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Connect the World

Refugees from Mariupol Shelter in Dnipro Arcade; Top Diplomat: EU Ready to Impose More Sanctions on Russia; Refugees Says Her Polish Hosts have Become her Family; CNN Speaks to Swedish Defense Minister; Middle East Leaders Respond to War, Other Challenges; Powerful Images from Ukraine. Aired 11a-12p ET

Aired March 22, 2022 - 11:00   ET



BECKY ANDERSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL HOST: You're back with "Connect the World". Once a thriving city of nearly half a million now reduced to ashes

that is how Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy describes the key southern city of Mariupol.

Russia has surrounded that southern port city for weeks trying to starve and bomb it into submission. Well with almost continuous strikes, the

deputy mayor now tells CNN about 90 percent of the city's infrastructure is damaged or destroyed.

These satellite images show residential neighborhood as well as vehicle said to be Russian tanks days after rejecting a Russian ultimatum to

surrender. Mariupol may now be paying the price. Well, the human toll is extremely difficult to calculate.

It is impossible to tell right now just how many people have been killed and how many have been able to leave Mariupol. Russia says more than 60,000

have evacuated there, but we can't verify that number or whether they went willingly. CNN's Ivan Watson spoke to one family about life under siege.


IVAN WATSON, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice over): Children at play frolicking in an arcade meant to host games of laser tag. But these are not normal times.

The owners here have turned their children's entertainment business into a makeshift shelter, a place to house dozens of Ukrainians who just fled the

besieged port city of Mariupol.

DMYTRO SHVETS, FLED MARIUPOL: The last couple of weeks will be like a hell.

WATSON (voice over): Dmytro Shvets, his wife Tania and their daughter Vlada escaped Mariupol on Thursday. They endured weeks of Russian bombardment

from artillery and airstrikes.

SHVETS: Each 15, 20 minutes you can listen the aero plane, it was like targeted, targeted and then the sound --.

WATSON (voice over): Tania kept a journal. March 2, day seven of the war. Nothing's changed. She writes no electricity or heat, and there's no

running water now as well.

They lived in the basement and when they emerged, Tania took photos and videos of their apartment building, pockmarked with bullet holes,

unexploded shells in residential streets. Desperate people looting a bomb damaged store for food.

SHVETS: The problem is water. There is no water to drink.

WATSON (voice over): They scavenged for drinking water pulling buckets from street sewers.

SHVETS: --taking the water from the rainwater taking them in waiting for the rainwater.

WATSON (voice over): Heavy shelling on nearby houses, Tania wrote on March 5, we all went to sleep with the thought of how to survive and stay alive.

One day a shell exploded near Dmytro as he stood in line for water.

SHVETS: Bomb fell down and killed like three people in front of us. One guy was without head that was like ahead taking the water; another one in the

line was like a half of the head. And the last one was killed.

With my own eyes like not in general like three people completely I saw killed and we will make integrate for them - for this.

WATSON (on camera): In your neighborhood?


WATSON (voice over): Finally, it was all too much.

SHVETS: The last day I saw my father because my mother was completely destroyed mentally. I mean, it was like a completed depression. We're

sitting in the cellar and even - she haven't left the cellar since the beginning of the war, just staying inside, unfortunately.

And the last day I saw my father and he begged me like please guys leave, leave somewhere I don't know where just escape, escape this and he was


WATSON (voice over): Dmytro and his wife and daughter piled into a car with friends and spent 15 hours driving through Russian front lines to escape

the siege of Mariupol. Their parents refused to leave.

SHVETS: I don't know if I'm going to see my parents or listen to my parents again. I don't know any idea. It's like leaving from day to day. Today,

we're alive tomorrow maybe not.

WATSON (voice over): In the relative safety of this arcade built to entertain children. The kids welcome the escape from the conflict. I really

want to say hello to other children, Tania's seven year old daughter Vlada says and they want the war to end quickly.

Her parents appear haunted clearly traumatized. Tania gets a call from her mother in Mariupol weeping and saying goodbye because she fears she will

not survive the night Ivan Watson, CNN, Dmytro, Ukraine.


ANDERSON: Well, CNN's Phil Black joins us from the western city of Lviv, where some Ukrainians have fled. Just explain what the atmosphere is like

where you are and what people are telling you about where they fled and what they have fled from.


PHIL BLACK, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Becky, there is relief here, because these are people that have fled a dire situation. But of course, uncertainty, a

great deal of fear and nervousness about what the future holds for them. They were what they left because their situation either had deteriorated or

they felt would deteriorate.

There are of course, many people behind them, who have not yet been able to leave in various cities and towns all across the country. You heard their

stories in Mariupol and indeed, the civilian plight in Mariupol is undoubtedly the most acute that city has been under blockade for weeks now

under siege.

And every day, we hear accounts out of there about people who are desperately concerned about the lack of food, lack of water only having a

few days to go. But just today, we're hearing warnings, and expressions of concern about other parts of the country, as well, the Ukrainian government

has flagged the situation in Kherson, this is a Russian occupied city of some 300,000 people.

It is under Russian control. And we are told that no Ukrainian aid is able to get in there. That's what the Ukrainian government says. And as a

result, people are running desperately short on food. It's not just in Russian controlled territory, though, that the concerns exist.

We heard from Mercy Corps in a group today, which said that there is a real need and desperation for aid all across the country. And indeed, there are

some big cities like Kharkiv in the East, where they only have a few days' worth of supplies, ready to go.

There is no system, there is no network set up to ensure that aid has been dispersed across the country quickly and efficiently. And at the moment,

there are no sufficient - there's no substantial stockpile in any of these big population centers, which means that they are vulnerable.

If any of these supplies that do exist there were to be damaged in any way. It means that suddenly, hundreds of thousands potentially millions of

people in a region could be essentially without food until they were able to be resupplied.

So we're at a point it seems in this conflict where based on the reports that we're hearing from civilians in these affected areas, but also from

the Ukrainian government aid groups as well, that ensuring that people across the country get aid.

It's really something of a priority now because the need is clearly growing and becoming increasingly desperate, Becky.

ANDERSON: Phil Black, his interview for you, Phil, thank you. Well, the EUs top diplomat says Moscow is committing what it calls a massive war crime in

Mariupol. And Josep Borrell has a new warning for the Kremlin.

He says the EU is ready to impose more sanctions on Russia over its deadly attacks on Ukraine. Now this comes as U.S. and NATO officials tell CNN,

Belarus could soon join Russia in the war.

Emergency summits are set for Thursday in Brussels. World leaders, including the U.S. president are planning to be there in person. CNN's

International Diplomatic Editor, Nic Robertson is standing by for us in Brussels and the stakes could not be higher.

And I'm, to a certain extent surprised I'm even saying that. But 27 days in the U.S. the west has come together slapping enormous sanctions on the

Russians. And yet this war grinds and our reporters, just laying out how desperate the situation is on the ground. Nic, what are the expectations

for this week? What will success look like for these leaders gathering in Brussels?

NIC ROBERTSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL DIPLOMATIC EDITOR: The bottom line will be strengthened sense of unity. There is already unity. But this is a testing

time because they've already been four rounds of sanctions by the European Union. And they've obviously been matched by the United States and the UK

as well.

But now it's a question of what are the next sanctions going to be, the energy sector, essentially shutting down taking Russia's oil and gas is a

huge step. And it's one that some nations think is necessary.

But there are plenty of other EU nations who think that that's a step too far at the moment. And there's a sense that there should be perhaps a pause

while there's an evaluation of how the current sanctions are working on an effort to plug those sanctions where there seem to be holes in them, where

Russia may be finding work around.

So you're set borrow the U.N's foreign policy chief yesterday did say yes, they're continuing to work on sanctions. Yes, there will be discussion

about it. But he didn't think that there would be new sanctions announced this week and partly said because even if the leaders agree where they're

going with them, it takes a little time to work out the details.

So unity, sanctions and additional funding we heard yesterday from the foreign policy chief $551 million in aid mostly on security to be given by

the EU to the Ukrainian.


ROBERTSON: So I think those are going to be the sort of the minimums, the maximum, of course, would be where the Polish president has gone, which is

to say, a complete blockade of trade with Russia, nothing through the border entries on land or by sea.

I don't think there's anywhere close to sort of EU unity on that type of statement. But that's for right at the moment, Becky.

ANDERSON: The polls have also proposed the idea of humanitarian boots on the ground. Now, the West has been absolutely united, it seems certainly,

that's the message we get in not having any involvement either in Ukraine all on the ground or in the sky.

Is there any sense that at this point, the U.S. the EU, NATO allies are running short on weapons, as it were. Sanctions et cetera, that, you know

that they would consider a further step, actual involvement on the ground, given that this war continues to grind on.

ROBERTSON: It still seems to be a red line. The assessment is very simply NATO boots or NATO nation boots on the ground in Ukraine is equal to NATO

going toe to toe with Russia, which is a step towards World War III, it's very simple.

But in terms of weapons supplies for Ukraine, those continue, there's an effort to make sure that they continue. And there's an effort as well to

make them more in terms of air defense capacity for the Ukrainians to make them the systems more sophisticated, and systems that would be readily

usable by the Ukrainians.

The former, well, that Russian made S300 surface to air missile system is the sort of system we're talking about. So where's the source there, which

nations have that?

ANDERSON: Where would that come from? Where would that come from?

ROBERTSON: Well, at the moment, potentially former Eastern European nations that would have that type of system. But the expectation within the

auspices of NATO and within the auspices of within the auspices of bilateral relations with the United States that the United States would

backfill that nation with equivalent or better surface to a missile system.

No nation, no NATO nation is going to want to degrade its own capacity, while aiding Ukraine. And they certainly in that scenario, nations look to

the United States to backfill, but there is the systems do exist.

And then the question becomes how do you get them into Ukraine? And how do you make sure Russia doesn't target them going into Ukraine? And how do you

make sure that that doesn't look like NATO is, is putting its boots in some technical manner inside Ukraine, all of those things are being discussed.

And that is the difficult part of getting what NATO and the EU says it wants to do, that's the difficult part of getting it done.

ANDERSON: Yes. And Nic, you know, the other sort of weapon in the toolbox, of course, is economic sanctions. The U.S. president was quite clear when

these sanctions began, that they would take week's months, a very long time to really hit.

I mean, we are seeing the squeeze on the Russian economy. But there is now this talk that there is an effort to ramp up sanctions on Russian oil. And

we know the U.S. and its European allies today, at least haven't been completely united on that. Is that something we might expect this week?

ROBERTSON: Still not united don't expected. One of the concerns, particularly among Southern European nations is the rising, the rise of

energy costs within the EU; they're looking to the EU to put caps on those energy costs.

So the rising price of electricity rising price of natural gas, not just a problem for the EU, but obviously the EU as a bloc has to find a solution

for it. And while they're still struggling to find a solution for that, they're unlikely to find unity, you know, to put those sorts of sanctions

on Russia.

But other sanctions that are being considered and talked about are sanctioning more and sanctioning more Russian banks.

Some of the big banks in Russia that haven't been hit and targeted and taken out of the Swift international monetary mechanism are putting those

big Russian banks on the same level of sanctions on some of the smaller banks and that again would crimp the Kremlin's ability to withstand all the

other sanctions.


ANDERSON: Nic Robertson on the story, it's a very busy week there, Nic. It's good to have you there. Let's see what comes out of what are these

extraordinary summits happening in Brussels this week. As we get towards the end of what has been a month's worth of action on the ground in this

bloody war in Ukraine? Thank you.

Earlier today, the United Nations Secretary General gave a blistering assessment of Russia's unprovoked war. He told reporters it was unwinnable

and said it was causing, "appalling human suffering".


ANTONIO GUTERRES, UNITED NATIONS SECRETARY-GENERAL: Continuing the war in Ukraine is morally unacceptable, politically indefensible and militarily

nonsensical. What I said from this podium of almost one month ago, should be even more evident today.

By any measure, but even the shrewdest calculation, it is time to stop the fighting now, and give this a chance. It is time to end this absurd war.


ANDERSON: And later, my colleague Christian Amanpour will have an exclusive live interview with Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov, that's tonight 10

Abu Dhabi time 6 pm in London. Well, you will be well aware now that thousands of people, thousands are fleeing Ukraine every day. I want to get

you the latest numbers when we go live near the Polish Ukrainian border to witness that unfolding crisis.

That is live in Kyiv, the Ukrainian Capitol enduring more Russian airstrikes even as ground forces in nearby cities repel the Russian



ANDERSON: And what is nearly a month since Russia has been bombarding Ukraine, the U.N. Refugee Agency says more than 3.5 million people have

fled the country. Many are seeking refuge in neighboring countries, mostly in Poland.

But things are about to get worse for refugees in transit as temperatures drop in the region. The U.N. says it is gathering blankets, tents and hot

meals to help them get through it. Let's get straight to Melissa Bell who is near the Polish Ukrainian border.

And as we have heard, you know, really alarming stories from Mercy Corps today about what is effectively an ineffective broken humanitarian aid

infrastructure within Ukraine. So the expectations are that things work better for refugees who have fled, what is the situation on the ground?

MELISSA BELL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: The expectation here at the - land crossing where people arrive on foot Becky is that, things are going to

continue to get worse because there's temperatures dropping because of those seizures that we've seen on the ground.


BELL: And what we've seen here where, as you can see so much has been set up to try and welcome the women and children as they make their way across

this border on foot. What we hear from them as they cross the border, is that they are now fleeing towns like - Sumy, all of those cities that we've

seen where we've seen the violence worsen these last few days, this is what they're fleeing.

And this is where they're coming from. There's this sort of grim symmetry between the arrivals here and what we're seeing on the ground over there.

There is that catastrophically bad humanitarian situation over here, over there.

And here, people are trying to get organized. This truck has just been delivering bits of wood to try and create new stalls because the

humanitarian organizations, the NGOs are preparing for more arrivals in the days to come.

Because the situation is expected to worsen, because also Becky, those humanitarian corridors should allow people to get away from the worst hit

areas. I mean, all of this has been created in the last couple of weeks to try and find a way to help people coming out a sort of system of support.

But it is essentially NGOs, local authorities, ordinary people who've come out and come from all over the world, frankly, to this land crossing to try

and show their support. But this is what they're greeted with as they cross the border.

Again, people are profoundly traumatized by what they've left in need of support and all of them really sharing very similar stories. We've just

spoken to one woman who'd come from - with her three children, who through tears showed us what she'd left every step of her journey.

How difficult has been the daughter's birthday that had been celebrated downstairs underneath ground where they'd managed to find refuge and saying

you need to tell the world what's happening.

You need to tell the world what we're fleeing, and they're coming here alone with all that uncertainty ahead and of course, all that trauma within

them, Becky.

ANDERSON: Melissa is on the ground for you on the border. Well, as Melissa was describing Poland has registered the highest number of Ukrainian

refugees so far. Thank you, Melissa.

With more than 2.1 million people crossing as of Monday, many are relying on the help of strangers. CNN's Ed Lavandera shows one couple opening their

doors to that flame.


ED LAVANDERA, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice over): The children enjoy a game of hide and seek with a young boy hiding in the corner. But they're not

siblings, their new friends brought together by war and the goodwill of Jaroslaw Swiecicki and his wife Malgojatha. They opened their home to this

Ukrainian family who escaped the war zone less than a week ago.

LAVANDERA (on camera): When did you decide to help Ukrainian refugees?


LAVANDERA (voice over): Since the war started this when Swiecicki family has taken in 46 people. This truck driver who recently recovered from

cancer says helping Ukrainian refugees is something he has to do.

LAVANDERA (on camera): Why have you opened up your house to so many people?

SWIECICKI: Because, sure, this is in Polish tradition, I think that open a house, open a house, someone who isn't needed.

LAVANDERA (voice over): And he's quick to think of the little things that make his guests feel at home. Yulia Grishko is in Poland with her seven

year old son, four month old baby along with her elderly parents. Today is her birthday.

She wanted us to see the gifts she received from her host, blue and yellow flowers, Ukraine's national colors. Yulia and her family escaped from the

eastern Ukrainian city of Dnipro last week, the fighting has intensified around their hometown.

LAVANDERA (on camera): So on March 13, at 5.30 in the morning, a Russian fighter jet flew over your home. What were you thinking in that moment?

LAVANDERA (voice over): She says this was the turning point, I realized that I could no longer endure it. At that moment, I thought I had to save

my children. Yulia is a Police officer at home. She was on maternity leave when the war started.

Now it's up to her to figure out what to do next as the war drags on, but she says her heart is in Ukraine with the family she left behind. My heart

stayed at home she says, I'm scared for my relatives. But thank God I'm in a warm place surrounded by kindness and have inner peace.

LAVANDERA (on camera): This family here in Poland, will you always consider them part of your family?

LAVANDERA (voice over): Yes, she says they have already become part of our family. On this night, far from home Yulia was treated to a birthday cake

surprise and a lovely version of the song Sto Lat, the traditional Polish birthday song.


LAVANDERA (voice over): Yulia tells us her only wish is for peace and the end of war. So her family can return home Ed Lavandera, Przemysl, Poland.


ANDERSON: We are taking a short break after that we'll be live for you in Kyiv. I leave you as we go to the spread with these life pictures of dusk

in the Ukrainian Capitol.


ANDERSON: Say they gain control of a city near Kyiv even as Russia inflicts more damage from the air. This is the aftermath of attacks on Makariv, but

Ukraine's Military says the Ukrainian flag is flying over the city after a Russian retreat.

New Satellite images show damage and flooding around a pin also close to Kyiv and open down flooding the river basin effectively blocking one

potential path for Russian ground troops to enter the city.

Now look, it's not clear if the dam was damaged or if Ukrainians opened it on purpose. What is clear is that this war grinds on. Fred Pleitgen

monitoring things for us from Kyiv where smoke has been rising after Russian airstrikes there.

We have just been showing our viewers, some live pictures of dusk in the city, where you are. Just explain what the current situation is there and

what you believe to be Russian strategy if we can call it that, at this point?

FREDERIK PLEITGEN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, you're absolutely right. That's a very good question. But first of all, you're

absolutely right. There is thick black smoke throughout the entire sky around the city of Kyiv.

We've been seeing that throughout the course of the day, because what's been going on during the course of the day is that there have been massive

explosions that we've seen. There's a lot of artillery fire that's going on rocket fire referred sort of very large explosion, which we also believe

could be, you know, bigger missiles being fired as well.

There's one occasion where the Ukrainian say that they actually shot down a large Russian missile that was coming towards the city. And they say that

the remnants of that landed in the - river which is of course the mighty river that runs through the city.

Now, that fighting the most the bulk of the fighting Becky is concentrated in the sort of north Northwestern outskirts of Kyiv. That's where a lot of

those plumes of smoke are coming from. That's where hearing a lot of the artillery fire and that's where we're hearing also a lot of the rocket fire

as well.

It's something that I would say has progressed throughout the course of the day. The big question of course right now is what exactly is going on

there. Is that the Russians further trying to advance on the city?


PLEITGEN: Or is it possibly the Ukrainians mounting a counter attack? Because the Ukrainians have said that in certain areas, especially there,

they have managed to halt the Russians, and they have managed to a certain extent also pushed them back.

Could this be the Ukrainians are trying to further fortify those territorial gains and indeed build on those territorial gains of wealth.

Makariv also there, towards the west of the city, it's really unclear right now.

What exactly the Russian strategy is, certainly by and large, the overarching strategy, at least here in Kyiv seems to have been to try and

encircle the city from two sides that come from the Northeast and the northwest and then to encircle the city.

But it really seems as though that has been halted by Ukrainian forces. And, you know, having been on the ground here over the past couple of days

speaking to some of those Ukrainian forces, seeing them in action as well. They certainly do seem to be a lot more confident now than they were maybe

a couple of weeks ago when all this started, Becky.

ANDERSON: Fred Pleitgen is in Kyiv in Ukraine. Fred, thank you. That's the update on the ground for you. The Swedish Defense Minister, joining the

growing condemnation of the Kremlin Peter Hultqvist tells me a short time ago; European is looking to put more pressure on the Russian economy.

And as I've been reporting, an extraordinary NATO summit will be held on Thursday. Now Sweden was invited to the last NATO summit, but not to this

one. So I began by asking him why, take a listen.

PETER HULTQVIST, SWEDISH DEFENSE MINISTER: I cannot tell you that something that that NATO has to answer. But I was there last week and we discussed

the situation in Ukraine and the security situation and what's happened now with the European security order. And the conclusion was that we must be

very close together NATO and European Union and democratic Europe and we also have the lead of the strong --.

ANDERSON: How do you feel about not getting invited? After all surely, it would be more sensible to have everybody in the room all stakeholders in

the room. Are you disappointed?

HULTQVIST: I will not criticize NATO. I think we have a very good connection, we work very well together. So I don't have that sort of

feeling. And I have also respect for that. They want to have only the members in the room from time to time; we are not - their all the meetings

are on specific ports that have a diamond connection to out --.

ANDERSON: Multiple reports showing that there is low morale, stalling in Russia's military advances. What is your assessment of Russia's tactics at


HULTQVIST: Russia planned for that this war should be over in two or three days. Now we have four weeks. And they have underestimated the capability

in Ukraine, how to defend themselves and how to be effective in military operations. I think also that Russia has made huge losses, many dead

soldiers loss of material, bad operational tactic.

ANDERSON: Earlier this month four Russian fighter jets violated Swedish airspace. Do you feel that your country's security is threatened by Russia

at this point?

HULTQVIST: That's happened when I am the Venus Minister recently did an exercise that - Sweden had on the island of Portland. And that was also in

the same time as we have delivered our first batch of military equipment to Ukraine.

So I think that is the context of what I did. But they try to, to make their moves to make us care in some way or have to create an influence on

our decision making processes, but they are not successful with that.

ANDERSON: This was a warning directly from the Kremlin as you understand it.

HULTQVIST: That can be a way to analyze it. But I can only say that the same time we had this exercise together. And we were there at the island

and we delivered weapon to Ukraine. So I think that in some sort of contexts, we can see it as some sort of activity from their side to scare


ANDERSON: How is the war changed Sweden's positioning when it comes to NATO neutrality because it certainly did for your people for the first time more

people in Sweden support NATO membership than oppose it. So is it likely?


HULTQVIST: It's not in a group that is making a security policy analysis because of this new situation and the Russian behavior. And then we have to

see what conclusions we're going to do in that work but then the governmental position about non alignment that is not change.

ANDERSON: Do you think NATO membership would be too provocative?

HULTQVIST: The government's position is non-alignment for Sweden. And we must also see what will happen if we apply for NATO membership. What is the

risk in if we do that? And then we have to analyze risk for cyber activities, hybrid activities, military attack, different sort of things

that Russia maybe can take initiative to. So we must also see what the risk is, and we must also see the positive things with it.

ANDERSON: Many European countries will be pushing for the full sanctioning of Russian oil at this summit. Does Sweden support that?

HULTQVIST: Sweden's position is that we need sanctions that step by step will be stronger against Russia. And we think that, to have a policy now

that they must feel that they have done something very bad, and it cannot be - as usual. That is very important. So step by step, deepening the

sanctions and the oil sanctions can be something that really hurt the Russian economy.

ANDERSON: So the question is, do you support the full sanctioning of Russian oil at this point?

HULTQVIST: We are positive to deepening the sanctions. And we see the possibilities to hurt the Russian economy with also these sanctions about


ANDERSON: That's the Swedish Defense Minister speaking to me a little earlier today. Well, it is the time of the year when farmers should be

planting their crops but the war in Ukraine means that country won't be able to plant or export its wheat.

I'll look at how that could exacerbate food insecurity right here where I am in the Gulf and the wider Middle East. Anna look at how leaders in this

region are navigating the war, the Iran nuclear deal and other pressing issues, taking a short break back after.


ANDERSON: Well, Washington and European capitals are consumed by Russia's war in Ukraine. Leaders in this part of the world, The Gulf and Middle East

are busy reshaping their alliances and partnerships.


ANDERSON: The leaders of Egypt Israel and the UAE met in Sharm el-Sheikh earlier today to strengthen their regional ties, their trilateral meeting,

comes amid on again, off again talks to revive the nuclear deal with Iran.

The trio discussed energy market stability, food security, and the fallout from the war in Ukraine. Well, the meeting comes days after Syrian

President Bashar Al Assad was welcomed in the UAE meeting with leaders in both Dubai and Abu Dhabi.

Well, the meeting of Egypt's comes as that country faces new economic pressures sparked by the Ukraine Russia crisis, seeing its currency value

dropped by 14 percent this past week. That in turn, can of course cause the price of basic foodstuffs, like bread, a staple in that country to rise.

And while the spring is typically the time you would see the world start to plant wheat for the coming year. The war in Ukraine is creating a worsening

food crisis. The piercing sounds of war. Russia's invasion in Ukraine is nearly a month old.

Its impact on the ground is devastating, but away from the death and destruction inflicted on cities like Kyiv and Mariupol. It's also

exacerbating an already precarious food insecurity crisis across the Middle East, and North Africa, before the war, with supplies from Russia and

Ukraine accounted for almost 30 percent of global trade.

LAMA FAKIH, HUMAN RIGHTS WATCH: It's a crisis on top of a crisis.

ANDERSON: And reliance on Ukraine is especially high for countries such as Turkey and Lebanon, which import almost all of their wheat from Ukraine, or

Libya, which relies on Ukrainian wheat for more than 40 percent of its needs.

Or Egypt, where the national currency dropped 14 percent in the past week, due in part to the high price of wheat driving inflation and war stricken

Yemen, already facing a severe food shortage.

FAKIH: Countries that are already suffering from widespread food insecurity are the ones that have been hardest hit. And these include Yemen, Lebanon,

and Syria. And all of these countries also suffer from weak social protection schemes, which mean that the government has not been stepping in

to ensure that their residents have adequate access to food.

ANDERSON: As war and sanctions increase the price of wheat to all-time highs, there is concern that the conflict in Ukraine could further

destabilize countries across the region, and the world's humanitarian leaders are sounding the alarm.

David Beasley, the Head of the United Nations World Food Programme tweeting the fallout from Ukraine will spread across the globe. As this war heats

up, many countries will face soaring food prices, catastrophic hunger and growing instability.

FAKIH: Food insecurity absolutely can result in greater political unrest. And again, these are a number of countries that have already been suffering

from conflict that have already been suffering from political upheavals. And of course, in the absence of, you know, being able to have enough food

to eat, you know, we can anticipate that there could be additional outbreaks of violence, of course protests.

ANDERSON: Yet another reminder of the pain wars can inflict far beyond their borders. Well, food insecurity isn't the only problem facing the

Middle East and North Africa regional defense and security is a very real issue for Arab States.

And in an effort to ensure adequate deterrence, countries are facing strained relations with their traditional U.S. partner, namely the UAE,

where I am in Saudi Arabia. My next guest writes, and I quote, "Saudi Arabia and the UAE have deepened cooperation with both Russia and China out

of necessity, not preference.

Should the Biden Administration renew its commitment to regional defense by publicly affirming a strategic alliance? Riyadh and Abu Dhabi will revert

to more cooperative ties with Washington, including on oil prices at the expense of Moscow and Beijing.

Firas Maksad is the Director of Strategic Outreach and senior fellow at the Middle East Institute, joining me tonight from Washington. And your piece,

an op-ed - for The Wall Street Journal is fascinating.


ANDERSON: Russia's decision to wage war on Ukraine and the West's appeal to countries around the world to support their action against the Kremlin has

very much laid back just how much has changed in Washington's relationships with its erstwhile U.S. partners in this region, while we see this sort of

coming together of the, the U.S. the West, there's so much fracture elsewhere. Explain what's going on, as you see it?

FIRAS MAKSAD, SENIOR FELLOW, MIDDLE EAST INSTITUTE: Becky, it's good to be with you again. Yes, you're absolutely right. In many ways, this process of

having the regional countries in the Middle East, primarily Saudi Arabia and the UAE, the heavyweights, diversify their foreign policy options away

from the United States has been taking place for a while.

But what we see with the war in Ukraine, and particularly countries having to take a position on Russia, is just how much these countries have moved

away from, from the United States. There's also sort of a regional and more local element to this, which is that these countries have been increasingly

under attack from Iranian sponsored militias. I mean, when we have cities, airports, vital global oil facilities in these countries being on regular

attack from Iran sponsored militias disrupting global oil supply.

And the United States, which is the regional, the underwriter of regional security being largely absent, that sends alarm bells ringing both in

Riyadh and Abu Dhabi, and has been thinking about how to diversify away from the United States even further.

ANDERSON: In your piece, you suggests that how Washington reacts to this unfolding predicament that you see these Gulf countries and others across

this region, by the way, but the Gulf countries, specifically in. How this, how Washington reacts to this unfolding predicament will shape this still

vital region's future and America's place within it.

For decades to come, you say moments of crises often carry the seats of opportunity with them. Explain what you mean, you're saying it isn't too

little too late. Let's talk about the significance of what's going on here and the potential consequences should this not be sorted out the stress

relationship that we are seeing at present?

MAKSAD: Yes, absolutely. I mean, we've got at least two dynamics, two trends that we ought to think about. One is the fact that U.S., the U.S. is

no longer perhaps the only hegemonic that China and Russia are actively participants in shaping the world, China now the lead trade partner for

most U.S. allies in the region.

But the second thing to focus on is the fact that we might be on the precipice of yet another understanding between the west on one hand and

Iran on the other. One that could see sanctions lifted and Iran and its proxies being flushed with billions of dollars.

And that's a great concern to allies in the region. And so when I argue that with times of conflict comes the potential for our opportunity. I

think this is the time for the administration to rethink and maybe perhaps renew its commitment to the region and the security of its allies and

partners in the region.

I think also what we're seeing, I mean, obviously, today, we have the leaders of Egypt, the UAE, and Israel coming together. And I think part of

that is sort of the regional reaction of well, if we can't rely on the United States the way that we used to, then perhaps we need to come

together and consolidate our resources, giving the challenging times ahead.

ANDERSON: What's your assessment of what does happen short term?

MAKSAD: Well, I mean, I think a lot of it depends on how the Biden Administration reacts. Countries in the region have been signaling their

displeasure, very clearly, phone calls from President Biden, to the leaders of Saudi Arabia and the UAE have gone unanswered.

And so if the Biden Administration does use this pivotal moment in its relationship with the region, to recalibrate and reassess, then perhaps we

can see U.S. allies and U.S. influence in the region safeguarded and protected.

But if in fact, they go through with the Iran nuclear deal, they lift sanctions on the IRGC, the Iranian Revolutionary Guards, and then I think

U.S. traditional U.S. allies in the region are going to move further away from the United States diminishing its influence.

And we're going to see the Abrahamic accord take on greater influence as Israel in many of the Arab countries come together further against Israel

being flush with billions of dollars after sanctions are lifted.

ANDERSON: There's a lot to digest there, but you have laid out what I know to be, you know, a very clear foreign policy position in this country and

so many of those around this region. Thank you.


ANDERSON: Well, up next the growing need for aid in Ukraine and the growing army of volunteers showing up to help will take you inside a cultural

center turn relief hub, up next.


ANDERSON: Well, in the span of less than a month, Russia's invasion has transformed lives and landscapes across Ukraine. Teachers and factory

workers taking up arms train stations in schools turned into bomb shelters and Lviv's art palace now a distribution center for badly needed age. My

colleague Ben Wedeman has this report for you.


BEN WEDEMAN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice over): Sometimes the kindness of strangers comes in boxes in bundles, blankets, food diapers

bottled water. Svetlana - drove 1000 miles from France to deliver aid to Ukraine. Our small town of 2000 people has already sent three shipments of

supplies here she tells me.

WEDEMAN (on camera): OK, all right.

WEDEMAN (voice over): Michael Jaipur left his family in London to pitch in at this distribution center in Lviv.

MICHAEL JAIPUR, BRITISH VOLUNTEER: Inspired I to come here was the watching to seeing the women and children suffering in distress, even the men and to

seeing them; they're being pushed out of their homes then leaving everything behind.

And I just had to come out and give him a help with my two hands and my two feet and do the best I can and hopefully it's helping them.

WEDEMAN (voice over): Lviv's Art Palace is a hive of activity, taken over by volunteers overcome by a delusion donation.

WEDEMAN (on camera): Relief supplies continued to arrive at this distribution center and others like it around Lviv from ordinary citizens

and from abroad. Amidst the bitterness of this war, the milk of human kindness hasn't soured.

WEDEMAN (voice over): In the basement - Dr. Victoria Parekh sorts through thousands of boxes of medicine.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We're really thankful to them because our pharmacists are empty.

WEDEMAN (voice over): Those in need come here for help, which goes only so far to dull the pain. We feel the support is an aid than --. But without

tears, it's impossible to think about my home about my city Kharkiv, which is completely destroyed. And even the kindness of strangers can't change

that. Ben Wedeman, CNN, Lviv.


ANDERSON: As we've been showing you since the start of this war. CNN has a lot of people on the ground working tirelessly around the clock to bring

you the latest developments that is their job and the most compelling stories of regular people affected by this senseless war.

So before we let you go this evening, I want to bring you some powerful images shot by one of CNN's very talented for the journalists --. This is

Vitaly, a Ukrainian who fled from his village in the south towards relative safety in Mykolaiv. He cries while describing how the Russian army has been

targeting civilians.


ANDERSON: And these are desperate residents boarding an evacuation bus on the road to Kherson, trying to escape active shelling from the Russian

army. This is an elderly woman inside that same bus completely filled with young and old villages alike, trying to reach safety.

And finally, this is an injured Ukrainian soldier in a hospital bed. He is one of more than 40 soldiers injured from a strike on a military base in

Mykolaiv. It was one of the biggest blows to Ukraine's army since the start of the war.

He told CNN he was sleeping on the third floor and awoke lying on the second floor in the rubble with both his legs smashed. He said, and I

quote, "how many deaths does it take for everyone to see a question the world has yet to answer". Thank you for joining us. Good night.