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Connect the World

More than 5,000 Dead in Turkiye and Syria as Rescuers Dig through Debris for Survivors; U.S. President Joe Biden's State of the Union; Interview with Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis on Aid to Quake Zone; Intense Battle for Bakhmut in Eastern Ukraine; Centenarian Does Her Part for Ukrainian Defense; France Strikes Nationwide over Pension Reform Plan. Aired 10-11a ET

Aired February 07, 2023 - 10:00   ET





CHRISTINA MACFARLANE, CNN ANCHOR AND CORRESPONDENT: You were just watching Becky Anderson there, speaking to us from Gaziantep, in southern Turkiye.

CNN's Salma Abdelaziz is standing by for us live in Istanbul.

Salma, truly heartbreaking scenes we just saw there in Gaziantep, people buried under the rubble, calling out; some people even texting from under

the rubble. We heard earlier today that President Erdogan had declared a state of emergency for three months.

We have been hearing up to 70 nations now pledging to send help.

Is any of this help getting through?

What is the latest on the wider rescue efforts happening across the region?

SALMA ABDELAZIZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Extraordinary reporting there, of course, with those live images from our Becky Anderson. That is just one

scene that is playing out all across the region where that very dramatic, very difficult moments are just repeating themselves, over and over again.

This is a moment where there is just the tiniest glimmer of hope that there might still be survivors. But you are talking about a massive scale when it

comes to this crisis, something entirely unprecedented, even for a country like Turkiye that has been preparing for decades for an earthquake.

Just to give you a sense of it, I want to pull up a map of the affected area, an area so huge stretching all across southern Turkiye into Syria.

The World Health Organization says 23 million people affected.

Just try to comprehend those numbers that we have so far, more than 5,000 people killed. Here in Turkiye, alone, more than 22,000 wounded people,

people who need medical care, clinics, hospitals.

This is only the beginning, right?

Aid workers are warning that there could potentially be thousands more people still trapped under the rubble. There are entire families that could

be just crushed, disappeared overnight in this earthquake.

It did occur, of course, just after 4:00 in the morning. Everyone would've been home, everyone would've been sleeping. That is why you are seeing this

very massive death toll.


ABDELAZIZ: The result of that is Turkiye simply did not have the resources to fan out across the country, to fan out across this disaster zone in the

last 36 to 40 hours.

There were parts of the country where there was no help. People slept on the streets in freezing temperatures, with no food, no water, no access to

sanitation and, most importantly, no information.

Here in Turkiye on every TV station they are rolling live images, of course, of these rescue operations happening in multiple towns. The first

thing you notice in those images is the families, the families that are standing there, watching these rescue workers, wishing, hoping, waiting,

praying that one of their loved ones is found alive.

But as every moment passes, that hope fades.

MACFARLANE: As you speak we see one of those rescue operations live. We have live pictures coming into us here, showing a rescue team on top of a

pile of rubble. And as we have seen, as you say, in so many parts of the country, people risking their lives to try to pull people out from

underneath that rubble.

The situation, as we know, could be far, far, worse in Syria, which has been ravaged by civil war.

What do we know of any aid that has been able to get through to the northwest, particularly when the U.N. has been saying today that that one

crucial corridor that links Turkiye to Syria has been damaged by the earthquake?

ABDELAZIZ: It seems, for now, that aid workers, humanitarian groups, have been unable to get aid into critical areas in Syria.

Let me start by explaining the challenge that they face, right?

So you are looking at a country that has been in conflict now for nearly 12 years. The northwest of Syria, which has been struck by this earthquake,

affected by this earthquake, was one of the hardest hit areas during the conflict, constantly bombarded.

It was shelling. The critical infrastructure there is essentially damaged or destroyed. You are talking about a region, where hospitals, schools,

clinics were targeted. Many people already had no humanitarian help, already had very limited health care.

You had 4 million displaced people who relied entirely on international aid before this earthquake. Then you have multiple authorities, ruling groups

on the ground, government controlled regions. There we are seeing President Bashar al-Assad's government turning to Iran and Russia, the supporters of

the conflict.

Then you have the rebel held areas, where they are absolutely stretched thin on resources. Look, for a very long time, Syrians have felt that their

plight has been forgotten by the world.

I think that this only compounds that fear, that isolation. I can't even imagine a more vulnerable population being struck by yet another

catastrophe when they have so little left to even handle it.

MACFARLANE: Yes, absolutely. Salma Abdelaziz live for us there in Istanbul. Salma, thank you for now.

As we said, rescuers from around the world are arriving in Turkiye. They include teams from Israel and the Palestinian Authority. Now Israeli prime

minister Benjamin Netanyahu says his government has approved an aid request from Syria. Israel and Syria remain formally at war and Damascus denies

asking Israel for help.

CNN's Hadas Gold joining us now from Jerusalem with more.

So Damascus are disputing they sent a call for aid.

Do we know where this stands at the moment and if aid has been sent and to where?

HADAS GOLD, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: From what we understand, Benjamin Netanyahu said this publicly, yesterday. He said that, in addition

to the aid that had been requested and is on the ground in Turkiye, that Israel received a request for aid to Syria. He called it, through

diplomatic channels.

CNN has spoken with an Israeli security official, who says that diplomatic channel is actually Russia. It was via Russia that Israel received a

request to help the Syrians out.

As we heard Netanyahu say publicly that he has approved that request to help Syria, I was told by Israeli officials that Israel planned to send

things like warm bedding, medication, things like that, that could be easily transferred.

But then as you noted, a Syrian government source speaking to a pro government media outlet in Syria denied that Syria had requested the help,

explaining to Netanyahu saying that he was trying to exploit the situation. It has been about 24 hours since Benjamin Netanyahu announced that Israel

would be sending the aid.

We still have not heard any official on the record whether and how that aid will be going into Syria. Meanwhile, Israel has already sent at least two

planes that have already made contact in Turkiye with about 150 search and rescue workers, including other personnel who could help in humanitarian


Then we also know of Israeli aid groups working independently. Two of them chartered a flight this afternoon that is already on its way to Turkiye as

well. There are also search and rescue workers there.


GOLD: Interestingly on that plane, there are also experts on issues like water filtration, as well as psychologists, people who are experts in

trauma, who are going to be helping the survivors of this, not only in the basics of how can they get clean water when all the services are gone?

But also how to get through and process what happened. The Palestinian Authority is also sending two teams. One is leaving Wednesday, another

leaving Thursday. One is going to Syria, by land through Jordan. Another is flying to Turkiye. Those also will have search and rescue teams, about 10

people on each of those planes.

In addition there will be humanitarian aid. It just goes to show you that, hopefully, in these situations, when there is a crisis and people's lives

are on the line, that politics, borders, diplomacy, all those sorts of things can stand to the side, so people can get the help that they need.

I think everyone is hoping it doesn't matter where the help is coming from, as long as it can get to the people on the ground as quickly and safely as

possible. We are also hearing from the Israelis that they are working on getting a field hospital. This will be a military grade field hospital that

they hope will be arriving to Turkiye in the coming days.

MACFARLANE: Interesting to hear that they are attempting to access Syria via Jordan. But good to know the details on where they stand on that, for

now. Hadas Gold, thank you, live from Jerusalem.

Still ahead, China wants the debris from that spy balloon the U.S. shot down over the weekend. Washington says not so fast. A live report from the

U.S. Capitol just ahead.

And Joe Biden is putting the finishing touches on tonight's State of the Union speech. We will get a preview from our senior White House

correspondent when we come back.




MACFARLANE: Rescuers in Turkiye and Syria are still pulling survivors from the rubble a day after a powerful earthquake struck, killing over 5,200

people. Tens of thousands more are injured.

Turkiye's president has declared a three-month state of emergency in 10 provinces. He says more than 70 nations have offered to help with aid


In Syria, the White Helmets rescue group says the scale of the disaster is overwhelming and far more help is needed. Turkiye's health minister says

harsh weather conditions are complicating relief and recovery efforts.



MACFARLANE: China says debris from the balloon shot down by the U.S. belongs to Beijing and not the United States. The U.S. Navy is working to

recover remnants from the suspected Chinese spy balloon.

China's ministry of foreign affairs said the airship belongs to China and called the use of force in shooting down the balloon an overreaction.

Meanwhile, CNN has exclusive new reporting that U.S. military officials did know about China's use of spy balloons under the Trump administration.

Let's bring in White House reporter, Natasha Bertrand, for more on the story.

Natasha, we now know these balloons are no longer isolated incidents.

What more are you learning?

NATASHA BERTRAND, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: That is exactly right. What we are learning from this Air Force intelligence report, that was

obtained by my colleague, Zach Cohen, is that, in 2019, a Chinese spy balloon circumnavigated the globe and passed over Hawaii, passed over

Florida, ultimately exited U.S. airspace kind of undeterred.

At the same time, what we are learning is the U.S. did not actually realize that that had happened until much later, until the Biden administration

actually took office and started investigating these unexplained aerial phenomenon (sic) more closely.

So what we are learning is that the Trump administration actually did not know this happened. The balloon sightings we are seeing now, of course, the

one that was shot down over U.S. waters on Saturday, that was not the first time that has happened.

It actually has happened as many as three times, before, including during the Trump administration and once before during the Biden administration.

All of this is very concerning to the administration and the U.S. military.

What it shows is that there are gaps in the U.S.' ability to detect these surveillance balloons. These things can fly extremely high. The one that

was detected from 2019, which was then included in this Air Force report, was only at about 65,000 feet. But they can fly as high as 328,000 feet.

So it makes it really easy to understand how they can go undetected by the U.S.

However, the U.S. military says that this is a problem that they are going to have to look into further because, obviously, without being able to

detect these balloons, it is going to be increasingly difficult to minimize those balloons' ability to collect intelligence about the United States and

about potentially sensitive sites that they may be passing over.

MACFARLANE: We will wait to see what the U.S. Navy recover, of course, as the remnants of the balloons continue to be collected. Natasha, thank you

very much for now.

The Chinese balloon may be popped but it is still looming over Joe Biden's important State of the Union speech this evening. Biden and his staff have

been re-working the foreign affairs portion of his address to talk about relations with China amid Republican criticism of how he handled the

balloon incident.

Of course, domestic issues, especially inflation, will be forefront of the speech as he begins to lay out to Americans why he deserves to be reelected

in 2024.

Let's bring in CNN senior White House correspondent, MJ Lee, with more on what we can expect.

MJ, the balloon issue still looming large over this possible presidential speech tonight.

What can we expect?


MJ LEE, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: First of all, just in the big picture, this is obviously a primetime address to the American people.

And this speech is one that President Biden and his advisors have been working on for a number of weeks.

Just in the coming hours we, of course, expect that group to put the finishing touches on that speech. Yesterday, we heard President Biden

telling reporters that he really sees this as an opportunity to talk directly to the American people, to have a conversation with them.

Of course, we do broadly expect that the president will look back on the past two years and talk about what he sees as the major accomplishments and

the progress the country has made, whether it is on the economy or the COVID pandemic.

We also expect him to have a forward-looking vision, an affirmative message, really trying to sell to the American people, as you said, why the

country might be better off if he were to be in office for an additional four years.

We, of course, expect a reelection announcement to come from the president in the coming weeks. But you are absolutely right that the suspected

Chinese spy balloon incident has definitely loomed large ahead of this major speech.

And U.S. officials have made clear that this was a breach, in their view, coming from Beijing. They have made their displeasure known about this. So

this is certainly going to be an issue. We are told the president will directly address.

As to what, exactly, the tone the president takes, whether he says this was a major breach and Beijing needs to back off, perhaps there is hostility or

intensity and heat coming from the president.

Or on the other hand maybe he says, yes, it was a breach. But we have gotten over it. The U.S. has handled it. I support the way my

administration has handled this, taking the tone of, nothing more to see here.

We don't know exactly what he will say about this incident. But no question that this will be a major part of the speech that we are watching very

closely. Obviously, at every State of the Union speech, foreign policy ends up being such a major pillar.

Again, we expect this to be something the president addresses. It is just a matter of exactly how he chooses to address this issue.

MACFARLANE: Yes, that tone very important.

So who do we expect to be on the guest list for the president and the first lady?

LEE: Yes, typically, when you look at the guest list of the people that the first lady invites to the State of the Union, that guest list sort of

tells a story about the administration's priorities, some of the White House's accomplishments.

And the story that the White House would like to tell about the past year and looking forward, just to name a few, we know that, sitting with the

first lady, Jill Biden, will be Paul Pelosi. He is, of course, the spouse of former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who was violently attacked in his


Political extremism and battling political extremism has been a major theme for this president. So not surprising, in some ways, that he wanted to

demonstrate that continued effort by inviting Paul Pelosi.

There is also Tyre Nichols' parents. Nichols, of course, was killed in a brutal beating by police officers. This is an incident that has really

caused so much outrage and trauma across the country. Policing reform is an issue that the president has talked about, a lot, and aspires to get more

done on.

But it has been a very challenging issue for this administration, because, politically, it is so fraught and challenging.

One other person that we expect to see tonight as well is Ukraine's ambassador to the U.S. Very obvious why someone like her would be invited,

of course. Ukraine has been such a major focus and driving factor for this president over the last year.

And, of course, we are approaching that end of the one year mark of Russia's invasion of Ukraine.

And for this president, at, least, you know it has really been a challenge and an opportunity for him to demonstrate some leadership on the world

stage, to continue to try to rally American allies against the goal of trying to keep the nation united as Russia has continued to invade Ukraine.

So these are some of the themes that we will see demonstrated in the president's speech and, again, as we said, the guests that are attending

tonight's speech will sort of demonstrate and help paint a story of the narrative that the White House wants to put out there tonight.

MACFARLANE: Yes, so many things for the president to be looking ahead and touching on this evening. We'll check back in with you tomorrow, MJ Lee,

there live from the White House, thank you very much.

You're watching CONNECT THE WORLD live today from London.


MACFARLANE: Still ahead a, massive international aid effort is underway to help Turkiye and Syria recover from Monday's devastating earthquake. I'll

talk to the Greek prime minister about why his country is doing to help.




MACFARLANE: Welcome back, I'm Christina Macfarlane in London.

Rescue crews in Turkiye and Syria are working furiously to find survivors from the devastating earthquake that hit the region Monday. The quake

killed more than 5,200 people and injured tens of thousands more.

Powerful aftershocks continue to shake the area. Admits the devastation, there are success stories.


MACFARLANE (voice-over): This video shows a young girl in Turkiye being pulled out from under the rubble after nearly 24 hours after the quake.


MACFARLANE: My next guest, the prime minister of Greece, tweeted, "Deeply saddened by the devastating earthquake disaster in Turkiye and Syria. Our

heartfelt condolences go out to the families and the victims. And our thoughts are with all the people affected. Greece is mobilizing its

resources and will assist immediately."

And Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis joins me now live from Athens.

Prime Minister, thank you for being with us during this busy time.

Can I begin by asking you what type of aid Greece has been providing to the region and where that aid currently is?

KYRIAKOS MITSOTAKIS, GREEK PRIME MINISTER: Well, Greece, as you know, was one of the first countries to respond to a request by Turkiye, mobilizing

the European assistance mechanism in case of natural disasters.

We already have a crew of rescuers in place operating in the region. And I presume, because I don't have access to the video that you showed, the

photo of the 7 year old girl that you showed, this is actually a girl saved by a Greek crew operating in that region.

So our teams are already on the ground. As you know, Greece is a country that's had significant experience in dealing with earthquakes. We know

that, in these critical times, time is of the essence.

We need to get our crews out as quickly as possible if we are to save people who are trapped under the rubble in horrible conditions for many,

many hours.

MACFARLANE: Prime Minister, as you're speaking, we're seeing some images of Hatay completely decimated following the earthquake. Hatay, as we know,

has been one of those areas where there has been no help up until now.

What are your crews telling you?


MACFARLANE: What are you hearing about the conditions they're facing on the ground, given that we know it is bitterly cold, it is freezing

temperatures and people have nowhere to shelter?

MITSOTAKIS: These are, you know, incredibly difficult and challenging conditions. First of all, as we are talking about essentially two separate

huge earthquakes, it is difficult to convey to viewers, those of you who have not experienced what a strong earthquake feels like, how powerful

these events can actually be.

So the conditions are very challenging. But we are cooperating extremely well with the Turkish authorities. I understand there's been a very

significant mobilization on the part of Turkiye. The first priority right now is to save people who are trapped in buildings that have collapsed.

Immediately afterwards, I'm sure the authorities will focus on questions of housing, feeding those people who cannot return to their homes and of

course, will start the painful process of reconstruction.

And we point out this earthquake has not only affected Turkiye; it has also affected Syria. There it is even more complicated, because essentially

there is no official interlocutor. So we have to work through international organizations.

And a significant amount of the international assistance that was directed to northern Syria even before the earthquake inevitably has been disrupted

as a result of the quakes.

So I think we will have some very, very challenging days ahead of us. Dealing first of all, with the short term emergencies until, you know, we

will try to help Turkiye with the long term consequences of this horrible event.

MACFARLANE: Can I ask you, in particular, about Syria?

We are so focused on trying to understand how aid is getting into that region, especially in the northwest.

How are you trying to access that part of the country?

Have you had in the success in getting aid in?

MITSOTAKIS: No, not so far. But we try to work through international organizations.

Of course, my suggestion would also be even (INAUDIBLE) the European Council in Brussels on Thursday and Friday, that any aid toward Syria needs

to be coordinated at the European level in order to ensure that the aid needs to get to where, you know, would be most valued.

At this point, this is not about, I want to stress this, this is not about geopolitics, this is not about recognizing any regime, this is about saving

people in horrible conditions who desperately need our assistance.

MACFARLANE: You say that this is not about politics but, at this point, can you trust that, if you send aid into Syria, that it will reach its

intended target, that President Assad will allow safe passage for that aid?

MITSOTAKIS: No. That is why, I think, no country on its own has the ability to actually make these sorts of arrangements. That's why think it's

important that these negotiations take place either through the U.N. or the European Union by pooling resources at the European level.

I would not feel confident having these sort of discussions at a bilateral level.

MACFARLANE: So you have, to date, had no communication yourself with Damascus?

MITSOTAKIS: No, we're focusing all our help on Turkiye right now.


When you talk about having these diplomatic conversations later this week to try and create some bilateral support for sending aid to Syria, will you

be calling for sanctions to be dropped, at least temporarily, against Syria so that aid can get into the country?

MITSOTAKIS: Again, we understand this is a very delicate and complicated situation. I don't think I'm in a position right now to offer any sort of

additional comments on how we will deal the situation.

But indeed one thing is for certain: we need an international response and we need to agree amongst each other how we're going to help Syria, taking

into consideration the massive complexities, given both the status of the regime, the sanctions that have been imposed but also the fact that we're

dealing with a humanitarian crisis that needs to be addressed.

MACFARLANE: I know that you spoke to President Erdogan yesterday. In fact, it is the first time the two of you have spoken in many months, I think,

due to diplomatic tensions.

How did that phone call go?

What was discussed between you?

MITSOTAKIS: Well, look, I think in these times of crisis, what's important to understand is that, you know, at the end of the day, we are neighbors

and we need to help each other through difficult times.

This is not the first time that earthquakes have struck our countries. In many cases, we had a big earthquake in Turkiye in 1999; we offered

assistance. We have earthquakes in Greece, where Turkiye has offered its assistance.


MITSOTAKIS: At the end of the day, this is a time to temporarily set aside our differences and try to address what is a very, very urgent situation.

Again, we are -- both countries are in a geologically active part of the world, so we have to deal, on top of issues related to climate change, we

also have to deal with earthquakes.

And again, I will repeat to you what I said publicly, that Greek and Turkish people are friends. We may have our differences but, at the end of

the day, we have nothing to separate the two people.

And these are times when I think there is an outpouring of sympathy and goodwill toward Turkiye. You know, it's understandable, when you're faced

with, you know, with these types of images.

And at the end of the day, I cannot imagine a more powerful image than the image media showed, of a Greek rescuer and a Turkish rescuer saving a 7

year old girl. These are very, very powerful images. At the end of the day those images are (INAUDIBLE).

MACFARLANE: And as you speak, Prime Minister, I think we may be seeing that very image of a Turkish rescue worker and a Greek rescue worker

rescuing that young girl you mentioned in Hatay. We're seeing that on our screens right now.

As you say, it is so important at this time that nations set aside their differences to come together and help those who desperately need it. We

thank you very much for your time, Prime Minister. We wish you the very best in your efforts moving forward.

MITSOTAKIS: Thank you.

MACFARLANE: Thank you.

All right, still ahead, as fierce fighting rages around the Ukrainian town of Bakhmut, the head of a Russian mercenary groups issues a rather bizarre

challenge to the president of Ukraine. A report on that and more when we return.

Plus, she is a 102 year old, a Ukrainian great-grandmother, who has lived through it all. We will tell you how she is helping her country fight back

against Russia when we return.




MACFARLANE: Ukraine says there are new signs Russia may be gearing up for a full-scale offensive in Eastern Ukraine that could begin in weeks. The

top Ukrainian official in the Luhansk region says Moscow appears to be stockpiling ammunition and building up troops.

He said the major threat is the sheer number of troops and called Russia a, quote, "huge monster" with immense resources.

Meanwhile, Russia's defense minister repeated Moscow's accusation that the U.S. and its allies are trying to drag out the conflict for as long as

possible by supplying heavy weapons to Kyiv.

As intense fighting rages around the city of Bakhmut and nearby towns, the head of Russia's Wagner mercenaries issued a rather bizarre challenge to

Ukraine's president. CNN's Fred Pleitgen has more.



FREDERIK PLEITGEN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Wagner boss Yevgeny Prigozhin taking to the skies, flying a combat

aircraft, challenging Ukraine's president to a dogfight.

"I landed, we bombed Bakhmut," he says. "Tomorrow, I'm boarding a MiG-29. If you desire, we'll meet in the sky."

Ukraine acknowledges the Russians have made some gains around Bakhmut but insists they're suffering catastrophic losses, the head of Ukraine's

National Security Council tells me.

"The lack of shells, that is a significant disadvantage," he says, "but, in our favor, we are killing them at a ratio of seven times to one.

Unfortunately, our men and women are dying there as well."

Ukraine's entire eastern front has been heating up, the Russians deploying tens of thousands of troops mobilized late last year for what is expected

to be a massive spring offense.

Even so, Ukraine's Security Council chief says his country is ready.

"We're concerned," he says, "but I would stress that we are preparing together with our partners, good preparations are being made now. So if the

Russian offensive begins, it will be unsuccessful."

But to turn the tide of this war, the Ukrainian say they need more long range weapons to hit Russian supply line and combat aircraft to win control

of the skies. They're confident of getting both eventually.

"It's only a matter of time until we get F-16," he says.

"They will definitely come. Unfortunately, in the meantime, we're losing our people while fighting for our independence."

The Russians say they foiled a drone attack deep inside Russian territory only about 140 miles from Moscow. The Ukrainians have promised not to use

Western weapons to hit Russian territory but Danilov says Ukraine will use its own.

"Regarding Russian territory, nobody prohibits us to destroy targets with weapons produced in Ukraine," he says.

"Do we have such weapons?

"Yes, we do."

But the Ukrainians it's a race against time to secure and develop weapons that will hold off what they call Russia's revenge -- Fred Pleitgen, CNN.

Kyiv, Ukraine.


MACFARLANE: Some members of the U.N. Security Council called on Russia to end its war in Ukraine. Even as Ukraine and the rest of the world wait for

Russia's widely expensive, expected spring offensive.

During the debate Monday, the U.S. ambassador pointed out that the ultimate decision on this war is up to one man.


LINDA THOMAS-GREENFIELD, AMBASSADOR TO THE U.N.: We have heard your compassionate calls for negotiation, for a cessation of hostility. This is

in the hands of one person, President Putin alone.

Putin started this war and he can end it today by pulling his troops out of Ukraine and really allow for peace to take place. For Ukraine, this is a

matter of survival.


MACFARLANE: As we approach one year since Russia invaded Ukraine, one thing is clear: Vladimir Putin underestimated the will of the Ukrainian

people, from soldiers serving as snipers to the 102 year old great grandmother, who is helping them hide and fight. Sam Kiley has her

remarkable story.


SAM KILEY, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): At 102, Liubov's survival is extraordinary, not least because she's endured three

famines over her century and all of them blamed on the Kremlin.

LIUBOV YAROSH, HOLODOMOR SURVIVOR (through translator): We ate, Linden, Linden leaves and nettles. We used to grind these wild plants into flour,

bake with it and eat it.

KILEY (voice-over): At 13, she saw her older brother and sister perish in Ukraine's worst mass starvation, the Holodomor.

YAROSH (through translator): My legs were swollen. My arms were swollen. I was so sick. I thought I was going to die.

KILEY (voice-over): In the early 1930s, on Joseph Stalin's orders, Ukraine's farmers were stripped of every grain they produced to feed

Moscow's industrialization.

YAROSH (through translator): Tiny children were dying of hunger. They were taken to a truck, they dug a big hole and threw them all in.

KILEY (voice-over): Ukraine is now 11 months into the latest Russian invasion. Three of her grandchildren are soldiers fighting Russian troops

because Russia's president doesn't believe that Ukraine exists.

It should be noted that Ukraine actually never had stable traditions of real statehood, Putin claimed. Russia's assault on Ukraine's capital, Kyiv,

failed last year. Many Ukrainians believe they're fighting off another attempt at genocide.


MYKHAILO KOSTIV, HEAD OF INFORMATION, NATIONAL MUSEUM OF THE HOLODOMOR- GENOCIDE (through translator): The leaders and organizers of the genocide sit in the same offices in the same place. At the center of these events is

Moscow and the object of destruction is Ukraine as a nation.

KILEY (voice-over): Ukraine's government says thousands of citizens have been forced into Russian territory and 14,000 children are missing.

KILEY: How many millions of people died in the many famines brought upon by Russia in this country over the last century is a matter of debate among

historians. And human rights, lawyers will debate whether or not what is happening today can be defined as a genocide.

But there's no question that over the last hundred years the relationship between Moscow and Ukraine has been bleak.

YAROSH (through translator): We need to exterminate them so that not a single one is left. Only then can there be any peace.

KILEY (voice-over): To help the war effort, she ties burlap into netting to make sniper camouflage. But it may be her laughter that has kept her

going so many years -- Sam Kiley, CNN, Kharkiv.


MACFARLANE: A truly remarkable woman.

All right, parts of France are still at a standstill, as workers and teachers take to the streets to fight a planned pension reform. That is





MACFARLANE: Turkiye's president has declared a state of emergency in 10 provinces after a powerful earthquake killed more than 5,200 people across

Turkiye and Syria. Recep Tayyip Erdogan says about 8,000 people have been rescued in Turkiye.


MACFARLANE (voice-over): One of them, this 14-year-old boy who was pulled from the rubble 24 hours after the initial quake.


MACFARLANE: International aid for the two countries is pouring in. The Turkish president says more than 70 countries have offered to help.

Syrians, who were already living in war ravaged areas, are in urgent need of assistance.

The White Helmet rescue group says hundreds of families remain under the rubble and collapsed buildings. The head of Syria's Red Crescent says the

organization is ready to send aid to hard-to-reach rebel held areas.

The U.N.'s cultural organization, UNESCO, says it's sending experts to the region, where there has been significant damage to cultural sites. A Syrian

government agency says the 13th century Aleppo Citadel suffered minor to moderate damage. Ancient mosques in western central Syria were also


And in Turkiye, these are the before and after pictures of the Gaziantep Castle, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The dome and eastern wall of the

adjacent mosque, you can see, there built in the 17th century, also partially collapsed.

For more information on how to help the earthquake victims, you can go to You'll find a list of organizations working on relief and

rescue efforts. Again, that is

Now a third wave of strikes and demonstrations is underway across France. Workers are protesting against the planned pension reform, which would see

France's retirement age increased to 64.


MACFARLANE: The walkouts are seriously disrupting travel and hundreds of schools are closed. CNN's Jim Bittermann is joining me now from Paris,

where large marches have been taking place.

Jim, significant disruption, yet again.

Is there any sense that the government are yielding or simply hardening their position on this?

JIM BITTERMANN, CNN SR. INTL. CORRESPONDENT: Well, I think Mr. Macron has made it very clear he wants to reform retirement plans here. It's -- made

that clear from almost his first day in office.

There has been some movement from the government. They did compromise on one issue; that is, basically, if you start work at age 22 or 20, you can

retire at age 63, which would be one year more than what is the present retirement age of 62.

But what's got all these people out here is that is just a very incremental change. They're afraid that they may have to work until 64 years old.

Currently they only have to work until 62.

So there are, I would say, probably 1 million or so in the streets today. By all accounts, it's not as many that were out just back on the 31st of

January. So it could be a sign that the support for this movement is just diminishing.

In fact that also may not be the cause. It could be that, in fact, it's because school vacations are on. And there's another strike, another strike

and demonstration movement coming up on Saturday. So people maybe saving their energy for that Saturday demonstration that's going to take place


MACFARLANE: Yes, Jim, as you say, this pension reform was part of Macron's manifesto last year. The French people were expecting this to come.

What is the demographic of people marching today behind you?

Is this older people closer to retirement age or are young people out in the streets as well?

BITTERMANN: You know, I think one of the things I find surprising, it's a lot of young people. These are people that are probably 40 years away from

retirement. In fact, there are a lot of young people out here today, including student unions and whatnot.

But also, of course, people near the retirement age; I've seen a couple of interviews here done, where people are saying, hey, look, I've only got a

year or two left before I hit age 62. I was planning on retiring. Now, you're saying I've got to on for another couple of years.

Actually, that is not the case. This law would not go into effect for a few years. But in any case, it is quite a movement. There's a lot of people out

who are opposed to this. Pollsters say there is about 62 percent or 70 percent of the French are on the side of the people out here demonstrating.

MACFARLANE: Yes, as you say, more demonstrations to come this Saturday. Jim Bittermann, thank you very much for now there, live in Paris.

And CONNECT THE WORLD is continuing after this short break. Stay with CNN.