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The Global Brief with Bianca Nobilo

Azovstal Plant Siege; Sweden's Move To Join NATO; What's The NI Protocol. Aired 5-5:30p ET

Aired May 16, 2022 - 17:00:00   ET



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

A vague statement from a Ukrainian regiment may suggest that the three- month-long siege at the Azovstal steel plant in Mariupol may be coming to an end.

And historic shift for Sweden. The country confirms that it will apply for NATO membership.

Then, you thought Brexit had gone away. But it's making a comeback, tensions on the Northern Ireland protocol. We'll brief what it is and why

it matters.

We begin with breaking news from Ukraine. The months-long siege of Mariupol may be coming to an end, Russia says the evacuation of wounded Ukrainian

fighters from the Azovstal steel plant is underway. We're just getting these new pitches of buses leaving the plant. They're reportedly headed to

a nearby town, it's under the control of Russian separatists.

In a brief, vague statement, an Azov commander inside the plant says he's implementing orders of Ukraine's top leadership. It's unclear if that means

all the fighters are moving out. The plant was the last bastion of resistance in a key Donbas port.

It's a much different scene in northeastern Ukraine though. This video shows government troops celebrating a dramatic advance near Kharkiv. They

say they've reached the Russian border, telling President Volodymyr Zelenskyy in this video message, quote, we made it.

Our Sam Kiley is live in Kramatorsk, Ukraine.

Sam, we are getting these vague reports, and a message from the Azov military regiment, what's your interpretation of what we know so far?

SAM KILEY, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, I think we need to be fairly cautious here because it is such an extraordinary kind of

historical moment, this incredible defense of Mariupol and then the Azovstal steel works by in the end, we're about 1,000 soldiers, now down to

a few hundred. Some of them very badly wounded.

Now, we do know that there has been some kind of evacuation, some of the more seriously wounded in the hands effectively of the Russians,

negotiated, it would appear with the agreement on the Ukrainian government, even that has been difficult to establish.

We've been trying to make contact with senior Ukrainian officials on this matter all day. CNN researchers and correspondence across the board and

nobody is talking. So, clearly something is afoot.

Then they got this cryptic message from one of the leaders of the Azovstal hold out unit themselves, and they are predominantly Azov regiment, but

also some Ukrainian marines. They are saying that they are implementing the orders as you are saying in the intro their, Bianca, of the top echelons.

But again, we don't know exactly what those orders we have reporting from the Reuters news agency saying that some buses are being seen carrying at

least wounded soldiers, it's not clear what's state others maybe up into the Russian held territory. But we are standing by across the nation here

in Ukraine for statements that's expected from President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, possibly even in this hour -- Bianca.

NOBILO: And, Sam, Severodonetsk isn't far from where you are, it's a key target for the Russians, what can you tell us about the latest on these

eastern defensive?

KILEY: Well, yes it's a key target it's the other side of the Donetsk River, the river that's being used ultimately by Ukraine as a natural line

of defense against any attempt by Russia to breakthrough. So far they've been successfully forcing them back, indeed they've got them on the back

further around Kharkiv, in your introduction there.

But this is -- really, you mentioned targeting in your question. It's all about targeting. One of the issues here is that there are a large numbers

of pro-Russian spies on the ground here feeding that kind of information, detailed information about targeting and the success otherwise of Russian

strikes against Ukrainian sites.

And that's causing considerable problems as we discover on a recent raid with the Ukrainian secret police.


KILEY: This is the former headquarters of the SBU, that's the secret police effectively of Ukraine. Now it was hit right at the beginning of the

war with an airstrike, clearly from the Russian perspective this is an immediate as necessity to knock out the SBU's capacity here in Kramatorsk,

because it is from this location that the counter intelligence operation would've been run.


We've been working for him for about four days. We have a complete picture of his actions, said Sergei.

This is Ukraine's most secretive force, the equivalent of the FBI, and then some. Sergei says, we have identified a person who according to our

intelligence is committing a crime. Simply put, this is a person who transmits to the Russian side, the Russian military, information about the

location of our units. Their snatched team with orders to grab an alleged Russian spy.

The SBU says the spies been fed a stream of information on troop movements and details of targets to Russia's aircraft and artillery. In this region,

the SBU says it catches one or two agents run by Russia every day.

And today's suspect is being watched. There he goes, having a smoke. All units, green plants, black sweatshirts, 1,000. Special forces sweep it,

resistance -- two Ukrainians are asked to witness the interrogation, with our camera present protocols are followed to the letter. He's told why he's

arrested for high treason during martial law, confesses on the spot to spying.

He says that he was allegedly reputed online, gets orders by messaging app by someone called Nikolai. The suspect says they got about $10 for his

alleged buying, which included the locations of Ukrainian military units in the town. According to an alleged exchange between him and his handler, the

suspect was arrested in mid mission.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (translated): I'll need your help for the same thing tomorrow. Stay in touch. We'll need information on military housing. More

details in the morning.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (translated): Got it, got it.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (translated): Good day. You did a good job yesterday. The same information is needed today. Photos, videos, geo-data of the

military on the CNIL. How long does it take to get the information?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (translated): And here I was walking. Right there you went to get that information, didn't you?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (translated): Got it, got it. I will text you back. one and a half to two hours.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (translated): That was today, wasn't it? At 11:29?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (translated): Approximately, I didn't watch the time.

KILEY: There's no death penalty for traitors here, but as he's driven through these gates, he'll know that if tried and convicted, he could spend

a lifetime behind bars.

Sergei's hometown is under constant Russian bombardment. So, for him, this is no small victory.

Russia is hitting us with missiles, rockets, and air raids. These missiles hit the coordinates which are transmitted by these criminals. People die in

these attacks, soldiers and civilians.

But he adds, the more atrocities the Russians commit, the harder it's getting for the Kremlin to recruit local spies.


KILEY: Now, Bianca, obviously, after what we've seen in Mariupol, in Kharkiv, here in Kramatorsk, Slavyansk, Severodonetsk, these are all city

with Russian majority speakers, people who speak Russian as a mother tongue, the people that Vladimir Putin thought would be his natural

supporters and constituents, but the level of violence that he has visited upon this region I think has turned the overwhelming majority even of those

who might have been pro-Russian in the past, firmly against this Russian incursion and against the Putin regime, Bianca.

NOBILO: Sam Kiley in Kramatorsk, thank you so much.

Now, war crimes investigation has been open in the Ukrainian region of Chernihiv, in light of a truly horrifying case there. A man says that he

and his two brothers were buried alive, and shot by Russian soldiers in March. Around the same time as the onslaught you could see where. He's the

only one of the brothers that has survived, he's been speaking to CNN about the horrendous ordeal.

Melissa Bell has his story.


MELISSA BELL, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): This is where Mykola Kulichenko was buried alive. The blindfold, he says he and his two

brothers were made to wear by Russian soldiers, still strewn by their shallow grave.

Mykola shows us where the bullet entered the cheek. His brother, Yevhen and Dmytro, were killed. But he managed to escape their tomb.

I had to live to tell the story, not to Ukrainians, but to the world, he says.

The regional prosecutor's office says a war crimes investigation has been opened.


This is Mykola's house where he lived with his two brothers along with their sister. On March 18th, he says, Russian soldiers came to the vigil

looking for a man they believed were responsible for an attack on one other convoys. And that is when the family's nightmare began.

Three soldiers entered the house, looking for anything that might link the brothers to the attack on the convoy. They found nothing, but what they did

find was something to link the families to the military, in the shape of their grandfather's military medal.

They also found Yevhen's military bag, since as a reservist in the Ukrainian army, he was preparing to go and fight.

For four days, their sister Iryna, heard nothing from her brothers, until Mykola came back from the dead.

I came home, and there was Mykola, I looked at his eyes and asked where the others. He said there are no others.

Mykola says that after being taken from their home, the three brothers were blindfolded and interrogated in a cellar for four days. They were then

beaten and taken to the site of their execution. Two months on, he still struggles to speak.

What do I think of the Russians? I hate them, with all my soul. They are animals. They should burn in hell.

It was only after the Russian withdrawal that a month after their execution, Yevgeny and Dmytro were given a proper burial, a tombstone and

the peace that Mykola has been denied.

Melissa Bell, CNN, Chernihiv region.


NOBILO: A groundswell of support is following Sweden's announcement Monday that it will join Finland in applying for NATO membership. Norway, Denmark,

Iceland, France, the UK and the Baltic countries all say the day back the bids. Sweden's prime minister says that she has no doubt that Russia will

try to intimidate the country, says that Sweden's allies will push back, shoulder to shoulder.


MAGDALENA ANDERSSON, SWEDISH PRIME MINISTER: Sweden will be very exposed from the time of applications being handled, Russia has said that will

undertake counter measures if we join NATO. We can't rule out that Sweden will be the subject of disinformation, and attempts that scaring in

dividing us. But it's also clear that Sweden doesn't stand-alone.


NOBILO: But NATO member, Turkey says it might oppose Sweden and Norway's NATO bids, and accuses both country of hosting Kurdish terror


The leaders of the Collective Security Treaty Organization also known as the CSTO, met on Monday in Moscow to mark 20 years since the organization

was founded in 2002. The meeting was attended by the leaders of Russia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Tajikistan, and Armenia.

Let's take a look at what's merged from this summit. Russian President Vladimir Putin told that same meeting that he does not directly view Sweden

and Finland's bids to join NATO as a threat. He warned that Russia would respond if NATO starts placing military hardware in those countries.

Belarus is accusing Western nations of waging a full scale hybrid war against it and Russia. Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko accused

NATO of saber-rattling and said that the West is trying to prolong the war in Ukraine to weaken Russia.

After more than three decades, McDonald's is leaving Russia. The fast food giant announced Monday that doing business in the country, no longer

matches its values, due to humanitarian crisis created by the war in Ukraine. The burger chain has more than 800 locations across Russia.

And coming up on THE GLOBAL BRIEF, Brexit in the past, but still causing political turmoil in Northern Ireland. We'll take a deep dive into the


And one of the world's most wanted man, speaks to CNN, our exclusive with the deputy leader of the Taliban.


NOBILO: The British prime minister is trying to ease political tensions in Northern Ireland, Boris Johnson visited Belfast on Monday to urge the

region's political party to come together and form a power sharing government. The divide is deep, and not easily bridged, a conflict centers

around the Northern Island protocol, an unpopular Brexit permission.

For all the disruption of Brexit, arguably, the thorniest challenge at least debated beforehand was its effect on the island of Ireland. Northern

Ireland portable came into effect in 2020 to try and address some of these difficulties. It had to two key objectives.

Number one, protecting the EU single market, which follows the free movement of people, goods, services and capital. But because, Northern

Ireland, is part of the UK, separated by the Irish sea, and republic of Ireland is probably part of the EU. So, this is now the only land border

between the UK and the EU.

The second thing was avoiding a hard border on the island of Ireland, the border checks were an important part of the peace process in recent

decades, there are fears that the restoration of a border here would have an incendiary effect by tensions by the unionist, who want Northern Ireland

part of the UK, and Republicans who want unity with the republic of Ireland. Plus, they had to find a way to mitigate the economic and social

impact on people and businesses which move across this border frequently.

So, the way to square the circle ended up being customs and regulatory checks on the movement of goods between Great Britain and Northern Ireland,

effectively creating a border in the Irish Sea, which has infuriated unionists.

So why does this matter? Northern island executive is in deadlock because of it. Unionist parties are refusing to re-enter government until major

changes are made to this protocol. Because this assembly is parked on power sharing, there must be both a nationalist representative, and unionists,

and one cannot be empowered without the other.

So, UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson, there he is, says that he wants to get the government there back up and running, He's also arguing that

circumstances I've trained dramatically since the protocol or agree, namely the pandemic, and a European war worsening the cost of living crisis. So

he's threatening to override the protocol, to make changes that are palatable his government, and unionist parties in Northern Ireland. He said

that he'll do that unilaterally saying the U.K. would have a necessity to act, if a compromise can't be found with the EU.

But the EU has made it clear that unilateral action would be a breach of international law, which is generally not a good look for had a state.


And the EU has warned that taking that step can spell a trade war and/or legal challenges. And Sinn Fein, now the largest party in Northern Ireland

assembly, has warned that the prime minister tearing up the protocol will destabilize Ireland.

Now, to a CNN exclusive, now that the FBI's most wanted man, he's never done an interview showing his face before, certainly not with the Western

news organization, and certainly never with a woman. Yet, the Taliban has been pushing a new image since it took over in Afghanistan last year, and

its deputy leader, Sirajuddin Haqqani, sat down with our Christiane Amanpour to discuss the group's ambition now, starting with the critical

issue of girls education.


CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CNN CHIEF INTERNATIONAL ANCHOR: Do you believe, that young girls secondary school girls, will be allowed to go to school here in


SIRAJUDDIN HAQQANI, AFGHAN ACTING INTERIOR MINISTER (through translator): I would like to provide some clarification, there is no one who opposes

education for women, and already girls are allowed to go to school up to grade six, and above that grade, the work continuing on a mechanic. You may

have heard that this is not opposed to the level of leadership, or the cabinet. But the issue has been postponed until further notice.

In the declaration provided by the ministry of education, there were some shortcoming within the preparation that were ongoing. Work is the ongoing

on those issues. Through this interviews and news channel, I am assuring that there is no one opposed to education, only that war has started on the


AMANPOUR: Could you tell us when you think that will happen? I know there's been a big meeting in Kandahar with your supreme leader, Mr.

Akhundzada, can you tell me whether any decisions were made over this past few days?

HAQQANI: What I'm saying to you, is that very soon you will hear very good news about this issue, God willing. We will specify the time, on the

arrangement that has been provided by the leadership, work is ongoing on that and you will hear very good news soon.


NOBILO: Haqqani also addressed the Taliban's ambitions on the global stage, saying he does not consider the U.S. and other members of the

international community adversaries, as a matter of principle.


HAQQANI: In the future, we would like to have good relations with the United States and international community based on rules and principles

that exist in the rest of the world. And based on that arrangement, we have made commitment with them, and currently, we do not look at them as


But based on their conduct, the Afghans have reservations about their intentions. From our side, the freedom of the country is struggling for the

country's defense is a legitimate right, in accordance with the international rules.

Currently, we do not look at them as enemies, and we have time and again, spoken about diplomacy. We are committed to the Doha agreement. Like the

rest of the world, we want relations with them.


NOBILO: Lebanon is counting votes after a parliamentary Alaskan on Sunday, its first since the country's economic collapse. Iran-backed Hezbollah and

its allies could lose their majority, which analysts say could lead to political deadlock. That could mean further delay in reforms that are

needed to address the country's economic crisis, which is worsened since that port explosion that rocked Beirut in 2020.

CNN's Ben Wedeman has more from Beirut.


BEN WEDEMAN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Initially, there was skepticism with Lebanon's 2022 parliamentary elections would result in

significant changes, but it appears perhaps there might be. Several candidates affiliated with the October uprising, calling for fundamental

political change in this country, have won seats.

Now, the final results aren't in, but they could win as many as a dozen seats far more than anyone expected, and if you go back to compare this

with 2018 parliamentary elections, only one independent candidate won a seat.


Also significantly, a pro-Syrian candidate and southern Lebanon affiliated with Hezbollah has been unseated by an independent candidate. That's an

area where Hezbollah normally is very strong, also significantly, several pro-Syrian members of parliament including the powerful deputy speaker of

parliament, have lost their seats.

Another important change, the vehemently anti-Hezbollah Lebanese forces led by Samir Geagea, have now become the largest Christian block in the

Lebanese parliament, replacing the free patriotic movement affiliated with President Michel Auon, and also affiliated with Hezbollah.

Now, there have been a irregularities in this election, violence between some of the supporters of various candidates, and one box full of ballots

from abroad, has disappeared and there are cell phone video circulating of Hezbollah supporters stuffing ballots.

Now, these big changes, it appears, have come out of this election are largely the result of the collapse of the Lebanese autonomy. Four out of

five people here now live in poverty. The GDP is less than half of what it was three years ago, and the Lebanese leader has lost more than 90 percent

of its value.

Now comes the hard part, forming a government, after the 2018 elections, Prime Minister designate Saad Hariri took nine months to form a government.

Under these new circumstances, it may be even more difficult.

I'm Ben Wedeman, CNN, reporting from Beirut.


NOBILO: We leave you with something that wowed stargazers around the world overnight. This year's first total lunar eclipse created a super blood

moon. This is what it looked like from the southern coast of Spain, with the sun, the moon, and earth aligned the moon took on a red glow as it

passed through the shadow of the Earth.

Well, thank you for watching. I will see you again tomorrow.