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The Global Brief with Bianca Nobilo

Ukraine: Russia Attacking Kyiv Region And Chernihiv Despite Claims Of De-Escalation; Ukrainian Refugee Crisis; Trafficking At Ukraine's Border. Aired 5-5:30p ET

Aired March 30, 2022 - 17:00   ET



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

Russia's lies. Optimism over Ukraine talks has backtracked as Moscow is accused of dishonesty over its military objectives. Our international

correspondents show us what's really happening on the ground.

Then, CNN is in Hungary speaking to refugees who tried to stay when the war began but were left with no choice but to flee their homes.

And we look at the real risk of human trafficking at the Ukrainian border, where cases have already been documented.

We begin with a reality check on what Russia says and what Russia does. After it promised to drastically scale back its assault around Kyiv and

Chernihiv, it actually ramped it up.

This is the aftermath of shelling Wednesday in Chernihiv. The mayor calls it proof that, quote, Russia always lies. He says 25 civilians wounded in a

colossal mortar strike. There's also ongoing fighting on the outskirts of Kyiv and we have to warn you that this next video is disturbing.

This is what's left of Irpin, a key suburb. Officials say as many as 300 civilians were killed there before Ukraine recaptured the town from Russian

forces. Some bodies are still lying in the streets. The Pentagon says it believes Russia is repositioning about 20 percent of the troops it had

massed around Kyiv, but listen to this important caveat.


JOHN KIRBY, PENTAGON PRESS SECRETARY: We have seen none of them reposition to their home garrison, and that's not a small point. If the Russians are

serious about deescalating, because that's their claim here, then they should send them home. Put they're not doing that.


NOBILO: There's also a disconnect on the diplomatic front. After initially expressing optimism over talks with Ukrainian negotiators in Istanbul, the

Kremlin now says there were no promising developments.

We have unparalleled coverage on the ground with CNN's international correspondents giving us the latest where they are.


IVAN WATSON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: I'm Ivan Watson in Zaporizhzhia, in eastern Ukraine. There is a curfew in effect here and most

of the city is blacked out, not even street lamps right now out of concern that illumination could attract Russian fire.

Now, this city has so far been spared the ground war which has decimated the Ukrainian port city of Mariupol over the course of the last month, but

there are certainly skirmishes and clashes being reported to the east of Zaporizhzhia, to the south, and also to the southwest. In fact, some

Russian military positions reported barely a half hour's drive away from here, and there are concerns that the announcement of a Russian de-

escalation in the north of the country could actually lead to a redeployment of Russian forces to the southeast, which could bring more of

a threat to the city and its hundreds of thousands of inhabitants.

ED LAVANDERA, CNN U.S. NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: I'm Ed Lavandera in Odessa, Ukraine, residents here on the coastal city in the Black Sea anxiously

watching what Russian military forces are doing around Kyiv. The concern here is that those Russian forces could reposition themselves and then come

in through the east of Ukraine and down the coast, south, toward cities like Mykolaiv and Odessa where we are, and we do know that Russian navy

ships remain stationed out in the black sea just off the coast from this city.

But when you walk around as we have and driven through the city, life in many ways seems rather normal. It has been rather quiet here the last few

days but everyone here also knows that the situation is far from normal.


Not long ago, Russian forces on the outskirts of this city. Now they've been pushed back but still lob artillery round and see missiles inside city

limits every single day. Now, no one I've spoken to in and around Mykolaiv has any faith in statements from Moscow that Russian forces will pull back

from Kyiv or anywhere else for that matter.

Yesterday, I was speaking with a lieutenant colonel in the Ukrainian army who said that Russia, after putting so many resources into this invasion,

isn't about to turn around and go home anytime soon.

This morning, I spoke with the mayor of Mykolaiv, who said that he doesn't want the more than 100,000 residents of this city to return anytime soon.


Why? Because he's afraid there could be another Russian attempt to take the city. In his words, whatever Vladimir Putin says, expect the opposite.


NOBILO: And a big thank you to our correspondents who are working tirelessly to bring us the latest from around the country. And as we've

mentioned, Russian troops still operating around Kyiv, they're mostly to the northwest and northeast of the city. This was the beautiful suburb of

Irpin and its bustling town square before the invasion. Now, some neighborhoods have been bombed beyond recognition.

CNN's Fred Pleitgen went there to show us the horrors of the war up close.


FREDERIK PLEITGEN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Through heavily fortified check points, we reach the edge of Kyiv near the suburb, Irpin.

Suddenly, on top of artillery barrages, we hear gunfire.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That's gun fire.

PLEITGEN: Much closer, and we have to take cover.

This is what it sounds like after Russia said it's scaled down military operations around Kyiv. Even in the calmer moments, the big guns are never


This is the final checkpoint before you would reach the district of Irpin, but it's impossible for us to go there right now, simply because it's much

too dangerous. It's also impossible for the people who live there to come back to their homes, because there's still so much shelling going on and so

much unexploded ordinance still on the ground.

Irpin was heavily contested between Ukrainian and Russian forces as Putin's troops attempted to push through to Kyiv. Now, the Ukrainians say they've

pushed the Russians back, taken control and released that graphic video of aftermath, buildings and cars destroyed, dead bodies still lying in the


Ukraine's security emergency service has now also released this video, showing rescuers taking out at least some of the dead while under fire from

Russian artillery.

Some of the remaining residents were also brought to safety, including many children, Irpin's mayor tells me.

OLEKSANDR MARKUSHIN, IRPIN, UKRAINE MAYOR (through translator): Now Irpin is 100 percent Ukrainian, we're taking out the wounded and dead bodies,

today and have yesterday, we evacuated approximately 500 people. Today, I, myself, evacuated about 50 children and 100 adults.

PLEITGEN: The evacuees are brought to the space outside of Irpin. It's not only people, aid groups are also evacuating the animals left behind when

their owners had to flee, including these puppies.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We have volunteers who are going under the fire and taking animals on the street.

PLEITGEN: Under fire, into Irpin and picking animals?


PLEITGEN: The Ukrainian army says it's in the process of pushing Russian troops further out of this area, hoping to silence Putin's guns and restore

calm to this once quaint suburb.


NOBILO: That was CNN's senior international correspondent, Fred Pleitgen, who joins us now from Kyiv.

Fred, the world obviously wanted to see reasons for optimism in the latest peace talks, based on what Russia was saying. They've now backtracked. But

the lesson of the last five weeks and last decade has been that Russia lies when it has strategic military objective to see achieve.

So, are the lessons of history not being learned?

PLEITGEN: Well, it's difficult to say whether or not they're being learned but certainly if you look at the Ukrainians, I think they don't really

believe anything the Russians are saying, absolutely right, looking at last ten years probably good reason for that. For instance, look back at the

conflict even going as far back as the Georgian conflict when the Russians invaded there, said they would stop moving forward multiple times and

didn't. But especially the Syrian conflict I think is the one that really sticks out in all of this, where as various times when Russia was operating

there, you know, they said their objectives had been achieved and would start pulling out and maybe see a couple Russian jets get pulled back to

Russia but then others would come.

At other times, they said that this would turn into a peace keeping operation in Syria and it was really something that never really happened.

In effect what the Russians do is on the face of it they say certain things, they tell the world's community they're going to do certain things,

but they are, as you very rightly point out, in the end, going to do what they believe is the right thing for them to do to achieve their strategic

objectives and clearly, right now, with Ukraine, they are not achieving those strategic objectives.

So, the Ukrainians, all the ones that I've been speaking to from the defense ministry, from the interior ministry, to soldiers on the ground,

none of them really trust there will be scaling back of Russian military operations here in the Kyiv region. They believe essentially what happen is

that the Russians ran into a lot of problems as they came here into Kyiv. They thought they were just going to essentially waltz into this place and

be greeted as live liberators.


But then they faced that fierce resistance and were stopped. And so, the Ukrainians are saying they think that the Russians are worn out, the ones

that are on the ground. They have to move some forces out. But they certainly don't believe this is necessarily the end of the battle of Kyiv

or that Russian forces are actually going to, in full, go back into Belarus and not be around the Ukrainian capitol anymore, Bianca.

NOBILO: And now, Fred, from Russia's perspective, they need reinforcements and we've been hearing about the possibility of Belarusian troops joining

Russia's ranks or foreign fighters being welcomed to join the effort. What do we know about which troops might be joining Putin?

PLEITGEN: Well, Belarusian troops is certainly something that could happen in the future and I think we've seen the Russians sort of hint at that,

certainly seen Alexander Lukashenko of Belarus also hint at that is as well. So far, some have been surprised that hasn't happened yet, because

those two forces are obviously close to one another and we know that Alexander Lukashenko fully depends on Putin to stay in power but so far

other than offering logistical support in Belarus, it doesn't seem the Belarusians have joined the fight.

Now, those Syrian fighters, it was one of those things where there was a lot of fanfare about that. Bashar al-Assad made announcements. You could

see parades on Syrian TV. People vowing to fight for Vladimir Putin. So far, that hasn't happened and there are units within the Syrian military

that were dangerous and especially dangerous when it comes to urban warfare, but so far, haven't seen that translate on the ground yet.

What you do have, for instance, in Mariupol is you have Chechen fighters there, who seem to fight for Ramzan Kadyrov. They, of course, are

integrated into the Russian military but Syrian fighters is not something we have not seen so far and interesting to see if that changes in the

future, Bianca.

NOBILO: Thanks, Fred. Fred Pleitgen for us in Kyiv.

Russia's brutal aggression in this conflict is laid bare in new satellite images that we're getting from the city of Mariupol. These first images of

the city center were recorded before the war, and then, what looks like, what the same area looks like now, after Russia's intense bombardments. And

these images of the other areas of the city devastated by aerial bombing and artillery.

The Red Cross has also been attacked. This image shows a Red Cross warehouse hit twice. Eleven-year-old Milena is one of the fortunate few who

managed to escape Mariupol, but her mother says Russian troops opened fire on her as they crossed the check point, you can see the green line on her

mother's face where doctors treated the wounds.


MILENA URALOVA, MARIUPOL EVACUEE (through translator): I remember fainting and loud noise in my ears. Then I woke up and my mother put me on the

ground and started to scream for help. Soldiers ran up to me and tried to stop the bleeding. Then they put me in a Red Cross car and took me to the

hospital. They put me on the bed, and then someone tried to stop the bleeding again.


NOBILO: While Russia claims it is, quote, trying to denazify Ukraine, its forces just severely damaged a holocaust memorial in Ukraine's second

largest city of Kharkiv, a memorial is a tribute to the 16,000 Kharkiv Jews that the Nazis murdered during World War II. A 96-year-old Holocaust

survivor, Boris Romanchenko who lived through three concentration camps during the war was killed in Kharkiv earlier this month when Russia shelled

his apartment complex.

Coming up on the program, 90 percent of the refugees from Ukraine are women and children and humanitarian organizations warn that they're at high risk

of being targeted by human traffickers.



NOBILO: The number of people who fled Ukraine since the start of the Russian invasion has passed 4 million. UNICEF says nearly half of them are


Matt Rivers reports from a train station in Hungary where hundreds of thousands have arrived from Ukraine.


MATT RIVERS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Zahony train station, just across the border from Ukraine, is here where refugees fleeing the war

touch Hungarian soil for the first time.

People have been arriving here since the first days of the war, but these are the people that chose to stay longer. Up until they couldn't anymore.

People like Elena, who left with their husband, and three daughters.

How old is she?


RIVERS: And she asked if the tank would shoot at us.

ELENA: Yes, because she saw a tank every day. Because they --

RIVERS: She saw Russian tanks?

ELENA: Russian tanks, a lot of Russian tanks.

RIVERS: Elena says Russian soldiers had occupied her village, and set up artillery positions, and that Ukrainian forces started to target them. Just

a few days ago, she says there was an explosion about 100 meters from her house. Right after it hit, she knew it was time to go.

ELENA: She says, I thought to myself, I'm 34. I have three children. It can't end like this.

So, we walked right into the forest for two hours. A Ukrainian soldier than stopped us and told us that there were snipers everywhere. They put us

underneath shields, and walked us to safety, because there were firefights everywhere.

They never wanted to leave, she said, but eventually she had no choice. It is a common sentiment for those here who waited for weeks after the

invasion to make a brutal decision to flee the only home they had ever known.

Olesya Lahuta was one of them.

We stayed a really long time after the war started, she says, about a month. But every day, the sound of the bombing got closer and closer, and

our children are small. Our building didn't have a basement, there is no cover available.

So, she joined the hundreds of thousands of other Ukrainians that have arrived here in Hungary. As her kids sit and play in her lap, she gets

emotional about the threat to their lives, and others.

I can't understand why, she says, choking up. There are lots of small children who died, and I can't understand the purpose of this war. It's not

only my children that are in danger.

The Ukrainian prosecutor's office says that at least 145 children have died in the war, a number that is almost certainly an undercount. Olesya fled

because she did not want her kids added to the list.

And now, she gets back on the train, headed towards Budapest, with an uncertain future amidst a horrible war.


NOBILO: That was correspondent Matt Rivers reporting from Hungary.

The U.N. has called the war in Ukraine an opportunity for human traffickers, children, along with their mothers and other female refugees

are extremely vulnerable to becoming victims of trafficking and sexual exploitation. Across Europe, many individuals have offered to help those

fleeing the Russian invasion. Assistance is not far away, but neither are the risks.

Joining me now from Vienna is Joe Lowry, spokesman for the International Organization for Migration, a U.N. agency.

Thank you very much for joining us on the program tonight, sir.


NOBILO: So you've just returned from the Poland/Moldova border monitoring potential trafficking situation. What did you observe?

LOWRY: What you see on the border is, what strikes you straight away is the amount of women coming through because men between 18 and 60 aren't

able to leave Ukraine, you see them coming to the border with families, quick goodbyes being said and the amount of women, all ages but mostly mums

bringing families across.

And as soon as they cross the border, they don't just become effectively refugees, they also become effectively single parents, and they're charged

with providing and securing safety and the short, medium, and long-term future for their families.


Because that's what moms do.

NOBILO: And did you see evidence of human trafficking operations when you were there?

LOWRY: No, but we aren't actually, you know, on the look-out for that, tends to be a few weeks before you can establish that human trafficking is

happening. But there are certainly all the indications that human trafficking could be happening there, and what's extremely worrying there

is the amount of ad hoc transport going on. You can imagine someone coming across the border, a mom with their family, not knowing what to do, not

speaking the language, and being approached by somebody saying we got five seats left in the mini bus, going to Italy, or France, get in the minibus.

They hand out their passports and a few hours later, the minibus stopped in the middle of nowhere, asking for thousands of dollars for transport, they

haven't got it, and someone might suggest, well, I got a friend nearby who runs a bar, you could perhaps work there for a few weeks to pay off the

transport debt. And, hey, look, you got a couple of daughters. They could also work as dancers or welcoming customers or serving drinks or dancers.

And that's how it happens, that quickly, boom, within a few hours, people are straight away at risk of real harm of being trafficked, and also the

kind of gender-based violence and other violence that can go with that. So, really, it's a huge problem that can happen quickly and doesn't just happen

to people who aren't careful. It can happen to anybody.

Once you are vulnerable and panic for the safety of your family, you'll do anything.

NOBILO: Exactly, so what are people in those desperate situations supposed to do and how can they distinguish between human traffickers and well-

meaning people, because we've been reporting on that a lot on CNN and other networks too, a who have gone to the border to help those fleeing the their

country. How do they know the difference?

LOWRY: I'd say there's two things to say there. One is the onus for keeping safe shouldn't be purely on the people who are danger becoming

victims. They have enough to be thinking about. They left their homes behind, they've lived through incredible trauma and trying to keep their

family together, so the onus shouldn't be fully on them, but there are things they can do to protect them.

One thing that we can do together as media and humanitarian organizations is everyone in Ukraine to memorize the number 527 -- 527 is the number of

the international hot line, we doubled the staff of the hotline and extended the hours, and we're getting hundreds of calls, and one of the

most frequent inquiries is about protection from trafficking, safe work, safe travel out of Ukraine, so people are already aware of that hotline

I'll give it again, 527.

But what we can do also, and we are doing, is massive media awareness programs with channels like yourselves and local TV channels in all

languages, doing social media, and we're getting brochures and all vectors of information getting across to people we're using. People also have to be

very aware of what they're getting into and look out for things that don't seem normal. If they don't seem normal, they're possibly are dangerous.

A couple of little hints as well that we can give people is to do things like photographing their documents and emailing them to yourselves so you

can always retrieve them, have a safe codeword with your family, so you can say the word on the phone if in any danger you and your family will know

there's danger, and also, we're working closely with all local authorities, governments, police, border authorities, and community organizations, local

NGOs and so on, so there is a big effort on.

But because people are very, very vulnerable, they can quickly fall prey to traffickers. One thing to say about traffickers is trafficking is a

massive, massive, illicit enterprise, $150 billions a year, perhaps even more, is amassed by traffickers who are really the most evil people in the

world. No words to describe people who prey on people who lost everything in their lives and want to further damage and ruin their lives.

What they're doing is deplorable but it is horribly profitable as well.

NOBILO: Joe Lowry, thank you very much for joining us and bringing our attention to some of the things that people really need to be watching out

for in this desperate situation. Thanks.

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



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

President of Yemen say they don't expect much to come out of the peace talks between a coalition led by Saudi Arabia and Houthi rebels. But

there's hopes that the temporary troops could help alleviate Yemen's dire humanitarian crisis. The coalition announced it would temporarily halt

military operations in Yemen starting Wednesday, in an effort to boost the talks.

Israel's prime minister is calling on all Israelis with a weapons license to carry arms. He says it's because the country is facing the wave of

terrorism. Three deadly attacks have happened within a week. The most recent one on Tuesday in Tel Aviv, five people were killed there.

And Pakistan's prime minister has lost a majority in parliament after his biggest ally in national assembly defected to the opposition. It's a

critical blow as Imran Khan faces a no confidence vote next week. However, his aides say that he won't resign.

And most distant star spotted by telescope, 28 billion light years away. This is the farthest star ever to be seen to date, one that existed in the

first billion years after the universe was born, after the Big Bang. The Hubble telescope it could be 50 and 500 times larger than our sun, and

millions of tons brighter. Astronomers have nick named the star "Earendel," derived from an old English word that means morning star or rising light.

Thanks for watching. For our viewers tuning in on CNN+ in the United States, our show will be available on demand and for our viewers worldwide,

you can find me on all the usual social media platforms. And we will see you again, tomorrow.