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Connect the World

Confirmation Hearings Underway for Biden's Supreme Court Pick; Ukraine: "Bombs Falling Every 10 Minutes" in Mariupol; U.N.: 10 Million People have Fled their Homes in Ukraine; Kremlin Ramps Up Propaganda Offensive as Invasion Stalls; Oil Price Chaos Shifts Ties Between Saudi Arabia, UAE & U.S.; China Doubles Down on Zero-COVID Policy as Cases Surge. Aired 11a-12p ET

Aired March 21, 2022 - 11:00   ET



BECKY ANDERSON, CNN HOST, CONNECT THE WORLD: And this hour imagine what it feels like to hear the thought of bombs every 10 minutes. Well, that is

what residents in the besieged city of Mariupol are experiencing right now. I'm Becky Anderson. Hello and welcome back to "Connect the World".

Our coverage of the very real and very frightening impacts of the Russian invasion of Ukraine continues in a moment. First, though, I just want to

get you to what is an historic Supreme Court confirmation hearing set to begin any moment now in the U.S. Senate.

Ketanji Brown Jackson is the first black woman ever nominated to America's highest court. These are the images live for you. We will keep an eye on

that hearing bring you the key early moments as soon as we get them.

Well, with relentless Russian attacks and an ominous warning people in the Ukrainian Capital are again being told to stay at home a new curfew in Kyiv

just three hours from now that will run through Wednesday morning.

Here's a look at why officials want people off the streets? A shopping mall destroyed as Russia hits civilian sites the mall was in a Northwestern

District of the Capital. At least eight people were killed, while vulnerable to tank and missile attacks. So far the Ukrainian military has

been able to keep Russian troops from penetrating the Kyiv City Center.

In its latest intelligence update the British Defense Ministry says Russia will now try to encircle it. Well, Russia has also struck a number of

apartment buildings in Kyiv the strikes, compounding the misery for people trying to go about their lives as best they can. CNN's Frederik Pleitgen is

in the capital he walks us through the damage from what is this latest attack.


FREDERIK PLEITGEN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (on camera): This area of key was hit overnight into Monday. And certainly the munitions'

that was used here seems to be absolutely massive. We go forward, we can see over there is a mall and the parking lot of the mall where you can

clearly see a gigantic impact crater right in the middle of that parking lot.

Also, there are buildings around it that tall building absolutely destroyed in that entire mall complex. And the buildings around here a lot of them

were badly damaged as well. What we're hearing from the city council here in Kyiv is they say that so far, they know of eight people who have been

killed in this explosion and several buildings of course damage including a school and a kindergarten as well.

What's not clear is what exactly the military objective of all of this may have been. There certainly doesn't seem to be any military infrastructure

close to here, or at least we haven't seen any. And also, this appears to be very much a civilian area.

One of the things that we found very remarkable here is we are currently on the 11th floor of a building that is pretty far away from the explosion.

But we found this piece of shrapnel, this piece of shrapnel we did not find that here on the front of the building. This went through this entire

apartment and was then found in the hallway when through the front door.

And of course, this would have been extremely deadly for anybody who was in its path. The people who live here told us they bought this place about

three months ago. It's a new building. Luckily, they weren't here when the explosion took place.

But if we pan down we can see the destruction that was brought by all of this, obviously, a lot of glass that was broken whole windows blown out and

of course anybody who would have been laying in this bed in the bedroom would have been in severe danger of massive injuries and possibly death,

especially with so much shrapnel flying around.

This is very much part of the current ongoing battle for Kyiv. The U.S. and its allies say the Russians are not making much progress in that battle and

certainly increasingly using heavy weaponry that every once in a while certainly does land in civilian areas, Fred Pleitgen, CNN Kyiv Ukraine.


ANDERSON: And more from Ukraine in a moment. As I promise we're keeping eye confirmation hearings which are now getting underway in the U.S. Capitol

for the President's Supreme Court Nominee. If confirmed Ketanji Brown Jackson would be the first Black Woman to serve on the highest U.S. court.

Let's just listen in to what are the opening statements.

SEN. DICK DURBIN (D-IL): --Capitol to sit down if you refuse, you'll be escorted. Let me be clear, we will not tolerate any - audience any

disruption will result in immediate removal. I also asked that our audience be respectful of the members of the - here today to ensure everyone's

safety with that - opening statements.

Judge Jackson, as I said, again, for being here today with your family and - the Supreme Court has a long and storied history - and been filled by

many superb justices whose contribution - the rule of law has stood the test of time.

But the reality is that the courts members in one - have never really reflected the nation they served. When the Supreme Court met for the very

first time of 1790 in the Exchange building - there were nearly 700,000 slaves with - bipartisanship in this new nation of nearly 4 million.


DURBIN: Neither African Americans nor - right to vote. There was no equal justice for a majority of people living in America. It's more than 230

years the Supreme Court has had - justices 108 have been white men - two justices have been men of color - have served on the court and just one

woman of color.

Justice has been a black woman - you - can be the first. It's not easy being first. And you have to be the best. In some ways, the bravest - are

not prepared to face that kind of heat, that kind of scrutiny that are of the national spotlight.

But your presence here today - as to brave this process will give inspiration to millions of who see themselves in you. As I mentioned to you

- I was steps in the Supreme Court this morning to see the rally and there were so many young African American women - there seeing your pursuit as

another important wage, though the nominees have come before us, President Biden - because he knew your qualifications are outstanding.

You have appeared three previous times - confirmed the bipartisan support and your professional experience tell us what kind of lawyer.

ANDERSON: And as the Senate hearings begin let's just take a look back to her career. And what we can expect from these hearings. This is CNN's Paula



JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: My nominee for the United States Supreme Court is Judge Ketanji Jackson.

PAULA REID, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice over): President Biden nominated Ketanji Brown Jackson last month to replace retiring Justice Stephen Brier,

a mentor for whom she even served as a law clerk.

KETANJI BROWN JACKSON, U.S. SUPREME COURT JUSTICE NOMINEE: Justice Brier the members of the Senate will decide if I fill your seat. But please know

that I could never fill your shoes.

REID (voice over): Jackson graduated from Harvard, both undergraduate and law school and became a judge on the federal district court in Washington

D.C. beginning in 2013. If confirmed, she would not only be the first black woman on the court, but also the only current Justice with significant

experience working in criminal defense.

JACKSON: I had the privilege of serving as a Federal Public Defender. Thank you.

REID (voice over): Since her nomination, she has been meeting one on one with lawmakers on Capitol Hill.

JACKSON: I'm not here on a mission to destroy the Affordable Care Act's.

REID (voice over): Recent Supreme Court confirmation hearings have been marked by partisan divides and contentious exchanges.

SEN. AMY KLOBUCHAR (D-MN): You're saying there's never been a case where you drank so much that you didn't remember what happened the night before a

part of what happened.

SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY): That's you're asking about - I don't know. Have you?

REID (voice over): Republican Minority Leader Mitch McConnell signaled this time around the GOP his focus will be on Jackson's approach to the law.

MCCONNELL: She's clearly a sharp lawyer with an impressive resume and both when it comes to the Supreme Court a core qualification is judicial


REID (voice over): Republican Josh Hawley, who sits on the Judiciary Committee, has attacked Jackson as not being tough enough on sex offenders.

And President Biden's campaign pledge to nominate a black woman to the court has drawn criticism from some Republicans. Jackson pushback when

asked by Republican Senator John Cornyn last year about the role race plays in her work.

JACKSON: I don't think that race plays a role in the kind of judge that I have been in that I would be. I've experienced life in perhaps a different

way than some of my colleagues because of whom I am. And that might be valuable.

REID (voice over): Even before Jackson became a judge she tackled inequities in the criminal justice system. As Vice Chair on the U.S.

Sentencing Commission, Jackson and the six other members decided unanimously to lower federal drug sentences.

JACKSON: I say justice demands this result.

REID (voice over): The reductions had a wide ranging impact. They were retroactive, meaning 30,000 federal prisoners had their sentences lowered.

Her own family's experience in the criminal justice system could also provide long lines of questioning today.

JACKSON: You may have read that I have one uncle who got caught up in the drug trade and received a life sentence that is true.


JACKSON: But law enforcement also runs in my family. In addition to my brother, I had two uncles who served decades as police officers, one of

whom became the police chief in my hometown of Miami, Florida.

REID: President Obama commuted the sentence of her Uncle Thomas Brown in 2016, after she referred his case to a prominent law firm to handle the

clemency petition.

JACKON: The more experiences that can be brought to bear on our complex legal problems the better.


ANDERSON: And that was Paula Reid reporting and we will bring you Judge Jackson's statement as soon as that happens. We are following developments

in Ukraine and CNN has learned that bombs are falling every 10 minutes in Mariupol that is according to a Ukrainian officer.

The Russian shelling is so intense that funerals while they're simply not possible in the southern port city instead, the people there are digging

graves by the roadside and in the streets, but they are certainly not giving up.

Despite a Kremlin ultimatum to surrender that deadline from Moscow has come and gone. So why is the Kremlin so keen to control this southern port city?

Well, it is a strategic port that lies on a stretch of coast, connecting Donbas in Eastern Ukraine with the Crimean peninsula.

If it falls to Russian forces they would be able to create a land corridor between these two key strategic regions. Well, CNN's Ivan Watson following

developments live this hour from Dnipro. And some context here for the viewers the City of Mariupol before the war, of course, was home to 450,000


It's been under near constant attacks since early March and this Russian deadline for officials to surrender there has now passed. Is it clear what

happens next, Ivan?

IVAN WATSON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: It seems there's no end to the fighting certainly both officials inside Mariupol and the

national government in Kyiv both rejected the ultimatum which was issued last night by Russia's Defense Ministry which said that it would provide

guarantees to anybody who laid down their arms and left with a ceasefire proposed at 9:30 am local time, today.

We're hearing from fighters Ukrainian fighters inside Mariupol who say they are continuing to resist against this week's long Russian siege. We heard

from one of those Ukrainian commanders in a video message that he sent CNN on Thursday. Why don't I play a little bit of that for you right now?


MAJOR DENIS PROKOPENKO, UKRAINIAN NATIONAL GUARD AZOZ REGIMENT: People are cooking food in the streets risking their lives is under the continuous

challenge and bombing as the temperature is minus five degrees Celsius in the street, killing the civilian. The amount of work since grows every day.

Now it is more than 3000.

But nobody knows the exact amount because people are buried together in the same dump with no names. Many bodies just outside the streets without being

buried, some of people are under the ruined buildings buried to life.

Ukrainian army is trying to help civilians with food and water. But it's not enough. There are no safety places for people in Mariupol as missiles

are the enemy attacking the houses and people are dying there.


WATSON: Now, a lot of those accounts that that commander was describing match what we've heard from civilians who've successfully escaped Russia's

siege. In the last half hour we've received an update from those officers deputy commander who claimed that in the last 24 hours the Ukrainians had

destroyed two Russian tanks killed 17 Russian troops and even sunk an enemy raptor boat in the Sea of Azov there.

We cannot independently confirm there. But it does sound like Mariupol's Ukrainian defenders are still defiant. The toll on the civilian population

of this siege is catastrophic, Becky.

ANDERSON: Yes, and you're in Dnipro where people fleeing Mariupol have been seeking shelter. I mean, how are they describing what they've been through?

And are they finding safety where you are?

WATSON: People I've interviewed who left on Thursday in a convoy of civilian private vehicles described living in hell that one by one services

disappeared as the Russian artillery and rocket and airstrikes pounded the city more and more.


WATSON: So they lost their internet and cell phone connections. They lost electricity, they lost heat, and then they lost running water. And all of

this time residents were taking shelter hiding in the basements of their buildings as the buildings above increasingly were destroyed by the

incoming fire coming from Russia.

Residents described resorting to collecting rainwater or sewer water and trying to boil it to ensure that it didn't make them sick; described

looting stores that had been damaged by Russian artillery fire, because they were so desperate for some kind of food.

And then one man himself he said that he was waiting in line for water at one place when a shell hit and killed three men in front of him. And then

he said that he helped himself dig a grave for those men in the courtyard of his own building so just a terrifying situation that people described.

And then they did manage to escape but everybody I talked to had parents or grandparents that stayed behind that have occasionally been able to get

messages or phone calls out. In one case, a mother calling her daughter here in Dnipro, which is relatively safe in comparison, weeping and crying

because she was convinced she would not survive the night saying goodbye to her daughter, Becky.

ANDERSON: It is unbelievable. Ivan, thank you very much indeed. Well, while the Russian assault continues and as Ivan so adroitly explaining their

suffering, deepening in Ukraine, Western leaders are holding a series of crisis talks. Right now U.S. President Joe Biden scheduled to be on a call

with the Heads of France, Italy, Germany and the UK. He will actually see them in person, in Brussels later this week.

European Union Ministers for Defense and Diplomacy have been meeting today. We should hear from the EU Foreign Policy Chief next hour. And we are

getting some lines out of the EU. CNN's Nic Robertson following this for us from Brussels so what do we know at this point?

I mean, clearly, this is a massive week for diplomacy Joe Biden will be in Europe this week. I mean, this is about trying to find a solution and if

not ratcheting up the efforts against Moscow at this point. What do we have?

NIC ROBERTSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL DIPLOMIC EDITOR: Yes, big week and a big day Thursday, when the President Biden will be here. He'll meet with

leaders of NATO nations will meet with the leaders of G7 nations and he'll meet with the EU Council Leaders, there leaders of the EU nations as well

all in one day.

So that is a huge day. But this week is big, as you said Foreign Minister; Defense Ministers meeting today to talk about the humanitarian support the

military support the political support for Ukraine at the moment.

Gabrielius Landsbergis, the Lithuanian Foreign Minister, on his way into that meeting spoke about the importance of continuing the effort to find a

way to support the Ukrainians. This is what he said.


GABRIELIUS LANDSBERGIS, LITHUANIAN FOREIGN MINISTER: To remind ourselves that Europe cannot look or give an impression of fatigue, when the war in

Ukraine has not ended. We cannot get tired, imposing sanctions, we cannot get tired, offering assistance and help to Ukraine who have to take very

seriously Ukraine's request to start candidacy process to EU. And there is this feeling in the room that we would like to sit down and take a breath.


ROBERTSON: So I think you get a sense here that there's a parallel between what's happening on in Ukraine where the Russian forces are stalling in

essence, you know, some military analysts, the Pentagon in the UK as well, British Ministry of Defense is saying that there's a sort of a stalemate

emerging to a degree in some parts of Ukraine.

And I think there's a mirror to it here in the EU as well, this pause for breath that Landsbergis talks about there this idea that, you know, all

these sanctions have been placed. But it's not time to give up. This is not time to stall the effort. This is a time to continue.

And the question is, of course, what can the European Union and NATO and the G7 unite around and that'll be President Biden's focus when he gets

here later in the week.


ROBERTSON: The maximum list version of all that would be what we've been hearing from the Polish Prime Minister who's saying there should be a

complete embargo against Russia to stop all trade by land by sea to Russia at this time now, you won't get buy in from all EU nations on that.

But that's gets to the essence of what Landsbergis is saying; this is not the time to give up. This is a time to keep working and keep trying

specifically on the sanctions.

ANDERSON: Yes, Nic Robertson's reporting, what can be done to relieve the suffering of Ukrainians? Diplomats, certainly, once again discuss that as

they meet this week in Brussels, where we see the dangers Ukrainians are facing every day under Russian bombardment.

The people trying to bring them aid also putting their lives on the line. We are live next in Poland near the border as volunteers gather supplies

there. And Russia ramps up its propaganda campaign at home to hide the atrocities its military is committing in Ukraine, more after this.


ANDERSON: Well, it's been nearly a month since Russia began dropping bombs across Ukraine It is day 26. And in that time, the U.N. says 10 million

people have been forced to flee their homes more than a third of them are seeking refuge in other countries.

Many of those still living inside Ukraine are in urgent need of humanitarian aid but delivering that aid is becoming increasingly difficult

as this conflict rages on.

Melissa Bell joining us now live from Poland near the border with Ukraine where you've been looking at the logistics the challenges that aid workers

face in ensuring that the aid gets to people who need it most. And let's be quite clear, the people of Ukraine are in desperate need at this point.

MELISSA BELL, CNN PARIS CORRESPONDENT: It is a country that is increasingly and now almost entirely dependent on foreign aid given those disruptions in

the supply chains inside given the destruction of so many of the country's cities given the displacement, displacement of those 10 million.

More than 2 million of those of course I've come across the border here into Poland. I mean, I think of all the neighboring countries Becky, this

is the one that has been sucked into affected by the conflicts.

Most of all, because of its proximity, geographical, because of its history, as well as Lviv off rule was part of Poland. The border was porous

at the best of time. And the effort being made here by Polish people to welcome their Ukrainian friends, brothers, as they call them has really

been quite extraordinary.

They filled in the gaps of NGOs in the very early days and more recently, of governments and EU organizations. I just want to show you down this

corridor. There are a couple of rooms Becky, in which women and children are kept when they can't be when beds can't be found at other ones.

And what we've witnessed in the last few days is some of the humanitarian aid gets brought here to give immediate help to those who arrive at this

train station here at Przemysl, one of many Polish stations through which they've been coming.


BELL: But the other thing that's been heading out of potage, even as these refugees have been heading in is, of course, all the aid that is headed

within inside the country, a country that is so dependent on it more and more dependent on it, even as the aid becomes more and more difficult to

deliver, Becky.


BELL (voice over): From all over the world, boxes of donations, food, medicine and clothing, now piled high and being sorted by volunteers in a

disused warehouse at the Polish town of Przemysl, not far from the border of Ukraine.

KATARYNA GORZALA, VOLUNTEER MANAGING AID WAREHOUSE: At the beginning, I was really surprised that so many people wants to help. But now I think I am

used to it, you know how wonderful people are.

BELL (voice over): Donations that Ukraine desperately needs, loaded into vans to be taken to the border, and then into the war torn country. The

land routes from Europe are now Ukraine's lifeline, the main roads humanitarian organizations use to bring in their much needed supplies.

And they are far from saving. One Ukrainian driver, we didn't want to be identified sharing some of his drive and telling us of several cliches.

PRANAV SHERRY, PROJECT HOPE: I think we've kind of seen that civilian targets are not off limits in this crisis. And so that's a constant issue

in the back of in most humanitarians minds is how do we how do we deal with the potential risk of directed attack? How do we ensure that our aid is

seen as separate from as we know all of the military aid that's going into Ukraine?

BELL (voice over): Last week, Russia delivered a chilling warning.

SERGEY LAVROV, RUSSIAN FOREIGN MINISTER: While we clearly said that any cargo moving into Ukrainian territory, which we would believe is carrying

weapons, would be a fair game.

BELL (voice over): On Thursday, the United Nations got its first convoy of aid into the heavily damaged town of Sui, calling it a breakthrough for

cities facing "fatal shortages of food, water and medicine".

And as the violence worsens, the need for medical supplies to help the wounded continues to grow as does the west's determination to help,

President Joe Biden signing $13.6 billion worth of aid only last week.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The bottleneck is not funds because there has been a great deal of solidarity and generosity. So we now really need to step up

the operational response inside the country.

BELL (voice over): In the knowledge that the longer the conflict lasts, and the more the aid is needed, the more dangerous it will become to deliver.


BELL: Becky, humanitarian agencies are all too aware of these dangers of the difficulties that are likely only to increase. I think one of the great

privileges that we've had being here on the Polish border is that outpouring of solidarity, how the NGOs have come here, very quickly to get

themselves organized, not only to help all of those fleeing the violence, but to try and get what help they can into a conflict that is really being

followed by the entire world, Becky.

ANDERSON: Yes, 10 million displaced inside the country three and a half million, finding refuge outside, so many of them passing through the area

that you are in as they seek refuge and shelter. Thank you.

Still ahead tonight, the Kremlin's altered reality the lies Russians are seeing and hearing about their president's war that is up next.



ANDERSON: A U.S. defense official says Russia has launched more than 1100 missiles at Ukraine since the start of its invasion 26 days ago. Ukraine's

Capitol Kyiv set to go under another curfew.

In a couple of hour's softer, more deadly attacks there, a missile destroyed a shopping mall earlier killing at least eight people. The curfew

begins in two and a half hours and runs through Wednesday morning local time, while the besieged city of Mariupol poll enduring more brutal


Officials they're rejecting a Russian deadline to surrender. The city Ukrainian officer there tells CNN bombs are falling every 10 minutes.

Russia's invasion of Ukraine has a very different look; it has to be said at home.

The Kremlin doing everything it can to cover up the brutality of President Vladimir - President Vladimir Putin's war by waging a fierce propaganda

campaign. But as Nic Robertson now tells us, not everyone in Russia is buying in and a warning folks his report does contain some graphic images.


ROBERTSON (voice over): As President Putin slaughter in Ukraine stalls, his offensive at home to hide its brutality is ramping up marking as enemies

Russians who don't buy the Kremlin's propaganda.

VLADIMIR PUTIN, RUSSIAN PRESIDENT: The Russian people especially are able to distinguish true patriots from bastards and traitors and will spit them

out like a gnat that accidentally flew into their mouths.

ROBERTSON (voice over): What is coming out of the mouths of Putin state media propagandists is a full throated defense of Russia's killing of

Ukrainian civilians, falsely claiming Ukraine started the war that civilians are being used as human shields.

Putin's Kremlin cronies double down on the lie; blame the U.S. and Europe for the civilian deaths.

MARIA ZAHKAROVA, RUSSIAN FOREIGN MINISTRY SPOKESWOMAN: The Russian armed forces do not bomb cities. This is well known to everyone. No matter how

many videos are edited in NATO, no matter how many clips and fake photos are thrown in.

ROBERTSON (voice over): Yet an indication how flimsy the Kremlin may fear its fabrications are, Putin held a rare rally, seemingly seeking to Scotch

concerns of amounting casualties and low morale among soldiers.

PUTIN: Their boys are fighting in this operation, shoulder to shoulder shielding one another with their bodies on the battlefield. We haven't had

this unity for a long time.

ROBERTSON (voice over): For many Russians knowing fact from Kremlin fiction is getting impossible. His heavy handed riot police routinely drag anti-war

protesters off the streets. Draconian new laws banned criticism of the war, Max penalty 15 years in jail.

Access to Facebook and Twitter restricted. And since the war began, Russia's few remaining independent media outlets have been shut down,

including TV Rain, whose viewership rocketed news director and anchor Ekaterina Kotrikadze, fled for safety.

EKATERINA KOTRIKADZE, TV RAIN NEWS DIRECTOR AND ANCHOR: There are many people, a lot of people, millions of Russians, who understand that

something terrible is going on and who understand that they need this alternative sources of information.

ROBERTSON (voice over): Not all dissent is stifled News Editor Marina Ovsyannikova took her anti-war protests Prime Time on the Kremlin's most

popular propaganda machine, Channel One and was quickly convicted of organizing a public event.


MARINA OVSYANNIKOVA, EDITOR, CHANNEL ONE: I have been working on Channel One and doing Kremlin propaganda. And now I am very ashamed of it. That is

a shame that I allowed lies to come from the TV screens, a shame that I help zombify Russian people.

ROBERTSON (voice over): The Real News, the news we'll see have the lost and shattered lives of terrified civilians, of millions forced to flee bombed

out homes, is barely getting through to Russians, give Putin more time. And you'll try to shut them off completely. Nic Robertson, CNN, London.


ANDERSON: I want to bring in Atika Shubert today covering all things Russia, for us. And have a listen to what President Zelenskyy told CNN

earlier, Atika.


VOLODYMYR ZELENSKYY, UKRAINIAN PRESIDENT: I am ready for negotiations - I was ready over the last two years. And I think that I think that without

negotiations, we cannot end this war. But if these attempts fail, that would mean that this is a third world war.


ANDERSON: Question is, is President Putin ready to sit down with him, Atika? Is it clear?

ATIKA SHUBERT, JOURNALIST: Well, this isn't the first time that we've heard this from Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, saying he's willing to

start direct talks immediately. But we haven't heard anything directly from Russian President Vladimir Putin.

What we have heard is from his spokesperson Dmitry Peskov, according to toss, that's the Russian affiliated state news agency. He seemed to

indicate that there wasn't enough substance to ongoing negotiations.

He did thank mediators such as Turkey and Israel for attempting to get some sort of talks going between the two presidents. But he said that those

mediators still needed to get Ukraine to cooperate.

That's the way the task news agency put it. So I don't think there is much possibility of direct talks happening. But that doesn't stop the Ukrainian

president from continuing to try.

Zelenskyy has repeatedly said that the only way to end this is for some sort of direct talks with President Putin. But that doesn't seem to be

likely to happen in the near future, Becky.

ANDERSON: Atika Schubert on the story for us. Thank you. Well, ahead on this show the aftermath of Sunday's attacks on multiple facilities in Saudi

Arabia, what the kingdom says about any price increase in global oil prices as a result, that is coming up.



ANDERSON: Saudi Arabia says it will not be held responsible for any possible oil supply shortage after its oil facilities were attacked on

Sunday. State run media reported Houthi militia in Yemen launched missiles at multiple facilities across the kingdom, including an Aramco distribution

plant and a water desalination plant.

Now the Saudis say the attack represents a direct threat to oil supplies in what are these very sensitive times. Those you know, Saudi Arabia is a big

oil producer along with the UAE where I am.

It has the spare production capacity that might help or could help ease market pressures if the west decides to forego Russian energy. But since

the start of Russia's war on Ukraine, Washington, erstwhile partners in this region have adopted a more nuanced stance towards certainly Ukraine

and Russia.

The UAE holds a rotating seat on the U.N. Security Council abstain from a vote condemning Russia's attack at the beginning of the war. It did later

vote to condemn Russia's actions, though in a non-binding vote at the U.N. General Assembly.

But what is clear is that places like Abu Dhabi are charting their own foreign policy path that the UAEs Foreign Minister Sheikh Abdullah bin

Zayed recently visited Moscow, for example.

And over the weekend, this picture, it's a picture that tells 1000 words that Syria's President Bashar Al Assad, visiting Dubai and Abu Dhabi over

this weekend, it's Mr. Assad's first trip to an Arab nation since the Syrian uprising in 2011.

Now the U.S. is not happy about this visit calling it and I'll quote here, "an apparent attempt to legitimize the Syrian leader who is responsible for

the death and suffering of countless Syrians".

Well, to understand all of this a bit deeper, Abdulkhaleq Abdulla is a Professor of Political Science at UAE University, joins me live from Dubai.

And it's good to have you on and important to have you on at this point.

The UAE is describing the visit of Bashar Al Assad, as important in strengthening Arab security at this point. What's the UAE's positioning

here, sir?

ABDULKHALEQ ABDULLA, PROFESSOR OF POLITICAL SCIENCE, UAE UNIVERSITY: Hi, Becky, and thanks for having me. I think the UAE probably understand how

agonizing morally this kind of visit by Assad to any capital. After all, he is responsible for so many atrocities. So morally, maybe there is an issue


But we have to look at this visit from a political from a human material perspective, both ways. I think the UAE is in this effort to help the

Syrian people. There is million Syrian who are refugees, and they need to go back home and they need to their towns and cities.

And I think the UAE is probably driven by this aspect of the relationship. But there is also the political aspect to this, Becky. And that has to do

with the fact that Assad is here to stay, Assad is not going to go away anytime soon.

He has already won this civil war he has already in control of 80 percent of Syria. And I think time has come not just for the UAE but for the entire

Arab States to bring Syria back to the Arab League. I think this is the - this is the politics behind it, Becky.

ANDERSON: Yes, and as the Russian invasion of Ukraine, quite frankly, dominates the headlines. So there is an awful lot going on behind the

scenes in this region, not least this visit. But also there is a there is a prism through which this region, of course is seeing the wider story that

is so pressing in the headlines at present.

The Emirati Foreign Minister Abdullah bin Zayed in Moscow last week meeting with his Russian counterpart. Now as I understand it, they discussed

bringing Syria back into the fold, as well as oil production. What is the Moscow lens here in the UAE at present and what's the significance?

ABDULLA: Well, we have a good relationship with Russia. Not only we, but we are talking about the Arab Gulf States too. And most of its centers around

the energy oil market and oil demand and we are part of the OPEC plus. And the deal on oil is always important to Russia to UAE to major oil



ABDULLA: And I think the visit probably has gone to clarify the fact that we are not on our bond, when it comes to Oreo market, we have to discuss

any increase in production with the key partners.

And once the key partners, of course special, this is for the stability of the oil market, without it probably we're going to have, you know, a wild

oil market. So I think that is one of the important aspects to this visit by Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed.

But I think we also have that in mind, also a role and mediator of a sort, to maybe come and play some kind of a calming down the tension between

Ukraine and Russia, we are in a good position to do that, although we're not asked to do it.

But we are offering that kind of a role. We have an excellent relationship with Russia, good relationship with Ukraine. So maybe this falls into that,

Becky. And I think immediately after Sheikh Abdullah came back, he was on the phone, calling the foreign minister of Ukraine to brief him on this. So

this is something also in the making. Hopefully, we will be in a position to mediate between these two.

ANDERSON: And certainly there have been consistent calls for de-escalation and diplomacy from the U.N., the UAE Ambassador to the U.N. who holds the

revolving presidency, at present.

Look, I want to bring these strands together to a certain extent because the only two trips that Bashar Al Assad has made during this more than 10

year civil war have been to Moscow and to Tehran.

Now in the wake of his visit, here, the U.S. issued a severe rebuke to Abu Dhabi relations with the U.S. are at a real low. They've been described,

perhaps generously, by the UAE's Ambassador to Washington as stressed.

I think it's important that you explain why things have gotten so bad, and what the consequences might be, because we see this action behind the

scenes by the UAE. So we will be - the message is this is about regional security going forward with or without the support of the United States,


ABDULLA: OK, well, I think we hear that Washington is upset and disappointed that we heard it loud and clear from different of American

officials. But we are also upset and maybe disappointed with America on many fronts, Becky.

And let me just go a little back into history. It was American inaction Syria, Americans not holding to the red line. Remember the Obama red line;

it was that kind of an action which prolonged the Assad regime.

So the blame probably goes both ways. And if they are upset, they once were definitely upset with American inaction when it comes to Syria, they did

not come to the help of the Syrian people at the time when America could have done something.

So you know, being upset is fine, disappointed is fine between friends and partners. But looking at the relationship, how deep it is how long this

relation is, this is a strategic that is a massive, so we need to get beyond our - or disappointed limit, because there is a bunch of real,

tangible, mutual interest that governs this relationship, and that what matters the most.

And that's where probably our ambassador in Washington, which has a fast network of friends, is working at it at the moment.

ANDERSON: Sir, it's good to have you on your, your analysis. Your insight is extremely important as we continue to report on what is going on this

region and its influence, its significance around the world.

Thank you very much indeed. Well, just days after returning home to the UK from Iran, where she spent six years in detention, British Iranian aid

worker Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe is now speaking out. She posed a big question for the British government. Why didn't it secure her release

sooner? Take a listen.


NAZANIN ZAGHARI-RATCLIFFE, BRITISH-IRANIAN AID WORKER FREED FROM IRAN: I was told many, many times that oh, we're going to get you home. That never

happened. So there was a time that I felt like do you know what I'm like? No, I'm not going to trust you.

Because I've been told many, many times that I'm going to be taken home, but that never happened, I mean how many foreign secretaries does it take

for someone to go out, five. It should have been one of them eventually. So now here we are. What's happened now should have happened six years ago.



ANDERSON: Zaghari-Ratcliffe returned to the UK last Thursday after Britton repaid, an historic debt of more than $500 million to Iran dating back

decades. She was convicted of plotting to overthrow the Iranian government charges she has denied.

Well, despite years of her family campaigning for her release, she stressed that justice will not be served until all jewel nationals detained in Iran

are released. We're taking a very short break back after this.


ANDERSON: Well, China reported more than 4000 new COVID-19 cases on Sunday. And as CNN's David Culver reports the severe uptick in infections is

putting Beijing's zero COVID policy to the test.


DAVID CULVER, CNN CORRESPONDENT (VOICE OVER): China battling its biggest surge in COVID cases since the original outbreak in Wuhan. In Shandong

university students seen in long lines for mandatory COVID tests.

At a trade fair in --, thousands of people seem trying to escape a snap lock down some hopping fences after just a single positive case was found

among the crowd.

Two years into the pandemic, China is still striving to maintain a zero COVID policy. To do so, authorities trace positive cases using big data and

surveillance, any sort of privacy often sacrificed for health safety.

Take this recent case in Beijing, CNN spoke with this woman Qiao Jing seen here stepping onto her office elevator. CNN is masking the identities of

everyone around her.

But Qiao says building management following government guidance release the surveillance footage unedited because they say there was a positive case on

the elevator at the same time to track down everyone, they circulated the images. Qiao says even those inside the elevator hours before and hours

after, we're like her considered close contacts. She told us all of them now quarantined for 21 days.

QIAO JING: How can it be me? I never thought it could happen to me.

CULVER (voice over): Qiao spoke with us from her quarantine hotel. She says once the positive case was confirmed to have been in the elevator, she and

her colleagues were immediately locked down at work. She slept on her office desk for the night. Even after testing negative, officials

transferred her to the government isolation facility.

JING: I don't understand it. I really don't. I feel that my time is wasted.

CULVER (voice over): Since confirming its first Omicron case in mid- December, China's average new daily case count has surged from double digits to more than 2000. Now with more than 17,000 active cases, the virus

has spread to 28 provinces and regions across the mainland.

It might not seem like a lot compared to the rest of the world. But for Beijing, one case is one to many, especially as Chinese President Xi

Jinping prepares to assume an almost unprecedented third term later this year.

The leadership linking COVID containment to political legitimacy needs to show its strategy, while extreme is highly effective but its dealt repeated

blows to China's economy the most recent rise in infections shutting down much of northeastern China's Jilin Province, an industrial hub along with

tech factories in Shenzhen where Apple supplier Foxconn had to briefly halt production.


CULVER (voice over): China's bustling financial hub, Shanghai also increasingly locked down impacting millions, including us.

CULVER (on camera): Just got the community COVID test you can see they have all the tents set up for everyone neighborhood by neighborhood to get

tested, and then to await the results.

CULVER (voice over): This is happening across communities in China. On Chinese social media, some question how long all this will last? When will

China change its policy, many that we're finding creative ways to deal with the new reality still managing to squeeze in a haircut in lockdown? And

even the elevator close contact expressing her ultimate understanding of the draconian measures.

JING: Because COVID is life threatening. If my family gets infected because of the government's lack of COVID control measures, I would not be able to

accept it.

CULVER (voice over): Despite the mostly vaccinated population, Chinese officials are relying on that shared fear of the virus and locking down to

justify and enforce its zero COVID policy as the rest of the world is opening up. David Culver, CNN, Shanghai.


ANDERSON: Well, thank you for joining us. CNN's coverage of the war in Ukraine continues after this short break.