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Wagner Claims Eastern Part of Bakhmut Under Group's Control; Georgians Protest Counterseal Foreign Agents Bill; Indonesian Football Club Chairman Sentenced Over Stampede; Xi Stresses Technological Self- Reliance, Strategic Goals. Aired 1-2a ET

Aired March 09, 2023 - 01:00   ET



JOHN VAUSE, CNN ANCHOR: Hello again. Coming up on this hour on CNN Newsroom, Bakhmut on the Brink. Ukrainian forces in retreat, Russian mercenary fighters claiming half the city, and Vladimir Putin possibly just days, maybe hours, away from a rare military victory.

Another night of violent protests in the Georgian capital over a controversial draft law which critics say was dictated by Moscow and will crush civil dissent. And putting your words in someone else's mouth, the latest creepy turn and artificial intelligence. It can even fill your own mother as our reporter found out.

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

VAUSE: It has just gone 8:00 AM Ukraine where cities across the country have been targeted by an early morning barrage of Russian missiles. At least two people have been killed, power has been knocked out around 15% of the capital key. While in Kharkiv, the mayor says the missile strikes as many as 15, of course power outages.

In the southern port city of Odessa, residential buildings as well as energy infrastructure were hit. Ukraine was targeted by a wave of Russian missiles three weeks ago.


VAUSE (voice-over): And in the east, what's left to the city of Bakhmut could soon fall to Russia control. The longest and deadliest battle the war so far has seen a staggering loss of life. And now the head of the mercenary group, Yevgeny Prigozhin, says his fighters control all of Eastern Bakhmut. And despite promises to defend Bakhmut to the end, Ukrainian forces are believed to have completed a controlled withdrawal from the city's east on Tuesday. Ukrainian military officials acknowledged Russian troops continue to advance.

Prigozhin appeared in a photograph standing in front of a war monument in the area believed to be under the control of his mercenaries. And in a video message Prigozhin seem to taunt the Ukrainian president.

YEVGENY PRIGOZHIN, WAGNER PRIVATE MILITARY COMPANY (through translation): The only request, take out the elderly, children and sent here normal combat ready units. We need to deal with you here now.


VAUSE: To camera now, Malcolm Davis, Senior Analyst of Defense Strategy and Capability at the Australian Strategic Policy Institute. Thanks for being with us.


VAUSE: OK. So the Russians have created some assessments. You know, they now control that half of the city. Ukrainian forces are pulling back. I want you to listen to the secretary general of NATO on his assessment. Here he is.


JENS STOLTENBERG, SECRETARY GENERAL, NATO: They have suffered big losses, but at the same time we cannot rule out that we may eventually fall in the coming days.


VAUSE: This point may actually be the coming out, it seems. Has the moment finally arrived that Russia can claim a significant military victory here? And who gets the credit, the regular military or the Wagner mercenaries?

DAVIS: Well, look, I don't think it's a significant military victory, because as everyone is saying Bakhmut is not strategically significant. And I think in terms of who gets the credit, it is probably a combination of Wagner, as well as the Russian military. And there's a political dimension there in terms of Prigozhin's political ambitions as to how he would utilize this victory, if you want to call it that, against Putin.

But I think in terms of where this leads is that the Ukrainians probably do have to do a fighting withdrawal up to the high ground to the west of Bakhmut, that puts them in a stronger position to counter any further Russian advances which could occur. And I think there's a general consensus that the Russians don't have the ability to really launch further offensives beyond Bakhmut. They'll culminate and ultimately, they may stay where they are.

VAUSE: Yes. According to an assessment by US Intelligence, if Bakhmut falls, Moscow should make the most of it. Because this year coming, it's going to be pretty tough and victories will be scarce, listen to this.


AVRIL HAINES, DIRECTOR OF NATIONAL INTELLIGENCE: We do not foresee the Russian military recovering enough this year to make major territorial gains. But Putin most likely calculates the time works in his favor. And that prolonging the war, including with potential pauses in the fighting, may be his best remaining pathway to eventually securing Russia's strategic interest in Ukraine even if it takes years.


VAUSE: So according to US Intelligence, the Russian military is facing shortages of ammunition, troops are exhausted, morale is low, and then there's this dysfunctional leadership as well. So if they hunker down in Bakhmut, how long? I mean, we bet years here before they actually regroup in a position to launch another counter offensive or where does this all go from here?


DVAIS: Look, I think they are planning on a protracted long war. As your clip then said, a long war is in Putin's plans. It's in his interest because it gives him time to build up forces. And he's banking on obviously, the resolve of the West in terms of supporting Ukraine withering. So a protracted war is clearly where Putin is going.

I think what plays into this, obviously, is his assistance that he's getting from the likes of Iran, North Korea, and ultimately, potentially China in terms of military assistance from China. If that happens, then what you could see is the Russians recover fairly quickly, and be able to then surge forward in terms of additional offensives. But I think absent that Chinese support is more likely to bog down into a stalemate for a while and then see further fighting later in the year.

VAUSE: Well, the -- for the last month or so for the Ukrainians, it's all been about holding those defensive lines as best they can, while waiting for Western military aid to arrive. Here's what the Ukrainian defense minister says is needed to begin Ukrainian counter offensive areas. Here he is.


OLEKSII REZNIKOV, UKRAINIAN DEFENSE MINISTER: One million ammunitions for 155 millimeter artillery systems, and exactly more tubes for that, and infantry fighting because for iron fist, more tanks like Leopard, and other things of this tank coalition, and we will be ready for counteroffensive.


VAUSE: The tanks may take a little time but the rest of it seems pretty easily secured and shipped. So what timeline are we looking at here for the Ukrainians to begin their counteroffensive?

DAVIS: It really does depend on just how quickly Western arms manufacturers can start producing those 1 million rounds of ammunition. One of the key facts that we've realized with Ukraine is that modern warfare burns through ammunition at a ferocious pace. And the Ukrainian military are using that ammunition faster than Western arms manufacturers can supply it. So there needs to be a step change in manufacturing in Western countries in terms of this sort of ammunition, these sorts of capabilities, if we want to be able to sustain that Ukrainian defensive capability, let alone counteroffensive capability. And I think that's really critical going forward.

VAUSE: Malcolm, thanks for being with us. We really appreciate your insights.

DAVIS: Thank you very much.

VAUSE: For months now, Ukraine's president has been asking the US and NATO allies for Western fighter jets. CNN's Wolf Blitzer asked Volodymyr Zelenskyy about discussions he's already had with the US President Joe Biden about F-16s.


WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Did President Biden tell you that fighter jets to Ukraine are still possible?


VAUSE: President Zelenskyy's answer in an exclusive CNN interview coming up in about 25 minutes from now.

The third day of protests in Georgia against what's called the foreign agents bill. In the capital Tbilisi, tens of thousands rallied against the potential law, which if passed by Parliament, would force groups like charities and news organizations to register with the government if more than 20% of their funding comes from overseas. Protesters compare it to the law in Russia which is used to stifle freedom of the press, as well as freedom of expression.


VAUSE (voice-over): Police use water cannons and tear gas to try and clear the crowds. Dozens of protesters have also been arrested. Georgia's president currently on a visit to the United States says she opposes the bill.

SALOME ZOURABICHVILI, PRESIDENT OF GEORGIA: There is no need for this law, it comes from nowhere. Nobody has asked for it. There is no need to have more registration of the non-governmental organizations. And the presentation of this law calling these people including myself, by the way, foreign agents is something that looks very much like Russian politics.

VAUSE (voice-over): The vice president of the European Commission says EU members have had some very intense discussions about Georgia joining the block. He says the government in Tbilisi will have to make some democratic reforms which align with European values.

Meantime, the US State Department urging Georgia to respect the right to protest. Spokesperson Ned Price says the Biden administration remains deeply troubled by the foreign agents bill.

NED PRICE, US STATE DEPARTMENT SPOKESPERSON: They have made tremendous progress in becoming the democracy that they sought from those earliest days in integrating Georgia into the Euro-Atlantic community and ensuring that Georgia stays on that path. Now, however, we see a draft piece of legislation that would be a tremendous setback. This would be a setback to the aspirations of the people of Georgia, it would be a setback to the ability of the United States to continue to be a partner for the people of Georgia.


VAUSE: More now on the turmoil in Tbilisi from CNN's Matthew Chance.



MATTHEW CHANCE, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Georgia, another former Soviet state now plunging it seems into anarchy. Recent days witnessing these pitched battles in the capital Tbilisi, between riot police using tear gas and water cannon, and pro-Western demonstrators, some clinging desperately to European flags.

With war raging in nearby Ukraine, a Russian style foreign agent law being debated here is unleashing this anti-Moscow outrage. The Russian version has been used to crack down on independent aid agencies and media in the country

BORIS GOGOLAVA, PROTESTER: Law is Russian as we all know, it has been implemented in Belarussia. And we don't want to be part of ex-Soviet Union. We want to be part of European Union, we want to be pro-West.

CHANCE (voice-over): But that's a dangerous aspiration in a region where Russia seems hell-bent on tightening its grip. It is Ukraine's Western leanings, behind the current bloodshed there, and its neighbors like Georgia are on a knife's edge.

And it's not just in the streets where anger is pouring out. This was the Georgian parliament on the day that controversial foreign agent Bill was debated, lawmakers actually slapping each other and its scuffles forcing the session to end.

GIVI MIKANADZE, GEORGIAN DREAM-DEMOCRATIC GEORGIA MP (through translation): Georgian society absolutely deserves to know which organizations are being financed from which source and how that money is being spent. We are talking about accountability and transparency.

CHANCE (voice-over): But Georgia has bitter experience of Moscow's meddling.

(on camera): Well, there's been a lot of speculation about where the Russian troops are. Well, here they are. Well inside Georgian territory.

(voice-over): Losing territory in a brief conflict with Russia back in 2008, now seen as a precursor of Russia's Ukrainian war.

The big question is, how far will they go? It's a similar concern plaguing many Georgians now that their tiny former Soviet state is still very much a battleground between Russia and the West. Matthew Chance, CNN, London.


VAUSE: Live now to Tbilisi, Natia Seskuria, an Associate Fellow at the Royal United Services Institute. Natia, thanks so much for being with us.

There seems to be something of a disconnect going on here with Tbilisi, because there's this overwhelming number of lawmakers in Parliament who support this bill. And there's overwhelming number of Georgians, including the president, who oppose it. So the question is who or what is driving this new bill and why?

NATIA SESKURIA, ASSOCIATE FELLOW, ROYAL UNITED SERVICES INSTITUTE: Thank you very much for having me. Obviously, there have been massive protests that was sparked in Georgia due to the passing of this very controversial draft law on transparency of foreign influence in the first meeting by the majority of votes at the Georgian parliament. But this law has been promoted under the guise of transparency and it raises massive concerns for Georgia, Georgia's European future, and the prospects of EU integration as well as the state of democracy.

And as you mentioned, it is a subject of much controversy because on the one hand, there is the majority of Georgian population that is against of this law, and the president of Georgia that has, who has mentioned that she she's going to veto this law. And on the other hand, 76 MPs have supported this draft bill. So the question is, why, why they're doing this at the time when this is such an important moment, historic moment for Georgia in terms of getting closer to the European Union?

We believe that this echoes the Russian law that has been adopted in 2012, and it is a reflection that Georgia is going towards the wrong way, which is the Russian way, unfortunately.

VAUSE: To your point about what this law actually does. I want you to listen to the State Department spokesman Ned Price on how the United States considers this potential law. Here he is.


PRICE: This draft law would strike at some of the very rights that are central to the aspirations of the people of Georgia, citizens of Georgia who wish to do nothing more than work together to build a brighter future, a future that is integrated with Europe, a future that is democratic and free where Georgia is an independent and sovereign country.



VAUSE: Is it possible that one of the goals of this draft law is actually because it is so counter to European ideals, is so that it scuttled George's attempts at joining the EU and drives Georgia closer to Moscow?

SESKURIA: I think there is a fundamental threat here that Georgia's aspirations, European aspirations will be damaged as a result of this adoption of this law. And we have heard very critical statements. The statement that we just heard is a reflection of this, but also from European partners. And this is, as I mentioned, that historic momentum, that window of opportunity that has been opened for Georgia as a result of the very tense tragic situation in the region. And Georgia is under consideration when it comes to the candidacy status with the European Union.

But the way this law has been framed in Georgia, it's under the guise of transparency. And the second version of this law is the so-called American version that has been proposed, and the initiators claim that this draft version of this law is a word by word translation of the American built bill known as FARA, the Foreign Agents Registration Act.

However, there is a fundamental difference here because FARA does not oblige the whole spectrum of nonprofit organizations to register. And that's why this raises massive concerns that this law, the Georgian law, includes the entire NGO and media sector which is in diverts -- direct -- it directly contradicts to the European values.

VAUSE: Natia Seskuria, thank you so much for being with us in Tbilisi there where it's just gone 16 minutes past 10:00. Thank you.

SESKURIA: Thank you for having me.

VAUSE: And Indonesian Court has sentenced the chairman of an Indonesian football club after finding him guilty of negligence to one year in jail after last year's deadly stampede by fans at a football stadium. More than 130 people were killed in this crash, one of the world's deadliest stampedes. Initially, police were being blamed for triggering the stampede after spraying tear gas during the match, this match, last October.

CNN's Anna Coren is following the trial. She joins us live from Hong Kong.

So it's just the one official who has been sentenced to a year-and-a- half or so in jail. What about others because there were others who are being held responsible for this?

ANNA COREN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, John, this is one verdict. We will learn the second verdict in the next couple of hours after the judge's lunch break. But the person who has been found guilty of causing negligence resulting in people's death is as you say, the chairman of the Arema Football Club. He is responsible for selling tickets.

Now, this was a stadium in Malang in East Java, which had a capacity of 38,000. 42,000 fans were there on the first of October last year to watch their home side Arema FC play the opposition Persebaya Surabaya which was located 100 kilometers away.

Now there were no opposing fans at this stadium. It was only the hometown fans who were allowed so as to avoid any clashes, any violence, and yet what erupted that night resulted in the worst football stadium disaster the world has ever seen. 135 people in total were killed.

Now, from what we can ascertain from the video, we are yet to hear fully from the judge is that the fans raced down to the field after Arema had lost and the police took the opposing team into the locker rooms and then started as you know, firing tear gas and continued to. Thousands, yet tens of thousands of people race for the exits. And that is why so many were trampled to death, suffocated and trampled.

The judge said the reason he only handed down this very lenient sentence of one year and six months is because he had tried to ease the burden of the families, this chairman had tried to ease the burden of the families. We understand that he made a sizable donation to some of the families of the victims. But obviously we will learn more in the next couple of hours, John, and that will be the head of security for Arema FC, but we will learn that soon.

VAUSE: Anna, thank you so much. Anna Coren there with the update there from that stampede trial, thank you.

In the coming hours, the bodies of two Americans killed in Mexico will arrive in Texas for another autopsy. Shaeed Woodard and Zindell Brown were part of a group kidnapped at gunpoint in Northeastern Mexico last week. They were traveling with a friend to have a medical procedure. Both Latavia Washington McGee and Eric Williams survived the kidnapping. We heard they're shot in the legs three times, transported to a Texas hospital for surgery.

The group was kidnapped on Friday after gunman crashed into their vehicle opened fire. Mexican officials found the Americans on Tuesday, two had already died.

When we come back, a fresh warning from a US general that US satellites would likely be the first target if hostilities broke out with China. More on that in a moment. Also, China's growing ambitions US Intelligence chiefs warned China's plans to dominate global affairs including telecommunications and software already widely used around the globe.


SEN. MARCO RUBIO (R-CA): Could they use TikTok to control data on millions of users?


RUBIO: Could they use it to control the software on millions of devices given the opportunity to do so?

WRAY: Yes.



VAUSE: The Annual People's Congress in Beijing, President Xi Jinping said China must speed up its self-reliance on technology and strategic capabilities to "gain an edge in national development and international competition." The People's Congress meets once a year to formally approve policy decisions that have already been finalized., its ultimate a rubber stamp. It's scheduled to end on Monday, (inaudible).

According to US intelligence, Beijing does not want a military confrontation with the United States, despite China's increasingly anti-US rhetoric, but should also at least break out the chief of the US Space Command says us satellites would likely be the first targets is what he said before Congress, Wednesday.


JAMES DICKINSON, COMMANDER, US SPACE COMMAND: We just have to look quite frankly at some of the PLA writings on doctrine and strategy that do suggest what you just mentioned, which is that the reconnaissance communications, navigation and even early warning satellites could, I'm not saying will, could be among the first targets to be attacked. And so just in accordance with their own strategy, their own doctrine, we have reason to believe that that might be the case.


VAUSE: US Director of National Intelligence is describing Russia's invasion of Ukraine as a grinding attritional war, neither side having a decisive military advantage at the present time. Avril Haines after the official analysis as she had other senior US intelligence officials testified before senators on the US Annual Report of Global Threats.

For the war in Ukraine commanded a lot of attention at Wednesday's hearing. Haines made clear, China remains America's top intelligence concern, as Beijing attempts to exert more and more influence around the world. CNN's Oren Liebermann has details.


OREN LIEBERMANN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): A look at worldwide threats that keep coming back to China. The heads of US Intelligence Agency is telling senators that Beijing is modernizing its military, expanding its influence and working to control supply chains as it tries to replace the US as the global leader.

HAINES: Chinese Communist Party or CCP under President Xi Jinping will continue efforts to achieve Xi's vision of making China the preeminent power in East Asia. The CCP is increasingly convinced that it can only do so at the expense of US power and influence.

[01:25:07] LIEBERMANN (voice-over): China using its economic force and its tech to spy on adversaries.

RUBIO: Could they use TikTok to control data on millions of users?

WRAY: Yes.

RUBIO: Could they use it to control the software on millions of devices given the opportunity to do so?

WRAY: Yes.

LIEBERMANN (voice-over): Senators pushed for a consensus on the origins of COVID-19. The FBI believes it leaked from a lab in Wuhan, but there is no smoking gun and no definitive answer.

HAINES: The Department of Energy has changed its views lately with low confidence. It says that a lab leak is most likely, but they do so for different reasons than the FBI does. And their assessments are not identical.

LIEBERMANN (voice-over): Relations between Beijing and Moscow came under scrutiny with the US watching closely for any signs that China is considering providing weapons to Russia.

HAINES: We do see them providing assistance to Russia in the context of the conflict. And we see them in a situation in which they become increasingly uncomfortable about the level of assistance and not looking to do it as publicly as might otherwise occur. And given the reputational costs associated with it.

LIEBERMANN (voice-over): One year into the war in Ukraine, Russia's manpower is spread thin, its military resources strain. But President Vladimir Putin is playing for time not for short term victory.

HAINES: We do not foresee the Russian military recovering enough this year to make major territorial gains. But Putin most likely calculates the time works in his favor even if it takes years

LIEBERMANN (voice-over): There was bipartisan outrage on the investigations of classified documents about it former President Donald Trump's home of Mar-a-Lago and the offices of President Joe Biden and former Vice President Mike Pence.

SEN. MARK WARNER (D-VA) We still have unfinished business regarding the classified documents that we need to see in order for this intelligence committee to effectively oversee its job on intelligence oversight.

LIEBERMANN (voice-over): Members of the committee pressing the intelligence leaders to provide the documents or even just to characterize what's in them.

SEN. TOM COTTON (R-AR): Our patient is starting to run out. And at least some of us are prepared to start putting our foot down if we don't get better answers, and stonewall doesn't stop. LIEBERMANN: One of the other issues that kept coming up in this hearing was the drug fentanyl responsible for many of them more than 100,000 annual drug overdose deaths in the United States. And although the finished product the drug itself often comes from Mexican cartels, the intelligence chief said the raw materials that chemicals to make fentanyl often comes from China. Oren Liebermann, CNN at the Pentagon.


VAUSE: US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin's visit to Israel for high level talks has been delayed by ongoing protests against the government's so called judicial reforms. He soon we'll meet with Israeli defense officials here Ben Gurion Airport, instead of the Defense Ministry in downtown Tel Aviv. Austin's trip included visits to Egypt and Jordan as well as an unannounced stopover in Iraq. They came ahead of the 20th anniversary of the US invasion that toppled Saddam Hussein.

Soon to come here on CNN on International Women's Day, Russia's president pays tribute to women in the military, and many claims his country is facing direct threats. Plus, US First Lady honors exceptional women around the world as a very pointed message for men.



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

Returning now to our top story from Ukraine. An early morning wave of Russian missiles have targeted multiple cities. At least two people have been killed in the capital of Kyiv and power has been knocked out to around 15 percent of the city. New image show smoke rising form the aftermath of one airstrike on the capitol.

In Kharkiv, the mayor says missile strikes, as many as 15 have caused power outages and in the southern port city of Odessa, residential buildings as well as energy infrastructure have been hit.

Ukraine's defense minister says there is now an urgent need for 1 million rounds of ammunition, as they attempt to look at a counter offensive against Russia.

And help cow could be on the way with the proposal coming from the E.. to send a billion dollars worth of ammo to. And the EU says that's just one element of support.


PETER STANO, SPOKESPERSON: The discussions about one billion for ammunition, or whatever other amount and what ever other forms of military support, this is just the expression how committed we are because Ukraine in our eyes is fighting a legitimate war of defense against a brutal aggressor, which aims to destroy the country, and erase Ukrainian nation from the earth. (END VIDEO CLIP)

VAUSE: Despite repeated requests by the Ukrainian president, there's still no sign that western fighter jets will be heading to Ukraine anytime soon as Volodymyr Zelenskyy raised the issue with U.S. President Joe Biden, when he visited Kyiv last month.

And in an exclusive interview with CNN's Wolf Blitzer, Zelenskyy says the American people exclusive interview he says that projects could make or break victory in the war.


WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: Did President Biden tell you that fighter jets to Ukraine are still possible?

VOLDYMYR ZELENSKYY, UKRAINIAN PRESIDENT: (through translator): Let's talk about fighter jets and you make your own assumptions. President Biden has this position from his advisors, aides in a military direction.

That what Ukraine government needs at the moment and jets according to that they're not needed.

And (INAUDIBLE) know that we need those jets and this is a clear sign of a part of defense to defend infrastructure and population because we can't receive 2020 (INAUDIBLE) for Ukraine because it's a long process to receive (INAUDIBLE) in Ukraine. We don't have that. and we won't get it in one or two years. Because this manufacturing is a long process.

But what fighter jets could do, they could help us to defend ourselves. That's why need them urgently.

And I explained it to President Biden, let's just start the training mission and I have confirmation for the Polish and the U.K. side that they would go ahead with the training mission tomorrow.

The coalition of fighter jets for different countries, they want to have the U.S. decision. That's why as I said, a lot depends on the U.S. here because we're talking about training missions and supply over fighter jet ballad -- the country, they wait for the United States decision.

That's what I said to President Biden. And I said ok, let's work and it's here. So the ball was in the court of the U.S. president wo we expect what will be decided soon.

BLITZER: What was it like, Mr. President, to have President Biden on the ground with you in Kyiv, for the first time since the war began as those air raid sirens were blaring around you.

ZELENSKYY: We're not afraid of sirens, to be honest. We learn to live with them,.

[01:34:48] ZELENSKYY: We work with the where the president when left presidential palace and we went outside and we had a look at the memory -- a memory wall of remembrance about our fallen heroes.

And I'm happy that the siren, didn't affect President Biden or his Team. So we paid our respect to the fallen heroes despite the sirens. It rained supporter to me for the inside.

It was a spectacle signal, thus respect -- to the president and to the United States.

We showed them we're not effect of the sirens. We're not afraid of Russia. We want to pray our respect to someone who gave their lives to freedom and democracy all over the world, not just one person who went crazy, that's trying to scare the world when some missile attack.

This visit as a whole was very symbolic of Very multi biting

BLITZER: What did it mean to your country, to Ukraine, the people in Ukraine to have the president of the United States there walking on the streets with you.

ZELENSKYY: It's calm,


ZELENSKYY: Immense calm and protection, confidence, confidence, at the food protection --

Clearly none of us will get a (INAUDIBLE) because war is not peace and nothing nice about it.

But the signals of the words, of the feelings, through the presence of yes, the president in Kyiv, they went on to such a different level.

We have this feeling that you're not alone. There's a feeling that America is with you and other partners and that shows that of course we will prevail.


VAUSE: Around the world many paused on Wednesday to mark International Women's Day. That includes the front (ph) in Russia where the President Vladimir Putin paid tribute to women in the military.

That praise came as he claims Russia faces direct threats to its security and as Russian forces face a fierce battle in the frontlines in Eastern Ukraine.

Our man in Moscow is Fred Pleitgen.


FREDERIK PLEITGEN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: While the Russian army continues its devastating assault on Ukraine, with losses on both sides mounting, it's all hearts and flowers in Moscow. Russia celebrating International Women's Day. Many of the women

willing to speak to us, saying they would make the ultimate sacrifice, sending their voice to fight.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: If there's no other way, yes, I would send my son and go myself if declared fit.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We collect money for drones, do what we can, and we want our boys to win.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I support President Putin. He does everything right, good man. We love him.

PLEITGEN: And the Russian president is publicly trying to show his love, for Russia's women, handing out medals and warning more sacrifices will be necessary.

VLADIMIR PUTIN, RUSSIAN PRESIDENT (through translator): Now that Russia is again facing direct threats to its security and sovereignty, we see many examples of bravery and determination, courage, a willingness to defend the truth, protect people, and the very future of our state itself. The future that we ourselves need.

PLEITGEN: On the frontlines, the going remains tough. The Ukrainians say they've killed scores of Russian in the past day alone, around the embattled city, Bakhmut.

That's where the Wagner private military company is unleashing its cannons on Ukraine's defenses. Wagner boss Yevgeny Prigozhin talking to his own mercenaries about what he says is a lack of ammo hindering further advances.

YEVGENY PRIGOZHIN, WAGNER GROUP: How are you managing now, when you're almost using more ammunition than you received?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They guys from another regiment helped us out. They brought the day worth of ammunition. Only that saved the day.

When we have more, we help them out

PLEITGEN: Prigozhin claims Wagner is now in control of all of eastern Bakhmut and claims Russia's true power will soon be unleashed.

PRIGOZHIN: The world is yet to face a fully prepared Russian army, with units not yet engaged in combat. With all the possible state of the art weapons and reconnaissance tools, perfectly trained, their biding their time until Wagner opens operational space for them from after Bakhmut.

PLEITGEN: But the Ukrainians say they will stand and fight in Bakhmut, and many more Russian women might find their husbands and sons go into battle as the war drags on.


VAUSE: Demonstrators marched around the world on International Women's Day, denouncing discrimination and demanding gender equality.


VAUSE: In Mexico City, there are protest moves by protesters (INAUDIBLE) for violence against women as well as femicide, which is killing of females on the basis of gender.

Demonstrators in Paris braved the rain and joined the nationwide census reform protest. They're demanding better retirement options or part time workers -- many part-time workers are in fact women.

And in Tokyo, some activists held up signs for the transgender rights, U.N. Secretary General said on Monday that gender equality could take 300 years -- that's a long time. A (INAUDIBLE) has been so obvious to so many for so long.

Afghanistan where the Taliban government has made it priority of denying women and girls of education, forming them to fully cover up in public, making life an endless misery to half of the population.

Afghanistan now is officially the most repressive country in the world for women. Despite threats of being beating and arrests, the full group of women dared to demonstration Wednesday in Kabul.

And they protested half of that were (INAUDIBLE) removal of their human right.

Afghanistan Taliban took over in August of 2021. They suspended secondary and university education for girls and women and despite public promises to the contrary. And that makes females more susceptible suicide, child marriage, poverty and sexual exploitation. The U.N. says the Taliban have pushed women out of the public sphere.


ROZA OTUNBAYEVA, U.N. ENVOY TO AFGHANISTAN: It's a moment when Afghanistan needs all of its human captors to recover from the gutter floor.

Half of the country's potential doctors, scientists, journalist and politicians are shut in their homes, their dreams crushed, and their talents confiscated.

Afghanistan, under the Taliban, remains the most repressive country in the world, regarding women's rights.


VAUSE: In Washington, the U.S. first lady had a message for men. Join the fight for equality, listen, act, hold other men accountable.

Her remarks came during the international women of courage awards. Jill Biden and Secretary of State Antony Blinken honored women around the world who demonstrates strength and leadership and advocating for peace, justice human rights and gender equality, often at great potential risk and sacrifice. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JILL BIDEN, FIRST LADY OF THE UNITED STATES: To all the women whom we are all honoring today. You know there's been a enormous good, you've done has no end. It touches every person who hears your story.

It transforms us with new hope. As you seek justice, speak out and pursue peace, you inspire others to find courage within ourselves, and rise to that same call. And TO every little girl who has wondered, can I.

One person, one voice? One girl, fix what's broken? Let the women that we celebrate today be an answer to that question. An unequivocal yes.


VAUSE: And the inaugural Madeline Albright honorary group awards went to the women and girls of Iran who stood up to the regime and its so- called morality police, to fight for their rights. And to protest the death of a young woman in police custody.

Many tearing off their head scarf in protest.

Still to come here on CNN, is that really you? artificial intelligence can now mimic your own voice.

It's so good even your mother can't tell the difference between AI and your voice. At least that's what I was (INAUDIBLE). They're going to tell us what they found out.



VAUSE: The Chester (ph) Zoo in the U.K. is on its way to becoming a conservation powerhouse with around 2 million visitors a year, generating almost all of the zoo's income. Last year they were able to devote $30 million for this confirmation program.

And they're seeing results now as the zoo is in the midst of a baby boom that's providing new hope for the preservation of some of the world's rarest species.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: A small northern English city of Chester might seem like an unlikely place to find some of the world's most endangered animals.

This is the 1930s, check the zoo, who's grown a reputation and it's one of the best in the world for conservation with a targeted aim of preventing species extinction.

MARK BRAYSHAW, CURARTOR OF MAMMALS, CHESTER ZOO: I've had huge biodiversity crisis at the moment. I may regret it UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Live in spaces. Those are phenomenal regards. So

some of these people will be caught in a way of them. We don't know that role and say, you know, by taking speeches out here, now we don't know the long term impact.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: While the gold standard to Chester Zoo is a great species to be reintroduced to their natural habitat.

In many cases, now, the urgent fix is on creating a safety net population and captivity.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: All nations have to do action is not -- we might be in a situation where actually species have a and special and that when (INAUDIBLE) is back into their natural habitat. We have to sort of look here under other places we could but them back in.

Balancing that in any sort of impact though. You know, that's my half.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: luckily for the preservation of some of these critically endanger species.

The zoo is in the midst of a baby boom. A birth to the world's greatest chimpanzee -- triplets for the Madagascan (INAUDIBLE). A great one honed rhino, a Malayan taper (ph) and finally in addition to the Zoo's family of marsupials.

Increased dining and deforestation and Papua New Guiney has seen the wild population of good fellows, tree kangaroos more than halved of the past 30 partiers over the past 30 years. So the birth of a new joey in Chester provides a glimmer of hope for the future of the species.

DAVID WHITE, TEAM MANAGER, CHESTER ZOO: For first time we saw there is -- it was tiny, you know, short of this likely large number of (INAUDIBLE) very underdeveloped I mean to be honest, you wouldn't even realize it was a tree kangaroo.

But then subsequently month after month after month, he could really plot that development -- appearance and then suddenly actually -- is what a tree kangaroo now.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Much of Chester's success in breeding, is attributed treated to its onsite endocrinology lab.

KATIE EDWARDS, CHESTER ZOO: I oversee our conservation details and researching team and our wildlife endocrinology lab. Which is the only one of its kind at a zoon in Europe.

That mostly means we measure home in animal-dom. So for something like a tree kangaroo, we'll take samples every day when more women about once a month said that we can measure reproductive hormones in our female.

And it helps prepare together the visual keys that the Hadens and the (INAUDIBLE) and with the physiology of the animal happening inside so that we can make sure that we are putting the amount of (INAUDIBLE) together the best possible time to give us the best chances of a successful rating.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The Lab is yielding such impressive results that zoos around Europe is sending in dung samples from their animals for analysis at Chester.

And there's hope that Chester conservation focus can be a model for other zoos to follow.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Our scientists are just a new model for what a future zoo could look like and that we will certainly incorporate all of these facets that's direct conservation or the fundraising model and that's here to the health and well-being of the visitors who visit.

So certainly Chester Zoo has been so successful with what it does and we share all that information and welcome (ph) all these to do the same.


VAUSE: For more on Call to Earth stories on conservation projects around the world, please go to

You're watching CNN NEWSROOM back in a moment.


VAUSE: In Greece, public anger over last week's deadly train collision appears to be growing and getting angry with more protesters taking to the streets to demand answers.

Police say more than 60,000 people protested nationwide Wednesday. 15,000 at this protest alone. Some smashing store windows and splattering buildings with red paint.

Trained workers have also been staging rolling strikes demanding safety improvements for the country's outdated rail network.

Tesla's Model Y SUV is under investigation in the U.S. by safety regulators at least two drivers have reported the steering wheel just came off while driving.

Officials say the 2023 model was delivered without a restraining built which I think holds the steering wheel to the steering column (ph). It's not known if the steering falling off while driving problem has actually caused any accidents or injuries. Around 120,000 Teslas in the U.S. may be affected.

Well, we've already seen how artificial intelligence can could be used to alter someone's image online, what's known as deepfakes, now there's AI that can mimic your voice, sound strikingly real and could mean some trouble with those if it goes into the wrong hands

CNN's Donie O'Sullivan shows us how it works.




UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Hi Donie, how are you.

O'SULLIVAN: Does my voice sound different to you.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes. I just thought that's just me. There's this Donie so American.

O'SULLIVAN: This is not actually me. this is a voice made by computer.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: OH my God, you're serious.

O'SULLIVAN: Yes, mom. Sorry.

There's been an explosion in fake audio and voices being generated through artificial intelligence technology.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is an AI clone version of Walter White's voice.

This is an AI-clone version of Leonardo di Caprio's.

O'SULLIVAN: All you need is a couple of minutes recording of anyone' voice and you can make it seem like they have said, just about anything. Even --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Anderson Cooper. We've come here to U.C. Berkely today, to talk to Hany Farid (ph), a digital forensic expert about just how easy it is to put words into other people's mouths.

O'SULLIVAN: It's a lot of fun. Sure. It's also really scare.

HANY FARID, U.C. BERKELY SCHOOL: I think when you put aside that gee- whiz factor, I don't think it takes a long time to look at the risks.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is Wolf Blitzer, Hany Farid, you're in "THE SITUATION ROOM".

O'SULLIVAN: That sounds good.

FARID: Yes. that sounds pretty good.

O'SULLIVAN: By uploading just a few minutes of me and some of my colleagues voices to an AI audio service I was able to create some convincing fakes, including this one of Anderson Cooper.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Donie O'Sullivan is a real piece of (EXPLETIVE DELETED).


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Is that really?



Anderson is really good. Because Anderson doesn't have a stupid Irish accent.


O'SULLIVAN: The technology did start with my Irish accent but we decide to put it to the ultimate test with my parents.

I'm about to try to call my mom back in Ireland and see if I can trick her this voice. You think I'm going to be successful?

FARID: I'm nervous. Like my hands are --

O'SULLIVAN: All right.



UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Hi Donie, how are you?

O'SULLIVAN: Just finished shooting our story here. I'm going to the airport in a while.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: There seems to be a delay lay on your phone, Donie.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Can I say a quick hello to dad?




UNIDENTIFIED MALE: How are you doing?



UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Just finished shooting our story here. I'm going to the airport in a while.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Oh, you're going back to New York?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Kerry playing this weekend?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They're playing Tyrone Sunday. O'SULLIVAN: My dad went on to have a conversation with AI Donie about

how carry, our home football team, had a game that weekend. Eventually, I had to come clean.

Dad I'll give you a call better later on. Can you just put me back on to mom first. I could --

My parents knew something was off but ultimately, they still fell for it.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: OH yes, some of it don't be bad, but it was like your voice was a little tone lower and it sounded very serious.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Like you had something serious to say. because I went on, jeez my heart was hopping first.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I thought the voice was very funny.

O'SULLIVAN: I'll talk to you later, Dad.


O'SULLIVAN: Ok, bye.

This is not classic, the mom was like something' wrong with my son. But dad is like, everything is seasonal. Everything's fine.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'd like to close out today's ceremony with a question.

If you were given a choice, would you chose to have unlimited bacon, but no more video games. With fake Biden and Trump recordings going viral online.

Farid says this could be something to be wary of going into the 2024 elections.

FARID: When we entered this world where anything can be faked, any image, any audio, any video, any piece of text, nothing has to be real. We have what's called the liars dividend which is that anybody can deny reality.

O'SULLIVAN: With a flood of new AI tools releasing online he says companies developing this powerful technology need to think of its potential negative effects.

FARID: There's no online and offline worlds, there's one world, and it's fully integrated. When things happen on the Internet they have real implications for individuals, for communities, for societies, for democracies.

And I don't think we in the field have fully come to grips with our responsibility here.

O'SULLIVAN: In the meantime I'll continue annoying my colleagues.

Hear this thing Anderson said.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I've been doing this a long time, and have to say, Donie O'Sullivan is probably the best in the business.

FARID: Very good.

O'SULLIVAN: It's very kind of him to say that as well.

FARID: You know, you should be honored really.


VAUSE: Thank you for watching CNN NEWSROOM. I'm John Vause.

My colleague and friend Rosemary Church picks up after a very short break. She's the real deal, she's on the way. See you tomorrow.