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The Global Brief with Bianca Nobilo

Putin: I Have "Noble" Goals; British PM Fined; China's COVID-19 Crisis. Aired 5-5:30p ET

Aired April 12, 2022 - 17:00   ET



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

Putin says Ukraine talks are at a dead end, calling his military goals noble. This as the U.S. and U.K. begin investigating unconfirmed reports of

chemical attacks in Eastern Ukraine.

Then, Boris Johnson is the first sitting prime minister in British history to be fined by police for breaking the law.

And how the global community is reacting to China's strict clampdown on Shanghai's COVID crisis.

As the death toll skyrockets and reports of atrocities multiply, Vladimir Putin is defending his brutal war in Ukraine, vowing to press ahead until

the mission is accomplished. He met Tuesday in Russia with the president of Belarus, Alexander Lukashenko, a critical ally for him.

Putin rebuffed international calls for a cease-fire, saying talks with Ukraine have reached a dead end. He also cast himself as the savior of

people in the Donbas.


VLADIMIR PUTIN, RUSSIAN PRESIDENT (through translator): I have no doubt the objectives are clear and the objectives are noble. I said that at the

very beginning. I draw your attention to the fact that in my very first speech, in my address to the nation and army, I stated the objectives. The

main objective is to help the people in the Donbas region and the people's republic of Donbas, which we recognize.


NOBILO: Those, quote, noble objectives include leveling entire cities like Mariupol, in an attempt to seize Ukrainian territory. A regional governor

says as many as 22,000 people have been killed in the relentless bombardments there.

A Ukrainian commander in Mariupol is accusing Russia of using chemical weapons, and both the U.S. and U.K. are investigating those claims. They

warned about the possibility, but say they cannot confirm it actually happened.


ANTONY BLINKEN, U.S. SECRETARY OF STATE: This is a real concern. It's a concern that we had from before the aggression started. I think I pointed

to the possibility that these kind of weapons would be used, and it's something that we're very, very focused on.


NOBILO: The U.K.'s junior armed forces minister says if a chemical attack is proven, all options are on the table for the West to respond.

I'm joined now by CNN's Ed Lavandera in Odessa, Ukraine.

Ed, are seeing signs of this renewed offensive where you are? And what support are the towns on the front lines getting?

ED LAVANDERA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, the offensive right now is seen most in the east where the military force is restarting that offensive.

We're already hearing reports of shelling and civilian deaths, and that is making small villages and towns along the front lines a vital lifeline for

thousands of civilians seeking shelter and safety.


LAVANDERA (voice-over): One look at these massive craters in this small Ukrainian town of Bashtanka near Mykolaiv and it's not hard to imagine the

horror inflicted by Russian forces bombing this neighborhood.

Bashtanka Mayor Olexander Beregoviy brought us here. He says the Russian plane that dropped the bomb circled over these homes several times before

unleashing the attack.

This is a simple, peaceful town, he says, with just ordinary people. No military. Farming is what we do here to feed the country and the world.

There was a 70-year-old man in this house peeling potatoes when this bomb struck. What happened to him?

God decided not to take him away. He tells me, the man survived.

For more than a week in March, this little town of 12,000 fought off the Russians any way it could. This town council member Vitaliy Homerskik put

out a Facebook plea that if anyone knew how to fire a cannon, they should race out to help.

A humble force of 100 people pushed the Russians out. More than 170 buildings damaged. The charred wreckage left all over town. But the mayor

told the story of one fighter who became an instant legend, a 78-year-old man who was told he was too old to fight.

Instead, he made a Molotov cocktail and threw it at a Russian artillery system, blowing it up. We've asked to speak with the man, but we're told by

city officials they're protecting his identity to keep him safe.

The town might have won the battle, but this war never ends. Bashtanka is now a front line refuge for thousand of Ukrainians hoping to escape.


Every day at this church, buses drop off refugees fleeing Russian occupied areas just a few miles away.

Zakruzetska Ruslana says she left the city of Kherson after enduring weeks of bombardment with her two children and nieces.

ZAKRUZETSKA RUSLANA, KHERSON RESIDENT (voice-over): They break into people's homes every night, drag people out, beat them up. My neighbors

were beaten up. Thank God, they are still alive. They're probably doing that to scare people so they're always in fear.

It was horrible there. Every day people are going crazy, to be honest. It's intolerable. The children, the tension is terrible. You don't know if

you'll wake up alive.

LAVANDERA: Escaping alive is a dream, as we found closer to the front lines. The nearby village of Yavkine has endured weeks of shelling.

You can see the munition and the shrapnel. You can see this building over here peppered with holes.

As we meet with the village head man, it's clear the fighting isn't over.

What is that noise?

Yes, they are firing, he says.

Olexander Kovriga tells us Russians fires cluster artillery at a group of young people charging their phones in this spot.

They do it on purpose to people will panic, he tells me.

We understand that there was a refugee 17 years old who came here trying to escape, and she was killed?

Lydia Dominika (ph) couldn't escape the Russian strikes. A young woman trying to reach Bashtanka. Her mother says she was studying food production

and shared these photos so her daughter cannot be forgotten.

Inside Bashtanka's war room, counsel member Vitaliy Homerskik shows us the calendar where they mark the days of war.

When the war started, our life was divided, he tells me. There's before and after. We mark every day we survive this battle.

Right now, the Russian army is regrouping and expected to attack again from the east. We are 25 miles away from the front line. How concerned are you

that the Russians are going to be able to get back here?

The mayor says, we are not concerned. Our country is good at two things -- making bread and fighting. If we need to fight, we all rise up and fight.

If we don't need to fight, we grow bread.

But right now, the town of Bashtanka remains on the front lines, giving families like Zakruzetska Ruslana and her daughters a way to catch a bus

and leave the war behind.


LAVANDERA (on camera): And, Bianca, I wanted to share one anecdote. When we were reporting the story, we kept hearing about this 17-year-old who had

been kill but nobody knew her name, nobody knew who she was. I asked our fixer and translator Kosta (ph) to help us do whatever we could to put a

name and face to the incident. He worked the phones relentlessly and was able to finally track down the young woman's mother.

That's why we were able to tell you Lydia Dominika's name, show you her picture was because of those efforts and one small way of trying to put a

face and a name to the many thousands of civilians who have been so drastically hurt and killed in this war -- Bianca.

NOBILO: Ed Lavandera in Odessa, Ukraine -- thank you for bringing us that story and the dreadful, dreadful story of what happened to Lydia Dominika.

Thank you.

Ukraine has invited French forensic investigators to help uncover just what happened in Bucha when Russian forces were in control. The teams are

working at a mass grave, and the prosecutor says what they're finding, bodies charred beyond recognition, children buried with their parents are

unmistakable Russian war crimes.

Frederik Pleitgen is there. And a warning: some of the images in his report are graphic.


FREDERIK PLEITGEN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Even as Russian troops amassed in eastern Ukraine for what the U.S.

believes will be a huge offensive, authorities in Kyiv continue digging up bodies, painstaking work that goes hand in hand with investigating Russia's

attack on Kyiv and possible crimes committed by Vladimir Putin's invading troops.

Prosecutor General Iryna Venediktova is leading the charge. She spoke to me at the edge of a mass grave in the Kyiv suburb of Bucha.

IRYNA VENEDIKTOVA, UKRAINE GENERAL PROSECUTOR: For us, the best motivation is justice, and, of course, we understand that all Ukrainian want fast

justice, true and fast justice. That's why we do everything to document all evidence, all facts of war crimes that we have here in Ukraine.


PLEITGEN: French forensic investigators are now also on the scene. Not because Ukraine lacks expertise, but because Kyiv wants to be as

transparent as possible in the face of Russian disinformation efforts.

VENEDIKTOVA: We want to do our job absolutely open, with standards of international humanitarian law. It's very high standards. That's why we're

here, we have our international colleagues, we understand, they can see everything. They can see a real situation here -- the real graves, real

dead bodies.

PLEITGEN: After Ukraine forces managed to expel Russian troops from around Kyiv and some other areas that occupied Ukraine, authorities have

discovered scores of dead bodies. Today, another six found in just one basement outside Kyiv.

The prosecutor tells me they are collecting evidence in thousands of cases.

VENEDIKTOVA: Now, we started a more than 6,000 cases. It's cases, it's crimes, war crimes, crimes against humanity, aggression crimes. And we

started on the third day, so -- we started a case about genocide.

PLEITGEN: All this as Russia still claims its forces that invaded Ukraine have not harmed any civilians.

On a visit to a space port with Belarusian strongman Alexander Lukashenko, Russian President Vladimir Putin again claimed his forces are fighting

against would-be Ukrainian Nazis in what he calls a, quote, special operation.

The goals are absolutely clear and they are noble, he said, I said from the beginning. We want to draw your attention to that.

There are some in the U.S. at the top level who have spoken about possible war crimes trial against Vladimir Putin. Is that something you think could

ever be possible, it's something that you're working towards to provide evidence for?

VENEDIKTOVA: Of course, I think that everyone understands who is responsible for this war. That is why we do everything to fix -- to

document evidences. But we here in Ukraine actually understand who is responsible for all of this.

PLEITGEN: The investigators work is complicated by the fact that the war is still going on. And they can't reach many devastated areas like the

encircled city of Mariupol where Ukraine's president says tens of thousands have been killed.

But Iryna Venediktova says no matter how long it takes, she will press on.

VENEDIKTOVA: It's actually extremely important because if we will be successful as a prosecutor, I assure that we can stop such aggressions in

the future.


NOBILO: That report was from CNN's Fred Pleitgen.

Taiwan's military issued a handbook to citizens on Tuesday, detailing what to do in case of a military conflict. The military prepared the handbook

before the Russia's invasion of Ukraine, and it comes as the island focuses on the threat from mainland city The handbook has sections on what to do in

citizens hear air raids or if a building collapses.

And coming up on the program, London police fined Boris Johnson for breaking lockdown rules. Could that lead to the end of his leadership?

Probably not. We'll debrief.



NOBILO: He trampled on sacrifices we and all the British public made. You paid a fine. Our loved ones paid with their lives. Those words directed at

Prime Minister Boris Johnson from the COVID-19 bereaved families group in U.K.

Johnson and Chancellor Rishi Sunak are among dozens who received a fine by London's Metropolitan Police for attending illegal parties at the

government headquarters in Downing Street between 2020 and 2021, making Johnson the first sitting prime minister in British history to have been

found to break a law that he himself made. The ongoing operation found several events were held while the rest of the country were on strict

COVID-19 lockdown and hosting mass gatherings were a criminal offense. Fifty fixed penalty notices have been issued to Downing Street staff.

Subsequently, the prime minister has been accused of not just personal hypocrisy and breaking his own rules, but setting a tone of disobedience

and disregard at the highest levels of government.

The Labour Party has led calls for the prime minister to resign, and at any other time, perhaps with a prime minister, it would be unimaginable really

for them to continue in post.

Johnson apologized, confirming he paid the fine, and said he will not resign, despite respecting the outcome of the investigation.


BORIS JOHNSON, BRITISH PRIME MINISTER: I have the say, in all frankness, at that time, it did not occur to me that this might have been a breach of

the rules. But, of course, the police have found otherwise, and I fully respect the outcome of their investigation.


NOBILO: The prime minister, of course, is no stranger to controversy. One of Johnson's first acts as prime minister, proroguing parliament to get

Brexit done was ruled by the Supreme Court to be unlawful. He's been fined twice for lying.

Also, Ukraine has occupied the news agenda and enabled Johnson to shift narrative.

So, joining me now, Anand Menon, director of the think tank U.K. in the Changing Europe.

Wonderful to have you on the program, sir. Thanks for joining us.

Right now, it appears --


NOBILO: This evening, it appears that the Tories are rallying around Boris Johnson. Where have the circumstances changed, and what's helping him in

this moment? Because the appetite for a leadership contest seems to be really suppressed compared to a month or two ago.

MENON: Well, I correct you slightly on. That some conservatives have rally around Boris Johnson. I have been struck this afternoon and this evening

here in the UK by how few conservative MPs have taken to social media to express their backing for him.

And I think we're in parliamentary recess at the moment, so the British parliament isn't sitting. Politicians are back in their constituencies. And

I suspect politicians are being talked at, and on the basis of what they hear, they'll start to make up their minds. So, that's the first thing.

The second thing, you're absolutely right. I think for a combination of reasons, partly because of Ukraine, partly, too, because they can't find an

obvious successor to Boris Johnson, conservative MPs are thinking long and hard before trying to oust him from power. Ultimately in our system, it is

conservative MPs who will decide the fate of the prime minister.

NOBILO: I suppose when I say rallying I could correct that to, the silence is quite revealing, surprising given they had all this time to prepare

themselves -- what to say to their constituents, in the event that the prime minister was fined by the Met. And yet, most of them are not breaking


So I wonder what it would take, in your view, for them to change their mind and think, actually, you know what? This is doing damage to the

Conservative Party, to our reputation, we need make a change now, we need a different leader?

MENON: You put your finger on one of the things there, which is I think it will take clear evidence that Boris Johnson's ability as someone who can

win election them is gone, that the British people no longer trust him. Now, we have local elections coming up in the U.K. in May. We might be

having a by-election because a conservative MP has just been found guilty in court. We'll wait to see what happens.

If in those elections Boris Johnson does badly, then I think you'll find the number of conservative MPs reconsidering.

The other thing worth saying is of course the police investigation isn't over. The police seem to be going through these alleged parties one by one.


We've got their verdicts on a couple of them. There are many more to come.

So, this might not be the end of the fines issued to people in Downing Street, or even to the prime minister himself. I think then again, if we

find there's a case of serial law-breaking here, it becomes harder for his conservative colleagues to stand up for the prime minister.

NOBILO: Absolutely. I mean, even as it stands the, fact that you have the prime minister and the other most prominent government member in the

country's eyes both being embroiled in this, both being issued with notices, I mean, what damage do you think this is going to the party along

the term if the conservatives don't try and make a statement and say, we do want a vote of confidence, because we don't think this is acceptable


Do you think they're going to be feeling those effects in the years to come?

MENON: Well, I think in the short term, what we've already seen since the scandal broke the prime minister's popularity ratings have taken a hit, and

the popularity of the Conservative Party has taken a hit as well. The government is hoping for two things. First they think they're all at it and

this becomes a general political malaise rather than a specific lack of trust in the prime minister himself.

But also I think it's clearly the case that the government are hoping events in Ukraine and the government's very, very sort of strong support

for the Ukrainian government come to their aid and distract attention or make people think, yeah, well, he broke rules, went to the party, but he's

doing a good job with the war, so this would be a bad time to get rid of him.

NOBILO: And I know when we look at polls, for example, the poll out today, it's clear large swaths of the country would like to prime minister to

resign, but we know the political reality right now. It doesn't look like that's going to be happening.

So, has something shifted more broadly in terms of expectations that voters have for their democratically elected leaders? Because the amount of

scandals that, Boris Johnson weathered even at prime minister and before is unprecedented I think. So do you think there's been a wider shift perhaps

lynched to the malaise and general lack of trust and low expectations for politicians?

MENON: I think there's a wide issue and a Boris Johnson specific issue. The wide issue, you're exactly right. We've gotten used to in this country,

people having low levels of trust in politicians. For well over a decade now in the polling, if you do the polling of which professions do you

trust, politicians come low, low down, if not at the bottom.

So, there is that, but there's also, I think, the fact that for some people, this was factor in the with Boris Johnson. As you say, he's been

sacked before for lying. He broke the law when it came to proroguing parliament. This is kind of what people expect from him.

And so, in that sense, he might get away with it more easily than other politicians, often whom (INAUDIBLE) to set higher expectations.

NOBILO: For example, the predecessor who said the naughtiest thing she'd done was run through a field of wheat, quite the contrast.

MENON: Yeah, precisely.

NOBILO: Anand Menon, thank you so much for joining us this evening. We appreciate it.

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


NOBILO: At least ten people was shot and several injured on Tuesday in the New York city subway. Authorities said the attacker deployed a gas canister

on a train and began shooting. Several of the victims were in critical but stable condition. Police launched a manhunt for the shooter. The attack is

not being investigated as an act of terrorism, but the NYPD commissioner said authorities have not ruled anything out.

And China's own national health commission is criticizing the crisis in Shanghai, saying the coronavirus outbreak there has not basketball

effectively contained. The city's lockdown measures reported more than 20,000 coronavirus cases on Monday, and yet, despite continuing high cases,

officials have begun lifting restrictions in parts of the city.


And CNN international correspondent David Culver is in Shanghai and takes a global response to this zero COVID strategy.



Well, the severe lockdown measures are sparking to U.S. to order the departure of nonemergency government employees and all family members from

the consulate here in Shanghai. Chinese officials are pretty angry with that decision. They claim the U.S. is politicizing and weaponizing

evacuations, though critics pushed back saying it's China playing politics by refusing to ease off its zero COVID policy which has led to these harsh


Beijing has essentially taken over harsh containment efforts with one top official seeming to shift blame on to the city government, saying the

outbreak has not been effectively contained, adding that Shanghai's outbreak has now spread to many other provinces in China.

The rising cases comes as Shanghai authorities started lifting lockdowns, sort of. Communities with no positive cases in the past 14 days are

allowing residents to leave their homes and basically stroll neighborhoods, because no stores are open, and really you can't leave your district,

either. So you're still pretty restricted.

Other communities like mine giving permission to walk around the compound, but our front gate leading to the main roads, that remains locked. And

still, other communities, the vast majority of them, with more recent positive cases, sealing people in still -- in some cases actually locking

them inside. They're not allowed to leave their homes.

So, this has dragged on for more than three weeks. It sparked anger and residents are struggling to get food and basic necessities. Those who

tested positive have been forced in a government quarantine and isolation centers, with video showing cramp and unsanitary conditions.

This as health officials warn, prepare for number of new COVID cases to continue to rise right here in China -- Bianca.


NOBILO: Our thanks to David Culver.

And thank you for watching. For viewers tuning in on CNN+ in the U.S., our show's on demand. For our viewers around the world, we will see you again