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The Global Brief with Bianca Nobilo

Aiming for Crimea; Alleged Assassination Plot; Europe Drought. Aired 5-5:30p ET

Aired August 10, 2022 - 17:00   ET



CHRISTINA MACFARLANE, CNN HOST: Hello and welcome. I'm Christina Macfarlane in London. This is THE GLOBAL BRIEF.

Ukraine says its set on retaking Crimea from Russia, a day after a massive explosion rocked the annexed region.

U.S. Justice Department officials charged an Iranian operative in an alleged plot to assassinate John Bolton and Mike Pompeo.

And heat records and a lengthy drought have Europe scorched.

A fierce fighting and heavy shelling of battering towns across Ukraine's east and south. Local officials say Russian shells have killed at least 20

people into eastern towns, but they say their forces also have repelled numerous Russian attacks. At the same time, an explosion has triggered a

huge fire at an oil factory inside Russia, and it's not clear what caused it.

But it follows Monday's deadly explosions that a Russian airbase in Crimea, far from the Ukrainian-held territory. Ukraine has not point

responsibility, but it is raising the speculation about Ukraine's military capabilities.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy moments ago told the country the more Russians that suffer, the sooner the war will end.


VOLODYMYR ZELENSKYY, UKRAINIAN PRESIDENT: The more losses the occupants will have, the sooner we will liberate our land and guarantee the security

of Ukraine. that's what we must think about, everybody needs to think about it. Those who defend our country and those who help, how to inflict as many

losses on the occupants as possible.


MACFARLANE: Well, CNN's David McKenzie is live for us in Kyiv.

And, David, just to that bombing in Crimea, Ukraine have been very coy in their response to this, but if it's true how significant a development is

this in terms of an indication of their military capability?

DAVID MCKENZIE, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Christina, it's very significant, but we must stress that we don't know at this point

whether it was Ukraine, or we can believe the Russian side of the story, which is it was ammunition that was dented needed -- detonated on the

airfield and the western part of Crimea.

But should it turn out it was Ukraine, and it's very significant, it would show that their capability in terms of distance, precision strikes, is a

lot further and a lot more potentially devastating than we expected. So, it's too early to say whether it's a game-changer, but these dramatic

scenes in Crimea certainly point towards a potentially new phase of this war -- Christina.

MACFARLANE: And we heard President Zelenskyy speaking last night about liberating all of Crimea, that includes the Crimean peninsula. How

realistic a goal is that, David? Or does this have more to do with rallying rhetoric to rally Ukrainian troops?

MCKENZIE: I think you touch on an important point, the psychology of this rallying the troops, rallying the population, and in fact, inflicting

psychological doubt on the Russian population is very important. I don't think there's any prospect of Ukraine taking Crimea anytime soon, because

you have this grinding front line that sweeps as an arc from the Northeast through the east into the south of the country that is seeing very intense

shelling over the last 24 hours in particular.

As you described, there has been a significant shelling in the Donbas region. Ukraine officials are saying at least seven people were killed and

what appears to be strikes on civilians, civilian neighborhoods in Bakhmut.

And in the south, you have continuing fighting and shelling close to that nuclear facility, which has sparked so much alarm this week, in the IAEA

head. In fact, speaking to the U.N. council on Thursday, to discuss how dangerous it is to have this fighting and shelling around the site. Scores

of people were killed in that shelling.

More than 80 rockets according to Ukrainian officials were sent across the Dnipro River to what seems to be civilian targets. So, when you hear the

president rallying the country around, striking into Crimea, retaking Crimea, that was taken in 2014, it is a way to uplift the population, but I

think this war has a long way to go before Ukraine can realistically think about those kinds of goals -- Christina.


MACFARLANE: All right, David McKenzie there live for us in Kyiv, thanks very much, David.

Meanwhile, G7 nations are demanding that Russia return full control over captured nuclear power plant to Ukraine. There are growing fears about the

safety of the Russian occupied facility in Zaporizhzhia, with continuing attacks nearby Ukraine and Russia are blaming each other, and now we want

to give you more context on where this facility actually is.

It sits on the Dnipro River, which is just southwest of Zaporizhzhia. You can see it marked on the map just here. It's an area currently controlled

by Russian forces, that is the which you can see on the map here. Now, if we look more closely, you will see Nikopol just here on the right-hand


Now, it's right across the river from the plant. The two different towns on either side of that city were hit by 80 rockets on Tuesday, 13 people were

killed. The head of that region says thousands are without electricity or gas, with shelling directly around the plant and in the area close by. You

can see it's an intense area of activity.

Now for the scale, Zaporizhzhia, as we've been saying, is Europe's largest nuclear facility. It has six reactors. You can see them right up here on

the right-hand side. Obviously, it's got energy to power more than 4 million homes.

Now, putting that into context, Chernobyl has only four reactors. As rockets continue to hit around the site, the U.N. says any attacks on the

plant are, quote, suicidal. In IAEA director general, Rafael Grossi, will brief the U.N. on Thursday on the situation at the plant.

Now, Russia is hoping to add to its ranks of fighters in Ukraine by recruiting from unorthodox places including prisons.

As Nick Paton Walsh reports, the process is as shadowy as it sounds.


NICK PATON WALSH, CNN INTERNATIONAL SECURITY EDITOR (voice-over): The camera is in the unsteady hands of a prisoner, but the appearance is still

startling. Convicts in a southern Russia penitentiary being recruited to fight the Kremlin's war in Ukraine, according to a witness. It's an offer

being made in cramped prisons across Russia.

One prisoner, like many in this murky underworld, it's rare to glimpse inside, wanted his identity hidden as he explained the deal.

PRISONER (through translator): Rapists, pedophiles, extremists, terrorists, are not taken. Murderers are accepted.

WALSH: What are the terms of the contract?

PRISONER (through translator): Amnesty in six months.

WALSH: What kind of money are the promising?

PRISONER (through translator): Somebody talks about 100,000 rubles, somebody about 200,000.

WALSH: Russia's small victories in this war come with huge losses, and after about six months, regular soldiers have been hit hard with up to

60,000 Russian dead or wounded Russian troops say Western officials.

So, now, Russia is making ugly choices in its ugly war, sending convicts to fight. But for this prisoner, with years left on a drug sentence, joining

up, swap certain incarceration for a slim chance of freedom.

PRISONER (through translator): If it's real, then I am all for it. It's either be in prison for nine years, or get out in six months if you are

lucky. But that is if you are lucky.

They can promise one thing, but in fact, everything will be different. This is Russia.

WALSH: Since the start of July, from multiple crowded prisons inside Russia like this one, whose bank cells are shown in an activist video,

inmates have told relatives of an almost identical offer made by apparent military contractors.

Military experience is not essential, and monthly pay can be up to $3,500. A six month tour leads to an amnesty, or pardon. But first, there is

usually two weeks training in southern Russia.

And then often, there is silence, as the prisoners disappear in Russia's gray zone of expendable contractors.

VLADIMIR OSECHKIN, FOUNDER, GULAGU.NET: Now, we have information that they want to recruit about two or 3,000 prisoners. For example, if they will die

in this war, they will pay 5 million rubles to the family of these prisoners. There's no really contract, there is no really -- to protect the

rights or the health or their lives.

WALSH: Sometimes, the offer comes with fanfare. This helicopter flying recruiters to one prison activist said. These are convicts, yes, but they

still face agonizing choices, weighing a shot at freedom against a violent death. One prisoner explained his decision to his brother in these texts.

PRISONER (through translator): I'm going. Don't tell mother either way. It's better that way. Or else, she will worry a lot and react to every

piece of news.

BROTHER (through translator): That's it, we will react to every news. If you tell us where you are, what you are doing, we will be calmer, is at

least we will know where to look.

PRISONER (through translator): Even I don't know that. Everything will be decided on the spot. I do know we are going to the 12th prison, and once

gathered there, to raw stop for two weeks where there is a center and then to the territory.

I'm willing to go. Lots of options, but there is only one. That is why I agree.

WALSH: Another prisoner's sister describes how he almost vanished after receiving the offer.

PRISONER'S SISTER (through translator): There is no definitive proof he is in Ukraine. He rang his mother on the tenth he was in Rostov. And to all of

her questions he replied, mother, I cannot talk.

Before, she was glad he should go, as he would get money, but now when I talk to her she's afraid. All have the same scenario. Their men asked them

to send their passport details so they can get their salaries. And then, there is silence.

What contact there has been has been dark still. Two wives of prisoners sent to the front from one St. Petersburg prison say they have been

contacted and told that their husbands light injured in the hospital in separatist -controlled Luhansk. And a total of ten prisoners from that one

prison alone are now dead or injured.

Another, a mother, has said she has been contacted by an anonymous individual and told she can soon collect her son's wages in cash.

Russia's regard for the norms of war hero, or even prison, long gone.

Nick Paton Walsh, CNN, London.


MACFARLANE: And CNN has reached out to the Russian ministry of defense and the federal penal system and has received no reply.

Now, to an alleged plot to assassinate a pair of top officials in the Trump administration. The plot is said to have targeted former U.S. Secretary of

State Mike Pompeo and former national security adviser John Bolton and had been hatched by an Iranian operative.

And joining me now is Kylie Atwood from Washington.

And, Kylie, these are quite dramatic revelations. What more details do we know?

KYLIE ATWOOD, CNN U.S. SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Yeah. Well, these criminal charges from the Department of Justice really did reveal some stunning

details, saying that this Iranian, who's a member of the IRGC, was offering to pay $300,000 to a person in the United States for the assassination of

John Bolton, the former national security adviser to then-President Trump.

And this plot was hatched beginning in October of 2021. There was back and forth between this Iranian and person, this FBI informant here in the

United States, and the Iranian sent photos, screenshots of John Bolton's office address. And you could see in those screenshots that it said it was

about 10,000 kilometers from the location the screenshots were taken.

That's about the distance between Tehran and Washington, D.C. He also sent images and pictures of bags of money. That was presumably the money that he

would be paying for this murder.

Now, we have heard from John Bolton saying thank you to the secret service. He has been provided secret service protection dating back to late 2021. He

also thanked the FBI, the Department of Justice, and notably, as you were saying, we are also now learning that the former secretary of state, Mike

Pompeo, was also a target of an Iranian assassination plot.

Now, in the documents from the Department of Justice, we learned today there was a second plot that this Iranian was going to attempt to carry

out, offering $1 million for that plot. And according to a source familiar with the matter, close with Pompeo, it was the former secretary of state

who was the focal point of that secondary plot.

So, some pretty incredible details. We should note this Iranian is still at large. He has not been arrested by the U.S. government. And presumably, he

is still in Iran, so it's not expected that he would be put behind bars, but, of course, U.S. officials will watch where he travels from now on.

MACFARLANE: Extraordinary details. What response has there been from Iran to news of these plots?

ATWOOD: Yeah. Well, we just have gotten the response from the Iranian foreign ministry spokesman, saying Iran strongly warrants against any

action against Iranian citizens. Under the pretext that these ridiculous and baseless accusations.


We should also note that the White House national security adviser, Jake Sullivan, came out with a statement today after the Department of Justice

revealed this criminal plot, and he said that if there were any action taken against any U.S. individual, including any former U.S. government

official, there would be severe consequences. So, some pretty damning and threatening language from the national security adviser to President Biden.

MACFARLANE: All right. Kylie Atwood there for us live in Washington, thank you very much, Kylie.

Well, as Kylie mentioned, John Bolton has spoken out against alleged plot, saying this: Well, much cannot be said publicly right now, one point is

indisputable. Iran's rulers are liars, terrorists and enemies of the United States. Iran's nuclear weapons and terrorist activities are two sides at

the same coin, American re-entering the failed 2015 Iran nuclear deal would be a unparalleled self-inflicted wound.

But the U.S. is planning to revive the nuclear deal with Iran. The European Union's foreign policy chief tweeted Monday that the final text agreement

is ready to be signed. A U.S. State Department spokesperson tells CNN that the U.S. is ready to quickly conclude the deal.

Now, just two days after the FBI searched his home in Florida for evidence of a possible federal crime, former U.S. president Donald Trump has been

questioned under oath in a separate state investigation. He appeared for a deposition in New York but declined to give answers, evoking his

constitutional right to remain silent.

Instead, he spoke out on social media, blasting the investigation into alleged fraud and his family business as a witch hunt. New York's attorney

general says evidence suggests that the Trump Organization used false financial statements to obtain loans and take tax benefits.

OK. Coming up on THE GLOBAL BRIEF, startling satellite images show Europe before the summer's intense heat wave and what it looks like now. We'll

show you, next.

Plus, a long and winding and deadly road but not anymore, we'll tell you why animals and drivers are all safer in Bolivia.



MACFARLANE: All right. Welcome back.

Let's take a look at today's international headlines.

Votes are being counted in Kenya's general election. According to preliminary figures, turnout was down nearly 15 percent from 2017.

Opposition leader Raila Odinga and deputy president William Ruto are the front runners for president. If no candidate wins more than 50 percent,

there will be a runoff.

Mexico's president says an investigation is underway into a flooded coal mine. Ten miners have been trapped for a week now. President Andres Manuel

Lopez Obrador says proper procedures were not followed, and he wants to know if the minors bear any responsibility.

Well, police in New Mexico have arrested a 51-year-old man in connection with the killings of four Muslim men. Possible motives of the killing are

still being investigated. Authorities say they found evidence that shows the suspect knew the victims to some extent.

Now, 63 percent, that is how much the EU and UK are under drought conditions according to meteorologists. Now, take a look at this satellite

take a look at this satellite image of the UK and France on Wednesday. Dry vegetation and typically lush green countryside have now been turned brown.

It's a startling contrast from this image, the same region just three months ago.

Let's take a closer look at how the lack of rain and scorching heat waves are impacting the continent.


MACFARLANE (voice-over): Extreme heat that has plagued much of Europe this summer, combined with little rainfall, is causing dangerous drought

conditions. New data from the European Drought Observatory found that 63 percent of the land in European Union, and the UK, is either under draft

warnings, or alerts. That's about the same size as India, and it has farmers worried.

CHRISTIAN DANIAU, PRESIDENT, CHARENTE CHAMBER OF AGRICULTURE: There have been a lot of heat waves, but it's mostly the lack of rain that damages the

crops. We've had other heat waves, we have seen some already, but when they are combined with a lack of rain, then it's catastrophic.

MACFARLANE: The new figures show that 47 percent of the land is under a drought warning, meaning there's a deficit of moisture in the soil. While

17 percent is under more severe alert, meaning the vegetation is stressed. This satellite image of a cloudless Western Europe shows the brown dry

land. Compare that to this image from the month of May.

July was the driest month on record for many parts of the continent. In France, the Loire River was so low it could be crossed on foot in some

places. On this river along the French Swiss border, these tourist boats are not doing any business.

In Spain, one reservoir is 84 percent empty, leaving officials concerned about the region's water supply.

Italy's longest river, River Po, is seeing its worst drought in 70 years.

And in Germany, near record low water levels on the Rhine could have a major impact on energy this winter.

Little flow in the river will affect the output of coal fired power plants, and transporting the coal will become more expensive and difficult since

ships won't be able to carry a full load.

Parts of the river may become impossible for many barges as early as this weekend.

PETER CLAEREBOETS, CAPTAIN AND OWNER, SERVIA (through translator): Normally, you have more than two meters under your ship. Now, we only have

40 centimeters in some places. And for us, the challenge is to get past those points without touching, without damaging the ship.

MACFARLANE: Back-to-back heat waves have caused wildfires to spread more rapidly. This blaze in southwestern France has already destroyed 6,000

hectares of land.

Europe's already seen one of its hottest summers ever. The heat combined with months of very little rainfall also made it one of the driest,

threatening the economy and worrying residents.


MACFARLANE (voice-over): Homes and streets are flooded in South Korea after days of rain. It is the heaviest rain Seoul has seen in 115 years.

Heavy downpours like this submerged streets and buildings leaving at least ten people dead. More rain is expected. Almost 3,000 buildings and homes

have been damaged. Recovery efforts are kicking into high gear now.

Bolivia's infamous death road has now become a new source of life. The World Conservation Society found that animals of all kinds are blocking to

the area since vehicles started going a different and safer way.

Stefano Pozzebon explains.



STEFANO POZZEBON, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Sharp turns, dust and fog, waterfalls and sharp drops of 2,000 feet, a deadly combination for

drivers on the North Yungas Road in Bolivia. But the historic dirt path is better known as death road, properly nicknamed since hundreds and drivers

have died trying to navigate the serpentine road since it opened in 1930. The road connects the capital city of La Paz to the Amazon rainforest in

the northern of the country.

It was open to anyone who dared to drive it, often with merchants packed and trucks and buses to sell their goods in town. The road was not only

dangerous for drivers and passengers, but it disrupted local wildlife, too.

MARIA VISCARRA, BIOLOGIST, WILDLIFE CONSERVATION SOCIETY (through translator): When the deaf road was open, the fauna was heavily affected

by pollution from cars, noise and dust, as the road was used 24 hours a day with heavy vehicle circulated on it.

POZZEBON: In 2007, Bolivia's government opened a new, much safer road nearby. It not only saved human lives, but led to a surge in wildlife

activity in the area.

The Wildlife Conservation Society or WCS set up 35 cameras along the old road and found over a dozen species of mammals and nearly 100 species of

birds. That number is estimated to be even higher, based on these sightings.

Some examples include white-nosed coatis, this black and chestnut eagle, and this tiger.

GUIDO AYALA, BIOLOGIST, WILDLIFE CONSERVATION SOCIETY (through translator): Today, things to work on the new road, heavy vehicles don't use this road.

Biodiversity has come back on the zone. You can see birds such as hummingbirds, toucans, parrots, blue-throated macaws and many more. You can

notice biodiversity return, and it is very nice to see a place so near La Paz, around 50 minutes away. You can come here and enjoy this beautiful


POZZEBON: It's an increasingly greater example of good news for the environment, as the demise of Death Road brings a birth of biodiversity.

Stefano Pozzebon, CNN, Bogota.


MACFARLANE: Some good news to end on there, thankfully.

Thanks for watching. That was THE GLOBAL BRIEF. "WORLD SPORT" is up next.

And next up on "THE SITUATION ROOM", Wolf Blitzer will speak to John Bolton about the alleged assassination plot against him.