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The Global Brief with Bianca Nobilo

Ukrainian Nuclear Plant Briefly Disconnected From Power Grid; Airstrikes In Syria; California Gas-Guzzler Plan. Aired 5-5:30p ET

Aired August 25, 2022 - 17:00   ET



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

Worries over the power supply in Ukraine's nuclear power plant after a line is disconnected twice on Thursday.

The U.S. says it's targeting militants inside Syria after multiple rocket attacks. Why that battlefield is heating up.

And we debrief on California's plan to ban the sale of new gas-powered cars by 2035.

Now, the head of the International Atomic Energy Agency says the world can't afford to lose any more time, as the risks increase for potential

nuclear catastrophe in Ukraine. Rafael Grossi he says he is determined to personally lead the mission to the Zaporizhzhia region nuclear power plant

next few days.

The plant was severed from Ukraine's national power grid on Thursday, for the first time ever. Ukraine says that Russian attacks triggered fires that

twice disconnected the last operating power line. Russia blames the fires on Ukrainian shelling. The IAEA says the power supply from the Russian

occupied plant has now been restored.

Let's get more now from CNN's Sam Kiley, who's live in Kyiv.

Sam, officials where you are say that the last two working reactors at the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant were disconnected from the main power

supply, and then restored. Can you explain why that is dangerous and how this plant is being weaponized?

SAM KILEY, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, the danger is that the nuclear reactors don't get their cooling systems, that they don't

get cooling systems, then they have a meltdown. They rely on these cooling systems with incoming power from the Ukrainian national grid. There were

four lines, that were destroyed in earlier fighting and twice today, that fourth line was cut. Now, the Russians say it would cut as a result of a

short circuit. The Ukrainians are saying, it was cut as a result of Russian shelling in and around the plant.

Either way, the danger is that the plant, which did go into its emergency procedures, meaning it fired up its diesel generators to keep these

reactors cool. If those diesel generators fail, they don't have diesel, or they were broken as a result of military action, then there could be a

meltdown on the scales scene in Chernobyl. And it's for that reason that the international community and today, President Zelenskyy, once again

called for intervention there to demilitarize the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power station.

But it's not the only threat that's active there. There were also trucks parked inside the turbine hall there, and we recently spoke to the head of

the Ukrainian Atomic Agency -- Nuclear Atomic Agency, and he said, he warned of the dangers that poses. Take a look at what unfolded there.


KILEY (voice-over): A fireman test for radioactive fallout. It's an essential ritual repeated several times a day. It's safe for now.

But the war and the shelling that puts this city on the frontline of a potential nuclear disaster continues.

The pattern over the last month is that this city has been hit mostly at night. But in the last week, the locals are telling us there's been regular

attacks during the daytime, more or less at exactly this time of day, around 3:00.

While communications are reestablished, an officer explains why the shelling is coming from, pointing to three locations close to a Ukrainian

nuclear power station captured by Russia in March.

And now, Ukraine's top nuclear official is raising fears that Russian trucks, which have been parked inside the plant's turbine hall, could be

laden with explosives or cause an accidental fire.

PETRO KOTIN, ENERGOATEM PRESIDENT: And if that happens, then there will be a major fire in the turbine hall. After that, it can actually impact the

reactor builder.

KILEY: Essentially, are you saying that risks a meltdown of the reactor?

KOTIN: Yes, could be, because, you know, you cannot stop this fire if it goes.

KILEY: There's been a renewed exodus of civilians living under Russian occupation in the towns close to Europe's biggest nuclear power plant,

safely, in Ukrainian-held Zaporizhzhia, they consistently told CNN Russian troops were bombarding locations close to the plant, shelling that Russia

blames on Ukraine.

The internet is switched off before it starts, probably so that nobody can film it. But we already know that if the Internet is down, we should expect

Russian shelling in half an hour.

Amid international demands that Russia leave the nuclear power plant and demilitarize the area, the Russian shelling from the power station has


This is the result of one of 70 artillery and rocket strikes here in the last 24 hours, officials said.


The shelling every day, every day, it just happened to hit here. Good thing no one was at home or there would have been casualties, she says.

Russia has responded to enter national demands to demilitarize the power plant by adding troops, inevitably increasing the chances of a disaster,

whether by accident or design.


KILEY (on camera): Now, Bianca, the Ukrainian authorities are very worried that Russia may, by design, try to use this nuclear power station to sever

its links into the Ukrainian system, cutting some 20 percent potentially of the national power available to Ukraine, and send it into Russian held

areas. But to do that, it would be quite a major technical challenge because they would have to change the frequency at which the power is


All of these things being conducted under the shadow of war, under -- and in the presence of flying shells, all presenting it really, really

terrifying potential meltdown scenario -- Bianca.

NOBILO: And, Sam, we are also witnessing new evidence of preparations for trials of Ukrainian prisoners, perhaps in Mariupol. What have you learned

about that?

KILEY: Well, this follows the surrender of soldiers in Mariupol after their 80-day siege. Many hundreds of them, most of them, or many of them,

from the Azov battalion. Now, that is, or was, a right-wing organization, but it was incorporated into the armed forces of Ukraine back in 2016, and

severed its links with any kind of right-wing connection.

But the Russians are claiming that this is a Nazi organization, a terrorist organization, they want to have potential show trials in Mariupol, where

they fought for so long and have been building these iron cage potentially for these show trials. Of course, you will recall the other foreign

volunteers have been sentenced to death for serving inside the Ukrainian army, even though in a number of cases there, they actually held Ukrainian

citizenship, but had foreign origins.

So, in all of these cases, though under law, all of these service people are members of the Ukrainian armed forces and should be protected by the

Geneva convention, that is being set aside by Russia, and its proxies in the Russian occupied Donbas areas -- Bianca.

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

Joe Biden said, that the area around the Zaporizhzhia plant should not be a war zone during a phone call with President Zelenskyy on Thursday. The U.S.

president reiterated his support for Ukraine, and congratulated the country after it celebrated its independence day on Wednesday.

The phone call came one day after the Biden administration announced three billion dollar military aid package to Ukraine. Mr. Zelenskyy thanked the

U.S. for its support and later said that the two also discussed holding Russia accountable for alleged war crimes.

Myanmar has charged and detained a former British ambassador, Vicky Bowman, with breaking immigration law. It comes as the UK government unveiled new

sanctions targeting businesses linked to the ruling military junta.

Meanwhile, today marks the fifth anniversary of the beginning of the Rohingya genocide carried out by the government. Now, the U.S. secretary of

state, Anthony Blinken, announced that he would support referring to the situation, referring the situation to the International Criminal Court.

CNN's Paula Hancocks has more on these developments.


PAULA HANCOCKS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Vicky Bowman was once the top British diplomat in Myanmar. She's not behind bars, charged with

breaking immigration laws, charge by the military, who seized power in a bloody coup in February last year.

MICHELLE BACHELET, U.N. HIGH COMMISSIONER FOR HUMAN RIGHTS: If the former ambassador has been detained -- can you imagine what happened to so many

other normal people without influences, without a country who can help them, like the UK?

HANCOCKS: Bowman was ambassador from 2000 to 2006, marrying Burmese artist and former political prisoner, Htein Lin, making Myanmar her home. She

spoke of her husband's pro-democracy activism in 2017.

VICKY BOWMAN, FORMER UK AMBASSADOR: So, he was very much part of those student demonstrations in `88, which then, when the military took over,

took him on a very long journey, first to the Indian border, to Manipur, and then to the Chinese border, and then back, and then through three


HANCOCKS: Both are being held in the infamous insane prison, according to the "Irrawaddy", a local news website. Although likely separated, a prison

filled with political prisoners and tales of beatings and torture.

Bowman leads the Myanmar Center for Responsible Business, a nongovernmental group encouraging corporate responsibility.

PHIL ROBERTSON, DEPUTY DIRECTOR, HUMAN RIGHTS WATCH'S ASIA DIVISION: Vicky Bowman was always about engagement. She was always about working with

people, building coalitions, and trying to make the situation better.

HANCOCKS: The UK foreign office while not naming Bowman, says they are in contact with local authorities and providing consular assistance.


HANCOCKS (on camera): The arrest comes as the U.K. increase sanctions against military linked businesses in Myanmar on the fifth anniversary of

the massacres against the Rohingya minority in Rakhine state.

The UK is also joining a case against Myanmar in the UN's top court, the international court of justice, which accuses the military of genocide.

Paula Hancocks, CNN, Seoul.

NOBILO: Tensions are escalating in Syria. The U.S. officials say that they've launched more air strikes targeting suspected Iran-backed

militants. The attacks are the latest in a back and forth exchange in the region.

U.S. officials say that at least four militants were killed and several rocket launchers were destroyed in the overnight strikes. The U.S. says

that it will continue to respond to any attacks on its forces in the region.

Oren Liebermann joins me now from the Pentagon.

Oren, can you explain in this back and forth what's happened in the last 24 hours?

OREN LIEBERMANN, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Bianca, it's all happened very quickly, the last 24, I would say 48 hours, from what appeared to be

an initial strike, but now a series of back and forth exchanges between U.S. troops in Syria, as well as Iranian-backed militia groups. Not

uncommon to see these groups engaging, but certainly not at this almost frenetic pace.

It begins with U.S. strikes on nine bunkers used by Iranian -backed groups in the area, as essentially infrastructure, places to store ammunition, as

well as a logistics support base for their operations. Within 24 hours of that, less than 24 hours, in fact, there was a rocket attack on two bases

used by the U.S. led coalition and housing U.S. troops, bases known as Conoco and Green Village. And one of those sites, in Conoco, suffered minor

injuries as a result of that rocket attack.

There was an immediate exchange of fire there, as the U.S. want to defend its forces in that, the U.S. Central Command says, they killed three

militants as well as destroyed some rocket launchers. They then continued their response, that, is U.S. Central Command attacked, once again, against

Iranian-backed militias, and killed at least one more militant, according to the Pentagon.

For now, of course, it's a crucial and sensitive time following how quickly this is all happened. But a U.S. official says, it appears deterrence has

been restored and this round of fighting looks like it has ended.

Of course, the catch is, Bianca, that the situation can change so quickly based on how the Iranian-backed militias feel they need to respond, if they

feel the need to respond. So, it's certainly a situation we are watching very closely and in the background of all of this, our nuclear negotiations

with Iran. The U.S., saying the response of these Iranian militias is a message to Iran, not to attack U.S. forces in Syria.

NOBILO: Very sensitive context, indeed.

Oren Liebermann, always great hear from you. Thank you.

And up next on THE BRIEF, could the day becoming where these are obsolete? A monumental day in the push to get rid of gas powered cars. That story,

coming up.

And the French president is on a three-day visit in Algeria. Why France's ties with Algeria are now so important. And why it's a delicate diplomacy.



NOBILO: Let's look at some more stories making international impact today.

In the United States, tomorrow is the deadline for the relief of the redacted affidavit related to the search of Mar-a-Lago, the Florida home of

the former President Donald Trump. A judge ordered the release about two hours ago, after the Justice Department turned its recommendation for


And Beijing may not be happy about it but another U.S. lawmaker is visiting Taiwan. Marsha Blackburn, a senator from the state of Tennessee arrived in

Taipei on Thursday. She's a member of the services committee and the latest of several U.S. politicians to visit Taiwan just this month.

French President Emmanuel Macron is in Algeria right now. He's hoping to turn the page on a diplomatic row from last year, over some comments that

he reportedly made. But there is another important issue at hand. The war in Ukraine has increased demand for North African gas, as CNN's Melissa

Bell explains.


MELISSA BELL, CNN PARIS CORRESPONDENT: Bianca, this is an extremely important visit for France. Emmanuel Macron traveling with no fewer than

seven ministers or junior ministers. But also, with the head of the French energy giant. He is not the first European leader to head to Algiers

looking for extra natural gas supplies ahead of the winter months. The Italian leader beat him to the post back in July.

But it is for Emmanuel Macron much more fraught since he is looking also and the Elysee Palace have been at pains ahead of the visit, to explain

that this was not so much about natural gas as it was about fixing the relationship between the two countries and looking at some of those issues

that continue to divide them, like immigration.

And the reason it's been so difficult is beyond the colonial past between France and Algeria, there's the thorny question of the very brutal war for

independence that Algeria fought and continues to this day to divide the two countries, in terms of their joint histories and what happened on

either side. Emmanuel Macron is going to Algeria in the hope of appeasing some of those tensions that were made all the greater last year by a series

of comments he made to students here in Paris, about the fact that he believes that the Algerian nation had been born during French colonialism.

But also, that Ageria continue to have a hatred for France.

There was a huge diplomatic row that ensued. Algeria recalled its ambassador, and although the two presidents have been speaking more

recently, this is very much a visit about showing that France and Algeria can now be friends at a point when not only Paris is looking for extra

natural gas supplies, but also Algeria is looking to show that it is not in the axis of Moscow after several years of rapprochement with Russia.


NOBILO: Melissa Bell for us.

In a summer of scorching heat all over the globe, here is perhaps the most terrifying story of them all. British scientists now say that the record

breaking temperatures could be just an average summer by the year of 2035. The study found that the scalding European summers likely to happen

annually, even if nations reduce greenhouse gas emissions as much as they have promised.

Now to another victim of the scorching heat, trees. A recent study found that we are losing 3 million more hectares of forest per year to fires than

we were 20 years ago. That is like losing a forest the size of Belgium every year. And nowhere is that more evident than in the Amazon rainforest.

Here is CNN's Tom Sater with more on that.


TOM SATER, CNN METEOROLOGIST (voice-over): The Amazon rainforest is suffering from the worst fires in decades, 3,358 fire hotspots were

recorded on Monday, the highest number in a single day since 2017.


So far in August, nearly 20,000 fires have been recorded. A significant increase compared to July, which registered just over 5,000 hotspots.

TASSO AZEVEDO, MAPBIOMAS AMAZON COORDINATOR: Fire in the Amazon is a very rare event. It is a tropical forest, so it is an event that would have been

once every 500 years. So what we see as fire in the Amazon, most of the case if not all the case is actually resulting from action. It is someone

who is starting fires somewhere.

SATER: Deforestation in Brazil's Amazon rainforest reached record highs in for the first summer in years. Government satellite data showed 5,474

square kilometers were cleared in the region, equal to an area seven times the size of New York City.

While environmentalists and experts brain the government, President Jair Bolsonaro suggested it was caused by natural events, and by indigenous


JAIR BOLSONARO, BRAZILIAN PRESIDENT (through translator): Now when we talk about the Amazon, we also must talk about France which has been on fire for

over 30 days. There are also fires in Spain and Portugal. California catches fire every year.

In Brazil, unfortunately, it is no different. Much of that happens there. It's criminal, and some part of it is not criminal. It is the riverside

people who set fires.

SATER: Experts worry the numbers are not only repeating themselves, but also increasing deforestation in the region, and it will only continue,

meaning the Amazon would see more than 10,000 square kilometers of deforestation by the end of the year.

Tom Sater, CNN, Atlanta.


NOBILO: One of the major debates in the fight against climate change is the over exhausting it's being caused. Just moments ago, California

regulators put stiffening measures in place aimed at getting gas-powered cars off the roads. They enacted a series of quotas on new car sales that

will eventually lead to nothing but zero emissions cars being sold in the state, starting in the year 2035.

And California is not alone in this effort. The EU has discussed a similar move, and one of China's islands has announced it will ban sales on fossil

fuel people powered cars starting in 2030.

So, let's bring in CNN's chief climate correspondent, Bill Weir, with more on this developing story.

Bill, talk us through some of the key elements to these new measures, and how much you think they will help the environment.

BILL WEIR, CNN CHIEF CLIMATE CORRESPONDENT: Well, if all goes according to plan here, it will be a big help. This could be a tipping point, sort of

the way that after a certain amount of model is we're sold, it was obvious that humanity was not going back to the horse.

There are 31 million motor vehicles in California, cars and trucks. That's more than the next two states combined. About 15 states follow their lead

already on emissions. So, that means that, you know, the biggest economy here in the United States would be pushing much closer to a total


But it's going to be a ramp up in California, so they want to hit 35 percent of the new car sales market to be zero emission. That includes plug

in hybrids that also run on gasoline. So, there will be gas stations in California for a very long time, not to mention all the million cars that

already exist that will continue there as well, but they hope to hit, by 68 percent by 2030, and 100 percent by 2035.

NOBILO: And what are the implications for the U.S. car market and how it might change, not just in California which, as you say, the U.S.'s biggest

economy, but also the ripple effect beyond that?

WEIR: Yeah, well it's interesting. They tried this about three years ago in California, and it fell flat on its face because car dealers fought it

in courts. There wasn't the appetite, well, it's a different world now. There's a huge demand, and evidenced by the complete lack of resistance to

this announcement.

General Motors and Ford both say they support this. They are in partnerships. Honda warned that this is an important milestone, but there's

a lot of logistical challenges ahead, especially getting all the minerals needed to build electric cars. You've got to think about transmission

lines, charging stations. So this could be the beginning of a huge transformation. The biggest transformation, in terms of transportation, you

know, since we got off of horseback as well.

But there will be resistance in other pockets around the country. And the prices of EVs recently have gone up because of that choke point over

semiconductors and lithium, and the elements going into production in these things.


So, maybe that will be an impediment to these ambitions that they have in California.

But if you look at what happened to wind and solar power, it just plummeted 90 percent in the last ten years, once all of the demand met the incentives

of the market. They are hoping, at least in California, this goes the same way.

NOBILO: And, Bill, I touched on it a little bit in the introduction to you, that the EU is looking at similar bans. But does something like this

exist anywhere else in the world? Do you think that other states are not likely to follow suit?

WEIR: Well, I think Norway is planning to do this fastest by 2025. Just in three years. But again, small country, only 5 million vehicles there as


This is definitely the biggest and most ambitious one, and their hope is that, there is a learning curve, right? The more people get used to both

building and consuming, using these cars, the advantages will be so evident that this wave will happen, they are going to start a test project with

these new electric Ford 150 pick up trucks. A lucky 100 of those new owners will see that their auto payment, their monthly payment, and lease payment

will go down if they let their local power company tap into the battery, when it's not in use. That could serve these millions of electric cars in


Ultimately, it won't just move people, but will store energy in times when utilities need it. That's the vision, anyway.

NOBILO: Bill Weir for us in New York, thank you.

WEIR: You bet, Bianca.

And thank you all for watching. That was THE GLOBAL BRIEF.

Do stay with CNN because "WORLD SPORT" with Don Riddell is up next, and he will have the latest developments about Novak Djokovic, the tennis

champion, has announced he will not play at this year's U.S. Open because of his COVID-19 vaccine status. He won't be able to travel to New York for

the tournament because the U.S. requires all non-citizens to be vaccinated against coronavirus before they enter the country. In the meantime, I will

see you tomorrow.