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The Global Brief with Bianca Nobilo

Russian Warship Sinks In Black Sea; Russia Boosts Forces In Donbas; UK To Send Migrants To Rwanda. Aired 5-5:30p ET

Aired April 14, 2022 - 17:00   ET



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

One of Russia's most important warships has sunk after suffering serious damage. Ukraine claims it struck the ship with a missile.

And Russian troops ramping up their presence in Eastern Ukraine ahead of a threatened major offensive, as civilians continue to be evacuated by areas

hit by the war.

Then, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson unveils controversial plan to send illegal migrants to Rwanda.

We begin with one of the most significant losses sustained by the Russian military since the war in Ukraine began. The Moskva warship has sunk. It

was a flagship vessel of the Russian fleet in the Black Sea, and the defense ministry had said earlier that it was being towed back to port

after an explosion.

The Ukrainians say they're the ones responsible for the explosion. They claim that they hit the Moskva where their own anti-ship missiles while

Russia says munitions on board exploded after a fire. It's unclear what happened in the first place, but we do know this -- it's a massive blow to

the Russian side.

Meanwhile, in Eastern Ukraine, Russian troops are getting ready for a new offensive.

CNN's Fred Pleitgen showing us how forces are gearing up.


FREDERIK PLEITGEN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): As Vladimir Putin masses his troops in Eastern Ukraine, the Ukrainians too are

gathering more to trying to stop the offensive. These elite territorial defense soldiers are gearing up to head east.

We are absolutely prepared for this. We have both fighting spirit and fighting mood. We are patriots of our country, and of course we will fight

back the enemy, this soldier who goes by the name "Vlad the Rifle" tells me.

And now, Ukraine's forces telling me they struck the flagship of Putin's Black Sea fleet, the guided missile cruiser, Moskva.

I spoke exclusively with Ukraine's national security adviser.

Can you tell us what happened to the cruiser, Moskva?

It sank, he says jokingly.

So far, Russia only acknowledges the ship was damaged after a fire and now Moscow claims it sank while being towed in a storm.

The Moskva was involved in a now famous incident in a place called Snake Island when its crew told Ukrainian soldiers to surrender. This was the


UKRAINIAN SOLDIER: Russian warship, go f*** yourself.

PLEITGEN: The Moskva was still there near the Snake Island and was hit yesterday by two powerful Ukrainian-made missiles, he says.

And then, a warning to Putin. This is just the beginning, he says. There will be more than one Moskva.

But the leadership in Kyiv understands the next major battles will be different and possibly even more bloody, as Russian tanks and artillery

pour into the Donbas region.

This hoard has invade our country and they think we will watch them destroy us, he says, but of course, we will respond by all means we have, thanks to

our international partners, we have interesting tools.

The U.S. and allies already provided Ukraine with billions of dollars worth of weapons and now moving to give Kyiv heavier arms to counter Putin's tank

battalions, national security adviser says Ukraine needs all the firepower it can get.

I would never say the Russian army is weak, he says. Given the amount of weapons thrown there, the amount of tanks, armored personally carriers,

planes and helicopters, I would not say this is a weak army. I would say these are strong Ukrainian soldiers who fight back such a powerful army.

The national security adviser also tells me for Ukraine, the end game is clear: there will be no Russian soldiers in this area, he says, neither in

Crimea nor on the territory of Donetsk or Luhansk regions. This is our land. We do not need someone else. We are not going to give up.

That's also what the territorial defense group in Kyiv alleges, bringing forces to Ukraine's east to confront the Russian army once again.


NOBILO: That was Fred Pleitgen reporting for us.

Mason Clark is the lead Russian analyst at the Institute for the Study of War think tank.

Thanks for joining us on the program tonight, Mason.


NOBILO: So, Ukraine claims it struck the Moskva with its Neptune missiles. Moscow claims it's an unexplained fire, hasn't acknowledged attack, what

would the strategic and symbolic significance be if Moskva was taken down by the Ukrainians?

CLARK: Right.


So it's certainly, as noted, going to be a very big propaganda win for Kyiv as the warship was involved in the now famous Snake Island incident, as

well as being the flagship of the fleet and, frankly, being named Moskva for the Russian capital, it's been a center piece of the Russian navy for

quite some time, and it's going to provide a huge morale boost to Ukrainian forces.

Now, even if it wasn't a Ukrainian strike, which I do believe is the most likely scenario here, the Kremlin is going to have a harder time spinning

this in any sort of positive way. Frankly, the story they're going with that it was an accidental ammunition explosion caused by ineptitude among

their own crew is not really much better of an explanation for losing the Black Sea fleet flagship. So it's going to have damaging effect on both

Russian morale and positive effects to Ukrainian morale either way, really.

NOBILO: And what do you think the Russian strategy will be in the Donbas, considering how they've decimated Mariupol which was a Russian-speaking

region that may have, in theory, before the war, been more sympathetic towards Russia, obviously not now. So, what do you think their approach is

going to be?

CLARK: So we're watching Russian forces in Donbas amassing damaged and sort of cobbled together units that were previously deployed in

northeastern Ukraine while conducting these very localized daily attacks, primarily in a town called Rebudshneh (ph) without making many advances.

We do think the Russians are bringing more combat power, before launching a wider offensive. There's a very likelihood that the Ukrainians are going to

counter them as they've been in eastern Ukraine some time. The counter point to this is that Russian forces are trying to circle Ukrainian troops

in eastern Ukraine by driving southeast to the town of Izyum, which is he Kharkiv region. We've been seeing a lot of Russian forces amassing behind

their lines near Izyum for the last couple of weeks and that's likely going to be the main Russian focus in the next week or two is trying to cut off

the Ukrainian forces fighting in Luhansk oblast right now.

NOBILO: And, Mason, what do you think would be the minimum territorial gain that Putin could pass off as a victory in this war and save face?

CLARK: I think he's certainly aiming for the entirety of Donetsk and Luhansk oblasts which he claims are the correct territory for Russians

proxies, Donetsk and Luhansk regions. He may also try to hold on to Kherson, which is the major city northwest of Crimea, that Russian forces

captured and was threatened by Ukrainian counterattacks and certainly Putin could attempt to revise down his initial war goals and claim that was the

objective a all along.

NOBILO: Now, Medvedev has said in response to prospect of Finland and Sweden joining NATO, that Russia would deploy nuclear and hypersonic in

Kaliningrad. Do you see escalation of this conflict currently pertain to Ukraine if they did join NATO?

CLARK: It certainly could happen. The Kremlin has a very alarmist threat perception and, of course, through this invasion of Ukraine has sort of

brought about what he was trying to avoid, further NATO membership for states in Eastern Europe. We could of course see the Russian forces deploy

forces to Kaliningrad or even to Belarus. They've been signing agreements with Belarusian President Lukashenko to do just that, though I do not think

particularly with how damaged the Russian military has been, that they will launch any sort of new, escalatory attack to bring in a NATO state. Their

deployments, of course, we can't rule out.

NOBILO: Mason Clark, thanks so much for joining us this evening. We'll be in touch with you soon to get into these incredibly important topics. Thank


CLARK: Thanks.

NOBILO: Ukraine's also claiming a victory against Russian forces in the east as it braces for an all-out assault, says special operations forces in

the Kharkiv region destroyed a bridge Thursday just as a Russian convoy was crossing it. But as the fighting escalates, a senior U.S. defense official

says the first Russian troops that had left northern Ukraine to regroup have now begun appearing in the Donbas.

So, let's bring in our Clarissa Ward. She's in Dnipro, Ukraine.

But, Clarissa, you've just travelled back from the Donbas. What have you witnessed in the areas now preparing for a major offensive?

CLARISSA WARD, CNN CHIEF INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Bianca. So we were in a town called Avdiivka, which has been on the front

line many years in the sort of eight year war between Ukrainian forces and pro-Russian separatists. But they have never seen anything quite on this

level, intense shelling that did not stop, literally, for one minute, during the several hours that we were on the ground.

The mayor is asking people, indeed, begging them, to please leave, please evacuate as this major offensive appears to be poised to get under way.

Some people saying they don't want to leave, others saying they don't have the money or simply they don't have any way out.


WARD (voice-over): The town of Avdiivka is no stranger to war.


For eight years, this has been the front line of Ukraine's battle with Russian-backed separatists. People here are used to shelling. They have

never experienced anything like this.

A missile can be heard overhead as an emotional man approaches us.

They smashed the old part of town, he says. As we talk, the artillery intensifies.

I told him it's better to go home now because there's a lot of shelling. He said there's more shelling where he lives.

As Russia prepares a major offensive in the east, front line towns like Avdiivka are getting pummeled.

So you can hear constant bombardment. This is the bomb shelter down here, but you can see this building has already been hit.

More than 40 people are now living in what used to be a clothing store.

Leta (ph) and her two sons have been here for three weeks. She wants to leave, but says her boys are too scared to go outside.

We're afraid to stay and afraid to go, she tells us. But it's fate, whether you run or don't run.

On an apartment block, an icon of the Virgin Mary has been painted, a plea for protection. But there is no respite in the bombardment.

If you look over here, you can see the remnants of some fresh strikes.

Thirty-seven-year-old government worker Rodnislav (ph) looks at what remains of his family home. He takes us inside to see the full scale of the


It's completely destroyed.

Mercifully, no one was at home at the time of the strike.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It was for photo albums. My children's photo.

WARD: His family has already left, but he says he plans to stay.

I'm afraid like anybody else, only the dead aren't afraid, he tells us. But a lot of people are still here in Avdiivka living in bomb shelters and we

need to support them. Authorities say roughly 2,000 people remain in this town. There is no water, no heat, electricity is spotty.

The local school has become a hub to gather aid and distribute it to the community.

Volunteer Igor Golotov (ph) spends his days visiting the elderly and disabled. Today, he is checking in on 86-year-old Lydia. Petrified and

alone, he has yet to find an organization willing to come and evacuate her.

When there's no electricity and it's so dark and there's shelling, she says, you can't imagine how scary it is.

She tells us she recites prayers to get through the night. I never imagined that my end would be like this, she says. You can't even die here because

there's no one to provide a burial ceremony.

For Igor, it is agony not to be able to do more. I promise you, he says, I will help you to be evacuated.

As we leave, Lydia is reluctant to say good-bye. It is terrifying to live through this time. To do it alone is torture.

It's so nice to see real people, she says. Probably it's going to get worse.

A prediction all but certain to come true, as a second Russian offensive draws near.


WARD (on camera): Now, Bianca, Russian forces are pushing in three directions -- sorry, there is an air raid siren going on right now, here in

Dnipro, but in terms of that eastern offensive, they're pushing down from the north, up from the south, and in from the east. Ukrainian forces are

putting up very stiff resistance.


But as things intensify, and as that offensive really gets underway, the fear is that you're going to see even heavier weapons used, even more

indiscriminate targeting and they look, the people of Avdiivka, to the city of Mariupol, in the southeast, that has been pummeled relentlessly for

weeks and weeks with authorities saying tens of thousands may have died there and so they see that and, of course, Bianca, they fear the very


NOBILO: Clarissa Ward reporting from Dnipro, Ukraine, thank you so much.

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


NOBILO: In Mariupol, as long as she could, Katya Erskaya acted as a protector. The took it upon herself to protect her neighbors as they hid

from Russia's bombardment, but even the story of her escape became a harrowing tale, combination of charity and fear.

CNN's Ed Lavandera spoke with Erskaya about what she experience and what she saw.


ED LAVANDERA, CNN SENIOR CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): When the first bomb struck Mariupol, Katya Erskaya thought her most effective weapon would be a

gentle smile and the ability to calm terrified families.

She lived in an underground shelter, coordinating relief supplies for the trapped civilians of this besieged city.

So you're watching your city get bombed and destroys, people are being killed. You decide not to leave, but to help.

KATYA ERSKAYA, MARIUPOL RESIDENT: It's horrible, didn't allow even children to go out of the city.

LAVANDERA: Day by day, the video Katya captured showed life in Mariupol unraveling. She lost touch with the outside world. None of her family and

friends outside the city knew if she was alive or dead. Life here was falling into an abyss.

ERSKAYA: It was like middle age --

LAVANDERA: Like the Middle Ages.


LAVANDERA: It's almost like you could feel yourself running out of time. There was only so much longer you could stay in Mariupol.

ERSKAYA: I thought I will never go from Mariupol until the end.

LAVANDERA: On March 16th, Katya evacuated. She recorded two short videos on her way out just before seeing a family walking on the side of the road,

a mother, grandmother, and two young girls.

ERSKAYA: We had two free places in our car and saw this family and decided to help them.

LAVANDERA: At one of the Russian military checkpoints, they stopped in front of a soldier.

ERSKAYA: And he's, show us, go out and we got to turn off our car and after that he began to shoot.

LAVANDERA: One of the bullets pierced the car over her head but in the back seat was 11-year-old Milena Uralova (ph), shot in the face. The

Russians, realizing their mistake, sent the girl to a hospital.


Katya, now separated, travelled on without knowing if the young girl survived, until -- CNN found Milena in the basement of a children's

hospital in eastern Ukraine after surviving life-saving surgery.

For Katya, the relief is overwhelmed by the horrors of what she witnessed.

ERSKAYA: I saw a lot of dead people, a lot of graves on the street, for example, and I started to believe that they're crazy, because they were

like maniacs.

LAVANDERA: They were maniacs to you.

ERSKAYA: Yes. They really -- like nothing, since the Second World War.

LAVANDERA: After escaping, Katya remembered the videos she recorded before the Russians ravaged Mariupol. Ukrainians protesting outside the now famous

theater that in a matter of weeks would be the site of one of the most grotesque bombings in this war.

The theater, still intact. The city's buildings, unscathed. She sees the peaceful faces of families and children. The video is hard to watch. Are

these people alive or left in makeshift graves around the city?

Katya Erskaya doesn't know and for her, there's only one way to deal with this haunting reality.

ERSKAYA: I decided that I will cry only when the Ukrainians get victory.

LAVANDERA: Ed Lavandera, CNN, Odessa, Ukraine.


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


NOBILO: Tens of thousands of people who fled the war in Ukraine have ended up in Estonia. The government there turned a cruise ship into a shelter.

It's now docked in the Estonian capital, and CNN's Scott McLean went aboard.


SCOTT MCLEAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Now, they suddenly have more than 30,000 Ukrainian refugee almost all women and children. For the last two months,

this has been a scramble for the government to find places to stay. Hotels gotten quite expensive so instead, the government came up with this.

This is the top deck of a cruise ship, actually. Normally, this would be shuttling people back and forth from Latvia to Sweden. Now, it is parked

here in the center of Tallinn, you can see the skyline there to serve as housing potentially the next four months.

Let me take you inside briefly and show you what it looks like. So this is the 11th floor, there are seven other floors that look a lot like this

where, with more space actually, where people can gather, mill about, the kids you see can run around and be kids here, have all the space in the


The rooms are extremely small here, some only really hold about a bed and maybe a tiny little bathroom so there's not a lot of room but of course

that is a lot better than a school or gymnasium. It is a lot better than sheltering in a bomb shelter in Ukraine.

The government tells me, by and large, Estonians want to help Ukrainians, which is why they're being so generous and taking so many, obviously a huge

financial burden but they understand the threat of Russian aggression as an ex-Soviet state themselves.


NOBILO: Scott McLean for us there.

Now, the UK prime minister has laid out a controversial new immigration plan.


BORIS JOHNSON, BRITISH PRIME MINISTER: Anyone entering the UK illegally, as well as those who have arrived illegally since January 1st may now be

relocated to Rwanda.


NOBILO: Boris Johnson says thousands of migrants taking advantage of the asylum system could be relocated in Rwanda, which is more than 6,000

kilometers away. Critics call it cruel and absolutely chilling. The plan also has the Royal Navy taking over channel commands so small boats

carrying migrants don't go undetected. Those in the boats risk life sentences.

Now let's take a look at other key stories making international impact today.

Spanish authorities destroyed what they say was Europe's biggest cannabis plantation. This drone footage shows the extensive fields where police say

more than 400,000 hemp plants were destroyed. Growing hemp for conversion into CBD or other products is a criminal offense in Spain.

Elon Musk is offering to buy Twitter for more than $40 billion. The billionaire rejected an offer to join the social media company's board

earlier in the week, he's been openly critical of Twitter, recently running a poll asking users if they believe the platform promotes free speech.

And four people have been arrested on suspicion of planning to kidnap Germany's health minister. The four alleged member of extremist group

protesting COVID-19 restrictions, more than 20 weapons and ammunition seized in the raid.

And in China, COVID cases surging across the country and people are panicking. As you can see, in a city near Shanghai, people rush to the

supermarket and cleared the shelves, this was just before the city went into partial lockdown urging its 13 million residents to stay at home.

Forty-four Chinese cities now in some kind of lockdown. Conditions deteriorating in quarantine centers and more makeshift hospitals having to

be built.

That's all for tonight. Thank you for watching. For our viewers tuning in on CNN+ in the U.S., our shows available on demand. And for our viewers

around the world, you can find me on Twitter, TikTok and Instagram and I'll see you again, tomorrow.