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The Global Brief with Bianca Nobilo

Azovstal Steel Plant Evacuated; Hunger Ion Afghanistan; UK's Proposed New Law. Aired 5-5:30p ET

Aired May 17, 2022 - 17:00:00   ET



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

The assault on the Ukrainian city of Mariupol appears to be coming to an end, as hundreds of soldiers have been evacuated from the besieged Azovstal

steel plant.

And nine months after Taliban takeover in Afghanistan, 95 percent of the population doesn't have enough to eat.

Then, the British foreign secretary has proposed a new law that could break the political deadlock in Northern Ireland. Perhaps it's one that could

create a lot more problems with the European Union. We'll debrief.

We begin with what could be a new chapter for the war in Ukraine, as the strategic city of Mariupol effectively comes to an end. Ukraine is now

working to clear the remaining -- from their Azovstal steel plant and is hailing them as heroes.


HANNA MALYAR, UKRAINIAN DEPUTY DEFENSE MINISTER (through translator): Thanks to the defense put out by the Mariupol defenders, the enemy was

prevented by the redeployment of its groups. These are approximately 20,000 personnel. The enemy was not able to redeploy them into other regions. And

thus, it was unsuccessful in rapid taking of Zaporizhzhia.


NOBILO: More on that shortly. It comes as it appears Russia may be extending its range of attacks elsewhere in the east. Ukraine says the town

of Donetsk, that serves as a Ukrainian hub, was hit by a missile. However, in Kharkiv, there are signs that keep is making gains.

Ukraine says forces are advancing on Russian positions, including a border town used to resupply troops. And talks between Moscow and Kyiv have again

stalled. The Kremlin says that Ukraine withdraw discussions while Kyiv is blaming Russia for its, quote, stereotypical mindset.

Sam Kiley is in Kramatorsk for us.

Sam, as Ukrainian troops push the Russian army back in Kharkiv, the focus was on the east, where you are, as the main theater for potential Russian

advance. Now, some Western officials, including the deputy general of NATO, are saying that Russia is losing momentum there. Is that your assessment as


SAM KILEY, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: I think the short answer to that is, yes and no. So, today, for example, there was this

thrust from Popasna towards the town of Bakhmut and local commanders on the ground said that there was a ferocious tank battle, one of the few that

have been seen in this conflict, on the outskirts of Bakhmut, with a factory struck there. At least one person was killed in a missile attack on

Bakhmut. That is the headquarters of the moment for that area and the northeast of this enclave, effectively, which is now a large piece of chunk

of territory still in government hands that the Russians want to get their hands on themselves.

But if you go further north from there, towards the Severodonetsk, where I was this morning, there has been a considerable win by Ukraine, forcing the

Russians back across the Donetsk river after their attempted pontoon crossing early on in the week. Now, there have been a lot of coverage of

this from remote control -- using drone footage, supplied by the Ukrainians. But this is the first report that's actually been delivered

from the ground we, the scene that unfolded there -- Bianca.


KILEY (voice-over): The first signs of a Russian disaster, a Russian tank being salvaged by Ukrainian troops. A few days ago, this was the scene on

the edge of these woods. Russian pontoon bridges under ferocious Ukrainian artillery attack.

The Ukrainian commander with us cast an eye to the sky, looking for Russian drones. This is no place for complacency.

Ukraine and NATO have claimed that Russia suffered badly here. They estimate 70 to 80 vehicles destroyed and a whole Russian battle groups of

1,000 men mold.

So, we're at the edge of the area where the Russian army was caught across the pontoon river. You can see, down here, there's a destroyed tank next to

it an armored personnel carrier. If we look down the road here, got another armored personnel carrier, and another, and another.

The Ukrainians were able, they say, in due to their superior reconnaissance and intelligence, to work out where the Russians were going to cross and

bring in devastating levels of artillery.


This is the result. This is only the edge of it.

Russia has now shifted its tanks elsewhere, at least for now. When you see this, how do you feel?

UNIDENTIFIED UKRAINIAN SOLDIER (through translator): Great. I understand that our artillery is working, our troops are working to because there is

both artillery and ground fighting. The units in cooperation with other troops were pushing the enemy across the river on foot.

KILEY: Shattered Russian armor is scattered across this path through the woodland. But on the ground, we can't move forward. The track is mind.

A real disaster for the Russians. Something Ukrainians now say means the pressure is off this particular front for now. And that they believe the

Russians are focusing more of their efforts elsewhere.

Ukrainian soldiers pick over the debris of this victory. The chilling truth is that many of their comrades have ended up like this.

And while this is a success in the grinding war for Ukraine, Russia remains an immediate threat.

They've asked us to get out of here, with their military commander, because they are worried our cars will attract attention and attract the incoming -

- this is an extremely active area. One, as it was for the Russians, that a considerable relief to leave.


KILEY (on camera): Now, Bianca, the Russians have been probing, really, trying to force their way through an arc at the front line from west of

Sloviansk, all the way to Severodonetsk, to the river crossing where I was reporting from there. And now, they had a go from the extreme east, almost

directly east west direction.

They should be doing better, given that the relief of Mariupol, from their perspective, has released a large amount of troops for them to augment the

pre-existing forces they had here. But we haven't seen any significant breakthrough by the Russians in over three weeks here -- Bianca.

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

And Ukraine is hoping to secure a prisoner swap for those fighters leaving the steel plant in Mariupol. We haven't heard any specific agreement, nor

do we know how many fighters may still be trapped inside. Both government troops and Azov regiment fighters were among the last remaining defenders.

Russia says it will interrogate those who surrendered. And today, lawmakers in Moscow, debated whether to ban prisoner exchanges that include as of

fighters, who Russia accuses of being neo-Nazis.

Listen to the speaker of the Russian Duma.


VYACHESLAV VOLODIN, RUSSIAN STATE DUMA SPEAKER (through translator): Nazi criminals should not be eligible for exchange. They are war criminals. We

should do everything we can so they are put before our court.


NOBILO: Ukraine says the Mariupol defenders a changed the course of the war by holding up Russians and preventing redeployment. It came at great

personal cost.

Melissa Bell reminds us of the dire conditions that the fires in short for weeks underground.


MELISSA BELL, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): It's images have become iconic, its fighters symbols of Ukrainian resistance. Until the

surrender of Azovstal, with the wounded scene here on images released by Russia's defense ministry, fighters, now prisoners of war, evacuated in

their hundreds, since Monday, from the site. A victory for Russia, but a source of hope also for the families of soldiers themselves.

Tatyana does not know if her husband is amongst those evacuated so far, but she and her daughter Lira have gone food shopping just in case, after

hearing about the news on TV. Since then, they've received a text that's given them heart.

He wrote: Girls I love you. Yes you. I may be offline for a while. Everything will be fine.

The sprawling Soviet area steel plant have become a refuge as when Mariupol was razed to the ground, back in March. The evacuation of civilians that

had sought shelter there began on May 1st, leaving hundreds of soldiers inside, under frequent attack, and with dwindling supplies of both food and


Their families had called for foreign mediation by Turkey or China to try and secure their release. Some of their wives meeting with the pope to try

to get attention to their plight.

DMYTRO KULEBA, UKRAINIAN FOREIGN MINISTER: The bleeding wound in the battle for Donbas is Mariupol. Azovstal is a stronghold, the last

stronghold of Ukrainian resistance.

BELL: That resistance now ending in a surrender, with the fate of the fighters now hanging in the balance.

VOLODYMYR ZELENSKYY, UKRAINIAN PRESIDENT: Ukraine needs Ukrainian heroes alive, to bring the boys home, the work continues.


And this work needs delicacy and time.

BELL: Along the embodiment of Ukrainian resistance, Azovstal now an important test of Russia's goodwill.

Melissa Bell, CNN, Kyiv.


NOBILO: And on Russian television, a rare and candid admission that the war against Ukraine is not going well. A prominent former Russian colonel

says Russia's offensive is bound to get worse, and he adds that Ukraine can raise million soldiers armed with foreign weapons and that any reports that

the Ukrainian military is breaking down are flat out wrong.


MIKHAIL KHODARENOK, FORMER COLONEL, RUSSIAN ARMED FORCES: I must say, let's not drink information tranquilizers because sometimes, information is

spread about hearing some morale or psychological breakdown of Ukraine's armed forces, as if they are nearing a crisis of morale or fracture. None

of this is close to reality.


NOBILO: Coming up after the break, a dire humanitarian crisis in Afghanistan, with most of the country not getting enough to eat. CNN looks

at the desperate conditions on the ground next.

And if the UK the government wants to change a key Brexit provision without the EU approval. What they are proposing and how Europe is responding,

coming up next.


NOBILO: It's been nine months since the Taliban takeover in Afghanistan. Since then, life almost has become a daily struggle against poverty, as the

country faces an economic crisis. Human Rights Watch says that 95 percent of the population doesn't have enough to eat. And 9 million are on the

brink of famine-like conditions.

Christian Amanpour shows us the desperation that's causing.


CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CNN CHIEF INTERNATIONAL ANCHOR (voice-over): Under a scorching sun, standing patiently for hours in organized lines, hundreds of

newly poor Afghans wait for their monthly handout, men on one side, women on the other.


Here, the U.N.'s World Food Programme is delivering cash assistance, the equivalent of $43 per family.

Khalid Ahmadzai is the coordinator. He says he's seen the need explode. And right from the start, the stories are dire.

KHALID AHMADZAI, WORLD FOOD PROGRAM: A few days ago, one woman came to me, and she told me that: I want to give you my son by 16,000 Afghani. Just

give me the Afghani. And he was -- she was really crying. And that was the worst feeling that I had in my life.

AMANPOUR: Are you serious?

AHMADZAI: Yes, this is a serious thing that we had a distribution at the first day. So, the hunger is too much high here.

AMANPOUR: You know, we have heard those stories, but I have never heard it from somebody who's actually seen it.

AHMADZAI: Yes. Yes. Yes, I have seen it. It's too much bad. And it hurts me a lot.

AMANPOUR: Everyone we met is hurting. According to the International Rescue Committee, almost half the population of Afghanistan lives on less

than one meal a day. And the U.N. says nearly nine million people risk famine-like conditions.

Fereshtah has five kids.

And how many meals per day can you eat?

When you don't have money, she tells us, when you don't have a job, you don't have income. Would you be able to eat proper food when there's no


Khatima is a widow.

They should let us work because we have to become the men of the family, so we can find bread for the children. None of my six kids have shoes. And

with 3,000 Afghanis, what will I be able to do in six months' time?

You just want work.

I have to work, she says.

At this WFP distribution site in Kabul, you do see women working and women mostly with their faces uncovered. Outside, Taliban slogans plastered over

the blast walls tout victory over the Americans and claim to be of the people, for the people.

But while security has improved since they took over, the country is facing economic collapse.

And that shows up all over the tiny bodies we see at the Indira Gandhi Children's Hospital. It's the biggest in Afghanistan, now heaving under the

extra weight.

Dr. Mohammad Yaqob Sharafat tells us that 20 to 30 percent of the babies in this neonatal ward are malnourished. Suddenly, he rushes to the side of one

who stopped breathing. For five minutes, we watched him pump his heart, until he comes back to life, but for how long? Even in the womb, the deck

stacked against them.

DR. MOHAMMAD YAQOB SHARAFAT, INDIRA GANDHI CHILDREN'S HOSPITAL: From one side, the mothers are not getting well nutritions.

AMANPOUR: Wow. So it's a triple whammy. The mothers aren't nourished enough.


AMANPOUR: The economy is bad.


AMANPOUR: They have too many children.

SHARAFAT: Children.

AMANPOUR: And they're overworking themselves.

SHARAFAT: So, all these factors together make the situations to they give birth premature babies.

AMANPOUR: Because they're under sanctions, the Taliban are struggling to pay salaries. So the International Committee of the Red Cross pays all the

doctors and nurses at this hospital and at 32 others across the country. That's about 10,000 health workers in all.

Look at this child. He's 2.5 years old.

His name is Mohammed. He's malnourished.

How much food is she able to give her child at home? Why does he look like this?

His mother says she's had nothing but breast milk to feed him, but now can't afford enough to eat to keep producing even that.

It's the same for Shazia. Her seven-month-old baby has severe pneumonia, but at least she gets fed here at the hospital, so that she can breast-feed

her daughter.

Back home, we don't have this kind of food, unfortunately, she says. If we have food for lunch, we don't have anything for dinner.

While we're here, the electricity has gone out.

It happens all the time, the director tells us.

We watch a doctor carry on by the light of a mobile phone, until the electricity comes back. We end this day in the tiniest dwellings amongst

the poorest of Kabul's poor.

Waliullah and Basmina have six children. While she prepares their meal of eggs, two small bowls of beans and two flatbreads, the 8 and 10-year-old

are out scavenging wastepaper to sell and polishing shoes. It's their only income, since Waliullah injured his back and can no longer work as a


He tells us their 10-month-old baby is malnourished.

I always worry and stress about this, says Basmina.


But she tells her kids: God will be kind to us one day.

Christiane Amanpour, CNN, Kabul, Afghanistan.


NOBILO: In Lebanon, official results show that voters in the struggling country have broken Hezbollah's coalition majority in parliament. And

reformist groups picked up 10 percent of the seats. The election is the first since the economy collapsed and swept the country after the port

explosion killed more than 200 people, in 2020.

The British government is proposing a new law to change the Northern Ireland protocol. That's the controversial Brexit provision that keeps a

territory inside an EU trade zone, avoiding a hard border with Ireland, which I explain to you last night. The U.K. foreign secretary says the

protocol is not working and it needs to be fixed.


LIZ TRUSS, BRITISH FOREIGN SECRETARY: That they will ensure that goods leaving and staying within the UK are freed of unnecessary bureaucracy

through our new green channel. At the same time, it ensures that goods destined for the EU undergo the full checks and controls applied under EU



NOBILO: But the European Union is not happy about the prospect of the move, to say the least. The president says that if the UK decides to move

ahead with that legislation, they will respond with, quote, all measures at its disposal. One British lawmakers urging Boris Johnson to avoid needless


Bob Neill is a conservative MP and chair of the Commons' justice committee. And he joins me now from London.

Welcome to the program, sir.


NOBILO: Could you explain to our viewers what it is about the existing Northern Ireland protocol that the prime minister believes is currently

damaging for those in Great Britain and Northern Ireland?

NEILL: I think the difficulty is this. The protocol was intended to ensure that the delicate balance you had, where Britain left the EU, but the

Republic remained in was dealt in such way that there could be trade between the UK and Northern Ireland but -- and trade between the Republic

of Ireland and Northern Ireland, but in such a way as (INAUDIBLE) the rules of the EU single market. That's a fair enough concept.

I think the problem has been (INAUDIBLE) people on all sides of the house they accept that there are practical problems to its working. Some of the

rules are based on EU laws, which they -- were 10:20 years in some cases. So, before you had digitized systems of recording things, that were

designed for containers of shipping, rather than lorry loads going across on a car ferry from the UK mainland and Northern Ireland and vice versa.

So, there are practical problems. The issue is we how do we resolve that? That's connected with the situation in Northern Ireland, with the current

stalemate in the assembly. Of course, but functioning democracy in Northern Ireland, a functioning executive is important for the Good Friday


That's the final is should say in that regard, when they sign up to the corporation agreement, and protocol, that specifically says, in its first

clause, that the protocol operates without prejudice to the Good Friday agreement. So, the Good Friday trade agreement, legally, trumps the

protocol, should there be conflict. The issue is, are we in that situation? If so, what is the right way to resolve it?

NOBILO: Well, yes, exactly. Are we in that situation? If you listen to the foreign secretary and prime in surfside as these issues, they revolve round

things like British sausages, chilled meats, veterinary checks, yes, issues like wanting to be able to cut VAT because of the cost of living crisis.

But do you think the idea of potentially breaching international law because of those things is quite a disproportionate and inflammatory

responses to the practical issues at hand you are describing?

NEILL: Well, I'm always reluctant to do anything unilateral. I'm sitting in the House today. Britain, like the U.S., like any advanced democracy,

ought to cherish its democracy a keepers of the international law very dearly. There are practical problems, there's no getting away from that.

There have been about six months of negotiations between the UK and the EU. (INAUDIBLE) has interacted very constructively with the former secretary.

His negotiation mandate is limited.

I hope that the commission will reflect, negotiating mandate, give him more scope, that compromises on both sides. It is against the backdrop of a

situation where Northern Ireland's devolved executive and assembly has not functioned effectively for months now.


That of itself falls foul of the Good Friday agreement. So, it's trying to balance those moving parts that we're trying to get right.

NOBILO: Do you think the optics in charge of potentially breaching international law would actually deter this prime minister? Especially at a

moment where, and I'm not saying they are all commensurate, all comparable, but when Britain is playing a leading role in the international stage in

supporting Ukraine and condemning, rightly so, President Putin for breaking all these international laws, it surely undermines Britain's position if

the prime minister is then accused of breaking international law himself.

NEILL: Well, as you rightly say, there isn't the remotest comparability, of course.


NEILL: But the principle that we should stick to agreements which we signed up to is, of course, always right one. There can be circumstances

where the practical agreement is not as we wished. As a lawyer, I was getting the parties to negotiate. Sometimes you have to negotiate really

vigorously. I can think of circumstances where to might be that if an inability to come to an agreement as to how the protocols should be

reformed, and it was always in these issues from the text of the protocol, it wasn't always a accepted, the protocol was going to reform and wasn't

the final word on these matters.

If that could be reformed and if it, unclear evidence, was getting in the way of the operation of the Good Friday agreement, which is critical, we

all agree, for the maintenance peace and prosperity and good order in Northern Ireland, its good relationship with the republic, if that were to

be threatened, there are certain circumstances, a case in international law of necessity might be made. I don't think we're anywhere near that yet.

And in fairness, the government seems to make -- resolve an insurance policy -- but legislation. I called the legislation to be published at

earliest sensible stage without inflaming the position so that we can test it against the evidence of what problems are, and against the legal advice

(INAUDIBLE), the foreign secretary, in fairness, repeatedly said we want to get a negotiation situation. That's what I've urged them to do. But that

talk of goodwill, that's still the chief of all.

NOBILO: Sir Bob Neill, British conservative MP, thank you so much for joining us this evening. We appreciate you.

NEILL: Pleasure.

NOBILO: And thank you for watching. Do stay with CNN for political coverage coming up. I will see you again tomorrow.