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The Global Brief with Bianca Nobilo

Moscow's Military Objectives; Funerals For Volunteer Fighters; Belarus's Role In Ukraine War. Aired 5-5:30p ET

Aired March 28, 2022 - 17:00   ET



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

We're in the hands of the occupiers. As the mayor of Mariupol calls for a full evacuation, we look at Moscow's new military objectives.

Then, a grieving mother says good-bye to her son. A report on those who lost their lives after volunteering to fight for their country.

And what role is Europe's so-called last dictator playing in the war in Ukraine? We debrief on the Belarusian president's support to Vladimir


After trying and failing for four weeks to bomb Ukraine into submission, Russia may now be shifting its battlefield strategy. Ukraine's military

intelligence chief says Russia could be trying to carve Ukraine in two like North and South Korea. He says Russian forces may attempt to impose a

dividing line between Ukraine's occupied and unoccupied regions.

But despite reports that Russia is now focusing on the east and south, Ukraine's deputy minister warns Russians are not giving up their efforts to

seize the capital. He says they're battling to block supply routes into Kyiv, calling the situation very serious.

But perhaps nowhere is the situation more dire than in Mariupol. The city's mayor says the strategic port is now, quote, in the hands of the occupiers.

The mayor is calling for the complete evacuation of Mariupol, saying 160,000 people remain trapped in a city that's been turned to dust.

CNN's Ivan Watson talks to some civilian who is managed to make it to safer ground.


IVAN WATSON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Shattered by Russian artillery, the windshield of a car that a Ukrainian

family used to make their two-day escape from the besieged port city of Mariupol.

We meet Natalia shortly after her family reaches relative safety in the parking lot of a superstore on the edge of the Ukrainian city of


The day before yesterday an artillery shell hit our house, she says. Half of the house is gone.

This is what was left.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (through translator): If Russia sees this, I want them to know that they aren't defending us. They are killing us because they

seem to think they're defending us and that's just not true.

WATSON: This parking lot, an unofficial gateway to Ukrainian-controlled territory, for more than 70,000 Ukrainians who, officials say fled

Mariupol. The evacuees look shell-shocked. They arrive in vehicles draped with white rags and signs that say children.

And some, like 4-year-old Alissa Isayava (ph) show up in yellow school buses.

They were bombing us, she says. Bombing us with planes and tanks.

Alyssa's (ph) aunt, Lilia (ph) says she suffered from a concussion for days after a strike hit her home.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (through translator): We walked among corpses. There were bodies on to the evergreens. Soldiers without hats, without arms, they

are lying there. Nobody is gathering them.

There was such fear that I felt like I was under water. I wanted to wake up. And now I am here and this feels like some kind of a dream.

WATSON: Inside the super store volunteers and the city government are trying to help.

Newly arrived evacuees are welcomed at this support center where they're offered warm meals, access to medics and information about how to travel

deeper into safer parts of Ukrainian territory. There's also a bulletin board here where some people are offering free repair of shattered car

windows. And there are also postings here looking for information about missing loved ones.

For some who survived Russia's modern day siege, this is the first hint of safety they've had in weeks.

Outside, Yulia Moshedeva (ph) and her son, Stanislav (ph), have just arrived. Stanislav (ph) is chatty and upbeat, but his mother appears

unsteady. When Russian warplanes bombed, she says, the family hid under the dining room table surrounded by pillows.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (through translator): When the plane flew past we were sheltering in the center of town. Until now my ear still hurts from the

shock wave.

WATSON: The unlikely safe haven provided in this parking lot is precarious.


Ukrainian officials say Russian troops are positioned barely a half hour's drive away from here.

Ivan Watson, CNN, Zaporizhzhia.


NOBILO: CNN hasn't confirmed it, but the mayor of fiercely disputed Kyiv suburb of Irpin tells us Ukrainian forces have recaptured the city from the


For perspective, let's now turn to CNN's Ben Wedeman. He is in another embattled Ukrainian city of Mykolaiv, and CNN military analyst, Colonel

Cedric Leighton, who comes to us from Washington.

Ben, Russia has said it's going to switch phases in its military operation, in quotation marks, and other intelligence is signaling a change in

strategy by Russia, too.

How's that likely to change things on ground around the rest of the country?

BEN WEDEMAN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: It really depends if they're actually going to make good on this statement that they're going to

change their military strategy, because I can tell you, for instance, I am in the hallway of our hotel here, because there is not only a nighttime

curfew, but a mandatory blackout.

Now, we just heard the air raid sirens going off after hearing two large thuds somewhere within this city, and the fact of the matter is that as

things stand, even though the Russians say they might change their strategy on the ground, nothing has changed. We're in this city, which is 450

kilometers from the Donbas region where the Russians say they're going to focus their activities and the war's still going on here.

Kyiv is about 600 kilometer from the Donbas region, and Russian forces continue to try to encircle the capital. Therefore, what we're not seeing

is really any change with the dynamic on the ground in terms of where Russian forces are attacking, where they're trying to push forward, where

they continue to be present. So I think when you speak to most Ukrainians, they sort of shrug when they hear this statement about focusing on the

Donbas, because in reality, it just doesn't seem to be happening at the moment.

This may be, perhaps, in preparation for what optimistically might be a Russian gradual pullback to the areas it actually wants to keep, but on the

ground, it just seems nothing has changed in terms of the focus and the intensity of the Russian onslaught -- Bianca.

NOBILO: Thanks, Ben.

And, Colonel Leighton, as Ben saying, currently, the signals about Russia changing strategy is not congruent with what Ukrainians are seeing on the

ground. What do you think is likely? Do you think this -- what we've heard from the military intelligence chief in Ukraine, that Russia my try to

partition Ukraine like Korea, is that plausible?

COL. CEDRIC LEIGHTON, CNN MILITARY ANALYST: It's theoretically plausible, Bianca. I think what they're looking at is trying to fulfill one a their

war aims, which was in fact to lob off the eastern portion of Ukraine basically the Donbas region plus a little bit more, and keep that in

Russian hands.

But it could also mean they want to go larger and take an even larger chunk of the eastern part of the country. If that happens, of course, this idea

that they're going to just be concentrating on the Eastern Donbas region is basically null and void. And like Ben was saying, this is -- these public

pronouncement pronouncements mean absolutely nothing on the ground and what Ben is experiencing and hearing from others there fits very nicely with

what I and others have thought the Russians would be doing.

In essence, what they're saying is we're doing one thing but they're actually doing another, and that's a very critical distinction I think.

NOBILO: And that's been a consistent theme throughout the invasion so far. And adaptation is obviously key to battlefield success. Why do you think,

Colonel Leighton, the speed of Russia has been so slow? We're even seeing it right now.

LEIGHTON: Yeah, the Russians are a very top-down command and control military. In other words, their command and control structure is based on

what the senior leadership tells the lower echelons to do. It's not as dynamic as you would find in the British military or the U.S. military. And

that does make for a difference and it is actually a weakness when it comes to executing combat operations.

Specifically for Ukraine, Bianca, I would say that they have suffered a lot from not only poor command and control, but also logistics problems,

personnel issues, not informing their personnel exactly where they were going and really getting their buy-in for this operation.


They've completely failed to do that because it's not part of their culture. That would never happen, for example, in the American military.

But it is a very different situation for them. They were unprepared to do this and we're seeing this lack of preparedness in their failure to execute

this first phase of their operation.

NOBILO: Thank you to CNN's Ben Wedeman in Mykolaiv and CNN military analyst Colonel Cedric Leighton with your insight on that.

Now, Ben has reported on many wars for CNN and is well-versed on the human impact. Now, earlier, he filed a report on one family's loss from the

southern Ukrainian city of Odessa.


WEDEMAN (voice-over): Lord have mercy, goes the hymn's refrain. Another family's drink of war's bitter dredges.

Forty-seven-year-old Yuri Solomka (ph) died on the 18th of March from wounds sustained in the front line city of Mykolaiv. His mother Lyudmila

struggles through the ceremony.

Every day, there's another funeral during this time of death, destruction, and displacement. These are indeed the times that try a people's soul.

Yuri was a volunteer, not a regular soldier. He was given full military honors.

Beyond customs of respect for a man who died in the battle for a nation at war, lies the trauma of a woman who brought him into this world.

There can be nothing more painful for a mother than to attend the funeral of her child. A son killed in a war not of his choosing.

He decided on his own to join the army, says Lyudmila. He hadn't told me. He was a good father and a good son.

Says his sister, Yelena, he was always a man of his word.

Yuri's lies with other freshly dug graves.

After a month of this conflict, no one really knows how many soldiers and civilians have been killed. The only thing of which anyone can be certain

is that only the dead have seen the end of war.

Before this funeral ends, preparations begin for the next.

Ashes to ashes, dust to dust.

Ben Wedeman, CNN, Odessa.


NOBILO: Israel's prime minster says the country stands firm with Ukraine and it's doing what it can to help end the war.

This comes as the country hosts a second day of a historic summit with diplomats the from the UAE, Bahrain, Morocco, Egypt, and the U.S. all

discussing regional security issues. The forum shows a significant shift in Middle East diplomatic alignment since the 2020 deals between the UAE,

Bahrain and morocco, allowing discussion to over shared concerns including Iran and the war in Ukraine.

Morocco and Egypt are feeling the impact of that war firsthand and crucial wheat and other supplies cut off. Egypt voted to condemn Russia's invasion

at the U.N. general assembly, but Morocco abstained. The two countries have not otherwise spoken about Russia's offensive.

Gulf States have been careful to maintain neutrality over concerns due to energy security, and the United Arab Emirates dodged demand to increase oil

production with the country's energy minister reinforcing on Monday that he believes Russian oil and gas is crucial to the global market stability.

Displaying the symbol "Z" might get you prosecute in at least two German states. The Z has come to represent support of Russia's invasion of Ukraine

and shows prominently on Russian tanks and uniforms. But officials in the Germany of Lower Saxony and Bavaria say they may pursue charges against

anyone who displays it.

And after the break, Western officials warned that Belarus could soon join the war in Ukraine. But President Alexander Lukashenko has already played a

active role in the invasion. We'll debrief.



NOBILO: Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko ruled his country with a firm hand nearly three decades. He's the oldest and steadiest ally of

Russian President Vladimir Putin. In 2020, he claimed victory in Belarus's most recent election, which was widely considered fraudulent by the

international community. And over the decades, he's held on the power thanks to the military and financial help of Russia.

Now the U.S. and NATO officials believe that the time may have come for Lukashenko the pay his debt to his ally by joining the war in Ukraine.

Belarus already supported Mr. Putin. Russian troops conducted military exercises in his territory for weeks before the invasion, and the border

between Belarus and Ukraine, which stretches for about 674 miles, has been a useful base for Russian troops to enter Ukraine from the north.

To debrief, I'm joined by Franak Viacorka. He's a Belarusian opposition leader and senior adviser to Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya, the main opposition

candidate in the last general election.

Welcome to the program, sir. Thank you for joining us.


NOBILO: So Western officials have been warning that Belarus may soon join the war with Russia. What military support would Belarus be likely to

provide? And do you think that action would be imminent?

VIACORKA: First of all, Belarus already joined, provided Russian lead we are airfields, with hospitals, with infrastructure. It's fueling Russian

tanks and aircrafts and helicopters. Every hour dozens of missiles are being launched from Belarus territory and Ukrainian citizens are being

literally destroyed every night by arms launched from our territory.

But Lukashenko want to help Putin even more, and now he is considering sending Belarusian armed forces to Ukraine to help Russian allies.

NOBILO: And how many, do you think, he'd be likely to send? And why wait? Russia's clearly struggling now in their offensive. So when do you think

they'd make the calculus to send in the Belarusian troops?

VIACORKA: So, Belarusian army is not so professional, not experienced. It can be from 5,000 to 15,000 son-in-laws soldiers sent to Ukraine, but they

never had experience in any practical battlefields. I think the sending of Belarus troops is important from political point of view because then Putin

will not be alone.

Right now, it seems like Putin Kremlin against the entire world, and nobody really supports this war. And he needs someone, even the poor Lukashenko to

join this war. Then he can say, oh, I am not the only one. Also there is Lukashenko nearby.

But, again, Lukashenko is vassal (ph). Lukashenko plays the -- role of collaboration is government, like in Second World War.


The regime of Petain, Vichy, they were helping Hitler's Germany. Something similar happens to Belarus and Russia.

NOBILO: And how do Belarusians feel about Belarus potentially becoming more involved in this war?

VIACORKA: Real -- are working in Belarus right now. There are no opportunities to protest openly in squares so they disrupt railways, hack

state systems.

A few weeks ago, the train with food for Russian soldiers, it was delayed because of attack of our cyber parties. There is ongoing anti-war movement

which unites million of Belarusians already. And people from state enterprises, even officials are joining this movement. I don't know if

we'll manage to stop Russian troops from moving to Ukraine, but we definitely can create a lot of troubles for them, because the majority of

Belarusians don't support this war and stand with Ukraine.

NOBILO: Do you think Lukashenko is worried about the international repercussion of getting -- in terms of the optics -- getting openly

involved in the war?

VIACORKA: I think for Lukashenko and Putin, this is the last war, this last night. For them it's the last chance to stay in history. They think

they're Russian czars from 19th century, ruling the world, changing the paradigm, and scaring the entire Europe. So, I don't think they're thinking

about the consequences, but people around them, they do really think -- and people around Lukashenko, they don't want to be sanctioned.

Therefore, we should increase sanction, pressure if you want changes.

NOBILO: And more broadly, how is the fate of Belarus tied to Putin's regime? And do you think the increasing authoritarianism in Russia is going

to seep further into Belarusian life?

VIACORKA: These regimes have symbiotic relationship. They need each other. For example, Russians, they expect Belarus to be used as the loophole for

avoid and circumvent sanctions. Many Russian companies, they left Russia, but they didn't leave Belarus.

And for Lukashenko, also support for Putin is crucial because this is the one that guarantee Lukashenko will stay in power, because he doesn't have

any support. So, I think the collapse of any regime will lead to the collapse of another one.

NOBILO: Franak Viacorka, thanks so much for joining thus evening.

VIACORKA: Thank you.

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

North Korea's leader says the country will keep developing, quote, powerful offensive means for nuclear war deterrents. It comes days after the country

tested a new intercontinental ballistic missile, its first long range missile tests in more than four years. Kim Jong-un told state media he

wants North Korea to gain what he called overwhelming military power.

Pakistan's parliament just taking up a no confidence motion designed to remove Prime Minister Imran Khan from power. They'll begin debating the

motion on Thursday. Opposition leaders are accusing Prime Minister Khan of corruption and economic mismanagement but he's vowed to fight and to stay

in office.

The Taliban are banning international media outlets from broadcasting in Afghanistan. The step the U.N. calls repressive and chilling developments.

The BBC and the voice of America say they have been ordered off air. It comes a few days after the Taliban barred secondary schoolgirls from

returning to class.

You're watching THE GLOBAL BRIEF. We'll be right back after this.



NOBILO: This year's Oscars ceremony was one to remember on multiple fronts. Just a few moments before becoming the fifth black man to win an

Academy Award for best actor, Will Smith slapped presenter Chris Rock for making a joke about his wife, Jada Pinkett Smith.

The academy launched an official review of the episode and says it will explore further actions and consequences for the actor.

Throughout the night, Hollywood paid tribute to Ukraine, including legendary Director Francis Ford Coppola who shouted "Viva Ukraine" during

the celebration of "The Godfather's" 50th anniversary.

Then, Troy Kotsur became the first deaf actor to ever win an Oscar for his performance in "CODA". He receives a standing ovation from the audience,

which applauded in American sign language. "CODA" was also awarded Best Movie.

Now, before I go this evening, I have a special announcement. Tuesday, March 29 is the launch of CNN+, a new steaming service for viewers in the

United States. And we're very excited that our show, THE GLOBAL BRIEF is going to be available live and on demand for about a week afterwards on

CNN+ as well as live in our regular time slot on CNN International for viewers all around the world. We wouldn't leave you, of course.

So I want to say a big team to my team in London and Atlanta who help gets ready for this next chapter of our show. But we're very excited. And we'll

see you again tomorrow.