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Mourning the Queen; Ukraine Gains Ground. Aired 2-2:30p ET

Aired September 12, 2022 - 14:00   ET



VICTOR BLACKWELL, CNN HOST: Hello. I'm Victor Blackwell. Welcome to CNN NEWSROOM.

ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN HOST: And I'm Alisyn Camerota.

We're covering two major international stories at this hour, an outpouring of love in the U.K. as a farewell to Queen Elizabeth, and a show of strength in Ukraine, Ukrainian fighters taking back more than 1,000 square miles from Russian invaders.

With gains in the north and now further east, will this be a turning point in the war? Plus, local leaders in Russia demanding that Vladimir Putin resign.

But we begin in Scotland, where, minutes from now, Queen Elizabeth's four adult children will stand in silent vigil for their mother.

BLACKWELL: Thousands of her subjects lined the way along Scottish streets to mark her passing. Her four children also walked in a procession behind their mother's coffin. And then there was a prayer service in St. Giles Cathedral in Edinburgh, where the crown was placed upon the queen's casket.

And the Scottish Parliament presented official condolences to the new king and his wife, the queen consort. And he then addressed lawmakers for the first time in person as King Charles III.


KING CHARLES III, UNITED KINGDOM: I take up my new duties with thankfulness for all that Scotland has given me, with resolve to seek always the welfare of our country and its people, and with wholehearted trust in your goodwill and good counsel as we take forward that task together.


BLACKWELL: Let's go now to CNN is Richard Quest, who's leading CNN special live coverage from Edinburgh.

Richard, good to see you.

We will see in about the next half-hour or so a special moment, in which the queen's children will stay in vigil by their mother's coffin. What should we expect? Tell us what will happen.

RICHARD QUEST, CNN BUSINESS EDITOR AT LARGE: It will be the most extraordinarily moving moment and one that we have not seen the like of before.

Here, you will have the queen lying at rest with the Scottish crown on her coffin. And then the four children, all four, including the princess royal, Princess Anne, they will stand vigil, which means they will stand -- each one of them will be at a corner of the catafalque where, and they will stand for, we believe, up to 20 minutes.

The public will not be allowed in during that period. But they will -- that is a short period when they will be stopped from paying their own respects. And so, Victor and Alisyn, it's going to be very moving. We're going to see repeats of this in different ways.

But this is the first time, if you will, that we will see the king, his brother and sister and other members of the royal family actually present with the coffin.

CAMEROTA: Richard, I have watched with particular personal interest today, because my family and I took a trip this summer to Scotland for the first time. I'd never been there. And we were in Edinburgh and we walked that Royal Mile.

And it's just the most charming, beautiful stroll anybody can imagine. And so seeing all of the people come out to greet King Charles and just all of the people lining the street and their, I guess, deep love of the queen, which is what's represented here.

So tell us about the Scottish people's connection to the royal family.

QUEST: Well, first of all, you will be aware that walk that you talk up, the Royal Mile, with the cobblestones, you want a stout pair of shoes.

And certainly to have to do that in lockstep -- and just look at the pictures on the screen, left, right, left, right, very short little marching steps -- was extremely difficult to do with such precision on a narrow cobblestone street.

The Scottish people -- here's the key. The royal family and the Scottish people have a relationship in a way independent of the fact that she was the queen of the country. She's the queen of Scotland. And this was her happy place. When she went to Balmoral for six or seven weeks of the year, the family was there.


They were left alone. The estate is vast. And they were able to be private. And that goes -- and, of course, the queen mother loved it here as well. Charles loves it here. William loves it here. So the relationship that the queen built up here in Scotland over decades is one that is very deep and will continue.

BLACKWELL: Yes, the king spoke about that today. He talked about Balmoral being a haven and a home there before Parliament.

Live pictures here. This is King Charles III speaking with some members of the Scottish Parliament.

And, Richard, I wonder. There is this sizable movement among the Scottish people and the Scottish politicos toward independence, toward republicanism. What do you think the impact of the reception, the pictures, the optics of those thousands of people lining the walk and these interactions today are, the political implications here?

QUEST: If I was to be honest, I'd say very little.

The reality is that the independent movement here in Scotland is very deep, having lost the first referendum some years ago. But here's the point, that all those independent parties, or at least the mainstream parties who wish independence, have all made it clear they wish the king and the royal family to continue, but just to be king of Scotland, not the whole country.

They want to be independent with the royal family. Let's listen to what Prince Charles -- or there we go -- you see, I have not -- let's listen to what King Charles said today when addressing the main U.K. Parliament on this question of the relationship between the two.


KING CHARLES III: As I stand before you today, I cannot help but feel the weight of history which surrounds us and which reminds us of the vital parliamentary traditions to which members of both houses dedicate yourselves with such personal commitment for the betterment of us all.


QUEST: Now, you have to parse the words here.

Over the last couple of days, every time Charles has spoken to the politicians, he said constitutional, parliamentary democracy, I recognize the responsibilities within it. He said the queen's selfless duty towards them, I commit myself to them as well.

So I think he's being -- he's going out of his way, Alisyn, to be very reassuring that I may have -- I may have been controversial in the past, but I'm not about to start scaring the horses now.

CAMEROTA: Richard, I want to get your impression, because from where we sit over here, it looks as though Charles, as we watch him here, has slid into his royal duties seamlessly. He's a natural. Obviously, he's been in training for this since birth, literally.

He speaks -- he knows how to speak this royal language so fluently. Is that how it seems to you?

QUEST: You put your finger on it.

Many of us are going, gosh, it's actually happened, the event that we had known wasn't thought of and discussed and practiced. But it's actually happened. Well, for Charles, it's the same in a sense. He's waited for so long for this particular role, but it's happened.

Now, this is -- let me give you an analogy, in a sense. This is much more similar, if you will, for when, say, for example, Vice President Biden gets to the presidency vs. Donald Trump or Barack Obama, who'd never had the job before, never been at that top table before.

Charles has been that top table, been involved, being at the highest level for 50, 60 years. So he steps in. He knows what he's doing. The big difference, of course, is, now he is the number one. There's nobody that he can sort of hide behind. There's nobody who can say -- again, a classic example, when he addressed Parliament, he talks about Her Majesty's government.

The next time he addresses Parliament, he will be saying my government.

CAMEROTA: Understood. That's really helpful context.

Richard Quest, stand by, if you would. We're going to come back to you in just a few minutes as more events unfold.

BLACKWELL: Let's turn now to this stunning battlefield shift unfolding in Ukraine.

A fast-moving counterattack as Ukrainian forces recapturing nearly 1,200 square miles of territory. This is in the northeastern part of the country. And it's happened in less than two weeks. That's more land than Russia has been able to conquer over the last five months.


CAMEROTA: Ukrainian forces taking back and liberating several key towns, receiving hugs, as you can see, from locals and little resistance from retreating Russian troops.

But, despite those gains, Russia has launched new airstrikes in the region today.

CNN's Melissa Bell is in Kharkiv for us.

So, Melissa, help us understand the significance of what's happening at this hour.

MELISSA BELL, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, really quite extraordinary, to say not least for the people in those villages who've been liberated after six months of occupation.

And bear in mind that, in those villages where it's sufficiently secure, that investigators can get in, speak to the people and work out what's gone on -- and we saw some of them do just that yesterday -- what they're finding, sadly, is signs of possible war crimes.

Investigations have been open. You will think back to Bucha and Borodyanka. The Russian troops had been in those parts to the north of Kyiv for only a month. Here, they have been for six months. And so over the course of the next few days and weeks, you're going to be hearing a lot more about that.

But the places where they can get in that are sufficiently secure that, say, the police and the war crimes investigators can go and start their job, are really just at the very beginning of what was this extraordinarily fast-moving eastern offensive. It has continued. It began last week, those early successes now the subject of investigations and research.

But as you move further eastwards to some of those key towns, you realize that, actually, even in the places where the Ukrainian flag has been raised, and it's hard to get to them, there is still fighting going on.

We managed to get Kupiansk only yesterday. The Ukrainian flag had been raised there 24 hours before. Have a look at what we came across.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Aircrafts, helicopters, shelling.

BELL: A first artillery strike too close for comfort, then a second, much closer.


BELL: So, Russian forces are trying to keep hold of those key strategic towns in parts.

But, as you say, what's extraordinary is to watch that advance continuing. What we have seen over the course of the day is more Ukrainian gains so far south that Ukrainian forces have now crossed the Severodonetsk river. They have now taken a village in Donetsk province to the south.

And that is extremely significant. Really, those advances continuing very fast, but it's important to remember not at no cost. This is -- these are extremely difficult battles in some of those key towns, but,still, those forces managing to move forward. And I think no one, not least the Ukrainians, anticipated that this eastern offensive would be as successful as it's been.

And part of that, Alisyn and Victor, was the cleverness with which the communication was dealt with. Remember that they launched their counteroffensive to the south at the end of August, kept that under tight wraps, then launched the ones here in the Kharkiv region in the east. And it is that one that the Russian forces were guessing were simply not ready for.

And it is that one that is making the most extraordinary progress, as you say, taking back so many of the parts of the country that were taken by the Russians in April and May, now apparently back, many of them, in the hands of Ukrainian forces -- Alisyn, Victor.

BLACKWELL: Melissa, what do we know about the conditions of these liberated towns after months of being under the control of these Russian forces?

BELL: Well, as I say, the ones you can actually get to where there isn't the kind of fighting I just showed you are pretty few and far between. They're the ones at the very beginning of where the eastern offensive began just a few days ago, one of the ones we visited yesterday.

We have just been hearing from Kharkiv prosecutors, who have opened four war crimes investigations. We have watched the body of a civilian being dug up, a civilian allegedly killed, signs of torture on him, killed by Russian forces in the very first days of the war.

And it is that picture of what's gone on, on that side of the line that was maintained for so long, not just angry troops, as we saw in Bucha and Borodyanka carrying out unspeakable crimes against civilians, but a much more systematic attempt to control an entire population with all kinds of abuses against civilians, part of a strategy by Moscow to keep these towns on that side of the lines, draw them into the Russian Federation, hold referenda.

And what prosecutors in Kyiv have been telling us is that they're hearing about and they have been investigating these crimes even from the other side of the line these last few months a much more systematic attempt to put in place a totalitarian regime, clean out the areas entirely with all the brutality you could imagine.

BLACKWELL: Melissa Bell in Kharkiv there for us with some fantastic reporting. Thank you very much.

Let's bring it now retired us Army Brigadier General Peter Zwack. He served in Moscow from 2012 to 2014 as the U.S. senior defense official and attache to the Russian Federation.

General, welcome back.

Are you surprised? Now, we have heard about the logistical and the morale challenges of the Russian forces. But 1,200 square miles in just a matter of weeks the Ukrainian forces have been able to retake, does that surprise you?


BRIG. GEN. PETER ZWACK (RET.), U.S. ARMY: I am surprised at the scale and the speed of what looks to be almost a meltdown of Russian forces in and around the Kharkiv area.

And this thing could be contagious. The word gets out. Yes, saying that, we saw how effective Ukrainians had been as fighting -- fighters, there will and passion for their nation that really, really emerged and a lot of the new weapons that have come in to buttress and support them.

But, yes, this is rather extraordinary. I would put a cautionary tale. I always worry about overextension and then leaving yourself vulnerable, but, no, this is quite something. CAMEROTA: And so, in terms of overextension, I know that you say that

the south is key. It's existential, you call it. And Melissa Bell, our reporter there, just said that they have made remarkable gains in the Donetsk region.

So what would overextension look like? I mean, can they now start trying to take the south?

ZWACK: Well, I think that, again, we have what the Ukrainians have, which means I believe they need to aggressively, but carefully continue to push up in Kharkiv, but also now continuing their pressure that they're putting down along the Kherson area.

Yes, they need to push. They need to be -- they just need to be -- not overextend. But, again, there's an aspect of the Russian defense, especially up in the Kharkiv, and how it now is beginning to hit Russian positions lined in Donetsk of kicking a rotting door down.

So, we remember one thing in 2014 and 2015, and I think Ukrainians remember it well. They did have a counteroffensive in Donbass. And they overextended. And the Russians were able to push them out. So I think all of this is a swirl, the chaos of war, but the Ukrainians, clearly, initiative, motivation, will to fight, and the Russians show none of that.

BLACKWELL: General Zwack, do you think that this continued territorial loss makes a singular, punctuated, escalatory attack more likely to come from the Russians to try to save face here?

ZWACK: This is turning out to be a really rotten endeavor, no matter what the disinformation and narrative out of the Kremlin is, for the Russians, for Moscow.

For the military, this is embarrassing. It's humiliating. And, yes, it has now in my mind become -- there are two existential fights, Victor. One is for the survival of Ukrainian state as a free minded -- it looks like it's going to happen.

The other one is, what is the Kremlin and that state? And this is existential. The -- already, the wolves are baying. We're seeing protests. There's disgruntlement in the military. Ramzan Kadyrov, the Chechen strongman, is out publicly.

And this does concern me, because there is a backed-in-the-corner aspect of this thing. These things are contagious. If it continues this way, and you get more and more Russians who read -- you just read a CNN report; 18 provincial leaders have come out against the regime, against Putin.

This is cascading. This could make the Kremlin desperate, and they do have a range of possibilities of major, major -- increasing violence, up to brandishing -- nobody wants it -- but brandishing in the very, very worse case a nuclear back-off. We have nukes aspect to this.

CAMEROTA: Yes, that part does -- I mean, one of the parts that you just talked about does seem so surprising are the 18 municipal deputies feeling free to criticize and call for Vladimir Putin's resignation. That is different inside Russia.

Retired Brigadier General Peter Zwack, thank you very much for all your expertise.


BLACKWELL: We will head back to Scotland, where, in just minutes, members of the royal family will hold vigil there beside the coffin of the late Queen Elizabeth.

Stay with CNN's special coverage.



QUEST: A warm welcome back. Hello. I'm Richard Quest in Edinburgh in Scotland.

In a few moments from now, we will be seeing the royal family gather at St. Giles Cathedral, where they will stand a vigil around the coffin of Elizabeth III. It will be a remarkable sight.

King Charles III and his three siblings, the princess royal, Princess Anne, Prince Edward, the count of Wessex, and Prince Andrew, the duke of York, they will stand in silence at the four corners of their mother's casket.


You see the picture there of the -- what -- I tell you the current members of the Scottish regiment standing vigil, and the members of the general public now paying their respects as they walk past. That will stop if the -- well, the thousands of people who have been waiting for their chance to go past the coffin, they will be paused for a time while the princes and the royal family stand vigil.

Isa Soares is outside St. Giles.

Isa, the mood of what the -- simply the number of people who are waiting to get inside to pay their respects.


It's been, as you said, Richard a day of great solemnity, but an outpouring of love, of course, that we have seen throughout the day.

I want to give you a sense of where I am. I'm just on one of the side streets, Richard, of the Royal Mile. And I want to give you a sense of how many people are lining up to really pay tribute and pay their respects, a final farewell, let's say, to Queen Elizabeth III (sic).

Now, this queue snakes, goes all the way down this main road, Richard, goes into a park that's called the Meadows, and beyond that. A police officer I was speaking to early says he -- they're expecting between 60,000 and 70,000 people. Now, it is moving. It's moving quicker than I thought it would be. But the people that I have been speaking, a kind of line where I am, Richard, they have been waiting for five hours. The sun has gone down. The temperatures, as you and I are feeling, have dropped.

And many have said they're prepared to wait as long as needs to be in order to pay respects to the queen, many saying even if they have to stay the night, they will. They have come prepared for the occasion with their raincoats. Some have been having fish and chips, all waiting patiently for that moment to pay their final respects, children, older generations all waiting for that very moment.

But this is indeed a very long line. And once they go to the end of this road, where I am, you will be able to see just over my left shoulder, Richard, there is a white tent. In that tent, what we're expecting to see is airport-like security.

They will go for your bags. They will put a wristband on you, but then you make your way, of course, to St. Giles Cathedral, where members of the public can pay tribute to Queen Elizabeth II, Richard.

QUEST: Which is -- Isa Soares, thank you.

It's an indication of just how well prepared all this was. Operation Unicorn was the Scottish aspect of it. Operation London Bridge is the part -- is like the global part, the bit that's in London.

CNN's Bianca Nobilo is in the British capital in London. She's with me now.

And the coffin travels tomorrow, Tuesday. The issue, Bianca, is just how many people are expected to want to pay respects, 200,000 for the queen mother. They're expecting many more.


And if the seas of people behind me at Buckingham Palace, which has not abated all day -- in fact, they look like they have only grown and become ever thicker -- are any indication, I think we can expect to be well over that number.

And that's why the new commissioner of London's Metropolitan Police has come out and said it will be the biggest challenge that the force has faced and a huge challenge to him personally to try and see this -- oversee the security operation, because not only are there expected to be millions of people coming into London to attend the funeral and pay their respects to the late queen when she's lying in state.

There's also heads of state and dignitaries and wanting to make sure that every aspect of this choreography goes perfectly to plan, so it is an unimaginable level of planning, Richard, but we do expect the queen to arrive at Buckingham Palace tomorrow evening.

And then she will, as part of a procession, be moved to Westminster Hall, where she will lie in state. That is the oldest part of Parliament. It's where many greats of British history over the last 100 or so years have been to lay in state, former prime ministers like Winston Churchill and other members of the royal family.

And that is where people can come and pay their respects. And it's also where King Charles III addressed Parliament for the first time this morning, Richard.

QUEST: Thank you, Bianca Nobilo in London.

And, Alisyn and Victor, what you're seeing is a plan that was put in place or written many years ago. It's been revised, amended, changed, adapted, but it is still essentially the same plan. It is the plan for the funeral that the queen herself was deeply involved with and fully approved.

And now, of course, the number one issue is to make it all go smoothly which, when you look at the sheer number of people involved, to get them in place -- just think about the logistics of this lying in rest here in Edinburgh.