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Ukraine and Allies Believe It Can Win War; U.N. Chief in Moscow for High-Level Talks; Ukrainian Paramedics Work to Save Lives; Elon Musk's Twitter Deal Expected o Close This Year; Apartment Fire Raises Safety Concerns in Lockdown; Mariupol Mayor Says Third Mass Grave Found near City; Polish Shelter Welcomes Non-Ukrainians Fleeing War. Aired 10-10:40a ET

Aired April 26, 2022 - 10:00   ET





GEN. LLOYD AUSTIN, U.S. SECRETARY OF DEFENSE: My Ukrainian friends, we know the burden that you all carry. And we know and you should know that

all of us have your back.

ELENI GIOKOS, CNN ANCHOR AND CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The U.S. Defense Secretary shows strong support for Ukraine. He says the United States and

its allies believe that the country can win the war.



UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I know that we have, today, we are facing a situation in Ukraine. There are different interpretations about what is happening in


GIOKOS (voice-over): After face to face talks with Russian foreign minister Sergey Lavrov, the U.N. secretary general again called for an

immediate suspension of hostilities. He is expected to meet with President Putin soon.



CLARISSA WARD, CNN CHIEF INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Russian forces are increasingly hitting the same target twice. It is called a

double tap, a horrifying strategy to takeout rescue workers as they respond.

GIOKOS (voice-over): Brave Ukrainian paramedics put their lives at risk, trying to save others. CNN joins them on the dangerous job.


GIOKOS (voice-over): I am Eleni Giokos in Abu Dhabi. Hello, welcome to CONNECT THE WORLD. It is great to have you with us. Lots to get through.

Russia's president is scheduled to meet with U.N. secretary general soon in what has become a day of diplomacy in this ruthless war in Ukraine. This

comes just hours after a Antonio Guterres met with the Russian foreign minister and called out Moscow for violating the U.N. charter.


ANTONIO GUTERRES, UNITED NATIONS SECRETARY-GENERAL: According to the Russian Federation, what is taking place is a special military operation

with the objective that was announced (ph).

According to the U.N., in line with the resolutions passed by the General Assembly, Russia's invasion of Ukraine is a violation of its territorial

integrity and against the charter of the United Nations.


GIOKOS: And earlier today, dozens of nations joined the U.S. Defense Secretary in Germany for talks on Ukraine. In his opening remarks, Austin

slammed Russia and its leader.


AUSTIN: Russia's invasion is indefensible. And so are Russian atrocities. We all start today from a position of moral clarity. Russia is waging a war

of choice to indulge the ambitions of one man. Ukraine is fighting a war of necessity to defend its democracy, its sovereignty and its citizens. But

the stakes reach beyond Ukraine and even beyond Europe.


GIOKOS: And on the ground in Ukraine, a nighttime curfew is now in effect in Kyiv. That is due to what authorities are calling Russian provocations.

Russian troops have now taken control of Kherson's city council. This comes weeks after they first occupied the city.

The mayor posted on social media that armed men entered the building, took the keys and replaced Ukrainian guards with their own. Meanwhile, the mayor

of Mariupol says that a third mass grave had been found near the city. He's also accusing Russian troops of forcing civilians to work at these sites in

exchange for food and water.

There's a lot to unpack here. Let's begin with the U.N. secretary general's trip to Moscow. Joining me now from New York, former U.N. assistant

secretary-general Franz Baumann.

It is good to have you with us. Listening to Sergey Lavrov and Antonio Guterres after the meeting, what did you make of the U.N. secretary

general's messaging?

Do you think it was sufficient during this time of crisis?

FRANZ BAUMANN, FORMER U.N. ASSISTANT SECRETARY-GENERAL: Thank you, Eleni. He spoke very clearly, very forcefully and he was absolutely right. The

problem was that he should have said this three months ago. Guterres has, under Article 99 of the charter, the duty to bring to the attention of the

Security Council threats to peace.


BAUMANN: He should have traveled to Beijing for the Olympics and met with Putin and Xi and said, please no thoughts of invading. Now the baby is now

in the well. It is too late. And he will not get himself into a good role as a mediator if he says this. So in a way, the horse has bolted. Sadly,

tragically. But he is right in substance but too late.

GIOKOS: There are 200 other former U.N. officials that have written an open letter to Guterres. We mustn't let this fade in memory, when there was

a Russian military buildup around Ukraine, Putin and Moscow were saying, look, this is in no way is a threat to Ukrainian sovereignty.

That is the argument now, they should have been removed by the U.N. when this was all happening. But Moscow has morphed is messaging.

What do you make now of what Sergey Lavrov is saying and what Russia's true intentions might be?

We have been deceived so much in the past few months.

BAUMANN: I can't. It makes no sense whatsoever. Russia has unified Ukraine. They have unified the European Union. They unified NATO. So that

was not their intent. So I do not know what it is that they are after.

But the U.N. secretary general is not a psychologist. He has to go with what is on the ground. There is huge military buildup. So he has to remind

the country of Russia that the U.N. membership means peaceful resolution of conflict. It means that Ukraine has a right to self determination.

And Russia cannot use force or even threaten force. So if Russia is in line of violating it, the secretary general should have gone to China, to New

Delhi, to Pretoria, to Brasilia, to enlist all the countries of the world before the outbreak that they will stand with the charter then, not now,


GIOKOS: You are making such a good point on that. Even Sergey Lavrov started getting into the macro picture, saying Africa and the global south

have very little with presentation in the U.N. in terms of permanent seats.

I want to bring in our correspondent, Nic Robertson. He is standing by for us as well.

Nic, what stood out for me is when Sergey Lavrov says, listen, it doesn't help that the U.S. and other countries are -- what he called-- pumping

Ukraine with weapons. That is not helping getting anyone to the negotiating table.

On the other end of the spectrum, Russia is not exactly sure that they really do want to negotiate by way of its military action that we see

playing out every minute in various parts of the country.

NIC ROBERTSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL DIPLOMATIC EDITOR: It seems like Russia absolutely wants to crush any resistance in Mariupol. It is not in their

strategic interest to have a humanitarian corridor, to give the opportunity to have an international presence.

That is what the U.N. secretary general suggests, that the U.N. and the Red Cross be on the ground there because that gives the Russians a perception

that that will become the standard around which the Ukrainians and the international community can unite, to deny Russia control in the later

phases of the war.

That is something that they don't want. I think we heard Sergey Lavrov criticizing votes of the United Nations. He alleges that the United States

has somehow been bribing lesser U.N. members to vote their. He said they're threatening their bank accounts and even their children's education.

These are unfounded accusations; nothing new from him. So they are pushing back. I think Sergey Lavrov, by saying, to your point, that those are

calling for the defeat of Russia, who are stuffing Ukraine full of weapons, they are the ones keeping the war going.

That gets to the secretary-general's point that the Russians are abrogating the terms of the U.N. charter. Russia does not seem to understand the point

that the secretary-general is making. Ukraine has this right to territorial integrity, to its sovereignty and to be able to turn to security partners

of its choice.

Russia, in the words of Sergey Lavrov, seems to think that Ukraine should roll over and allow Russia to come in. Any support they are getting to stop

that is somehow wrong. Russia thinks they can choose to be the aggressor and get away with it.

So the secretary general has a very, very, very tough conversation and a necessary conversation.


ROBERTSON: I am sure he is quite well aware of the reception and the realities of the behind the doors meetings he's having.

GIOKOS: Franz, you are a former adviser on peace operations. Embarking on negotiations when it comes to securing peace, especially with an aggressor

like Putin, I am sure must be very tough.

When you heard Guterres saying, what is true and obvious is that there are no Ukrainian soldiers or troops in Russia but there are Russian troops in

Ukraine, that was a pretty clear message.

How do you think that is going to sit with Vladimir Putin, ahead of a meeting with him where Guterres and Putin are going to be talking about a

way forward?

BAUMANN: Well, you know, I am very happy that Guterres is speaking so frankly, so precisely and so clearly. It is not, as we have just heard,

this is not about Ukraine encroaching on Russia or NATO encroaching on Russia.

The last eastward extension of NATO was 18 years ago. It was 2004. Putin happened to be in Berlin when the chancellor mentioned this. They gave a

press conference. He was asked, Mr. President Putin was, are you scared or worried about NATO expansion eastward?

And Putin said, no, I'm not scared. So this is clearly not the reason. Putin is not scared by NATO. Because NATO, Finland, or Lithuania, Poland,

Germany, they have no intent on occupying or threatening Russian territory.

We want to buy gas. And we want to sell cars, Germany. SO this is completely invented, like the denazification and all of this kind of stuff.

I think that Vladimir Putin is worried about a westernized Ukraine.

So people in Moscow and St. Petersburg might get funny ideas, oh, look at how well they are doing. Look, 30 years ago, Russia and China had the same

gross domestic product. China now has 10 times as much.

Russia is a failing, corrupt state. The German chancellor Helmut Schmidt called it a gas station with rockets. And Putin does not want his people to

look at a flourishing, westernized Ukraine.

So that is the background. So Guterres they cannot go into the psychology of the Russian president. He has to remind them -- and he did -- of what

the charter obligations were.

Now, if I may make one more point. Guterres will not convince Putin to make peace because Putin and President Zelenskyy think that they are successful

in the battlefield. Therefore, what Guterres can achieve now, the maximum, is humanitarian corridors. Stop the shelling.

That is why I sincerely hope that he will announce to Vladimir Putin that he, Guterres, will go to Mariupol, to Kharkiv and then dare the Russians to

shoot at him.

GIOKOS: Franz Baumann, thank you very much.

Nic Robertson, always very good to have you.

As the fighting ramps up in Eastern Ukraine, the demands on health care workers have become nearly unbearable. Many are putting their lives at risk

every day to save others. CNN's Clarissa Ward and her team followed two brave paramedics as they helped a wounded man during heavy shelling in



WARD (voice-over): It's the beginning of a 24-hour shift for paramedics Alexandra Rudkovskaya and Vladimir Venzel. They prepare their ambulance for

the carnage that Kharkiv residents confront every day.

"We have two tourniquets," Vladimir says.

Alexandra's mother stops by the dispatch center to give her daughter a hug. This is one of the most dangerous jobs. Every moment together is precious.

A loud stream of booms signals the day's work is beginning.

That's incoming now, this ambulance worker tells us.

Alexandra and Vladimir answer the call. The code used when someone has been wounded by shelling. Their flak jackets on, they're ready to roll out.

So they have said that they have got reports one person at least has been injured in the shelling and they're hearing some rockets as well, so we're

going to see what's going on.

The shells hit a residential apartment building.


WARD (voice-over): The paramedics need to act fast. Russian forces are increasingly hitting the same target twice. It's called a double tap, a

horrifying strategy to take out rescue workers as they respond, as we see for ourselves.

"Get in," Vladimir shouts. "Faster, faster, faster."

We take cover under the stairwell. Alexandra is trying to find the wounded person. But there's no signal.

At that moment, another barrage goes off. We brace for the impact.

"Is everybody OK?" Alexandra asks.

Our team member Maria Avdeba (ph) has cut up her hands on broken glass. Vladimir treats her injuries, as Alexandra calls the dispatch again to find

where the wounded are.

"We've got no connection, we're sitting in the entrance," she says, "and they're shelling the shit out of us."

The connection keeps dropping. Finally, she gets through to the person who called for the ambulance.

"Tell me your damn house number," she says.

"I repeat, 12G. I have told you 1,000 times," he replies.

The man is dying. We decide to try to make a run for it.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Maria, come on. Come on, Maria. Come on. Go, go. Get in the car. Get in the car get in the car.

WARD: OK, so we were just in an apartment building. They were looking for an injured man. A bunch of rounds came in and hit the next door building,

so now we're getting out as fast as we can.

While we run out, Vladimir and Alexandra run back in. We find them treating the injured man on the side of the road. Their back window has been blown

out by the blasts. He has shrapnel injuries and head trauma. Once they have stabilized him, they rush him to the hospital. Vladimir asks about his

pain. The man has been deafened by the blast.

Arriving at the hospital, they have done their part. It's up to others now to save him.

I have to say, I think you guys are like the bravest people I have ever met.

Back at base, we ask them why they continue to do this work with all of the danger it entails.

"It's normal, this is our work. Of course it's scary, like for everyone," Alexandra says. "Today, you were with us in the hottest place, in the oven.

But we're still alive, thank God."

"You feel it's your duty or obligation," Vladimir tells us, "to help the people who are still here."

And what do your parents say?

What does your family say?

Aren't they wanting you to stop this work?

VLADIMIR VENZEL, PARAMEDIC: No comment. It's very difficult.

WARD: They must be scared.

VENZEL: Yes. Yes.

WARD: Proud but scared.

VENZEL: Call all day, all night.

WARD: We saw your mother.


WARD: "She's worried to the point of hysteria," Alexandra tells us. "She says, 'You need to leave. You need to go to some safe place. Why are you

doing this?

"'I have only one child. Stop it.'"

And what do you say?

"I have to do it," she says simply.

And with that, they go back to cleaning their ambulance, their shift only halfway through -- Clarissa Ward, CNN, Kharkiv.


GIOKOS: Still to come, the impact that the world's richest person could have on Twitter.


GIOKOS: Elon Musk is now set to buy the social media platform. That is all coming up.




GIOKOS: Twitter's employees have a lot of questions after the company agreed to sell itself to Tesla CEO Elon Musk. It is a roughly $44 billion

deal that would take Twitter private. It would also put the world's richest person in charge of one of the most influential social networks.

Pending a thumbs-up from regulators and shareholders of course, Elon Musk is both a high profile Twitter user and a controversial one. He has used

the platform to spread misleading claims around COVID-19. He has also made offensive remarks about the transgender community.

Musk says that his goal is to help bolster free speech on Twitter. He calls it the digital town square, where matters vital to the future of humanity

are debated. Let's go to CNN's Rahel Solomon live in New York for us.

It is really good to have you on. Look, firstly, the valuation is out of this world. This is huge money for its shareholders. If I look at the price

to earnings ratio, it makes one's eyes water.

Again, Musk is touting this as him coming in and helping humanity, free speech. He is almost looking at it from an egalitarian perspective.

What part of this should we believe?

RAHEL SOLOMON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Eleni. Good to be with you. Yes, that is the cause that he is championing, that he wants to expand free

speech. This is absurd. Twitter has been rife with concern ever since the news broke yesterday afternoon at about 3 pm Eastern.

What does that even look like on a platform that has already been considered by some to be toxic and divisive and even harmful?

We know that this is one of his platforms. What exactly it will look like is unclear because of these concerns. In fact, one of the largest and

longtime supporters of free speech in the States tweeted their concerns.

Take a look at this tweet from the American Civil Liberties Union.

They tweet, "We should be worried about any powerful central actor, whether it is the government or a wealthy individual, even if it is an ACLU member,

having so much control over the boundaries of our political speech online."

Fellow billionaire and the owner of "The Washington Post" newspaper also posed a question on Twitter.

Jeff Bezos said, "Interesting question, did the Chinese government just gain a bit of leverage over the town square?"

A reference to that tweet that you pointed out at the beginning of this hitch. This is also a reference to Tesla's Shanghai factory. Elon Musk also

has a good relationship with Chinese officials. There are so many questions about how this is all going to shake out.


SOLOMON: I think what is clear, this really sort of signifies, shows and illustrates how important and influential Twitter has become in our


GIOKOS: Look, the E.U. Commission is also raising a flag. They are saying that Twitter needs to comply with the rules in the E.U. Elon Musk knows

this very well.

Is this sort of a threat coming through in terms of what he could face in Europe?

SOLOMON: It certainly does appear so. Take a look at these comments. I would say they are pretty strong comments. They came out swiftly after the

news yesterday. This is from the E.U. commissioner, Thierry Breton, telling the "Financial Times" that Elon has rules.

"You are welcome but these are our rules. It's not your rules which will apply here."

So, yes, perhaps a veiled threat. If nothing else, they are putting Elon Musk on guard (ph). Of course Twitter is a global company. So how he looks

to expand free speech but he also has to comply within global framework. That remains to be seen.

Those comments come after the E.U. passed sweeping legislation, a crackdown on big tech and misinformation on the internet. For all of the concerns, he

does have one major supporter in his corner. That would be Jack Dorsey. He essentially said that he does not believe that anyone should own Twitter.

However, Elon Musk is the singular solution that he trusts.

GIOKOS: Interesting. Look, a great price tag for him and the shareholders. Interesting times. Rahel, thank you very much for your time.

Let's move on now.

Chinese authorities are racing to contain a fresh Omicron outbreak. It is spreading fast in Beijing. Some 20 million people in the capital city are

being tested for COVID-19. Since Friday, 80 cases have been reported there.

Fears of more restrictions have triggered panic buying. Shoppers have been emptying store shelves and online food delivery apps have been selling out

of some food items. Much of the fear in Beijing is being driven by the fear of what is happening in Shanghai.

Millions of people there have been kept inside under a strict lockdown for weeks. As CNN's David Culver is reporting, the government censors are

struggling to silence the complaints.


DAVID CULVER, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): It's the video Chinese censors do not want you to see or share, as it sparked a rare

digital uprising on social media this weekend, highlighting a shared misery and helplessness felt across Shanghai.

The video points to dysfunction, mismanagement, a study in chaos, struggling to cope with a surge in COVID cases. It resonates with so many

of Shanghai's 25 million residents, feeling trapped, turning to the most popular Chinese communication platforms Weibo and WeChat to vent.

Amidst what is government-controlled Internet, with any dissent quickly suppressed and erased, China's censors over the weekend struggled to keep


No sooner would they block one version of the video, did another resurface. Rapidly multiplying, flooding China's cyberspace. Some versions even

disguised as QR codes to throw off the censors.

The online rattling of social stability was a growing rejection of China's harsh COVID containment measures. Some even sharing this clip from the 2012

movie "Les Miz," referencing a 19th Century uprising in Paris. The censors swiftly clamped down, extinguishing the spread.

But the users also taking aim at the obvious censorship itself, sharing clips of their own officials proclaiming China's citizens have a right to

freely express themselves. Seemingly ironic, given even the first line of China's own national anthem is now blocked online.

The words "Rise, those who don't want to be enslaved," now used as a veiled reference to criticize their own government.

For some, Shanghai feels like the world's largest prison, CNN witnessing it firsthand.

CULVER: The extent of my freedom is all the way to my terrace door here. We're lucky enough to at least get some fresh air outside.

Our community volunteer sending me this image of what's on the other side of our door, a freshly-taped paper seal, a reminder not to leave.

CULVER (voice-over): And if I managed to get out, there's now a COVID guard posted day and night.

Outside several apartment compounds, fences going up, neighbors sharing shocking images of new barriers on social media. Listen to them howl from

their balconies as they're further caged in.

Some finding work-arounds, buying their groceries through the added layer, others desperately rattling locks, hoping to escape.

And then there are those who managed to tear down the walls.

For folks locked into their homes, scenes like this are a terrifying reality.


CULVER (voice-over): An apartment fire over the weekend in Shanghai's business district, state media quick to report that everyone got out


But it raises questions: might these COVID barriers be more of a danger than the virus itself?

And if you thought the city might be near reopening or easing lockdowns, images from the streets of Shanghai show giant containers, not bringing in

much-needed supplies but rather helping to build more blockades.

This as more positive cases and close contacts are rounded up and sent to government quarantine facilities, some left to sleep in tents in the middle

of deserted streets as their dormitories are disinfected.

As the rising tune of discontent echoes throughout the eerily empty metropolis, for many, Shanghai has fallen -- David Culver, CNN, Shanghai.


GIOKOS: Ahead on CONNECT THE WORLD, the daily heartache a Ukrainian woman is enduring, after her husband stays behind to fight against Russia.




GIOKOS: Welcome back, I'm Eleni Giokos in Abu Dhabi and you are watching CONNECT THE WORLD.

The sooner the war in Ukraine ends, the better for everyone. Those comments from U.N. secretary general Antonio Guterres, ahead of his face-to-face

meeting with Russian president Vladimir Putin in Moscow.

Guterres, calling himself a messenger of peace. Now earlier, he sat down with Russian foreign minister Sergey Lavrov. Guterres outlined the

different views of what has been happening in Ukraine over the past two months. Take a listen.



ANTONIO GUTERRES, UNITED NATIONS SECRETARY-GENERAL: According to the Russian Federation, what is taking place is a special military operation

with the objectives that were announced.

According to the U.N., in line with the resolutions passed by the General Assembly, Russia's invasion of Ukraine is a violation of its territorial

integrity and against the charter of the United Nations.


GIOKOS: Before the meeting, Lavrov warned that, while Russia considers nuclear war inadmissible, the danger of it happening is real and cannot be

underestimated. Guterres will visit Ukraine after leaving Moscow.

Now the mayor of Mariupol says, a third mass grave has been discovered near the city and he is accusing Russian troops of forcing civilians to work at

the sites in exchange for food and water. Now CNN cannot independently confirm that. The giant steel plant in the besieged city is the last major

line of defense for Ukrainian forces.


GIOKOS: Matt Rivers spoke to the wife of a soldier who stayed behind to defend Mariupol.


MATT RIVERS, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over) Before Mariupol became a hellscape, before Russian military depravity turned a city into a

cemetery, there was love here.

Just two weeks before the war began, Natalka Zarytska spent Valentine's Day with her boyfriend in the city. They took this picture at a cafe and this

one after eating. And a few days later, she snapped this one of him from her window seat on the train that would take her back to Kyiv.

NATALKA ZARYTSKA, GIRLFRIEND OF UKRAINE FIGHTER: He kissed me and told, "Natalka, I don't know when I will see you again."

RIVERS: Resignation from a man who understood the realities of the war to come. Natalka's boyfriend, who we are not naming or showing for security

reasons, is a soldier in the Azov Battalion, a unit that has fought the Russians in Mariupol for months.

We went to see Natalka at her home in Kyiv, where she told us her boyfriend was given a command to, quote, "fight until the last drop of blood."

RIVERS: What did you think when he told you that?

ZARYTSKA: I recommended him to save his life but he answered no. I should keep on the command. I'm a soldier and I have to be here.

RIVERS (voice-over): She says her boyfriend lost cell service on March 3. His silence was as deafening as the bombs that by then had started to fall

around Kyiv, forcing her and her family down into this cellar. It was in here that, after two weeks, she heard from him.

ZARYTSKA: Then he called. It could be 10 or 15 seconds. There was bombing and no connections.

RIVERS (voice-over): But with what connection he did have, he would send her videos of the utter destruction that surrounded him. We can't show you

those for security reasons.

RIVERS: What do you think when you watch these videos?

ZARYTSKA: I think that empty. I feel the empty. Absolute empty.

RIVERS (voice-over): Along with the videos were selfies and texts and on his birthday, a particularly special message.

ZARYTSKA: He gave me a proposition that I couldn't --

RIVERS: Say no to.

ZARYTSKA: -- say no, yes.

RIVERS: What did he write to you?

ZARYTSKA: (Speaking foreign language).

RIVERS: So "I love you. And do you want to be my wife?"

RIVERS (voice-over): A few days later, a marriage certificate made it official. Now a wife, she says she refuses to cry. Her husband is stoic in

the face of death, so she will be, too. How else to describe her reaction to the last message he sent?

ZARYTSKA: My husband told me that, "Natalka, please, be glad, because very soon it will finish."

RIVERS: When you say it's going to finish very soon, what are the two options?

ZARYTSKA: Very simple. They will arrive or they will be killed. Just two options.

RIVERS (voice-over): Matt Rivers, CNN, Kyiv, Ukraine.


GIOKOS: And if you would like to help people in Ukraine who may be in need of shelter, food and water, please go to to find several

ways that you can help.

All right, we are going to break. We will be right back after this. Stay with CNN.





GIOKOS: Moldova's government is convening a meeting of its security council today, following a series of explosions in the breakaway region of

Transnistria. Ukraine has blamed Russia. The defense ministry in Kyiv calling it a plan of provocation possibly to justify military intervention

by Moscow.

CNN's Bianca Nobilo reports, there are already hundreds of Russian troops stationed there.


BIANCA NOBILO, CNN ANCHOR AND CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Transnistria is a breakaway territory in Moldova not recognized by the international

community. It's a narrow sliver of land around 1,350 square miles, sandwiched between Moldova and Ukraine.

It's a self-proclaimed republic and it's got its own constitution, currency, military and flag. It's home to about half a million people, the

majority of whom are Russian speakers.

So when a senior Russian commander said this, quote, "evidence" that the Russian-speaking population in Transnistria is being oppressed, it sent a

chill down the Moldovans spine, as that echoes the justification the Kremlin used for its invasion of Ukraine.

Some background here: Transnistria declared its independence from the former Soviet Republic of Moldova in 1990, just as the Soviet Union was

collapsing. The Russian stepped into back Transnistria but they never recognized it as an independent state.

Then in March 1992, this split erupted into a full-blown military conflict between the Moldovan conflict and separatists, ending in a cease-fire about

four months later. But around 1,500 Russian troops have remained in Transnistria since then, despite the objection of the Moldovan government.

And following Russia's illegal annexation of Crimea in 2014, pro-Russian politicians in Transnistria asked the Russian parliament to draft a border

that would allow Transnistria to join Russia.

Then in 2016, Transnistria introduced a law that would punish anyone showing disrespect to Russian armed forces in the region, anything from a

fine to three years in jail.

So the depth of this connection between Transnistria and Russia helps explain why in the lead up to Russia's invasion of Ukraine, there were

claims from Ukrainian military intelligence they had evidence Russia was covertly planning false flag provocations against them, their own soldiers

in Transnistria.

All of that was denied by Russia. But some military analysts suspect that Russia plans to lean on Transnistria for logistical support and potentially

establish a large corridor along the Black Sea coast to help them capture and consolidate the strategic port city of Odessa in Ukraine.


GIOKOS: And that was CNN's Bianca Nobilo reporting there from London.

Now "The Wall Street Journal" reports that the U.S. is holding off on sanctions against Vladimir Putin's rumored girlfriend. Alina Kabaeva is a

Russian gymnast turned lawmaker, now the chair of the pro Putin new media group.

She is also allegedly the mother of at least three children fathered by Putin. The White House tells "The Wall Street Journal," they are not

imposing sanctions because they feel it would be too much of a personal escalation.

Alina Kabaeva made a rare public appearance over the weekend at a gymnastics event she hosts in Moscow.

Now in the besieged southern city of Mariupol, there is still no safe way out for hundreds of civilians sheltering inside the Azovstal steel plant.

On Monday, Ukraine said it was unable to establish humanitarian corridors to evacuate the plant.

And conditions inside seem to be growing increasingly desperate. Ukrainian forces released this video on Sunday.

OK, we are going to intervene, as we have Jim Sciutto, who is about to interview General Mark Milley and here we go.

JIM SCIUTTO, CNN ANCHOR AND CHIEF NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: So joining me right now is the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General

Mark Milley. General, thanks for taking the time this morning.

MARK MILLEY, CHAIRMAN, JOINT CHIEFS OF STAFF: Jim, thank you. I appreciate the opportunity.

SCIUTTO: It's good to have you on. This phrasing that Secretary Austin used yesterday, the goal of weakening Russia, has the U.S. aim in this

conflict expanded beyond just helping Ukraine defend itself to an aim of degrading Russia's military so it cannot attack other countries?

MILLEY: Yes, thanks, Jim, for that.

First, I want to thank you for just being in Lviv and covering the war. The media coverage has been really critical to making sure the truth gets out

about what is happening. As you know and we all know now, the entire world knows, this is an unprovoked war of aggression by Russia on a much smaller


With respect to what we're trying to do, the United States and all the allied countries --


MILLEY: -- and we just finished a conference with about 40 -- 42 countries from around the world, not just NATO, to coordinate and synchronize

continued and sustained lethal and nonlethal support to Ukraine in their fight for freedom.

At the end of the day, what we want to see, what I think the policy of all of the governments together is a free and independent Ukraine with the

territory intact and their government standing and the Russian aggression has been halted and stopped.

And at the end of the day, I think that's going to involve a weakened Russia, a strengthened NATO.

And as you see, Finland and Sweden and other countries and the unity of the west and the unity of NATO and indeed the unity of the globe has probably

never been stronger than it is in the face of this unprovoked aggression. So that's where we're heading.

SCIUTTO: As you look at Russian forces focus their attention on the eastern part of the country and the south, have they made sufficient

adjustments in terms of, for instance, supply lines but also command and control to have more success in the east than they have in the north around


MILLEY: That remains to be seen, Jim. As you know, they struggled mightily with command and control, fighting at night, establishing air supremacy and

air superiority.

They had a real difficult time with logistical resupply and a wide variety of other challenges and issues. Most of that was caused by the bravery, the

talent, the skill of the Ukrainians on the ground and fighting in accordance with the training that NATO and other allies have given them

over many, many years.

So war is a two-way street. There's action, reaction and counteraction. The first part of this operation, a strategic attempt to seize Kyiv in a

lightning strike, the attempt to topple the Zelenskyy government failed.

And now what the Russians are trying do is essentially envelope and then crush about half the Ukrainian army around the line of contact.

The Ukrainians are set. They are ready for this fight and our task here in NATO and in the west is to continue to support Ukraine in their fight for


SCIUTTO: You've heard the comments from the Russian foreign minister just in the last 24 hours saying that Russia does not want to artificially

inflate the nuclear risk but he called the risk serious. And you've heard comments on Russian state T.V. where they even celebrate that prospect to

some degree.

I wonder, has the U.S. seen any unusual or new movements of Russian nuclear forces or weapons that would indicate that that commentary is more than

just rhetoric.

MILLEY: Well, any time a senior leader of a nation state starts rattling a nuclear saber, then everyone takes it serious. And it's irresponsible for

any senior leader to be talking like that in today's world. We are monitoring, as a military, we're monitoring very closely with all of our

friends and allies and we take those things very seriously.

SCIUTTO: Short of a nuclear risk, you testified before Congress a short time ago that the potential for significant international conflict is

increasing, not decreasing -- I'm quoting you. Since then, Russia issued a diplomatic protest to the U.S. and NATO to stop its weapons shipments.

Has that increase in military support, in your view, increased the danger of direct conflict between the U.S. and Russia?

MILLEY: Yes. I actually think it's the opposite. I think that what's at stake here is much greater than Ukraine.

What's at stake is the security of Europe. This is the greatest challenge for the security of Europe since the end of World War II. And, indeed, you

can easily make the case that what's at stake is the global international security order that was put in place in 1945.

That international order has lasted 78 years. It's prevented great power war. And underlining that entire concept is the idea that large nations

will not conduct military aggression against smaller nations and that is exactly what's happened here, an unprovoked military aggression by Russia

against a smaller nation.

So if this is left to stand, if there is no answer to this aggression, if Russia gets away with this cost free, then so goes the so-called

international order. And if that happens, then we're heading into an era of seriously increased instability.

So right now, it's -- now is the time and right now is the opportunity here to stop aggression and to restore peace and security to the European


SCIUTTO: Throughout your service and your command, you've been vigilant about the threat of disinformation, particularly from a nation such as

Russia. We've seen a whole host of it in this conflict so far. When you see some of that disinformation repeated by Americans, in American circles,

including, for instance, this false charge about the U.S. funding chemical weapons operations here in this country --


SCIUTTO: -- what is your reaction to that?

MILLEY: Propaganda and disinformation, Jim, as you know, is a student of warfare. That has been around since the earliest days of recorded time.

And today, the means and mechanisms of disinformation and propaganda are fundamentally different with television or print media or social media, et

cetera. But the idea of disinformation, of spewing propaganda, has been around for a long time.

And that is happening today. The Russians are doing it on a continual basis, not only in Europe but around the world to make their case for what

is a completely unjustified attack on a smaller nation.

SCIUTTO: General Mark Milley, we appreciate you taking the time and we appreciate your service.

GIOKOS: That was General Mark Milley there, speaking to our colleague, Jim Sciutto. A really important conversation to have about the reaction and

response by NATO and its allies to assist Ukraine, specifically on weapons and ensuring what they try should say should win the war.

We are going to go to a very short break. We will be back with more news. We will be following events in Ukraine very closely. Stay with us.




GIOKOS: Imagine being a foreigner living in Ukraine and having to flee to neighboring Poland. You then arrive and find that you are not eligible for

many benefits and social services because you are not Ukrainian.

That is in part why a shelter was launched in the Polish capital. It is run by a Catholic NGO. It will help non-Ukrainian refugees fleeing the war.

Erica Hill filed this report.


ERICA HILL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: After fleeing the war in Ukraine, a chance to just be a kid.

She says here she is grateful.

Poland has welcomed nearly 3 million people since the war started, yet not everyone is greeted with open arms.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It is clear that we are more open for, you know, those Slavic people ethnic groups.

HILL: While Ukrainians arriving in Poland can stay for 18 months, work legally and have access to health care and social services, non Ukrainians

can't. These three women knew they could help.

Two weeks --

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: -- about next steps and so can't imagine actually how to do it when you are a war refugee.

HILL: Overnight they started a shelter for non-Ukrainian refugees, run by a Catholic NGO in Poland with space for 70 guests, they are turning people

away daily.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And from the beginning, it is full.

HILL: Joel and Daniel students from Nigeria were studying management in Kyiv, when the war broke out. And were reluctant to leave.

OYEBANJI TOLUWALASE, NIGERIAN STUDYING IN UKRAINE: It was hard for me (INAUDIBLE) and I would love to go back to Ukraine and it is a very good


HILL: You told me when you are looking to leave, that it was harder for you because of the way you look, because of the color of your skin.

TOLUWALASE: Yes, to be honest, yes. It is a challenge.

HILL: They finally left two weeks ago and are now trying to figure out what is next.

KAMILA DEMBINSKA, MANAGER, HOSTEL FOR NON-UKRAINIAN REFUGEES: We also try to support our guests organizing their next steps.


DEMBINSKA: So sometimes it is a trip to other countries but also we try to find flats or apartments, places to stay.

HILL: Volunteers, at least a dozen a day, keep the shelter running and help connect refugees to essential services. Among them 27 year old Khaled,

an IT professional, who fled Afghanistan seven months ago.

ABDUL KHALED MOHEBI, IT PROFESSIONAL: I do anything that I can do. It is a very good for me, because I don't have any other job and it is a good idea

to spend time here.

HILL: This effort relies on donations from clothing, to toiletries, to food, to flowers.

Even the space which has now welcomed more than 500 people from 36 countries is donated. The generous offer that runs out at the end of may.

How long do you think your help will be needed?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We should be ready to invite new refugees until the end of the next year.

HILL: And they are dedicated to meeting that challenge.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I have a feeling that we are really helping those people who are here. We cannot, you know, solve our problems but this is a

small part that we can do.


GIOKOS: Thanks to Erica Hill for bringing us that story.

We are going to a short break. More CONNECT THE WORLD after this break. Stay with us.




UNIDENTIFIED MALE (voice-over): Live from CNN Abu Dhabi, this is CONNECT THE WORLD.

GIOKOS: Hello and welcome back to CONNECT THE WORLD --