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U.S. says Russia Committed Crimes against Humanity in Ukraine; Ukraine's Prosecutor General calls on "Special Tribunal for the Crime of Aggression"; Blinken: U.S. will help Turkey "For as long as it Takes"; New Poll: U.S. Public Support for Ukraine Aid Softening; "The Banshees of Inisherin" Wins Several Awards. Aired 11:15a-12p ET

Aired February 20, 2023 - 11:15   ET




BECKY ANDERSON, CNN HOST, CONNECT THE WORLD: You have been listening to my colleagues. We are taking a very short break after that we speak to

Ukraine's Prosecutor General that after this.



ANDERSON: Welcome back! I'm Becky Anderson in Abu Dhabi. You've been watching CNN Special Coverage of U.S. President Joe Biden's surprise visit

to the Ukrainian Capital Kyiv. His first visit since the war there began.

United States putting on a striking show of support this week ahead of what is the first anniversary of that invasion. Over the weekend in Munich, Vice

President Kamala Harris made the strongest accusation yet against Russia.


KAMALA HARRIS, U.S. VICE PRESIDENT: We have examined the evidence. We know the legal standards. And there is no doubt these are crimes against



ANDERSON: Well, that declaration does not immediately give the United States or anyone else the ability to prosecute these crimes, but it adds to

the global push for accountability through international bodies such as the International Criminal Court.

Well, Ukraine's Prosecutor General Andriy Kostin met with a U.S. Delegation at that Munich Security Conference and his calling to take this a step

further. After the meeting he wrote no quote, we must unite our efforts to advance the establishment of the ad hoc special tribunal for the crime of

aggression. This is the most realistic and time efficient way to overcome functional immunity and hold the highest leadership of the aggressor state


Well, Andriy Kostin the Prosecutor General joins me now live from Kyiv. Thank you, sir! And just I have to ask ahead of what is one year on from

the start of this war. Before we talk about how any tribunal will work? Just tell me what are your reflections on this past year are?

ANDRIY KOSTIN, THE PROSECUTOR GENERAL, UKRAINE: The reflection is such that since World War II, Europe has never witnessed such number of massive and

shocking atrocities, and such number of war crimes committed on the European land. As of today, we have registered more than 68,000 incidents

of war crimes committed by Russia and its proxies on Ukrainian territory and against Ukrainians. This is a challenging task for all of us.

And I would like to commend all law enforcement agencies and officers of Ukraine, all prosecutors, forensics and judges, who from the very first day

were active in collecting evidence of war crimes, investigating these cases, prosecuting them and send them to courts.


KOSTIN: As of today, we have already 26 war criminals convicted by Ukrainian courts. And of course, we want to reach the highest political and

military leadership of Russian Federation who started this war of aggression. We will need and we have huge support on international level.


KOSTIN: It's our cooperation with the International Criminal Court and as well as the cooperation with national jurisdictions who opened criminal

cases against with regard to war crimes committed by Russia, in Ukraine. And the strong message--

ANDERSON: Let's talk about the Mechanisms that exist, shall we? And I don't want to stop you in your flow there. But I just do want to drill down on

what is available to you at this point? You've said that we must unite our efforts to advance the establishment of the ad hoc special Tribunal for the

crime of aggression. Let's start there. How do you suggest this tribunal would work and what mechanisms can realistically be put in place to

prosecute alleged war crimes?

KOSTIN: You're absolutely right. With our position to establish the special tribunal our aim at the moment is to get the support from the United

Nations General Assembly, with regard to resolution supporting the setting up of this special tribunal to fill in the gap which exists at the moment

in the international law.

In addition to this, we are cooperating with the International Criminal Court which has jurisdiction over the crime of genocide, war crimes and

crimes against humanity as was mentioned by the Vice President of United States, Kamala Harris.

And in addition to this, more than 20 countries opened their national investigations with regard to war crimes committed in Ukraine by Russian

forces and United States is among these countries. And we are in very close contact with Department of Justice of United States with regard to

investigation of specific war crimes committed by Russia. So these are three elements of national and international dimensions of making Russia

accountable, and they should work out together.

ANDERSON: The International Criminal Court will be familiar to many of our viewers. And while any evidence collected, and you've talked about the

extent of the crimes at present, any evidence could be potentially used by the ICC. But neither Ukraine nor the United States is a member of that

body. Just how limiting is that at this point, given the scope of what you believe, has been committed?

KOSTIN: First of all, I would like to mention that since 2014, and up to now Ukraine has adopted full set of national legislation with regard to

possibility of the ICC to investigate and prosecute war crimes in Ukraine.

And we have no any obstacles in cooperation with the International Criminal Court. With regard to all other investigations we all understand that since

Ukraine, law enforcement agencies, prosecution offices and courts are working daily every day, starting from 24th of February.

We Ukraine will investigate and prosecute 99 plus percent of all cases of war crimes, and the ICC will play a complementary role with regard to

crimes against humanity, crime of genocide. And with regard to crimes which require construction of the command chain with relation to the chain of

military command, who incited and who? Yes, and who initiated many of war crimes committed.

ANDERSON: Sir, let me just pick up here because I've only got a couple of minutes left. And I do want to press just give our viewers a sense of this.

Because the world of course, has come to know the town of Bucha for the worst reasons after the Russian occupation there early on in this war and

this video I'm about to show is hard to see.

But I think it is worth remembering the mass graves that were discovered last April when some of the worst horrors of this war came to light. Russia

of course has denied the allegations of war crimes out of Bucha. But since then, Ukraine is since documented as you rightly point out over 70,000 war

crimes and crimes against crimes of aggression that is a number that is hard to comprehend.


ANDERSON: And just to your mind very briefly, can you just explain the scale of the investigations that you are carrying out and you must be


KOSTIN: I will try to explain that Bucha region which a district was the most atrocious example of war crimes committed on the territory of Ukraine.

We have registered more 9000 cases in which, districts from which 1100 are in Bucha town itself. There are circumstances of death of more than 1700

civilians in Bucha district are being investigated.

At the moment we have already 91 - we have identified 91 military servicemen of Russian Federation involved in commission of these crimes and

two persons are already convicted by Ukrainian courts. And we will work--

ANDERSON: I'm going to have to leave it there. Thank you for being so concise for your answer.

KOSTIN: Yes, we will work to make all of - comfortable.

ANDERSON: Understood, understood. We're going to have to take a very short break at this, but good to have you on sir. Thank you, taking a break, back

after this.


ANDERSON: Anger and indignation in Israel this hour over a controversial bill to overhaul the judicial system there. Crowds of demonstrators turned

out around the Supreme Court and the Knesset, some even dressing up like characters in the dystopian novel, The Handmaid's Tale.

And the bill will give parliament the ability to overturn Supreme Court rulings and appoint judges something's critics say Prime Minister Benjamin

Netanyahu could use to help and his own ongoing corruption trial. Hadas Gold is connecting us this hour from Jerusalem, Hadas?

HADAS GOLD, CNN JERUSALEM CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Becky, well thousands of protesters flooded the streets outside of the Israeli Supreme Court into

the Israeli parliament. And actually I was just on the roads a few minutes ago.

And there are still groups of protesters making their way around Jerusalem, specifically circling around the Israeli parliament, the Knesset, because

today was the day that the first reading of these judicial reforms is being brought to a vote in front of the entire parliament.

There's currently ongoing the debate over the vote and it requires three readings and three votes before it could come into effect. But stay was

really a marker data first day that it was brought to this major vote. And although there have been pushes and pressures for consensus for

negotiation, even from the American ambassador here in Israel, calling for the government to pump the brakes to slow it down to there could be talks.


GOLD: And the Israeli president saying that he has been in conversation with opposition leaders with coalition leaders to try and get everybody to

come around the table to come to some consensus over what these reforms will look like. It appears as though the government is pushing ahead.

And despite these dramatic scenes we were seeing on the streets, this is the seventh week of protests against these judicial reforms. It seems as

though that in the last few hours, the more dramatic images are actually coming from inside the Israeli parliament itself. Just in last few minutes,

we've seen opposition leaders unfurl Israeli flags on the floor of the Israeli parliament before they were kicked out by security because it's

against the rules to raise anything on the parliament floor.

But obviously, the image of a Member of Parliament is being escorted off of the floor for raising the Israeli flag. That's obviously causing a lot of

dramatics here. We do see that video right there, of those opposition leaders just raising the Israeli flag being escorted out by security.

And what you actually don't see in that image and what we're hearing from reports with from within the parliament is that there were other protesters

and other people around the sort of viewing gallery banging on the windows, it goes to show you just the emotion and the visceral reaction that people

are having to these traditional reforms.

But the government seems to be pushing ahead. They say that these reforms are sorely needed. They say that Supreme Court has become elitist, too

powerful that it's meddling in issues that it shouldn't meddle in. And supporters of these reforms, some of whom came out to counter protests or

the thousands of protesters today say listen, this is what the voters voted for in those November elections when Benjamin Netanyahu and its allies came

into power, and this is what the voters want.

But clearly, this debate is still ongoing, still two more readings of this bill to come forward. And we'll have to see whether the Israeli President

Isaac Herzog is successful in bringing all of these different factions together to come to some sort of negotiations and some sort of consensus

and some sort of way forward, Becky.

ANDERSON: Very briefly, aside from what is going on today that we are witnessing there, clearly a spiraling in violence and concern about what is

going on between Israelis and Palestinians. And at the UN Security Council today, a briefing on the Middle East remarks by the U.S. Ambassador to the

UN, what do we make of what we are hearing?

GOLD: Well, there were reports that there was going to be actually a vote in the UN Security Council against the settlements, against these new

settlements that were announced in the last week or so by the Israeli government, the largest settlement announced, and I believe in something

like a decade from 10,000 new units, the legalization of what were previously nine illegal outposts.

This was meant by condemnation by several countries, including the United States. And so, the big question was going to be this resolution was being

brought up by the UAE reportedly, and the big question was going to be whether the United States was going to utilize its veto power. Now, if you

recall, in 2016 the U.S. did not veto a similar resolution.

And that was largely considered the lowest point in the U.S. Israel relationship. But from what we understand from reports, there was a flurry

of negotiations over the past weekend between the United States as well as Israel and the Palestinians. There were some reports that Israel had agreed

to not have announced any new settlements or don't have any demolitions in the next few months.

There's some confusion over that because the Israeli say, we weren't planning to announce any new settlements in the next few months anyway. But

what we know is that there is apparently going to be a statement to presidential statement from the UN against the settlements. But this is

nothing near what a vote would have been Becky.

ANDERSON: Yes, absolutely. Let me just read what the U.S. Ambassador to the UN said, let me be clear and unequivocal about this. We strongly oppose

Israel's announcement that it will advance thousands of settlement units. And we strongly oppose Israel's announcement that it will begin a process

to retro actively legalize nine outposts in the West Bank that were previously illegal under Israeli law.

Critics will suggest for sure, but that was not an outright condemnation, but a strong opposition to and that is where this language becomes really

important. And as you rightly point out, you get to a point where you get a watered down presidential announcement as opposed to a vote on any single

resolution. Thank you, Hadas. Hadas Gold is in Jerusalem.

All right, well, the U.S. Secretary of State Anthony Blinken met with Turkish counterpart in Ankara a short time ago; he also held talks with the

Turkish president. That visit comes after that massive earthquake that hit southern Turkey and neighboring Syria killing more than 41,000 people in

Turkey alone.

Blinken says that Washington will support Turkey for as long as it takes to help recover. Well CNN's Nada Bashir is there in southern Turkey. You are

on the ground. How would you describe the scope and scale of that recovery that Anthony Blinken was referring to today, Nada?


NADA BASHIR, CNN REPORTER: Becky, it's difficult to grasp just how extensive just how disastrous this earthquake has been in, you know, you

look at the reporting of our colleagues Jomana Karadsheh, who's been on the ground at the earthquake epicenter. And it is difficult to put into words

exactly how much people have lost in the southeast of the country.

We are talking about thousands and thousands of people made homeless, many of them of course, have lost loved ones. And now, as that recovery process

begins to wind down only two out of those 11 affected provinces still seeing their search and rescue operations ongoing. The focus is very much

shifting on that humanitarian response effort.

And it's going to take months, if not years, of course. We have seen a focus by the Turkish Government on the infrastructural challenges. But at

this point, for now, the focus is very much on the humanitarian relief effort - and that was certainly the focus for U.S. Secretary of State,

Antony Blinken.

Now he told parts of the country hardest hit over the weekend with his Turkish counterpart, including the province of Hatay, where at least 80

percent of the buildings have either collapsed or about to collapse or have been deemed unsafe and require demolition.

He also met with members of the U.S. search and rescue teams who have been working over the last two weeks. He was very clear that the U.S. will stand

behind Turkey for as long as it takes announcing $100 million in new funding for that humanitarian response effort.

ANDERSON: Those numbers are almost unfathomable, when you talk about 80 percent of buildings either collapsed or nearly collapsed in certain areas.

It just really does underscore the extent of the problem there and the lives lost associated with it. Nada, thank you!

Well coming up, out for a walk and looking like old friends. But these two leaders are actually staring down what some call an existential threat. Top

analysis of President Biden's high stakes trip to Ukraine earlier today is coming up.


ANDERSON: It was secret and it was historic. But more than symbolic political observers have been telling CNN the U.S. President's surprise

visit to Ukraine earlier today was smaller than political theater. That's partly because Joe Biden announced half a billion dollars in new U.S.AID

including military equipment as he did this trip.

No word though, on the fighter jets that the Ukrainian president has been pleading for. Keep in mind this week not only marks a year since Russia's

full scale invasion of Ukraine. Nine years ago today Moscow invaded Crimea leading to its annexation. So against that backdrop, Mr. Biden is offering

a message to the world as well as to the Ukrainian people.


ANDERSON: CNN Politics Senior Reporter, Stephen Collinson joining us live from DC. A vantage point as good as any Steven to answer a number of I

think pressing questions, not least, how you believe the optics of this trip taking place just days before that year anniversary will play out for

Joe Biden back home?

STEPHEN COLLINSON, CNN POLITICS SENIOR REPORTER: Well, I think this trip, Becky, as you say, is a symbol of defiance to Putin, a sign of endurance,

U.S. endurance to the Ukrainians and America's European allies. And is also a message to Americans back home, not only about the importance of standing

with Ukraine, at a time when many Americans have other political priorities.

But also at a moment when President Biden is contemplating launching his reelection bid, there's been a lot of talk in the United States recently

about his age, which really irks the White House, but will be a question in 2024. And to see an 8 year old president making a daring trip to Ukraine to

a warzone that requires endurance and energy is clearly a good political optic.

But I think more broadly, this is a trip that is one of the more significant presidential trips of recent times. I think you can compare it

to the Cold War trips to Berlin of Presidents Kennedy, and Reagan, those visits were validated in history by the fact that the United States and the

West won the Cold War and the Soviet Union fell.

I think it will only be possible to judge this trip both geopolitically and politically, in the light of what happens next, whether Ukraine survives

and prevails, and whether the United States stays committed to the war, if necessary, after Biden leaves office.

ANDERSON: Yes, and I think there's two stages to that. It's while he's still in office, of course, and after he leaves office, because there is no

doubt that this war is going to drag on. Let's just have a look at some polling to get a sense of what the American public is thinking at present.

A growing sense that the U.S. certainly is perhaps doing too much one poll finds, for example, that 48 percent of Americans support sending weapons to

Ukraine with 29 percent opposed and 22 percent neither in favor, or opposed. In May 2022, less than three months into the war 60 percent of

U.S. adults said they were in favor of sending Ukraine weapons.

I want to talk about after this answer from you, whether the U.S. sees this as a national security issue, because that will end up playing a serious

part in whether there is a broad partisan support or divides for this. But what do you make of that first poll?

COLLINSON: I think these polls are interesting, because they show I think, a slight slippage in U.S. support for, you know, sending billions of

dollars' worth of aid and ammunition to Ukraine, but it's not a fracture. If you look at the numbers, many of them mirror Biden's own public approval

ratings, which tells us, what we know is that everything in the United States in politics in Washington tends to break down on partisan lines.

So there's perhaps not too much to be drawn from that. And I think it also shows that, as important as this is, it will - Ukraine will probably be the

most striking part of President Biden's legacy. It will not decide whether or not he wins a second term. So, you know, Americans have many concerns

and foreign policy is not usually among them.

These are interesting polls, but I don't think for now, in the broader scheme of things, as opposed perhaps from some of the individual weapons

packages we could talk about, I don't think they're going to shape the White House's decision making just yet.

ANDERSON: National security, though, as opposed to foreign policy, and the too often, you know, are aligned. National security is something that

Americans, you know, are keenly aware of the Pew survey, finding that there's a broad partisan divide over whether the Russian invasion of

Ukraine is a major threat to U.S. interests. So how concerned should the Biden Administration be about that?

COLLINSON: Well, I think a lot of this mirrors the change in Republican politics that was brought about by Donald Trump's presidency. And the fact

that he was exceedingly pro-Russian, and has been much less interested in getting involved in foreign conflicts that don't directly involve the

United States like Ukraine, for many other U.S. presidents.

So that reflects the politics of this, I think, where Ukraine has to be worried and the Biden Administration that wants to support Ukraine has to

be worried. As in the longer term there is on the far right of the Republican Party a growing opposition to the war.


COLLINSON: And I think if we got a president like Trump or someone liked him after the next election, there will be real questions about whether the

U.S. would see it as a national security priority as much as Biden does.

ANDERSON: Stephen Collinson, always a pleasure. Thank you, sir.


ANDERSON: Up next on "Connect the World", a film about the horror of war steals the hearts of the British entertainment industry, a look at the big

winners at the BAFTA Awards coming up.


ANDERSON: German filmers won Britain's top award for the best in cinema. All Quiet on the Western Front, on seven BAFTA Awards on Sunday night

including best film. Now Britain's night to celebrate entertainment is seen as a preview of the Oscars. My colleague Christina Macfarlane reports, the

nights there --.


CHRISTINA MACFARLANE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice over): The best of Britain silver screen hitting the red carpet.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The reason I'm in this movie, just walked in.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I am quivering with anticipation, joy and elation to be here.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: To come here with 14 nominations is just mind boggling.

MACFARLANE (voice over): The BAFTA is at London's Royal Festival Hall was a night of film royalty, rubbing elbows with British royalty. The late Queen

Elizabeth remembered in a heartfelt tribute by Dame Helen Mirren.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Your Majesty, you were our nation's leading star. On behalf of BAFTA, thank you.

MACFARLANE (voice over): The night also pays tribute to those displaced by the earthquake in Turkey and Syria and the war in Ukraine.

FELIX KAMMERER, ACTOR, "ALL QUIET ON THE WESTERN FRONT": Says here with refugees and I think especially with a movie like All Quiet acquired it's

always important to get back to reality what really, this has something this has to do with us. So this I think is a good time to show us support.

MACFARLANE (voice over): And on the night the World War I epic film All Quiet on the Western Front cleaned up with seven BAFTAs including Best


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Today, there's a different war in the Ukraine in five days. It will be one year the anniversary and there are no heroes in it in

any war.

MACFARLANE (voice over): CNN films thriller about the life of jailed Russian opposition leader Alexey Navalny, won Best Documentary, his family

attending the award ceremony with a message of hope.

DASHA NAVALNAYA, DAUGHTER OF ALEXEY NAVALNY: It's very important to remember to fight for your freedom and for democracy around the world.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The award goes to The Banshees of Inisherin.

MACFARLANE (voice over): Set during the Irish Civil War, Banshees picked up four BAFTAs including outstanding British film, despite a mostly Irish


MARTIN MCDONAGH, DIRECTOR, "THE BANSHEES OF INISHERIN": I know every Irish person in the cast and crew were kind of got best award. But Thanks to

Rosie, our stand-in donkey, who is British.

MACFARLANE (voice over): Closing out the night Austin Butler winning for Leading Actor for his transformation into Elvis Presley in Baz Luhrmann's

biopic of the king and as expected Cate Blanchett won the award for Leading Actress for her striking performance in the psychological drama, Tar.


MACFARLANE (voice over): Whether it will be a repeat performance for these winners at next month's Oscars, the film world will wait and see, Christina

McFarland, CNN, London.


ANDERSON: Well, Saudi Arabia unveiled its latest mega projects last week that aims to be the world's first immersive and experiential destination

al-Mukaab, which means the cube in Arabic will be a 400 meters cubed building large enough to fit 20 Empire State Buildings.

This is the vision the structure aims to be fully integrated with holographic technology that can project all sorts of scenery onto its

interior walls. It was designed by and inspired by Nadji Architecture, a style that is local to the Arab Peninsula.

It did draw some criticism online as people felt that the building was too similar to Islam's holy side of the --. We expect the completion date for

the colossal building is set for 2030. Thanks for joining us, CNN continues after this short break.