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The Global Brief with Bianca Nobilo

Preparing For Battle; Iran's 40 Days Of Unrest, Nigeria's Floods. Aired 5-5:30p ET

Aired October 26, 2022 - 17:00   ET



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

The heaviest battle is yet to come. That's the message from Ukraine as Russia braces the heavy fighting in Kherson.

Then, Iranian police fired tear gas on protesters chanting the word "freedom" as they mark 40 days since the death of Masha Amini.

And, hundreds of people are dead and millions are displaced in Nigeria, another disaster caused by extreme weather conditions.

Ukraine is preparing for the heaviest of battles as its forces move closer to the occupied city of Kherson. The city's Russian-backed administration

is replenishing and strengthening defenses according to Ukrainian officials. And Ukraine's military intelligence says Russia is removing its

installed officials and replacing them with poorly trained and newly mobilized fighters for cannon fodder.

Meanwhile, Kherson's pro-Russian officials are continuing to move residents out of the region. Russian appointed governor saying, more than 70,000

people are now left in recent days.

Now, Wednesday, Russian President Vladimir Putin repeated the unfounded claim that Ukraine's plans to use a dirty bomb, NATO secretary general

rejects that accusation and warns Russia not use it as a false pretext for further escalation. Jens Stoltenberg saying Russia often accuses others of

what they intend to do themselves.

Here's how Russia's ambassador to the UK is responding.


ANDREY KELIN, RUSSIAN AMBASSADOR TO THE UNITED KINGDOM: First of all, in his conversation, I mean, with Minister of Defense Shoigu. He assured every

minister once again that we are not going to use nuclear weapons. Russia is not going to use nukes. So, it is out of the question.


MACFARLANE: Well, according to U.S. secretary of state, the White House has communicated directly to President Putin that the consequences of using

nuclear weapons in Ukraine.

Let's go back to southern Ukraine where Fred Pleitgen takes us to the front lines now of the counteroffensive.


FREDERIK PLEITGEN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Ukrainian forces trying to hit the Russians on all fronts. This mortar unit

firing in the north of the country while in the south, Kyiv is continuing a counteroffensive trying to capture the Russian occupied city of Kherson.

We met up with an artillery unit on the battlefield.

The soldiers tell us there is firing going on here pretty much every day several times a day. The front line is not very far from where we are at

all. It's a couple kilometers in that direction. And right now, there's not very much movement on that front line. But, still, the situation is very


Ukraine's defense minister says Kyiv's counteroffensive here is complicated by wet weather in the area. But the commander says he believes in the end

they will oust the Russians.

"BANDERAS", ARTILLERY COMMANDER (through translator): I know one thing for sure. We will never step back from here. We have no other choice, only

forward. Ukraine has to get back all its territory and borders.

PLEITGEN: While Russia continues to mobilize hundreds of thousands for the war here, the Ukrainians say they found the Wagner private military company

founded by Putin ally, Yevgeny Prigozhin, is sending Russian prisoners with diseases to the front line. The chief of Ukraine's military intelligence

told CNN's Nic Robertson.

KYRYLO BUDANOV, HEAD OF UKRAINE'S DEFENSE INTELLIGENCE AGENCY (through translator): They put on them certain wristbands in blue, white, or red

color. Every color signifies tuberculosis, hepatitis or HIV. It's happening on a mass scale. Most of them, who are taken prisoners or their dead bodies

which were found in the battlefields, had those wristbands.

PLEITGEN: CNN can't independently verify those claims. As Russian forces continue to lose ground in Ukraine, the Kremlin conducting massive annual

nuclear drills involving submarine launched ballistic missiles and others launched from Russia's fleet of strategic bombers.

While the Russians notified the U.S. about the drills well in advance, Russian President Vladimir Putin with a clear warning to Washington.

VLADIMIR PUTIN, RUSSIAN PRESIDENT (through translator): What they are trying to achieve we see on the example of Ukraine, which has become an

instrument of American foreign policy. The country has practically lost sovereignty and is directly controlled from the United States.

PLEITGEN: But the Ukrainians on the front line say they are fighting for their own freedom, not for anybody else.

Fred Pleitgen, CNN, Mykolaiv, Ukraine.


MACFARLANE: We can tell you that CNN has reached out to the Wagner Group for comment.


Well, let's go now to our Nic Robertson who is joining me live from Kyiv at this hour.

Nic, let's first turn to Kherson. As we enter these winter months, we know that the battle for the strategic province is intensifying. What are

Ukraine's expectations here for how Russia are preparing to defend Kherson?

NIC ROBERTSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL DIPLOMATIC EDITOR: Well, as we heard in friends reporting, I heard as well from the defense intelligence chief

today, Russia is pulling out of the civilians and the civilian administration, and anything of value and pushing in these poorly trained

recruits. The expectation is from the greenside that the Russians will fight to try to hold a town.

Here's the thing that the defense intelligence chief says the Russians are worried about. That is getting encircled by that Ukrainian forces as they

move. It is difficult to move, as Fred it said in his story, it is wet, there is a lot of big drainage channels through that farmland area. That

makes it hard to move. Vehicles will find it hard to move.

But Ukrainians are advancing, that key thing that might flip the switch if you will for the Russians and cause them to a pullback quickly across the

river is if the Ukrainians are able to get their artillery onto the strategically important dam, basically one of the easy routes out for the

Russians, other than going across on boats across the river. So, if that's threatened, then the Russians might pull out quickly.

So, that's a priority. I asked the intel chief, is that going to be a priority, is that a priority? He said absolutely, yes. Moving in on that

and the city. But the city, urban fighting, that would be a tough fight. So again, the key, the dam, force the Russians to pull out.

MACFARLANE: And we are hearing from the international community, who have been very clear in calling out these baseless claims from Russia. One we

heard again today from Vladimir Putin, that Ukraine are planning a dirty bomb. I know that you have also been speaking to senior Ukrainian officials

about this.

How do Ukraine view this threat?

ROBERTSON: Yeah, it was the defense intelligence chief again that I was asking this question to. They are like all Ukrainian officials, flat,

straight out, absolutely denial of a dirty bomb or planning to build a dirty bomb.

Here is the intelligence chief. So I wanted to understand from him how he is a interpreting what President Putin is doing at the moment in these

recent phone calls from his top defensive officials, defense officials in Washington, in Paris, in London, and in Ankara. He said, what he's doing at

the moment is ramping up this narrative of a potential escalation to a nuclear level. That has got the attention of the international community,

that's what those phone calls are about.

So, he thinks that Putin is trying to put pressure on Ukraine through its Western allies to settle for peace on Putin's terms. For Ukraine, that is

an absolute nonstarter. For Ukraine's allies, that is a nonstarter as well.

But this is his understanding. Putin knows top of any kind of nuclear device here gets the international community worried, it gets their

attention. He wants their attention because he is losing on the battlefield. And he wants to get out this war claiming and holding some


And that's not an option for him. So, we can expect more rhetoric and therefore more potential escalation.

MACFARLANE: Yeah, and people are well aware of Russia's use of false flag operations in the past.

Nic, great to have you with us this hour. Live from Kyiv there, thanks very much.

Well, the Russian military has returned the body of an American who died while fighting in Ukraine. Twenty-four-year-old Joshua Jones was killed in

august while serving with a unit of foreign soldiers fighting on behalf of Ukraine. His body was handed over to Ukrainian authorities as part of a

prisoner swap.

On the other side of the battlefield, young Russian soldiers who say that they don't know, or they did know what awaited them in Ukraine are meeting

in a brutal fate. A Belarusian doctor says many who were wounded were secretly spirited to his hospital under the eyes of the world. Now he is

safely living in Lithuania and exclusively showing CNN the horrors that those young fighters experienced in the early days of war.


MELISSA BELL, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): For Andre, it was the hardest of good-byes. I love you, he tells his daughters as he prepares to

swim for his life.

"Is daddy leaving?" asked one. Yes, he replies.

The young doctor from southern Belarus had just driven his family across the country from their home near the Ukrainian border. Andre then swam into

the safety of neighboring Lithuania, running from a war that wasn't his, fleeing with X-rays of some of the Russian soldiers he treated as the war

began. The ghosts of Vladimir Putin's war machine.

ANDREI, DOCTOR, MAZYR CITY HOSPITAL (through translator): I wanted to tell their stories. I just took some evidence to confirm it. What I took with me

could make me liable. They can charge me with espionage.

BELL: With a state of the Russian army, its defeats and its casualties are closely guarded secret. These images are a rare window into Russia's

catastrophic invasion.

On February 24th, the first day of the war, Russian forces landed at this airport on the outskirts of Kyiv. The fight that ensued was brutal.

Ukrainian counteroffensives inflicted devastating casualties on the Russian paratroopers. Many wound up in Mazyr City hospital in southern Belarus.

ANDREI (through translator): Most had blast injuries, injured hips, face, lacerations to the torso area, head, brain injuries. Several had damage to

their jaws.

BELL: Andrei says that many of the injuries he treated were consistent with soldiers coming under unexpected and chaotic firepower.

ANDREI (through translator): They saw a lot of explosions and couldn't even see who was firing on them. Some of them told us they'd gone through


They didn't expect what was waiting for them in Ukraine. They thought they were going in for military exercises. They were mainly angry at the

commander who had deceived them. Most already were resigned to their new reality, losing a finger or a leg.

BELL: The trucks used to transport the wounded shared at the time on social media. Andrei says they arrived at night, bringing 30 soldiers on

the second day of the war, 90 on the third.

ANDREI (through translator): They came from Borodianka, some from Hostomel and others from Bucha. A number was written on the forehead of each to

direct them to the right department. At least the ones who admitted had a good chance of surviving, there was one guy who was missing his entire

lower jaw and he was only complaining that he hadn't eaten or drank anything for three days.

BELL: But the soldiers kept arriving. Andrei says about 40 a day on average. The wounds easier for him to remember than the names, although one

in particular does stand out.

One of the early narratives of the start of the war was the number of commanders that were being lost on the Russian side. Several wound up in

Mazyr district hospital, including General Sergei Nyrkov.

ANDREI (through translator): He suffered abdominal injuries from a mine in Chernobyl. And then after he was stabilized he was taken away with the

other officers. I felt disgust towards the officers, mainly the feeling that they were war criminals.

BELL: Most, Andrei says, the men were ordinary soldiers, very young and inexperienced -- 18, 19, 20-year-olds who would spend a couple of days in

his hospital before being sent back to Russia. Their lives saved but changed forever.

ANDREI (through translator): I had the impression that only a small portion of the soldiers sent actually made it out alive and to our

hospital. I had a feeling that some of the living envied those who had died.

BELL: Andrei is now rebuilding his own life with his family in a European city, with what little they could bring, mainly the X-rays, hidden in one

of his daughter's toys to be brought to safety and now to light.

Melissa Bell, CNN, London.


MACFARLANE: Extraordinary reporting from Melissa Bell. CNN reached out to the Russians ministry of defense and Mazyr City Hospital, and neither has


Now, in a sharp change of fears of shortages earlier this year, Europe now has more natural gas than it knows what to do. With the price fell below

zero this week, storage facilities across Europe are 94 percent full and tankers carrying gas are lined up at ports, unable to off-load their cargo.

European governments built up sizeable stockpiles of fuel after Russia slashed its supplies and now unseasonably warm weather has caused demand

for natural gas to plummet, leading to the oversupply.

All right. Still to come, vigils and protests, Iranians expressing grief and anger, 40 days after the death of Mahsa Amini. And fears of a health

disaster in Nigeria as it battles the worst flooding in a decade. We'll have the latest from inside the country.



MACFARLANE: Thousands of Iranians held a vigil at Masha Amini's grave on Wednesday, 40 days after her death, which is an important day of mourning

in Islamic tradition. Grief collided with anger as crashes once again broke out amidst nationwide protests.

U.S. secretary of state says the U.S. stands with the Iranian people on this day of mourning and reflection. They imposed fresh sanctions on

Iranian officials. You know nations experts are also calling for an independent international investigation into the crackdown of the


Well, CNN's Nada Bashir has been following this extensively, covering the story the last 40 days. She joins me here now.

Nada, we heard that when these protesters gathered at Masha Amini's grave in her hometown, and security forces actually unleashed tear gas on the

crowd. Do we know how many people were injured, what happened in the aftermath?

NADA BASHIR, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, there has been scenes of chaos. We saw the security forces actually preparing for this yesterday evening.

Preparation for what has been crowds and crowds of people gathering at Masha Amini's burial site in her hometown. Many, of course, there to pay

their respects.

There have been calls over the last few days for widespread protests across the country to take place, not only in memory of her life and her death,

but also of course against the regime. She is now a symbol of this ongoing protest movement.

We have seen that harsh and brutal crackdown by the Iranian security forces continue into today as you mention the tear gas being used against some

protests. We have seen video of life are being used to disperse crowds. Although, it is not clear what they were shooting or how many injuries have


We heard from human rights groups across the board, warning that there is a rising death toll. We have seen several injured. We have seen mask

detentions of these protests. We see that today in the footage that has come in from these demonstrations. Still, despite that crackdown, thousands

of people turning up today in the streets to protest against the regime.

Take a look.


BASHIR (voice-over): The final resting place of Mahsa Zhina Amini, a place of mourning and now of protest. Amini's name has become synonymous with a

movement those posing the biggest threat to the Iranian regime in years, sparked in the wake of the 22-year-old's death while in the custody of

Iran's notorious morality police, detained for allegedly contravening the country's strict dress code.

But now, as the Iranian people commemorate 40 days since Amini's death, a significant marker of mourning and remembrance, it has grown to become far

more wide reaching than its initial call for women's rights, as more and more protesters take to the streets demanding regime change.

Amini's death is now remembered alongside a growing list of women and young girls who have lost their lives at the hands of Iran's security forces,

though, authorities deny responsibility, disregarding the mounting evidence of the regime's brutal and deadly crackdown on protesters.

TARA SEPEHRI FAR, SENIOR IRAN RESEARCHER, HUMAN RIGHTS WATCH: We have use of air paint ball guns, shotguns with metal or plastic pellets and also

instances of use of assault weapons, assault rifles, Kalashnikov-style weapons, or even handguns that have been documented.

BASHIR: This in addition to the mass detention of hundreds, if not thousands of protesters.

Six weeks on, however, and the movement isn't losing steam. With protests gripping the universities and high schools and strike action by teachers,

business owners, factory workers, even oil refinery workers, the backbone of Iran's economy.

The call for a full and for regime change is growing louder.


BASHIR: Now, Christina, this was a poignant moment for remembrance. These protests are continuing. We do expect them to continue over the coming


But, of course, the crackdown by the Iranian security forces is growing more brutal by the day. Already, we have heard from Iran's public

prosecutor saying at least 300 protesters have now been charged with what they accuse them of, threatening state security and, of course, they have

also outlined that a least 1,000 protesters have been detained.

But, according to rights groups, that figure is likely far, far higher. Iran HR, which is based in Norway, has been keeping its own tally over the

death toll in Iran. While we can't independently verify the death toll, they have pegged it at least 200 protesters since these demonstrations

began in September, including children, of course.

MACFARLANE: Yeah, just underlines -- including children, as well. It underlines the courage, doesn't it, that these protesters are showing.

Nada, thank you for that report, we appreciate it.

Well, 15 people have been killed and 40 injured in the Iran city of Shiraz after a shooting at a prominent shrine. Iran state media are calling it a

terrorist incident and says authorities have captured two out of three suspects. No one's claimed responsibility for the attack and it is unclear

if it is linked to the country's ongoing protests.

Now to Nigeria where residents are grappling with the worst flooding the country has seen in a decade. Hundreds are dead and more than 1 million

have been displaced so far and there are fears of waterborne diseases breaking out.

CNN's Larry Madowo has this important report for us.


LARRY MADOWO, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Our communities still submerged nearly a month after the flooding began with no end in sight.

Boats have become the only way to get around much of Bayelsa State in Southern Nigeria. The streets have turned to rivers, driving entire

communities away from their homes.

We have really suffered, she says. Tell the government to help us.

UGERE OBI, FLOOD VICTIM: Again, tell them to come help us.

MADOWO: Everything you own is here under the water and this is your house?

OBI: Yes. Everything.

MADOWO: Some are living rough on the streets, washing with this water, cooking with it and bathing in it.

Even though people's homes and businesses and livelihoods are already submerged, it's still raining and there is more expected. The Nigerian

government is warning this could go until November, so even more of this.

This is Nigeria's worst flooding in a decade.

Aniso Handy has remained in this house through it all.

ANISO HANDY, FLOOD VICTIM: Nigerians are used to manage. If not, we would have all died. We have not seen this situation where people are not cared

for. But Nigerians care for themselves. We are just like infants that have no father, no mother.

MADOWO: The feeling of abandonment runs deep here. The victims are disappointed with the Nigerian government's response which hasn't declared

the flood a national emergency.


MADOWO: We're next to a local cemetery and residents have reported seeing bodies floating in these waters. This flood has displaced not just the

living, also the dead.

The floods have affected 33 of Nigeria's 36 states partly due to well above average rainfall.

Bayelsa is among those cut off from the nation with major highways underwater. The situation has been exacerbated by poor drainage

infrastructure and an overflowing dam in neighboring Cameroon.

But with a warmer climate causing more intense rainfall, authorities have also blamed it on climate change, angering some Nigerians.

In this community though, there are more short-term consequences.

So, you're worried about the children mostly?

NDIA OKAZI, FLOOD VICTIM: Yes, my children, they're not (INAUDIBLE).

MADDOW: It is a tough life to navigate for humans and animals alike.

But life must go on.

Larry Madowo, CNN, Bayelsa State, Nigeria.


MACFARLANE: All right. Let's take a look at the other key stories making international headlines today.

Brazil has now recorded eight monkeypox deaths according to its health ministry, that's the highest number of deaths reported by a single country,

the country has had more than 9000 total cases since the outbreak began.

Britain's new prime minister told lawmakers difficult decisions must be made to restore economic stability. Rishi Sunak received applause from

conservatives in his first prime minister's question at the British parliament after saying that leadership is not about selling fairytales.

Two studies are showing that new COVID-19 boosters are not any better than older versions for protecting against omicron variants, suggesting that our

bodies have been well-trained to fight the virus. The hope was for better protection but when research has compared immune systems with the old

boosters and the new, the two look exactly the same.

And finally, Rihanna is ready to release her first new music in six years. The pop superstar has recorded a song for the new "Black Panther: Wakanda

Forever" movie. Rihanna says she wrote the song as a tribute to the late actor Chadwick Boseman. The song titled, "Lift Me Up" will be released this

Friday. That is what we will need this week.

Thanks for watching. That was THE GLOBAL BRIEF.

Stay tuned for "WORLD SPORTS". That's coming up next.