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Ukraine Pleads For More Weapons As Russia Advances In East; William Barr Testifies Donald Trump Was "Detached From Reality"; U.K. Introduces Bill To Ditch Parts Of E.U.-Brexit Deal; Some Displaced Ukrainians Return to Homes on the Front Lines; Putin Cites Czar Peter the Great as Justification for War; Video of Women Being Attacked Sparks Outrage in China. Aired 12-1a ET

Aired June 14, 2022 - 00:00   ET




JOHN VAUSE, CNN ANCHOR: Hello, everyone. I'm John Vause.

Ahead here on CNN NEWSROOM, the grinding Russian war machine gaining ground by destroying almost everything in its path, including the key Ukrainian city of Severodonetsk.

A scam within a scam. Turns out Donald Trump's election defense fund, which raised $250 million from outrage supporters already lied to about a stolen election never actually existed.

And destination Rwanda, a U.K. court clears the way for the government's controversial plan to deport undocumented migrants to Rwanda regardless of their own nationality.

ANNOUNCER: Live from CNN Center, this is CNN NEWSROOM with John Vause.

VAUSE: Almost four months into Russian President Vladimir Putin's war of choice, and his army is slowly gaining the upper hand in the battle for Ukraine's industrial heartland. And the focal point of that grinding military offensive in the East has been Severodonetsk.

As of Monday, Ukraine's military reports after ordering forces to pull back, Russian troops have taken three quarters of the city, what was the last major piece of real estate held by Ukraine in a region controlled by Russian backed separatists. Severodonetsk is seen as crucial for Russia's downsized military objective of taking the entire Donbas region.

For hundreds of Ukrainian civilians who have not fled the city, it may be too late. All three bridges across the Donets River out of the city have been damaged and left impossible. The governor says it's now impossible to get civilians out and humanitarian aid in.

The Russian army has made these gains using tactics straight from World War II, overwhelming artillery fire combined with airpower, obliterating everything in their path.

Little wonder then Ukrainian officials are desperately pleading for more high tech weapons from the west.


VOLODYMYR ZELENSKYY, UKRAINIAN PRESIDENT (through translator): In the battles in Donbas, they will surely go down in military history as one of the most brutal battles in Europe and for Europe. Ukrainian army and our intelligence tactically still beat the Russian military.


VAUSE: U.S. officials believe the fall of Severodonetsk could be just days away. And when it happens, complete Russian control of the Luhansk region in the East may follow within weeks. That would be not only a major victory for Moscow, but a significant turnaround from the humiliating defeats during the early weeks of the war.

For more now on the battle for Severodonetsk, here's CNN's Matthew Chance.


MATTHEW CHANCE, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice over): There's no end in sight to this war, but its horror is plain to see. An old woman crosses herself in prayer as troops fight street to street. It's the battle here in and around the city of Severodonetsk where the Ukrainian president says the fate of Donbas in eastern Ukraine is being decided. But it seems more a case of when not if this devastated region will fall into Russian hands.

The embattled Ukrainian president is again expressing his frustration.

Ukraine needs modern missile defense systems, he says in his latest address. Did we get them? No. Do we need them? Yes.

On both sides, there are signs of fatigue setting in, but these latest images from the Russian defense ministry show its forces on the offensive. A squadron of attack helicopters hitting what Russian military officials say are Ukrainian positions.


CHANCE: Target hit, the pilot reports. Thanks very much, guys. God be with you, comes the response.

By concentrating its fire, Russia appears to be gaining momentum.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): Operational, tactical and army aviation hit three Ukrainian command posts in 25 areas of concentration of manpower and military equipment. As a result, more than 150 Ukrainian nationalists, six tanks, five filled artillery pieces and 10 special vehicles for various purposes were destroyed.

CHANCE (on camera): Of course, Russia is paying a heavy price for waging this war, what it calls its special military operation in Ukraine, too. It's estimated to have lost thousands of troops and countless tanks and other armored vehicles, some of which have been placed here in the center of the capitol Kyiv on public display.

But nearly four months into this grinding and relentless conflict, Ukraine seems dangerously outnumbered and outgunned.

CHANCE (voice over): From the Black Sea, Russia's naval bombardment continues apace. These four cruise missiles fired at a warehouse of anti-tank weapons supplied by the United States and its allies according to the Russian military.

Ukraine says the missiles hit mostly residential areas in the west of the country injuring 22 civilians, including a 12-year-old child.

Of course, Ukrainian forces are fighting back, like here near the northeastern city of Kharkiv, where they say this old captured Russian rocket launcher has been turned on the invaders, but Ukrainian officials say they need many more long range weapons from the U.S. and its western allies if they are to push or even hold the Russians back.

Matthew Chance, CNN, Kyiv.


VAUSE: Major General James Spider Marks is a CNN Military Analyst, as well as head of geopolitical strategy at Academy Securities, an investment bank owned and operated by military veterans.

General, it's been a while so thank you for taking the time to be with us.


VAUSE: OK. Well, the Ukrainian president has warned repeatedly about the consequences of Severodonetsk falling under total Russian control. Here he is.


ZELENSKYY (through translator): Severodonetsk remains the epicenter of the confrontation in Donbas. In many ways, the fate of our Donbas is being decided there.


VAUSE: And some background from our own CNN wire, Severodonetsk lies in the heart of Donbas, a sprawling industrial region in eastern Ukraine that has been implemented fighting since 2014 when Russian backed separatists seize control of two territories there, the self- declared Donetsk People's Republic and Luhansk People's Republic.

But what I'm yet to hear is why Severodonetsk is so important, there are no key highways running through the city. The rail track lines are on the southern outskirts, so there's no advantage there in moving heavy equipment.

So, assuming if the Russians haven't already taken control, they will one day fairly soon. What do they gain on that day that they did not have the day earlier?

MARKS: Well, what Severodonetsk provides both the Ukrainians and the Russians is an opportunity to put forces, their forces in an advantaged position over the opponent.

Look, I'm not trying to get into too much inside baseball military tactics. But what you have with Severodonetsk is an opportunity to protect your flank. If you're the Russians, as you continue your advance south and west toward Kherson. That's the key.

There are still Ukrainian forces in the area. There are albeit not a major highway intersection. But there are roads that run both north south and east west, which gives the owner of that piece of terrain, a very strong advantage.

So, if you're the Ukrainians, you can attack the Russians to the south. If you're the Russians, you can protect that flank as you continue to move. That, in a nutshell is why it's important.

VAUSE: I know that three bridges over the Donets River out of the city have been destroyed by the Russians. Is it possible to know how much longer any Ukrainian forces will be able to hold out for?

MARKS: Well, unless there's -- to answer your question, there's very little way to determine how much time is available, and how long the Ukrainian forces can hold. But there must be -- when you're in that type of an isolated position, there must be an opportunity to egress, you've got to have a safe passage, which means you've got to be able to fight your way out or you have to have a preexisting logistics line that's protected again on the flanks, so that you can maneuver your forces at will. That's what it's all about.


MARKS: So, you not only have to hold what you have, fight against the Russians, you also have to hold this egress or you're going to be trapped.

And much like what happened in Mariupol, Severodonetsk has been reduced in large part to rubble by the Russian army. Again, here's the president of Ukraine, listen to this.


ZELENSKYY (through translator): We are dealing with the absolute evil, and we have no choice but to move forward, free our entire territory, kick the occupiers out of all of our regions.


VAUSE: Predictions for this war have swung from massively under estimating Ukrainian resistance to being wildly over optimistic about Ukraine, defeating Russians and reclaiming territory, which they lost back in 2014.

It seems (INAUDIBLE) towards the pessimistic fate at least from the Ukrainian point of view right now. Having said all of that, what chance does Ukraine have of actually retaking all of the territory under Russian or Russian allied control right now?

MARKS: Yes, very little chance of reclaiming it. Not to be pessimistic. My view is trying to be a realistic assessment of what we've seen on the ground, the great initiative and creativity on the part of the Ukrainians, but the overwhelming use of force and the lack of limits, or a moral compass on the part of the Russians.

So, what the Ukrainians really have to be able to do over the course of the next couple of months is be able to hold and push against the Russians as best they can. Because that will define what Ukraine is going to look like probably over the course of the next couple of years.

We are moving into a period where this conflict is going to be what I would describe as a frozen conflict, kind of a stalemate, a couple of boxers in the 12th round that are exhausted, and might be able to get one or two punches in, but not on a regular basis.

Both sides are exhausted, and both sides think that they are winning. And there's a narrative for "victory" on both sides.

So, I think that's what we're going to see over the course of the next couple of months. Is Ukraine got to be able to hold what they have? And there's little likelihood that Russia is going to be pushed out of Crimea or out of the Donbas entirely. I think it's going to look not dissimilar from what it looked like on one January of this year.

VAUSE: General Marks, as always, thank you so much, sir. We appreciate your time.

MARKS: Thank you, John.

VAUSE: In the days and weeks after losing the White House as Donald Trump repeatedly lied about a stolen election, his most senior aides repeatedly told him claims of widespread voter fraud were in the words of the attorney general at the time, idiotic and nuts.

Trump referred counsel from former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani, who urged him to declare victory on election night, despite advice to the contrary from those in the room who were apparently sober.

CNN's Jessica Schneider has latest now in the January 6 congressional hearings.


JESSICA SCHNEIDER, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The January 6th committee back to spotlight how former President Trump was intent on spreading lies about the 2020 election being stolen, choosing to listen to his allegedly drunk adviser Rudy Giuliani on election night, instead of the aides telling Trump he was likely to lose. BILL STEPIEN, FORMER TRUMP CAMPAIGN MANAGER: My recommendation was to say that votes were still being counted, it's too early to tell. The president disagreed with that.

UNKNOWN: Was there anyone in that conversation who in your observation had had too much to drink?

STEPIEN: Mayor Giuliani. The mayor was definitely intoxicated.

SCHNEIDER: Giuliani's lawyer denies Giuliani was drunk. It was Giuliani's advice that the former president ultimately followed that night.


SCHNEIDER: The committee playing taped depositions from former Trump advisers including his former campaign manager, Bill Stepien, who was a no-show at the hearing after his wife went into labor.

Multiple former officials, including a Trump White House lawyer and the president's own Attorney General Bill Barr, explained that the conspiracy theories Trump was voicing were flat out false, including the one about Dominion voting machines switching votes.

ERIC HERSCHMANN, FORMER TRUMP WHITE HOUSE LAWYER: I never saw any evidence whatsoever to sustain those allegations.

WILLIAM BARR, FORMER ATTORNEY GENERAL: I told him that it was crazy stuff and they were wasting their time.

SCHNEIDER: President Trump refused to listen, despite Barr repeatedly shooting down the lies.

BARR: The claims of fraud were bull (BLEEP), completely bogus and silly, based on complete misinformation. I thought, boy, if he really believes this stuff, he has, you know, lost contact with -- he's become detached from reality.

SCHNEIDER: Witness testimony portrayed President Trump as grasping at conspiracy theories after he lost the election.

BARR: He said more people voted in Philadelphia than there were voters. And that was absolutely rubbish. There was nothing strange about the Philadelphia turnout.


RICHARD DONOGHUE, TRUMP-ERA DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE OFFICIAL: There were so many of these allegations that when you gave him a very direct answer on one of them, he wouldn't fight us on it, but he would move to another allegation.

SCHNEIDER: Stepien said he considered himself part of, "team normal" on the Trump campaign, as opposed to Rudy Giuliani's team, which included former Trump adviser Peter Navarro, who were pushing multiple false claims.

ALEX CANNON, FORMER TRUMP CAMPAIGN LAWYER: I mentioned at that time that CISA, Chris Krebs, had recently released a report saying that the election was secure. And I believe Mr. Navarro accused me of being an agent of the deep state working with Chris Krebs against the president.

SCHNEIDER: Pushing the big lie turned out to be highly lucrative. The committee alleging Trump raised $250 million from donors based on those lies.

AMANDA WICK, SENIOR INVESTIGATIVE COUNSEL: On November 9th, 2020, President Trump created a separate entity called the Save America PAC. Most of the money raised went to this newly created PAC, not to election related litigation.

SCHNEIDER: The committee saying $5 million of that $250 million went to the company that put on the January 6th rally at the Ellipse near the White House that morphed into a march to the Capitol and ultimately the insurrection.

Jessica Schneider, CNN, Washington.


VAUSE: Norman Eisen, was the Council for the first House Impeachment and trial of Donald Trump. He served as the ethics czar in the Obama administration. He's currently a Senior Fellow with Brookings. And Norman, it's been a while. Thank you for being with us.


VAUSE: You're welcome. Now, I want to stay with that $250 million, which was raised or some may say swindled, perhaps from unsuspecting Trump's supporters. Here's a senior investigative counsel Amanda Wick with more, here she is.


WICK: The Trump campaign aggressively pushed false election claims to fundraise, telling supporters that would be used to fight voter fraud that did not exist. The e-mails continued through January 6th, even as President Trump spoke on the Ellipse.

Thirty minutes after the last fundraising e-mail was sent, the Capitol was breached.


VAUSE: Should fundraising fraud be added to the list of possible crimes committed by Donald Trump along with witness tampering, obstruction, other official proceedings? The list goes on.

EISEN: It should be, John. The telling your supporters that you're going to use the funds for a special litigation fund and doing no such thing raises very serious criminal and civil questions of fraud.

You know, Donald Trump has by one count told over 30,000 lies. He had a fraudulent Trump University that was shut down fraudulent charitable foundation. We had the big lie, and now we have the big rip off.

So, certainly, it should be investigated. Possible federal and state crimes of wire fraud, consumer fraud, campaign finance fraud and the like.

VAUSE: And as claims by the Trump campaign of widespread voter fraud, which enraged so many supporters to give him so much money. Let's hear from those within the Trump administration. Here we go.


WILLIAM BARR, FORMER ATTORNEY GENERAL: The stuff that his people were shoveling out to the public or bulk was bullshit.



BARR: Complete nonsense.

DONOGHUE: Not supported by the evidence.

BARR: Idiotic.

DONOGHUE: They don't pan out.

HERSCHMANN: I said to him, are you out of your effing mind? I said, I only want to hear two words coming out of your mouth for now on, orderly transition.


VAUSE: So, Donald Trump was told repeatedly that what he and his surrogates were alleging about voter fraud and stolen election was false. But he said it anyway. How does that play into the legal question of whether Trump was acting corruptly?

EISEN: Well, John, in essence to have a crime, you need to have a bad act, and you need to have corrupt intent. Here, the bad acts were the repeated assaults on the election and the bad intent was if you knew you had loss, because you were told by absolutely everyone over and over again responsible in your orbit and you attack the election anyhow, you have the bad intent that is necessary for fraud.

Remember, a respected federal judge in the United States has already said it's likely that Trump committed multiple crimes in his assault on the 2020 election. We got a lot more corroboration today with his former A.G. Bill Barr as the witness in chief, but all of these witnesses are his former allies. So, it was a truly striking procession.

[00:20:05] VAUSE: And the decision on whether the president or anyone faces charges after all of this is still with U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland. Here he is, listen to this.


MERRICK GARLAND, U.S. ATTORNEY GENERAL: I am watching and I will be watching all the hearings. And I can assure you, that January 6 prosecutors are watching all the hearings as well.


VAUSE: He did add though, there are no internal guidelines or legal counsel to prevent him from investigating a former president.

So, is Trump likely to face charges at a federal level from the Justice Department, or more likely at a state level from Georgia? You know, where he directly interfered with the vote count, telling officials he just wanted 11,780 votes, or both areas?

EISEN: John, I think you're right to raise the state question. That is probably the simplest case against Trump because we have a tape recording that literally is a smoking gun of the former president saying to the Georgia Secretary of State responsible for the vote count, just "find 11,780 votes".

Well, John, we talked about intent. But no matter what you believe, you're not allowed to take the law into your own hands and insist on the Secretary of State finding votes that don't exist.

I also think there's serious possible federal liability here, but look for the Georgia prosecutor to move first.

VAUSE: And that case will be -- will go on for quite a while, isn't it?

EISEN: John, it will give us many reasons to visit together as we do whenever there's legal turmoil here in the U.S.

VAUSE: I look forward to that. Norman, as always, it's good to see you. Thank you.

EISEN: Thanks, John.

VAUSE: Coming up here on CNN NEWSROOM, stocks down across Asia just hours after a Wall Street sell off, we'll have a look at the numbers in a moment.

Also ahead, migrants hoping to find asylum in the U.K. might soon be forced to build a new life thousands of kilometers away in a country they never been through, in Africa.


VAUSE: Global Markets are all down after the ongoing sell off on Wall Street. Let's take a look at the trading across the Asia markets at this hour. All the major indices in the red. The Nikkei in Japan are down by more than 1-1/2 percent. Hong Kong's Hang Seng down by almost one percent. Not too bad actually, Shanghai Composite down by 1-1/2 percent.

And this follows the Dow diving nearly 900 points in Monday's trading. The S&P 500 also down falling nearly at four percent and closing in bear market territory.

All this as U.S. investors are rattled by fears of a recession, the prospect of aggressive action from the Federal Reserve set to meet on Wednesday and by aggressive action, we mean an increase in interest rates.

U.K. is planning to ditch parts of the post Brexit deal signed two years ago with the European Union. British government is pushing a bill through Parliament that aims to "fix parts of the Northern Ireland protocol" by removing so called unnecessary paperwork and reducing costs associated with border checks of goods crossing into Northern Ireland.

The British Foreign Minister says it's a reasonable and practical solution. A top E.U. official does not share that point of view.


LIZ TRUSS, BRITISH FOREIGN MINISTER: We're completely serious about this legislation. It does fix the problems in the Northern Ireland protocol. It also protects the E.U. single market so the E.U. are no worse off as a result of this legislation.


MAROS SEFCOVIC, VICE PRESIDENT, EUROPEAN COMMISSION: And then negotiating of the protocol is unrealistic. No workable alternative solution has been found to this delicate, long negotiated balance.


VAUSE: Ireland's Foreign Minister says the U.K.'s attempt to change the E.U. Brexit deal constitutes a breach of international law.

U.K. is set to send the first flight of asylum seekers to Rwanda in the coming hours, even if there's just one person on board that plane. That's after London Court of Appeal refused to grant an injunction on Monday.

The controversial deportation plan has drawn a wave of criticism as well as legal challenges.

CNN's Nada Bashir spoke to some refugees in Calais, France, whose lives could be drastically altered by this new policy.


NADA BASHIR, CNN REPORTER (voice over): For days, weeks, sometimes even months, refugees here can only wait once notoriously known as the jungle. This camp in northern France was once seen as the final stop in a desperate attempt to reach the U.K.

But now, that dangerous trip across the English Channel comes with an added risk. Volunteers here are handing out vital advice pamphlets, warning that an illegal crossing into the You .K. could now mean deportation to Rwanda, the message here do not panic, we will help you but for some, the news is too much to bear.

If you are told when you get to London, that you are being sent to Rwanda, what will you do then?

GULJURBAKHI, AFGHAN ASYLUM SEEKER: Then maybe -- I don't want to go to Rwanda, never go to Rwanda.

BASHIR: In a nearby camp, we meet a group of young men from Sudan. They are too afraid to appear on camera. Many left the country as teenagers fleeing militia violence. They tell us they remain determined to cross the channel despite the threat of deportation.

But you still want to go to the U.K. even though (INAUDIBLE)?

ADAM, SUDANESE ASYLUM SEEKER (through translator): Yes, God willing, we hope they will let us settle in the U.K. But if they deport us to Rwanda, then we will go. Honestly, I'm afraid, but God knows what is best.

BASHIR: But on the other side of the channel, the situation for those already facing deportation is also strained. Many are being held at detention centers like this one just outside of London.

Among them is Sudanese asylum seeker Karim. We're not using his real name to protect his identity. Karim is unreachable while in detention, but his legal representatives tell us he received notice he would be deported to Rwanda in May and sent us this written testimony.

KARIM, SUDANESE ASYLUM SEEKER (through translator): I was shocked. I didn't think any country would do that. Why did they rescue me from the waves to send me there? They should have left me in the water, it would have been better. I won't go, I'd rather be dead.

BASHIR: The British government claims its new program is aimed at disrupting people smuggling networks, and will deter people from making the perilous journey across the English Channel.

The U.N.'s refugee agency has described the U.K.'s deal with Rwanda as unlawful, warning that the scheme lacks adequate safeguards to ensure refugee protection.

Meanwhile, Human Rights Watch has lambasted the British Home secretary's claim that Rwanda will provide a safe haven for refugees. The organization says the British government has cherry picked and even ignored facts on the ground, pointing to what they've described as Rwanda's appalling human rights record.

It's an issue which has sparked controversy within the government's own home office, with some civil servants mounting a legal challenge seeking to hold all deportation flights to Rwanda and it's even triggered an inquiry by the House of Lords.

Back in Calais, volunteers say the uncertainty is taking a devastating toll on asylum seekers.

CLARE MOSELEY, FOUNDER, CARE4CALAIS: The conversations we've had with people, they say to us, I've lost all my hope, the future is black. There's nothing left for me to live for.

So, critically important that this plan is absolutely examined in fine detail to make sure that it is lawful and if it isn't, then nobody must be sent.

BASHIR: While some here say they remain undeterred, and will still try to reach the U.K. Others are stuck in limbo, unable to return home and desperate for the security the U.K. once offered, but also unwilling to risk being deported to Rwanda.

Nada Bashir, CNN in Calais, France.


VAUSE: Well, millions have fled Ukraine, some are choosing to return to their homes even near the front lines. Why they say it's worth it despite ongoing Russian tanks forcing them to take cover at night in cramped, damped shelters.


VAUSE: Welcome back, everyone. I'm John Vause. You're watching CNN NEWSROOM.


For the people of Sloviansk, or at least those who decided to stay, the front line of this war is never far from their front door. That means living in damp basements and shelters. Water is pumped by hand, and there's no gas for cooking.

Yet, despite the misery, it seems there's no place like home, which is why some are now making the journey back.

CNN's Ben Wedeman reports now from Eastern Ukraine.


BEN WEDEMAN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The city of Sloviansk may be half empty, but the Church of the Holy Spirit is almost full.

The city is perilously close to the front lines, but with faith and stubbornness, the few stay put, while others have come back.

Luba (ph) and her family left shortly after the outbreak of war, staying with relatives in Western Ukraine. She returned a month ago. For now, home sweet home is a dark, damp basement shared with other building residents. Having lived through the fighting here in 2014, she left because she

did not want to go through it all over again.

"I was scared for my son and by grandson," she says. Yet, hospitality had its limits, and homesickness took a toll. "We felt our relatives were sick of us," she says. They have their own lives. You can put up with your relatives for a while, but we decided it was time to go back."

The basement is far from comfortable, but it's better than upstairs when the bombs and missiles fall at night.

Her 14-year-old grandson, Bogdan, prefers it here. "Even if you could go to a safer place elsewhere," he says, "it's better to be at home." Even if you have to sleep in the basement.

WEDEMAN: The longer this war goes on, the cooler the welcome becomes for those who have fled to safer ground. And as dangerous as it may be here, there's no place like home.

WEDEMAN (voice-over): With no cooking gas to be had, the kitchen has moved to the yard. The city water supply was knocked out, it now must be pumped by hand. Gone are the comforts and conveniences of modern life. But at least I's home.

Ben Wedeman, CNN, Sloviansk, Eastern Ukraine.


VAUSE: Amnesty International is accusing Russia of committing war crimes during an offensive to take the city of Kharkiv, Ukraine's second biggest city.

In a 40-page report, Amnesty accuses Russia of using cluster munitions and other indiscriminate means of attack. Here's how the Russian strikes did their damage.


JEAN BAPTISTE GALLOPIN, RESEARCH CONSULTANT, AMNESTY INTERNATIONAL: Many of these strikes were launched using cluster munitions, which are widely banned, as well as other indiscriminate weapons, such as artillery shells and rockets and Katarbolong-9's (ph), which are indiscriminate when used in urban areas.


VAUSE: Amnesty documented 28 indiscriminate strikes on Kharkiv by Russian forces between February 8 and April 30.


One hundred and eight countries have signed onto a U.N. ban on the use of cluster munitions. Russia is not part of the treaty.

A sign perhaps the war in Ukraine isn't going so well. A change in marketing, a new message perhaps.

President Vladimir Putin tested the new slogan on Russia Day. The message now is taking back and strengthening. It's a changed message from the early days of the war. There's some recent revisionist history at play here.

CNN's Fred Pleitgen explains, reporting in from Moscow.


FREDERIK PLEITGEN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice- over): A display of patriotism on Russia today. Russian President Vladimir Putin handing out medals, just days after he likened himself to Peter the Great, claiming, like Czar Peter 300 years ago, in Ukraine Russia is taking back land that is rightfully Russia's.

VLADIMIR PUTIN, RUSSIAN PRESIDENT (through translator): He went there to take it back and strengthen it. That's what he was doing. Well, it seems it has also fallen to us to take back and strengthen territories. And if we take these basic values as fundamental to our existence, we will prevail in solving the issues we are facing.

PLEITGEN: After stating at the start of a war that Russia has no intention of occupying Ukraine, Kremlin TV now is amplifying the new slogan, "Taking back and strengthening."

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (through translator): We all need to explain to the Ukrainians that we are not playing. We, as our president said, are taking back what's supposed to be ours and strengthening it.

PLEITGEN: "Take back and strengthen." Those words also start the show of the man known as Putin's chief propagandist, then showing images of people in Russian-occupied territory in Ukraine receiving Russian passports. And pro-Russian fighters in Ukraine's Donbas region, firing at Ukrainian forces with a clear message.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: All of this is Russian territory. Russian land. They have been separating us for centuries. But the center of the Ukraine and the Southeast, those are all Russian people.

PLEITGEN: At the same time, the Russians are making clear the current sanctions won't make them change course. The country's economy has stabilized. And this weekend, a Russian company reopened several restaurants formerly owned by McDonald's, under the new brand name, Tasty and That's It.

Some at the grand opening wearing "Z"-embroidered clothes, the symbol of Russia's invasion of Ukraine, as they ate American-style fast food.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Food and politics have nothing in common. Like, come on, man. Keep things separate.

PLEITGEN: A big run on burgers in Moscow while the war in Ukraine drags on, and Vladimir Putin is far from finished with what he sees as his mission.

Fred Pleitgen, CNN, Moscow.


VAUSE: Still to come, an attack caught on camera, sparking debate about violence against women in China. The only truth is it's far from an isolated incident, and little, it seems, is being done to prevent it from happening again.



VAUSE: A recent attack on a group of young women at a restaurant in China has put the spotlight on the issue of violence against women. CNN's Selina Wang reports on the trend of horrific attacks, with seemingly few consequences. And a warning: Her report contains some disturbing images.


SELINA WANG, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): A late- night dinner turned violent in Northern China. Graphic surveillance video of what follows unleashed fear and outrage across China.

It shows a man approaching one of the women. He touches her back, an unwanted advance. She pushes him away. He slaps her in response.

The assault escalates. A scuffle breaks out, as she and her friends try to defend themselves. The woman is dragged outside by her hair, hit with a beer bottle. The men relentlessly kick her, as one yells, "Beat her to death."

Her friend's head hits the pavement with a thud.

The viral video sparked uproar, not just over the brazen brutality of the attack, but the indifference from bystanders, with only women seen intervening.

A woman at the scene called the police and told authorities the following, according to state media. "Before this happened, I always thought that going out to dinner at night was a perfectly normal thing. But now I have some sort of PTSD."

YAQIU WANG, SENIOR RESEARCHER ON CHINA, HUMAN RIGHTS WATCH: These men feel that they could just freely attack a woman in such a public place. It was because so many men in the past who have done the same. So the men feel, you know, I can do the same without any consequences.

S. WANG (voice-over): Attacks like this are horrific and horrible to watch, but Chinese social media is flooded with them. And activists say we cannot look away. Violence against women is rampant in China.

Video from earlier this year in Xi'an shows a man viciously punching his wife while she holds their child in her lap. The man later pins his wife down and continues to punch her head. The man was suspended by his company after the footage went viral,

according to state media, and police said they detained him for five days.

Another shows a man kicking and punching a woman in broad daylight in 2020. State media reported the man was investigated, but it's unclear any legal action was taken.

Domestic violence was only made punishable by law in 2016. Physical abuse was not even grounds for divorce before 2001.

So far, authorities have detained nine people involved in the restaurant incident. Local police have ramped up patrols on the streets in the area.

Authorities claim the women and her friends are in stable condition. Yet, unverified video show what is believed to be one of their brutally-beaten bodies, lying motionless on a gurney in the hospital, bloodied and bandaged. Her helplessness resonating across China.

Selina Wang, CNN, Beijing.


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