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Russian Soldier Apologizes Again at War Crimes Trial; Azovstal Commander Given Order to Stop Defending Mariupol; President Biden in Asia for First Trip as President; Taliban Order Female TV Presenters to Cover Faces; U.S. Carrier Group Works to Deter China and North Korea; Trevor Reed Speaks Out for the First Time Since Release from Russia. Aired 10-11a ET
Aired May 20, 2022 - 10:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
ELENI GIOKOS, CNN ANCHOR: Hello, I'm Eleni Giokos. Welcome to CONNECT THE WORLD. We're live in Abu Dhabi today.
And we start with reflecting back on the nearly three months into Russia's war on Ukraine. Now, Ukraine's president is painting a picture of two
realities. On one, military successes in places where Russia has tried to gain ground or maintain but can't. On the other, more attacks on civilian
targets and more civilian deaths.
In his nightly address Thursday, Volodymyr Zelenskyy focused on Russian missile strikes. This week, in the northern village of Desna, that he says
left many dead and what he called the brutal and senseless bombing of Severodonetsk in the Luhansk region, that killed at least 12 people.
President Zelenskyy says that Russia seems intent on destroying Ukrainian cities.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
PRES. VOLODYMYR ZELENSKYY, UKRAINE (through translator): The armed forces of Ukraine continue the liberation of the Kharkiv region. But in Donbas,
the occupiers are trying to increase pressures. There is hell. And that is not an exaggeration.
Constant strikes out the Odessa region, at the cities of central Ukraine, Donbas, is completely destroyed. All this doesn't and cannot have any
military explanation for Russia.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
GIOKOS: Well, President Zelenskyy also referenced what is Ukraine's first war crimes trial of this conflict, calling it the start of the process that
will bring all Russian war criminals to justice. The Russian soldier who pleaded guilty Wednesday to killing a Ukrainian civilian spoke in court
Melissa Bell is covering that trial for us in Kyiv and she's also watching developments at the Azovstal steel plant in Mariupol.
Melissa, you've been watching closely what has been happening at this first were crimes trial and back in court today the Russian soldier, speaking
once again, and it's been really fascinating to hear what he has to say.
MELISSA BELL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Eleni. I mean, partly, there's been a hugely emotional side of this trial where the widow of the
unarmed civilian that he has admitted to killing four days into the war got cross-examined him, got to put her own questions, asking him about what he
thought he was doing. Did he feel, she said, that he was coming to defend her from her own husband? And bear in mind that she was speaking there to
the justification for the war given by Vladimir Putin to his own side at the very beginning.
What we also heard, hearing both from Vadim Shishimarin, but from another young soldier who've been with him that day -- and I think what's striking
as well when you listen to this testimony is how young these men are -- is some of the chaos that was, that they experienced on those first few days
of the war. Essentially their columns of tanks came into Ukraine, hit a mine. They then escape in a stolen car, got to this village, and the order
was given to Vadim Shishimarin by another of the soldiers traveling in the car, and this was confirmed by the second soldier that took the stand this
week, to shoot the civilian.
Vadim Shishimarin refused the order initially, and it was then repeated in such a way that it could not be refused. That's what the court has been
hearing and essentially that is the defense that Vadim Shishimarin's lawyers summed up at the end of the hearing today, saying, look, this is
not about these young soldiers. The guilt, the fault here lies in the leadership of Russia. And it is they who should be on trial.
Now Vadim Shishimarin, of course, it is his trial. He faces a life sentence. And it is on Monday now that we will get both the verdict and
when we will find out, Eleni, whether Vadim Shishimarin is to spend the rest of his life in jail or not.
GIOKOS: Yes, and they're really fascinating. We heard an apology, a guilty plea, and remorse.
I'd like to reflect on what happened in Azovstal this week. It was pretty pivotal in terms of the soldiers being evacuated. Most move to Russian
controlled territory. Their fate hangs in the balance. And looking at the developments in Mariupol over the last five days, it's been pretty
BELL: Quite extraordinary and you're quite right to point that out, Eleni. Mariupol is a huge advantage strategically to Russia as it seeks to create
a land bridge from Crimea to the Donbas, for which it is furiously fighting, has been even more so over the course of the last 24 hours,
really pushing to strengthen to push to the west from Luhansk, Luhansk strongholds, and to the north from Donetsk stronghold, trying to take those
And essentially, you can see here that it is that region that is seeking to consolidate with its fighting. The fall of Mariupol then extremely
significant to the wider war. And what we've been hearing has been extremely poignant. A message from inside the plant from the commander of
the few -- and we don't how many there are, possibly 700, possibly dozens, we don't know the exact figure of fighters who are still inside and
fighting, who's announced now the full surrender of the plant.
And in the last few minutes we've been hearing from Istanbul, where the wives and mothers of some of the soldiers, 2,000 of them, that have been
evacuated so far have been speaking. And bear in mind, Eleni, that they don't know yet whether their husbands or fathers are amongst the living or
the dead. They have just been holding a press conference, speaking about the fact that they have begun receiving texts from their loved ones.
So extremely poignant scenes there in Istanbul this hour, and where they've been saying, that, look, these men or loved ones are going from hell to
hell because bear in mind that they may have been evacuate from Azovstal, it is now in the hands of Russian forces as prisoners of war that they find
themselves. And I think that initially the idea certainly from the Ukrainian side that these men, as they were evacuated, might be the suspect
of a swift and fairly straightforward prisoner of war exchange, now find themselves entirely at the mercy of Russia.
GIOKOS: You know, I see what President Zelenskyy overnight, and he describes the sort of dual reality that is playing out. On one side
Ukrainians are offering counteroffensives that are exhausting Russian forces on the ground. And on the other end, you're also seeing civilian
targets and you're seeing missile strikes, which of course are becoming more aggressive in certain areas.
What do we specifically know about the counteroffensive in Chernihiv?
BELL: Well, for instance, in Chernihiv, what we see there's a certain number of missiles strikes these last couple of days that have killed we
are hearing from Ukrainian authorities, numerous civilians. There were those strikes around Desna that you mentioned. It is a sprawling military
camp about an hour and a half's drive north of here. We drove through it only Sunday. There is a village, though, nearby. It is an extremely rural
part of the country but it fairly close to the Russian borders. So therefore, within reach of some of that increased fire and strikes that
Now we've also seen more of those along, as I said, the front line to the east since what we seem to be seeing is a concentration of Russian
firepower along those front lines. So for instance, the town a Severodonetsk, which is one of those Ukrainian held towns immediately to
the north of that river, that Russian forces have been trying to cross desperately for the past few days. Severodonetsk, it was a town of some
hundred thousand people.
There are still, we believe, about 15,000 civilians in the basements. There are 12 civilians killed overnight by shelling. That gives you an idea of
some of the ferocity of the firepower that they're coming under as Russian forces try and push across that river north, which from Luhansk to the west
northwards of their strongholds in Donetsk. So again, suggesting that what it is they're trying to do is consolidate that entire region.
And it's really important to look at a map here, Eleni. When you look from Mariupol to that region to the north, it is a land bridge that Russian
forces, with the fall of Mariupol, have managed to build between the Donbas regions that they controlled before the war, Crimea, that they annexed in
2014, and what one can imagine happening is that they could try and claim this now as a part of their own country. Sort of annexation of Ukraine.
And what allows us to understand that this may be this thinking as well is that we heard only a couple of days ago from the Ukrainian side, that the
Ukrainian side was entirely suspending the overall negotiations with Russia, looking for some kind of political solution to this crisis.
Because, they said, they do not understand that we will continue to fight and we will never accept the partition of Ukraine -- Eleni.
GIOKOS: Melissa Bell, really good to see you. Thank you so very much for that insights.
British intelligence says Russia is overhauling its military leadership because of battlefield missteps. A U.K. Defense Ministry report says senior
Russian commanders have been fired for what is considered poor performance. Others have been suspended. A top general remains in his post, although
it's unclear if he still retains the confidence of President Vladimir Putin.
Now the U.S. in the meantime is boosting Ukraine's efforts to fight back against Russia. A $40 billion aid bill is being flown to South Korea for
President Biden to sign it after it was overwhelmingly passed by the U.S. Senate Thursday.
It will help replenish Ukraine's weapons supply and provide help for Ukrainian refugees. On top of that the White House is sending $100 million
worth of howitzers and radar equipment to Ukraine. That funding was previously approved.
And for the first time in his presidency, Joe Biden is visiting Asia. The U.S. president landed in South Korea earlier and will also stop in Tokyo
during the five-day trip to the region. The war in Ukraine, North Korea's nuclear program, and economic cooperation are expected to be the main items
on his agenda.
President Biden kicked off his trip to South Korea with an issue that's hitting America back home. The global microchip shortage. It's wreaking
havoc with U.S. car manufacturing and helping fuel inflation. Speaking alongside the South Korean president earlier, Mr. Biden said that it was
time for the U.S. to stop relying on autocratic regimes.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The COVID-19 pandemic exposed before the fragility of just in time supply chains. Global semiconductor
shortage has caused a shortfall on consumer goods especially automobiles. It's contributing to higher prices around the world. And now Putin's brutal
and unprovoked war in Ukraine has further spotlighted the need to secure our critical supply chains so that our economy, our economic and our
national security, are not dependent on countries that don't share our values.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
GIOKOS: All right. For the latest on President Biden's trip, CNN's Paula Hancocks is joining me now from Seoul.
Interesting statement there. We should stop relying on autocratic regimes. I want you to tell me and unpack the messaging we've heard thus far from
PAULA HANCOCKS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Eleni, the main message is that he is here in Asia and would like to have been here a lot earlier in his term
but clearly the COVID-19 pandemic prevented that. But the message is that allies are extremely important, that he is able to strengthen alliances
with South Korea, with Japan, and with others, even though his focus, up until now, has mostly been on Russia's invasion of Ukraine, at least over
the past couple of months.
So he's here to push for economic partnerships which has really shown by the fact that his very first stop of the trip was at a Samsung
semiconductor plant, that Samsung is going to build a similar plant in Texas in the United States. So he was praising that kind of economic
partnership with an ally. They'll also be talking about security ties and as often happens when anybody of note comes to this neck of the woods,
North Korea certainly makes itself -- its presence known and will be very high up on the agenda.
Now we've been hearing from South Korea and from the American intelligence sources, suggesting that it may be imminent for a missile launch from North
Korea, potentially an intercontinental ballistic missile, intelligence sources telling our Pentagon correspondent that they may even be close to
fueling an ICBM, which means that really could be imminent.
Now obviously, if it does happen while the U.S. president is in country, that would be unprecedented and it would be remarkable. We've heard from
those around President Bush that they have prepared for all contingencies, allies have been consulted and they have a plan in place. But the main
thing that we would like to look for tomorrow on Saturday, when President Biden meets with the South Korean president, Yoon Suk Yeol, is not just
about countering the threat from North Korea.
We also know that President Biden is keen to show his allegiances in the region against growing China as well. The economic and the military might -
GIOKOS: All right, Paula Hancocks, thank you so very much. Good to see you.
And coming up CNN's Jake Tapper speaks exclusively to Trevor Reed, the former American Marine just freed after two years in a Russian prison. What
he experienced. Just ahead.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
KHATERA AHMADI, TOLONEWS ANCHOR (through translator): It's not clear. Even if we appear with the burqa, maybe they will say that women's voices are
forbidden. They want women to be removed from the screen. They are afraid of an educated woman.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
GIOKOS: Strong words after the Taliban's latest rules for Afghan woman target journalists. Christiane Amanpour will join us from Kabul after the
GIOKOS: When the Taliban took over Afghanistan nine months ago, the changes came fast. Business activity quickly dried up with harsh sanctions, fueling
a humanitarian crisis. Hard fought women's rights and media freedoms are under threats. The achievements of the post 2001 reconstruction efforts
could be gone in a flash.
Christiane Amanpour has been in Kabul all week for us, documenting these significant changes for an international audience. She joins us now live.
Christiane, really good to see you. It's been incredible to see some of your coverage that has been focusing on how Taliban rule has impacted women
and girls. I want you to give me a sense of what it means in reality for them and in terms of the messages that they are trying to give in terms of
trying to work and trying to get educated.
CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CNN CHIEF INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, you know, Eleni, the idea of women's rights here has been front and center on the
international community's agenda and even in the United States even before 9/11. If there was one thing people knew around the world in Taliban 1.0
back in the late '90s, it was the incredible oppression of women in every single field.
You know, 20 years of U.S. involvement, international involvement, their biggest success, one might say, has been the empowerment of women. That's
half the population. The empowerment of women on education, work and also some other fronts, as well as reconstruction. And what the Taliban has done
has actually suspended women's high school, girls from high school. So those from grade six to grade 12 are not yet allowed to go back to school.
This is a huge big issue, and also work and the masks, there are all sorts of, you know, conflicting edicts. I went to TOLOnews, again, an independent
leading fact-based news organization that bloomed and blossomed in Afghanistan over the last 20 years, with women on screen telling the news
as well as men. They're very scared now because of the edict that was handed down this week that they must be masked.
It has to be said it hasn't yet been enforced, but I visited them yesterday and they were very worried. Take a listen.
AMANPOUR (voice-over): For the past five months, Khatera Ahmadi has been anchoring the morning news on TOLO TV, that this might be the last time she
can show her face on air.
The morning editorial meeting starts with worried discussion about mandatory masking. Station director Khpolwak Sapai says he'd even
considered just shutting down and leaving. But then he thought, female staff who want to carry on anchoring with a mask can, while those who don't
will get other jobs behind the scenes.
KHPOLWAK SAPAI, DIRECTOR, TOLONEWS: We will leave the last decision to them. They will make their own decision.
AMANPOUR: And it's a tough decision for these women, who braved the new Taliban regime to stay on the air, who already adjusted their head scarves
to hide their hair, and who now fear a steep slide back to the Middle Ages.
Khatera says she's so stressed, she couldn't even present her program properly.
AHMADI (through translator): It's not clear. Even if we appear with the burqa, maybe they will say that women's voices are forbidden. They want
women to be removed from the screen. They are afraid of an educated woman.
AMANPOUR: Across town, the Taliban government spokesman, Zabihullah Mujahid, was attending a meeting with local journalists to mark a slightly
delayed World Press Freedom Day. We stopped him on the way in.
(On camera): You have said they have to wear a face mask if they're on television, women. Why?
(Voice-over): "It's advisory from the ministry, he says."
(On camera): But what does that mean? Is it compulsory?
(Voice-over): "If it is said, they should wear it. It will be implemented as it is in our religion too," says Mujahed. "It is good if it's
(On camera): Afghan women are afraid that this is the beginning of your efforts to erase them from the workspace. They're afraid that, if they wear
the mask, the next thing you will say is their voice cannot be heard publicly. What is your response to that?
(Voice-over): "Like during COVID," he says, "masks were mandatory. Women would only be wearing hijab or masks and they will continue their work."
He seems to say that if women wear this, they can go to work. But the dress code edicts, like saying female university students must now wear black,
not colored head scarves, is an escalating war of nerves and everyone fears where this will lead.
Back at TOLOnews, these female anchors are distraught.
"What should we do?" cries Tahmina. "We don't know. We were ready to fight to the last to perform our work, but they don't allow us."
"We women have been taken hostage," says Hilah (PH). "Women can't get themselves educated or work, like me, who's worked on screen for years and
couldn't leave Afghanistan. Due to the fear of the Taliban, I can't go on screen again."
Since the Taliban takeover, the station has employed even more women than before because they need a safe space. And as for the actual journalism,
TOLOnews is Afghanistan's leading independent news channel. But Director Sapai says they'll all quit the day the Taliban pressures them to tailor
their coverage or lie to a public that's come to trust the truth they've been delivering over 20 years.
He's saved the station so far, recruiting a whole new staff, after most employees fled the Taliban's arrival.
SAPAI: And from management level, I felt alone. And I was considered. I was only thinking that how to keep the screen alive, not to go dark.
AMANPOUR: The challenge now is keeping it from --
AMANPOUR: So of course -- he's obviously trying to make sure that, you know, that it stays on and as I said, there has not yet been the
enforcement, and the female anchors did work today without masking. But it is, you know, a really big daily pressure. And the big, big, big issue is,
whether they're going to be allowed to work? Whether the girls going to be allowed to go to school?
It's a huge issue, and it means the difference between a completely impoverish, constantly supplicant nation, dependent on foreign aid, or a
country that can actually have some kind of a future -- Eleni.
GIOKOS: Yes, exactly. It's a huge issue, as you say, but there should be a simple answer. Former President Hamid Karzai has been interesting to watch
since the U.S. withdrawal. He's been, you know, largely saying there needs to be negotiations, there needs to be some kind -- you know, talking
involved in finding solutions to the country's problems. But why has his reaction been to the latest changes imposed by the Taliban?
AMANPOUR: Well, look, he has been, you know, unlike the former president Ashraf Ghani who fled, this one Hamid Karzai, the first democratically
elected president of this country after 9/11, stayed. And he did so to try to negotiate and try to make sure that when the Taliban came, it was not
like Taliban 1.0 when they just impose themselves. There was a movement. They couldn't government. They had no idea what they were doing.
And he was trying to get, you know, to make sure that there was a new political process, to make sure that women's rights were adhered to, that
women are going to school, was something that was irreversible. And I spoke to him about that, and he pointed out to me today, he said look, it is the
all of Afghanistan who believes that that should happen. Men, women and even the religious. This is what he said.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
HAMID KARZAI, FORMER AFGHAN PRESIDENT: Absolutely importantly. Absolutely important that you show girls education as fundamental to the dignity of
Therefore there is no compromise there. Therefore the call is currently around the Taliban involvement, at the current government, that the Afghan
people will never accept that decision. That the best for them in the country is to have girls go back to school as soon as possible. This goes
to the essence of our life and existence as a dignified society. So I denounce it to the strongest word, and want the Taliban to allow girls to
go back to school as soon as possible.
AMANPOUR: That's pretty strong.
KARZAI: Tomorrow. Tomorrow.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: So he is very adamant about that and he said the same thing to the top Taliban leaders. And there may be some kind of a struggle within
the movement to make this happen. But it is a bit of a tipping point because there are those who say here if girls don't get back to school
within the next few weeks, it may never happen. And this is a huge, huge disaster for this country.
Already we've got a tweet from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Norway. They're paying close attention to women and girls rights. And the
international community is going to have to double down on this going forward. And particularly the Taliban, they want international and domestic
legitimacy. They will not get it if the girls and women are silenced and ignored.
And I think one of the key takeaways here after this week is to see that now after 20 years of knowing what it's like to be educated, to be mostly,
free to be able to work, the people here are not taking these edicts lying down. There is a backlash. There is criticism. They do confront the Taliban
when their press conferences and the like. And I think that is the big difference with Taliban 2.0 versus Taliban 1.0.
And let's not forget that in all of this, since the West pulled out, there is a massive humanitarian crisis. Nearly half this country lives on less
than one meal a day and is in potentially famine like conditions. In other words, acute hunger. And we've been covering that as well -- Eleni.
GIOKOS: You know, Christiane, yes, I have to say, that the piece that you did on the way the children are impacted, where they don't have enough to
eat, it still keeps me up at night. You know, you've spoken about the complete collapse of the economy there. You've been there a while. You've
covered Afghanistan over so many years. Do you find any solution at hand that could alleviate this immediate problem?
AMANPOUR: Well, look, many people are trying to figure that out. How do you balance holding the Taliban accountable while also trying to save the lives
of blameless people? In other words, how do you avoid a collective punishment of an entire population when you are trying to hold to account a
government that is not respecting international norms and regulations?
Now the one thing that is potentially hopeful, helpful, and Karzai said the same thing is that the top Taliban leader sat for an interview with me at
the beginning of our week here, and he said all sorts of things like he wanted to start a new chapter with the United States and with the rest of
the world. They knew very well, they know very well, that this country is going to simply, you know, collapse again if they don't actually get out of
this whole that they're in, and if they can't reengage.
They have to make the decision to adopt the laws and the rules of the international norms in order to be able to do that. Already the U.S. says
they are cooperating on counterterrorism for the moment. But when it comes to women's rights and other human rights, and all the kinds of things that
would allow them to be recognized, many of the government who I've spoken to, none of whom by the way recognize them, the Taliban is not a recognized
government. They put women's rights at the very heart of this. They have to figure out whether they're going to understand that this is the world's
condition. And, you know, we'll wait to see.
GIOKOS: All right, Christiane, thank you so much. It was really good to have you on the ground there. Thank you so much for your reporting.
Up next, finally freed after two years in Russian prison. CNN's Jake Tapper speaks exclusively to Trevor Reed, the former U.S. Marine, about his
harrowing experience. That's coming up next.
GIOKOS: U.S. President Joe Biden arrived in South Korea earlier for his first trip to Asia while in office. It comes as China and North Korea
increasingly flex their military muscles in the region. And the U.S. response to that has come in the form of USS Abraham Lincoln, one of the
largest fighting ships in the world.
CNN's Blake Essig went on board to check it out.
BLAKE ESSIG, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): If you ask United States 7th Fleet Commander Karl Thomas, this is what deterrence
looks and sounds like.
ADMIRAL KARL THOMAS, COMMANDER, U.S. 7TH FLEET: Deterrence to date has worked. And I'm hopeful that it continues to work, but my job is to be
prepared in case it doesn't.
ESSIG: For the past several months, the U.S. Navy carrier Strike Group 3, led by the USS Abraham Lincoln and armed with the U.S. Navy's most advanced
fighter wing, has conducted joint drills with allies like Japan and patrolled the waters of the Indo-Pacific.
THOMAS: Being out here operating is a very physical, a very agile, dynamic force. There's no better way to provide the deterrence that we need in this
part of the region.
ESSIG (on-camera): This aircraft carrier brings massive firepower to the region. Its purpose: to project power, increased security and serve as a
deterrent to countries like China, North Korea, and Russia. But in a part of the world seemingly more unstable by the day, the effectiveness of a
carrier strike group like this as a deterrence to adversaries has been called into question.
KEN JIMBO, PROFESSOR, KEIO UNIVERSITY: We need to have more robust, like- minded states coalition, because China's rise is now the global phenomena.
ESSIG (voice-over): A reality that isn't lost on Quad member states. A coalition made up of the United States, Japan, Australia, and India, whose
leaders are set to meet in Tokyo early next week.
With South Korea watching from the sidelines, member states are likely to discuss a unified response to Russia's invasion of Ukraine, the recent
flurry of weapons tests conducted by North Korea; and of course China.
RAHM EMANUEL, U.S. AMBASSADOR TO JAPAN: One of the things that China doesn't have is friends and allies. They have subjects. We have friends and
allies who want to stand shoulder to shoulder with the United States.
ESSIG (on-camera): While the Quad isn't a NATO-like mutual defense commitment, continuing to upgrade security cooperation between Quad member
states and other likeminded nations in this region is extremely important to maintaining maritime security.
(Voice-over): But according to Cleo Paskal, an Indo-Pacific strategic specialist, the key to combatting China's rise isn't necessarily through
CLEO PASKAL, FOUNDATION FOR DEFENSE OF DEMOCRACIES: By the time you get to the military part, you're almost too late. You don't want to cut off China
militarily. You want to block its influence politically and economically first.
ESSIG: However, as China and Russia work to strengthen their own military alliance in the region, Rear Admiral J.T. Anderson says the U.S.'s
presence, along with the strength of its allies, has proven to be an effective deterrent. Nevertheless, if that deterrent fails --
REAR ADM. J.T. ANDERSON, COMMANDER, CARRIER STRIKE GROUP 3: Our job is to fight and win, period.
ESSIG: An outcome no one wants, but one the U.S. Military and its allies must prepare for.
Blake Essig, CNN, on board the USS Abraham Lincoln in the Philippine Sea.
GIOKOS: Two years held captive in a Russian prison, former U.S. Marine Trevor Reed is speaking out exclusively to CNN. He sat down with our Jake
Tapper to talk about his harrowing experience particularly in one section of the prison.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JAKE TAPPER, CNN CHIEF WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: What was the worst conditions that you had, that you experienced during that time?
TREVOR REED, FORMER U.S. MARINE RELEASED FROM RUSSIAN PRISON: The psychiatric treatment facility. I was in there with seven other prisoners
in the cell. They all had severe and serious psychological health issues. Most of them, so over 50 percent of them in that cell were in there for
murder or like multiple murders, sexual assault and murder, just really disturbed individuals.
And inside of that cell, you know, that was not a good place. There's blood all over the walls there where prisoners had killed themselves or killed
other prisoners, or attempted to do that. The toilet is just a hole in the floor and there's, you know, crap everywhere, all over the floor, on the
walls. There's -- people in there also that walk around, they looked like zombies.
TAPPER: Were you afraid for your life?
REED: I mean, I did not sleep there for a couple of days. So I was too worried about, you know, who was in the cell with me to actually sleep.
TAPPER: You thought they might kill you?
REED: Yes, I thought that was a possibility.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
GIOKOS: Chief Washington correspondent and anchor of "THE LEAD" Jake Tapper joins us now live from Washington.
Jake, hair-raising details of the psychiatric facility. And I wonder, what helped him push through? Was it sort of just having mental strength? Was it
hope that he was going to get out? What did he tell you?
TAPPER: Well, he told me, interestingly, that he did not allow himself to hope. That he thought that that would make him more vulnerable. And in
fact, whenever his then girlfriend or his father would visit him in prison and say something hopeful, giving him reason to be optimistic, he would
tell them stop. He didn't want to have any hopes that he would get out.
And that clip that he just talked, the psychiatric hospital that sounds like something truly out of a horror movie, I should note he was sent there
because the Russians were punishing him in his view. He was sent there because he continued to try to appeal what he thought was an unjust
conviction. Not because he was necessarily experiencing psychological trauma of any sort beyond that which would be normal in a Russian prison
So really, it's a far and wide-ranging interview with him about his entire experience, about how he survived, about his health problems. We talked to
his parents, his sister about how they worked so hard to get him out, to push this prisoner swap. There was laughter, there were tears, it really
was a remarkable interview. I felt very honored to have been trusted by the Reed family to help introduce him to the world.
GIOKOS: Yes, and incredible questions you posed to him, and he was so open with you. I wonder, how is he doing now? And what was sort of the sense you
got? And I'm really fascinated by the fact that he didn't allow himself to be optimistic or have hope but yet he pushed through.
TAPPER: Well, I mean, he is a Marine so he has been -- you know, he would say to his dad that, in letters or in messages conveyed from his lawyer or
his girlfriend, you know, don't worry. I survived the Marines, so I can survive this. And he is a former Boy Scout so he has experience in terms of
preparation. But I can't really explain how he was able to do it because it does seem so traumatic and so hopeless that most people might not be able
to survive the way he did.
He seemed well. He's not a tall guy and he lost about 45 pounds of weight in prison because of sickness and malnutrition. It doesn't like the
Russians treat their prisoners any better than they might have done 200, 300 years ago. And so he is in the midst of trying to gain weight back. On
the plane from Turkey when the U.S. government picked him up there was a steak there, and he was very eager to eat that.
He said he had a meal not long after returning to the United States, that he could feel the energy coursing through his body after he had and he
couldn't sleep for several days because of the nutrition that he was getting. And I have to say, he seems pretty good as these things go. He's
put on about 10 or 15 pounds in the last three weeks. Psychologically he seems, you know, better than can be expected I think normally.
It's obviously going to be a transition for him and his family to try to deal with this. His sister, who is I think about 28, you know, this has
been her real life for three years trying to get her brother out of Russian prison. Same with his dad, Joey, who moved to Russia for a year and a half,
to try to get his son out. Now their dreams have been answered.
To a agree, also, I should note, one of the things that they want to do is they want to devote energy toward supporting other Americans who are
unjustly held around the world, like Paul Whelan, another Marine veteran who is in Russia right now, or Brittney Griner, the WNBA star. They want to
become activists to push the U.S. to do everything it can to get these individuals out, including prisoner swaps which has been controversial in
the past but is the reason why Trevor Reed is free today.
GIOKOS: Jake, really good to have you on the show. Thank you so very much. And you can watch Jake's exclusive interview with Trevor Reed in a CNN
special report, "FINALLY HOME: THE TREVOR REED INTERVIEW" on Sunday night at 8:00 on the U.S. East Coast. That's early Monday in Abu Dhabi at 4:00.
Thank you so much to Jake Tapper coming on to the show.
We're going to a short break. We'll be right back with more CONNECT THE WORLD. Stay with CNN.
HAAKE: All right. We're going to give you a sports update in just a little while. Amanda Davis will be joining you for that and I'll be back at the
top of the hour with more CONNECT THE WORLD. Stay with CNN.