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The Global Brief with Bianca Nobilo

Russia's Shifting Strategy; Refugee Red Tape; Other Key Global Headlines. Aired 5-5:30p ET

Aired March 29, 2022 - 17:00   ET



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

Moscow indicates a change in military strategy in Ukraine. So is this a turning point or just rhetoric? We look at the civilian and military impact

of the Russia's newly outlined objectives.

Then, refugee red tape. A report on obstacles Ukrainian refugees face when trying to enter the U.K.

Plus, we'll take you from Tel Aviv to the Vatican for a wrap of today's other key global headlines.

Now, Russia says it's dramatically scaling back its assault on the cities of Kyiv and Chernihiv, calling it a trust building measure. But there's

widespread skepticism around the West and Ukrainian itself. Russia announced the strategy shift after meeting Ukrainian negotiators in

Istanbul. It calls the move a de-escalation, but not a cease-fire.

The Pentagon says that no one should be fooled by Russia's claims, warning that any troop movement should be considered a redeployment and not a

withdrawal. It says a small number of Russian forces are moving away from Kyiv, but Russia can still inflict massive brutality on the capital.

The repositioning is also likely to reflect the reality on the ground because it failed to advance on Kyiv for weeks, and just lost control of


Russia's defense minister says the key goal now is to liberate Donbas, which includes the city of Mariupol. So even though the talks in Istanbul

show signs of possible progress, or so the world hopes, the war remains unrelenting brutal for those struggling to escape cities in the east.

But in a hopeful sign, Ukraine now says three humanitarian corridors reopened, providing escape routes to the city of Zaporizhzhia.

And CNN's Ivan Watson is there and he joins us now live.

Ivan, so, shelling and strikes are continuing around the country. Russia says that the strategy is changing, and posturing in the talks maybe a bit

more compromising ostensibly. So, what is the mood on the ground, and what impact is this shift going to have on civilians?

IVAN WATSON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, nobody here is celebrating right now, Bianca. There is an air raid siren going off, and

this city of Zaporizhzhia is blacked out. There are spectacular night skies, nightscapes, but that's because people are afraid and worried and

they keep the curtains closed, lights out and street lamps are off, because the Russian military that has invaded Ukraine is located just about 30

miles away, about a half hour's drive from where I'm standing right now.

So there have also been reports of shelling in villages on the outskirts in that area, and there have been reports from the Zaporizhzhia oblast

government that the corridors, the green corridors were not allowed to function today, that there were humanitarian convoys that were not allowed

to reach areas where people are trying to escape from. And there is still people trying to flee places like the besieged port city of Mariupol, and I

met some of them this week.


WATSON (voice-over): This was the Mariupol drama theater before Vladimir Putin invaded Ukraine, a cultural and architectural symbol of the city. And

when the Russian military laid its deadly siege of Mariupol, the theater became a safe haven.

MARIA KUTNYAKOVA, MARIUPOL THEATER SURVIVOR: Six people with a cat. We go on the street and Russian tanks started to shooting us, and we were running

and it was craziness. Then we go to the theater.

And you know what? In the theater was a lot of people. They were like, be okay, have food. They gave us a tea. And they said, like, you should find a

place where you could like a bed.

WATSON: This woman and her family recently escaped from Mariupol.

KUTNYAKOVA: My name is Maria Kutnyakova. I'm from Mariupol. I'm Maria from Mariupol.

WATSON: On the morning of March 16th, Maria, her mother, sisters, and cat joined hundreds of others shelter in the theater. Footage from March 10th

shows families huddled there in the dark, feeling protected perhaps, by the signs, "deti", "children" in Russian that volunteers posted outside the


Shortly after arriving, Maria went to check whether an uncle who lived nearby was still alive.

KUTNYAKOVA: Now I hear the noise of the plane, like bombs plane. We now how it's this noise, because it's bombed every day.


WATSON: She returned to the theater to find it destroyed.

KUTNYAKOVA: So, I understand my family's in the theater. Everyone screaming the names, you know, mama, papa, Sasha. And I'm calling mom,


WATSON: Footage of the immediate aftermath chose dazed civilians cover in the dust while the roof over the main auditorium had completely collapsed.

KUTNYAKOVA: When the theater was bombed, my sister was standing by the window, and the window was blown up. She's fallen down, and my mom was in

another part of the theater. And wall fall on to her.

WATSON: Maria's mother and sister were wounded but survived.

Your sister, is she doing all right?


WATSON: Really?


WATSON: She's got a concussion.

KUTNYAKOVA: Yeah, yeah, yeah.

WATSON: Shortly after the initial strike on the theater, Maria says what was left came under artillery attack.

KUTNYAKOVA: Everyone started screaming the theater is on fire, so we should run. And we're running but Russians bombed it. So, we're running

from the theater and bombs like this, this, this.

WATSON: It eventually took nine days for Maria and her family to get through Russian checkpoints and reach relative safety in Ukrainian

controlled territory.

You seem very positive and upbeat right now.

KUTNYAKOVA: I understand that I'm very lucky. You understand? Like, thousands and hundreds people still in Mariupol and they bombed. They have

no food, no water. They have no medicine, nothing.

And I understand I'm very lucky. I have my arms, I have my legs, what I need anymore.

WATSON: And your family.

KUTNYAKOVA: Yeah, my family. My cat is safe.

WATSON: This is little Mushka. She's a 2-year-old cat and survived the bombing of the Mariupol Theater with her family, and they're now headed to

western Ukraine in this bus.

But no one knows how many people may have died under the rubble. Russia has denied that its forces bombed the theater, and Russian state TV recently

showed what was left of it, after Russian troops moved into this part of the city.

Judging by the damage, the Russian reporter claims, it was bombed from the inside. He alleges there is information that Ukrainian nationalists

organized a terrorist attack here, a claim that people inside the theater strongly reject.

Are you angry right now?

KUTNYAKOVA: No, I want that Russian just go away. This is Ukrainian territory. I don't understand why they come and tell me that it's not my

land. They're not fighting with the army.

They fight with every citizen, you know? They bombed hospitals, they bombed kindergartens. They bombed the houses of peaceful people. They're not

fighting with the army.

WATSON: Maria and her family rush to a waiting van. The driver will take them for free to western Ukraine where Maria hope her sister can safely

recover from her injuries.


WATSON (on camera): Now, Maria and her family, they said they enjoyed the relative calm here in the city of Zaporizhzhia which has so far been scared

the ground war with Russian invading forces. But they also were not going to take their chances here with the Russian military so close. They wanted

to get going as soon as they had the chance, and they're on the road now to the west.

And there's some good reason for that. For example, a U.S. official tells CNN that the announcement of Russian de-escalation in the north of the

country should not be anticipated as a withdrawal, but as a redeployment, and that official predicted the world should anticipate attacks in other

parts of Ukraine, and I think there are concerns that could allow the Russians to concentrate their forces on the eastern and southern front

where, the fighting continues to rage -- Bianca.

NOBILO: Ivan Watson in Zaporizhzhia, thank you.

Let's take a further look at Tuesday's key headlines regarding the war in Ukraine. The head of the International Atomic Energy Agency has travelled

to Ukraine for urgent nuclear safety talks. Rafael Mariano Grossi says Russia's war is putting Ukraine's nuclear facilities like Chernobyl, in,

quote, unprecedented danger.

And the E.U. will allocate more than $220 million to several North African countries facing grain shortages because of the war in Ukraine. That's

according to the E.U.'s commissioner for neighborhood enlargement. He says they want to mitigate any social impact of the high cost of wheat, grain,

and other daily essentials.

And rising food prices are being felt around the world.


In Brazil, many people are relying on bargain stores like this one which sells soon to expire at a steep discount. And customers say it's worth the

drive and the extra money on fuel to save on food.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It's true. Since the conflict between Russia and Ukraine broke out, Brazil's food and gas prices have gone up a lot, which

is why our life are rather bad now.


NOBILO: The U.N. Refugee Agency says more than 3.9 million people have fled Ukraine since the start of the Russian invasion. Amid cease-fire

violations and direct attacks on civilian infrastructures, Ukraine's refugees are entering neighboring countries at a speed and scale not seen

since the Second World War, and that doesn't count the 6.5 million people displaced within Ukraine.

And as men that are under the age of 60 are obliged to stay in Ukraine, the refugees are mainly women and children, and social media played a role in

documenting their journey and how they're resettling their lives.

Among them, an 18-year-old blogger Alina Volik who shared with her 36,000 TikTok followers her 30-hour trip from Zaporizhzhia to Madrid without know

field goal she will ever be able to safely return home.


ALINA VOLIK, UKRAINIAN TRAVEL BLOGGER: I will continue posting what I post and how now I live here in Madrid. I think that it's very interesting to

observe how someone who starts a new life publicly in another country.


NOBILO: Some of the refugees hoping to travel in countries providing assistance say they're facing obstacles in the process.

Nada Bashir reports on how in the U.K., bureaucracy is frustrating those seeking shelter and the volunteers hoping to host those Ukrainian families.


NADA BASHIR, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): After an agonizing wait, Victoria and her mother have finally been reunited in London. Life

returning to what little normality is left after Russian forces closed in on their hometown of Berdyansk.

Like many Ukrainian refugees, Victoria's parents fled first to Moldova and then Romania, but actually getting to the U.K., where Victoria has lived

for more than a decade, proved to be one of the most difficult parts of their journey.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I was the only source of information, and I was guiding them through step by step what to do, helping with the

applications. So, it was all hectic. There was no instructions.

BASHIR: Government data shows thousands of Ukrainians hoping to join relatives in the U.K. are still waiting for their applications to be

processed. A separate scheme set up to allow U.K. citizens to open up their homes to refugees is also proving to be riddled with red tape. Only in the

final print are app applicants told they'll need to find someone to sponsor them on their own.

ELSA DE JAGER, UK "HOMES FOR UKRAINE" HOST: It feels genuinely every step of the way as a deterrent to people applying. That's how it feels.

BASHIR: Hoping to open her London home to someone in need, Elsa connected with a support group for Ukrainian refugees on Facebook. It's here she

connected with Yana (ph), still in Ukraine with her 4-year-old, desperately trying to make it across to boarder in the hope of reaching the U.K.

DE JAGER: It's so frustrating. Our houses are sitting -- not empty, but rooms are sitting empty. There's room today for people to come in. There

shouldn't be this kind of red tape when people are getting bombed every day.

BASHIR: Do you think that's intentional?

DE JAGER: I think it's absolutely intentional. It's absolutely intentional. It's in my mind a PR stunt to say, we're going to open U.K.

homes to refugees.

BASHIR: The two are perfect strangers. But they have been required to share sensitive personal documents with one another as part of the

application process. And Yana left trust in Elsa's generosity.

DE JAGER: If something happens to them whilst we're waiting for somebody behind a desk to put a stamp on a visa for them, I mean -- I don't know how

I would feel, but I'd be more than devastated.

BASHIR: The government has said Ukrainians are welcome, asserting its schemes will allow refugees to live and work in the UK for up to three


But there is growing impatience about Britain's approach, which they see as more bureaucratic than some of Ukraine's neighbors.

LAURA KYRKE-SMITH, UK EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, INTERNATIONAL RESCUE COMMITTEE: It still includes a lengthy process for a visa. Every human being has the

right to seek asylum under international law.

BASHIR: The UK Home Office says it's streamlined its application process in order to help people as quickly as possible. But for so many, the

experience has been far from straightforward.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The government is afraid these people will stay here for longer term. I don't think that's the case because their families are

still -- their men are still in Ukraine fighting. As soon as there is a chance they will go back.

BASHIR: Despite the devastation at home, Victoria's mother, like so many, remains hopeful she'll one day be able the return to a peaceful country,

her life no longer in limbo.

Nada Bashir, CNN, London.


NOBILO: But while so many are struggling to get out of Ukraine and reach safety in the west, a few who have made it are now trying to return.

Brussels' main station is one place where those who longed for their homeland are catching trains back towards the border. Others want their

normal lives back and want children back in their school.

One mother of two from western Ukraine now heading east expressed her longing to go home.


YULIYA KUZYK, UKRAINIAN REFUGEE (through translator): I'm going back home to west Ukraine. I'm going back because my husband stayed there. He's in

the army. After all, we don't have to possibility to stay here for long, so we have to go back.

My mom, my father, our parents and extended family stayed there. The kindergarten, work, everything, all our life is there. For some time we

stayed here, and I don't know how the circumstances will turn out to be, but we have to go home.


NOBILO: If Russian forces are pulling back from some areas in the north, is this just a short-term adjustment or the Kremlin changing its wider

strategy? I'll speak with a former NATO commander.


NOBILO: In diametric opposition to the Russian army being greeted as liberators, it appears that the zeal of the Ukrainian resistance has forced

Russia into a change of strategy. One of its top generals said the first phase was nearly complete and Russia would renew efforts to achieve what he

said was their main goal, the liberation of Donbas.

This rhetorical shift coincides with Russia sustaining heavy personnel losses, including senior military leadership, low morale and slow progress

in taking the main cities.

I want to discuss this with CNN military analyst, Wesley Clark, who served as NATO's supreme allied commander in Europe during the war in Kosovo.

General Clark, welcome to the program.


NOBILO: So, we're hearing Russia is planning to scale back its military activities in Kyiv. I was going ask you whether or not you thought this

meant Russia was engaging in a more genuine way in the peace talks, and maybe the Kremlin had accepted it's not possible for them to take and

control Ukraine in the longer term.

Actually, we've just been hearing to CNN from our correspondent Fred Pleitgen and his team in Kyiv that there's actually heavy shelling and

artillery they're hearing around the city right now.


So, presumably, we still can't believe anything the Russians are saying.

CLARK: So, the Russians -- first of all, don't believe what the Russians say about their strategy. That's the first thing. They're going say what

they want to say to fight in the information war. They're trying to cover up a disastrous setback in the vicinity of Kyiv.

But they are leaving artillery and rocket units there. They're dug in. They're going to continue to shell the city. And what they've done is

shifted so maneuver units and tank and infantry units around to reinforce Donbas.

They will be making a major effort to encircle the Ukrainian forces that are defending the line of contact in Donbas. The encirclement will be a

double envelopment. Some Russian units coming from the north, some units trying to break free in the south after they finished off Mariupol to

complete the encirclement and destroy those Ukrainian forces. Once that's done, they'll either head to Odessa and finish the fight in the south or

they'll go back to finish the encirclement of Kyiv.

Some of the forces that have been pulled back from the northwest are in Belarus being reconstituted with new leaders, new equipment, more

ammunition. So it's a change in the way the Russians are approaching it. Their intent is still to destroy Ukraine, lock, stock, and barrel. Occupy

it, get rid of name, get rid of the language, get rid of the culture, get rid of the church, and they're going to do it by military means.

This is the largest ethnic cleansing in modern history that Mr. Putin is undertaking. And as he said, he's going destroy Ukraine. He's going to

eradicate it.

NOBILO: And I believe the Russian defense ministry claimed that Russian backed separatists controlled 93 percent of Luhansk and 54 percent of

Donetsk at the moment. What's your assessment of their control?

CLARK: Well, they are in there. They're reinforced by Russian military units. They have been pushing hard against the Ukrainian defenders. They

haven't made much progress in most of the areas, but that's fine.

What they're doing is they're attempting to exhaust the ammunition stocks of the Ukrainian defenders, exhaust their fuel, exhaust their spare parts

and then encircle them from behind, from the west, from the north and south, on the west, cut off, withdrawal, and force them to fight this 360


It's an encirclement. It's a basic military tactic use in the World War II on the eastern front. It's in all the Russian textbooks. They thought they

could grab Kyiv quick and they couldn't. Now they're going back with more standard military tactics.

NOBILO: And speaking of the Russians managing their own expectations, obviously the initial stated goals that Russia said at the beginning of the

invasion were completely disingenuous and grandiose about denazification, demilitarization, and obviously they're switching to limited goals to try

to save face.

What do you think would be the smallest military outcome which would enable Putin to sell it as a win?

CLARK: So, if he's able to encircle -- if the Russians are en able to encircle the Ukrainian forces that eliminates a major part of the Ukrainian

military. Then, they have to choose what's the next objective, is it to complete the control of the south, including Odessa? Or is it to go ahead

after Kyiv, encircle it, cut off its supplies of food and ammunition, fuel, and pound it with artillery and maybe finish it off with chemical weapons?

That would be the ultimate victory. Then at that point, just continue to move, get to every village, tell the people in villages and towns, it's

hopeless, surrender. Then they've got their arrest list.

So, they're going to export people, they'll eliminate the people who might form potential resistance, and eventually there will be millions of people

will in the event Ukraine who have no choice. They're either going to cooperate or die. And there won't be a Ukraine. That's the intent.

Now, can he actually do that? That depends on relative resupply rates. We've got to supply the Ukrainians, we the West, with ammunition, armored

vehicles, artillery they need. Not just Javelins and Stingers that come from the United States. We're looking at our European allies and friends in

the Middle East, countries like Kuwait.

They need to cough it up, because this battle in Ukraine is really about the future of the international system.


It's about a rules-based international system. So they've got the Warsaw Pact equipment. They brought it over many years. They need to give it to

Ukraine immediately.

If they call us, we can haul it. But they've got to come to the United States with it so we can, you know, get the transport to get it there. This

is urgently needed.

NOBILO: General Clark, we'll continue this conversation, hopefully, with you another time. Thanks so much for joining us.

And after this break, we'll be right back.


NOBILO: You're watching THE GLOBAL BRIEF. Please do stay up to date on CNN's coverage of Russia's war an Ukraine at or on the CNN app.

For now, let's look at the other key stories making international impact today.

Israeli police are now on the highest alert level after at least five people were killed in a shooting on Tuesday. It happened just east of Tel

Aviv, and place say the gunman was killed. This is the third deadly attack in Israel in a week.

Indigenous people from Canada are asking Pope Francis to apologize for the church's role in what critics call cultural genocide, the historic

assimilation of children into Canadian residential schools. Around 150,000 indigenous children were taken from their homes and subjected to abuse and

denial of their culture.

And Queen Elizabeth made her first public appearance in five months, joining the royal family at a memorial service for her late husband Prince

Philip, and alongside her was her son Prince Andrew. This is his first public appearance since he settled a U.S. lawsuit over allegations against

him, claim he is denied.

And thank you so much for watching. Tuesday marked the launch of CNN+, a new streaming service in the U.S., which our show is now available on. And

our teams in London and Atlanta, who you can see right here, have been working hard behind the scenes for this launch, so a big thank you to them,

and to you for joining us.

And for our viewers tuning in on CNN+ in the United States, our show is also available on demand. For those of you watching worldwide, you can find

he on Twitter, TikTok, and Instagram.

And I will see you tomorrow.