Return to Transcripts main page

CNN Newsroom

Ukrainians Destroy Pontoon Bridges at Key River Crossing; First Russian Soldier Tried for War Crimes; Shanghai Aims for "Social Zero COVID" by Mid-May; UAE President Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan Dies at Age 73; Suspected War Criminals Identified by Technology; Canadian Gymnast Says She Suffered Physical and Verbal Abuse. Aired 1-2a ET

Aired May 14, 2022 - 01:00   ET




MICHAEL HOLMES, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): Hello and welcome to our viewers here in the United States and all around the world, I'm Michael Holmes. I appreciate your company.

Coming up here on the program, Ukraine says it is investigating some 11,000 alleged war crimes by Russian soldiers. The first war trial is now underway.

And already draconian rules get even more extreme: China's zero COVID policy turning cities into virtual prisons.


ANNOUNCER: Live from CNN Center, this is CNN NEWSROOM. With Michael Holmes.

HOLMES: Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelenskyy says more than 1,000 towns and villages have been retaken so far from Russian forces, including six more over the past 24 hours. He says the Russians are paying a heavy price for their aggression.


VOLODYMYR ZELENSKYY, UKRAINIAN PRESIDENT (through translator): Russia has lost almost 27,000 soldiers, many of them young conscripts. Russia has lost more than 3,000 tanks, armored combat vehicles, a large number of conventional military vehicles, helicopters, drones and all of its prospects as a state.


HOLMES: Ukraine also says Russian troops continue to retreat from around the city of Kharkiv in the north. Further south, Ukraine claims it successfully blocked a Russian advance at a key river.


HOLMES (voice-over): Drone footage you see here shows destroyed pontoon over the Donetsk River.


HOLMES: Russia's top general and the U.S. Defense Secretary spoke by phone for an hour on Friday, their first chat since the war began. Secretary Lloyd Austin again appealed for a cease-fire and to keep the lines of communication open.

In the Donbas, Ukrainian forces claim to have stopped an attempted Russian advance across a key river. CNN's Sam Kiley explains what happened.


SAM KILEY, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: This tank has come from Bilohorivka. That has been the scene of some intense fighting over the last few days; 60 civilians were killed there in an airstrike, hiding in the basement of an abandoned school.

And the Ukrainians are claiming that they killed a really large number, possibly many hundreds of Russian troops, who were part of an attempt to cross the Donetsk River using a pontoon bridge system.

The Ukrainians have released satellite images that show a scene of complete devastation of that Russian crossing. They say that they have knocked out a number of Russian tanks, armored personnel carriers, other multiple rocket launching systems.

But it hasn't been without cost. The Ukrainians have also clearly lost soldiers. They've had a number of injured and we have seen some of them earlier on in the week.

We've also just seen a Grad multiple rocket launching system drive past with clearly the signs of shrapnel damage and explosive damage that has been done to it.

Almost as quickly, though, reinforcements are being rushed into this very important front because this is very strongly about trying to ensure that the Russians are not able to cross the Donetsk River.

There are a number of key bridges but clearly the Russians are trying to avoid using the Ukrainian bridges, which they know are mined and ready to be detonated if they fall into Russian hands by using these pontoon systems.

But this is a tank battle. It is an artillery battle. And it's a bloody battle -- Sam Kiley, CNN.


HOLMES: As Ukraine fights Russian troops in the east, it is also starting a high-profile war crimes trial in its capital. A 21-year-old soldier, the first Russian to face war crimes charges since the war began. As Melissa Bell now reports, Ukraine is now suggesting there will be many more to come. Just a warning: some images in the report are graphic. (BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

MELISSA BELL, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Still at war with Russia but already fighting for justice. Ukraine's opened its first war crimes trial. A 21-year-old Russian soldier, Vadim Shysimarin, accused of shooting an unarmed civilian, on the fourth day of the war.

So far, Ukraine has identified 11,239 alleged war crimes, according to the country's prosecutor. They include the massacre of 300 unarmed civilians, in Bucha and the killing of many hundreds of civilians, mainly women and children, in the more than two-month-long siege of Kharkiv.

IRYNA VENEDIKTOVA, UKRAINE'S PROSECUTOR GENERAL: We have now some evidences that commanders gave the orders, shot civilians.


VENEDIKTOVA: But from other side, we understand that ordinary soldiers have their own responsibility, for this atrocity.

BELL (voice-over): And that, says Iryna Venediktova, is a message that needs to be sent now, so that Russian soldiers understand, there will be no impunity, even as the fighting, in regions, like Luhansk, continues.

She says she's been helped in gathering facts, by the many foreign forensic teams, working in towns, like Bucha, evidence that will also be used by the International Criminal Court, as it investigates both Russia's overall aggression, in Ukraine and the individual war crimes, allegedly committed, by Russian soldiers, which Russia denies.

LUIS MORENO-OCAMPO, FORMER PROSECUTOR, INTERNATIONAL CRIMINAL COURT: And they have to understand, they cannot use the armies, to invade another country and they cannot use the army, to kill civilians.

BELL (voice-over): For now though, it is in this small courthouse, in Kyiv that Ukrainian justice will have its first say. But can a trial be fair during a war?

Shysimarin's Ukrainian lawyer says he has faith in the impartiality of the country's judiciary and that the court can be trusted, to make a reasoned decision. He has yet to enter a plea.

The Kremlin spokesman says he has no information about the case. But the size of the media pack inside, spoke to the interest and emotion involved, on all sides.

Shysimarin's court translator, telling CNN at the end of the hearing that she, for her part, felt no anger toward the 21-year old, who could face life in jail.

"After all," she told us, "the tears of Russian mothers are salty, too." -- Melissa Bell, CNN, Kyiv.


HOLMES: Now for more, we're joined by Oleksandra Matviichuk, a Ukrainian human rights lawyer. She also leads the nonprofit group, the Center for Civil Liberties. She's calling us from Kyiv.

Thank you for making the. Time let me ask you about this war crimes tribunal, trial rather, getting underway, this 21-year-old soldier.

Why is it important that this be held now and in Ukraine under the Ukrainian judicial system, as opposed to being, you know, International Criminal Court process?

OLEKSANDRA MATVIICHUK, KYIV-BASED HUMAN RIGHTS LAWYER: The problem with International Criminal Court is that ICC will focus only on several episodes. ICC will never cover all war crimes which have been committed in the frame of this war.

And this means that the other crimes which will not be selected by ICC will remain the responsibility of national system.

HOLMES: There are, as we said, reportedly 11,000 potential crimes under investigation.

How many could there end up being?

The war has only been going for a few months.

MATVIICHUK: It's already an unprecedented number of war crimes. And we are not sure that Ukrainian national investigative body and Ukrainian national justice will be able to cope with such a huge amount of crimes.

Right now we are thinking how of to ingrain international element into the national system. Maybe it will be more of international hybrid tribunal or something like this to strengthen the capacity of Ukrainian national system to deliver justice.

HOLMES: How vital is it, not just for Ukraine but in a way for the world, global order, that there is accountability for what has been happening to civilians in Ukraine?

MATVIICHUK: It's very important because, in other parts of the world, Russia were -- and their representatives were not punished for the crimes which Russian soldiers committed in Chechnya, which Russian soldiers admitted in (INAUDIBLE) Transnistria, Crimea, Donbas.

And we have to stop this circle of impunity. We have to bring to justice not only Russian soldiers but also the top military and political leadership of Russia because this impunity of all of these decades only encourage Putin for the next act of violence.

HOLMES: You raise an interesting point. Establishing a chain of responsibility up the chain of command is notoriously difficult to do when it comes to war crimes. How confident are you that the process in Ukraine will hold those up

that chain responsible, the commanders, the generals, even the politicians, the Kremlin?

Do you think those links can be proven?

MATVIICHUK: Yes. These links can be proven, definitely. But because we have a lot of numbers of war crimes, we need assistance of the international community.


MATVIICHUK: Now, we have assistance in the form when France send their national police to work with our national prosecutors in the Kyiv region. But it's temporary action. And we need to find a way of constant, permanent involvement of our international community into this war.

HOLMES: How important is it -- and you touched on this when we talked about the International Criminal Court -- how important is it that meaningful action on alleged war crimes does not take years?

Because so often, it does.

MATVIICHUK: It is very important because, first of all, war broke the belief of people that war is (INAUDIBLE). Now we see that no law mechanism, no national level or international level Putin stoked (ph) the atrocities.

And we will not be able to deliver justice to Ukrainian people soon. This demand for justice can transfer (ph) the demand for revenge.

HOLMES: The one thing I wanted to ask you, too, this is now a very public thing, this 21-year old on trial in Ukraine, in a Ukrainian court.

Are you concerned that there could be a response from the Russians, where they could try to hold some sort of show trial, just to, as payback in a way?

MATVIICHUK: They have already started such way to respond to Ukrainian attempt for justice. They fabricated false criminal case since 2014 (ph), when the war started. I will remind you, the case against a Ukrainian film producer, Oleg Sentsov, who was accused of in terrorism (ph) and charged to the lot of years of colony and sent to the (INAUDIBLE). So it's a very predictable gesture.

HOLMES: Yes, good point. Good point. Got to leave it there, unfortunately. Oleksandra Matviichuk thank you so much, I really appreciate your time.

MATVIICHUK: Thank you.


HOLMES: Ukraine will soon be receiving more desperately needed support from Europe. The European Union's foreign policy chief says the bloc will provide military aid worth $521 million. He made the announcement on Friday amid the G7 foreign ministers' meeting.

Meanwhile, Finland says Russia is cutting off electricity exports to the country. Russia claims it is due to late payments. But it comes a day after Finland's leaders announced support for joining NATO. Moscow only provides about 10 percent of Finland's total power consumption.

A glimmer of hope for a Chinese city that has been under COVID lockdown for weeks. Officials in Shanghai talk about reopening. But the timeline is far from clear. That is when we come back.





HOLMES: New satellite images, obtained by CNN indicate North Korea has restarted construction at a long dormant nuclear reactor. The images captured over the last six weeks show new building activity at a second reactor at the Yongbyon nuclear complex. It's about 10 times larger than its existing reactor but it has remained unfinished under a decades-long agreement with the U.S.

If completed, though, it could dramatically increase Pyongyang's ability to produce plutonium for nuclear weapons.

Meanwhile, North Korea's state media is reporting 21 more deaths from what it calls, quote, "fever cases," as the country fights a COVID outbreak. State media are also saying that more than 174,000 new cases were recorded.

Later, Kim Jong-un convening a meeting on Saturday to review epidemic measures and medical supplies.

And in China, they say they're starting to work on reopening plans for Shanghai. It's been under lockdown since mid March amid a COVID outbreak there. But city leaders now say they're hoping to reach what they call social zero COVID in the middle of this month.

I want to give you an idea now of what life is like under lockdown in Shanghai and other Chinese cities. Selina Wang with that story.


SELINA WANG, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Clouds of disinfectant sprayed over every surface. This is what's happening, to the homes of people, who test positive, for COVID, in Shanghai.

The metropolis has been under the world's strictest lockdown, for more than a month. But the rules are only getting more extreme.

Before, only positive COVID cases and close contacts, were sent to quarantine facilities, like these, thousands of beds crammed together or just camping on the floor.

But now, entire apartment blocks, are being forced out of their homes, over just one positive COVID case, sent to prison like facilities, like these.

This video shows Shanghai residents, arguing with police officers, who showed up to take them to quarantine, after someone on their floor tested positive.

The officer says, while spraying disinfectant, quote, "It's not that you can do whatever you want, unless you are in America. This is China. Don't ask us why."

Residents, who've tested negative and are vaccinated and boosted, are terrified, of being rounded up.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: No, our neighbors do not want to go. None of us want to go.



UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Because we don't want to get COVID.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Because it's safe.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You are putting us in danger.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You are endangering us.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Who is this (ph)?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Your CDC does not know how to run a country.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You want us to (INAUDIBLE) die in China?

To get COVID and die because you think this is the right way to make us go with other sick people?

WANG (voice-over): CNN cannot verify the identity of the speakers or authenticity of this call that went viral, on Chinese social media.

Police have even kicked people's doors, to pieces, to take them away, to quarantine.


WANG (voice-over): Some buildings are banned, from placing any online orders, even food.

Chaos and fighting, outside of this Shanghai apartment. Residents claimed, they weren't given enough food. And some of the COVID workers, beating the residents, to the ground.

As outrage grows over new restrictions that crushed the last bit of freedom people had left, China's Supreme Leader Xi Jinping has vowed to double down on its zero COVID strategy and punish anyone who doubts it.

TEDROS ADHANOM GHEBREYESUS, DIRECTOR-GENERAL OF THE WORLD HEALTH ORGANIZATION: When we talk about the zero COVID strategy, we don't think that it's sustainable.

WANG (voice-over): The World Health Organization Chief's comments were swiftly censored, in China, along with the desperation people have shared online.

In China, zero COVID has turned into an ideological campaign, to show loyalty, to the Communist Party. At least 31 cities, in China, are under full or partial lockdown, impacting up to 214 million people, turning cities into virtual prisons, all in the name of zero COVID-19 -- Selina Wang, CNN, China.


HOLMES: In the United States, a new study suggests the Pfizer vaccine rapidly loses effectiveness in children who get the Omicron variant. The vaccine was more than 90 percent effective against the original virus for kids between 5 and 15 years old.

But once Omicron kicked in, the efficacy dropped to less than 29 percent for kids between 5 and 11. The effectiveness was measured two months after receiving the second dose. But the study in the Journal of American Medical Association shows boosters do restore much of the vaccine's protection.

Shock and outrage has erupted over the funeral of the Al Jazeera journalist Shireen Abu Akleh after Israeli police beat and shoved mourners gathered in Jerusalem.


HOLMES (voice-over): Have a look at this video from the scene, showing Israeli police officers using batons to hit people carrying the casket of the Palestinian American journalist. At one point, they nearly dropped the coffin, slipping out of the hands of pallbearers. You can see it right there, almost falling to the ground.

Police say they were forced to act, because some people threw stones.


HOLMES: Shireen Abu Akleh fatally shot while reporting on an Israeli military raid in the West Bank city of Jenin. This was on Wednesday. Palestinian leaders say they hold Israeli forces solely responsible for her death and have rejected calls from Israel's government for a joint investigation.

The United Arab Emirates announced a 40-day mourning period, after Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan died on Friday. He was the country's second-ever president, succeeding his father, the UAE founder, Sheikh Zayed, in 2004.

His policies helped transform the United Arab Emirates into a regional powerhouse. Becky Anderson with a closer look at his legacy.


BECKY ANDERSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL ANCHOR (voice-over): When Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan was born in 1948, the United Arab Emirates didn't even exist as a nation. This was a land where many earn their living by fishing or pearling. But his family was instrumental in transforming this into one of the world's largest oil producers.

By the time the UAE, a federation of seven states, was created in 1971, Sheikh Khalifa was the crown prince of the wealthiest state and country's capital, Abu Dhabi.

He took over the presidency in 2004 after the death of his father, Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan, the nation's founder. Like his father, he wished to modernize his country, shaping it into a haven of stability in a volatile neighborhood.

At home, he invested in the country's armed forces and developed its lucrative energy sector. His success spelled out on Dubai's skyline where one of the tallest buildings in the world, the Burj Khalifa, took on its leaders name after the government bailed to buy out of its debt woes in 2009.

Overseas, he solidified traditional alliances with countries like the U.K. while boosting trade ties with new partners.

Under his leadership, the UAE invested its enormous wealth in globally recognized airlines, prized assets, sporting powerhouses and major global events that have collectively put the country on the map turning it into a global tourist destination.

By the early 2010s, deteriorating health increasingly kept Sheikh Khalifa out of the public limelight. He underwent surgery after suffering a stroke in 2014. But his modernizing vision for the country has carried on under the leadership of his half-brother and Abu Dhabi crown prince Mohamed bin Zayed.


ANDERSON (voice-over): It's taken bold diplomatic steps such as establishing relations with Israel through the Abraham Accords and hosting the first ever papal visit to the Arabian Peninsula, positioning itself as a tolerant Middle Eastern society. All the while delicately balancing relations with Western and non-Western powers alike.

It's used its military might to project power, sometimes controversially, in places like Yemen.

And it's been diversifying its economy to cut its reliance on oil revenues, investing in renewable and nuclear energy, while taking steps such as allowing for complete foreign ownership of companies and introducing a golden visa program to maintain its position as an attractive destination for foreign investment and talent.

It's even entered the space race, becoming the first ever Arab country to send a mission to Mars aptly named Hope. It is, by all accounts, a country transformed. And that is how Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan leaves it to his successor.


HOLMES: I'm Michael Holmes. For our international viewers, "INSIDE THE MIDDLE EAST" up next. For everyone else, I'll be back with more news, after the break.





HOLMES: Welcome back.

Ukraine's military touting success in preventing Russian forces from crossing a key river in the Donbas region.


HOLMES: The drone footage shows a destroyed bridge over the Donetsk river and a ton of burned-out Russian military vehicles, tanks, armored personnel carriers and so on.

A senior U.S. Defense official said that Russian forces have not made much ground in the area as a result of that. Here's how the Pentagon press secretary summed up Ukraine's progress so far.



ADM. JOHN KIRBY (RET.), PENTAGON PRESS SECRETARY: They have prevented the Russians from achieving virtually any of their strategic objectives thus far in the war.


HOLMES: Meanwhile, Ukraine making use of artillery systems provided by the U.S. These images were tweeted of them in action, thanking the American people for sending them. It praised the artillery's high precision and effective weaponry.

And the Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said that 27,000 Russian soldiers have been killed since the war began. One of the challenges is storing and identifying the bodies left

behind. Sara Sidner reports on how facial recognition technology is playing a big role in that. A warning: some of the footage you are about to see is graphic.


SARA SIDNER, CNN SENIOR CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Inside this refrigerated train car, a gruesome sight. The bodies of Russian soldiers, packed and stacked, for storage.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): Look, this is looted.

SIDNER (voice-over): "Every Russian soldier, who is stored here, as a dead body, has committed a crime, against Ukraine," he says.

"Storing the bodies of the enemy aligns with the rules of war, set out, by the Geneva Convention," he says.

After the end of the active phase of combat, the parties must exchange the bodies of dead military. But they have to try to identify the dead men first. This is where the Ministry of Digital Transformation comes in.

"We have identified about 300 cases," he says.

They do it by using a myriad of techniques. But the most effective has been facial recognition technology. They upload a picture of a face. The technology scrubs all the social networks.

SIDNER: It's really fast.

SIDNER (voice-over): Once they have a match, they go one step further.

MYKHAILO FEDOROV, MINISTER OF DIGITAL TRANSFORMATION (through translator): We send messages to their friends and relatives.

SIDNER: These are often gruesome photos, of dead soldiers. Why do you send them to the families, in Russia?

FEDOROV (through translator): There are two goals.

One is to show the Russians, there's a real war, going on here, to fight against the Russian propaganda, to show them they're not as strong, as they're shown on TV. And Russians really are dying here.

The second goal is to give them an opportunity, to pick up the bodies, in Ukraine.

SIDNER (voice-over): They do get responses from Russian families.

SIDNER: They're responding with basically saying, "You will be killed. I will come. And I will also take part"--

FEDOROV: Yes, yes.

SIDNER: --"in this war."

FEDOROV (through translator): 80 percent of the families' answers are, "We'll come to Ukraine ourselves and kill you," and "You deserve what's happening to you."

SIDNER: What about that 20 percent?

FEDOROV (through translator): Some of them say, they're grateful and they know about the situation and some would like to come and pick up the body.

SIDNER (voice-over): The technology is not just being used on the dead. It is also being used, to identify Russian soldiers, who are alive, some of whom are being accused of war crimes.

"We have established the identity of one military man. We have a lot of materials, irrefutable evidence," this prosecutor says.

This is footage of the Russian military man he's talking about. He says he was caught on video, in Belarus, trying to sell items, he had looted, from Ukrainian homes.

But his alleged crimes go far beyond that. The soldier is accused of taking part, in the execution of four Ukrainian men, with their hands bound behind their backs.

CNN obtained new video, of the scene, just before shots were fired. You can see what appears to be soldiers standing around and a man on his knees, on the ground, to the right of them.

Prosecutors say, the soldier was first identified, by the technology and then by a Ukrainian citizen, who said this soldier tortured him, after entering his home.



SIDNER (voice-over): "We showed these photos to the witnesses and victims. They identified the specific person, who was among other Russian military personnel, who killed four people, in this particular place," the prosecutor said.

The end result of all their investigations they hope will be a full record of what happened in Ukraine and the proof they need, to prosecute those, who committed crimes, against its people -- Sara Sidner, CNN, Bucha district, Ukraine.


HOLMES: A Russian court extended U.S. Olympian and women's basketball star Brittany Griner's detention until at least June 18. A court hearing in Moscow on Friday was the first time Griner has been seen publicly since her arrest in February.

She was able to speak to an American official on the sidelines, who said she is doing as well as to be expected under difficult circumstances. She has been in custody since February when Russian authorities found vape containers in her luggage, allegedly filled with cannabis oil.

Still to come, if loose lips sink ships, then what do loose tweets do to a publicly traded company's shares while in the middle of a multi- billion dollar takeover? Elon Musk found out on Friday.





HOLMES: Welcome back.

U.S. markets ending higher on Friday, some green arrows there. But it was not enough to erase days of heavy losses. The Dow closing up nearly 1.5 percent. The Nasdaq nearly 4 percent and the S&P 500 nearly 2.5 percent.

Now Elon Musk's tweet, saying that his Twitter takeover bid was temporarily on hold, well, that turned heads and rattled markets. The company's stock was down nearly 10 percent by the time markets closed on Friday.

But is there a method to Musk's madness?

CNN's Brian Stelter offers some possible explanations.


BRIAN STELTER, CNN SENIOR MEDIA CORRESPONDENT: Is Elon Musk just trolling us all again?

That's the dominant question in the tech world after he tweeted on Friday about the Twitter takeover being on hold. Let's analyze what he wrote in the tweet and see if we can read between the lines.

He said temporarily on hold, pending details supporting calculation that spam, fake accounts do indeed represent less than 5 percent of users. He linked to a nearly two-week-old story from Reuters about the existence of spam accounts on the platform.

So maybe he is saying it's actually a lot more than 5 percent, there's a lot more spam and fake accounts and it's actually a bigger problem than Twitter thinks. And maybe he does not want to buy it after all. Maybe he wants to back away from the deal.

It seems to be what he is implying here. But analysts and investors are saying that he is citing it as a pretext and it's all about money. Of course the broader market selloff in recent weeks, the shares that Musk owns in Tesla, have declined in value. He needs the Tesla shares to finance the deal for Twitter. So it's possible he is trying to back away. Or maybe he is trying to

get a lower price for Twitter. Maybe he is trying to buy it closer to $30 billion than $40 billion. All of those, big questions left after his tweets on Friday.

He did follow up and say he was committed to the acquisition but analysts are skeptical now that he will go through with it and maybe only one person knows for sure, Elon Musk.


HOLMES: The Biden administration is on the defensive and scrambling to deal with a nationwide shortage of baby formula, as desperate parents plead for answers. The president pushed back on criticism that his administration was caught flat footed by the shortfall, a crisis that was building for weeks.

White House press secretary Jen Psaki explained why invoking the Defense Production Act was not the administration's first choice.


JEN PSAKI, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: We are keeping that option under consideration. But our focus is primarily twofold. One is increasing supply, making it, and the other is making it readily available.


HOLMES: Several manufacturers are running at or above capacity to produce more formula. But still predicting a shortfall in the near future.

Now Gymnastics Canada is being sued for allegedly allowing the abuse of athletes. CNN speaks to a former gymnast, spearheading the lawsuit, when we come back.





HOLMES: Gymnastics Canada could be facing a long legal battle after a class action lawsuit was filed, alleging that the organization and other provincial governing bodies were complicit in allowing sexual and psychological abuse of gymnasts.

The representative plaintiff in the case is Amelia Cline. She said that she fell in love with the sport as a 2-year old, a fearless child, reveling in learning to balance, vault and somersault. She was good, she was really good.

But at the age of just 13, she abandoned her dreams of Olympic glory to save herself from being screamed at and physically hurt by her coaches.

As Cline says, this was not coaching; it was, quote, "straight up child abuse." In echoes of other scandals in the U.S. and across the globe, hundreds of Canadian gymnasts have now come forward with similar tales. Amelia shared her painful story with Don Riddell.


DON RIDDELL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: So when did things start to go wrong?

AMELIA CLINE, FORMER GYMNAST: I had wonderful coaches who were nice people but then those coaches left. And in their place, came a husband and wife team, who were, who ended up being quite abusive.

RIDDELL: In what way were they abusive?

Can you describe it?

CLINE: Immediately off the bat, it was very verbally abusive. If you made any mistakes, it was -- they would scream and humiliate you. It was name calling, "Are you stupid?

"Why can't you do this?"

The word of choice was usually "rubbish" or "you are rubbish, this is rubbish."

Eventually it progressed to sort of physical abuse, where it started largely with overtraining and overstretching. So they would forcibly overstretch us to the point that we were in tears and crying and begging to get out of the stretch. And they would not let us up.

And we used to do a regular stretch, where I would stand in front of my coach. My coach would be behind me. And then he would lift my leg from behind and lift it past my ear, in a standing stretch, a standing split.


CLINE: And so when we went to do that, I told him, my hamstring feels a little bit off. There is something wrong. I don't think we should do this stretch today.

And he got really annoyed. He said something along the lines of, well, you're just faking or just trying to get out of doing this stretch. So he turned me around and grabbed my leg and forced it up behind my ear.

And when he did that, it snapped my hamstring, completely tore it and took part of my pelvis with it. It's some of the worst pain I've ever experienced in my life.

RIDDELL: What was your coach's reaction when he put you into that stretch and that happened?

Was there any regret or remorse? CLINE: No. He screamed at me. He got very angry. He said something along the lines of she lied to me, even though it was clear I had tried to warn him that something was wrong beforehand. So I think he was trying to distance himself from responsibility for what he had done.

There was no offer of medical treatment. No one called my parents. I think I ended up having to limp to the change room myself and call my parents to take me to the hospital.

It was made very, very clear that we would be in significant trouble if we told our parents what was going on. So my parents really truly didn't have a good understanding of what was going on until I quit.

RIDDELL: What kind of impact has that experience had on you long-term?

CLINE: Both physically and psychologically, it's been damaging. I have had physical, debilitating physical back pain since I was 14. Psychologically, though, there is long-term impacts as well.

So I -- I don't weigh myself. I can never get on a scale. Even if I'm at the doctor, I ask them not to tell me what the number is or I don't look at the numbers, because I know that's going to cause me to spiral into disordered eating.

I thankfully have been able to stave off a very severe eating disorder. But it has required constant vigilance on my part to make sure I'm not slipping into really harmful eating patterns.

I continue to have nightmares and it's -- the effects are wide-ranging and long-term. So I'm almost 20 years removed from the sport. And I'm still dealing with these things every day.

RIDDELL: So a number of you are filing a class action lawsuit, which I guess could grow and grow in terms of numbers.

What you hoping to achieve?

CLINE: First and foremost, we're really trying to hold these institutions accountable and to send a message that you will not be able to allow these things to continue without being held liable for them.

Second of all, what we're really looking for is to ensure that survivors are taken care of and that they can seek the treatment that they need, because, as we know, these -- these types of injuries and these types of effects from this abuse are lifelong and very long-term and usually require quite intensive treatment, both physical and psychological.

And many people don't actually have the financial resources to seek that treatment and to get the care that they need. If these things were happening in a school or at home, there would be serious consequences almost immediately.

But for some reason when we put it in the context of a sport -- and particularly gymnastics -- we normalize it to such a degree that we've completely lost sight of the fact that these are -- this is child abuse. This is not coaching. This is just straight-up child abuse.

RIDDELL: You are now speaking out. You are now telling your story. I suspect many other gymnasts are going to be telling their stories as well.

How does it feel to be speaking out?

How does it feel to be taking ownership of your story?

CLINE: It feels really empowering. And I'm really proud of all of the survivors who have started to come forward. It's not easy. There is still a significant culture of fear that has kept people silent for decades.

And so I'm very encouraged that survivors are finally starting to find their voices. And I think it's through our collective voice together, pushing for change, that we're actually going to see good things come to the sport. And we're actually going, hopefully, create a future for the next generation of gymnasts that is free from abuse.


HOLMES: Now the husband and wife coaching team that Amelia mentioned is Vladimir and Svetlana Lashin. They are not named as defendants but the lawsuit points out that Vladimir Lashin was one of Canada's gymnastics coaches at the 2004 Olympics.

The couple are believed to have left Canada and they haven't replied to any of CNN's multiple attempts to contact them via email and Facebook.

Now Gymnastics Canada is waiting to see the full details of the lawsuit but did give us a statement saying this, quote, "Although we have not been served, the allegations we have been made aware of --


HOLMES (voice-over): -- "in the claim describe behavior that is unacceptable in any sport environment and we take them very seriously.

"As leaders in the sport of gymnastics within Canada, we are committed to providing a safe environment for members of our sport, free from all forms of maltreatment."

Six-time major champ Phil Mickelson has pulled out of next weekend's PGA championship after also missing the Masters tournament a month ago. The 51-year old made history when he won last year's PGA, becoming golf's oldest major winner.

He gave no reason for not defending his title but earlier this year he said he would take some time away from the sport.

Thanks for spending part of your day with me. I'm Michael Holmes. I'll have more news in just a minute.