create human corridors

to Russia and Belarus absurd.

The U.N. says more than 2 million people have already left the country. Most of them to Poland, while nearly 300,000 across into Moldova when

looking at official data. Moldova's government now says it needs help.

Ivan Watson is right near Moldova's border with Ukraine for us.

And, Ivan, how desperate is this situation becoming for the Moldovan government?

IVAN WATSON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: They are working together with private donors, with charities, with grassroots activists to

try to absorb this huge number of people coming across the border.

And we got to look at just how much of a grassroots effort this can be sometimes.


WATSON (on camera): On the day Russia first attacked Ukraine, residents of this sleepy village in Moldova heard explosions.

RUSANDA CURCA, MOLDOVAN ACTIVIST: You can hear sometimes the explosions from Ukraine. It's terrifying.

WATSON: It's not just the sounds of war that are coming across the border. Refugees of the conflict have come here too.

Some Moldovan villagers opened doors to Ukrainian neighbors in times of need. People like Boris Makeyev. This 75-year-old widower welcomed Olga

Kuznetzova (ph), her mother and two children into his home after they fled across the border last week.

I feel badly for them, he says. The children are small. This little one is innocent.

Boris holds 2-year-old Andre as if he was his own grandson. These Ukrainians have never been to Moldova before, but they fled after spending

days and nights hiding from Russian airstrikes in the basement of their home.

The family left on short notice after hearing war planes in the night. They packed two suit cases and left with five minutes notice.

With no advanced planning, the women rely entirely on the generosity of Moldovans, for food, shelter and clothing, including for eight-year-old


Vera says there are very kind people here in Moldova.

What made you want to help?

CURCA: I don't know how to act differently, you know.

WATSON: Rusanda Curca has been helping find homes in the village for the dozens of the hundreds of thousands of Ukrainian that have fled to Moldova

in the last two weeks.

CURCA: It's because it's normal to help people in need. Some people are hosting refugees, other are donating products, stuffs, things, and others

are just praying for peace.

WATSON: Down the road from Boris's house, we meet Valentina Cherne (ph). She took in her Ukrainian sister-in-law Olga and family, including 29-year-

old Natalya who is seven months pregnant.

We have to stop Vladimir Putin, Olga tells me, or else, he'll just keep going, invading countries like Moldova and Poland.

As she speaks, Olga's 14-year-old daughter fights to hold back tears.

The Moldovan government says tens of thousands of refugees are living in the homes of ordinary Moldovans, extraordinary act of collective kindness

from one of poorest countries in Europe.

Asked how long he can afford to continue hosting this Ukrainian family, Boris Makeyev told me they can stay as long as they need.


WATSON (on camera): Now members from the Moldovan government, they say that they're starting to look at the question of trying to integrate this

huge number of Ukrainian children into Moldova's education system. The kids I met today I asked about school and many of them are continuing their

studies, distant learning, a pattern that began during the COVID pandemic and now is continuing now that they've become refugees, due to the

conflict, their teachers inside Ukraine are still sending these kids assignments and work to do even as they flee across borders -- Christina.

MACFARLANE: Yeah, amidst all this heart break, it is in some ways good to see how average Moldovan people are stepping up to help.

Ivan Watson, thank you so much for your reporting.

Let's take a look now at some of the other developments in this conflict. The U.S. is sending two patriot missile batteries to Poland as it look to

see shore up Europe's defenses. It's also ordering 500 more U.S. troops to Europe, as part of an effort to bolster NATO's readiness and deterrence

against Russia in the event Vladimir Putin considers attacking a NATO country or the Ukrainian war spills over into NATO territory.

Japan has made a rare move, supplying Ukraine with bullet proof vest and helmet. Under its pacifist law, Japan has to follow strict rules if it

wants to send military equipment to another country, but it says Ukraine was attacked in violation of international law, enabling it to ship the

supplies. Japan also plans to send Ukraine other non-lethal supplies such as food, generators, tents, and winter clothing.

Britain's transport minister says he's already used new aviation sanctions to seize a plane that sources say is linked to a Russian billionaire. He

says it happened hours after the U.K. made it a crime for Russian to fly or land there. He says Britain seized the plane to enable investigators to

determine who actually owns it.

Ukraine's cabinet has passed a resolution that now makes it illegal to export certain agricultural goods like wheat, corn, salt, and meat. The

minister says it's supposed to prevent humanitarian crisis in Ukraine, grow intelligence and agricultural data. An analytics firms says that combined

with Russia, the two countries are responsible for almost a third of global wheat exports and analysts say that if supply is cut, countries in the

Middle East and North Africa will pay the price.

The U.N. says any obstruction to wheat imports from Ukraine or Russia could put hungry families in Syria under even more pressure.

Okay. You are watching THE GLOBAL BRIEF.

Coming up, the international nuclear watchdog is trying to calm fears about the Chernobyl nuclear plant after its power was cut. We'll debrief with an

expert on how great that danger might be, next.



MACFARLANE: More now on our top story, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy asking why a maternity hospital was a threat to Russia in a video

message posted online. Ukraine is blaming Russia for the strike that wounded at least 17 people at that hospital. In the message, Mr. Zelenskyy

asked, what kind of country is Russia? Is it, quote, afraid of hospitals and maternity wards and destroys them?

OK. Turning now to Chernobyl, and depending on your age, just the words is enough to send chills down your spine. Now, there's renewed concerns at the

site of the world's worst nuclear disaster. Ukrainian authorities say the electric lines that supply the decommissioned nuclear plant have been cut.

They say that could lead to radioactive leaks.

But after tense hours, the United Nations atomic watchdog, the IAEA, said the lack of electricity does not pose a threat at this time, the Russians

controlled the site right now and Ukraine's foreign minister wants the international community to demand a Russian ceasefire to allow repair units

to restore power.

Russia seized control of Chernobyl and a second nuclear plant in Ukraine and closing in on a third.

Our next guest says he does not believe we have ever seen such a confluence of nuclear dangers in one place at one time.

Joe Cirincione is a nuclear expert and joins me now from Washington.

Good to see you, Joe.

As I was just saying, you know, average people hear the words Chernobyl and immediately assume the worst. Just to reset, as we understand it, the

current situation, the power to the former nuclear plant has been cut and there is only a limited amount of back-up fuel for those backup generators.

So how great is the immediate danger here?


was very reassuring to get the assessment of the director general of the IAEA, who reminded us that the spent fuel, that's where that is at issue

here, the spent fuel which is in the cooling ponds is very old, a couple of decades old. So it's very cool.

It's still feasible and does generate heat but as long as the water remains in the ponds, it should be okay for several weeks and the electricity being

cut off means the water is probably not being circulated now, but even standing in the ponds is good enough to prevent those rods from overheating

for a couple of weeks.

But he insists that the IAEA be allowed to come in, that they've been allowed to do inspections, that the communications with outside world be

restored, and most important, that the technicians that are running the plant not be held at gunpoint, operating under duress.

I mean, you put those words together: Chernobyl, gunpoint, duress, electric cut off -- I mean, how many things can go wrong at once? That's what the

IAEA director wants to avoid.

MACFARLANE: Yeah, and how feasible is it to assess the damage that's being done with Russia controlling those plants? Can it be done?

CIRINCIONE: Yeah, you can't really get independent assessment. What's been going on is what we knew before Russia took over Chernobyl.

MACFARLANE: So the damage is bad enough, Joe, but what is perhaps more concerning now is that Putin has control of two nuclear plants, just said

he's closing in on a third while threatening the use of nuclear weaponry.


Is that more concerning to you at this point?

CIRINCIONE: Yes. You know, while Chernobyl is at the top of the list of places you don't want to go, very close is Zaporizhzhia, the power plant

with six nuclear reactors in standby right now, but those have hot fuel rods in their cooling ponds. If the electricity goes off there, if

artillery shell punctures the ponds and releases the water, then you're looking at a Fukushima-like event, a meltdown of very large release of


And the Russians are closing in on another nuclear facility, the Navirosk (ph) reactor, columns advancing towards that reactor. Again, you might see

an armed takeover of a nuclear plant.

Let me remind you, we've never seen a nuclear power plant attacked in the world. We have never seen one occupied. We have never seen their

technicians held hostage and forced to operate at gunpoint. These are unprecedented nuclear dangers and they're piling up.

MACFARLANE: So what can we do? What can the Western allies do to neutralize these threats from Putin, these constant threats of nuclear war?

CIRINCIONE: Well, we can try to contain the conflict, bring it to an early conclusion, as hard as that is and that's true for lots of reasons. We can

also try to get our allies to unite and pressure the Russians to let the IAEA inspectors in, and we can try to reduce other nuclear dangers. For

example, Putin is already threatening to use nuclear weapons. U.S. and NATO should declare we have no intentions of using nuclear weapons first, no one

should use nuclear weapons first -- and try to get Putin to make a similar pledge.

Do everything we can to deescalate the conflict and ultimately, find a diplomatic off-ramp that Putin can be convinced to take.

MCFARLANE: Yeah, and back to sort of more immediate concerns, Joe, we've heard some 200 people running the Chernobyl plant, still trying to keep it

contained. How at risk are they right now to radiation?

CIRINCIONE: Well, even under normal circumstances, running a nuclear power plant is tricky business. I mean these guys aren't Homer Simpson. This is

not some cartoon show they're in. This is serious business and lots of things can go wrong.

You know, the technicians at Chernobyl, or Three Mile Island, didn't intend to cause nuclear catastrophes, they made mistakes. And operating under this

kind of duress, it's -- you're asking for a nuclear accident. You're asking for a nuclear disaster.

The IAEA has something they call seven pillars of nuclear safety which includes making sure that technicians do not operate under duress, which

includes making sure this is a secure electrical supply, secure outside communications, that outside inspectors are allowed in. Russia's violating

all of those and more.

MACFARLANE: Who knows what those technicians are even go through now, Joe Cirincione, it's really great to have you perspective. Thanks for the

reality check on all of this.

Well, let's look at some of other stories making international impact today.

U.N. investigators say the war in Syria has intensified in recent months. They say Syrian and Russian forces have stepped up aerial attacks and

shelling on rebel-held areas. They're asking the West to ease sanctions on Syria and allow for more humanitarian aid and they're calling for the U.S.

to investigate civilian casualties caused by air strikes.

U.S. says it's increasing readiness in the Indo-Pacific after a slew of Northern Korean ballistic missile launches. It's the first time the White

House has changed posture in the region since President Biden took office. A senior U.S. defense official calls Pyongyang's recent missile tests


South Korea has a new president-elect. Conservative candidate Yoon Suk-yeol just eked out a victory in Wednesday's super close election, wining with

48.6 percent of the vote. The ruling democratic party candidate conceded defeat, asking Yoon to usher in a new era of unity and harmony.

And Israeli's president has arrived in Turkey. It's the first visit by an Israeli leader there in more than a decade. Two countries are trying to

reset the relationship after years of turbulence. Just last May, Turkish president called Israel a terror state.

Okay. You are watching THE GLOBAL BRIEF. Stay with us. We'll be right back after this.



MCFARLANE: Now, we've seen many powerful examples of Ukrainian resistance and resilience throughout the Russian invasion. Now, the Kyiv classic

symphony orchestra is offering some musical inspiration as Russian forces advance. Dozens of people gathered in central Kyiv listening, to musicians

perform the Ukrainian anthem and Beethoven's "Ode to Joy". The conductor says the concert is an call to peace.


HERMAN MAKARENKO, CONDUCTOR, KYIV CLASSIC SYMPHONY ORCHESTRA: I ask musicians, please, who would like to play concert for peace? Please.


You saw 20 musicians. Our orchestra is big orchestra, 65, 70, 7-0 persons, musicians. But now in Kyiv, are only 20 musicians.


MACFARLANE: Incredible. Well, the concert held in Maidan Square where less than 10 years ago, thousands of Ukrainians protested the country's pro-

Russian leader. Now, like then, it's a scene of pro-Ukrainian and pro- Western sentiment.

Okay. That will do it for us at THE GLOBAL BRIEF. I'm Christina Macfarlane in London.

My colleague Jake Tapper continues CNN's coverage of Russia's invasion of Ukraine, up next.