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The Global Brief with Bianca Nobilo

Pentagon on Putin's "Depravity"; Stalin's Influence on Putin; Deadly Blast at Kabul Mosque. Aired 5-5:30p ET

Aired April 29, 2022 - 17:00   ET



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

The Pentagon says Russia's offensive in eastern Ukraine is dragging, thanks to determined resistance by Ukrainian troops. A spokesperson is condemning

Vladimir Putin's, quote, depravity.

Then, Mr. Putin has embraced a cult of control and repression, many comparisons are being drawn between him and Joseph Stalin.

And a powerful explosion in Kabul kills more than 50 people on the last Friday of Ramadan.

The Pentagon says Russia's fight to seize the Donbas is moving slowly because of fierce resistance by Ukrainian troops. It warns that Russia's is

laying the groundwork for a larger and longer offensive. Ukraine is claiming progress in the northeast, saying it's recaptured the

strategically important town near Kharkiv.

Kharkiv itself is coming under attack. This video shows some of recent destruction. One soldier said not one house will remain intact after this


And in the south, the mayor of Mariupol says more than 600 people were injured when Russia bombed a makeshift hospital inside a steel plant

earlier this week. The city's last remaining fighters are hold up in that plant, along with hundreds of civilians.

And just across the Ukrainian border, two regions in Russia say they were shelved from positions within Ukraine, casualties were reported.

And as the West steps up military aid to the Ukraine, it's also using increasingly tough language against Russia and setting more ambitious goals

for this war. The U.S. now says it wants Russia weakened so it can never again attack its neighbors. The UK is calling the on Russia to be pushed

out of the whole of Ukraine. Vladimir Putin has repeatedly said, Russia's control of Crimea is not up for negotiation.

So, I'm joined now by Mark MacCarley, retired U.S. Army major general.

General, thank you for joining the program this evening.


NOBILO: So as I was just saying, this week we have seen a decisive shift from the west in terms of rhetoric saying that Russia needs to be

irrevocably weekend and no territorial gains are acceptable. Some are saying Russia needs to push the pushed out of all of Ukraine, including

Crimea area. What is behind this intensified or crystallized version of objectives?

MACCARLEY: Well, I think it is certainly commendable that the world leadership or Western world has come out with such a definitive statement.

It certainly bills morale in the Ukraine because it says to the Ukrainian people that the West stands solidly behind the efforts to extricate Ukraine

from the clutches of the Russians. It also as well focus is the efforts of the Ukrainian commanders as they combat Russian aggression in the Donbas

region, in the south of Ukraine, so there is a huge advantage in them.

And finally, of course, for the Western nations themselves, that allows them to mobilize their own population, an instructor in population of the

significance and importance of preserving their democracy of the Democratic country of Ukraine against this Russian invasion.

NOBILO: And what other material actions you expect might accompany this step up in rhetoric?

MACCARLEY: I think we are seeing that the answer to your question, laid out firstly, by our president, in the United States. President Biden has just a

day or so ago, come forward, laid out a proposal, to Congress, more than a proposal, proposed legislation that would indeed commit another 33 billion

dollars in aid, about $20 billion of that would be for military aid.

You have NATO nations, for instance Germany, in the last week, and Germany for the first time has come forward and committed heavy weapons. Anti-

aircraft systems, that are huge value and importance to the Ukrainians. So, that's an expression. Even yesterday, we have had the U.S. Congress, by a

vote of acclamation, supporting a new lend lease program, by which U.S. can field weapons to Ukraine, and overtime, Ukraine would repay.


Very similar to what the U.S. did in 1940 on behalf of the British.

NOBILO: And what can we expect to see in the next week if Russia's eastern offensive? It looks like Russia has made gains with heavy artillery. They

might be struggling to consolidate with their combat units with Ukraine putting up such a heavy resistance.

MACCARLEY: You basically provided the sum and substance of my response. Since the program will focus as well on Stalin, with respect with

similarities between what Stalin did and what Putin is doing now, is that two or three weeks of, a month ago, Russia went through a reset with

respect to its military forces. It backed away, retreated, from that thunder run across Ukraine, to Kyiv.

The Ukrainian people put up such resistance, and the, combat effectiveness of the Russians was significantly degraded. Russia started and turn the

page in the book. But this time, this is a page that didn't go forward. I think Putin and his general staff, this is pure speculation on my, part are

looking to that playbook that Stalin used. We are beginning to see that in the Donbas region, meaning that the Russians are prepping the battlefield.

Some military leaders would say they are shaping the battlefield. What that means uncommon top, is that Russia is shelling with artillery pieces, or

flying in drones, or attacking cities and concentrations of Ukrainian forces with ballistic missiles, without necessarily at this point in time

sending in a significant number of Russian soldiers.

This is simply call shaping the battlefield. It creates terror. It pulverized this certainly the civilians, as you're going to talk about

later in your program. Then what will follow, as I suggested earlier broadcast, what will follow will be a slow, methodical advance of the

Russians, led frankly, in my perspective once, again by armor. No real timetable on the part of the Russians.

The time benefits the Russians. Time does not necessarily benefit the Ukrainians.

NOBILO: Retired U.S. Army Major General Mike MacCarley, thank you so much for joining me on the program.

MACCARLEY: Thank you.

NOBILO: The Ukrainian military is now strengthening security along its border with Transnistria. That's the breakaway region within Moldova where

Russia has maintained a military presence for decades. Earlier this week, some explosions happened there, but still unexplained. Ukrainian officials

blame Russian security services, warning of a possibly new front along that border. They say that they suspect Russia is preparing and offensive using

its troops in Transnistria, a claim Moscow denies.

CNN's Randi Kaye is in Moldova's capital.

Randi, what do we know about these explosions in Transnistria?

RANDI KAYE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Bianca, there were a series of explosions in Transnistria, the first one was near a building for the

ministry of state security, the second one damage to radio towers. Of course, Russia is blaming Ukraine. Ukraine is blaming Russia.

The Ukrainian defense minister calling these a planned provocation by Russia secret service. And the question is, why does this matter? This is

all very important because there is fear that Transnistria could be used for Putin to expand the war, possibly reaching into beyond Ukraine into

Moldova, and then further into Eastern Europe. You've heard this commander from Russia just the other day saying they would like to take control of

southern Ukraine. Well, that would give them the opportunity to possibly breathe this land corridor which could stretch to Transnistria.

As we, know there are about 1500 Russian troops in Transnistria. Russia says they're just peacekeeping force. But certainly, the president of

Moldova here is very concerned. She came out earlier this week saying that she believes most writes in Transnistria were way for Russians to try and

attempt to escalate the war. It's worth noting as well that Moldova, where we are is not a member of NATO. It's not a member of European Union. It

considers itself neutral. But that may not prevent Vladimir Putin from drawing it into the war.


NOBILO: Randi Kaye in Moldova, thank you.

The British foreign office says the UK is sending a team of war crime experts to Ukraine. The group will investigate possible atrocities on the

civilians. It would include experts and conflict related sexual violence. The British foreign secretary says the UK takes these accounts very



LIZ TRUSS, BRITISH FOREIGN SECRETARY: We want to see justice done for the people of Ukraine. We have seen appalling war crimes committed. These are

great and sexual violence. We have been talking today about the urgency of making sure justice is done. And that also, we call out rape as a use of

weapon in war. It is done to subjugate women, to destroy communities and we want to see it stopped.


NOBILO: Let's take a look at the global reaction.

Vladimir Putin has confirmed he will attend the G20 summit in November. Indonesia will host the event in Bali. The president also extending an

invitation to Ukrainians leader, Volodymyr Zelenskyy.

U.S. President Joe Biden has said that Russia should be ejected from the G20, but there's no word on whether the U.S. will boycott.

Finland's foreign minister says his country is ready to deepen its military ties with Sweden if they face security threats from Russia. The two

countries are considering applying for NATO membership, although neither has decided yet. Russia has threatened serious consequences if they join

the military alliance.

And Norway says it will close its borders and ports to Russia, following the EU's fifth round of sanctions. From May 7th, most Russian-backed

vessels, including commercial ships and yachts, will not be able to dock in Norway. The country's foreign minister's has said it is completely closing

its role to Russian freight transportation.

Now, many comparisons have been drawn between Vladimir Putin's brutality and ambition in Ukraine and those of Soviet leader Joseph Stalin. Ukraine

was brutally repressed by Stalin in the 1930s, in an attempt to curve any resistance to the Soviet Union.

Now under the tenuous premise of restoring Soviet glory and gathering Russian lands, Mr. Putin is doing the same, arguing Ukraine is essential to

Russia. Both leaders were obsessed with history and it's being said that when Putin meets historians, he asked them how history will judge him.

So, let's bring in a historian and author of the book, "Stalin: The Court of the Red Tsar", Simon Sebag Montefiore, to discuss more.

It's wonderful to have you on the program, sir. Thanks for joining. Us


NOBILO: So Stalin has deeply negative associations in Western liberal democracies at least. Gulags, over 20 million dead, famine, terror, mass

deportations. How is he regarded by Putin? How has Stalin's legacy influenced him?

MONTEFIORE: Putin -- Putin regard Stalin as probably the most successful Russian ruler of the 20th century. If you look at Stalin in terms of naked

power, or brute power, he did leave a Soviet Union in control of Eastern Europe, in firm control of the Soviet Union itself, it was a nuclear power

in a bipolar world with the United States.

So -- and, of course, he was the man who took Berlin and help defeat Hitler. So, Stalin is regarded as the pretty successful Russian statesman

by many Russians, including Putin himself.

NOBILO: And how far is this war in Ukraine in your view driven by Putin study of Russian history, which seems in his view to include quite a lot of

revisionist them, and normative ethical disregard?

MONTEFIORE: I think he's living in history. I think you can know too much history. I think he spent too much time, especially in lockdown, studying

not just the history of the Soviet Union, Stalin and Lenin, but also the history of the Russian empire. You will see in the speeches he's gone right

back to the Romanoff period, to the czars, particularly Peter the Great, and Catherine the Great, who really started the process of Russian

expansion into an empire, which was actually not that long ago.

Catherine the Great and her minister, Prince Potemkin, really conquer the southern part of Ukraine, Crimea, and founded the cities like Odesa,

Mykolaiv, Kherson, and Mariupol, and Sevastopol in Crimea. That's the war is really about.

And so, I think Putin is really infusing a mixture of Stalin's glory as he sees it, and Romanoff imperial glory from the 18th and 19th centuries.

NOBILO: And obviously, you are explaining some of it there.


What else about Putin's own backgrounds, psychology, historical influences would be helpful for the West to pay more attention to in approaching

negotiations and dealing with him to end this war? Quite clearly, the West got it wrong in their predictions.

MONTEFIORE: I think in the `90s, our failure was not to find a way to that other tether Russia, a damaged and defeated and diminished power more

firmly to the West. But one also has to fault Russia itself in the Russia elite for cleaving to antiquated and repressive ideas of autocracy and

empire. Of, course the West was naive in failing to understand that.

One thing I think that is important to understand, and you mentioned Putin's new methods of terror, mass deportations, assassinations and

(INAUDIBLE) in Ukraine now during the war, and I think one thing we fail to understand is that the Stalin state was never dismantled in Russia, the

repressive organisms, the secret police, the autocratic presidency, all of the things remained intact and ready to reactivate again for Putin.

That is what we are seeing. We are seeing a return to those methods, that mindset, in Ukraine today. It is a very frightening sight. Often when I see

these deportations and arrests, I really do feel we are back in the 1930s with Stalin. That is a very alarming vision.

NOBILO: And just lastly, a more point of contrast with Stalin, in an article you wrote for the new statement, -- stolen would have not had

invaded Zelenskyy's Ukraine. So, where do you think that recklessness and boldness comes from with Putin?

MONTEFIORE: I think it is probably true, we may never know the answers that question, but it may very well be that something strange happened to Putin

during lockdown, in the sense of intensified isolation. His health is also in question. He is now almost 70. He maybe an ill health. He may be

thinking, as we started at the top of the story, by saying, you know, how is history going to remember me?

And, you know, fusing Romanoff emporium, and Stalinist power, he saw a single chance to turn back history and make his -- and find a place for him

in Russia as he sought. That is our tragedy, the great tragedy of our times.

NOBILO: It is tragedy. To him, it must seem like greatness for some warped reason.

But, Simon Sebag Montefiore, thank you so much for joining us. I love your books. It's great to talk to you.

MONTEFIORE: Thank you so much.

Another blast in Afghanistan. This one at a mosque in Kabul. Just ahead the details on the series of deadly attacks in the country.

Plus, strict lockdowns for COVID is just creating frustration and dissent in China. We will take you there.



NOBILO: Former tennis world number one Boris Becker has been sentenced to prison for failing to report hundreds of thousands of pounds of assets of

his bankruptcy in 2017. A London court sentenced the former Wimbledon champion to two and a half years after he was found guilty of four charges

under the Insolvency Act. We will bring you more on the story at the bottom of the hour in the "World Sport". So stay tuned for that.

And a member of British Prime Minister Boris Johnson's party has been suspended after he was accused of watching pornography in the chambers of

the House of Commons. Neil Parish is facing investigation after a group of female MPs reported to the chief whip earlier this week. The government

said it would take appropriate action once the investigation has concluded.

Now, let's take a look at the other key stories making a national impact today.

An explosion on a mosque in Kabul on Friday killed at least ten people and injured dozens more others. The Taliban has condemned the attack. One of

several reasons deadly blast in the country, mostly targeting Hazara Shia community. So far, no one has claimed responsibility. [

And in Jerusalem, several dozen people were injured in a clash between Palestinians and Israel police at the Al Aqsa Mosque compound. It happened

during morning prayers on the last Friday of Ramadan. Tensions at the site were heightened during the holy month.

The premier of the British Virgin Islands has been arrested in a sting operation and faces charges in alleged cocaine scheme. U.S. drug

enforcement agents arrested Andrew Fahie in Miami, along with the managing director of the port authority. Authorities say that Fahie agreed to use

ports to ship drugs in return for money.

South Africa maybe entering its fifth wave of COVID-19. The country's health minister says scientists expect that wave to begin sometime in mid

May and early June. He says it is possible the fifth wave has already started. South Africa has seen a steady rise in infections during the past

14 days.

Dozens of cities and China are facing the strain of some form of COVID lockdown. Beijing has seen more closures and anger is flaring in Shanghai,

where frustrated residents have enjoyed have endured a month -long lockdown. Yet today, China defended its zero COVID strategy, calling it a

magic weapon in controlling the epidemic.

And our Selina shows us just how hard it is to travel to and within the country.


SELINA WANG, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Traveling into China's like entering a fortress. The country has been virtually sealed off since the

start of the pandemic, burdened by strict border controls and the world's harshest quarantine.

My journey to get in started with three PCR tests in Tokyo.

Seven days after my flight, I just got my first COVID test.

Back at home I track my daily temperature and packed a suitcase full of snacks prepare to prepare for 21 days in quarantine. Within 48 hours of

boarding, China requires PCR tests at two different government approved clinics.

This is possibly more paperwork of ever needed to boarding a plane.

I say goodbye to Tokyo, my home for the past one and a half years. Checking in at the airport relatively smooth.

I finally have my boarding pass. I'm at the gate. I'm going to China.

Most people on my flight are Chinese citizens. Foreigners can only enter under very limited conditions. It's even harder for American journalist

because of U.S.-China tensions. The flight attendants are in full protective gear.

We are ready for takeoff.


Here we go.

Flights into China, especially Beijing, are extremely limited, even though I'll be based in the capital, first, I'm flying to Yunnan province. After

landing, I get another COVID test. A bus eventually takes us to the quarantine location. No one can choose to where they will be locked in for

the next 21 days.

Hours later, we arrive. I count myself lucky. It's a hot spring resort converted into a quarantine site. It's my first time here, but I'll have to

enjoy the view from the window. I can't step out onto the balcony or open my door, except for health checkups and food pick up. Two temperature

checks the, day regular COVID tests, sometimes even twice a day.

Food delivery isn't allowed. But breakfast, lunch, and dinner are part of the quarantine fees. These restrictions are all part of China's zero COVID


Across China, tens of millions are sealed inside their homes. Since mid- December, China's average new daily case count has searched from double digits to more than 20,000. Any positive case and close contacts has to go

to government quarantine.

Entire metropolises brought to a standstill. Most of Shanghai's 25 million residents have been locked in for weeks, many struggling to get enough

food, and medical care.

In year three of the pandemic, most of the world is learning to live with COVID. But in China, no cases tolerated. No matter the emotional and

economic costs.

Selina Wang, CNN, Kunming, China.


NOBILO: The markets settled on Wall Street to another chunk of change on Friday. U.S. stocks dropped sharply on this last trading day in April, with

the tech-heavy Nasdaq having its worst performance in 14 years. That fell by four points on Friday, dragged down by Amazon that lost more than 14

percent. The Dow dropped about 940 points and the S&P500 shed over 3-1/3 percent, making some investors nervous about the recession.

Well, thank you for watching.

Do stay with CNN. "The World Sport" is up next with the latest on tennis champion Boris Becker's prison sentence. I will see you again on Monday. I

hope you have a very nice weekend.