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Xi Jinping Vows To Make Chinese Military "Great Wall Of Steel" As Tensions Rise With West; Biden To Host Australian, British Leaders On AUKUS Defense Pact; U.S. Accuses Iran Of Cruel False Prisoner Swap Claims; U.S. Officials Move To Protect All Deposits At Silicon Valley Bank Aired 1-2a ET

Aired March 13, 2023 - 01:00   ET




LAILA HARRAK, CNN ANCHOR: Hello, and welcome to our viewers joining us all around the world. I'm Laila Harrak, and this is CNN Newsroom.

China's new premier gives his first news conference charting a course for the future, as China's economy works to recover after years of zero COVID curbs.

Officials in the U.S. are racing to contain the fallout after the stunning and swift collapse of Silicon Valley Bank.

Plus, a history making nights in Hollywood, as everything everywhere all at once cleans up at the Academy Awards and actress Michelle Yeoh notch as a win for the record books.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Live from CNN Center. This is CNN Newsroom with Laila Harrak.

HARRAK: We begin this hour with new details from the annual session of China's top legislature. The National People's Congress wrapped up its session just a few hours ago, with Chinese leader Xi Jinping. consolidating his grip on power in the first speech of his unprecedented third presidential term, Mr. Xi vowed to build the country's army into a quote Great Wall of Steel and reunite Taiwan with the motherland.

Well, at the end of the parliamentary session, China's new Premier Li Qiang held his first news conference since taking the post.

U.S. President Joe Biden will host the British and Australian leaders in the coming hours for a meeting of the AUKUS group, an emerging Defense Partnership, viewed as a bid to counter China in the Pacific. The UK's Rishi Sunak and Australia's Anthony Albanese are visiting the U.S. for the first time since becoming prime ministers.

Sources tell CNN that the men will announce Australia's plan to buy at least four nuclear powered submarines from the U.S. along with development of a new class of nuclear powered subs. Let's take you now to Beijing, CNN's Steven Jiang is standing by.

Steven, the Premier held his first press conference. What did he say?

STEVEN JIANG, CNN BEIJING BUREAU CHIEF: Yes, Laila, that event and performance actually in many ways, was more closely monitored by many China watchers than the Xi Jinping speech, because as you mentioned, it was his debut press conference and up till recently, Li Qiang was a rather obscure figure outside of China, mostly known to be a close outline protege of President Xi Jinping. And of course, more recently, the party, the communist party boss of Shanghai, who oversaw that city's a brutal two month lockdown during the pandemic.

But as he pointed out several times during the press conference, before the pandemic, he actually ran for years some of the country's most economically diverse and advanced economies, not just Shanghai, but some of its neighboring provinces. And actually before COVID, he was often known as one of the more pragmatic and pro-business provincial leaders.

So obviously, he was trying to offer a reassurance to a to a global audience at a time when he is now tasked to run the world's second largest economy without any national governance experience, at a time when this economy, of course, is facing strong headwinds, both domestically and internationally.

So he mostly stuck to the script and is saying all the right things, including his commitment to economic reform, and welcoming foreign investments, for example, but the issue here, of course, in today's Chinese political environment, it's very much a one man show and all the key decision making is now in the hands of Xi Jinping.

So whether or not Li Qiang closeness to the President would have made wouldn't make any difference remains to be seen. But the one thing that's really clear out of the NPC this year, of course, Xi Jinping's overarching policy of reasserting the party's dominant controlling every aspect of Chinese society, including the economy that very much remains the same. Laila.

HARRAK: And Steven, let's talk about AUKUS, the security pack that will let's see the U.S. in the UK supply Australia with a nuclear submarines how is this being viewed in Beijing? What do they make of this alliance?

JIANG: Yes, they have been angry about this from day one when the announcement was made some time ago and calling this yet another example of the so called U.S. slept (ph) cliques that is a reflection of product of the so called cold war mentality.

So this is not going to bode well in terms of relationships between Beijing and Washington but also between Beijing and Canberra.


Remember the Australian-Chinese relations finally thawing after years of a deep freeze because of tensions between those two countries. So it's going to be interesting to see the impacts of this development. But of course biggest concern how, or if and how this is going to further accelerate the freefall in U.S.-China relations.

Remember extraordinary moment last week when Xi Jinping named check the U.S. saying the U.S. lead West has been able to contain and suppress China in a comprehensive way and of course vowing to fight back. This was the first time we heard from a top Chinese leader in decades.

That's also why his new foreign minister warning about the almost inevitable conflict between the two countries if the U.S. doesn't change course. So this latest development definitely very worrisome for many people around the world. Laila.

HARRAK: All right, Steven Jiang reporting for you from Beijing. Thank you so much for that. I want to turn now to with John Blaxland for more on the upcoming the AUKUS meeting. He's a professor of International Security and Intelligence Studies at Australian National University and joins us now live from Canberra.

Firstly, thank you so much for joining us. So there are so many dimensions to this security partnership, broad strokes, what is the significance of AUKUS?

JOHN BLAXLAND, PROFESSOR, INTERNATIONAL SECURITY AND INTELLIGENCE STUDIES AT AUSTRALIAN NATIONAL UNIVERSITY: The key point here, Laila, thanks for having me on here, is that this will enable Australia to join the club of countries with nuclear propulsion submarines. Australia will get the first tranche will be online or visiting ships from the boats I should say from the United States that will be ported in Western Australia and West Coast in the Indian Ocean. That will be followed a decade or so later by the acquisition of Virginia class submarines by Australia, having worked to supplement the production capability in the United States.

And then following that will be a jointly developed submarine that includes technology from the United States centered on a British model, a student (ph) class submarine that's more in the keeping of Australia's numbers of sustainable submariner crew.

So this is about nuclear propulsion for the Australian Navy. But it's also about a range of other technologies about hypersonics, about collaboration between these three trusted partners on advanced weapons systems. In light of the emergence of the great power of contestation, we've seen unfold not just under the Ukraine, but obviously, the risks of conflict in the Indo-Pacific in relation to China's rise.

HARRAK: Now, Australia is one who asked for this defense pact, if I understand correctly, this is means that Australia believes a potential military confrontation with China is likely.

BLAXLAND: So there's a growing likelihood, unfortunately, because we've seen with the Wolf Warrior Diplomacy, the exercise of sharp power, and the approach to expansion in the South China Sea, the way it's treated Hong Kong, the words treated Japan, Korea the way it's operating in the South China Sea. In the South Pacific as well, I should say. Australia's got nervous. We've seen the armed forces of the China expand the Army, Navy, Air Force, Space Force, cyber force, ballistic missile force, have all expanded exponentially in the last few years, dramatically rising -- raising concerns about what that means for the security of Australia. And this is really what's driven this imperative.

A decade ago, this would have been unimaginable. But the changes in China, the Wolf Warrior Diplomacy, President Xi's own actions have generated a wake-up call in Australia, the U.S. and UK and beyond. And that's what we're seeing the fruits of today.

HARRAK: Now, Australia to put it very simplistically says a lot of stuff to China. China is arguably Australia's most important trading partner, can Australia's trade relationship with Beijing be separated from now this alliance that Beijing essentially sees as anti-China? I mean, it's a delicate balancing act that Canberra has to enact here.

BLAXLAND: So, you know, I think that President Xi needs to look in the mirror here. He needs to look at what's happened and why Australia went from being much more well-disposed to China to be much more adversarial. And that's -- it's really something that China needs to consider.

But key point here, Laila, I would make is, China does not buy from Australia because it likes our liberal Western democracy. It only does so because it's a good deal. And the attempts to impose financial trade sanctions and punishments on Australia have not worked that backfired. They've actually generated further resistance in Australia, as the global economy is not a command economy.

There's ebbs and flows, there's bear markets, bull markets, face to famines, floods, fires, so many variables China doesn't control.


If they don't want to buy our barley, we can, you know, sell to someone else but they clearly want to buy us buy from us our iron ore, and coal, gas, and many other resources. This is not about our democratic political system. And I think it's important to separate the issues out.

This is about Australia responding to the fear that's generated by China's militarization and expansion of its force, and its rhetoric. And that's, I think, really, it's in the lap of the Chinese is what happens next.

HARRAK: A final thought from you, professor. What does this mean for Australia's place in the region? I mean, what has the response been from the rest of the countries?

BLAXLAND: So when the AUKUS announcement came out 18 months ago, there was some real annoyance in France, which has territory in the Pacific and in New Caledonia, and Tahiti, particularly in neighboring Indonesia, Malaysia and other countries in Southeast Asia, concerned about this thing called without having been prior to -- giving any prior notice.

But since then, the current government of Anthony Albanese has worked really hard to brief in the Indonesians, Malaysians, the French, the others in the Pacific and beyond, to allay any fears that they may have about what this means and also to make the point that, hey, we're actually -- we're all in this. We're all feeling the pinch of the Wolf Warrior Diplomacy, the exercise of sharp power, the intimidation from China, in our neighbors in Southeast Asia in particular have been buffeted by the approach by China in the South China Sea. Behind closed doors, they're all kind of quietly saying, Keep up the good work Australia.

HARRAK: Professor John Blaxland, thank you so much for joining us.

BLAXLAND: Thank you for having me, Laila.

HARRAK: Well, meantime, North Korea used a submarine to launch two strategic cruise missiles Sunday according to state media. KCNA says the missiles were fired from waters to the east of the Korean Peninsula and flew for more than an hour before precisely hitting a target.

North Korea's military says the drill confirmed the reliability of the weapons system. Pyongyang has also said it will take the toughest counter action as South Korea and the U.S. kick off joint military exercises on Monday.

The head of the Russian mercenary group Wagner is admitting that Ukrainian forces are fiercely fighting to keep control of the eastern city of Bakhmut. Comment from Yevgeniy Prigozhin comes as Ukraine says Russian forces are also keeping up their assault on the battered city.

The Wagner chief acknowledges the situation in Bakhmut is very difficult with Ukrainians are fighting for every meter.

Meanwhile, one Ukrainian army commander says logistical routes in and out of the city are still functioning, meaning it's possible to transport ammunition and reinforcements and Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelenskyy says his forces are inflicting heavy losses.


VOLODYMYR ZELENSKYY, UKRAINIAN PRESIDENT (through translator): In less than a week, starting from March 6, we managed to kill more than 1,100 enemy soldiers in the Bakhmut sector alone, which is Russia's irreversible loss. The loss right there near Bakhmut.


HARRAK: CNN's Melissa Bell has been following developments and has the latest now from Kharkiv.


MELISSA BELL, CNN CORRESPONDENT (on camera): The major Russian assault on Bakhmut continues say Ukrainian military authorities who vowed to continue fighting to try and hold the center of the besieged city. This is some new footage emerges from battles over the course of the weekend. It really show combat that has cost both sides so very many men.

The Ukrainian authorities also speaking of fresh attacks on a city to the northwest of Bakhmut, the city of Sloviansk, which has seen both missile and rocket attacks on critical infrastructure. This is something Ukrainian authorities had predicted might happen next, and that Sloviansk might be the next major urban target of Russian forces.

It comes even as we get fresh news from the Ukrainian authorities about the fate of a young soldier who had been seen in a chilling video that emerged last week that showed him saying Slava Ukraini, Glory to Ukraine even before he was gunned down by Russian soldiers.

Now initially Ukrainian authorities had identified the soldiers Timofey Shura (ph), in fact, they now say it was a young sniper from the Chernihiv tank regiment Alexander Maciejewski (ph). That's important because we understand that Ukrainian authorities intent to make this young soldiers death something of a symbol given the brutality with which he was executed in complete contradiction to the normal treatment of prisoners of war. Melissa Bell, CNN, Kharkiv.



HARRAK: The president of Belarus is in Iran on an official visit. Alexander Lukashenko is expected to meet with Iran's President Ibrahim Raisi with talks expected to focus on bilateral relations, specifically trade and economic cooperation. He already sat down with the country's Minister of Industry, Mines and Trade. Lukashenko is also planning to meet with Iran's supreme leader during his trip.

There are mixed messages regarding a supposed prisoner swap between the U.S. and Iran. The Iranians claim a deal has been reached, but the U.S. denies that, calling it a cruel lie. All the confusion began on Sunday when Iran's foreign minister touted the alleged agreements telling state media and exchange of prisoners could happen soon. There are currently three Americans imprisoned in Iran, all of whom the U.S. says are wrongfully detained. The U.S. State Department says it's working relentlessly to secure their release.

In the U.S., the government is stepping in to restore confidence in the banking system following the sudden collapse of Silicon Valley Bank. The Biden administration announced on Sunday that it will extend a federal backstop to all of the failed banks deposits. They say customers will have access to all of their money starting Monday. Authorities also shut down another regional institution Signature Bank, fearing it was on the brink of collapse.

Meanwhile, Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen says Washington will not bail out Silicon Valley Bank.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) JANET YELLEN, U.S. TREASURY SECRETARY: Let me be clear that during the financial crisis, there were investors and owners of systemic large banks that were bailed out, and we're certainly not looking. And the reforms that have been put in place means that we're not going to do that again. But we are concerned about depositors and are focused on trying to meet their needs.


HARRAK: CNN's Arlette Saenz has been tracking this rapidly developing story and has the latest details now from the White House.


ARLETTE SAENZ, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT (on camera): The Biden administration took extraordinary steps Sunday to ensure that all depositors working with Silicon Valley Bank would be made whole guaranteed they would have access to their money starting on Monday. The announcement came in a joint statement between the Treasury Department, FDIC and Federal Reserve where they also revealed the closure of a second bank Signature Bank, which is based in New York.

Officials said that the same protections being offered to depositors with Silicon Valley Bank would also be extended to that bank as well. It came at a time where there were many questions for depositors about whether they would have access to their money. The FDIC only previously insured up to $250,000 being held at the bank and the majority of customers had more money than that in their accounts.

Ultimately, this move will ensure that all depositors will be able to access their money at a time when there were questions about how people would run their businesses and also how they would meet payroll heading into this week.

Now, federal officials worked around the clock over the weekend trying to find some resolution to the sudden collapse of Silicon Valley Bank. One avenue that was also being pursued was trying to find a private buyer to purchase the assets of Silicon Valley Bank.

Treasury officials said that they were evaluating those bids but ultimately decided to move quickly as they were watching this situation quickly unfold and they wanted to offer some assurances to those customers who had been working with Silicon Valley Bank.

Now Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen said earlier on Sunday that there would no -- there would not be a wide scale, large bailout of the bank similar to what was seen during the 2008 financial crisis. Treasury officials pushed back on the idea that this was a bailout, saying that the burden will not be borne by the taxpayers and also noting that shareholders and senior management would not be protected by these new rules.

Now, ultimately, the White House and the Biden administration has tried to stress that they believe that the banking system in this country is resilient, in part due to those reforms put in place after the 2008 financial crisis. President Biden told reporters as he was traveling back from Delaware on Sunday that he would talk about this issue on Monday morning as his White House is trying to ensure that there are not more stresses put on the U.S. banking system and the U.S. economy writ large. Arlette Saenz, CNN, the White House.


HARRAK: Coming up, the deadly return of Cyclone Freddy to Mozambique. Details on the damage the storm left behind during its second landfall.



HARRAK: Cyclone Freddy has made landfall for a second time in Mozambique. The storm battered the African nation on Sunday. Last month at least 27 people in Mozambique and Madagascar were killed and more than 170,000 people were impacted by the cyclone. CNN's Derek Van Dam reports on Freddie's impact this time around.


DEREK VAN DAM, CNN METEOROLOGIST (on camera): The remnants of Tropical Cyclone Freddy continues its long live in very dangerous rampage this time located across southern Malawi and into central Mozambique creating flash flooding conditions. This video tweeted out within the past day or so by the Malawi Red Cross. And you can see just how dangerous it has been across the region.

Freddy actually originated early February just off the coast of Indonesia traveled across the Indian Ocean made three separate landfalls during its lifespan. And we're talking about over a 35-day period where this storm has been named incredible.

Only four storms have traversed the entire Indian Ocean, Freddy being one of them.

Now, one of its strongest landfalling points was when it reached the east coast of Madagascar that was on February 21. While this is coming off a very active 2022 tropical cyclone season for Madagascar, as it moved throughout Central Madagascar back into the Mozambique Channel. It dance this way made another landfall in southern Mozambique, edge this way closer to Madagascar once again, and then curved right back towards central and northern Mozambique. And that's where we find it now it made another landfall on March 11, with winds of 150 kilometers per hour.

And to put this into perspective, Mozambique only receives two to three storms of winds of 120 kilometers per hour or more per decade. And it did it at least once with the first landfall actually being slightly weaker than that. But nonetheless, we still got that landfalling tropical cyclone in excess of 120 kilometers per hour.

Rain has been impressive there, accumulating over 100 millimeters in some instances. And unfortunately there is more wet weather in store that means landslides, and mudslides will be possible across the mountainous regions of Malawi. Back to you.


HARRAK: Another atmospheric river is expected to hit the U.S. state of California in the coming hours, just days after parts of the central coast were battered by storms and flooding. Around 15 million people in California and neighboring Nevada remain under flood watches. Rainfall totals could exceed 15 centimeters in some parts of California. Two people have already died because of the storms.

The California Highway Patrol had to use a helicopter to rescue a person trapped in the Salinas River over the weekend.


The water washed a car away but the driver was able to escape and get to an island in the middle of the river. The U.S. Coast Guard has suspended the search for migrants missing from an overturned boat in San Diego, California. Officials believe they were part of a human trafficking operation. CNN's Camila Bernal has the details.


CAMILA BERNAL, CNN CORRESPONDENT (on camera): Authorities are calling this a tragedy and believe that a criminal organization is responsible for this. They received a 911 call at around 11:30 Saturday night. So they say between 11:30 and midnight, officers responded to Black Beach in San Diego.

And by the time they arrived, they did not find the color. They did not find any survivors in the water. But they were searching for the first hour or so they were trying to find survivors. But they say afterwards, they decided to call it a recovery operation. They searched for about five hours. And we're not able to find any survivors, they recovered eight bodies. And that's even after they continued searching on Sunday.

Officials saying that the search was extremely difficult, because it was pitch black on Saturday night. They say that there are these sandbars in the area. And so you may think that you're able to walk out of the water but there are also these holes. And once you step into these holes, you get essentially carried away by these very strong currents that pull you back into the ocean.

Officials saying they tried to search by air but even night vision goggles were not strong enough they weren't able to see anything. They also announced that they found some life jackets in the area. But these life jackets were essentially washed up on shore and say that the bodies that they recovered, did not have any life jackets on but what they're also saying is that the people responsible for all of this are not thinking about safety. Here's what authorities said.

CAPT. JAMES SPITLER, U.S. COAST GUARD: This is not necessarily people trying to find a better life. This is part of a transnational criminal organization effort to smuggle people into the United States. These people are often labor trafficked and SEC (ph) traffic when they arrive.

JAMES GARTLAND, CHIEF OF LIFEGUARD DIVISION, SAN DIEGO FIRE-RESCUE DEPARTMENT: This is the one of the worst maritime smuggling tragedies that I can think of in California, certainly here in the city of San Diego.

BERNAL: And Customs and Border Protection also looking into this. They say they work with Mexican officials and they are always trying to identify the criminal organizations that are responsible for all of this Camila Bernal, CNN, Los Angeles.


HARRAK: Still to come a CNN investigation into how UK police failed to stop a serial sex offender among their own ranks for two decades. And the Russian men who refuse to fight in Vladimir Putin's war of choice are finding new lives far from their homeland. We'll have a report when we come back.



HARRAK: Welcome back to our viewers all around the world. I'm Laila Harrak and you're watching CNN NEWSROOM.

David Carrick, a serial sex offender, served in one of Britain's most elite armed police units for years. He's now behind bars, but his ability to evade justice has only fueled a growing distress and anger towards police in the U.K.

CNN's Katie Polglase reports on how apparent failures may have prevented Carrick from being stopped sooner.


KATIE POLGLASE, CNN INVESTIGATIVE REPORTER: A month ago, Police Officer David Carrick was sentenced for serially abusing multiple women for almost 20 years. He'd been an armed officer, a rare thing in U.K. policing, and the failure of police to spot or stop him despite multiple reports of his violence towards women has caused outrage here in the U.K.

We've looked into some of the key moments when Carrick could've been stopped but wasn't.

CROWD: Police. Everywhere. Safety. Nowhere.

POLGLASE: In February, former metropolitan police officer David Carrick was handed 36 life sentences. For almost 20 years, Carrick abused his position in the force to coerce and attack women. Carrying a gun became a unique feature of his abuse, using it to threaten his victims.

He had been a member of a rare armed section of the U.K. police, tasked with defending high-profile government buildings and ministers.

NATHAN BUSH, FORMER OFFICER, METROPOLITAN POLICE, DIPLOMATIC PROTECTION GROUP: It still baffles me how a monster was able to wear that uniform.

POLGLASE: Nathan Bush served in the same unit where Carrick was (INAUDIBLE).

Does it make you reflect differently on your time?

BUSH: It makes me question, probably every single person that I work with.

POLGLASE: After Carrick pleaded guilty to 71 sexual offenses, the Met police admitted Carrick had previously come to theirs and other forces' attention nine times.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We have missed opportunities overtime to identify a pattern of abusive behavior.

POLGLASE: CNN has spent more than a month looking into those missed opportunities, and found that on at least two occasions, police did not follow their own procedures for handling misconduct. And therefore did not miss Carrick's violence, but failed to treat it with the severity it deserved, leaving him free to meet further victims.

We spoke via text to one of those victims, Durciane (ph), who met Carrick in 2020. After months of abuse, she reported him to a police station outside of London in July, 2021.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It's not easy for you to arrive at the police station and tell a policeman, I was raped by a policeman.

POLGLASE: Carrick was placed on restricted duties and his gun removed while they investigated, but he was not suspended. Durciane ended up withdrawing her complaint.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I didn't feel protected. And whenever I went to the police station to make another statement, I asked, and nobody told me anything. So I was very shaken, and thinking that they didn't believe me.

POLGLASE: Within two months, Carrick was preparing to return to full duties, armed once again. That should never have happened. From our own research into the Met protocol for handling misconduct cases, Durciane's allegations should've been investigated further despite her withdrawing the complaint. And the officers assigned the case would've had access to researchable database that logged at least one previous incident in which Carrick was violent towards a woman.

It happened just five months before Durciane met him. In September 2019, a neighbor reported they had seen Carrick grabbing a woman by the neck during a domestic incident in Hertfordshire. Police there told us they sent a crime report to the Met police, specifically to the department handling complaints against officers known as the Directorate of Professional Standards or the DPS. Now, according to the DPS' own guidelines, an allegation as serious as this should've been escalated.

NUSRIT MEHTAB, FORMER SCOTLAND YARD SUPERINTENDENT, NORTH AREA: It's domestic abuse, third-party reporting so clearly, it was done in view of other people, and the fact that in 2019, Carrick was carrying a gun -- so it should've been escalated, because there's a red flag there.

POLGLASE: But no further action was taken. The victims did not want to pursue charges at the time, but Hertfordshire police tell CNN that since Carrick's sentencing, they've now come forward with allegations against him.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Understand you're under arrest, ok.

POLGLASE: In October, 2021 Carrick was finally arrested again when another woman came forward with a rape allegation three months after Durciane's complaint.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (EXPLETIVE DELETED), I've only been a police officer for 20 years.

POLGLASE: He was charged and Durciane's case was reopened.

DURCIANE: And I told God and myself thank you Lord for showing up another victims so now, they believe me.


POLGLASE: She's not alone in this experience. After 573 Met police officers accused of sexual offenses by the public over 11 years, just two were charged.

To add to the horror, the Met has confirmed that two of Carrick's colleagues have been placed on restricted duties after contacting one of his victims. Sky News reported they had been sending sexually suggestive messages to her.

As yet, no police officers has faced any consequences for failing to stop Carrick for so many years. The U.K. police watchdog has now reopened a review into the handling of Carrick's case, despite previously saying they had no cause to investigate.

And the force continues to struggle to prove it can keep women safe and hold its officers to account.

CNN reached out to the Met police but this investigation and they referred us to their existing statements on Carrick. They said they would not be commenting further while there were ongoing government reviews into the handling of his case.

And since Carrick's sentencing, more potential victims have come forward to the police. Meanwhile, the Center for Women's Justice told CNN that some of Carrick's victims are now considering a class action lawsuit against the police.

As yet, no police officers has faced any consequences for failing to stop Carrick. Katie Polglase, CNN -- London.


HARRAK: Many Russian men who refused to go to war against Ukraine have made the difficult decision to leave the only country they've ever known. Some are still in transition, while others are settling into their new homes with their families.

Rafael Romo looks at how their lives have changed in one popular destination.


RAFAEL ROMO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It's a completely new world for Tim Saganenko (ph) the 7-year-old Russian boy has been in Argentina for only three weeks after his parents decided to leave their native country.

NIKOLAS SAGANENKO, RUSSIAN IMMIGRANT: We were forced to leave our motherland. And we have a different opinion on what happens in Russian now, so we decided to leave the country.

ROMO: His father, Nikolas Saganenko who speaks fluent English and some Spanish -- says his son doesn't speak any language other than Russian but so far that doesn't seem to be a problem.

SAGANENKO: My son sis 7 years old and he's very excited to find new friends. It's only four days, he's in school, and already he was at two birthday parties. He's making new friends very easily.

ROMO: The Saganenkos are not the only Russian family who has decided to make Buenos Aires, the bustling capital of Argentina, their home. According to government figures, more than 320 Russian children have been registered in local schools since the beginning of the school year that started at the end of February.

Additionally, more than 100 adult Russians have enrolled in local colleges.

The Saganenkos registered their son at the San Carlos Academy, a private school in Olivos, in suburban Buenos Aires. Last year, there were only two Russian students. But this school year, the number has increased sharply, according to the school principal.

PROF. ESTEBAN SPEYER, PRINCIPAL, SAN CARLOS ACADEMY (through translator): Today, we had an interview with a new student who starts tomorrow, for example. In other words, we now have 12 students recently arrived from Russia who did not speak Spanish.

ROMO: Russian president Vladimir Putin's order to conscript men to fight in Ukraine last September prompted an exodus. In the following weeks, there were long lines of Russian men in neighboring countries like Kazakhstan to register with the local authorities.

More recently, some Russian men have traveled to Mexico, hoping to seek asylum in the United States, voting with their feet against Putin's war in Ukraine.

SERGEI ZHUSTAREV, RUSSIAN IMMIGRANT: I don't want to fight and kill people. I don't want to fight for the terrorist Putin.

ROMO: According to U.S. Customs and Border Protection data, by the end of February, nearly 22,000 Russians have tried entering the United States through its southern border since October.

ALSU ASPIDOVA, RUSSIAN IMMIGRANT: We came here about two months ago. And we would like to live here in Argentina.

ROMO: Back in the southern hemisphere, Russian parents like Alsu Aspidova say their children are adjusting just fine and embracing their new life.

ASPIDOVA: He's learning a language with home teachers.

ROMO: An estimated hundreds of thousands of Russians have left their country since the beginning of the war. For some of them, traveling across the world to a country they don't know and learning a new language seemed like small sacrifice when compared to the risk of being trapped in a war they don't support.

Rafael Romo, CNN -- Atlanta.



HARRAK: The BBC is facing criticism from all sides, including a growing boycott of its flagship football show, "Match of the Day" as long time presenter Gary Lineker remains suspended for criticizing a new U.K. policy on asylum seekers.

The network is now airing a scaled back version of the popular program while it tries to defend its impartiality and figure out its next moves.

More now from World Sports Patrick Snell.


PATRICK SNELL, CNN WORLD SPORTS ANCHOR: The "Match of the Day" highlights program is a national institution. It's been around for decades, and it's watched by about 60 percent of the British population. That's around 40 million people, if you take into account watching it via mobile technology.

Gary Lineker is the revered and highly talented former player, the leading scorer at the Mexico 1986 World Cup and then turning his hand very successfully indeed to broadcasting after his playing career.

But here's what else is in play here -- the battle between impartiality and free speech. This past week, British government announcing its controversial new asylum seeker policy, with the home secretary saying, quote, "They will not stop coming here until the world knows that if you went to Britain illegally, you will be detained and swiftly removed back to your country if it is safe, or a safe third country, such as Rwanda.

In response, Lineker on Twitter, "This is just unimaginably cruel policy directed at the most vulnerable people in language that is not dissimilar to that used by Germany in the 30s." The BBC which is Britain's public broadcast and bound by what it calls impartiality, saying the 62-year-old presenter breached its social media guidelines by criticizing government policy.

Lineker seen in London on Sunday, out walking his dog, and in Leicester on Saturday when he attended one of his former team's Premier League fixtures.

So what happens next. Well we've seen programming disrupted with "Match of the Day's" replacement on Saturday night airing with no presenter, no pundits, and no match commentary.

Well on Sunday, the BBC telling CNN it will continue to show football match highlights without announcers or pundits. This after so many former players who act as pundits on the show came out in support of Lineker.

And Sunday's "Match of the Day" to show also following the same format as Saturdays programming. The BBC says Lineker, who's a freelance broadcaster for the corporation has quote, "stepped back" as they put it, from presenting until this what it calls an agreed and clear position on his use of social media. Back to you.


HARRAK: It was a big night for "Everything Everywhere, All At Once" at the Oscars as the film won -- well almost everything. More on that and the history made by Asian performers at the 95th Academy Awards.

Plus, how CNN's My Freedom Day Initiative helped rescue victims of human trafficking in Bolivia. Details coming up next.



HARRAK: "Everything Everywhere All At Once" dominated at the 95th Academy Awards Sunday night, winning in seven categories out of 11 total nominations. The science fiction adventure won for best film, and its star, Michelle Yeoh, made history, becoming the first Asian woman to win for best actress.

Costar Ke Huy Quan won best supporting actor for his role in the film. This was his first Academy Award nomination and it was also the first for Quan's co-star, Jamie Lee Curtis, who won best supporting actress.

The only major category "Everything Everywhere" didn't dominate was best actor in a leading role. That award went to Brendan Fraser for his portrayal of an overweight gay father in "The Whale". All right. CNN's Kristie Lu Stout joins me now from Hong Kong. Kristie, Michelle Yeoh makes history. How has this news been received in Malaysia, where the actress is from?

KRISTIE LU STOUT, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes. Well, Laila, my Malaysian family WhatsApp group has been on fire all day, as you can imagine. We've also been monitoring an Oscars viewing party in Kuala Lumpur, where Michelle Yeoh's mother has been celebrating with dozens of others celebrating her daughters incredible achievement as well as this historic win for Malaysia. Michelle Yeoh becoming the first Asian woman and the first Malaysian-born performer to ever win a best actress award at the Academy Awards.

Now, her film, this surreal sci-fi movie, "Everything Everywhere All At Once", led the path with a total of 11 nominations, and ultimately is taking home nine Oscar statuettes. We have the full list for you, you know, including best supporting actor, supporting actress, best original screenplay, best film editing, best directing, best actress in a leading role, and best picture.

In her acceptance speech, Michelle Yeoh really proved that she is a superhero, especially for women of a certain age.

I want to share with you her quotes. This is what Michelle Yeoh said a couple of hours ago. She said, quote, "For all the little boys and girls who look like me watching tonight, this is a beacon of hope and possibilities. This is proof that dreams come true."

And she goes on to say, "And ladies, don't let anyone ever tell you that you are ever past your prime," unquote.

Yeoh has a career that spans four decades. She was born in Malaysia. She spent many years here in Hong Kong before heading on to Hollywood. And in recent months, she has been very vocal about speaking about Asian representation and even racism in the U.S. entertainment industry.

I want you to listen to this. It's a recent interview with Michelle Yeoh by CNN's Christiane Amanpour.


MICHELLE YEOH, ACTRESS: You received scripts. And as the years get bigger, the numbers get bigger, the roles seemed to shrink with that. Right?

As you know, as a woman, as an aging woman, or whatever it is, somehow, they start putting you in boxes. And it's always the guy who gets to go on the adventure, and save the world, and you, know rescue your daughter. And you think, why can't I do that to?


STOUT: Now, another star from the film who also helped save the multiverse in the movie was Ke Huy Quan, a Vietnamese American who won best supporting actor. And he has a very compelling backstory. He's very well known as a beloved child actor in the 1980s who spent

decades behind the scenes. He was born in Saigon. He moved to New York in 1979. And after he and his family fled Vietnam, he spent time as a refugee here in Hong Kong, and he referenced that experience in his Oscar acceptance speech.

And we do have a quote from it. This is what he said. He said this. Quote, "My journey started on a boat. I spent a year in a refugee camp. They say stories like this only happen in the movies. I cannot believe this is happening to me. This is the American dream," unquote.

An incredible achievement for Quan, for Michelle Yeoh, for the entire cast and crew of "Everything Everywhere All At Once", an incredible moment for Asian representation in Hollywood.

Back to you, Laila.

HARRAK: An incredible moment indeed. Kristie Lu Stout reporting in Hong Kong. Thank you so much.

The film "NAVALNY" from CNN Films and HBO Max won the Oscar for best documentary feature. Presented by CNN Films and HBO Max, it explores the plot to kill Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny. Before the ceremony the director celebrated the film and its subject.


DANIEL ROHER, DIRECTOR, "NAVALNY": In "NAVALNY" I found the most extraordinary, charismatic documentary subject you could dream of. Every single day, we were handed down little golden nuggets from the documentary gods, and it feels like this movie is just the manifestation of so many miracles.

But I never could've dreamed that we'd end up here. Being at the Oscars is extraordinary. And I'm not losing sight of the fact that we are here because Alexei Navalny right now is languishing in a gulag six and a half hours outside of Moscow.


ROHER: And I'm thinking about him tonight.


HARRAK: "NAVALNY" documents the investigation by a journalist group Bellingcat and CNN chief international correspondent Clarissa Ward to unmask Navalny's would-be killers.

He's currently serving a nine year term at a maximum security prison east of Moscow.

"My Freedom Day", an initiative supported by CNN and the CNN Freedom Project, is focusing on spotting the signs of slavery this year. And the Freedom Day event last year resulted in the rescue of two underage human trafficking victims in Bolivia. In the ensuing investigation, 16 more children were identified as

potential victims. CNN interviewed April Havlin, the director of the nonprofit that organized the Bolivia event.


APRIL HAVLIN, DIRECTOR, HOUSE OF HOPE INTERNATIONAL: If the child is not provided for, if the child is not in school, or if you see children walking around in the time of day that they should be in school, it would be a good thing to find out what's happening with that child because a lot of times, the drop out of school because they're in the trafficking situation.

I'm April Havlin. I direct House of Hope International. We work in Nicaragua, Honduras and Bolivia. Last year we were celebrating my freedom day, and we are scheduled to speak at several public schools near the home where we work with adolescent girls coming out of trafficking. So we went into the school and my coworker, who was a human trafficking survivor, told her story to the girls. And then, I explain to them what trafficking is, and I told them it was a trap.

One little girl came forward and said, oh, my sister's already gotten caught in this trap. And it was really heartbreaking to hear her realize what her sister had been going through, and what was the reality of her sister's life.

And that brought about two young women, maybe into our home -- one who was the older sister of one of the girls that was there on my freedom day, another was a girl who had been kicked out of school because she was being prostituted out.

My Freedom Day was the absolute catalyst that brought about that event. Now, our focus had been visiting brothels and street corners in places where the women would be in prostitution where we could talk to them. But most of those women had been trafficked a number of years ago.

But we've never had an opportunity before My Freedom Day to reach out to little girls in school. And so we have, within the last several months, uncovered a large group, at least 16 underage girls, elementary and middle school girls, that are being trafficked.

They were identified because of one girl that was a friend of one of the girls who came into our home because of My Freedom Day. But we're speaking in that school this year on My Freedom Day. So there may be many more than the 16 that we identified.


HARRAK: Join CNN this Thursday for the 2023 My Freedom Day. Tell us what freedom means to you. Share your message on social media using the hashtag "My Freedom Day.

We'll be right back.


HARRAK: Welcome back.

A classic masterpiece has gotten a make over courtesy of modern technology and has sparked a debate about artificial intelligence changing the face of art.


HARRAK: This is the real thing. Johannes Vermeer's "Girl with a pearl earring", drawing admirers at a special exhibition of the artists work in Amsterdam.

But while the famous painting is on lone until April, the Mauritshuis Museum in the Hague, where the work normally hangs, decided to fill the empty space by asking people to recreate the masterpiece and their own style.

They got close to 3,500 submissions and maybe more than they bargained for.

BORIS DE MUNNICK, MAURITSHUIS MUSEUM: The youngest applicant was three and the eldest was 94, and we had an enormous variety of materials. It was crayon, paint, textile, (INAUDIBLE), flowers, anything you can imagine. It was an explosion of creativity.

HARRAK: One work in particular, is getting a lot of buzz -- a definitively modern take on the classic, featuring glowing earrings on an eye-popping interpretation of the original made with AI technology.

DE MUNNICK: We're not here to discuss. We're not the museum to discuss if AI belongs in a museum or not. I mean for this project, this specific project, we like that.

HARRAK: The digital creator who submitted the image says she used an AI tool, which generates pictures based on a prompt, using samples of millions of images collected from the Internet and photoshop.

It's inclusion in the exhibit is dividing museum goers, with some critics saying, it's an insult, and arguing AI technology breaches the copyright of real life artists. The museum says it's not making any statements on AI.

DE MUNNICK: I go to modern art museum or a contemporary art museum, and I see the weirdest things, which are considered art. So it's such a difficult question. What is art? Or What is not art?

HARRAK: It's an age old question. One that even the great masters faced. But the beauty where truth of art maybe best answered in the eyes of the beholder.


HARRAK: And that wraps up this hour of CNN NEWSROOM. I'm Laila Harrak.

Rosemary Church picks up our coverage after a quick break. Do stay with us.