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First Russian Soldier Tried For War Crimes Pleads Guilty; U.N. Sounds Alarm Against Climate Change; Taliban Rule Bars Afghan Girls From High School; U.K. Inflation Soars To 40-Year High; E.U. Plan To Lessen Russian Energy Dependence; Top Ukrainian Commanders Still Inside Azovstal; The Taliban's Afghanistan; U.S. Soccer Equal Pay Deal. Aired 2-3p ET
Aired May 18, 2022 - 14:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
LYNDA KINKADE, CNN HOST: Hello everyone, I'm Lynda Kinkade, you're watching CNN NEWSROOM live from Atlanta. Tonight, the first Russian soldier on trial for war crimes in Ukraine pleads guilty. We're live in Kyiv. Then the world's oceans are the warmest they've ever been, and the U.N. is sounding the alarm. We'll have the latest on a damning new climate report. And later, Taliban rule means girls still can't go to high school in Afghanistan, but some are fighting back, we'll have a special report from Kabul.
Well, the fighting may be over in Mariupol, but there's been no final surrender. And the fate of the city's Ukrainian defenders is still very much in doubt. Russia says nearly 1,000 fighters have now surrendered at the Azovstal Steel plant. Most of them taken to a detention center in a Russian-controlled territory in Donetsk. Russia says dozens of other fighters are being treated in hospital.
A Donetsk separatist leader says top Ukrainian commanders are still inside the plant, although we can't confirm that. And Ukraine is keeping silent, saying very fragile talks are underway. It wants to swap prisoners of war with Russia, but no agreement has been announced. Further north in Donetsk, officials say the frontlines are being shelled day and night. Heavy fighting is also reported in Luhansk, where Russia has brought in 15 helicopters to reinforce its offensive.
And as the fighting rages, the first Russian soldier to go on trial for alleged war crimes in Ukraine appeared in court today. The 21- year-old tank commander pleaded guilty. He was charged with killing an unarmed elderly civilian back in February, and he could face life behind bars. Russia says it has no details about the case, calling the trial unacceptable and staged. Well, for more, I want to bring in Melissa Bell who joins us from Kyiv.
And Melissa, a great deal of interest in this case about this 21-year- old Russian, the first to face a war crime trial. He has pleaded guilty. Does that mean that this trial is likely to be shorter? And why was it put on pause today? MELISSA BELL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, certainly, the prosecution had
expected to -- expected it to be much shorter than that, given that 21-year-old Vadim Shishimarin has pled guilty now, and that, this was meant to go much more quickly. Turned out though, there were far too many journalist and what was a courtroom that was too small to accommodate them all. So the hearing had to be stopped and proceedings pick up again tomorrow.
What we did learn beyond Shishimarin's plea though, that guilty plea that you mentioned, Lynda, is also that we're going to be hearing from another key witness when proceedings resume tomorrow, he is another Russian prisoner of war who was traveling in Vadim Shishimarin's car the day the prosecution alleges that he killed that unarmed civilian.
Now, he's pled guilty to that, but what this extra testimony is going to provide, and we didn't know there was going to be a second prisoner of war giving testimony is a much clearer picture of exactly what went on and why he says he shot that unarmed civilian.
So, another day of high drama expected tomorrow, and it should make for an interesting hearing. All the more so because of the wider context that you mentioned a moment ago. This happens even as, of course, on the other side, on the Russian side. Those Azovstal fighters, those nearly thousand evacuees from the Azovstal Steel plant who are now prisoners of war of Russian forces. The Russian Ministry of Defense releasing pictures of them.
Their fate now hangs in the balance as well. With the leader of the Donetsk People's Republic, and that is the area in which they find themselves physically, hinting today during a press conference that these men should now be put on trial.
Now, we don't know if that will happen, we don't know when it will happen, but what does seem clear now is that, those evacuations we've been witnessing from Azovstal since last night, much less clearly the subject of a straightforward prisoner of war exchange. And I think that is a huge disappointment to the families of the men involved. Lynda?
KINKADE: Yes, it certainly is, and we are going to focus on that a little bit more in just a moment. But Melissa, I want to ask you also about this human rights watch report that released today, detailing some crimes allegedly carried out by Russian troops including executions, torture and other abuses.
And it comes after these investigators visited dozens -- over a dozen villages.
BELL: That's right, we're talking about the Chernihiv region that we visited on Sunday, Lynda. And it's a part of the country where beyond the very dramatic siege of Chernihiv city itself that you'll remember we covered for several weeks. There is of course what went on much more quietly in the countryside, all around. Chernihiv region is fairly large, it borders Russia. And this is the part of the country that was taken very quickly in the first few days of the war.
It is then a part of the country that is now liberated, where these crimes are now beginning to emerge. Alleged war crimes as you say, with human rights watch speaking about some of those summary executions, forced disappearances, that it is documenting all parts of the wider Ukrainian attempt to understand exactly what went on.
The chief prosecutor here in Ukraine has been speaking to us, Lynda, and saying that all of that help that Ukrainian authorities are getting on the ground, and specifically in those parts of the country, that were occupied by Russian forces, really crucial in helping Ukraine pick up, build up a wider picture of what's been going on in the country.
So far, more than 12,000 documented cases of alleged war crimes by Ukrainian authorities, some the subject of investigations already, others as in the case of Vadim Shishimarin, the subject of a court case of a trial, that is now going on, that we'll continue to follow tomorrow, Lynda.
KINKADE: All right, Melissa Bell for us in Kyiv, thanks so much. Well, a NATO military official tells CNN that neither Ukraine nor Russia is expected to make any major battlefield gains in the next few weeks. But says that the momentum has significantly shifted in favor of Ukraine. Well, I want to bring in Suzanne Malveaux who joins us from Lviv. At first, let's start off on the offensive in Luhansk. Russia continuing to shell that region. What's the latest?
SUZANNE MALVEAUX, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, there are two areas that obviously we're keeping an eye on, Luhansk as well as Donetsk. But Luhansk as you know controlled by 90 percent by the Russians. They have been trying fiercely to push forward through the Ukrainian defense line, and to achieve the other 10 percent, to capture that, and that is where the battle really is.
The Ukrainians reporting some 15 attack helicopters on the Russian side that they have been under air attack. That it has been very intense fighting throughout the day, and that they have been able to repel some of those attacks and those forces. What we've seen is incredible video of the Ukrainian military are pushing back if you will, trying to protect its own territory that the territory that it does control by destroying those bridges and really, forbidding those Russians from advancing as far as they would like to go.
And secondly, they're also getting closer to the supply lines, those critical supply lines that the Russians are relying on. And so, Ukrainians making some progress there, and then on the Donetsk region, that is where the military, Ukrainians say they have been shelled day and night on the frontlines there. Having said that, however, Ukrainian military saying that they have managed to repel or at least hold these Russian forces as you could imagine.
The Russian forces really just trying to penetrate that defense line, if they can, that would certainly put the Ukrainian military in a very vulnerable situation as they would face Russian forces in three different directions. That is the battle line, that is what's taking place.
KINKADE: And Suzanne, obviously, major concerns over the welfare of those Ukrainian soldiers being held captive by Russia. Do you have any more details on their welfare?
MALVEAUX: Well, certainly, families very concerned about those who have essentially escaped. And they are in the hands of Russians. Now, the Russian officials are saying and CNN cannot confirm these new numbers that there are about a 1,000 or so, many more than had been previously reported, that were in Russian custody, a smaller group, about 50 or so severely wounded in a local hospital that is close to the front lines, and the others at a Russian prison.
So, their fate very much in question here. And there have been discussions about whether or not, there would be some sort of swap or trade with Russian prisoners of war. But what we have heard from a Russian official today, a spokesperson saying there is no doubt that they will be treated in a way that is in accordance with the international law in a humanitarian way.
That this care that they're providing for those who are severely wounded is not just for show. That -- and the spokesperson's words there. But as we know with Russia's history, there is no confidence in those kinds of statements, and the families are not really comforted by that at this time.
The other thing that we're seeing is that, a statement also coming from the leader of the separatist, Donetsk region, that they feel that those who are inside of the steel plant are the top commanders of Ukraine's military. And therefore, high value targets not likely to be released, perhaps, facing some sort of trial.
KINKADE: All right, Suzanne Malveaux for us in Lviv, we'll leave it there for now. And we will speak to an adviser to Ukrainian defense ministry a little later in the show, to get some more details on the welfare of those soldiers. Well, Ukrainian military has dealt Russian forces what may be their worst defeat in the war so far. A disastrous attempt to cross a river in eastern Ukraine. Ukrainian units found out about the crossing and bombarded it into ruins.
CNN's Sam Kiley went along with the Ukrainian patrol to survey the wreckage and gave us this exclusive look.
SAM KILEY, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The first signs of a Russian disaster, Azima(ph), Russian tank being salvaged by Ukrainian troops. A few days ago, this was the scene on the edge of these woods. Russian pontoon bridges and the ferocious Ukrainian artillery attack. The Ukrainian commander with us cast an eye to the sky, looking for Russian drones. This is no place for complacency.
Ukraine and NATO have claimed that Russia suffered badly here. They estimate 70 to 80 vehicles destroyed, and a whole Russian battle group of a 1,000 men mold.
(on camera): So, we're at the edge now of the area where the Russian armor was caught, after it had crossed the pontoon river. You can see down here that a destroyed tank, next to it, an armored personnel carrier, and if we look down the road here, you've got another armored personnel carrier and another and another.
The Ukrainians were able, they say, due to their superior reconnaissance and intelligence, to work out where the Russians were going to cross, and then bring in devastating levels of artillery. And this is the result. This is only the edge of it.
(voice-over): Russia has now shifted its attacks elsewhere, at least, for now.
(on camera): When you see this, how do you feel?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): Great, I understand that our artillery is working and our troops are working too. Because there was both artillery and ground fighting. The units in cooperation with other troops were pushing the enemy across the river on foot.
KILEY (voice-over): Shattered Russian armor is scattered along this path through the woodland. On the ground, we can't move forward. The track is mined.
(on camera): A real disaster for the Russians, but something that the Ukrainians are now saying here, that means that the pressure is off this particular front for now, and that they believe that the Russians are focusing more of their efforts elsewhere.
(voice-over): Ukrainian soldiers pick over the debris of this victory. But, the chilling truth is that, many of their comrades have ended up like this. And while this is a success in the grinding war for Ukraine, Russia remains an immediate threat.
(on camera): And they have asked us to get out of here with the military commander because they're worried that our cars are going to attract attention, and therefore attract incoming. This is still clearly an extremely active area.
(voice-over): And one, as it was for the Russians, that it's a considerable relief to leave. Sam Kiley, CNN, Bilohorivka.
KINKADE: Well, in Brussels, NATO Secretary-General is calling it a historic step. The Swedish and Finnish ambassadors today handing him their countries' applications to join the alliance. Jens Stoltenberg promised them a rapid review. Their bids represent a swift reversal after decades of neutrality. Russia's war in Ukraine has made the two Scandinavian countries much more concerned about their security.
Well, CNN's Nina dos Santos is in the Swedish capital Stockholm and joins us now live. Good to see you, Nina. So, the NATO-Secretary General is saying that the security concerns of all members of NATO need to be taken into account. Clearly, referring to Turkey, which its president of course, making it clear that poses Finland and Sweden joining NATO. What are the next steps to expand NATO?
NINA DOS SANTOS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, obviously, the next step will be trying to get over this diplomatic hurdle.
And in fact, Antony Blinken; the U.S. Secretary of State has just spoken on his way into a meeting with his Turkish counterpart Mevlu Cavusoglu, where he reiterated yes, that point of view that's been both diplomatically put forward by the Secretary-General of NATO, which is, this is an alliance. If you want to be admitted into this alliance, while all 30 members have to agree by unanimous consensus.
And that means that if they have concerns, those concerns have to be brought to the floor and discussed. So Antony Blinken saying that, this is a process and the process does have to be respected. Either way, though, we're still going to see the leaders of Sweden and Finland head to Washington D.C. tomorrow for perhaps the biggest show of support you could get from any NATO member, which is an invitation to the White House to discuss their membership bids directly with the U.S. President Joe Biden.
Now, here in Stockholm, this has been treated as an important, poignant moment, and also, some say, while it's an opportunity to look forward to a more secure future in this part of the world, it will radically reshaped the geopolitics of northern Europe. But it is prompting some soul-searching on the subject of Swedish neutrality.
DOS SANTOS (voice-over): For Anna Lodygina who has just escaped the war in Ukraine with her mother and a young baby, Stockholm means safety for now.
ANNA LODYGINA, UKRAINIAN REFUGEE: Here, it's so calm that people who are living here, 100 really kilometers from this war and you don't feel it right here. It's difficult to understand the situation until you're not in it.
DOS SANTOS: Sweden has for years offered sanctuary to people like Anna fleeing conflicts across the world. Unimpeded, thanks to the nation's once cherished neutrality. But now, that is about to change as the country prepares to join NATO, alongside neighboring Finland.
MAGDALENA ANDERSSON, PRIME MINISTER, SWEDEN: Every country has their own right to make their decisions, and we think this is better for the future to be a member in NATO, for the security of Sweden and the Swedish people.
DOS SANTOS (on camera): Sweden and Finland have changed their minds on NATO at lightning speed, but this isn't a decision that either side is taking lightly. For these Nordic neighbors, joining NATO means turning their backs on a deliberate policy of military non-alignment, that has served them well for many generations. For NATO, it also means a much longer border with Russia to police.
(voice-over): Russia has begun to talk down the significance of this expansion of the alliance. The exact opposite of Vladimir Putin's intentions. Public support for NATO membership was overwhelmingly high in Finland, but here in Sweden, the debate is more nuanced. Seventy- year-old Anita Sullivan(ph) says that there is still room for a peacemaker in today's world order, and that Sweden should continue to fulfill that role.
"Russia hasn't been to war with Sweden for two centuries", she says. "The warnings about Russia, it's just NATO propaganda". Antjuan Hamburg(ph); an economic student in his 20s says the decision has been rushed.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I don't think people should be scared that Russia is going to invade Sweden. I think that's preposterous, they're not going to invade Sweden.
DOS SANTOS: Amid fears the Ukraine invasion could spark a bigger conflict, we meet Rainer Pinior who fled his native Germany after the second World War, first for neutral Austria before settling in Sweden 60 years ago.
RAINER PINIOR, GERMANY-BORN SWEDISH RESIDENT: Now, it comes back, all the memories, so -- and what could happen for those people.
DOS SANTOS (on camera): So, how do you feel about Sweden's move now to join NATO?
PINIOR: Yes, it's right, because nobody knows what will happen in the next 20 years. That is my concern.
DOS SANTOS: Anna is also positive about NATO's expansion. Just sad her country wasn't afforded its protection.
LODYGINA: They have an opportunity to be safe and to protect their people. What's happening right now in our country, it may happen to any of us.
DOS SANTOS: So, Lynda, as you can see, their voices young and old who are suffering from wars that are happening as we speak, and also have the memories of what happened and what this expansion of NATO supposedly is designed to try and prevent. Lynda?
KINKADE: Yes, and we will continue to follow how this plays out in the coming months. Nina dos Santos for us in Stockholm, thanks so much. Well, U.S. markets are down sharply, the Dow has fallen more than 1,000 points, retailers are weighing on the markets. The numbers plunging after Target reported a 52 percent drop in its first quarter profits.
And we are going to have more on the markets a bit later in the show. Anna Stewart will join us to discuss what's happening. Well, still to come tonight, a new report lays out who and what contributed to the fall of Afghanistan. That's coming up, plus, rising sea levels, warming oceans and a dire warning from the U.N. How the war in Ukraine is a wake-up call on the climate crisis. That story, next.
KINKADE: Welcome back. The war in Ukraine is a wake-up call to fix the global energy system and ditch fossil fuels. That urgent warning coming from the U.N. Chief Antonio Guterres. Take a listen to what he had to say.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ANTONIO GUTERRES, SECRETARY-GENERAL, UNITED NATIONS: The global energy system is broken and bringing us ever closer to climate catastrophe. Fossil fuels are a dead end environmentally and economically. The war in Ukraine and its immediate effect on energy prices is yet another wake-up call. The only sustainable future is a renewable one. We must -- fossil fuel pollution that accelerates renewable energy transition before we incinerate our -- time is running out.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KINKADE: In 2021, the world's oceans grew to their warmest and most acidic levels on record. The melting ice pushed sea levels to new heights. That's according to a damning new report from the World Meteorological Organization. In response, the U.N. has unveiled a new plan to transition to renewable energy. Petteri Taalas is the head of the WMO and joins us now live. Good to have you with us.
PETTERI TAALAS, SECRETARY-GENERAL, WORLD METEOROLOGICAL ORGANIZATION: Thank you.
KINKADE: So there is no doubt that attention has been diverted from climate change to focus on the war in Ukraine, to focus on the COVID pandemic. But climate change is pressing and the impact is becoming clear.
TAALAS: That's very true, and climate change is still the biggest challenge for mankind this century. COVID pandemic is soon over, and hopefully, also this war will be over. And thereafter, climate still remains just as our main challenge.
KINKADE: Every year, we see another record broken, whether it's levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere or average global temperature rises. What surprised you or rather concerns you most when it came to the findings of this annual state of global climate?
TAALAS: So we are publishing these kinds of reports on an annual basis. And every time, we have broken less comfortable records, and that's what we did also this time. We have again record amount of carbon dioxide, it means that the concentration is already so high that the melting of glaciers and sea-level rise will continue for the coming centuries.
And that will threaten many big cities worldwide like New York or Los Angeles, and we have also broken records in temperatures. In Canada, for example, they have the highest temperature ever, 49.6 centigrade, and also in Europe, we broke all-time high, 48.8 degrees in southern Italy.
KINKADE: And now, of course, we have this energy crisis caused in part by the war in Ukraine. The U.N. Secretary-General describes fossil fuels as a dead end. Talk to us about renewable energy. What's most effective right now, and what needs more investment?
TAALAS: So, the good news is that, the prices of solar, I mean, and it's the -- become very attractive for investors. The prices are now lower than the ones produced by fossil energy, and also the prices of batteries and electric vehicles have been dropping. And we are soon going to get also small-scale nuclear reactors on the market. So we have better means to be successful in climate than we did years and than before.
KINKADE: And of course, in recent months, we have seen extreme heat waves in India and Pakistan. We have seen flooding along Australia's east coast. We have seen the extreme drought in California and the wildfires. Your report did outline the cost of climate change. You put that figure at over $100 billion in damages. How do you come to a figure like that? And no doubt, that figure is set to rise as we've seen more of these events.
TAALAS: So, during the past 50 years, we have seen an increase five- fold in economic losses related to climate events. And it has been shown that it's even -- it's about 20 times cheaper to mitigate climate than to live with the consequences. And these consequences are rising and the costs are rising, and also U.S.A. is very vulnerable country when it comes to economic losses.
And also, the poor countries in Caribbean, in Africa, in Pacific Island states, they are especially vulnerable. And they can easily lose several years of their GDP in one hurricane or cyclone or typhoon event.
KINKADE: All right, we'll have to leave it there for now, Petteri Taalas; Secretary General of the U.N.'s WMO. Good to have you with us, thank you.
TAALAS: Thank you.
KINKADE: Well, if you want more details, you can head to our web page for more on the climate crisis, including how it's affecting not only Australia's environment, but its upcoming elections too. And there, you'll get a taste of how climate change is impacting Australia's citizens and how it might play into the upcoming election.
That's at cnn.com. Well, still to come tonight, one human rights group says it's concerned about the fate of Ukrainian soldiers who have been taken from the Azovstal Steel plant into Russian territory. Plus, the finding, a solution to the energy crisis created by the war. What the EU leaders are planning.
KINKADE (voice-over): Hello, I'm Lynda Kinkade.
Inflation is rising around the world especially in the U.K. The latest numbers soared to 9 percent, which is a 40 year high. A part of the problem is the price of fuel which has been driven up by Russia's war in Ukraine.
The European Union leaders have an ambitious plan to deal with this energy crisis. For more, I want to bring in Anna Stewart who joins us now from London.
Good, to see you Anna. As a result of this war in Ukraine, the E.U. is having to pivot. One silver lining is a new plan to fast-track renewable energy sources.
ANNA STEWART, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, this certainly means it has to accelerate. That it wants to end its reliance on Russian energy by 2027, it's already gone some way to doing. That banning Russian coal entirely from the E.U.
It wants to ban Russian oil but, of course, we know that it is running into difficulties there with opposition from the likes of Hungary. It still plans to slash its use of Russian gas by two-thirds this year.
Short term, a lot of that involves finding gas elsewhere; a lot of liquefied gas for instance in U.S. and Canada. But longer term, it is looking at renewable energy with a huge focus and a huge price tag. The cost of the package unveiled today is $220 billion .
However, it thinks it can get there, if this works, it'll actually save itself $100 billion a year by not relying on fossil fuels.
It has a big package, lots of different elements of it but things like it will try and speed up infrastructure projects for green energy, making it much quicker and easier to get those implemented.
It will enforce, for instance, new public buildings in the E.U. to have solar panels on their roofs by 2025. However, before we get too excited, all of this is a proposal from the E.U. Commission. It has to be agreed by all of the E.U. member states.
And it has to be implemented. A lot of the proposals in the big package will involve some compromise and some sacrifice for certain states.
KINKADE: That is the tricky part, right? But that, of course, is a more long-term plan. Looking short-term, we have been discussing in recent weeks the fact that Russia wants companies to pay for its gas in rubles. Finland's gas company is refusing that demand, which means it could be cut off from Russian gas within a matter of days.
STEWART: Yes, gas can be cut off by the end of Friday evening. That happened to Poland and Bulgaria already. They refused to play into the Kremlin's proposal or demand actually to pay for their gas in rubles.
It is more complicated across the E.U. So for, Finland, gas only makes up around 6 percent of their overall energy. It's small and not all of that is even Russian gas. For other countries, they're much more reliant and they cannot afford to take the stance.
The issue at this stage is, can they pay for their gas in euros?
Have it converted into rubles somehow in Russia and not breach sanctions?
Unfortunately, the message from the E.U. on this front has been really quite conflicting. So energy companies in Italy had to set up a ruble account. Some of the briefings we had yesterday, last night from the E.U., suggested that would be a breach in sanctions.
These payments come up this week. So really this is a short term. This need some answers, compromise and certainly some clarity.
KINKADE: All right, Anna Stewart in London. Thank you so much.
We are following some breaking news, U.S. markets down sharply. The Dow has fallen more than 1,000 points and retails are weighing on the markets. The numbers plunged after Target reported a 52 percent drop in its first quarter profits and missed Wall Street's forecast significantly.
We're joined now by Paul La Monica in New York.
You are following the markets closely. Investors are not happy with these retail reports out.
PAUL LA MONICA, CNNMONEY DIGITAL CORRESPONDENT: Exactly, there are legitimate concerns about a major slowdown in the U.S. economy. You are hearing people once again talking about recession fears because Target's earnings were just that bad, missing forecast.
That is why a lot of people on Wall Street are worried about the health of the U.S. consumer. Inflation taking a bite out of sales at big retailers. Target is not alone. Walmart yesterday also reporting earnings that were not what Wall Street was hoping for.
So you have these two gigantic retailers sending some alarm bells to Wall Street. And I think inflation and whether or not the Fed needs to pick up the pace of interest rate hikes, even if that might slow the economy further, is weighing on sentiment on Wall Street today.
KINKADE: All right, Paul, we will stay across that. Thank you for joining us, Paul, from New York.
Russia's foreign ministry spokesperson says nobody should doubt that Ukrainian fighters from the Azovstal steel plant will be treated humanely. But Amnesty International says the way Russia has cast the surrendered soldiers as neo-Nazis raises serious concern about their treatment as prisoners of war.
And the group says the fighters should have immediate access to the Red Cross. Yuriy Sak is the adviser to Ukraine's defense minister, he joins me now live.
Good to have you with us.
YURIY SAK, ADVISER TO UKRAINIAN DEFENSE MINISTER: Thank you for having me.
KINKADE: I understand I want to start with the fact that we know that there are still some top Ukrainian commanders inside of that steel plant in Mariupol.
What are your concerns for them right now?
Do you have any communications with them?
SAK: Well, at the moment, as our military and political commanders have said many times during the past 24 hours, the special operation still continues. The special operation which was made possible, thanks to the efforts of Ukrainian armed forces, the intelligence service of Ukraine as well as the International Red Cross and the representatives of the U.N.
So considering that this special operations, special rescue operation still goes on, our main focus is now on ensuring that everyone who is still in Azovstal steel plant, every Ukrainian warrior is rescued and, in the future, safely delivered back to Ukraine.
KINKADE: For now, we know that over 1,000 Ukrainian soldiers have been bused out of that steel plant. They are being held prisoners by Russia.
What can you tell us about their welfare and who is negotiating their release?
SAK: First of all, I would like to stress that, according to the official Ukrainian information, which was announced by the general staff of the Ukraine armed forces, yesterday, 211 soldiers were evacuated to the city of Olenivka (ph) in the temporary occupied territory and another 53 have been wounded, Ukrainian warriors, have been evacuated to Novoazovsk, which is also a city in a temporarily occupied part of Ukraine.
So these are the numbers. And as for the next stages of this process, our military command as well as our political leadership have repeatedly said that this is a very difficult, very complex and, at times, very fragile negotiating process.
We can't and rely heavily on the third parties, such as the International Red Cross and the U.N. And everybody understands that disclosing any specific details of the negotiating process could actually put this process in jeopardy and put it at risk.
So at the moment, I can assure you that all the efforts are being made to continue the special rescue operations. But the details are kept secret for a reason, which you understand, I am sure.
KINKADE: And I'm wondering what else could put those negotiations at risk. I'm talking about the fact that the first Russian soldier is facing a war crimes trial.
KINKADE: He has pleaded guilty. It is just the first.
Is there a fear that this trial can impact negotiations, to bring back your Ukrainian soldiers, given that Russia has already come out, accusing them of war crimes?
SAK: Well, the war trial, which you are referring to, indeed continues today in Kyiv. This is a very straightforward case of a Russian soldier, killing an unarmed Ukrainian civilian in the school (ph) region.
So there are so many of such cases and, of course, the Ukrainian prosecutors are very carefully and meticulously collecting evidence. And we have said it many times, that every war criminal who committed a war crime in our land and these war crimes have been numerous.
We often say that there is hardly any war crime that has not been committed, unfortunately, during the last 2.5 months in Ukraine. So from this perspective, this war trial today is a part of a process, which we have announced before.
And of course, we hope that the negotiating process with respect to the rest of the operation in Azovstal will continue as planned.
KINKADE: All right, we will leave it there for. Now Yuriy Sak, adviser to Ukraine's defense ministry, we appreciate your time today. And we wish you all of the best as negotiations continue.
SAK: Thank you so much. Thank you.
KINKADE: Still to come tonight, crushed dreams in Afghanistan. We will show you how women and girls are learning how to live under Taliban rule.
KINKADE: Welcome back.
The U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan was the, quote, "single most important factor in the country's swift fall into Taliban hands."
That is the conclusion of a U.S. government watchdog. This report says former Afghan president, Ashraf Ghani shares the. Blame but it also says the U.S. never accomplished its goal of creating effective security forces in Afghanistan.
And it adds that the Trump administration's deal with the Taliban in 2020 shattered the morale of the Afghan military and sealed its fate.
Since the Taliban has taken control of Afghanistan, women and girls feel like they have lost their dream, saying that their once bright futures are now dim. Christiane Amanpour is in Kabul to show us how they're coping and helping one another through the darkness.
CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CNN CHIEF INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice- over): Wednesday morning in Kabul and we're going to girls' school through these plastic curtains and past prying eyes.
Yes, this fashion studio has become an alternate education facility, since the Taliban stopped girls from attending government high schools; 17-year-old Rokhsar wanted to be a doctor. Now she's learning to be a dressmaker.
"We're feeling very bad," she tells us. "Girls are not able to go to school, staying home, doing nothing. We hope that this will change our life, so we can be self-sufficient, have a profession, learn, earn money to support ourselves and our families."
Neda wanted to be a professional soccer player.
AMANPOUR: You're 17. You have never known the Taliban government.
Did you ever imagine that this would happen to you, that you would be prevented from going to school?
AMANPOUR (voice-over): "No, never. We tried our best for our future. But it's a dark one now, because we're kept away from our schools."
Nageena Hafizi started this fashion business with her sisters four years ago. Today, she's running the resistance. When the Taliban slammed the door in their faces, she opened hers up to high school girls, aiming to have them sufficiently trained to earn a living and support themselves within six to 12 months.
She does this for 120 girls and women across three locations.
AMANPOUR: You're helping them but they all want to be doctors or an athlete or professionals. They want to go on to university.
How do you feel about them having to be embroiderers or dressmakers?
AMANPOUR (voice-over): "This is very upsetting," says Nageena. "When someone is following their own dreams, it's very good. It's different when they're forced into doing something else.
"And it's a bad feeling, because most of these girls wanted to go to university, become a doctor, a teacher, an engineer. It's very difficult for them and I know that they can't do any other work. So at least they can learn the dressmaking profession for their future."
For the record, the powerful deputy Taliban leader Sirajuddin Haqqani told me that girls' public high schools would open again soon and that, of course, women have the right to work within the Islamic framework.
But 26 years ago, I had the same conversations about the same issues when the Taliban was first in charge.
AMANPOUR (voice-over): A lot of people want to know what you're going to do about the women issue.
What about women's education, girls education, women working, widows who have no other way to support themselves?
SHER MOHAMMAD ABBAS STANIKZAI, FORMER DEPUTY TALIBAN FOREIGN MINISTER: I know that, especially in Western news media, it's the propaganda against us, that we are against women education, which is not right. It is not correct.
AMANPOUR: But the girls can't go to school. We have been to schools here that are all closed.
STANIKZAI: We have just told them that, for the time being, they should not come to office and school, so -- until the time that we can come out with some sort of solution.
AMANPOUR (voice-over): Even the youngest understand something is not right; 10-year-old Aziza (ph) complains about having to stay home all day.
"We just do housework, cleaning, baking bread and sweeping the floors," she says.
FARANAZ, CIVIL ENGINEER: I love my work. It's my right to work. And I need to work, because I got education in this country and the government spent money on me and even my family. And I want to express myself to my society.
AMANPOUR: Brave then, brave now. Only now, after more than two decades of progress for their wives, their daughters and their family incomes, so many more Afghan men support them.
Hajinor Ahma (ph) tells us not even 1 percent of Afghan people are against women working. "We don't want our people to grow up as if we're in a jungle. We want people to have culture, knowledge. We need food and work."
Back at the design studio, these classes are not only open to high school students but to older women who are suddenly out of work, like 30-year-old Rabia, who's a teacher.
"We feel suffocated," she says.
"Why can't we, in our own country, our own place, live freely, move freely?
"Wherever we go, whatever work we do, they put barriers in our way. We can't reach our goals in life. We're always afraid, whether the previous government or the Taliban's emirate regime."
Rabia comes here to retrain and, like many of the mothers and wives, to have some kind of social life, like Norjan (ph), whose daughter, Neda, wanted to become a soccer player.
"When I'm really upset," she tells me, "my husband says I should come here, so that at least I can meet others. My husband is so kind. We are all sisters here" -- Christiane Amanpour, CNN, Kabul, Afghanistan.
KINKADE: CNN has verified ways that you can up those in need of food, shelter and basic goods in Afghanistan. Go to cnn.com/impact for more information.
We are going to take a quick break, we will be right back.
KINKADE: Welcome, back.
Black box data recovered after a deadly plane crash in China suggested somebody in the cockpit downed the aircraft intentionally. That is according to "The Wall Street Journal." The China Eastern flight nosedived from 29,000 feet in March, killing all 132 people on board.
Well, a historical goal made today by the U.S. Soccer Federation. For the first time ever, there will be no difference in pay or prize money between the men's and women's teams. U.S. Soccer becomes the first federation in the world to do this after years of pressure and lawsuits.
KINKADE: Thanks everyone for watching. I'm Lynda Kinkade. Stay with CNN. "QUEST MEANS BUSINESS" is next.