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CNN International: Outmanned and Outgunned, Ukrainians Vow to Fight On; China Accuses Taiwan of Covering Up Death of Chinese Fisherman; House Republicans Defiant After FBI Informant Discredited; Biden Debating Executive Action on Southern Border; Facility Pauses IVF Treatment After Alabama Court Ruling. Aired 4:30-5a ET

Aired February 22, 2024 - 04:30   ET



MAX FOSTER, CNN ANCHOR: Welcome back to CNN NEWSROOM. I'm Max Foster. If you're just joining us, here are some of our top stories today.

We are learning new details about the dual U.S.-Russian citizen detained in Russia on treason charges. Russia's federal security services accuse Ksenia Karelina of collecting money to buy medicine, equipment, weapons and ammunition for Ukraine.

Her employer in Los Angeles says she donated $51 to a Ukrainian charity in the U.S.

Now to the growing international fallout over the death of Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny. The U.K. is slapping sanctions on six individuals from the IK-3 penal colony prison, banning them from traveling to the U.K. and freezing their assets.

Later this week, the U.S. will unveil a new raft of sanctions against Russia intended to hold President Vladimir Putin accountable for his invasion of Ukraine and the death of Navalny. Those sanctions will come just before the second anniversary of Russia's brutal invasion of Ukraine.

Two years into the war, Ukrainian troops are outgunned and they're outnumbered. But as Christiane Amanpour reports, they're not giving up the fight despite the heavy price that they've already paid.


CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CNN CHIEF INTERNATIONAL ANCHOR (voice-over): Snow falls softly on new recruits for the Ukrainian Army 3rd Assault Brigade. Drill sergeants push them through their paces with urgent basic training for the trenches, urban warfare and assault maneuvers. Every woman and man counts now for a battle that seems to have returned to the dire days at the start.

28-year-old Serhii came back from Lithuania to serve two weeks ago despite his health.

AMANPOUR: What's wrong with you? SERHII, UKRAINIAN ARMY RECRUIT: It's asthma. But for right now we need to take our best men and no matter what I will serve my country until the victory.

AMANPOUR (voice-over): The brigade says it's training professional fighters, not cannon fodder like Russia.

Their soldiers helped evacuate survivors of the battle for Avdiivka, where Russia has now raised its flag. But many of their wounded were left behind.

Just watch this video call between a severely injured soldier Ivan and his panic-stricken sister Katerina.

IVAN, UKRAINIAN SOLDIER WHO IS SEVERELY INJURED (translated text): Everyone left, everyone retreated. They told us that a car would pick us up. I have two broken legs, shrapnel in my back. I can't do anything.

KATERINA, SISTER OF IVAN (translated text): Are you there alone or what?

IVAN: No, there are six of us.

AMANPOUR (voice-over): Ivan and his comrades never made it. Ukraine says there was a deal Russia would evacuate them and exchange prisoners. Instead, Russia released video of them dead. The brigade says they were shot.

These are desperate times in Ukraine's fight to survive. They need to replenish the ranks of the dead and injured.

And even here at the Superhumans facility in the western city of Lviv, therapists and prosthetic specialists work around the clock giving these war amputees a second chance and even a return to the front lines.

25-year-old Anastasia Savka is an army sniper. She stepped on a landmine in November near the Zaporizhzhia front and she tells me they are scattered there like snowdrops in spring, like daisies in summer.


We couldn't get out for a long time because we were under very heavy fire, she tells me. To be honest, we were ready to die there. The attacks were so close and we were thinking this was the end.

Olga Rudneva is CEO of this center, which is supported by a Ukrainian businessman and the American philanthropist Howard Buffett. 80 percent of the patients are military, many of them multiple amputees. And that's because, Olga says, the wounded cannot get out of the battle zone during the so-called golden hour to save their limbs.

OLGA RUDNEVA, CEO, SUPERHUMANS: People are evacuated for 10 hours by comrades very often because Russians are shelling our medics. So by the time they arrive at stabilization point, we have to cut them high because of the tourniquets. So that's why we have multiple amputations.

AMANPOUR (voice-over): Not only are they outmanned, they are also outgunned.

The gridlock in Congress over military aid is showing up at the front. And time is not their friend.

We reach Sergeant Mikola, who's also serving now on the Zaporizhzhia front line.

AMANPOUR: Do you have enough weapons? Do you have enough people? Do you have enough ammunition?

AMANPOUR (voice-over): Of course we don't, he says. There is a catastrophic shortage of people, the same with weapons. There aren't enough shells for artillery and tanks or the tanks and artillery themselves.

On a brief hiatus in the rear, they've had to buy their own mortar, small caliber just for self-defense. Problem is, no ammunition.

Anastasia practices perfecting her balance, her endurance, regaining the strength to shoulder her weapons. And she wants to go back to the front.

I think anything is possible, she says. But whatever happens, we all need to fight this together, because the enemy is advancing.

No one wants their children to still be fighting the war they and their parents have been fighting ever since Putin's first invasion a decade ago.

Christiane Amanpour, CNN, Kyiv.


FOSTER: A pro-Russian military blogger has died days after reporting the country's military suffered massive losses during its assault on Avdiivka. Russian media and bloggers are reporting that Andrei Morozov's death was a suicide. He had supported Russia's full-scale invasion of Ukraine and fought alongside Russian troops in the 2022 offensive. But on Tuesday, Morozov said he had been forced to delete a post from his Telegram channel without naming who gave the order.

Meanwhile, Russia's foreign minister is in Rio de Janeiro for the G20 Foreign Minister Summit. Sergey Lavrov didn't speak with his American counterpart during the photo session. It's not clear if he and the U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken will talk at any point during the summit.

They did meet briefly on the sidelines of last year's event, meeting -- well, the meetings do get away in just a few hours.

Search and rescue operations are underway after a cargo ship slammed into a bridge in southern China. At least two people were killed as the collision snapped the bridge in half. According to state media, two vehicles on the bridge fell into the water while three others landed on the ship. Three people are still missing.

We're now hearing differing accounts about what may have happened when a Chinese boat capsized last week, leaving two Chinese fishermen dead.

CNN's Marc Stewart is following both sides of the story from Beijing. Very sensitive issues in these areas, as always. And, of course, two people have died. But the accusations are really flying on this. Just explain the idea of this cover-up.

MARC STEWART, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Right, cover-up is the word that we are hearing from here in Beijing. A cover-up, an accusation made by China toward Taiwan. As you mentioned, we had this incident just a week ago where a boat capsized with a Chinese fishermen on board.

One of the fishermen who survived that incident was speaking to Chinese state television and said that this boat, their boat, the Chinese boat, was hit, it was rammed by a Taiwanese vessel, and that it overturned, it capsized. This was not something that happened by accident.

Yet now we are hearing an account from Taiwan, from the Coast Guard, that says this fisherman vessel from China, it took a sharp turn, and that's what caused it to capsize.

So we are hearing this back and forth, these different accounts. What is clear is that it is contributing to this tension, to this tension off the Taiwan coast near the Kinmen Islands, where we see a lot of sea traffic.


In recent days, we have seen one case where a Taiwanese vessel was basically intercepted, a spot check, if you will, by China, and that's causing a lot of aggravation, a lot of irritation by Taiwan toward China.

In fact, we had some remarks, some response, from the head of Taiwan's Ocean Affairs Council. Let's take a listen to what she had to say.


KUAN BI-LING, HEAD OF TAIWAN'S OCEN AFFAIRS COUNCIL (through translator): When Chinese boats cross into our waters, we know that these boats are not illegal at all, and they have just entered by accident. We would just broadcast warnings and hope that they leave immediately. So we think China boarding and inspecting our boat February 19th has harmed our people's feelings and triggered people's panic.

It was also not in line with the interests of the people across the strait.

(END VIDEO CLIP) STEWART: All right, so this is causing a lot of tension. China is saying that Taiwan needs to severely punish people that were involved with this incident involving the fishing boat. Taiwan, though, has no comment.

Max, adding to all of the tension of this, we have a delegation of U.S. lawmakers currently in Taiwan. The response from China, though, has been very much in line with what we've seen in the past, condemning that visit, saying that the United States really needs to respect the sovereignty of Taiwan.

FOSTER: OK, Mark in Beijing, thank you so much for bringing us that.

Stock traders in Japan will have a long weekend to celebrate the emperor's birthday and a new record high as well for the Nikkei. And look at that, the index crossing 39,000 earlier today, surpassing the previous record. That was back in 1989.

Strong earnings from U.S. chip makers. Nvidia lifted markets across Asia. The Nikkei finished the day more than 2 percent higher at 39,098.

Republicans are rushing to contain the fallout after a key figure in their impeachment investigation against President Biden was indicted for lying. We'll have reaction from Capitol Hill.

Plus, Alabama's Supreme Court has just issued a ruling meant to protect life, which has made it harder for some women in the state to have children. That's just ahead.


FOSTER: In Washington, House Republicans are refusing to back off efforts to impeach US President Joe Biden, insisting there's still plenty of evidence he was involved in a bribery scheme, even though a key informant has now been discredited and charged with lying to the FBI. CNN's Manu Raju has the details.


MANU RAJU, CNN CHIEF CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Republicans defiant in the face of a damning indictment, charging an FBI informant of making up a bribery scheme involving President Biden and his son, Hunter. Allegations central to the impeachment probe into Biden and his family's business dealings.

RAJU: But your promotion of a bribery scheme was false.

REP. JIM JORDAN (R-OH): Not at all. We're looking at the four facts I just gave you. Those facts are true.

RAJU: Was it right to promote a bribery scheme for the president based on that?

[04:45:00] REP. MATT GAETZ (R-FL): Today, we're asking questions to James Biden. So we're going to ask him about some of his business relationships with the child.

RAJU: Was your brother involved in any of your business dealings?

RAJU (voice-over): Behind closed doors today, the president's brother, James Biden, told House investigators that the president never had any involvement in his business activities. All as the GOP is at risk of seeing support for the impeachment effort collapse in the House since they have yet to prove that Biden acted corruptly to assist his family.

REP. JAMIE RASKIN (D-MD): I think it's time for Chairman Comer and the Republicans to fold up the circus tent.

RAJU (voice-over): After 43-year-old Alexander Smirnov was arrested on charges of lying to the FBI and creating false records, he told the FBI that officials associated with Russian intelligence were involved in the false Biden bribery allegations.

And today, special counsel David Weiss asked a judge to keep Smirnov in jail as he awaits trial. Yet it was Smirnov's allegations that Republicans ran with, citing an FBI form known as a 1023 that contained the unverified accusations.

KEVIN MCCARTHY (R-CA), FORMER SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: Even a trusted FBI informant has alleged a bribe to the Biden family.

RAJU (voice-over): A key GOP chairman helping lead the probe, even calling it a smoking gun.

REP. NANCY MACE (R-SC): We already know the president took bribes from Burisma.

REP. JAMES COMER (R-KY): Those allegations are consistent with a pattern that we've seen in Romania and maybe some other countries.

RAJU (voice-over): And Chairman Jim Jordan indicating the informant's allegations were essential.

JORDAN: The most corroborating evidence we have is that 1023 form from this highly credible, confidential human source.

RAJU (voice-over): Today, Jordan downplayed that recent remark.

RAJU: You said the 1023 is the most corroborating piece of information you have.

JORDAN: It corroborates, but it doesn't change those fundamental facts.

RAJU: And it's not true.

RAJU (voice-over): Republicans today criticizing the FBI and DOJ for previously calling Smirnov credible and paying him for information as a circulated talking point, saying the Biden probe has secured more evidence and was not reliant on Smirnov's testimony, even as they removed a reference to the informant in a letter sent to a witness.

RAJU: But what evidence do you have of a bribery scheme now?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We've got lots of evidence, yes.

RAJU (voice-over): Manu Raju, CNN, Capitol Hill.


FOSTER: Sources say the U.S. president is weighing whether to use executive authority to restrict record migration at the border with Mexico, which could be seen as Joe Biden taking a page out of his predecessor's playbook ahead of this year's presidential election. CNN's Priscilla Alvarez explains.


PRISCILLA ALVAREZ, CNN WHITE HOUSE REPORTER: The White House is considering new executive action that would limit the ability of migrants to seek asylum at the U.S.-Mexico border if they crossed it illegally. It's a measure that's reminiscent of the Trump era and one that is sure to face fierce pushback from immigrant advocates and Democrats.

Now, sources tell CNN that the White House is considering invoking an authority in immigration law and applying it to those who cross the border between ports of entry, therefore those who are crossing illegally.

Now, an administration official says that multiple options are being evaluated and no decision has been made.

A White House spokesperson saying in a statement, quote: No executive action, no matter how aggressive, can deliver the significant policy reforms and additional resources Congress can provide and that Republicans rejected. We continue to call on Speaker Johnson and House Republicans to pass the bipartisan deal to secure the border.

The White House there referring to that compromise that was struck in the Senate that included some of the toughest measures on border security in recent memory but was later tanked by Republicans.

Now, President Biden said during those negotiations that he would welcome the authority to shut down the border. While it's unclear what exactly this executive action would look like, it appears to be an extension of some of those negotiations.

Now, it's also important to note that this is a measure that is similar to that of the Trump administration. Former President Donald Trump also tried to shut down the border with a similar authority, but that was challenged in the courts.

This executive action, should the White House move forward with it, will also likely be challenged in court. Priscilla Alvarez, CNN, the White House.


FOSTER: Women in Alabama who want to start families are seeing their options rapidly shrink. Just days after the state Supreme Court declared that frozen embryos are legally children, one health care facility has already paused its in vitro fertilization treatments, leaving its patients and their futures in limbo. Isabel Rosales has those details.


ISABEL ROSALES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: The University of Alabama at Birmingham Health System is now the first organization in the state to confirm that it is pausing IVF treatments in light of the Alabama Supreme Court ruling.

Telling CNN in a statement in part: We are saddened that this will impact our patients' attempt to have a baby through IVF, but we must evaluate the potential that our patients and our physicians could be prosecuted criminally or face punitive damages for following the standard of care for IVF treatments.


Now, it's important to note that the Alabama Supreme Court looked at strictly civil lawsuits here, not criminal cases, although certainly critics worry that that is where this will go next, if not in Alabama, then elsewhere.

The Alabama Medical Association also warned that other health systems will likely follow the lead of UAB.

Reproductive rights advocates are warning that this is going to have huge implications, this ruling will have huge implications on IVF going forward, making it less accessible and more costly to patients, and that it could skyrocket liability costs, and also force patients to consider lifelong storage fees for embryos, frozen embryos, that they might not even want.

Now, I spoke with Gabrielle Goidel, who is an Alabama woman undergoing her first cycle of IVF after three miscarriages. She decided that this was the route. She tells me she is terrified at this news and is confused over what happens next.

GABBY GOIDEL, DIAGNOSED WITH UNEXPLAINED GENETIC INFERTILITY: I'm wondering what they would like me to do with those.

Do they want me to implant an embryo that I know is not going to make it? Do they want me to donate them? Or do they want me to keep them frozen indefinitely?

ROSALES: Goidel tells me that she is considering leaving the state, depending on what happens next with her clinic.

Isabel Rosales, CNN, Atlanta.


FOSTER: The head of Boeing's 77 Max division has been replaced effectively immediately, according to an internal memo obtained from the company.

It comes amid intense scrutiny of the plane's production after a series of accidents. The most recent happened in January when a door plug blew out soon after an Alaskan Airlines flight took off, leaving a massive opening in the side of the plane. Boeing also shuffled other executives, creating a new position overseeing quality of commercial airplanes.

Messi mania in full swing after a season-opening win for Inter Miami. More on his promising start to the new season after a quick break.


FOSTER: Lionel Messi's first full season in Major League Soccer is officially finally underway.

Messi wowed fans as Inter Miami won 2-0 against Real Salt Lake. That was on Wednesday night. Although the superstar didn't find the back of the net, he assisted with the club's first goal and helped orchestrate the second -- late in the second half.

American tennis star Coco Gauff will advance to the Dubai quarterfinals after overcoming her Czech opponent, Karolina Pliskova. And also the chair umpire following a highly contentious second set point, Gauff's serve was in, but he called it out incorrectly. Rather than award Gauff the point, the umpire asked that she replay it.

He also denied her request to speak with a tour supervisor. The exchange lasted almost four and a half minutes. Gauff went on to win the match.

NFL star Travis Kelce is celebrating his Super Bowl win with a trip to Australia. It's no coincidence that his girlfriend, Taylor Swift, is playing a few concerts in Sydney. A video showing the couple walking around the city's zoo earlier today.


Meanwhile, fans are already lining up ahead of Swift's Friday concert. She'll play four shows in Sydney before heading on to Singapore. The European leg of her Eras tour begins May 9th in Paris with shows across the continent until the end of August.

Now to the stories in the spotlight.

London's famous BT Tower is getting a makeover and will soon become a hotel. The iconic building was sold to MCR Hotels for nearly $350 million.

Originally designed as a telecommunications center 60 years ago, it was closed to the public after a bombing in 1971. Then in 2009, an LED screen allowed the landmark to display messages including a countdown to London's 2012 Olympics and the late Queen's first tweet as well. Ten years ago -- I was there for that. It is truly a spectacular view from the top.

Britain's King Charles has been seen at work for the first time since his cancer diagnosis. The King met with British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak at Buckingham Palace on Wednesday afternoon.

Earlier this month, the palace announced the 75-year-old monarch was diagnosed with an undisclosed form of cancer. He has stopped carrying out public engagements while he seeks treatment but the palace says he will continue with his duties as head of state. But he looked pretty well.

If you're sick of life here on Earth, now's your chance to see if you can survive on Mars. The U.S. space agency NASA is calling for applications to join its second simulated mission to the red planet. Four volunteer crew members will live and work in a 3D-printed Mars habitat for a full year.

The project will give NASA a sense of how astronauts deal with the pressures and stresses of deep space. The crew will grow crops, exercise and go on simulated spacewalks. They'll deal with communications delays, equipment failures, limited resources and, as you can see, pretty tight living quarters.

The lunar lander Odysseus is nearing its final approach to the Moon. It's scheduled to land near the Moon's south pole in about 12 hours. The craft is the size of a phone booth and will be the first U.S. vehicle to land on the Moon in more than 50 years.

This animation shows just how tricky landing can be. The craft must slow its speed by about 1,800 meters per second in order to gently touch down on the Moon's surface.

Thanks for joining me here on Earth on CNN NEWSROOM. I'm Max Foster in London. "EARLY START" with Kasie is next here on CNN.