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Anger Grows in Shanghai Over Strict Lockdown Measures; Nighttime Curfew Declared in Kyiv Amid Threat of Russian Attacks. Aired 10:30-11a ET

Aired April 26, 2022 - 10:30   ET




DAVID CULVER, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice over): It's the video Chinese censors do not want you to see or share, as it sparked a rare digital uprising on social media this weekend, highlighting a shared misery and helplessness felt across Shanghai.

The video points to dysfunction, mismanagement, a city in chaos, struggling to cope with a surge in COVID cases, it resonates with so many of Shanghai's 25 million residents feeling trapped, turning to the most popular Chinese communication platforms, Weibo and WeChat, to vent.

Amidst what is government-controlled internet with any dissent quickly suppressed and erased, China's censors over the weekend struggled to keep up. No sooner would they block one version of the video did another resurface, rapidly multiplying, flooding China's cyberspace. Some disguised as Q.R. codes to throw off the censors.

The online rattling of social stability was a growing rejection of China's the harsh COVID containment measures. Some even sharing this clip from the 2012 movie Les Miserables, referencing a 19th century uprising in Paris. The censors swiftly clamped down, extinguishing the spread.

But the users also taking aim at the obvious censorship itself, sharing clips of their own officials proclaiming China's citizens have a right to freely express themselves. Seemingly ironic given even the first line of China's own national anthem is now blocked online. The words, rise those who don't want to be enslaved, now used as a veiled reference to criticize their own government.

For some, Shanghai shy feels like the world's largest prison. CNN witnessing it firsthand.

The extent of my freedom is all the way to my terrace door here. We're lucky enough to at least get some fresh air outside. Our community volunteer are sending me this image of what's on the other side of our door, a freshly taped paper seal, a reminder not to leave.

And if I manage to get out, there's now a COVID guard posted day and night.

Outside several apartment compounds, fences going up, neighbors sharing shocking images of new barriers on social media.

Listen to them howl from their balconies as they're further caged in, some finding workarounds, buying their groceries through the added layer, others desperately rattling locks, hoping to escape. And then there were those who managed to tear down the walls.

For folks locked into their homes, scenes like this are a terrifying reality, an apartment fire over the weekend in Shanghai's business district. State media quick to report that everyone got out safely but it raises questions. Might these COVID barriers be more of a danger than the virus itself?

And if you thought the city may be near reopening or easing lockdowns, images from the streets of Shanghai show giant containers not bringing in much-needed supplies but rather helping to build more blockades. This as more positive cases and close contacts are rounded up and sent to government quarantine facilities. Some left to sleep in tents in the middle of deserted streets as their dormitories are disinfected.

As the rising tune of discontent echoes throughout the eerily empty metropolis, for many, Shanghai has fallen.

David Culver, CNN, Shanghai.


JIM SCIUTTO, CNN ANCHOR: Goodness, a giant prison.

Still to come, a CNN exclusive, I speak with General Mark Milley, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, for the latest on the war here in Ukraine and the NATO response. That's coming up.



GOLODRYGA: Kyiv is now under a new nighttime curfew. Although Russian forces have withdrawn from the area, missile strikes are still a threat for the capital and its suburbs.

But authorities have told our next guest some of Kyiv's territorial defense forces have left the city and formed a second line of defense in the south and east of Ukraine where Russia is stepping up its attacks.

Joining me now is Nolan Peterson, a War Correspondent and Senior Editor at Coffee or Die Magazine. Nolan, great to have you on.

You talk about these territorial defense forces. Many of them had little to no training leading up to this war and this invasion. Two months in, from your perspective, how are they holding up?

NOLAN PETERSON, WAR CORRESPONDENT: Well, I think they are doing incredibly well. I have covered this war since 2014, and I think it's clear now that the past eight years of war in the Donbas really laid the groundwork for the incredible society-wide resistance that we've seen in Ukraine since the full-scale war began in February 24th.

Now, the regular army has transformed over the last eight years into a very competent, modern military, which has learned a lot of lessons from the Donbas over the last eight years. Particularly, they've learned to be creative and they've also learned to sort of empower their frontline troops to make their own decisions in combat, which is a big change from the Soviet-era chain of command model, in which commanders had very strict control over their troops, in which Russia still uses on within its military.


But for Ukraine civilians who make up the territorial defense force, as you know, in 2014, you saw the civilian volunteer battalion movement, in which everyday Ukrainians took up arms and reversed Russia's invasion of the Donbas and they fought the war to a stalemate. And we're seeing that same sense of volunteerism and resistance now among Ukrainian society.

And as the war drags on and we see these atrocities in places around Kyiv and fronts like in Mariupol, there's a sense among Ukrainians that they're not just fighting for their freedom any longer, but they're also fighting for the nation's survival. And that's a very hard motivation to beat. I think that empowers a lot of these territorial defenders who have very little military background to overperform on the battlefield.

GOLODRYGA: Yes. It is interesting to see so many western countries, including the United States, admit that they had underestimated Ukraine's military forces' capabilities and clearly had overestimated Russia's.

You mentioned Mariupol. You interviewed a few people who survived the carnage there. I want to read for our viewers what one of them told you. The Russians do not spare anyone. They do not follow any rules, neither military nor moral. They know exactly where they are shooting and what they are doing.

Time and time again we see examples of Russian military striking specifically at civilians, not just in Mariupol but obviously surrounding Kyiv as well. We saw the massacres there and the carnage out of Bucha.

How does the military in Ukraine -- how do they counter that? How do they prepare for that seeing what they've seen these past eight weeks?

PETERSON: Well, like I just said, Ukrainians are no longer just fighting for their freedom. Like I said, they're fighting for their survival. And that gives them an incredible will to endure and to keep fighting and to resist. And that morale that they have, that courage far surpasses that of their adversaries, the Russians.

When you hear stories like from what happened around here in Kyiv, in Bucha, in Irpin and other places and now as we watch what's going on in Mariupol, you know, it really underscores for the Ukrainians that they either have to win this war or essentially their nation could be erased.

On the other hand, specifically when we talk about Mariupol and the horrible combat that we're seeing there, it's important to note that the Azovstal factory is not just one building or the factory where the -- Azovstal, where the remaining Ukrainian forces and civilians are holed up. It's that factory represents about one-fifth, the total land area of Mariupol. For Russia to say they've already conquered that city and they're just moving on is disingenuous at best.

And I can say, even here in Kyiv, you are starting to see signs popping up around the city and people out holding posters on the Maidan, saying that we are with you, Mariupol. So, that resistance in Mariupol is certainly inspiring people to continue the fight and is further fueling that sense of resistance across Ukraine.

GOLODRYGA: Yes. I keep repeating what President Zelenskyy said a few weeks ago. Mariupol is the heart of that country and you can feel it, even in your reporting.

Nolan Peterson, thank you so much.

PETERSON: Thank you.

GOLODRYGA: And, Jim, this comes at a time when the west, including the United States, has really made a pivotal shift in how they assess this war and Ukraine's capability and even winning it.

SCIUTTO: That's right. We're going to get a chance now to speak to someone who knows a lot about that. Just moments from now, Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin will take questions in Germany following meeting with other NATO leaders, U.S. military officials gathering with their counterparts for more than 40 other nations to discuss the security situation.

Secretary Austin saying this morning, Ukraine believes it can win the war, and so does the U.S.

So, joining me right now is the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Mark Milley. General, thanks for taking the time this morning.

MARK MILLEY, CHAIRMAN, JOINT CHIEFS OF STAFF: Jim, thank you. I appreciate the opportunity.

SCIUTTO: It's good to have you on. This phrasing that Secretary Austin used yesterday, the goal of weakening Russia, has the U.S. aim in this conflict expanded beyond just helping Ukraine defend itself to an aim of degrading Russia's military so it cannot attack other countries?

MILLEY: Yes, thanks, Jim, for that. First, I want to thank you for just being in Lviv and covering the war. The media coverage has been really critical to making sure the truth gets out about what is happening. As you know, and we all know now, the entire world knows, this is an unprovoked war of aggression by Russia on a much smaller country.

With respect to what we're trying to do, the United States and all the allied countries, and we just finished a conference with about 40, 42 countries from around the world, not just NATO, to coordinate and synchronize continued and sustained lethal and nonlethal support to Ukraine in their fight for freedom.


At the end of the day, what we want to see, what I think the policy of all of the governments together is a free and independent Ukraine with the territory intact and their government standing and the Russian aggression has been halted and stopped. And at the end of the day, I think that's going to involve a weakened Russia, a strengthened NATO. And as you see, Finland and Sweden and other countries, and the unity of the west and the unity of NATO and indeed the unity of the globe has probably never been stronger than it is in the face of this unprovoked aggression. So, that's where we're heading.

SCIUTTO: As you look at Russian forces focus their attention on the eastern part of the country and the south, have they made sufficient adjustments in terms of, for instance, supply lines but also command and control to have more success in the east than they have in the north around Kyiv?

MILLEY: That remains to be seen, Jim. As you know, they struggled mightily with command and control, fighting at night, establishing air supremacy and air superiority. They had a real difficult time with logistical resupply and a wide variety of other challenges and issues. Most of that was caused by the bravery, the talent, the skill of the Ukrainians on the ground and fighting in accordance with the training that NATO and other allies have given them over many, many years.

So, war is a two-way street. There's action, reaction and counteraction. The first part of this operation, a strategic attempt to seize Kyiv in a lightning strike, the attempt to untopple the Zelenskyy government failed, and now what the Russians are trying do is essentially envelope and then crush about half the Ukrainian army around the line of contact.

The Ukrainians are set. They are ready for this fight, and our task here in NATO and in the west is to continue to support Ukraine in their fight for freedom.

SCIUTTO: You've heard the comments from the Russian foreign minister just in the last 24 hours saying that Russia does not want to artificially inflate the nuclear risk but he called the risk serious. And you've heard comments on Russian state T.V. where they even celebrate that prospect to some degree.

I wonder, has the U.S. seen any unusual or new movements of Russian nuclear forces or weapons that would indicate that that commentary is more than just rhetoric.

MILLEY: Well, any time a senior leader of a nation state starts rattling a nuclear saber, then everyone takes it serious. And it's irresponsible for any senior leader to be talking like that in today's world. We are monitoring, as a military, we're monitoring very closely with all of our friends and allies and we take those things very seriously.

SCIUTTO: Short of a nuclear risk, you testified before Congress a short time ago that the potential for significant international conflict is increasing, not decreasing. I'm quoting you. Since then, Russia issued a diplomatic protest to the U.S. and NATO to stop its weapons shipments. Has that increase in military support, in your view, increased the danger of direct conflict between the U.S. and Russia?

MILLEY: Yes. I actually think it's the opposite. I think that what's at stake here is much greater than Ukraine. What's at stake is the security of Europe. This is the greatest challenge for the security of Europe since the end of World War II. And, indeed, you can easily make the case that what's at stake is the global international security order that was put in place in 1945.

That international order has lasted 78 years. It's prevented great power war. And underlining that entire concept is the idea that large nations will not conduct military aggression against smaller nations, and that is exactly what's happened here, an unprovoked military aggression by Russia against a smaller nation.

So, if this is left to stand, if there is no answer to this aggression, if Russia gets away with this cost free, then so goes the so-called international order. And if that happens, then we're heading into an era of seriously increased instability.

So, right now, it's -- now is the time and right now is the opportunity here to stop aggression and to restore peace and security to the European continent.

SCIUTTO: Throughout your service and your command, you've been vigilant about the threat of disinformation, particularly from a nation such as Russia. We've seen a whole host of it in this conflict so far. When you see some of that disinformation repeated by Americans, in American circles, including, for instance, this false charge about the U.S. funding chemical weapons operations here in this country, what is your reaction to that?

MILLEY: Propaganda and disinformation, Jim, as you know, is a student of warfare. That has been around since the earliest days of recorded time.


And today, the means and mechanisms of disinformation and propaganda are fundamentally different with television, or print media or social media, et cetera. But the idea of disinformation, of spewing propaganda, has been around for a long time.

And that is happening today. The Russians are doing it on a continual basis, not only in Europe but around the world to make their case for what is a completely unjustified attack on a smaller nation.

SCIUTTO: General Mark Milley, we appreciate you taking the time and we appreciate your service.

MILLEY: Thanks, Jim. I appreciate it. I appreciate the opportunity.

SCIUTTO: At the top of the hour, Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin, who has been in those very same meetings with General Milley today and other NATO leaders, he's going to answer questions from reporters. We're going to bring you that news conference live right here on CNN. Please stay with us.



GOLODRYGA: President Biden wants to make therapeutic drugs to treat COVID easier to get. The White House just announced that it has ordered enough of Pfizer's antiviral pill Paxlovid to treat 20 million people. And the drugs will now be distributed directly to pharmacies.


DR. ASHISH JHA, WHITE HOUSE COVID-19 RESPONSE COORDINATOR: Treatments are really the next phase of this pandemic where we have to make these treatments, these highly effective treatments widely available. And, basically, every pharmacy in America should be able to get it.


GOLODRYGA: The FDA has also expanded approval of Remdesivir to treat babies as young as 28 days old and weighing about seven pounds. It's the first COVID treatment approved for children under 12 years old.

Well, Florida is now one of the first states in the country with a police force focused specifically on election fraud. Republican Governor Ron DeSantis, who is up for re-election this year and weighing a 2024 presidential bid, signed the bill into law creating the force Monday. It gives his administration a new way to probe election crimes despite them being at an exceedingly rare problem.

The Florida Secretary of State's Office said it referred 75 fraud complaints to law enforcement or prosecutors in 2020 out of nearly 11 million cast ballots.

Well, that is it for us today. Thank you so much for joining us. I'm Bianna Golodryga. SCIUTTO: I'm Jim Sciutto in Lviv, Ukraine.

At This Hour with Kate Bolduan starts right a after a quick break.


KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: Hello, everyone. I'm Kate Bolduan.

We do begin with the war in Ukraine at a major turning point. In the last 24 hours, there has been a significant shift in the rhetoric from the United States and NATO allies vowing to do everything that they can to help Ukraine win and also to not just stop Russia there but also weaken Russia going forward.


Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin just wrapped a meeting with dozens of his international counterparts --