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The Global Brief with Bianca Nobilo

Russia's New Plan of Attack; French Election's Final Round; Earth Day 2022. Aired 5-5:30p ET

Aired April 22, 2022 - 17:00   ET



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

Russia reveals for the first time its goal of taking full control of southern Ukraine and the Donbas region, as thousands of civilians are

trapped under heavy bombardment.

And this weekend, French voters will decide whether to hand Emmanuel Macron five more years or give rival candidate Marine Le Pen a chance.

Then, we'll take you around the globe to see what countries are doing to preserve our planet on Earth Day.

A Russian commander is bluntly outlining his military's goal on its assault on Ukraine to fully control all Donbas, all of the south. Across a wide

swath of regions, millions of Ukrainians are sheltering in basement as Russian shelling and bombing intensify intensifies.

European Council President Charles Michel urged Vladimir Putin Friday to negotiate directly with Ukraine's president. But Mr. Putin claimed Ukraine

is not interest in, quote, mutually acceptable solutions.

And then, there's the shock of more alleged Russian war crimes. These satellite images showing what appear to be mass graves near the devastated

city of Mariupol. Ukraine says Russian troops trapped civilians' bodies here to cover up the massacre. The Kremlin has yet to comment.

And these are new images of the devastation in Mariupol. Ukraine's president says Russia has rejected his call for a ceasefire this weekend,

which is orthodox Christian Easter. But he says, quote, we hope that peace, hope that life will conquer death.

And CNN's Ed Lavandera joins us now from the Ukrainian capital in Kyiv.

And, Ed, it seems the evidence of Russian war crimes is mounting. You have been in many of these towns and cities. What can you tell us about?

ED LAVANDERA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Right now, that Russian forces have evacuated the northern areas of Ukraine, north of Kyiv, up to the border

with Belarus and Russia, it reveals the horror that so many people have endured.


LAVANDERA (voice-over): War stopped time here. Bombs and artillery scorched this village in northern Ukraine. Russian occupation ravaged the minds of

its people.

The story of what happened in Yahidne is just emerging, revealing how the Russian army held this village hostage for more than 30 days.

Sophia shows us the underground bunker in her shed where she first hid from the fighting. She said she had food stored here that the Russians ate. This

is where she slept. Sophia says Russian soldiers went door to door, rounding people up and taking them at gunpoint into the basement of the

village school.

Sophia tells us that when the Russian soldiers moved them all into the basement of the school building, they were put down there and the soldiers

told them they were being put in the basement to die.

A woman named Natalie took us into the basement where she was trapped. I was in a stupor, she tells me. I was sitting there, praying, hoping it

would all stop soon.

Residents tell us there were about 350 people held hostage in the basement of this school building. Men, women and children forced to live in these

horrific conditions. In fact, it was so strangulating, there were so little air circulation that one resident told us that 12 elderly people died here

because they couldn't breathe. And their bodies were left while the fighting raged outside.

These are some of the only known images captured in the school's basement. The faces say it all.

She's telling me that about 35 people slept in this small room. Nobody could lay down. They slept kind of sitting with their knees against their


The rooms are littered with makeshift beds, schoolbooks, and Russian troop meal boxes. But it is the art on the walls that stops you in your tracks.

This is how the children passed the time, colorful drawings on a canvas of anguish. The people who were trapped down here etched names on to this

concrete wall. They marked the days with a calendar, crossing out the days as they went by.

Everything down here has the feel of a World War II era concentration camp. Above the basement, Russian soldiers took over the school building.

Residents say they were used as human shields. They knew the Ukrainian military wouldn't fire at the school with civilians inside.

Olena person grabs food from a humanitarian delivery truck and takes it to her home.


Russian soldiers threw grenade to her windows and defecated on the house floors. She was also held hostage in the school basement with her 1-year-

old daughter.

Did you think you were going to survive that?

I thought my child would not survive, she tells me. I asked them to let me out so the child could breathe fresh air because she felt bad. They said

let her die. We don't care.

Sophia, how did you feel when you got out of the basement of the school?

She says one of the villagers open the basement door and said the Russians left. The trapped villagers were surprised.

In the morning, our guys entered the village. We cried. We hugged them and cried.

What will you tell your daughter about this experience?

Nothing, she says. Her daughter will not remember it and she will tell her nothing.


LAVANDERA (on camera): Bianca, the number of people kill in this village is unknown. Many villagers we spoke with say they believe the Russian soldiers

buried bodies in the woods around the village, but it's impossible to investigate because those fields are littered with land mines.

One other thing that really struck us is the level of fear these residents still have. All of the people in the piece, you noticed, it was all women.

They would only -- asked we would only use their first names. One of the men in the village was talk on camera, and that's because Russian soldiers

were going door to door, looking for men, pulling them apart, asking them questions. They kept telling people they were there to look for Nazis --


NOBILO: Ed Lavandera in Kyiv, thank you.

A prominent Kremlin critic will be jailed for at least two more months according to Russian state media. The report says Vladimir Kara-Murza is

accused of, quote, discrediting the Russian army. He was arrested outside his Moscow home on April 12th hour after he criticized the Russian

government in a CNN interview.

Inside Mariupol, the city's mayor tells CNN an estimated 20,000 civilians are dead. CNN is not operating in Mariupol, but Matt Rivers met those who

managed to escape the besieged port city and arrive in Lviv in western Ukraine.


MATT RIVERS, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The train was designated just for evacuees. If all went to plan it would arrive here to

Lviv packed with hundreds fleeing war.

Instead, just a handful of families finally found safety, including Polina and her daughter Iryna who fled Mariupol. They are furious there's not more

who got out.

She says so many should have been evacuated but the Russians kept shelling. They are not human beings. I don't know who gave birth to them. Horrific.

"Horrific" an apt word to describe what Russia has done to the people of Mariupol, collecting dead bodies amongst the city's wreckage, a task now as

common place as it is morbid. Some of the dead are loaded into Russian marked trucks while others have been buried n alleged mass graves, seen

here in new satellite imagery.

Yet for the ten of thousands who survive here, they need to get out and cannot.

He says humanitarian corridors declared by Russia are only on paper.

Russian troops dominate the vast majority of the city. If they wanted to let people leave safely, they could. And yet several humanitarian corridors

agreed to this week have failed, with Ukraine accusing Russia of repeatedly violating cease-fires.

The number of evacuees on the planned route from Mariupol to Zaporizhzhia had slowed to a trickle, and even then, danger awaits.

Ukraine's military says this train actually came under fire as it was leaving a station in Zaporizhzhia. Some of the train cars were so damaged

they had to be left behind. And even the ones that can still travel, you can see here, have some damage left over.

It's another example, Ukraine says, of how Russia continues to target civilians.

For those from Mariupol, like Katya Yatsun, these are some of the first moments they have felt safe in weeks.

We were just thinking about our survival, she says. I don't know how I'm going to tell my son about such terrifying events.

She says she'll eventually tell her son about Russian military brutality, about the needless destruction of an entire city, and maybe her son will

live long enough to return to Mariupol one day. Others doubt they'll have their chance.

She says, I want to believe that I will return there. I think we'll need many years to restore the city after what they've done. I'm not going to be

around that long.

Matt Rivers, CNN, Lviv, Ukraine.


NOBILO: Germany's chancellor says he believes that NATO's top priority should be avoiding military confrontation with Russia.


His government is facing criticism for not sending heavy weapons to Ukraine as Russian forces bear down on the east of the country. Lithuania's

president disagreed, saying it's time for gnat to deliver more weapons to Ukraine now. He's also calling for a greater NATO presence in eastern

Europe, and we're seeing how Russia's war is drawing more countries closer to NATO, including Finland, which is considering applying for membership.

Janne Kuusela is the director general for defense policy at Finland's ministry of defense and he joins me now from Helsinki.

Thank you for joining the program tonight, sir.


NOBILO: So, the Finnish parliament are now debating NATO membership, and the public mood has shifted quite decisively. How likely is it to happen

that Finland will join NATO? And what's the process?

KUUSELA: Well, the likelihood is increasing by the day. There seems to be a rapidly increasing mood to vote seeking for membership. And the parliament

actually began processing it this week, and there are now parliamentary debates ongoing. It will take a while, some days, some weeks. Hard to say

when it's ready.

But by the time the parliament makes its decision, the president of the republic and the government will then follow on and if the parliament so

recommends and if the public opinion is backing, there is likely to be an application for the membership.

NOBILO: And given Finland's border with Russia and Putin's invasion of Ukraine and general unpredictability, how essential do you think NATO

membership will be to Finland's defense policy going forward?

KUUSELA: Well, you know, we are a small nation. We are a nation of 5.5 million people in the northeastern corner of Europe bordering Russia with a

long common border.

And we always think two things. First of all, how do we best secure our own defense security? And secondly, how do we best contribute to the overall

stability in our region?

And I think more and more we're turning to the point that we raise these calls best by seeking for NATO membership. And I think that taken into

consideration that Finland has been a very close partner to NATO for a number of years and we have one of the strongest militaries in Europe, I

believe also NATO would went benefit quite a bit having a country like Finland.

NOBILO: And so, given NATO expansion is a nightmare scenario for Putin -- he didn't just want to stop it, he wanted to reverse it back to decades

ago, how are you expecting Russia to respond to you as you edge closer to membership? Will you be expecting hybrid warfare, cyberattacks, or troop

movements near your border?

KUUSELA: Well, Russia has made very clear over many years that they don't like NATO's enlargement and they don't want to see NATO close their

borders, that we know for sure.

But we also think very clearly that it's Finland's own right to make our own decisions concerning our security solutions, and we hold on to that

right. And we have very clearly communicated over many years that we hold the possibility of seeking for NATO membership. And for the time being,

things are very calm here, and we are not nervous or afraid.

We have a very robust resilient society. We have a very functioning society, security system, and a robust defense.

NOBILO: But is it part of your calculus, because I suppose it has been to this point, whether the safety of your country might be better protected

without potentially provoking an extreme reaction from Putin by joining NATO?

KUUSELA: Well, you know what, I think until February this year, most of the Finnish people and our political decision-makers thought that security and

stability of our region is best served if Finland stays outside of NATO and Finland tries to keep up and develop a functioning, working relationship

with Russia, as we share a long common border, and we have to deal with Russia on so many issues.

But that changed dramatically after people have seen the unfolding events in Ukraine and the very brutal reality now unfolding. And I think most

things are now figuring that this is not the kind of government you can expect to have a very functioning working relationship with.


And we think that it seems there will be a period, which may be long period, of worsening and tightening relationship between west and Russia,

and marching of maneuver for a non-NATO nation bordering Russia is likely to get narrower.

NOBILO: So would you expect at this time next year our country will be a NATO member?

KUUSELA: Well, that remains to be seen. As I said, judging by the debates in parliament, statements by politicians, it seems more and more likely by

the day that Finland will seek for membership. And then it's up for the NATO nations, the North Atlantic Council to handle eventual Finnish

application and have the national ratification processes in the parliament.

NOBILO: Janne Kuusela, thank you very much for joining us tonight.

KUUSELA: Thank you very much for having me.

NOBILO: The runoff for the French presidential election is this weekend. We'll see how the war in Ukraine has changed virtually everything.


NOBILO: This weekend, French voters will decide if they want to give President Emmanuel Macron a second term or give Marine Le Pen a first

chance. A few months ago, this election was shaping up to a referendum on the rise of the far right in the country.

But then the war in Ukraine happened. Mr. Macron became Europe's spiritual leader once more. While his far right challenger had to distance herself

from her previous comments supporting Russia's Vladimir Putin. And Friday was the last day of campaigning, where strict election rules kick in. Both

candidates summed up their vision in a few words.


EMMANUEL MACRON, FRENCH PRESIDENT (through translator): April 24th will be a referendum on whether we want to be loyal to history. I want to be with

you. April 24th is a referendum for or against Europe.

MARINE LE PEN, FRENCH PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE (through translator): Sunday, there's a fundamental choice to make, and this choice is in French people's

hand. That choice is simple -- it is Macron or France. Since he wanted to make this election a referendum, here lies the question -- it is Macron or



NOBILO: I asked our CNN Paris correspondent Melissa Bell what the war in Ukraine means for this election.


MELISSA BELL, CNN PARIS CORRESPONDENT: I think it changed it profoundly, Bianca, because of its timing. Remember that Russia invaded Ukraine even as

the French presidential campaign had kicked off, but before Emmanuel Macron himself declared that he would be standing. So, really, as it was beginning

to get in full swing ahead of the first round.


And then there is of course the nature of the crisis. And one that really drove an even greater divide between two candidates that face-off on Sunday

and that were already so different to begin with.

Perhaps even more fundamentally, Marine Le Pen wants if she's elected president, to withdraw France from the command of NATO. She also wants to

change Europe so it becomes a much looser alliance of sovereign nations.

Now, when a look back over the last few weeks, what's remarkable is how important the unity of both NATO and EU have proven. So, it isn't simply

this is a war that's intruded on a campaign, but it's become a campaign that will have profound implications for the war, Bianca.

NOBILO: And looking at that campaign, Melissa, what are the polls doing now, and what do they tell us about how the candidates presented their

attitude towards the war. And also the leaders' debate, where famously Le Pen struggled last time around.

BELL: Last time around. A better showing this time. And yet, at the time of the first round, both candidates increased their both, Le Pen and Macron on

2017, that first round of voting. The polls that night had been remarkably tight, just a couple of percentage points. Now that has changed. They

widened with Macron about 55 percent, Le pen at 45 percent.

But it is, of course, the poll on Sunday that matters. There is now a media blackout that begins this evening in France. No more polling, no more

candidates' debates, no more campaigning, so that the French could have a moment to reflect.

What is certain is that by 8:00 p.m. on Sunday evening, Bianca, we'll know the result of the election. That will have profound implications for how

France is governed, for its position within Europe, for Europe itself, and of course for the wider world in terms of NATO and the war that's being

fought in Ukraine, and all of that we'll discover on Sunday night. Bianca.


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

The Taliban say at least 33 people killed when an explosion hit a mosque on Friday in the Afghan province of Kunduz. It's not clear who's behind this,

but other attacks in the country this week were claimed by a group affiliated with ISIS. Palestinian medics say more than two dozen people

were wounded Friday in clashes at the Al-Aqsa mosque compound in Jerusalem. Video on social media show Palestinian throwing rocks towards Israeli

security forces. Witnesses say the people used stun gas and tear gas on demonstrators.

There's been a surge in violence in recent weeks, raising fears of a larger conflicts.

And Shanghai reported 11 new deaths from COVID-19 on Thursday, as well as 17,000 new locally transmitted cases. A local government says the city's

lockdown will remain until community spread of the virus is eliminated.

And a suspect has officially been declared in the case of missing British toddler Madeleine McCann. The man was made a suspect by German authorities

at the request of Portuguese officials. He's not yet been charged. It comes 15 years after McCann went missing for her holiday apartment in Portugal,

sparking an international hunt.

Kate and Gerry McCann say they have not given up hope that their daughter is still alive.

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


NOBILO: Friday is Earth Day, a time to focus on improving how we take care of our planet. And the release of the latest European state of the climate

report reminds us of just why that is so important. From fires to floods, the report highlights extreme weather patterns that have been happening

across the continent, and it found that Europe suffered unusually cold temperatures last spring, enjoyed its hottest summer on record, and smashed

records for daily rain.

Let's take a look at how the world's been celebrating Earth Day.


In Colombia, some high school students are marking the occasion by planting trees, recycling plastics and learning how to compost. They hope it will

raise awareness about the need to care for the environment in their country and around the world.


DANIEL GOMEZ (through translator): Environmental education is greatly needed because many people in the world are not conscious about the

environment, and that's the main reason the planet is the way it is.


NOBILO: Meantime, scientists in Florida say they've successfully bred a threatened species of coral. They hope to restore damaged reeves that are

under threat by a relatively new disease, one that strips coral of its color and its life.


JUSTIN ZIMMERMAN, FLORIDA CORAL RESCUE CENTER SUPERVISOR: There is potential to propagate these corals on a level that you could return some

of these corals to the wild, and there's the potential that you could save the species by doing that.


NOBILO: Well, happy Earth Day to all of you. Remember to recycle.

Thank you for watching. For our viewers tuning in on CNN+, our show is on demand. And for our viewers around the world, you can find me on Twitter,

TikTok, and Instagram, and I'll see you again on Monday. Have a good weekend, everyone.