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CNN INTERNATIONAL: Hundreds Killed In Afghanistan's Earthquake; Ukraine Suffers One Of The Toughest Weeks Of War; President Joe Biden To Speak On Soaring Petrol Prices; U.K. Inflation Hits 40-Year Record; Afghanistan Earthquake Kills 1,000+; Floating Cities; Partygate Fallout; Aired 2-3p ET

Aired June 22, 2022 - 14:00   ET



ELENI GIOKOS, HOST, CNN NEWSROOM: Hello everyone, I'm Eleni Giokos, and you're watching CNN NEWSROOM live from Abu Dhabi. Tonight, more than 1,000 people killed and the death toll is rising after an earthquake in Afghanistan. I'll speak with the organization saving lives on the ground. Then, Ukraine battles through one of its worst weeks of the war. The latest on Russia's attempt to conquer the east.

And the U.S. President is set to lay out his strategy to curb America's soaring petrol prices. The latest on the fight against global inflation. Search and rescue missions are underway in eastern Afghanistan after a massive earthquake killed more than 1,000 people. More than 1,500 people were injured, and officials expect those numbers to rise.

The quake struck in the middle of the night, destroying 70 percent of the homes in one district. Photos from the Paktika Province, the hardest hit region, show crumbled houses and heavy rubble. It's the latest humanitarian tragedy in a country that's already reeling from hunger and economic crises. Scott McLean brings us the latest


SCOTT MCLEAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): This is the sound of help arriving in Afghanistan's Paktika Province. Overnight, the extremely remote area was struck by a magnitude 5.9 earthquake. It destroyed buildings and killed more than a 1,000 people. The deadliest quake in more than two decades. The injured are rushed to the helicopter to be taken for help.

At the clinic in the region, the injured lie waiting for whatever help they can get. The epicenter was a sparsely-populated mountainous area, but the impact was felt much farther away.

"It was midnight when the quake struck", this woman says. "The kids and I screamed. One of our rooms was destroyed. Our neighbors screamed and we saw everyone's rooms." Another local man says "the houses of our neighbors were destroyed. When we arrived, there were many dead and wounded. They sent us to the hospital. I also saw many dead bodies." Taliban trucks were seen moving bodies out of the area. Some homes were badly damaged. The government says some entire villages were destroyed. The man shooting this video says that one of his grandchildren was buried in the rubble, but they managed to pull them out alive. At a press conference, the Taliban pledged to send more than $500 to the families of those injured, and more than a 1,000 to those killed. A bold pledge for a cash-strapped government in the midst of an economic crisis. Scott McLean, CNN, London.


GIOKOS: Well, the challenge of getting aid to Afghanistan is immense. UNICEF is on the ground right now providing help. Sam Mort is the Chief of Communications Advocacy and Civic Engagement for UNICEF, Afghanistan. She joins me now via Skype from Kabul. Sam, really good to see you. I mean, let's be clear here. This has hurt an already impoverished community. We've seen the destruction. We've heard the loss of life, and people desperately needing care, housing and assistance. Could you describe what the situation right now is on the ground?

SAM MORT, CHIEF OF COMMUNICATIONS, UNICEF AFGHANISTAN: Well, it's different shades of disaster across five districts and two provinces. I think we've heard the de facto authorities estimate that a 1,000 people have been killed. But we know also the combination of earthquake and rain have led to some landslides. And there are some villages that we can't reach at the moment. So we think that, that number is going to rise.

We know that there are -- there were people asleep when the earthquake hit, as you mentioned. In Gayan District, 1,800 homes were destroyed. And we fear there are people still trapped there. So, UNICEF is on the ground, as you say. We've got mobile health and nutrition teams down in the affected villages, giving first aid to those who are injured.


And because we had prepositioned supplies in Khost in Paktika, we were able to get trucks on the road early this morning full of life-saving supplies such as tents and tarpaulins, blankets, clothes, hygiene kits, everything that people need to survive the next few days.

GIOKOS: Yes, and it's -- I mean, we -- the images we're showing right now, people rushing to some of the rescue helicopters, and here's the reality for the people who have now lost their homes. We're talking about not having anywhere to stay. They're going to need resources. How quickly is assistance getting there? I know that you guys are working with other international agencies as well. I know that the rescue operations are being pushed forward by the Ministry of Defense, but is it enough at this point?

MORT: We're doing everything we possibly can at the moment. Early this morning, the de facto authorities reached out to UNICEF and the rest of the U.N. family here to ask for our support in getting things done to the affected communities to do assessments. So that -- GIOKOS: Yes --

MORT: In the next few days, we can better understand what supplies and what aid we need to get in there as fast as possible. UNICEF as well supplied in the country, and we can get aid to those who are affected, but this is going to be a long-term effort. It's one thing to bring water and first aid and tents and food into an area. It's another thing to rebuild homes and rebuild communities and give people back their livelihoods.

GIOKOS: Yes, absolutely. Look, and this is -- you've said this, you guys have been tweeting about this as well that it's already compounding a dire situation when millions of people are facing acute hunger across Afghanistan. Could you give me a glimpse into what these communities have been dealing with, what kind of work you've been doing there in the past, and how you plan to assist going forward?

MORT: It is utter misery. You know, Afghanistan has long been one of the hardest places to be a child in the world. Right now, we've got 24 million people in urgent need of humanitarian aid, 13 million are children, with the worst drought the country has experienced for 37 years.

GIOKOS: Yes --

MORT: We've got a chronic malnutrition crisis and a million children under the age of five at risk of death without urgent treatment. We've got preventable diseases such as measles and acute watery diarrhea spreading across the country. And then on top of that, we've got --

GIOKOS: Yes --

MORT: Economic collapse. You've got 97 percent of the population on the brink of poverty. People not able to feed themselves. High unemployment, high food crisis. Afghan people do not have their troubles to seek, and this earthquake as you see --

GIOKOS: Yes --

MORT: Has compounded an already miserable situation.

GIOKOS: Sam, very quickly. What has it been like working with a government that's run by the Taliban? Has it been easy? Have you had issues and challenges since the U.S. withdrew?

MORT: I think what we try to do every day at UNICEF, when we work with the de facto authorities, is to keep the goal of children's well- being in mind. We have that shared goal. We're trying really hard to work together and understand each other's perspective. I don't think it's easy, but we are trying our best. The needs are great and the demand is high --

GIOKOS: Right --

MORT: And UNICEF will not give up. GIOKOS: And Sam Mort, we appreciate the efforts that you're putting

in on the ground, you and your team are doing such vital work there. Thank you for sharing those stories with us.

MORT: Thanks.

GIOKOS: Now, despite weeks of fierce resistance by Ukraine's outgunned military, Russia is advancing in Luhansk, village by village, as it inches closer to seizing the last remaining area still under Ukrainian control. The governor of Luhansk calls the situation "hell". He says Russian forces are destroying everything in Lysychansk, attacking the city with tanks, artillery and aircraft as they approach from the south, entrenching themselves in nearby towns.

Russia is also tightening its grip on Severodonetsk. If those two cities fall, Ukraine would effectively lose control of Luhansk, allowing Russia to push farther into the Donbas region. Our Salma Abdelaziz is in Kyiv with more.


SALMA ABDELAZIZ, CNN REPORTER (on camera): This is shaping up to be one of the worst weeks for the Ukrainian military since the fall of Mariupol. Russian forces making that steady inch-by-inch advance in some of the key territories on some of the critical frontlines, using that superior military force to simply pummel Ukrainian defenders all across nearly a 1,000 kilometers of active fighting.


Let me just break down what's happening all along that major line, starting with the north in the Sumy region there. Ukrainian officials saying that Russian forces are using cross-border attacks, using kamikaze drones to take out APCs(ph), to take out tanks. And then in Kharkiv, intensified shelling on residential areas has left several people killed and wounded, including recently, an eight-year-old child.

Then, of course, to the Donbas, where the fight for the region of Luhansk is really heating up there. Severodonetsk, of course, being the major flash point. Its sister city, Lysychansk, there Ukrainian officials tell -- say that Russian forces are trying to encircle that city, that Ukrainian forces are already succumbing to the Russian firepower, the sheer strength of that Russian firepower. And that Russian forces have been able to occupy several villages and areas to the south, setting up really important firing positions.

There, Russian forces also backed by the air, they're using multiple- launch rocket systems, really lobbing everything they have. And then in Severodonetsk itself, Ukrainian defenders making something of a last stand in a chemical plant, the Azov chemical plant, where there are also civilians sheltering. And across Severodonetsk, there's more than 7,000 estimated residents trapped, pinned down in that fighting, running out of food, running out of water with little medical access.

And then, further south, to Mykolaiv, a very important strong hold for Ukrainian forces in the south of the country. There, Ukrainian officials saying that city was struck by seven missiles. And really, this is Russia's strategy here is no strategy at all. It's simply too overwhelmed with their superior military force to try to overwhelm Ukrainian forces all along that line, trying to force a surrender. There is one other thing to note here.

Russia is claiming that it's taking out howitzers, U.S. provided and provided by European allies. That is extremely important, because the howitzers are long-range weapons. They could -- they have a range of up to 25 miles, 40 kilometers, very important in an artillery war for Ukrainian forces to be able to hit back at those artillery positions at a distance. So, If indeed, Russia is taking out these howitzers, precious few of them that the Ukrainian forces have, that would be a major loss. Salma Abdelaziz, CNN, Kyiv.


GIOKOS: All right, and still to come. Tonight, President Putin is welcomed on the global stage in Beijing as he speaks virtually at his first major international economic forum since the invasion of Ukraine. Plus, happening right now, U.S. President Biden is talking about trying to cut energy costs for Americans who are feeling the pain of higher prices, and midterm elections are right around the corner. We'll bring you an update on what he's saying in just a moment. Stay with us.



GIOKOS: Welcome back. Now, Russian President Vladimir Putin has taken part in his first major multilateral meeting since launching his invasion of Ukraine. Speaking at the BRICS Summit that Beijing is hosting, he appeared virtually alongside the leaders of China, India, Brazil and South Africa. In a show of solidarity with the Kremlin, China's President Xi Jinping slammed the use of international sanctions.


XI JINPING, PRESIDENT, CHINA (through translator): It has been proved time and again that sanctions are a boomerang and a double-edged sword to politicize, instrumentalize and weaponize the global economy.

And to willfully impose sanctions by taking advantage of once dominant status in the international financial and monetary systems will only end up hurting one's own interests, as well as those of others, and inflict suffering on people around the world.


GIOKOS: Now, meantime, Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman is in Turkey. It's the first time he's visited that nation since Jamal Khashoggi was murdered in the Saudi consulate in Istanbul. And Russia's Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov is beginning a two-day visit to Iran. He'll meet President Ebrahim Raisi. Now, all of these meetings involve global players with agendas that often don't align with the U.S. and Europe.

So let's bring in Ravi Agrawal; the editor-in-chief of Foreign Policy on the significance of all these different alliances that are happening, the conversations that are happening. I want to talk about BRICS, as Brazil, Russia, India, China, South Africa, the sort of this alliance that was created in and around the financial crisis. It was emerging market powers coming together.

And here they are having this conversation. Xi Jinping has been very clear about sanctions and the collateral damage that it will do to emerging markets. But interestingly, that a lot of the countries that are having these conversations have not really spoken out against the invasion of Ukraine. What does this tell us about a more polarized world, potentially?

RAVI AGRAWAL, EDITOR-IN-CHIEF, FOREIGN POLICY: Well, it seems like the world is getting polarized, but I think the BRICS grouping in particular, the ones that are not named China, so the other four, are uncomfortable with a polarization of the world. So in a sense, if you are India or South Africa or Brazil, you are looking at a world in which the U.S. and China seem increasingly at loggerheads. Russia, of course, literally at war with the West.

You have all of that and you have these other three countries, and of course, they represent many others, in a sense, much of the global south. These are countries that feel that they don't really want to get involved in a global tussle, in another cold war between great powers. In a sense, what we're seeing is the return of non-alignment. The movement in the '60s and '70s when several countries tried to stay away from great power tussles.

Now, obviously, the BRICS grouping which is led by China in a sense, and this one is being hosted there, they have a vested interest in this. They -- even though the world is polarized. They want to see a world in which they get to shape rules and orders, and they get to shape norms --

GIOKOS: Yes --

AGRAWAL: They look at the world and they see that America has the quarter lines, okas(ph), and it needs an alternative. So that's what's in it for China.

GIOKOS: Yes, and it's important for the viewers to know that this BRICS alliance has been going on for quite some time. In fact, I attended the fifth BRICS Summit in South Africa in 2013. It was an excitement that emerging market powers were going to hold their own, and they were going to build alternatives to western forces. But at this point in time, this is -- it's happening at an interesting juncture where you have people saying, you know, we're looking for alternative trade routes.

What message would that send to the U.S. or the West as a whole, if Africa -- African countries decide doing business with Russia the way China and India are still, you know, engaged economically. Is that going to create that polarized situation that we fear? AGRAWAL: I mean, I think the message is very clear to the U.S. and to

the West at large. I think they've seen the response to the war in Ukraine over the last four months. Where on the one hand you have unity among western nations and sanctioning Russia in supporting Ukraine. And you have essentially more than half of the world by population say nope, we are not going to sanction Russia and we want to stay out of that.

So I think in Washington, conversations I have with lawmakers and diplomats here, there's a very clear understanding that the global landscape is changing.


I think part of the issue is this, Eleni, and that's that, you know, during the cold war when countries had to pick sides, they knew that their trade with the Soviet Union was fairly limited. This new cold war --

GIOKOS: Yes --

AGRAWAL: Between the U.S. and China is completely different. You pick a country anywhere in the global south, and chances are that the U.S. or China are among their top five trading partners. So, it's much harder if you're in India or Pakistan and Indonesia and Nigeria, to say that in this scenario of America issuing sanctions against Russia and China, joining Russia on the same side as Russia, it's much harder for big developing countries to take a --

GIOKOS: Yes --


GIOKOS: So, and we've alluded to all the other conversations that are happening, you know, with Saudi Arabia and Turkey, cozying up once again. And you know, we're hearing Turkish officials saying, this is the start of a new era. We're talking about economic and energy deals potentially being signed. And then again, I think about what these new alliances might mean, globally, and what message Turkey is sending because they're blocking, you know, NATO from expanding, for example. And I think there's an undercurrent here that might be playing out.

AGRAWAL: There is indeed. I mean, these are alliances of convenience. Make no mistake of that. I think, you know, for a country like Turkey which has had around about 70 percent inflation this year, the economy is really struggling. Saudi essentially had a blockade of sorts against it, it needs Saudis help. Simultaneously, I think Turkey is very aware that Saudi wants to rehabilitate itself after the Khashoggi killing a few years ago.

And so is much more open to new forms of partnerships and alliances, especially in the Middle East. I think Turkey is also aware of the fact that the West needs it. You know, Turkey has been at the forefront of providing drones to Ukraine. Turkey would be at the forefront of easing any blockade in the Black Sea or ensuring that grains are able to get out to the rest of the world. I think Erdogan really understands that he is holding many cards right now. He can use --

GIOKOS: Yes --

AGRAWAL: Them to his benefit. So it's less about ideology, more about gaining something from the current moment.

GIOKOS: And you know, we also have to mention the fact that Sergey Lavrov going to Iran. And you know, and listening to the sort of political analysis that's been happening since the start of the war, is that countries that have been at the receiving end of sanctions, might also be teaming up together to see how they can sort of fight this. Countries that have felt ostracized by the U.S. or the West, for whatever reason might actually be teaming up together.

AGRAWAL: Exactly. So, you have sanctions on Iran, you have sanctions on Russia. It's only natural that these two countries would look for ways to essentially exchange notes. But also, you know, be able to take advantage of their respective situations, maybe trade with each other, have discussions about, you know, how they're handling issues with their currencies, we're being blocked off of --

GIOKOS: Yes --

AGRAWAL: Western markets. There's all of that. In a sense, I think there's a through line across what we're all discussing, is a new sort of global scenario where each country, by and large, is realizing that they are out for themselves. The old way of sort of ideological alliances is much harder to sustain in the current climate with runaway inflation, higher oil prices, and this growing sense that the world order is changing. America and China are increasingly at odds with each other. And you know, the era of American dominance, in a sense, is over.

GIOKOS: Yes. The world order is changing. I think that's something that we're going to be talking about for some time to come. Ravi Agrawal, really good to see you, thank you so much for that analysis. U.S. President Joe Biden, this hour, is asking Congress to temporarily suspend the federal tax on gasoline. Inflation in the U.S. Is at a 40- year high, and a lot of that has to do with record gas prices. Mr. Biden is also calling on governors to suspend their state taxes and on companies to pass on the savings. Let's take a listen.


JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I fully understand that the gas tax holiday alone is not going to fix the problem. But it will provide family some immediate relief, just a little bit of breathing room, as we continue working to bring down prices for the long haul.


GIOKOS: Mr. Biden's call will likely face pushback in the Senate. And I want to bring in CNN White House reporter Kevin Liptak and business correspondent Rahel Solomon. Kevin, I want to start with you. Here's what he's proposed. But it still needs to be approved. What is the likelihood of getting this past? KEVIN LIPTAK, CNN WHITE HOUSE REPORTER: Well, it's a very uphill

climb in Congress. Not just because most Republicans oppose it, but even some Democrats including the House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, have also been very cool to this idea.


So what the president laid out today was essentially a wish list. He wants this three-month suspension of the gas tax, he wants states to lift their taxes, gas taxes, and he wants oil companies to increase their refining capacity. None of those three things the president has full control over. And so you saw him there sort of laying out what he would like to see happen. But in Congress, many lawmakers are concerned that this would essentially blow a hole in funding for roads and highways.

That's one concern. There is also some concerns that the savings from lifting this tax wouldn't necessarily be passed directly on to consumers. That it could be that the producers and the retailers just lift the base price of gas, and consumers don't actually see any of that. And the president did address that in his speech. He said that there is no time now for profiteering. But the president can say that even if this were to pass.

There's really no mechanism for Congress to ensure that those savings are directly passed on to Americans. And so, I think the president's message today was clearly yes, these are small steps, yes these are aspirational steps, but clearly he wants to show that he is taking some initiative here on what is becoming a very potent political problem for him in the months ahead of congressional elections in November. And you heard the president mention the oil companies, and they will be meeting with the --

GIOKOS: Yes --

LIPTAK: Administration tomorrow with the Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm. The president really kind of stepping up his rhetoric against these oil companies, telling them that this is a time of war, and they must lower their price of gas for American consumers --

GIOKOS: Yes, and here is the thing, and that's the distinction, right? He makes suggestions, it needs -- they still need to be approved. But he can also plead with the corporate to increase production and to pass on savings. Rahel, we know that it's not that easy, right? But I want to talk about the numbers here, because suspending this tax, this levy, it's going to help. But it's not big enough. Could you give me -- could you break down the numbers for me in terms of what it will mean in real terms?

RAHEL SOLOMON, CNN BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: For sure, Eleni. So, let's just go through even what the proposal is, right? So 18 cents per gallon --

GIOKOS: Yes --

SOLOMON: For gas, and about 24 cents a gallon for diesel for three months. And as Kevin just pointed out, lots of skepticism about whether this actually passes through Congress. But also some concern about whether this actually impacts consumers in a meaningful way. Some estimates, Eleni, put it at about a savings of $10 a month. You can't even buy a single lunch for $10 a month, and this high inflation environment.

So, there are concerns about whether this would actually impact consumers in a meaningful way. One economist I spoke to said, look, if it's just the federal gas tax, perhaps that's not noticeable. Gerrick Golden(ph) of the Dallas Fed saying if you take away state taxes on top of it, if you couple with state taxes, which can be over twice that of the federal tax, the impact could be significant. However, and this is very important, the more prices fall because of this, the more demand could be stoked.

And with refining capacity already strained, well, that could lead to prices rebounding in short order. So, Eleni, essentially, the idea being that not only does this not address the underlying issue, that there is more demand right now than there is supply of gas and oil. But there is a concern that this could actually be inflationary. This could further worsen that imbalance we're seeing.

But you know, as President Biden just said, you know, he doesn't expect this to be a cure all. He said it creates a bit of breathing room for consumers. And some might argue it creates a bit of breathing room for the White House, as they try to find a solution that perhaps adds more meaningful contribution to prices at the pump.

GIOKOS: Yes, I mean, it's a tough one, right? You've got higher inflation, you have a supply issue, and it's not an easy thing to look at. Kevin and Rahel, thank you so much, good to see you both. Now, the inflation problem is global, it's not just in the U.S. In the U.K., inflation hit a 40-year high in May at 9.1 percent. And that's the highest inflation in the G7. And it comes as Britain struggles with soaring food prices.

CNN's Clare Sebastian reports from a food market in east London where customers and vendors are feeling the strain.


CLARE SEBASTIAN, CNN REPORTER (on camera): Here at this east London food market where people are on their lunch breaks. This is not immediately obvious that the U.K. is facing 40-year highs in inflation and a cost of living crisis. But inflation is here. Food prices with the biggest contributing factor to the latest rise in inflation. Add to that, the cost of energy, motor fuels are up around 33 percent in the past 12 months.

And you have a situation where pretty much everyone here is feeling the pressure.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I think food shops, especially, are just ridiculous. You can't get anything on for -- yes, it's up too much. But yes, unfortunately, money doesn't go so far.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I have also been busy trying to fix my mortgage, because we are facing significantly rising mortgage rates as well.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The oil has gone up. The vegetable oil, and the price of the chickens have gone up basically. But we've not passed it down yet, because frankly, to the absolute minimum until we can.


SEBASTIAN: Well, that business may not be passing on the costs to its customers but data shows more and more businesses. Are add to that the fact that we've already seen disruption this week from rail strikes.

These latest inflation numbers could lead unions to increase their demands for more pay rises in line with inflation. And then you have another worry, the U.K. economy is actually shrinking. It shrank in both April and March, data shows.

If inflation keeps rising and the economy keeps shrinking, the risk of recession keeps going up. And that means a whole new set of challenges for the businesses hoping to make a living on people's lunch breaks -- Clare Sebastian, CNN, London.


ELENI GIOKOS, CNN ANCHOR AND CORRESPONDENT: And still to come tonight, Afghanistan was already facing acute hunger and spiraling poverty. Now a powerful earthquake has killed hundreds. I'll talk with the head of the International Red Cross' delegation in Afghanistan next.




GIOKOS: Welcome back, I'm Eleni Giokos in Abu Dhabi.

Now in southeastern Afghanistan, the already very high death toll from a catastrophic earthquake is expected to rise as search crews dig through the rubble. The 5.9 magnitude quake struck overnight near the country's border with Pakistan.

Officials say more than 1,000 people were killed and at least 1,500 others were injured. Many were asleep when the quake. Hit their homes, crumbling around them. The ruling Taliban government is appealing for international help. My next guest says, this disaster comes amid multiple challenges for Afghanistan.

Decades of conflict, drought, extreme economic hardship and a battered health care system.


GIOKOS: Necephor Mghendi joins me now from the Afghan capital, Kabul, and he heads the Afghanistan delegation for the International Red Cross. Great to have you on, thank you so much for joining us. We're talking

about a dire situation before the earthquake hit. And now you are dealing with a humanitarian crisis. I want you to give me a sense of what work the Red Cross is doing on the ground right now, firstly, to attend to the injured but also to the displaced.

NECEPHOR MGHENDI, AFGHANISTAN DELEGATION, INTERNATIONAL RED CROSS: Thank you for having me. And indeed, as you say, it is a dire situation. And the aid group in itself is possible Afghanistan in particular hosts in Paktika comes already on the backdrop where people are been suffering from what you've already described and they're already vulnerable. They're already stretched.

And then you have this great big trap and you are asleep last night. And it has caused untold humanitarian suffering to many of these people. Homes have crumbled, which are made of mud at the moment.

There are those who are trapped in rubble yet to be rescued. And we expect the death toll to increase. At the moment, the priority is really to make sure that we can save lives at this point.

If there is anybody who is trapped in rubble and can be saved and those who are injured can get treatment, we have teams on the ground, including in one of the areas bimal (ph). We have a woman hurt (INAUDIBLE) the operation even before the quake.

And the (INAUDIBLE) efforts (INAUDIBLE). The African Red Crescent society which is a branch in these two provinces as it has in all other parts of Afghanistan, organizes teams of volunteers and staff from those communities to help.

But they are also effective. And therefore, we have deployed additional teams from Kabul and neighboring provinces to help. And they're hoping to be able to reach those affected districts, highly (INAUDIBLE) in the capital, Shiwen, and we are hoping they will travel in the morning to brigade and boost the capacities there.

GIOKOS: Has it been difficult to access these areas and regions?

And how are you able to get assistance?

Because clearly there's a sense of urgency here.

But are you concerned in terms of the delay you're experiencing, in terms of access?

MGHENDI: The access is mainly because it's not just because of rain. It has been raining since yesterday and we have some of the areas which are flooding, factors peaking with the team. We hosed down there. He was telling me they were attempting to go to the areas but they could not travel because of rain and flash floods which are in those areas.

So there's that element which is delaying the response. We're hoping that they would be able to go and they will be able to be of assistance. The key here is just time and we hope we will be able to get there tomorrow and make up for the lost time.

And assistance will get there. (INAUDIBLE) situation, it's something that we'll find solutions. But as you say it's only a matter of time. So we will hope, we hope to get there as soon as possible to augment our teams which are on the ground.

GIOKOS: You've been working under the Taliban government. Now the government has called on the international community for assistance.

What has the relationship been like with the Taliban since the U.S. withdrawal and specifically now, during this time of incredible crisis?

MGHENDI: The new authorities, other authorities of the country and we have been working with them. We work with the authorities associated with the Afghan Red Crescent to public authorities. They have been working with previous authorities and current authorities.

They work in areas which are remote. And they are working with all parties were engaged and that work continues. So we have been working with them and, so far, we have been here since last year, even before the changes that happened.

We have not seen any disruption of activities of access. In fact, we are on the contrary. We have seen an increasing space for humanitarian actors to go in areas where previously they could not go.

And the meaning factor here is not the avoidance but I say is the elements. In this case, the rain and the terrain itself. And we hope to continue to work with authorities. We have to coordinate with authorities, that's not an option because, in any part of the world, it's the authorities which are the primary of responding to disasters.

But the humanitarian system is supposed to complement them. We know that they're political animals opposed to this but humanitarian assistance is not part of that system and should not be tied to the humanitarian or the political (INAUDIBLE) because what is important at this point -- and time is of essence -- is to make sure that people are trapped, people who are in need of assistance, get aid when they need it now.


MGHENDI: And they need it more than ever, because they've been already been suffering for more than months, I mean, more than 10 months, because the drought started only last year.

GIOKOS: You are so right, there should be actual clear lines, humanitarian assistance means all hands on deck. Thank you so much for your insights and we wish you and your team all the best in your work on the ground there.

Moving on now, the European Commission president says Ukraine deserves a European perspective. Ursula van der Leyen spoke in Brussels today as the European Parliament debates whether to accept Ukraine as a candidate for E.U. membership. An E.U. summit that begins Thursday is expected to approve the

historic move although France says Ukraine won't be given a VIP pass or an expedited process.

Now in Russia, those who show dissent against what Moscow calls its special military operation in Ukraine can face arrest, fines and even imprisonment. But that isn't scaring everyone. Fred Pleitgen speaks with an elderly St. Petersburg artist, who is using her paints to send a pointed message. Caution though, his report contains graphic images.


FREDERIK PLEITGEN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice- over): Elena Osipova might seem a bit frail but her will is strong and her creativity seems unstoppable.

The 76 year old artist has been detained for several antiwar protests since Russia began what it called its special military operation in Ukraine.

But when we visited her in her apartment in St, Petersburg, she showed no signs of feeling intimidated instead complaining that police had taken her posters.

"They took some away and haven't given them back although they promised to give them back to me," she says.

This has been going on for some time. So she keeps painting more posters like this one, a bird symbolizing Russia with the writing, "Russia is mourning and Russia is not Putin."

"It's a repentant bird," she says, a bird in mourning. And there are many such people in mourning here. Elena Osipova is not afraid to speak out about even the most difficult topics, like the massacre in Bucha, where hundreds of dead bodies were found in the key of suburb after Russian forces retreated from there in early April.

Ukraine and international investigators have launched investigations into possible war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide. Moscow continues to reject its forces were responsible.

The very large poster shows dead people with huge piercing open eyes. The text says, "The eyes of the dead will remain open until Russia repents."

"For me what was important in this poster is this word 'repentance,'" she says. "It was important to me to emphasize it."

While some Russians took to the streets to protest Vladimir Putin's special military operation during its early days, authorities have now effectively stopped any larger movement from taking hold, dismantling opposition groups and banning many media organizations not in line with the Kremlin's policies.

Elena Osipova says she understands people's fears.

"They are afraid of losing their jobs," she says, "being expelled from college."

And there have been such incidents, even if they see a photo on the internet, showing someone holding a Ukrainian flag, that is already grounds for sacking.

But Elena Osipova isn't scared. She says if the authorities keep taking her protest art, she'll paint more and even a battalion of riot police won't silence her creative mind -- Fred Pleitgen, CNN, St. Petersburg, Russia.


GIOKOS: A strong woman there.

Still to come tonight, prime minister in peril. How two small English elections could cost Boris Johnson his political future.





GIOKOS: All this week, our series "Mission: Ahead" meets innovators tackling some of our world's biggest challenges today. We're looking at rising sea levels already impacting coastal cities. But a growing number of architects are planning for the future. CNN's Rachel Crane reports.



RACHEL CRANE, CNN BUSINESS INNOVATION AND SPACE CORRESPONDENT (voice- over): In the Netherlands, living by the water comes with its charms but also its challenges. Almost one-third of the country lies below sea level, leaving many areas vulnerable to coastal storms and flooding.

It's why some choose to live in a floating home, like this one, built on a concrete platform that floats on the water surface and anchored by poles to the riverbed. The villa can rise and fall over four meters with the tide while a breakwater stops waves from rocking the foundation.

The architect behind this floating house and hundreds like it is Koen Olthuis. He founded Waterstudio to build floating buildings in 2003.

KOEN OLTHUIS, FOUNDER, WATERSTUDIO: All the other architects said, you're crazy.

Why would you build on water?

There's so much land. You're an architect. CRANE (voice-over): Fast forward almost two decades and hotels,

gardens, even farms have moved onto Dutch waterways. Offices, too, like the headquarters of the Global Center on Adaptation in Rotterdam.

It's part of a growing movement to work with sea level rise rather than against it, a strategy which the organization says will be crucial for communities on the front line of climate change.

PATRICK VERKOOIJEN, CEO, GLOBAL CENTER ON ADAPTATION: If cost of flooding in coastal cities could even increase to $1 trillion. So at the same time we need to lower our carbon footprint, we need to prepare ourselves for the future. So investing in climate adaptation, investing in floating constructs, it's not defeat; it's defense.

CRANE (voice-over): For architects like Olthuis, business is booming. This mockup might look like a game of Monopoly but it represents Waterstudio's largest scale project to date, a floating city in the Maldives for 20,000 people, complete with solar powered schools, shops and a raft of energy saving features.

Construction is underway near the nation's capital in partnership with Dutch Docklands Maldives.

Another floating city in South Korea, backed by the U.N., is also in development. But the biggest challenges for floating cities are still to come, Olthuis says.

OLTHUIS: It takes more than only the floating building itself. It takes also the regularity (ph) framework. You have to have parties who want to ensure it, who want to give mortgage for it.

CRANE (voice-over): There are no shortage of people to live in floating cities, though. As the global population continues to grow, these kinds of projects could encourage cities to expand sustainably and Olthuis hopes, have more respect for the water.






GIOKOS: Welcome back.

Now Prince Charles and Camilla are in Rwanda right now for a Commonwealth Heads of Government meeting that was pushed back because of COVID-19. The Prince of Wales met with survivors of the Rwandan genocide ahead of the summit and laid a wreath where many victims are buried. He is the first British royal to visit the country.

The British prime minister's political fate, in the meantime, lies in two small elections on opposite ends of the country. Boris Johnson's Conservative Party could lose both seats as he struggles to shake off the scandal. Bianca Nobilo has the story.


BIANCA NOBILO, CNN ANCHOR AND CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): A world away from Westminster, Boris Johnson's political future hangs in the balance, determined by two small elections triggered by sex scandals. But the real issue may be whether his election winning personality is now a liability.

The first, in Wakefield, a cathedral city in northern England, was called to replace a member of Parliament from Johnson's Conservative Party who was convicted for sexually assaulting a teenage boy.

The second, Tiverton and Honiton, will see voters heading to polls in the bucolic farmlands of southwest England. There's a history of battles here. This time it's political.

NOBILO: The by-election is happening here, because local conservative MP Neil Parish was caught watching pornography in parliament, not once but twice. But he said he was looking for tractors.

If Boris Johnson loses one or both of these elections, it will show that he's no longer in the driving seat. His position as prime minister even less tenable and his own MPs will be looking for ways to hasten his political demise.

NOBILO (voice-over): And now the prime minister's unpopularity is their problem.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: This MP of ours going in that way and the one in Wakefield going the same way over a sort of sleazy match (ph) was -- you kind of get the feeling that it's drip, drip from the top. I mean he's shallow. He's self-serving. He's a serial liar. Masses of his own MPs are disgusted with him.

CHESSIE FLACK, LIBERAL DEMOCRAT ACTIVIST: Boris Johnson needs to look at the party that he is leading. And that is coming from the top. If he's - if it's OK for him to lie, then it's all right for that to filter down to his MPs as well.

NOBILO: But the damage these voters say goes deeper.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Trump was shameful for America.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And Boris is shameful for us.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes. I couldn't agree more. I've always been very proud of being British and I'm starting to feel less proud of actually the country I come from.

NOBILO: Johnson, once a glittering election winner, Brexit deliverer, star of the show, now airbrushed out of his own party's political campaign.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think - I think the prime minister is a complete liability for the conservative party. He just can't get it right. And, unfortunately, he just can't see it.

RICHARD FOORD, LIBERAL DEMOCRAT CANDIDATE: There's a really good understanding here among the - sort of astute voters in our community that we can send a message on behalf of all those people who don't have the opportunity to vote on Thursday.

NOBILO: That message could be that Boris Johnson's once winning political formula has become toxic -- Bianca Nobilo, CNN, London.


GIOKOS: The celebrated music festival, Glastonbury, is celebrating its 50th anniversary and returning for the first time in three years. Festival goers are setting up camp in the unusually sunny English countryside to hear some of the biggest names in music.

This year, The Beatles legend Paul McCartney will headline the five- day event. Look at those people. Looks like great fun.

All right, thank you very much for watching. Tonight, stay with CNN. "QUEST MEANS BUSINESS" is up next. From me, Eleni Giokos, take care.