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The Global Brief with Bianca Nobilo

Ukraine's Human Tragedy; Chemical Attack Concerns; Syrian War Parallels. Aired 5-5:30p ET

Aired March 10, 2022 - 17:00   ET



LYNDA KINKADE, CNN HOST: Hello, and welcome. I'm Lynda Kinkade, in for Bianca Nobilo. And this is THE GLOBAL BRIEF.

Ukraine accuses Russia of bombing vital evacuation corridor as talks end with no progress on cease-fire.

Then, we speak to a military analyst to assess Putin's strategy two weeks into the conflict. Western officials warning Russia could use chemical


And a conversation with an award winning Syrian filmmaker about the parallels between Russia's involvement in her country's civil war and what

we're now seeing in Ukraine.

Well, the humanitarian situation across Ukraine is growing more dire as Russia escalates attacks after talks ended with no cease-fire. But perhaps

nowhere is the suffering more devastating than in the port city of Mariupol. The International Red Cross says people are starting to fight

each other for food. The city has been cut off from power, heat and water for day as it faces constant bombardment.

But there's nowhere to go as attacks on humanitarian corridors have prevented evacuations. Russian tanks are rolling closer to other major

cities as well, including the capital, Kyiv.

Ukraine's foreign minister says he received a troubling message from his Russian counterpart at talks in Turkey.


DMYTRO KULEBA, UKRAINIAN FOREIGN MINISTER: The broad narrative that he conveyed to me is that they will continue their aggression until Ukraine

meets their demands, and a list of those demands is a surrender.


KINKADE: We want to bring in CNN's Nick Paton Walsh. He joins us live from Odessa.

Nick, you're in the third largest city. Ukraine says Russia carry out five strikes there. What can you tell us?

NICK PATON WALSH, CNN INTERNATIONAL SECURITY EDITOR: Yeah, it's unclear, to be honest, how serious these five shots or strikes fired by this Russian

ship earlier on today actually ended up being. Ukrainian officials suggested this was essentially a bid to see how Ukraine's defense systems

here would react.

They may have been responsible for the sirens that we heard earlier on this afternoon. They have been more persistent than earlier days. Right now,

it's utterly silent again, but at dusk, there was what sounded like anti- aircraft fire just behind me. So, heightened anxiety here in the third largest city, this vital port that's increasingly pressured because of

Russia's military maneuvers along the Black Sea coast, certainly around Mykolaiv, the next major port along that coastline.

The regional head there sounded kind of confident in the past hour, suggesting that even though Ukrainian forces have sustained losses on the

checkpoint there, that the air strikes managed to damage Russian convoys, and he's quite cheekily handed out a leaflet on Telegram giving advice as

to how Russian soldiers could surrender, if they want to, saying most of the prisoners they have taken, in his opinion, have said they thought they

were on a training exercise and don't want to go forwards but can't go backwards without fear of persecution by Russian forces themselves. Not

statements we can verify but showing how Ukraine feels it can be dominant in the information war here.

Other concerns, too, about the sighting of a second train that's moved up from Crimea in the direction of Kherson that's maybe providing

reinforcement here on the Black Sea coast fight. That's all essentially about control over Odessa here in the longer run. And today, heightened

anxiety here, certainly, Lynda.

KINKADE: And, Nick, I want to ask you more about the information war you speak of, especially when it comes to Mariupol where the maternity hospital

was targeted. What is the latest there? Because if you listen to Russian propaganda, they claim -- there's at least one claim out there the attack

was staged by Ukrainians.

WALSH: Yeah, I mean, look, we just have to remember Russia's track record of hitting medical facilities in Ukraine, in Syria. In Ukraine in this

conflict, the WHO says 24 have been targeted so far, so the evidence is all right there, and as is Russia's track record of talking utter nonsense and

making up these bizarre counter-narratives.

Today, we have two from Russia. The foreign minister saying, well, you know, if that place was hit, it was because it didn't contain the wounded

patients, who we've seen pictures of emerging from the wreckage, and in fact, Russia's opinion contained Ukrainian nationalists. That is obviously


At the same time, too, the ministry of defense saying it wasn't an airstrike that hit that building. In fact it was explosives planted by the

Ukrainians themselves. I mean, it takes a particularly cynical mind to create counter-narratives like that after the blatant evidence that's been

seen on the ground by multiple individuals and broadcast around the world.

But that is the nature of how Russia prosecutes its wars. It looks for soft targets like that. It looks to maximize the emotional suffering of the

people it's trying to subjugate. We've seen that in Syria, and we'll see it elsewhere, I'm sure, throughout this war. But it's important to remember

that their desire to partake in this information war with these extraordinary counter-narratives isn't really winning during this conflict,

because I think so many parts of the world that previously felt they needed to -- both sides of the part of story by giving Russia's point, too, can

now simply say it is just nonsense -- Linda.

KINKADE: Absolutely.

Nick Paton Walsh, to you and the team, many thanks, and stay safe.

Well, the U.S. and Britain fear Russia might use chemical weapons. Ukrainian forces appear to have hindered Russia's initial plan for a fast

victory, and NATO worries that Russia's completely false claim that the U.S. is operating chemical and biological weapons facilities in Ukraine

might be used as particularly a pretext.

Well, the mayor of Mariupol where that maternity hospital was bombed yesterday, and Ukraine's president are again pleading with NATO to impose a

no-fly zone to stop Russia's aerial bombardments, but NATO says that could bring it into direct conflict with Russia.

I want to turn to CNN military analyst and retired Air Force intelligence officer, Colonel Cedric Leighton. He joins us now from Washington.

Good to have you with us.


KINKADE: So, when we look at the resistance by Ukraine, by all accounts it's been impressive. In the face of a much larger, better equipped Russian

military, talk to us about the factors that have helped with the defense. Because if you listen to the likes of the former defense chief of NATO,

even a former U.S. intelligence officials, they admit they underestimated Ukraine.

Why do you think Ukraine has been so effective in the first two weeks of this war?

LEIGHTON: Lynda, I think it was primarily due to the fact that what we're talking about with Ukraine is they are defending their country, they are

defending their territory. They learned from what happened in 2014, and when you looked at every single aspect of what they're doing, it's very

clear they mobilized the entire country.

We didn't expect that mobilization to take place the way it did. In fact, if you look at all the paper figures comparing Ukrainian strength with

Russian strength, there's no comparison. The Russians have a ten times greater defense budget, vast preponderance of hardware in terms of planes,

tanks, troop numbers. The balance was clearly on their side.

But it all matters in terms of quality. In fact in the Ukrainian case, the quality of the troops appears to be higher. Their esprit de corps, as we

would call it in military is far higher than what the Russian appear -- Russia's esprit de corps appears to be. And it's very clear that in this

case, the Ukrainians are fighting for a reason.

The Russians didn't know in some cases they were going in to fight. They thought it was just a training exercise, according to some reports that

makes a huge different when it comes to combat operations.

KINKADE: And the way this has played out has surprised many analysts. We were speaking to analysts who thought, if there were to be some sort of

invasion, it would be areas held already by separatists. That didn't happen. Instead, we've seen a full scale war across the country, one that

Putin by all accounts thought would be over quite quickly.

Where are Russians making inroads? What are your concerns about capital? Do they have enough combat units to take the capital?

LEIGHTON: Well, on paper, the Russians seem to have enough combat units to take the capital. Now, that, of course, tells us a few things that, you

know, they have units that are ready to go, they have the armament in terms of artillery, in terms of aircraft and their capacities. They have all of

that ready to go.

The question is, how are they employing it? And this is where it gets tricky to predict exactly what's going to happen, because you know, as

recently as today, the Ukrainians are reporting they've stopped a convoy of tanks, a column of tanks, and were able to neutralize it and force it to

turn around very close to Kyiv.

And you have incidents like that, if you multiply those several times over, there will at least be a delaying action when it comes to taking the



But I do believe that Russia's main goal is still to take Kyiv and to topple the Ukrainian government and put someone in there that's of their


But, you know, having said that, the Russian forces are also spread kind of thin. They have multiple goals. They're operating in the south as we heard

from Nick Paton Walsh. They're operating in the east, in the northeast.

So there are a lot of things that could go wrong for the Russians, and it is certainly possible that the Ukrainians could stall them on their way

into Kyiv, and it's -- there's a potential they might not even get the city.

KINKADE: All right. Retired Colonel Cedric Leighton, plenty to discuss. We'll have to leave it there for now. Thanks so much for your time.

LEIGHTON: You bet.

KINKADE: Well, a no-fly zone obviously is a designated area where certain aircraft can't fly, and this is enforced by militaries to prevent enemy air

attacks or surveillance. A no-fly zone over Ukraine could see allies -- NATO allies having to shoot down Russian aircraft. That, of course, is a

huge risk.

No-fly zones have previously been established during the First Gulf War and, obviously, the Libyan civil war. Well, for more on all of this, I want

to now look at what the Kremlin is doing resurrect old debunked conspiracy theories to justify its invasion of Ukraine. Some of the misinformation

concerns that U.S. funded bio labs in Ukraine have found, which the U.S. State Department calls outright lies, but even the most blatant lies are

hard to contain.

Katie Polglase shows us how far the narrative is spreading.


KATIE POLGLASE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The foreboding music. Biohazard warnings.

This Russian state media footage from 2015 claims to show America running facilities in Ukraine and Georgia that cause deadly outbreak of disease and

killed local livestock.

This story is false, but that has not stopped it continuing to circulate, evolving from biological hazards to biological weapons and becoming a key

part of Russia's disinformation campaign justifying the invasion of Ukraine.

The claims are debunked several years ago when in 2020, the United States issue a statement to quote, set the record straight, saying the labs are

for vaccine development and to report outbreaks caused by dangerous pathogens before they pose security or stability threats.

But this week, the story was back.

MARIA ZAKHAROVA, SPOKESPERSON, RUSSIAN MINISTRY OF FOREIGN AFFAIRS (through translator): We are confirming the facts that were unveiled during the

special military operation in Ukraine that indicate an emergency cleanup of military biological programs by the Kyiv regime. They were carried out by

Kyiv and financed by the United States of America.

POLGLASE: Multiple times, the Russian foreign ministry has resurfaced the debunked story. On Tuesday, it was mentioned by a Russian ally.

ZHAO LIJIAN, SPOKESPERSON, CHINESE MINISTRY OF FOREIGN AFFAIRS (through translator): It was reported that those bio labs store a large number of

dangerous viruses. During Russia's military operation, it was found the U.S. was using those facilities to conduct biological militarization


POLGLASE: So, alongside these official statements, it's being repeatedly shared across social media, from Facebook to Twitter to Telegram, and CNN's

been tracking its spread. You can see here it's been posted in Canada, Australia, Germany, and this tweet is one example. You can see it's been

retweeted over 500 times already.

The theory has now attracted the attention of figures and platforms with significant followings in the United States.

STEW PETERS, CONSPIRACY THEORIST: Go into Ukraine and take out the bio labs.

POLGLASE: Such as the conspiracy theorist Stew Peters and has been featured on the far right platform Info Wars.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: U.S. bio weapons labs in Ukraine.

POLGLASE: And so, Russia's false narrative on American bio labs in Ukraine continues to spread.

Katie Polglase, CNN, London.


KINKADE: The International Atomic Energy Agency says Ukraine and Russia are willing to develop a safety framework for Ukraine's nuclear power

plants. There's been concern over those facilities since the invasion. Ukrainian officials say some plants lost power and are at risk of radiation

leaks, including Chernobyl, the site of the world's worse nuclear accident. The IAEA's chief says they need to move fast to keep conditions safe there,

but he says he's encouraged that Russia and Ukraine agreed to work with the agency.

Well, those escaping the violence in Ukraine are continuing their journeys across Europe. Some countries are easing measures for refugees. U.K. moved

its visa application system online, and the home secretary says Ukrainians with passport will no longer need to go to a visa processing center before

entering, which will begin next week.

Officials in the region are scrambling.


More than 2.3 million people left Ukraine. Many shelters are becoming overcrowded and volunteers are becoming exhausted.

You're watching THE GLOBAL BRIEF.

Coming up after a short break, we're going to look into the distinct parallels between Russia's involvement in Ukraine and when it entered into

another conflict years ago.



KINKADE: Welcome back.

The international community is calling it, quote, a heinous war crime. Russia's bombing of a maternity hospital in Ukraine is just one of two

dozen health-care facilities targeted so far. That's according to the World Health Organization.

Now, these attacks are similar to another conflict Russia played a hand in, Syria's civil war. Russia allied itself with President Bashar al Assad's

government six years ago, and his assistance included air strikes against opposition controlled areas.

But Human Rights Watch found that civilian hospitals were deliberately targeted in those raids.

Well, my next guest is the founder of Stop Bombing Hospitals, and the director of the Oscar nominated documentary, "For Sama".

Syria journalist and activist, Waad Al-Kateab, joins me now.

Thanks so much for your time.


KINKADE: So, you started this campaign, Stop Bombing Hospitals, after they were attack in the Syria, notably in Aleppo back in 2016 by Russian forces.

Again, we're seeing health facilities attack in the Ukraine, including the children's hospital in Mariupol. Why do you think Russia is bombing

hospitals yet again? What went through your mind when you heard that news?

AL-KATEAB: I mean, simply, this is how their tactic is. This is how they, like, do their daily, let's say, routine. They want to crush people. They

want to kill people.

They are moving forward, and any place they are like taking, either in Syria or in Ukraine, other people, (INAUDIBLE) over civilians. They don't

care about any military, like, attacks. They want to like bomb hospitals, schools, bakeries. That's what we witnessed in Syria for years.

That's why we are trying to call for the world, and like, unfortunately, when we saw these images coming out in the past couple days, they were so

deeply sad, but we were not surprised at all, unfortunately.

KINKADE: And I understand your husband was working as a doctor in Syria, and he said at one point it would be safer to be on the front lines than in

a hospital.

Why do you think -- like what do you think the sort of attacks on the hospital does to the mindset of people trying to flee, trying to survive?

AL-KATEAB: Like, Russia, like the Syrian regime, they wanted just to take over the places. They don't care if they're cities or like there's still

people in it or not.


They don't care if there's still building or not. What they want just to do is like power. Like they don't care about who dies. They don't care about

anything. The only thing they want is just to take over.

The fastest way, for sure, is like attacking civilians, attacking any kind of place call bring, like, hope to people, and that's what happened in

Syria. The only way, which happened in places not only in Aleppo, they attacked everything in the areas, starting with the hospitals, because they

know where there's no hospital in this area, people would leave.

People won't stay in a place where there's no basic services. Well, they might say, but they won't -- never stay in a place where there's no

hospitals. When you have kids, when you have, like, family, when you are -- even as a young man by yourself, you could literally get rid of everything

and survive without anything, but not without, like, health care, and I think that's their main technique.

KINKADE: Yeah, you raise a really, really good point. Assad, of course, the Syrian leader, was accused of war crimes time and time again. Yet he's

never faced trial. He's still the leader of Syria.

There's already evidence that Putin has committed war crimes, and there are fears he might deploy chemical weapons. Do you suspect that Putin looks at

Assad and says, he got away with it? Do you think Putin thinks he's going to get away with it unscathed?

AL-KATEAB: I mean, Assad went away with this because he has Putin, and I think that's what we are witnessing today is, like, just because the world

let this happen in Syria that easily, this is why Russia today is doing what they are doing in Ukraine.

We are very, very, very sorry for what's happening. We are like literally heartbreaking days and night watching all the images coming out. We know

exactly what does that mean. We know when you're looking around you, you're seeing everything around you destroyed by your own government or by other

governments, which has still until today, a space in the U.N. Security Council, for example.

I'm really feel like disappointed more and more from all -- like, the decision-makers around the world, like countries and governments.

I know that the action today for what's happening in Ukraine is, like, helpful or, like, giving us hope that something might be changed, but

unfortunately, it's still happening. We've seen this in Syria ten years ago. We have been talking about this a lot.

I really hope the Ukrainian people won't face what we're facing until today. I hope this will be the end in Ukraine and Syria and every other

country where something happening.

I just want to comment on very specific things -- I'm so happy when I'm looking at the media or hearing interviews and see that presenters and

people who are journalists are writing about this not as a war, but as an invasion.

And I think the -- just bringing up Syria and talking about Syria as civil war -- Syria is not civil war. Syria is exactly what happened in Ukraine.

Unfortunately, not by Russia, but by Assad supported by Russia, and it's the same scenario. So can we please stop calling Syria a civil war.

KINKADE: All right. Yeah, you make a good point there.

Syrian journalist and activist, Waad Al-Kateab, good to have you on the program. Thanks so much for your time.

AL-KATEAB: Thank you so much. Thank you so much. Thanks.

KINKADE: Well, you are watching THE GLOBAL BRIEF. I'm Lynda Kinkade. We'll take a quick break and we'll be right back.


KINKADE: Welcome back.

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

A senior White House official says North Korea appears to have used a new missile system when it launched ballistic missiles last week and late last



The official says it's a serious escalation from Pyongyang. The U.S. is expected to announce new measures on Friday.

Australia has declared a national emergency after flooding devastated parts of the country's east coast. At least 21 people died. Officials sent

military personnel to help clean up, but many residents are angry with the government's slow response. Some have had no power or Internet for several


Activists in Guatemala are on the streets to protest a new law that punishes abortion for up to 25 years in prison. It's making same sex

marriage illegal and banning schools from teaching about sexual diversity. The law was approved on Tuesday, catching many by surprise.

And in Chile, activists are celebrating a major victory. Two men tied the knot for the first time in the country's history, as a law allowing same

sex marriage went into effect. Same sex couples there had only been able to register for a civil union agreement until now.

Well, that was THE GLOBAL BRIEF. I'm Lynda Kinkade. Thanks so much for joining us.

We will leave with you pictures from the southern Brazilian city of Prudentopolis, also known as Little Ukraine. It is home to a community of

Ukrainian immigrants who have been praying for peace in their home country.