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Russian Soldier On Trial For War Crimes Apologizes; Biden Gives Full Backing To Nordic NATO Bids; Taliban Impose New Restrictions For Female Journalists In Afghanistan; Food Crisis Looms As Russia Blocks Ukrainian Grain; CNN Confronts Taliban Over Face Covering; Deadly Floods Tear Through India's Assam State; The Cannes Film Festival Returns To The Riviera. Aired 2-3p ET

Aired May 19, 2022 - 14:00   ET



LYNDA KINKADE, CNN HOST: Hello everyone, I'm Lynda Kinkade, you're watching CNN NEWSROOM live from Atlanta. Tonight, apologies to a Ukrainian widow. The first Russian soldier on trial for war crimes, says he's sorry. We'll have reactions from the courtroom. Then U.S. President Joe Biden gives his full backing to Sweden and Finland's bid to join NATO. We'll go live to the White House.

And later, more restrictions for women in Afghanistan as the Taliban tells female journalists to cover their faces on air. We'll have a special report from Kabul. Hundreds more Ukrainian fighters in Mariupol have walked out of underground bunkers into an unknown fate. But others still haven't ended their last stand at the steel plant that's become a nationwide symbol of resistance. Russia says more than 1,700 Mariupol fighters have now surrendered, most taken to a pre- trial detention center in Russian-controlled territory.

Ukraine says evacuation efforts are still underway, but won't release details. The International Red Cross says it's registering combatants who leave the plant as prisoners of war. Russians hasn't said whether it plans to exchange them in a prisoner swap or put them on trial. One Ukrainian commander still inside the plant has posted on social media, vowing to quote, "let the fight continues." Elsewhere in the Donetsk region, Russia is bombarding a town that is an important hub for the Ukrainian military.

But a regional official says civilian targets are being hit. Russia is also relentlessly shelling the eastern most cities still held by Ukraine. Officials there say 12 civilians were killed today in Severodonetsk. But they say defenses are holding. And in Ukraine's capital, an extraordinary and powerful moment at the first trial of a Russian soldier accused of war crimes.

The 21-year-old who has pleaded guilty to killing an elderly man described how and why he shot him. And then he looked at the man's widow in the eyes and apologized.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (through translator): Can you please tell me, what did you feel when you killed my husband?



SHISHIMARIN: Yes. I acknowledge my fault. I understand that you will not be able to forgive me, but I am sorry.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: One more question. Why did you come here? Did you come to defend us? From who? Did you defend me from my husband you killed?

SHISHIMARIN: Our command gave us an order to move in as a column, I didn't know what would follow.


KINKADE: Our Melissa Bell is following the trial for us in Kyiv, and joins us now live. Good to have you with us, Melissa. That was certainly a very powerful exchange between the widow and the Russian. The soldier of course, facing life behind bars, saying he's sorry.

MELISSA BELL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Saying he's sorry, and also in the end of that exchange, Lynda, the widow of the civilian who was killed by Shishimarin, and bear in mind that Vadim Shishimarin at this stage has pled guilty to that, he recognizes it. The window then goes on to say, you know, what were you doing? Defending us? Referring really to that justification for the war that was given on the Russian side to its soldiers.

That, this was a special operation, not an invasion of a country, and not a war. Remember, that's been a crucial distinction that's been made on the Russian side. And putting that to him -- and I think that very poignant reply that comes when he says, we were told to move in. Our column was told to move in, we did not know what would follow. And I think that's remarkable to hear that firsthand from a Russian soldier, 21-year-old Russian soldier.

Now, that was of course one of the most poignant moments of the trial. Another came when another of the soldiers, one who was traveling with Vadim Shishimarin on that day, once their convoy of tanks hit a land mine, they escaped in a stolen car. In that car, when the unarmed civilian was killed because Vadim Shishimarin says he was given an order to kill him by one of the people traveling in the car with him, one of the other soldiers.


And what this other soldier, Ivan Matisov(ph) says is confirming really that version of events, saying they were under tremendous pressure, and an order was given for Vadim Shishimarin to shoot. Have a listen to what this other shot soldier traveling with him that day had to say.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): Vinhenson(ph) ordered Vadim

to shoot, reasoning, the man could be reporting on us. Vadim refused to do it, then the unidentified military man turned around and shouted in orderly tone, demanding Vadim execute the order, otherwise, he'll be intercepted and never make it to our base to request help. And under pressure from this, serviceman fired.


BELL: It's striking as well when you look at both soldiers, just how young they are, Lynda, I think that's one of the things that struck us so much over the course of the last few days. On the question of the sentencing, this trial continues tomorrow. The prosecution is calling for Vadim Shishimarin to have -- face life in jail. The widow that you just heard from in that exchange opposite Vadim Shishimarin also believes he should spend the rest of his life in jail.

But she said, there is one alternative, and that would be, if he could be exchanged for the many hundreds of evacuated Azovstal fighters currently in Russian hands, Lynda.

KINKADE: Yes, that would be a significant request. And I do want to ask you about that, Melissa because the Russian Defense Ministry says more than 1,700 soldiers have now surrendered at that steel plant since Monday, which means another 770-plus have surrendered in the last 24 hours. Certainly, a significant increase. What do we make of those comments coming from Russia and what are Ukrainians saying?

BELL: I think the figure of more than 1,700 is remarkable in and of itself. Remember that when we were covering this last baton of resistance, until they surrendered a couple of days ago, we were told there were about hundreds of fighters still holed up in Azovstal. We didn't have any real figures, so 1,700 already in the hands of Russian forces is remarkable, it's a big number. But perhaps, even more remarkable, and we knew that from the Russian side itself, from the head of the Donetsk People's Republic, which is physically the part of -- the part of those Russian-held territories.

Now, where those soldiers are being kept and for the most wounded treated. What we'd heard from that leader was that, the most senior commanders of the Azovstal forces were not amongst those evacuated. So, that was interesting as well. It suggests there are many more inside.

We don't have a precise number. We don't know for this time, Lynda, whether or if any have been killed. What we have just found out from an extraordinary post has just emerged, that was published actually yesterday, is that one of the Azovstal fighters posted that he was holding out and intending to resist. And I think that is a remarkable development in this story as well, Lynda.

KINKADE: Yes, it certainly is. And we are going to speak more about that with our guest coming up next. Melissa Bell in Kyiv, thanks so much. Well, I want to talk more about what is happening in that steel plant in Mariupol. Joining me now is a former Ukrainian Defense Minister Andriy Zagorodnyuk, he serves now as an adviser to the Ukrainian government. Good to have you on the program.


KINKADE: Just before we get to what's happening in that steel plant, I want to get your assessment of where this war is headed right now. NATO's chief says Ukraine can win this --


KINKADE: War, U.K.'s Defense Secretary says it's possible Ukraine could break the Russian army. But when you listen to the U.S. there, talking about a protracted war that this could go on for some time. What's your assessment?

ZAGORODNYUK: There are two scenarios. Scenario number one, we win it quickly. Scenario number two, it goes for months long, months and perhaps over the year and so on, which is -- which is called protracted war. The difference between these two scenarios is that how much equipment, how many of the pieces of equipment and ammunition we're going to receive from the partners in the near future?

Because it's about the critical mass right now. So if we receive a critical number of equipments, then we can tip -- get to the tipping point, and actually turn it into a major counteroffensive. We clearly see that Russians are on the brink of their capabilities. They cannot mobilize more people. Those who they mobilize, they have a very serious lack of training and lack of collective training, which is, you cannot compress it in time, they just need to do it like in a time that's needed.

So, for the next few months at least, Russia will not be able to escalate significantly. For the next year, they will be, but not like -- not like -- they will not change their army. It is how it is right now. And we see that it is vulnerable, and we see that we can win.


So, it's all about us having enough equipment in the right point of time.

KINKADE: And what is that critical number that you speak of? Because I read that you said it, if you get it by June, you could push out Russian forces by October. What more do you need?

ZAGORODNYUK: We can be pushing them -- yes, we can be pushing them out by October through the -- on the territories which we have, because this is -- this is like several months which we need to push them out of -- out of the key territories which they have in the east and the south. Of course, the ultimate victory would involve also the Donbas and Crimea, but that's a more complex story because, you know, we were talking specifically about these territories from 24th of February.

Yes, these are all parts to the -- the equipment is less, the numbers are always allied governments and we're talking about tens of units of one type, like hundreds of units of the other types. So we're talking about howitzers, we're talking about multiple line -- sure, rocket systems, we're talking about air defense, we're talking about the armored vehicles and coastal artillery. That sort of standard pack which has been discussed for -- I don't know, at least, two months already.

KINKADE: I want to turn to the steel plant in Mariupol which was the last place of resistance there. We're hearing now from Russian -- the Russian military that there are some 1,700 Ukrainians that have surrendered from that plant. They say some are in hospital, the rest in a detention center. What do you make of those numbers coming from Russia? Can you confirm those figures? And what do you know of any plans to negotiate their release?

ZAGORODNYUK: The only -- the only side which can confirm those numbers is Ukrainian Minister of Defense or Ukrainian government as a whole. I would be extremely careful about just speculating with the numbers before we have our clear confirmation. Because Russians obviously all the time use various, you know, their own versions and their own numbers and their own -- you know, in order to sort of use that as a means of strategic communication.

So, everything which they say, we need to be very careful about. But generally speaking, we are talking about obviously, hundreds of men, and the essential number has been there. Ukraine is going to do everything possible in order to arrange their release as quick as possible. This is what we're hearing from Ukrainians, the government statements, and this is -- this is what they intended to do.

KINKADE: And we understand that some top Ukrainian commanders are still inside that steel plant. One commander writing online that we will continue this fight. Can you confirm that there are commanders still in that steel plant? And if so, how many remain inside?

ZAGORODNYUK: No, I'm sorry, but this is exactly the same thing. So, we need to see from the government. We -- government warns people and asks them not to speculate, not to do, you know, unfounded and unjustified speculations about the situation on the plant. It's extremely sensitive what's happening there. And it's extremely sensitive -- to be very calm and you know, not to -- not to, you know, not to provide any unsubstantiated -- you know, statements, because they've been -- they go into the information space and then confuse everybody.

KINKADE: For those in Russian hands, do you believe that Russia will uphold its -- where to treat these soldiers in accordance with international law?

ZAGORODNYUK: Trouble is that they have a record of not doing that. And yes, there was -- we believe that there were some discussions with Russians about the sort of controlled passage of the soldiers to the Russians in order to exchange them later. But the trouble is that they constantly -- they constantly use the name of Azov battalion as something, you know, of terrifying or whatever in their propaganda machine. And of course, the risks of those are higher than usual, for the rest

of the regular forces. So, we hope that this is -- this will be in a manner of that would be communicated. So we'll see when it happens.

KINKADE: All right, well, we hope to get you back on the program, good to spend some time --

ZAGORODNYUK: Thank you --

KINKADE: With you today. Andriy Zagorodnyuk, thanks so much. Well, on the ground, Ukrainian forces are pressing their counter offensive in the northeast as shelling continues around the city of Kharkiv. CNN's Nick Paton Walsh reports on what Ukrainian forces found in one of the many villages ravaged by war.


NICK PATON WALSH, CNN INTERNATIONAL SECURITY EDITOR (voice-over): Every inch of respite from Russian shelling here comes at grotesque cost. What once rained down on the second city of Kharkiv now lands here.



UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, keep the distance --

WALSH: Roger --


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Keep the distance, OK?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Let's go with me.


(voice-over): Ukraine declared here, Ruska Lozova liberated over 2 weeks ago, but it's never simple.

(on camera): These tiny villages, which before the war where places you wouldn't notice driving through, have now become the key battlegrounds to defend vital cities like Kharkiv.

(voice-over): While the fight to protect Kharkiv still rages with every step fast and cautious because of mines, Russia's border is now just 9 miles away.

(on camera): Did you ever think you'd get this close to the Russians in nearly 3 months?


WALSH: But Russian troops are even closer, thus, in the forest, across the field over this wall, that they say frequently at night, Russian reconnaissance groups try and move in on the village.

(voice-over): The next tiny hamlet is being fought over, and this is where Kharkiv's defense cannot fail.


WALSH: The U.S.' most effective gifts in some of Ukraine's youngest hands. Anton(ph) says he did not expect to be at war age 19. Ever been scared, I asked?


WALSH: Shelling here is a constant, even though everywhere seems to already have been hit. This is a homegrown defense volunteers, software engineers, economists, funded mostly by our guide, a farming millionaire. Russia's brief occupation never planned to leave anything of value here. Their door zets on a van full of TVs for looting.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They see that we were better, and they do not even think that something is wrong with them, not with us, you know. They think that because America gives us everything for free, and they hate us for that, and they rob us and they kill us.

WALSH: Men and women who have in three months learn courage only comes after knowing fear up close.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The most scary moment was on the fateful day of the war. I was at the medical center at one of the posts in Kyiv. And our commander Gaderas(ph), and he told us that, Russian special forces are going to come and try to attack us from behind. We were not trained to do this. We were not armed to do this. That was basically the most scary moment for me. But --

WALSH: But you survived.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, we survived. Everybody made OK, made it OK. And I think that is the moment that killed fear in me.

WALSH: Here they hold back an enemy that's slowly proving as inept as it is immoral. By placing incredible value on the smallest patches of their land. Nick Paton Walsh, CNN, Ruska Lozova, Ukraine.


KINKADE: Still to come tonight, a strong show of support at the White House today for Sweden and Finland's bids to join NATO. We'll hear from U.S. President Biden about why he thinks the Nordic countries will bring new strength to the alliance. And inflation is rising and markets are rattled. Ahead, we'll look at the state of the global economy.



KINKADE: For, total, complete backing. That's the message from U.S. President Joe Biden on Sweden and Finland's bids to join NATO. The president met at the White House today with the leaders of the two Nordic countries, but Turkey could be a stumbling block. Its president says he will veto the applications, accusing them of housing Kurdish terrorist organizations. But Mr. Biden says Sweden and Finland's memberships would make NATO even stronger.


JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Finland and Sweden make NATO stronger. Not just because of their capacity with their strong democracies, and a strong united NATO is the foundation of America's security. By joining NATO, allies make a sacred commitment to one another. An attack on one, is an attack against all.


KINKADE: CNN's Arlette Saenz is at the White House for us, good to see you, Arlette. So, the U.S. President welcomed the leaders of Sweden and Finland, saying that they'll be joining the world's most powerful defensive alliance. But the process won't be so smooth, given that not all members of NATO agree. That's right.

ARLETTE SAENZ, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: That's right. But President Biden today really trying to offer that full-throated endorsement of Sweden and Finland joining NATO, saying that their presence would bolster the alliance. Of course, those long neutral countries deciding to apply for NATO membership after Russia's aggression in Ukraine.

But there's a wrench in the process as Turkish President Erdogan has said that he is a no on Sweden and Finland joining NATO. There's concerns about their support, according to the Turks, of Kurdish forces as well as sanctions that some of these countries have on Turkey. Now, in those remarks, standing here at the White House, Finnish President Niinisto really openly made an appeal to Turkey to accept them into NATO, saying that his country is willing to discuss the concerns that they have.

Of course, it does require the approval of all 30 members of NATO for any country to join the president a short while ago, actually sending a letter to Congress here, urging them to approve the accession of Sweden and Finland to NATO. But right now, Turkey remains a very key hurdle in the application process for those two countries.

KINKADE: And Arlette, I want to ask you about what's happening next for the president. Because as we speak, Joe Biden is on his way to South Korea, in what will be his first visit to Asia since he was elected to office. What's on the agenda?

SAENZ: Yes, President Biden making his first trip to Asia, trying to show that the region remains a central focus of his foreign policy. Officials had said he had hoped to get to the region much earlier in his presidency, but he was constrained due to COVID-19 as well as other crises such as the war in Ukraine. Now, the president will first be traveling to Seoul, South Korea, where he will be meeting with the country's new president. He will then travel on to Tokyo where he'll meet with Japanese Prime

Minister Kishida as well as participate in meetings with the quad leaders. That includes Japan, Australia and India, as the president is really trying to reinvigorate that alliance since taking office. Now, there are concerns about North Korea at this moment.


Now, there appears to be signs that they may be preparing some underground nuclear or intercontinental ballistic missile tests possibly while President Biden is in the region. But this trip is mostly about trying to bolster relations with South Korea and Japan and other countries in the region especially as China continues to exert its economic and military influence in the region.

And the president is really trying to pivot much of his foreign policy to focus on countering China, having that competitive relationship without engaging in outright conflicts with the country. And so, over the course of the next few days, he will be looking to strengthen relations with countries in the region as he visits both South Korea and Japan.

KINKADE: All right, we'll be following that trip closely, Arlette Saenz for us, outside the White House, thanks so much. Well, former U.S. President George W. Bush who is contrasting his country with Russia, saying America's elections are a key difference. But in the process, he also made a telling gaffe. Bush was speaking at a foreign -- as his presidential center in Dallas, Texas. He blasted Russia for what he called rigged elections. But then he made a clear flop that he quickly tried to correct, referring to the U.S. invasion of Iraq which he ordered as president in 2003.


GEORGE WALKER BUSH, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The result is an absence of checks and balances in Russia. And the decision of one man to launch a wholly unjustified and brutal invasion of Iraq -- I mean, of Ukraine. Iraq, anyway.


I'm 75.



KINKADE: And had the former Russian and colonel and TV commentator who publicly painted a grim picture of Russia's war in Ukraine is now tempering his comments. The colonel early this week said Ukraine's military is far from demoralized, and Russia's situation is going to get worse. But now he seems to be reassessing Russia's war efforts, and the big question is why? CNN's Clare Sebastian has a look.


where information is so tightly controlled, both of these TV appearances are raising major questions. Why would former Russian Colonel Mikhail Khodarenok go on TV on Monday criticizing Russia's war in Ukraine, saying things are about to get worse on the ground, and that the entire world was against Russia. And then two days later, go on the same channel to trumpet the strength of the Russian armed forces and warn of a quote, "unpleasant surprise for Ukraine in the near future."

Khodarenok's initial TV appearance on Monday had some suggesting that this wasn't an act of dissent, but rather an effort in Russia to shift public opinion, manage expectations as this war drags on with the limited gains for Russia. And especially since Khodarenok's views were actually known, he had written an op-ed in February, warning against suggestions that Russia's war with Ukraine would be over quickly.

And given the wave of international reaction at Monday's appearance spark, it is perhaps plausible that he felt the need or even was called on to change his tune. Either way, he is not the only voice sowing seeds of doubt in the Russian public at the moment. Over the past week or so, several prominent Russian bloggers have picked up on Russia's military setbacks in Ukraine. As the war approaches the end of its third month, it's clear Russia's goal of controlling the narrative at home is getting harder. Clare Sebastian, CNN, London.


KINKADE: Well, Twitter is making moves to stamp out misinformation. The social media site says it will now label and suppress incorrect or misleading post. Its aim at throwing the spread of falsehoods surrounding armed conflict, public health emergencies and natural disasters. The war in Ukraine is on the top of the agenda, and special attention will be given to government or state-run media accounts making untrue claims.

Still to come tonight, surging inflation and a recession warning. How volatile markets are impacting consumers. That story, next. Plus, a looming food crisis. How the world depends on Ukraine's grain exports which they say are being stolen.




KINKADE (voice-over): Failure to open Ukrainian ports will be a declaration of war on world food security. That's according to the head of the World Food Programme. Ukraine is one of the world's largest grain producers and vulnerable countries around the world depends on its shipments. CNN's Isa Soares reports.


ISA SOARES, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Before the war, most of the food produced by Ukraine was exported through ports like this.

Now these key trading docks have ground to a halt blockaded by Russia, who according to Ukraine's defense ministry, has also pilfered an estimated 400,000 tons of grain from Ukrainian farmers in Russian occupied territory.

Footage obtained by CNN from Zaporizhzhya shows trucks wearing the white zed symbol of the Russian military, transporting grain to Russian held Crimea, an act that President Zelenskyy's administration is calling food terrorism.

VOLODYMYR ZELENSKYY, UKRAINIAN PRESIDENT (through translator): This is not just a strike at Ukraine. With our agrarian export, dozens of countries in various regions of the world have found themselves on the brink of food deficit.

SOARES (voice-over): Through satellite images, we were able to identify the Russian merchant ship, Matros Pozynich, one of three involved in the trade of stolen grain, seen here at the port in Sevastopol, Crimea, on April 29.

From there, the vessel, carrying an estimated 27,000 tons of grain, according to maritime tracking site, FleetMon, traveled through the Bosphorus to Alexandria in Egypt but was denied port.

Then it went on to Beirut in Lebanon but was also turned away. Finally, on May 8, it reached Latakia, the principal port in Syria, according to shipping sources and Ukrainian officials.

OLEG NIVIEVSKYI, ASSISTANT PROFESSOR, KYIV INSTITUTE OF ECONOMICS: So in this situation, the countries in the Middle East and in EMV and in northern Africa, they will be -- they don't have choice, OK.

And they will import wheat from anywhere, from where it's possible. So I think that this is really state-supported theft. It's not Ukrainian assets but Ukrainian grain.

SOARES: For Russia, stealing wheat and other grains during the war could prove lucrative. The price of wheat has skyrocketed so far this year, more than 60 percent or so, spiking after the war started on February 24.

And how much of a valuable commodity is it while the price of wheat is now trading about $400 a ton on the world market?


SOARES (voice-over): As supplies run low and as prices continue to rise, there are fears the war was pushing the world to the brink of a food crisis, with the German foreign minister calling Russia's actions, a deliberate war of grains.

After seeing for themselves the tons of grain, wheat and corn stockpiled at Odessa, the president of the European Council, Charles Michel, vowed the E.U., with support from the U.S., will help look for ways to export grain from Ukraine. Some of it is already being shipped from ports in neighboring Romania but still only a fraction of Ukraine's total production. More help is needed if Europe's bread basket is to continue to feed the world -- Isa Soares, CNN.


KINKADE: And we'll have more on the food crisis in just a moment but first let's take a look at the markets.

Amid surging inflation and warnings of a potential recession, U.S. stocks have been mixed today, after Wall Street's massive sell-off Wednesday, the worst day of the market since early on in the pandemic.

Asia and Europe largely followed suit and all of this is sparked by record levels of inflation. Investors are growing increasingly worried about the state of the global economy.

As prices reach new heights, ordinary consumers are feeling the pinch at the gas pump and in the supermarket. Joining me now, business editor at large, Richard Quest.

Good to see you, Richard. So the Dow went down by 1,100 points yesterday. Take us through how things look today.

RICHARD QUEST, CNN HOST: I think today is the day after the night before. Investors, well, the market is just -- it's got a hangover. Three or four days of losses, of more than 3-4 percent, takes its toll. It takes its toll in the psyche.

And whether we go up or down today is irrelevant in a sense, because it's what the trend. And the market is coming to terms with the fact that the Fed wants prices lowered.

The Fed has said again, the chair of the Fed has said, he's going to squeeze inflation out of the system. That means higher interest rates. It means taking away the punch bowl from the party, you can use any analogy you like.

But I think the best one is this dose of realism that is now arriving on the door of investors in the market. And that's why we're seeing this volatility. There is more to come.

KINKADE: And, Richard, I want to ask you about this global food crisis. The United Nations speaking about today, exacerbated by the war in Ukraine. The secretary general spoke a short time ago, I just want to play some sound for our viewers.


ANTONIO GUTERRES, UNITED NATIONS SECRETARY-GENERAL: The war in Ukraine is now adding a frightening new dimension to this picture of global hunger. Russia's invasion of its neighbor has effectively ended its full exports.

I've discussed this debilitating situation with the leaders of Senegal, Niger and Nigeria during my last visit. They confirmed we are on the brink of a perfect storm that threatens to devastate people and economies.


KINKADE: And Richard, the problem is not only that Ukraine and Russia are not exporting what would typically account for more than 0.1 of the world's calories but also we're seeing this cascade of new trade barriers from other countries that want to protect their own stock, their own supplies.

QUEST: Yes, if you look at what the World Trade Organization has said and the U.N. they're all basically telling rich nations not to hoard, not to put up trade barriers, to make stocks available.

Now there was a sliver of good news when Ukraine's did have stores and it was working on getting different distribution routes out of the country. But the amounts will still be relatively small compared to what Russia and Ukraine collectively provide at the market.

And ultimately, it is going to take a global corporate effort and a global combined effort to make food available to those most in need. But the reality, again, the reality for investors, the reality is that food, famine and food insecurity is going to be here as long as the two breadbaskets' states are no longer able to produce and distribute.

KINKADE: Exactly. We need to get those ports opens on the Black Sea. Richard Quest, coming to us from a very gloomy-looking Dublin, thank you so much.

Still to come tonight, Afghanistan's leading independent news station has kept broadcasting even through the Taliban takeover. But now they fear the new leaders may be trying to silence their female journalists. That story next.





KINKADE: Welcome back.

In Afghanistan, the Taliban authorities are placing more restrictions on woman by the day. For instance, they just asked female TV journalists to cover their faces on air. And that is sending a chill through newsrooms around the country.

Female reporters fear this is just the beginning of Taliban efforts to silence them. Our Christiane Amanpour visits the country's leading independent news channel to see how it is affecting them.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CNN CHIEF INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice- over): For the past five months, Khatera Ahmadi has been anchoring the morning news on TOLO TV. But this might be the last time she can show her face on air.

The morning editorial meeting starts with worried discussion about mandatory masking. Station director Khpolwak Sapai says he'd even considered just shutting down and leaving. But then he thought, female staff who want to carry on anchoring with a mask can, while those who don't will get other jobs behind the scenes.

KHPOLWAK SAPAI, DIRECTOR, TOLONEWS: We will leave the mask decision to them. They will make their own decision.

AMANPOUR (voice-over): And it's a tough decision for these women, who braved the new Taliban regime to stay on the air, who've already adjusted their head scarves to hide their hair and who now fear is steep slide back to the Middle Ages.

Khatera says she's so stressed, she couldn't even president her program properly.

KHATERA AHMADI, TOLONEWS ANCHOR (through translator): It's not clear. Even if we appear with the burqa, maybe they will say that women's voices are forbidden. They want women to be removed from the screen. They are afraid of an educated woman.

AMANPOUR (voice-over): Across town, the Taliban government spokesman, Zabihullah Mujahed, was attending a meeting with local journalists to mark a slightly delayed World Press Freedom Day.

We stopped him on the way in.

AMANPOUR: You have said they have to wear a face mask if they're on television, women.


AMANPOUR (voice-over): "It's advisory from the ministry, he says."

AMANPOUR: But what does that mean?

Is it compulsory?

AMANPOUR (voice-over): "If it is said, they should wear it. It will be implemented as it is in our religion, too," says Mujahed. "It is good if it's implemented."

AMANPOUR: Afghan women are afraid that this is the beginning of your efforts to erase them from the workspace. They're afraid that, if they wear the mask, the next thing you will say is their voice cannot be heard publicly.

What is your response to that?

AMANPOUR (voice-over): "Like during COVID," he says, "masks were mandatory. Women would only be wearing hijab or masks.


AMANPOUR (voice-over): "And they will continue their work."

He seems to say that, if women wear this, they can go to work. But the dress code edicts, like saying female university students must now wear black, not colored head scarves, is an escalating war of nerves and everyone fears where this will lead.

Back at TOLOnews, these female anchors are distraught.

"What should we do?" cries Tahmina. "We don't know. We were ready to fight to the last to perform our work but they don't allow us."

"We women have been taken hostage," says Hilah (ph).

"Women can't get themselves educated or work, like me, who's worked on screen for years and couldn't leave Afghanistan. Due to the fear of the Taliban, I can't go on screen again."

Since the Taliban takeover, the station has employed even more women than before, because they need a safe space. And as for the actual journalism, TOLOnews is Afghanistan's leading independent news channel.

But director Sapai says they will all quit the day the Taliban pressures them to tailor their coverage or lie to a public that's come to trust the truth they have been delivering over 20 years.

He's saved the station so far, recruiting a whole new staff, after most employees fled the Taliban's arrival.

SAPAI: And from management level, I felt alone. And I was considered. I was only thinking that how to keep the screen alive, not to go dark.

AMANPOUR (voice-over): The challenge now is keeping it from going dark -- Christiane Amanpour, CNN, Kabul, Afghanistan.


KINKADE: North Korean cargo planes have been spotted making a return trip to China. It is unknown what they were carrying but it comes after Beijing pledged to help the country battle its COVID-19 outbreak. Meanwhile, U.S. intelligence officials claim Pyongyang is geetting ready to test launch a missile as Joe Biden traveled to South Korea. Here is CNN's Will Ripley.


WILL RIPLEY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: The coming days could be pretty interesting here in Asia. You have a number of potentially big events happening. President Biden flying from the U.S. to visit South Korea and Japan. It is his first trip out to Asia, delayed because of the pandemic. Other issues of, course Russia and Ukraine being one of them. But with

President Biden coming here to Asia, he sends a signal that he is still focusing on China, which he came into the presidency considering his number one foreign policy challenge.

Not only trade and intellectual property but also tensions over Taiwan. You also have what is happening in North Korea. You have an Omicron outbreak that is surging out of control in the country with no herd immunity, very limited medical capacity.

But yet, North Korea, as they're basically signaling that they desperately need vaccines and assistance, they are also preparing potentially, from U.S. intelligence, for a major provocation, while President Biden is in the region, some sort of long-range missile test or, the U.S. says, even potentially a nuclear test.

Either one of those would essentially be North Korea forcing themselves into the conversation. Of course, South Korea and japlan are two major stakeholders. Japan had missiles fly over. It South Korea of course, has the demilitarized zone and lots of escalating tensions.

And they've been getting worse in recent months as Kim may feel somewhat emboldened by President Biden's lack of engagement. What I've been told by my sources is that the North Koreans want top level communication, Biden and kim, just like Trump and kim.

But so far no indication that President Biden is willing to go that route -- Will Ripley, CNN, Taipei.


KINKADE: Heavy pre-monsoon rains are sweeping through northeast India and that's causing deadly flooding. More than 1,500 villages in the state of Asssam have been swamped with floodwater. Our Tom Sater shows us the impact.


TOM SATER, AMS METEOROLOGIST (voice-over): Half a million people are on the move across northeast India's Assam state, some wading through ankle deep water, others paddling canoes in deeper waters or makeshift rafts.

The Brahmaputra River has burst its banks in parts of Assam over the last few days, following torrential downpours and more rain is in the forecast. Already, some 1,500 villages are inundated.

Rescue boats have been deployed in harder hit areas but not everyone in trouble has been saved. Several have drowned. And many are in need of help.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): The condition of the flood is worsening with each passing day. Schools, prayer houses, temples, everything is getting submerged in the floodwaters. The entire place looks like an ocean. The weather here is horrible and it has been raining continuously for

3 to 4 days. The people are facing a lot of difficulties.


SATER (voice-over): Many farmers say they lost a majority of their crops due to the floods. These farmers are trying to dry out wheat grains they were able to harvest.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): There are floods because of excessive rain and the lack of a river dam. There are 3,000 to 4,000 farmers who live here. They have to harvest their crops early because of the water.

SATER (voice-over): And while Assam is suffering from from too much water, other parts of India are suffering from acute water shortage in the midst of a heat wave. Some New Delhi residents are putting chains and locks on water canisters to prevent theft. And the river that flows through the capital is parched -- Tom Sater, CNN.


KINKADE: We are going to take a quick break and we will be right back, stay with us.




KINKADE: Welcome back.

The Cannes Film Festival has returned to the French Riviera. Like so many other events, the iconic celebration was postponed repeatedly due to the COVID pandemic. But this year the red carpet is back.


KINKADE (voice-over): Film stars from around the globe descending on the red carpet, posing and mingling as crowds cheered and cameras snapped. The Cannes Film Festival kicked off its 75th anniversary Tuesday, with plenty of glitz and glamor and a special appearance from a wartime leader.

The Ukrainian president was once an actor himself, addressing crowds via live video from Kyiv at the opening ceremony.


VOLODYMYR ZELENSKYY, UKRAINIAN PRESIDENT (through translator): If there is a dictator, if there's a war for freedom, it's all depends on our unity.

Can cinema stay out of this unity?

We need a new Chaplin, who will provide that in our time. Cinema is not silent.

KINKADE (voice-over): Referencing the late actor, Charlie Chaplin in the movie, "The Great Dictator," Zelenskyy called on filmmakers' support in the midst of war. His speech received a standing ovation.

It was not the only one in this year's opening ceremony. Crowds also rose to their feet in praise of actor Forest Whitaker, who received an honorary Palme d'Or, the film festival's highest prize. The Lifetime Achievement Award is a prestigious accolade for his long list of acclaimed movies, including "Bird," "Ghost Dog" and "The Color of Money."

On Wednesday, another renowned actor received a tribute. Tom Cruise returned to Cannes for the first time in decades for a feature screening of "Top Gun: Maverick." It's one of several premieres at Cannes this year.


KINKADE (voice-over): Including the biopic, "Elvis," with Tom Hanks and "Three Thousand Years of Longing," starring Idris Elba and Tilda Swinton.

They are among an assortment of film debuts at the festival. Winners selected by the Cannes jury which include actors and filmmakers from India, the U.K., nrwy, Sweden and France.

VINCENT LINDON, CANNES 2022 JURY PRESIDENT (through translator): With all that has happened these last two years and especially with what has been going on for the past several months, we will be careful to be deserving, respectful, not overly casual, intelligent and to stand upright if only out of respect for those who are experiencing much, much, much, much harder days than ours.

KINKADE (voice-over): As the war in Ukraine stirs discussion about cinema during times of violence, the world's largest film festival returns to its traditional calendar, running May 17-28 this year, after two years of disruptions from the COVID pandemic. As movie and movements take center stage, Cannes in 2022.


KINKADE: Movie stars are not the only ones winning awards. Raise a paw for Stepan, the viral cat from Kharkiv. He just won an Influencer Award in France, after being evacuated from his wartorn home by his owner back in March. The Instagram star has been fundraising thousands of dollars for Ukrainian animal shelters.

No doubt, with a bit of help of his owner, Anna (ph).

Well, thanks so much for watching tonight, I'm Lynda Kinkade, stay with CNN. "QUEST MEANS BUSINESS" is up next.