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UK Seizes Yachts, Private Jets Belonging to Russian Oligarchs; Biden Marks 1 Million COVID Deaths in the U.S.; Taliban Order Women in Afghanistan to Cover Their Faces. Aired 10:30-11a ET

Aired May 12, 2022 - 10:30   ET



JIM SCIUTTO, CNN ANCHOR: This week the U.K. rolled out a new round of sanctions against Russia and Belarus targeting more than $2 billion in goods. This comes as the British government continues to crack down on Russian oligarchs in particular who support President Putin.


GRANT SHAPPS, UK SECRETARY OF STATE FOR TRANSPORT: We're here today because we grounded this aircraft, which belongs to one of Putin's cronies. It was on the G registration, that's the British registration list, restricted from the registration. It won't be going anywhere at all.


SCIUTTO: Hitting them in the pocketbook. Joining me now is that man, Grant Shapps. He's the secretary of state for transport for the United Kingdom.

So this is an interesting way to go after it. We've heard this and we've heard some states do it and try to do it, and some with some success and others with not. I'm curious, what's the dollar value of assets so far that the U.K. has seized and then crucially where is that money going to go?

SHAPPS: Yes, well, first of all, sanctions are now over a trillion dollars of British sanctions on Russia. So I think we've sanctioned more individuals and organizations than any other nation. Now sanctioning is a bit different from seizing so I've got this superyacht, the aircraft that we were just looking out there, and several others which aren't going anywhere.

Seizing the asset itself is the next stage. There are legal processes to go through to do that. Ultimately we want money to go to rebuild Ukraine. This is a country which has been flattened.


SHAPPS: By Putin's completely reckless, irresponsible, unjustified actions in Ukraine. We want that money to go to rebuild.

SCIUTTO: How long will it take to turn that enormous blue yacht into funds that might actually help the Ukrainian people?

SHAPPS: Well, look, I think the first question is how quickly is Putin repelled and gets out of that. But I've been having fascinating conversations with my Ukrainian opposite, the transport and construction secretary in Ukraine, Kubrakov, where he's been on the line to me saying we want to rebuild the country. We want architects, we want people to help city rebuilding. And their minds are already turning to the medium and longer term whilst many of us are of course thinking about the day to day and some of the horrific stories we're seeing coming out of Ukraine.

SCIUTTO: Listen, that the hope. I've certainly seen on the ground there as others. Now there's a new economic crime bill that was outlined in the Queen's speech, and this would give authorities in the U.K. stronger powers to crack down on illicit finance in the U.K., including oligarchs and others who hide their money. I lived in London a long time. And there's all this talk about, you know, not just Chelsea Football Club, right, but pricey London mansions and so on.

I mean, is this going to be the end of the U.K. as a place that the Home Secretary described as a place to wash dirty money?

SHAPPS: Yes. You know, it's unacceptable when that happens. We have a lot more freedom to act on all of these things, actually particularly outside of the E.U. since Brexit. We're using all of those powers to ensure that we can put our own rules in place on, you know, for example, checking financial credibility of the source and money. To give you one example. So we're going to go after it relentlessly.

And exactly as with those aircrafts, it's not just how they're flagged, you know, look for the Russian flag, it's pretty obvious. It's not just that, it's the connection, it's the leasing, it's the company's and complex financial structure behind a lot of those property holdings as well.


So we're going to go after all of those and just make it clear, if you are a friend of Putin's, you're no friend of ours.

SCIUTTO: Yes. Kind of sound like these things have vanity plates that say Putin or who actually --

SHAPPS: And sometimes --

SCIUTTO: There are shell companies and offshore.

SHAPPS: Exactly. So I've had the National Crime Agency, the NCA, go after it. And sometimes I've had to freeze an asset and then give them a few days a week to go after and what looked like nothing upfront turned out to be a shell company for a shell company for something abroad, elsewhere, and eventually we found the connection.

SCIUTTO: And by the way, I should note, this happens in the States as well. There's a lot of Russian money hiding in New York apartments and so on. I wonder as well as you look at this and you speak to your colleague

in Ukraine as well, how long are we talking about here and how much money are they saying? The railroads are targets there. The airports are targets.

SHAPPS: It's extraordinary. I have to just pay huge respect. (INAUDIBLE), Kubrakov in Kyiv, he's still there, and I say to him, you know, I'm responsible for running the railways back home. I can't get the trains to run on time.

SCIUTTO: Yes. Yes.

SHAPPS: He's doing it in a war.


SHAPPS: You know, it's so impressive. It's so incredible. How long will it take? We don't know. We don't know. I know that Zelenskyy wants to see this come to a quick conclusion of course. We are providing huge amount. We started providing, for example, anti-tank missile systems, the NLAW system, before Putin invaded to get them ready. And we provided thousands of those.

I don't know how long this will take. I do know that the West is not going to give up. Not just the world. The world is not going to give up. We cannot allow Putin's aggression to succeed. Putin must fail.

SCIUTTO: And U.K. of course first provided anti-ship missiles.

Before we go, planes fly, ship sail. We know there's been this kind of cat-and-mouse game around the world. Are you able to track them down before they get away, in effect?

SHAPPS: Yes. I mean, there are a lot of different tools that we've had at our disposal. We've seen aircraft. I had an aircraft that flew in from New York to Farnborough in London. Initially everyone was saying, you know, you've got no powers. Hold on a minute, and we took a closer look, and eventually we got the National Crime Agency to prove it, I held it for a few days.

They proved it. We managed to have the law back us up and it's still there to this day. So I mean, that's what we've got to do in every single one of these incidents, whether it's properties or planes, or superyachts, Putin's war must not succeed.

SCIUTTO: Or Louis Vuitton bags, right? You have to go (INAUDIBLE). I'll be watching your TikTok account for the next asset that you seize.

SHAPPS: Well, that is where -- that's where I post it. When I get a yacht, a superyacht or an aircraft, it goes up on the TikTok account. People can follow, that's GrantShapps, and they can follow the latest seizures.

SCIUTTO: All right, Grant Shapps, secretary of state for transport for the U.K., thanks so much for joining us. Erica? ERICA HILL, CNN ANCHOR: Jim, a somber milestone being marked today in

this country. The White House marking it as well. The deaths now of one million Americans from COVID-19. How the president is honoring lives lost during the pandemic.



HILL: Last hour President Joe -- President Joe Biden, excuse me, marking this pandemic milestone, one million American lives lost due to coronavirus. He issued a presidential proclamation ordering flags be flown at half-staff to mark the somber moment. In his address, Biden reminded everyone that there are still more work to be done.


JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Around the world many more millions have died. Millions of children have been orphaned with thousands still dying every day. Now is the time for us to act, all of us together. We all must do more, must honor those we have lost by doing everything we can to prevent as many deaths as possible.


HILL: CNN senior medical correspondent Elizabeth Cohen joining me now live to discuss.

I mean, Elizabeth, you've been covering this since the very first days, right, before it was even as well documented here in the U.S. and this is a milestone that people knew was coming. Still tough to see it hit that number.

ELIZABETH COHEN, CNN SENIOR MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Oh, it is so tough to see us hit that number. You know, I remember in the very beginning people at the top levels of government saying, oh, gosh, I hope we don't have as many people die who died of SARS and we have far, far surpassed that. That was just a matter of thousands.

This is such a difficult moment because over two years we've had this drum beat of people dying, people dying, people dying, and it's easy to lose track of the enormity of it all. So let's put it in some perspective.

So we're marking one million deaths from COVID-19. If we look at HIV, which has been around for more than 40 years, 700,000 lives lost. World War II, about 405,000 U.S. These are all U.S. lives lost. Vietnam War, 58,000 U.S. lives lost. Look how large this one million number is.

Now we heard the president talk about honoring the people we've lost by doing everything we can to fight this virus. And the sad truth is that actually as a country we're not doing everything we can to fight this virus. If you look at these vaccination numbers in the U.S., when you look at eligible Americans, Americans who could get vaccinated, 17 percent have still not have a single shot. That just helps spread the virus. And then when you look at people who haven't received a booster, I'm talking about the third booster -- I'm sorry the first booster.


Many people call it the third shot. Among those who are eligible, only 49 percent have gotten it. This is not a way of honoring. This is not a way of protecting people. Hopefully we can do better in the future because unfortunately this virus isn't going away -- Erica.

HILL: No, it is not. Elizabeth Cohen, appreciate it. Thank you.

SCIUTTO: A deep, deep regression in Afghanistan. The Taliban now ordering women to once again cover their faces. This as dozens of Americans still stranded there, many hundreds, perhaps thousands of Afghans who served the U.S. as well. One man working to get them out joins me next. It's not easy.



SCIUTTO: With so much attention centered on the war in Ukraine, the news out of Afghanistan it continues to be bad there. It is sometimes easy to miss. But we're not going to miss it. The Taliban expanding restrictions imposed on women and girls and many thousands of Afghans who served the U.S. military courageously, still have not been able to get out of the country. They've been targeted by the Taliban, threatened, many of them killed.

Joining me now is Army veteran Matt Zeller. He served in Afghanistan and is co-founder of No One Left Behind, an organization working to bring Afghan interpreters particularly to the U.S.

Matt, good to you have on today.


SCIUTTO: This issue of course personal to you. Your interpreter Janis Shinwari saved your life when you were an Army captain in Afghanistan, yet today so many have been left behind and not just interpreters but members of the Afghan military, special forces, et cetera, served courageously alongside Americans, have not been able to get out.

Do we know how many remain there and how are they surviving a Taliban effort to hunt them down?

ZELLER: Sure. So the Association of Wartime Allies, which I'm proud to sit on their advisory board, has a unique ability to be able to poll the Afghan population right now. We polled them about a week and a half ago, and while we're still compiling the results, I can share some of the preliminary results with you.

One of the things that we learned is much to our great fears, our suspicions were correct. We left behind the bulk of the translators that were trying to seek refuge last August. We estimate that there are some 75,000 to 80,000 SIV applicants. That's interpreters and their immediate family members who need relocation. That's on top of a rough estimate of about another 100,000 individuals that served with the Afghan military that like we need relocation assistance.

You're absolutely right, they have been hunted down mercilessly by the Taliban. We know of at least two mass graves that are inside of Kabul. The Taliban don't want to get them, you know, out. But you are spot on to talk about how the fact that Afghanistan has now become hell on earth for women.

SCIUTTO: Yes. Let me --

ZELLER: Our poll was just staggering when we did it from them.

SCIUTTO: The visa process for Afghan refugees is painfully slow and difficult. By your tally, some 86 percent of applications in certain categories have been denied. I've been in touch with folks trying to get their visas and they can't, and they're under threat. The Biden administration has now fast tracked the visa policy for Ukrainian refugees. Is the U.S. in the simplest terms discriminating against Afghan refugees?

ZELLER: I believe so. Yes, there's no way you can look at this without saying that there are simply two immigration systems. Ukrainians, who our hearts go out to, can simply apply to the U.S. for something called humanitarian parole. And the terms of their applications are they just have to claim that they've been displaced by the Russian invasion since February. The application fees for that type of assistance to come to the United States are waived entirely for all Ukrainians.

Whereas Afghans have to spend $575 fee per person. That's more money, by the way, than the average Afghan makes in a year. And then they have to submit a letter on Taliban letterhead that calls them out by name as somebody who is subject to their persecution. That is the standard with which the government has told us Afghans are allowed to make it to the United States if they're seeking something called humanitarian parole, which is the fastest way to get someone to the United States.

And yes, you're correct. They shared with us a week and a half ago, they being the federal government, that they've denied 86 percent of the Afghans who have sought humanitarian parole since last August. They've collected over $30 million in fees, by the way, from these people and simply have just stolen it. It's atrocious.

SCIUTTO: Let me ask you this, Matt.

ZELLER: But the women, Jim.

SCIUTTO: Sorry --

ZELLER: The women left behind --

SCIUTTO: Because the women are suffering. I know, yes. ZELLER: I really -- this is such a critical point that I'm hoping

veterans can rally around to help bring more attention to this because, you know, as a father of a daughter, I'm just appalled. Our poll showed that 98 percent of women have reported losing their economic opportunities and their jobs, that 95 percent reported that they've lost their educational opportunities. 96 percent have reported they had to change their physical appearance or they simply can't go outside and probably the most spine tingling, over a third have claimed that the Taliban have tried to sexually proposition them.

Women simply put can't leave Afghanistan unless the Taliban give them permission and they have to travel with a male relative and pay $1,000 exit fee to leave the country.



ZELLER: It's just turning appalling.

SCIUTTO: It's turning the clock back. You know, medieval times and by the way the Taliban, you know, for one of their promises are worth, promises not to do so.

Matt Zeller, we appreciate the work you're doing. We know it's difficult and his story, we're going to do our best to stay on top of.

ZELLER: Thanks, Jim. We're not going to give up. I've made a promise when this evacuation was going on last August that American veterans and citizens would continue to rally. And I got to tell you, it has been a profound honor to work with these fellow, you know, veterans and citizens. This is an effort that we're going to be fighting maybe for the rest of our lives but we're not going to give up.

SCIUTTO: Keep at it, my friend. Thanks to you.

And thanks so much to all of you for joining us today. I'm Jim Sciutto.

HILL: Yes. Thank goodness for people like Matt.

I'm Erica Hill. Thanks for being with us. "AT THIS HOUR WITH KATE BOLDUAN" starts after this quick break.