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Mayor: 25 Percent of Buildings in Kharkiv hit by Russian Strikes; Five Railway Stations Bombed in Central, Western Ukraine; Le Pen's Leadership of her party Challenged for First Time; U.S. Defense Secretary: With the right Weapons, Ukraine can Win; Twitter Reportedly Nearing Deal to Sell Itself to Elon Musk; Ukrainians Mark Orthodox Easter in Shadow of War. Aired 11a-12p ET
Aired April 25, 2022 - 11:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
ANNOUNCER: Live from CNN, Abu Dhabi. This is "Connect the World".
ELENI GIOKOS, CNN HOST, CONNECT THE WORLD: This hour, the highest level U.S. visit Ukraine since Russia's invasion, wraps with some stark words
from American officials saying they want to see Putin's army seriously weakened. This as French President Emmanuel Macron wins a second term in
office with a promise to maintain European and Western unity, especially in support of Ukraine.
I'm Eleni Giokos. I'm filling in for Becky Anderson. Hello and welcome back to "Connect the World". Now the U.S. says with the right weapons Ukraine
can win the war being waged by Russia. The comments came from the U.S. Defense Secretary. He's in the region with the Secretary of State now they
announced the U.S. is sending diplomats back to Ukraine and their hope to send more military aid. Take a listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GEN. LLOYD AUSTIN (RET.), U.S. DEFENSE SECRETARY: They believe that we can win. We believe that we can win - they can win. If they have the right
equipment, the right support, and we're going to do everything we can continue to do everything we can to ensure that that gets it.
ANTONY BLINKEN, U.S. SECRETARY OF STATE: We don't know how the rest of this war will unfold. But we do know that a sovereign independent Ukraine will
be around a lot longer than Vladimir Putin is on the scene.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
GIOKOS: While the visit comes amid more intense strikes, five railway stations were bombed in western and central Ukraine to the south of the
City of Zaporizhia is preparing for a possible Russian offensive. In the east the UK Defense Ministry reports minor Russian advances in its Donbas
offensive but no breakthrough.
Waiting for new - waiting for more information on that but the UK says also Russia has exhausted many units in its siege of Mariupol steel plant.
Moscow earlier offered to hold its fire around the plant so civilians could leave.
The Northeastern City of Kharkiv has seen Russian attacks intensifying in recent days. Ukrainian human rights official says the city was attacked as
Christians mark the Orthodox Easter holiday over the weekend. Two men were reportedly killed when a house was shelled three policemen and a civilian
also said to be injured in the barrage of strikes.
Now the mayor of Kharkiv says about a quarter of the city's buildings have been hit in the Russian assault. Clarissa Ward spoke to our John Berman
earlier as she turned the devastation.
CLARISSA WARD, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (on camera): So we are in what remains John of the Regional State Administration Building and
you know, you had just talked about Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin saying it's possible the Ukrainians could win this if they have the right
Well, this is what they're up against. And I want to take you around so you can get a feel for the full scale of the damage that was done here when two
massive missiles landed in around this building last month. You can see just out what's left of the window there that is Freedom Square. And this
city has been getting pulverized day in day out just today.
We have heard a pretty much constant stream of bombardment since about 4:30 in the morning, often it goes on all night. And the mayor here says that 25
percent of the buildings in this city have been hit during strikes 25 percent just try to get your head around the enormity of that figure 67
schools have been hit look at this.
This was once a palatial grand staircase now completely destroyed. According to authorities only 10 people were killed here, which is
extraordinary, although I've just been talking with one of the soldiers who's in charge of looking after this space and he says they believe there
are many more dead under the rubble.
I'm going to show you what some of that rubble looks like over here. People were rescued as well. But going back to those statistics that the mayor
gave us 67 schools 54 kindergartens, 16 hospitals, that's just here in the City of Kharkiv you can see the defense's that they had tried to implement
to protect themselves from attack.
WARD (on camera): But obviously, sandbags no match for this, I don't know if you could hear that as well, some bombardment again, in the distance.
And you can see outside the scale of the devastation, cars completely scorched.
There's actually an office over there to the side that we can't get into easily from this point, which we saw yesterday, where an entire car has
literally been thrown into an office by the force of that blast. And what people here fear in this city is that Kharkiv could be the next Mariupol,
because of the amount of bombardment and the real intensification that we've seen of that bombardment, especially in the last week.
Now I just want Cameraman Scott McWhinnie and Producer Brent Swails to be a little careful here, but I do want to show you this because it gives you a
real feeling for just the enormity of that blast.
I mean absolutely astonishing it. It literally took out six stories and that's why as you can probably imagine we're hearing from authorities here
do believe some people are still trapped under that rubble.
But that it is just simply impossible for them at this stage with bombardment continuing day in and day out in the city, for them to try to
dig down underneath that and get a sense of just how many people may have lost their lives here.
One more thing, I think that's important to contextualize in terms of what I was saying about how people here fear, fear that this could be the next
Mariupol. Kharkiv is 30 miles away from Russia. It's in the northeast of the country. It's the second largest city.
And Russian troops essentially had been launching this three pronged offensive in the Donbas region pushing down from the north, up from the
south and in from the east. Ukrainian forces have also been launching a series of counter offensive, particularly around the strategic town of
Izyum. So Kharkiv is very close to a lot of the action. There are a lot of important supply routes for the Russians to get more ammunition and
weaponry to places like Izyum. And that's why it's strategically important.
Not to mention, of course, the symbolic value. And you can imagine the symbolism of this building, you talk to the locals, this was a place people
came to pose for photographs. This was a place you would dress nicely to visit. And now this is what's left of it.
GIOKOS: Incredibly powerful reporting there from Clarissa Ward. CNN's Matt Rivers has also seen the devastation firsthand. He joins us live from Kyiv.
And Kylie Atwood connects us to the U.S. State Department really good to see you both.
Kylie, I'd like to start with you. And we've seen some of the devastation and just the indiscriminate targeting of schools of kindergartens of key
infrastructure. It was really important for the U.S. Secretary of State, as well as the Defense Secretary, to see some of this devastation a really key
visit to Kyiv by the U.S. Give us a sense of what they've committed, and how it's going to go up and shore up the relationship between the US and
KYLIE ATWOOD, CNN U.S. SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Yes, so it was a key visit. It was the top Biden Administration officials to visit Ukraine since this
war has begun going to the capital city. It's something that the Ukrainians had been asking for them to do.
So it was significant in such that it was symbolic to underscore the Biden Administration's commitment to Ukraine. But as you said, the Secretary of
State and the Secretary of Defense also double down on what that commitment will look like going forth, announcing that there's more military financing
that the United States is going to be giving to Ukraine into partners in the region to help them build up their military capacity.
That was something that was new. We also learned that the State Department is going to be sending in some diplomats to the country starting this week,
trying to really shore up that diplomatic support, not just at the top level between President Biden and Zelenskyy, but at the working level.
Now, these diplomats are going to be based in Ukraine. They're going to be taking day trips into law Lviv, and then a senior State Department official
said that they would then be traveling to other parts of the country into Kyiv in due time. They feel like the security situation in the country
isn't steady enough yet for those diplomats to be there long term.
ATWOOD: But what we also heard from these administration officials is a sense of optimism that Ukraine has the will and will have the capacity to
win to beat Russia in this Ukraine war. Of course, we already saw Russia fail when it came to their assault on Kyiv.
And Secretary Blinken and Secretary Austin said that they believe that Ukraine has the capacity and the will, as I said, on the other side of the
country to also prevail.
GIOKOS: Kylie Atwood, thank you very much for that update great to see you. I'd like to now go to Matt Rivers who's standing by in Kyiv for us. And as
Kylie says, the Russians failed in Kyiv but as they moved out of the city, they also left a trail of destruction.
We're hearing more attacks on railways, these visits by global leaders are going to be absolutely vital for President Zelenskyy. Give me a sense,
firstly, of the mood after the U.S. diplomats left Kyiv and also importantly, what the security scenarios are at the moment?
MATT RIVERS, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, I think Eleni this is a meeting a series of meetings that Zelenskyy Administration had
been pushing for privately and publicly for a long time now.
And I think there is a sense of happiness that you saw two of the most senior cabinet officials, if not the two most senior cabinet officials be
here in Kyiv for at least 90 minute meeting. That is something that President Zelenskyy said he was quite grateful for. He said he felt the
support of the United States this as we have not seen the kind of respite perhaps over the weekend that some are hoping for on orthodox Easter
RIVERS (voice over): Orthodox Easter Sunday in a country at war, a holiday defined by its celebration of life this year shrouded by death.
ANDRII HALAVIN, PRIEST: Our people live in a time of war under bombing and shelling with tears, grief and sorrow. But we need a raise of hope.
RIVERS (voice over): Some of those rays are ways to fight back, at least if President Zelenskyy gets his way, telling reporters that getting more and
more heavy weapons from the U.S. would be a top issue at a meeting with us Secretaries of State and Defense Antony Blinken and Lloyd Austin.
This as Russian shells rained down across the country over the weekend, including in Odessa, here a video of what Ukraine called a Russian missile
hitting an apartment building, killing eight according to authorities, an infant and her mother among them inside that building a camera captured the
strikes horrific impact.
And in the town of - Northwest of Kyiv there is utter destruction, Russian shells, shattered homes and lives. There is nothing left here but pain in
an eerie silence.
RIVERS (on camera): Ukraine is of course pushing for all of these new weapons to try and avoid other towns ending up like this one. So look here
this playground now littered with bullet holes, the remnants of Ukrainian fighting position to my left and to my right, there's a sign warning of all
the landmines that are now in this area. It's going to be a long time before children can use this playground once again.
RIVERS (voice over): The Secretaries of State and Defense are not the only U.S. officials interested in the future of Ukraine. We met up with two
members of the U.S. Congress representatives Tim Walberg, and Victoria Spartz, who toured the damage.
Spartz, the first Ukrainian born member of Congress.
REP. VICTORIA SPARTZ (R-IN): Watching it breaks my heart but the actual Leyland's through hell but seen it important and it's important for us to
share this with American people.
RIVERS (voice over): Ukrainian officials told us they repelled the Russian drive toward Kyiv right here back in March, a powerful sign of resistance
against an unwanted invader.
The two Republicans will head back to Washington soon, with an urgent call to send whatever Ukraine needs and fast.
REP. TIM WALBERG (R-MI): They're brave. They're committed, just put something in their hand that matches the efforts here. And they could win
RIVERS: The importance of getting those weapons to the eastern front highlighted today with a series of cruise missile attacks on a number of
different railway stations in the central and western part of the countries. Those attacks might have an impact on the ability for the allies
here to get the weapons that Ukraine is asking for to where they are needed to go.
Not a totally clear picture yet Eleni of exactly how much damage was done at these railway stations. But any damage is a problem when you're talking
about railways being needed to get these weapons to the east.
GIOKOS: Absolutely. And look when you're targeting railways that means that you're targeting key logistics infrastructure can't get people out, and you
absolutely can't get goods much needed goods in. It is fascinating your story with regards to it being Orthodox Easter weekend.
GIOKOS: Give me a sense of some of the people that you've spoken to when these attacks continue on a region where they share most parts, the same
Easter holidays and they're very revered in the Orthodox culture.
RIVERS: No question. I do think generally speaking to the Ukrainian people are past outraged the point of outrage. I mean, it's just a permanent sense
of, of rage and frustration of anger over what Russia is doing.
So I think the surprise element perhaps has passed in terms of Russia being capable of anything in the eyes of most Ukrainians at this point, but there
is something significant about attacks on orthodox Easter Sunday.
This is a day that is marked the end of the day to dispose to celebrate life. And yet, it didn't do that yesterday. And I think that that's
something that many Ukrainians felt acutely, not the least of which being the fact that you many churches closed their doors.
They were not holding in person celebrations due to the threat of missile strikes, kind of back to the days of COVID in some ways, Eleni, except this
time, the threat not being a virus, but a Russian autocrat.
GIOKOS: Matt, thank you very much for that update, great to see you. Now, major NATO ally France has reelected Emmanuel Macron as its President.
Ahead, what this means for his country for NATO, and for Russia's war on Ukraine.
And a new COVID outbreak in Beijing is shaking up more than China's officials why investors are so nervous about what's happening in the
GIOKOS: Emmanuel Macron now is after being reelected as the President of France is waging a new fight to secure a majority in parliament. He's
promising his second term in office will be different from the first that he will listen to voters more.
Sunday's runoff election, but at the centrist against fire right challenger Marine Le Pen it's the second time the two have faced each other in a
runoff. And this time Mr. Macron's margin victory was narrower.
You can see the comparison between this year's results on the left of your screen. And 2017 on the right, in fact, the far right broke its own record
this time. Melissa Bell is live in Paris for us.
And Melissa, this is exactly what Marine Le Pen was talking about in her speech saying this is a record number. We're making headway we lost, but
we're making headway.
How significant are these numbers when you see 40 percent for Marine Le Pen and you see 58 for Emmanuel Macron. Is it of concern that the far right
ideology is in fact gaining momentum across areas in France?
MELISSA BELL, CNN PARIS CORRESPONDENT: Well, it's certainly this result this year has confirmed what began in 2017, which is that there's been a
complete redrawing Eleni of the French political landscape.
The traditional left and right it had been brushed aside in 2017. This time didn't even make the percentage points of votes in the first round that
they needed to recoup the majority of their campaign costs, which is an extraordinary state of affairs.
BELL: Instead, it is now very much the center as left as it is led by Emmanuel Macron and the far right. But there is also a great deal of
movement on the far left, we saw in the first round, - it may have to come within a whisker of taking that second spot from Marine Le Pen.
And so there are those deep divisions that Emmanuel Macron spoke to as well in his speech because he knows that whilst the headline is, of course, that
he's one that France is placed within the European Union will remain that the European Union itself will keep Emmanuel Macron is federalism at its
heart and leading it.
And with Le implications even beyond the borders of Europe, for instance, for the war in Ukraine Eleni.
What he knows all too well is that the big battle is now ahead, to see whether or not he can keep a governing majority during next month's
legislative elections. And also that these deep fractures, these deep divisions, this anger on the periphery of the political spectrum that has
now become much more mainstream is extremely loud and likely to be problematic, which is why he's going to be looking to build bridges.
When you break down that vote Eleni he may have won 58 percent of the vote. She came within five - just over 5 million votes of his. But when you look
at the breakdown in the country, it is more than half of France's towns and cities that voted for her on top and ahead of Emmanuel Macron.
GIOKOS: Yes, and 28 percent of sanctions. I mean, you mentioned parliament, what is it steak for Macron in Parliament? We've got to remember this is a
very historical one for my Macron as well to getting a second term in France is basically unheard of.
But how important is it going to be in Parliament? And what would that mean for Europe and specifically, the fights against the war?
BELL: Well, look last time at when Emmanuel Macron launched his improbable political experiment launching his presence he creating from scratch at his
party. We had seen him win the election, the question had been whether he could win the legislative elections that were a month later, and he did.
And he got a majority sweeping aside again; the political forces that had dominated French politics for decades. That was as a result really of his
win, which brought a great deal of enthusiasm.
The problem that he has, that having a party that is built almost entirely around his person with no historical depth to it is likely to make it
harder this time for him to reach that governing majority.
Or the more so Eleni, because both on the far right and the far left, the various candidates that stood in the first round, are looking at what
alliances can be formed to try and cement their positions within those legislative elections and therefore within the National Assembly.
And what it would mean for him to lose the parliamentary majority is that governing would be extremely difficult, it would be much harder for him to
For instance, the controversial pension reform he wants to get through, it would make it much harder to push through many more of the reforms that he
wants to bring.
And of course on Europe that would take away from his voice from his position at the helm of the European Union, that he has really led the way
in bringing closer together.
And that he wants to continue uniting federating to create a bloc that really functions as one, so he would be hampered on both fronts, both
nationally and at European level. And that, of course, would have profound consequences well beyond the borders of France, Eleni.
GIOKOS: Melissa Bell, thank you so much. Now coming off a third consecutive electoral defeat what's next for Marine Le Pen and her political party
national rally? CNN's Jim Bittermann has more on that.
JIM BITTERMANN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice over): For the third time, she has lost a bid to become French president. But that
does not mean her supporters have lost their intense attachment to Marine Le Pen. She carries the Le Pen name and her father Jean-Marie Le Pen's
heritage of leading the far right nationalists of France.
And in practically every campaign since he founded the party 50 years ago, their numbers have grown even if not to the point of winning the
presidency. Yet in defeat the Le Pen remain the incarnation of France's far right. At least that's the way one of her party's representatives in the
European Parliament sees it.
HERVE JUVIN, MEMBER OF EUROPEAN PARLIAMENT: Marine Le Pen will be the legitimate leader of the opposition. On everything that will happen in this
country will be discussed when Marine Le Pen because he will lead the opposition.
BITTERMANN (voice over): But how maybe father to that thought, because in this election cycle Le Pen's leadership on the far right for the first time
was challenged by this man, TV pundit Eric Zemmour, whose program was even more conservative than Le Pen's.
He only managed about 7 percent of the vote, but he drew away several of Le Pen's top lieutenants. A pollster looks at it this way.
EMMANUEL RIVIERE, KANTAR PUBLIC: I think the question shouldn't be any more can Marine Le Pen ever wins presidency but with - eventually run. And it's
not an easy question of the leading objects Jim right.
BITTERMANN (voice over): That would require a compromise on the part of Le Pen. And as well because her political party has been practically a part of
her family trust for decades, she'd have to loosen her reins on its leadership and let other party leaders emerge.
An author who's written extensively about Le Pen and her party doesn't see that happening, nor does she see that Le Pen would ever abandon her
CECILE ALDUY, AUTHOR, "MARINE LE PEN FOLLOWING THE WORDS": So the electorate the core electorate really votes National Front because of the
anti-immigration platform because of the cultural identity thing. But she still needs to win over other voters. It's really like impossible challenge
of appealing to the base and widening the electorate.
BITTERMANN: Whatever Marine Le Pen's personal political fortunes maybe now her party and her followers will live on. From her father until now, the Le
Pen family has demonstrated quite clearly that there's a large segment of the French electorate, which has an appetite for the family's exclusionary
and nationalistic policies. Jim Bittermann, CNN Paris.
GIOKOS: You're watching "Connect the World" live from Abu Dhabi. And still ahead top U.S. officials have a blunt comment about what they hope will
happen to Russia's military once its war on Ukraine ends. Plus the spoils of sanctions thousands of high end vehicles bound for Russia now set parked
at a Belgian port.
GIOKOS: So we've told you about that steel plant Russia has been surrounding in Mariupol. Take a look at these pictures. They come from the
Azov regiment which is fighting Russia. It is said to show women and children sheltering inside.
CNN hasn't been able to verify that if that's true. But one woman says that she and her children have been living in the bunker, and they haven't seen
sunlight in a month and a half.
It also says that only have a few days' worth of food and water left. A weakened Russian military the U.S. Defense Secretary says his country hopes
that will happen as a result of Russia's war on Ukraine.
Lloyd Austin made that blunt comments after he and U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken met Ukraine's president in Kyiv. Their trip to Ukraine the
first by U.S. officials since the war started two months ago.
I want to bring in Vera Michlin-Shapir she's a visiting research fellow at King's College London and an expert on Russian policies. Vera, great to
have you with us, thank you so much for taking the time.
GIOKOS: Let's start with the U.S. visit and just how significant that you had the U.S. Secretary of State and the Defense Secretary visiting keep and
of course it was under wraps, and also what message that sends to the Russians.
VERA MICHLIN-SHAPIR, VISITING RESEARCH FELLOW, KINGS COLLEGE LONDON: Yes, so good afternoon, indeed, an important visit. The Russians were sort of
trawling the Ukrainians in the last couple of weeks, telling them telling on their media, in their media and to statements that, you know, we don't
see very high level officials,
American officials traveling to Kyiv, we don't see U.S. President there or Secretary of State or Secretary of Defense. So this visit is really it's
sending an important message to the Ukrainians that the West is with them.
But I think the Ukrainians; they understand that they see the support that is coming in terms of weapons, in terms of their conversations with their
western partners. But now this is also displayed to the Russians, it shows to the Russians that the U.S. is really with Ukraine.
And this would become - this becoming a major, major problem for Russia looking forward.
GIOKOS: I know you're focused on Russian history and studies. You know, Putin doesn't want to be humiliated. And in a sense, he's has seen a lot of
humiliation since the war started, whether it's losing the capital city, whether it's having to regroup.
And now the UAE saying it wants a weakened Russian military. How do you think Putin is going to take this messaging from the United States and how
he's been taking all the messaging that's coming through from NATO and allies?
MICHLIN-SHAPIR: So unfortunately, what we see with Putin is that there is a kind of --parlor reality that we hear in Russian discourse. And obviously,
all these things that we're hearing from the West, they're playing into this, because he's been telling Russians all along, which is that the U.S.
and the West is against us. It's trying to weaken us. And here we go.
There is a statement from the U.S. Secretary of Defense, but this should not sort of confuse us. Yes, I mean, whatever, the Russians, they don't
really need the statements in order to kind of peddle this discourse within Russia.
And I think that Russians are also ordinary Russians, they know that they know that this, this is the kind of a persistent discourse in Russia. So I
think that we should focus on I think, in the West, policymakers should focus on what are the policy priorities of the West.
And the thing is that the Russian ambitions and Russian aggression towards Ukraine is something that is real, it's here, it's not words, these are
actions. So there is an actual need sort of that if we're not going if there is not going to be a regime change in Russia, and it's very unlikely
that the sanctions are going to bring the regime change in Russia.
But what this war and the sanctions, what they can do is that they can cripple Russia actual abilities, military abilities to go and to pursue
such terrible war and such aggression.
GIOKOS: Yes. So Vera, I mean, to cripple Russia will take time. What is your timeline that you're looking at, at this point, because you're talking
about regime change in Russia?
We're talking about being in the long haul, for this war to last at least a few years in terms of the messaging that you're giving.
MICHLIN-SHAPIR: I mean, the thing is that it's not only us talking about it, it's the Russians are talking about it being in the long haul. Yes, I
mean, the Russians are talking about sort of a land grab and continuing pressure on Ukraine.
And the thing with, what I mentioned about - change is that, I don't think that sanctions are the kind of pressures aren't necessarily going to bring
down Putin. But I think that what is happening right now, we've seen that this war in Ukraine, the amount of forces and the amount of equipment that
the Russians have lost are setting them back further and further back in terms of their ability to kind of they need to really ramp up production in
order to, to kind of reinforce their military looking forward.
And here, sanctions are incredibly important, because without parts from the west without parts coming into Russia, it would be incredibly hard for
them to kind of recreate this war machine that they launched against Ukraine. So here sanctions and enforcement --actions are incredibly
GIOKOS: The terror the mayhem that we're seeing that is being unleashed in Ukraine, you have family in Ukraine, Vera, can you give me a sense of how
they're doing and any stories of hope that you're seeing at the stage?
MICHLIN-SHAPIR: Yes, so I think that well, first of all for people in Ukraine, its incredible - for them, all these kinds of these things, things
are symbolic to us. They're important, right?
I mean, these are incredibly important signs that the U.S. is giving us, that when we see such high level officials struggling there. The one thing
that Ukrainians are extremely in pain about and we hear it a lot is what is happening in the south of the country and what is happening specifically in
MICHLIN-SHAPIR: But it's happening in the occupied parts of Ukraine, which unfortunately, fortunately, my family I'm so fortunate that my family is
not there. But everyone's hearts are with the people who are there who are under Russian occupation and who are in Mariupol, who are in the bunkers,
who don't see sunlight.
And this is I think this is where to focus with Ukrainian people are in their hearts are with them. Because we've seen the photos, we've seen the
images that came from the Russian - woodwork from Kyiv from the Kyiv region. And this is extremely, extremely painful moment for Ukrainians.
GIOKOS: Vera, thank you very much for joining us and for your insights, great to have you on the show. The West is looking to bolster support for
Ukraine by working out what to do with billions of dollars in assets seized as part of sanctions on Russia.
Nic Robertson got a look at some of those assets in a massive parking lot in Belgium, now the holding area for thousands of luxury cars.
NIC ROBERTSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL DIPLOMATIC EDITOR (voice over): Thousands of luxury vehicles not going to Russia. In this corner of the sprawling lot
200 Top End Cadillac Escalades street value in excess of $15 million.
The spoils of sanctions, literally piling up inside Belgium's Megaport Zeebrugge, a new front line in Europe's economic war with Russia pitting
Belgian customs agents against Russia's sanctioned oligarchs.
FLORENCE ANGELICI, SPOKESPERSON, BELGIAN FEDERAL MINISTRY OF FINANCE: And we have been freezing over 200 billion Euros of Russian assets. We have
also other luxury goods that are being blocked momentarily that 2500 containers are being blocked for more investigations.
ROBERTSON (on camera): But who actually owns these seized valuables? And can they be sold for money to support Ukraine is fast becoming a pressing
question, particularly in Europe, feeling the economic pinch of Russia's war, these vehicles aren't Russian owned yet. But there is plenty of
Russian wealth falling under Belgian government control.
VINCENT VAN PETEGHEM, BELGIAN DEPUTY PRIME MINISTER: Whereas already 2.7 billion Russian assets that were blocked were frozen, and then also almost
200 billion transactions that were blocked.
ROBERTSON (on camera): And the goods that had been seized so far, what happens to them, who owns them, the transactions, of course, are blocked.
And the assets itself are frozen so they cannot be used anymore doesn't mean that they become that the government owns them.
ROBERTSON (on camera): And all these vehicles we're looking at the old - destination Russia.
MARC ADRIANSENS, MANAGING DIRECTOR, ICO TERMAINALS: Yep.
ROBERTSON (voice over): In Zeebrugge shipping terminal boss, Marc Adriansens is on the front lines enforcing sanctions. Any vehicle bound for
Russia, valued over $55,000 is impounded.
ADRIANSENS: So for the moment we have 8000 cars started 8000 already.
ROBERTSON (on camera): That's a lot.
ADRIANSENS: That's a lot of thought we could get more.
ROBERTSON (voice over): A lot more. He says 120,000 vehicles bound for Russia a year transits his controls is already turning some away.
ADRIANSENS: We are not there to store cars. We are there to handle cars and to the added value on cars.
ROBERTSON (voice over): Pressure on Adriansens and Belgium will grow the wall far from over and trade ties with Russia deep.
ROBERTSON (on camera): In the third quarter of last year Russia was the European Union's largest maritime trading partner. According to EU data,
and one third of all those goods coming through ports like this in Belgium, and just up the coast in the Netherlands, it could all add up to
potentially billions of dollars of goods that could be used to help Ukraine.
But turning it into cash requires legal confiscation, not an easy process. European parliamentarians are being warned by EU justice officials.
PETER CSONKA, HEAD OF UNIT JUSTICE, EUROPEAN COMMISSION: To get somebody's property confiscated, we need a crime. We are looking for her legal
solutions. Money laundering embezzlement, perhaps sanction circumvention.
ROBERTSON (voice over): Until then seize goods and assets will age while Ukraine's frontline fighters die for fresh weapons.
GIOKOS: Nic Robertson joins me now live from Brussels. Nic, really illuminating piece and just shows the tentacles of the sanctions and just
how far reaching there was one line that really struck me that Russia was the largest maritime trading partner for the EU.
This means that we're going to be seeing a lot of goods that are going to be stopped in their tracks at ports probably around Europe, but also that
means that both sides are going to feel it quite extensively.
ROBERTSON: They are, I mean, we've heard about how you know, stopping buying Russian gas and Russian oil would actually hurt the economy of
ROBERTSON: But as you saw there, what do you do physically with all these goods that you've got stacked up now, particularly when they're large items
How many customs officers do you need to employ to go and look through all the different containers out there that on the container ships that are
bound for, for Russia, in some cases, they're seizing container loads of luxury handbags that are destined for the top end market in Russia?
So it takes manpower, it takes facilities to store it, it takes good and concise banking to go through banking records to see who actually owns the
goods, how those transactions can be stopped and blocked.
So it takes and consumes a lot of manpower, a lot of effort, a lot of storage facility. But the notion that because the economists here in Europe
are being hurt through, you know, part because of coming out of COVID, part because there is a global economic downturn, part because the price of oil
and gas are going up all these things combined, is really raising that question.
When European Union citizens are asked to take a hit on their pocket to help support Ukraine, which is what it comes down to in this war with
Russia, is that other ways of finding money to offset that? And these assets are that, but it's only part of the picture, of course.
GIOKOS: Nic Robertson, really good to see you. Thank you so very much for that update. Twitter is reportedly close to a deal with Elon Musk over his
bid to buy the social media platform. We'll have Wall Street's reaction to the news that takeover is imminent. Stay with us.
GIOKOS: Developing today Twitter is reportedly nearing a deal to sell itself to Tesla CEO Elon Musk. Right now Twitter stock is up on the that
news and it comes 11 days after Musk shocked the industry by offering to buy the company for more than $41 billion.
The Wall Street Journal reports a deal could be finalized. As soon as today we've got Clare Sebastian covering all the developments on the story. She's
joining us from London.
Clare. I mean, to be honest, the relationship between Elon Musk and Twitter really sort of you know, developing where you saw a few tweets and then he
was meant to join the board. And then that didn't happen and now you're seeing a possible takeover. Is there a sense that this could happen?
CLARE SEBASTIAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Eleni. I think this has been an extraordinary turnaround. It's just three weeks since he disclosed that he
had taken a 9 percent stake in the company making him the biggest shareholder then he was asked to join the board apparently refused to do
Then the board itself is called a poison pill or mechanism designed to deter him from taking over the whole company.
SEBASTIAN: And now it seems there's been a turn around the board, according to a source familiar with the matter convened on Sunday. And he said to be
in discussions that really seriously thinking about his bed, there are a couple of things that I think led to this turnaround one, when he first
made the offer, it wasn't really clear how he was going to pay for it.
There was a filing last week, which revealed that he does actually have funding in place through various mechanisms, loans from the likes of Morgan
Stanley, and other group of lenders about 21 billion of his own money from his holding.
So he does have the funding in place for this bid. There was also a sort of veiled threat in that filing that if he doesn't have his offer accepted, he
will go to what's called a tender offer, try to buy out all individual shareholders.
And the other thing is that the Wall Street Journal has been reporting that Elon Musk has been doing a fair bit of behind the scenes lobbying, actually
talking to individual shareholders and trying to bring them round to his vision for the company.
But look at extraordinary turn of events for a man who, you know, lost the chairmanship of Tesla because of something he tweeted a few years ago, who
ended up in court for defamation over another tweet now he wants to take over the entire company.
GIOKOS: Clare, we're going to get an edit button if Elon Musk takes over?
SEBASTIAN: He definitely wants an edit button and - exploring trialing as well. So that could be on the cards, other things he wants to do take the
company private. He wants to make the algorithm open source all sorts of different changes.
GIOKOS: Cool, thank you so much. Good to see you, Clare, great to have you on. Right, moving on Beijing is reporting 29 new cases of Coronavirus since
Sunday. Authorities have locked down some residential compounds in the city where residents are banned from stepping outside the front door.
Fear is that Beijing may end up in a lockdown like the one in Shanghai is rattling global markets. Let's take a quick look to see how they are faring
right now you've got oil prices coming under pressure at this point in time.
The big fear here is that you'll have a drop in demand but you've got the Dow you've got U.S. markets under pressure. You also have European markets
taking a knock; Brent crude is down six and a half percent.
Here's the reality if you've got a big market like China locking down again, we know what that's going to mean for supply chains. And we also
know what that's going to mean for oil demand as well.
So Chinese authorities are racing to contain the new COVID-19 outbreak in the country's capital, in Shanghai, the ongoing lockdown there is fueling
an online uprising. CNN's David Culver is in the city and sent us this report.
DAVID CULVER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Eleni, the determination to contain this virus leading to disturbing videos circulating on social media right here
in Shanghai. They show crews installing steel fences inside residential compounds so as to prevent people in buildings with reported positive cases
from getting out, essentially caging them in, many raising the obvious fire hazard concerns.
In other communities like mine, we've got just a paper seal on the door and there's now a community COVID guard if you will on duty 24/7 just to make
sure we don't wander out of our homes without permission.
On the public streets workers also putting up barricades are trying to keep people from traveling to other districts. This latest Omicron fueled surge
has the city now reporting more than 500,000 cases since the start of the outbreak which dates back to early March.
And there's now growing concern outside of Shanghai, especially in Beijing. Only double digit case numbers reported so far, but it's concerning enough
for one of the capital city's largest districts to require its 3 million residents to get three rounds of PCR tests this week.
Authorities have locked down dozens of residential compounds across eight districts in Beijing, where residents are living like us, basically banned
from leaving their doors or the complexes.
Now following the horror stories of Shanghai and challenges to get food, Beijing officials are reassuring the public that the city has enough
supplies, but that doesn't stop the panic buying.
Many is fearing that the Beijing, the capital city will go into a city wide lockdown like here in Shanghai and the news causing global stocks and oil
price is to fall Monday. China's Shanghai Composite Index had its worst day since February 3 2020.
That's when the initial Coronavirus outbreak first rocked the nation's stock market. The lockdown here in Shanghai has already forced many
factories to suspend production and made shipping delays worse that in turn placing more strain on global supply chains, this as officials stand by
their zero COVID strategy, Eleni?
GIOKOS: Keep now on some other stories that are on our radar. An overloaded boat carrying migrants fleeing Lebanon has capsized at least six people
died including a girl.
A Lebanese naval official says the boat only had capacity for six people, though it estimated 60 were on board. But some survivors claimed the
Lebanese Coast Guard targeted their boats and threatened them with drowning.
GIOKOS: U.S. President Joe Biden will visit Israel in the coming months. That's according to Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett after the two
leaders spoke on the phone Sunday.
Meanwhile, Israel's Foreign Minister says there won't be any changes to rules that prevent Jews from praying at the Al Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem.
There were more clashes there last week.
Authorities tell CNN women and children are among the dead in a weekend explosion at an illegal oil refinery in Nigeria. The blast killed more than
100 people on the border of Nigeria's River State and - state.
The Nigerian president is calling the explosion a catastrophe. And just ahead praying for peace asking for salvation, Ukrainian refugees find a
sacred space in Poland.
(COMMERCIAL BREAK) GIOKOS: Ukraine says Russia is trying to depopulate the eastern parts of the country. And advisor to President Zelenskyy tell CNN the Kremlin is
sending a message of quoting, surrender or be raised.
And as we know millions of Ukrainians have been forced to flee their home since Russia launched its unprovoked war on February the 24th. The U.N.
says close to 3 million Ukrainians have fled the country for Poland.
But this weekend, many put their war aside to celebrate one of the most important holidays of the year, Orthodox Easter. CNNs Erica Hill brings us
the story from Warsaw.
ERICA HILL, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice over): On this orthodox Easter morning, faith in many forms.
IRYNA, UKRAINIAN REFUGEE: This day is very, you know, hopeful and we hope that this situation will over will be over soon. So we are hoping for the
best for our future. And we are praying for this.
HILL (voice over): Warsaw's Orthodox Cathedral of St. Mary Magdalene regularly welcomes Christians from across Europe. In the past few weeks,
it's become a haven for those fleeing the war in Ukraine.
Iryna tells me she misses her husband, a surgeon who stayed behind in Kyiv to treat the wounded. She hopes there'll be together again. One of the
local priests says the number of Ukrainians at this church has increased dramatically.
About 80 percent he says are refugees. Ukrainian flags and colors on display, baskets of food waiting to be blessed, proudly draped in yellow
and blue. Doria, a Ukrainian student here says, Easter should be celebrated together, a symbol of unity.
Victor, a political refugee from Belarus agrees. It shows that old people are brothers, he tells me. Easter traditions offer both comfort and a
sobering reminder of how much life has changed.
IRYNA: I can't say this without tears from my eyes because it is just I couldn't imagine you know that it would be happened. It is just awful.
HILL (voice over): Iryna and her son recently arrived in Warsaw from Lviv, her husband and parents are still in Ukraine. 12 year old Yurii says he's
glad to be in Poland and its safer here.
YURII, 12-YEAR-OLD UKRAINIAN REFUGEE: It's dangerous to live because every time a bomb can fall on our house.
HILL (voice over): Despite that fear, he's confident he'll go home one day, faith in the future of Ukraine, as strong as the faith that brings them
here today. Erica Hill, CNN, Warsaw.
GIOKOS: The crew of the first all private mission to the International Space Station is due to splashdown off the coast of Florida in about an
hour. They left the space station on the SpaceX Dragon capsule Sunday night.
The return process is autonomous, so the four crew members who supposedly paid $55 million of seats will be able to enjoy the departing views. The
mission was supposed to be 10 days aboard the International Space Station, but it was extended for five days due to the weather.
Well, thanks so very much for joining us. That was "Connect the World". CNN's coverage of Russia's invasion of Ukraine continues after the short
break. I'm Eleni Giokos in Abu Dhabi, thanks so much for joining us.