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Ukrainian Troops Withdraw from Severodonetsk; U.K. Grants Candidate Status to Ukraine; New Questions About Boris Johnson's Political Future. Aired 10-11a ET

Aired June 24, 2022 - 10:00   ET




PRES. VOLODYMYR ZELENSKYY, UKRAINE (through translator): I believe this decision is not only for Ukraine, this is the biggest step towards

strengthening Europe.


BECKY ANDERSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL ANCHOR: Ukraine gets E.U. backing in its bid to join the bloc, but on the ground, its forces have pushed back in the

east in the face of a relenting attacks by Russian troops. And --


BORIS JOHNSON, BRITISH PRIME MINISTER: I've got to listen to what people are saying, in particular to the difficulties people affecting over the

cost of living.


ANDERSON: Double blow for the British prime minister after local election defeats his party co-chair quits. Plus --


SEN. CHUCK SCHUMER (D-NY): Passing this gun safety bill is truly significant. And it's going to save lives.


ANDERSON: The U.S. Senate clear the first gun safety package in decades, even as America's Supreme Court expands gun rights.

Well, it's 6:00 p.m. in Abu Dhabi. From our broadcasting hub here in the Middle East, I'm Becky Anderson. Hello, and welcome to CONNECT THE WORLD.

A diplomatic win for Ukraine in Brussels, but more troubling losses on the ground. After putting up resistance for weeks, the Ukrainian military chief

in the Luhansk region says Ukrainian troops have now started withdrawing from Severodonetsk. He describes that strategic city's infrastructure as

destroyed. The official also saying Russian-backed forces are capturing more settlements south of Lysychansk just across the river from


This video showing roads targeted by Russian forces leading into the city. And all this happening as Ukraine's leaders and much of Europe celebrate

the European Council's decision to grant Ukraine candidate status for entry into the E.U. That move on Thursday, the start of what will be a very

lengthy process to gain E.U. membership.

Well, Salma Abdelaziz is watching developments for you from Kyiv on the ground.

Salma, the story is looking pretty grim at this point. Explain.

SALMA ABDELAZIZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, this is a major loss here for Ukrainian forces, a devastating blow after a constant two-month assault on

the city of Severodonetsk. An d now Ukrainian forces saying they will have to withdraw, they will have to pull back to other fortified positions,

leave the city entirely.

Now the drawdown will take days, but again, it comes after Ukrainian forces had for weeks sustained a ferocious air and land assault by Russian troops.

They very strategically and steadily taken out every single fortified defensive position for those Ukrainian fighters on the ground.

And the city matters, Becky, as you said, because it's one of the last strongholds in the Luhansk area, part of that wider Donbas region, and one

of President Putin's major goals is to take the wider Donbas, to use it to form that land bridge that would connect Russian territory all the way down

the east to Crimea.

And when we talk about a drawback, we are concerned not just about Severodonetsk here, we are also concerned about the sister city,

Lysychansk. There as well, Ukrainian officials saying they're losing territory. They are coming to superior Russian military might. You have to

remember that in some areas Russian artillery power is 10 times that of Ukraine. So yet again, there in the sister city losing more territories in

and around Lysychansk.

And there are serious fears, serious concerns here, Becky, for the residents, the civilians that are trapped in Severodonetsk, some 7,000

estimated to be inside, to be pinned down and fighting. The major roads and major bridges leading out of that city have been decimated, so it makes it

very difficult to imagine how they can get out.

The area that was really the last stand the, last bit of resistance was this chemical plant, the Azov chemical plant, and there as well there is

hundreds of civilians that say they were going to stay until this drawdown is complete and it's safe for residents to leave. So a lot of fears for

them as well, and the last thing I'm going to mention here is a claim from Russia that they've encircled 2,000 Ukrainian troops in the Donbas region.

So also fears and concerns about what would happen to those soldiers, and, you know, in the past there's been those accusations that Russia has not

treated Ukrainian troops as prisoners of war under the Geneva convention. So a lot of worries about how this drawdown happens, and who it harms, and

who it leaves behind.



ABDELAZIZ (voice-over): Inside each of these body bags is a John Doe, remains left in the ruins of war for weeks that are too decomposed to be

recognized. But among them may be this man, Daniel Zofonov (PH). The 28- year-old policeman was among the fighters believed killed in Mariupol's Azovstal plant in early May. His sister is here to try and identify his


"There was nothing left of him to recognize," she tells me. "For a month and a half, his body lay in the heat."

(On-camera): These were pictures that he carried with him from his son.

(Voice-over): This is how she ID'd Daniel. Drawings from his 6-year-old son, tucked in his pocket and somehow intact.

"I prayed to God every day that I would find him," she says. "The weight was unbearable. I feel calmer now that I can finally bury him."

Her relief is extremely rare.

(On-camera): Authorities have set up a hotline so families can call in, report a missing person, and then they're asked to give a DNA simple. After

that, they have to hope for a match.

(Voice-over): Inside the morgue, the complex process begins. Tissue is extracted from the deceased. A piece of bone is often the only option. The

samples are then sent to a lab, where analysts work to build a DNA profile. Of the nearly 700 unidentified so far cataloged, about 200 have been paired

to the families, according to officials. The chief forensic expert here is behind tens of those matches.

(On-camera): How long does it take you to find one match?

STANISLAV MARTYNENKO, FORENSIC EXPERT: Well, it depends on how many DNA profiles we have in the database. The more profiles we have, the more

matches we make. I guess it will take some years after the war will end to find all the unidentified human bodies.

ABDELAZIZ (voice-over): But there are families that will never get closure. Some bodies are too damaged to collect sufficient DNA.

"We have parents who tell us, I understand you cannot find my child, but at least bring me some of the dirt that they walked on from Mariupol to bury,"

she says.

The unbearable agony of never laying a loved one to rest.

Salma Abdelaziz, CNN, Kyiv.


ABDELAZIZ: Now I'm sorry, Becky, that package was cued, that report went out a bit earlier than we intended, but that story is about the dead that

are arriving from Mariupol, a place that fell two months ago. So you can imagine how difficult it is to identify those bodies. And there is fears

that there will be a similar fate for the victims of Severodonetsk. The civilians, of course, but also the soldiers that are fighting and dying on

those front lines.

It's the reality of any conflict that oftentimes, those who are lost to the war are never given proper burials. Their bodies left in the rubble, left

in the ruins of war. And it leaves their families with this agony, this never-ending lack of closure that they can't even put their loved ones to

rest -- Becky.

ANDERSON: Yes, some terribly depressing situation.

Salma Abdelaziz is in Kyiv for you. Salma, thank you.

Well, political observers say there is a question echoing through the corridors of power today in the United Kingdom. How much longer can Prime

Minister Boris Johnson hang on at Number 10?

For the moment he is striding the world stage at the Commonwealth Conference in Rwanda, but back home Mr. Johnson's ruling Conservative Party

just suffered two embarrassing election defeats. And that could spell new danger for his leadership.

A short time ago, the co-chair of the conservative party announced that he was stepping down, saying, in his words, we cannot carry on with business

as usual.

We will know from watching this program that the British prime minister has been under increasing pressure over what is known as the party-gate

scandal, and the cost of living crisis in the U.K.

CNN's Bianca Nobilo standing by for us outside of London, Larry Madowo, following developments at the Commonwealth Conference in Rwanda, and he

joins us live from Kenya today.

Larry, let me start with you. The prime minister is on the road, he's at the commonwealth meeting, Prince Charles is there as well. They've been

seen together. And that must be slightly awkward considering the prince's comments regarding the policy of repatriating refugees from the U.K. to


Let's just deal with this before we talk about the wider picture with Bianca, which is that of Boris Johnson's future at this point.


LARRY MADOWO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: So, Becky, awkward does not begin to describe the meeting today. First there was the handshake during the family

photo between Boris Johnson and Prince Charles, and then later on they met at a side room and took some photographs after that. Again it really looks

very awkward because Prince Charles reportedly Boris Johnson the asylum policy sending these illegal migrants to Rwanda appalling. And he initially

said yesterday that he was going to sell him on the obvious merits of such a policy to disrupt the business of people, but he walked that back and

said he would not discuss whatever he talks about with the future king of England, instead saying that anybody's been to Rwanda can see the obvious

benefits and transformation that that country has undergone.

But at the commonwealth summit he probably must enjoy the attention and the adulation that comes with all these 50 plus leaders from around the world.

And one of them is the host of that conference. That is President Paul Kagame of Rwanda who is also enjoying this attention having not been a part

of the British empire to the former French colony and talking about other members trying to come into the commonwealth such as Togo and Gabon that

were French colonies. This is what the president said.


PAUL KAGAME, RWANDAN PRESIDENT: We are united by the shared language -- English is our first, second, third, or even fourth one. But what really

defines us, are the values.


ANDERSON: Right, let me jump out of that. We have got a decision being delivered by the U.S. Supreme Court on the abortion ruling. The Roe v.

Wade. Let's get you to my colleagues in the U.S.