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The Global Brief with Bianca Nobilo

EU: Russia Trying To Blackmail Europe By Hating Gas Flow; Russia Releases Former U.S. Marine Trevor Reed; At Least 27 Chinese Cities Face COVID Restrictions. Aired 5-5:30p ET

Aired April 27, 2022 - 17:00   ET



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

We begin with Russia's most serious retaliation yet against European sanctions imposed by the war in Ukraine. Russians state energy giant

Gazprom has cut off natural gas shipments to Poland and Bulgaria for refusing to pay in rubles. The European Union calls it blackmail and

provocation by the Kremlin.

The UK foreign secretary is calling for a new approach to dealing with Vladimir Putin and his war in Ukraine. Liz Truss says the West should give

Ukraine more weapons, including airplanes, which Russia has repeatedly warned against.

All of this is happening on the same day that the Russian president gave a very stark and direct threat about foreign interference in Ukraine.


VLADIMIR PUTIN, RUSSIAN PRESIDENT (through translator): If someone intervenes in what is happening from the outside and creates unacceptable

strategic threats for us, then they should know that our response to oncoming strikes will be swift, lightning-fast. We have all the tools for

this, ones that no one can brag about. And we won't break, we will use them if needed. I want everyone to know this. All the decisions have been made

in this regard.


NOBILO: Ukraine's defense minister is warning of extremely difficult weeks ahead, saying Russia will try to inflict maximum destruction. Ukraine

acknowledges it lost several towns in the east as Russia intensifies. Fighting is also escalating in the south.

This video shows the aftermath of another Russian missile attack on a key bridge near Odessa.

Sam Kiley is following all these developments in the eastern city of Kramatorsk.

Sam, are the Russians edging closer to where you are? And what are Ukrainians doing to slow their advance?

SAM KILEY, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Bianca, yes, they are, that's the short answer to that. They are edging closer in the last

day or so. It's been confirmed, from Ukrainian government sources that Rubizhne a, a town about 30 kilometers or 40 kilometers north of where I am

now, has fallen to the Russians. That's on the north side of the Donetsk River. There are reports that the town of Lyman, which is next to that, may

have fallen, too.

They're inching south -- southeast along the riverbank, approaching the town of Severodonetsk, which is where I was earlier today.


KILEY (voice-over): Severodonetsk, on the front line with Russia. It's an artillery frontline.

Let's get into the basement.

Local police are delivering aid to civilians unable to leave. There's no time to wait out the bombardment. There's no likely end to the shelling

either. Supplies need delivering and fast.

She tells me there are three people next door including a granny of 92. Upstairs, a bedridden woman. She says that normally they stay in the flat

and only use the basement when it's bad. Thank you for not forgetting us, she adds.

The urgency of these sorts of deliveries cannot be exaggerated. Just in this block, there's mostly old people. One gentleman is dying of cancer in

front of his wife. She's saying she's living in a double hell.

Since we have been here, there are been five, six, eight impacts very, very close. And almost every tree, every corner, every bit of this local

neighborhood has got the signs of recent impact. And Russians are just a kilometer, maybe three away.

Russian guns are so close you can hear the whole arc of their shells.

From Kyiv to Mariupol, from Kharkiv to here, this is the Russian way of war -- pound civilians, flatten cities, and maybe occupy the ashes.

Alexander says we're in danger now. They're shelling us so it could come at any moment and shrapnel could hurt us. We try to hide there in the bomb



Two months of war has driven these people underground. And there's no end in sight.

The fear, Alexander confesses, he tries to keep inside. But it creeps out.

There's one more delivery that the police have got to make, but every time we try to get out the front door of this building, there's another impact.

There's another one now.

They're saying the hospital, which is nearby, is under heavy shelling. We were planning to go there. We couldn't get through nor can we even get out

of this bunker.

The hospital was hit, images of the damage done that morning posted online by the local administration.

Officials said that one civilian was killed, others injured, and several floors were badly damaged. The humanitarian effort goes on. This woman asks

only for the basics of existence. Water and candles for light.

Good job. You do this every day?


KILEY: He tells me most people left here now have nowhere else to go. They have lived here all their lives and don't want to abandon their homes.

Do you think the Russians are going to take this?

Never, he says, we will stand our ground to the last man. No one will leave here.

That may be a dangerous claim. It's likely that Ukrainians will destroy this bridge to hold up the invasion. And anyone still here would then be

trapped in Russian hands.


KILEY: Now, Bianca, it's not all going in one direction. Of course, the Ukrainians are firing a lot of artillery back at the Russians. Crucially,

though, they are trying to focus their attention on the Russian military machine, whereas the Russian military machine is hitting both Ukrainian

forces and overwhelmingly civilian areas, Bianca.

NOBILO: And, Sam, we have seen and heard quite a decisive shift in rhetoric from western allies, in particular the UK and the U.S.. They want

to see Russia weekend to the point that it can't launch similar advances in the future. What is the significance of that and NATO countries sending

more arms to the Ukraine?

KILEY: It's all about speed, Bianca. The numbers of troops on both sides, clearly, the Russians have access to more troops. They've got more troops.

They had more troops to start with.

They have -- they are spread very thin. Now, if, for example, it was accurate than 190,000 troops were met on the Russian side just before this

war started. And about 200,000 troops available to the Ukrainians. Both sides, of course, have lost men and women. They have also had


The Russians, especially, trying to reinforce. They are spread thinly. This makes it crucial for the Ukrainians. That's why we've heard, for some weeks

from the Ukrainians, to get in more modern weapons, more long-range artillery, more anti-aircraft, more weapons capable of shutting down

drones, more weapons that are, in a sense, strategic weapons to fight back against, fairly, frankly, the primitive weapons that the Russians are

using. That might give them the edge.

There is a sense among NATO and other western allies, that this is a war that the Ukrainians could see conceivably win and push Russia back much

further. But then, of course, the Russians are countering and you played that quotation at the top of your program from Vladimir Putin hinting at

the consequences of stepping over the mark, if you like. Clearly, in the background, the Russians have threatened or hinted that they could use a

tactical nuclear weapon if their backs were really against the wall.

It's a very delicate balance indeed. From the Ukrainian perspective, it is absolutely imperative that they get those modern weapons here now, and as

much as they possibly can get -- Bianca.

NOBILO: Sam Kiley for us in Kramatorsk, thank you.

Now, given what Sam was saying, and how spread thin the Russian troops are, this next story is perplexing because authorities in the pro-Russian

breakaway region of Transnistria recognized internationally as part of Moldova, say that shots were fired into the territory from Ukraine. A

village that housed ammunition was targeted. Several drones were detected, which they say came from Ukraine.

Kyiv has accused Moscow of trying to mastermind deliberately provocations in Transnistria to spread anti-Ukrainian sentiment. Civilians in the area

have spoken out about their fears.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): People are worried, worried about it all, about their families and everything. They are worried about

Moldova, about Transnistria.


NOBILO: Let's take a look at the key headlines on Russia's war in Ukraine today.


Finland and Sweden must prepare for more Russian spy operations, cyber attacks and meddling. Now, both countries are considering joining NATO.

This warning came Wednesday from the Finnish and Swedish to intelligence services. Russia's invasion of Ukraine has prompted the two nations to

reassess their military neutrality.

Trevor Reed, former U.S. marine, who is held in Russia in 2019, is now free. He was released in a prison swap. A Russian pilot who was convicted

in the U.S. on drug smuggling charges was part of this exchange. U.S. officials say this release will not influence Washington's approach to the

war in Ukraine.

And British Prime Minister Boris Johnson is responding to Moscow's decision Wednesday to ban 287 British members of parliament from entering Russia. He

says they should regard this as a badge of honor. The UK and its allies have imposed stiff sanctions against Moscow's elite, including Vladimir


The chief prosecutor of the International Criminal Court has told CNN that there is a case to answer in due course over the killing of civilians in

the Kyiv suburb of Bucha. These images show Russian military tanks approaching an intersection in Bucha. This next video contains graphic

images. It's the same intersection, also during the Russian occupation. CNN has geolocated and confirmed the presence of civilian bodies. Russia denies

its forces killed any civilians there, calling the allegations fake.

And a historic agreement, the ICC, Poland, Lithuania and Ukraine are taking part in a special joint operation to investigate allegations of war crimes

against civilians in Ukraine. It is the first time the ICC is taking part in an investigative team.

CNN's Erica Hil, sat down with one of the signatories, Polish national prosecutor, Dariusz Barski.


DARIUS BARSKI, POLISH NATIONAL PROSECUTOR (through translator): We provide psychological support to refugees during these interviews. Of course, the

interviews are voluntary. We are aware of the trauma that these people go through. All our interviews are aimed to be as minimally disruptive as

possible to the witnesses and victims.

ERICA HILL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: For many people in Poland, some of what they are seeing and hearing about may feel personal because it may bring up

a very difficult history for Poland in terms of what people suffered, forced deportations, the massacre. Is this personal? Do you feel more of a


BARSKI: Poland suffered a lot from Russia in the not so distant history. We remember all that is part of it, but we are also aware that we may be


HILL: You say you are concerned Poland might be next?

BARSKI: Obviously, we hope that it will not come to that. We would be naive to think that there is no threat.

HILL: It can take a long time to bring a case to court, any case. Do you have a sense of the timeline that you may be looking at?

BARSKI: It is difficult to protect such a timeframe today. Let us remember, there are prisoners of war in Ukraine. Some of whom are also

responsible for war crimes. Provided we gather that evidence, they could be brought to justice sooner.

HILL: If you find the evidence to bring this case, are you confident that these alleged decision-makers would show up in court?

BARSKI: It is unlikely that they would willingly up here. But there are legal instruments to detain these people and bring them for example to The


HILL: In your time as a prosecutor, have you seen anything similar to the evidence that you have been gathering related to these alleged war crimes?

BARSKI: Fortunately, in my lifetime, I've never experienced war. This is unprecedented. And neither have my colleagues. But we have to face it.


NOBILO: That was CNN national crump correspondent, Erica Hill in Warsaw, Poland.

Now, growing calls for Russian opposition leaders and some in the U.S. Congress for the Biden administration to impose sanctions on Vladimir

Putin's supposed girlfriend.

CNN's Nic Robertson reports from Brussels.


NIC ROBERTSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL DIPLOMATIC EDITOR: Alina Kabaeva, back in the news again, first, romantically linked to President Putin, more than a

decade ago. A relationship he has denied ever since they met years earlier, reportedly, when she was a young medal winning gymnast. He looked smitten.

Last week, stepping out of Moscow gymnastics event, rallying the nation as it slips to international isolation.

ALINA KABAEVA, FORMER RUSSIAN GYMNAST (through interpreter): If competitions will be held only in Russia, then on the contrary, the

gymnastics will be better and more spectacular and the Russian gymnastics is not losing anything in this situation.

ROBERTSON: Her life transformed much richer, U.S. officials say, according to "The Wall Street Journal", following her purported proximity to Putin.

Questions now, why hasn't she been sanctioned liked him?

REPORTER: Why he would refrain from sanctioning someone who's so close to Putin?

JEN PSAKI, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: I don't have an analysis at this point because we're still reviewing. There's more we would likely do.

ROBERTSON: The two, rarely, if ever are seen together. The precise relationship, if any, is unclear. But more than a decade of rumors undimmed

with time, now, against the backdrop of wartime symbolism, calling on the country to support Putin's war.

KABAEVA: Every family has a history of war, and we shouldn't forget about it. We should hand it over from generation to generation.

ROBERTSON: Her wealth and ties to Putin are hot political topics, since "The Wall Street Journal" wrote Treasury officials decided last minute not

to sanction her.

SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R-SC): There is articles in the paper about family members that have been used by Putin to sort of launder money, and talk of

a girlfriend in Sweden. Do you know anything about an effort to bring sanctions against her?

MERRICK GARLAND, ATTORNEY GENERAL: First answer is no, second answer is I guess, if I did know, I wouldn't be able to discuss it. I'm not the

Treasury Department.

GRAHAM: Fair enough, yeah.

ROBERTSON: Whatever the proximity to Putin, her financial moves never are more closely watched than now.

Nic Robinson, CNN, Brussels.


NOBILO: Coming up on THE GLOBAL BRIEF, remembering a pioneering female leader, the late U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, who's presence

on the world stage still being felt.

And, 25 million people in Shanghai have been under lockdown for more than three weeks. We'll have an update on what is about to change, next.




JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Freedom endures against all odds in the face of every aggressor. There are always those who will fight

for their freedom. In the 20th and 21st century, freedom had no greater champion than Madeleine Korbel Albright. With her goodness and grace, her

humanity, and her intellect, she turned the tide of history.


NOBILO: U.S. president, Joe Biden, remembering Madeleine Albright as a force of nature and a tireless champion of democracy. Hundreds of people

attended her funeral in Washington, including former Presidents Obama and Clinton.

Albright was the first woman to serve as a U.S. secretary of state, and she spent her career in Foreign Service and her life after fighting against

fascism and totalitarianism. Albright died in March at age 84.

Now, let's take a look at today's other global stories.

India's Prime Minister Narendra Modi says that India is getting too hot too early in the year. He says that heat is raising the risk of fires and is

urging hospitals to carry out fire safety orders. Dozens of people in India die each year because of fires and hospitals and factories.

The Peruvian government declared a state of emergency Wednesday near Las Bambas as one of the largest copper mines of the world. An indigenous

community is camping inside to protest resettlement in the area about a decade ago.

The European Union's commission is taking steps to cut funds to Hungary. The country's president has been accused of breaching EU values, including

eroding democratic systems and awarding contracts without bidding, unless an agreement with Hungary is concluded, the commission is suggesting that

the EU suspend funds to Budapest.

As China struggles with its zero COVID policy, Shanghai's health commission said Wednesday that lockdown measures will begin to be eased in COVID-free

neighborhoods. Twenty-five million people have been under strict lockdown for more than three weeks. The country's economy is feeling this strain.

President Xi is calling for more spending on infrastructure to try and rescue the nation's finances.

CNN's Selina Wang explains.


SELINA WANG, CNN CORRESPONDENT: In China, one million people are under strict lockdown after just one person tested positive for COVID-19. This is

the reality in zero COVID China. Officials are especially concerned because this case was found in Xanhu (ph) a city just 50 kilometers away from

Beijing. A lot of people commute between the two cities.

This is as Beijing is trying to quash a nascent outbreak at the capital. They are trying to quash it early to avoid it spiraling into the chaos and

mess during the Shanghai lockdown. Beijing is already in a partial lockdown.

Whether this turns into a full lockdown depends on how many positive COVID cases are found as a result of mass testing. Beijing has been testing 20

million residents in multiple rounds. So far, 114 cases have been reported since Friday.

Beijing officials have been trying to reassure residents that there are enough supplies of food and daily essentials, but still, people are

concerned. There has been some panic buying in Beijing supermarkets. The residents have seen the horrors on Chinese social media of what Shanghai

had to go through during their continued weeks-long lockdown -- the lack of food, medical care, and the unsanitary conditions at quarantine facilities.

But while Shanghai and Beijing have gotten the most attention, millions of people across China are confined to their homes. Dozens of cities have

rolled out some kind of lockdown restrictions. As most of the world is learning to live with COVID, China is bringing entire metropolises to a

standstill. These lockdowns are bringing China's economy, quote, near a breaking point.

Investment banks, they're slashing their forecasts for China's economic growth. But to try and fix the economy, China's leader Xi Jinping told

officials that an all out effort must be made to boost construction. He called for more projects and transportation, energy, cloud computing, and

artificial intelligence.

It is rare for Xi Jinping to set out these sorts of detailed economic plans. So, these comments by China's leader indicate that Beijing is

growing increasingly concerned by the country's economic outlook. Global investors are concerned to as China's stock markets sink deeper into a bear



Selina Wang, CNN, Kunming, China.


NOBILO: Okay. Now, let's take a look at other global COVID headlines today.

New Zealand's high court ruled the country's COVID-19 quarantine system infringed on citizens rights. New Zealanders had to enter a lottery system

for limited spots in quarantine centers. But the judge found that in some instances, that system went against the bill of rights, which says that

every citizen has the right to enter the country, in a way that wasn't justified.

And New Zealand is still beginning, the United States is now out of the pandemic phase says Dr. Anthony Fauci. According to President Biden's chief

medical adviser, the virus is at a low level right now. However, he warned in a PBS interview that COVID-19 won't be eradicated and globally the

pandemic is still very much with us.

But in some parts of the world, things are getting back to how they were before COVID 19. We're looking at a party fit for a king, literally. The

king of the Netherlands, that is. For the first time since 2019, the country celebrated Kings Day in honor of King Willem Alexander, who is

turning 55. It looks like a roaring event.

Tens of thousands turned out for the festivities on par with New Years Eve. The king called it a celebration of life, returning to normal after a

difficult two years.


KING WILLEM-ALEXANDER, NETHERLANDS: After two years of waiting, this feels really like old times. I think everybody has been waiting for this. After

having been locked in for two years, without being able to do what you want, we can now celebrate and freedom and peace all over the Netherlands.


NOBILO: And before we go this evening, a record-breaking moment in space. A SpaceX rocket took to the sky Wednesday morning, carrying astronaut,

Jessica Watkins, who's set to become the first Black woman to join the International Space Station crew. Watkins and her team will be joining

three NASA astronauts, three Russian cosmonauts and an astronaut from the European Space Agency.

Thank you for watching. I will see you all again tomorrow.