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Putin Marks One Year of "Special Military Operation" in Ukraine; Soon: Biden to Meet with Poland's President, Deliver Speech; 3 Dead, Hundreds Injured After Magnitude 6.3 Aftershocks Rocks Turkey. Aired 5-5:30a ET

Aired February 21, 2023 - 05:00   ET



CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning. Welcome to our viewers in the United States and around the world. I'm Christine Romans.

We begin with Vladimir Putin delivering a major speech, doubling down on the goals of Russia's so-called special military operation in Ukraine, which began one year ago. It is the day after the president, President Biden's surprise visit to the Ukrainian capital. This Putin speech, along with Biden's plan addressing Warsaw, Poland, later this morning, setting up an extraordinary split screen moment, hours apart. The two leaders, laying out their vastly different versions and visions of the conflict, one year in.

We have coverage from every angle. Clare Sebastian in London, Kevin Liptak in Warsaw, to preview President Biden's day in the Polish capital, and Fred Pleitgen in Moscow.

But we start with Clare in London.

And, Clare, on the heels of Biden's unexpected historic trip to Kyiv, what is Vladimir Putin saying this morning?

CLARE SEBASTIAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Christine, this was unmistakably a tirade against the West. This was President Putin, blaming the West for starting the war in Ukraine, and escalating it, blaming the West for the casualties in this war. He said the West started it. Russia, he says, is using force to try to stop it.

He says Russia has been trying to work through this, through peaceful means. Take a listen.


VLADIMIR PUTIN, RUSSIAN PRESIDENT (through translator): I have done absolutely everything -- everything possible, everything possible to resolve this problem peacefully. Very patient, painstaking negotiations to end this very difficult situation, but a new scenario has been unleashed, and peace initiatives have being completely subverted by lies, hypocrisy.

(END VIDEO CLIP) SEBASTIAN: It is a little jarring, Christine, do you see the reversal of the truth, Russia's peace initiatives, they being the aggressor in this war, having invaded Ukraine, having spent the last year taking Ukrainian cities, bombing their infrastructure, killing civilians. It is a reversal of the facts on the ground, that we are hearing from President Putin.

He also has some of the exact same grievances that we had one year ago. He complained he tried to work with the West, all he got was a NATO expansion. He doubled down on the idea of denazifying Ukraine, saying they were protecting Ukrainian people, said that the west was closing its eyes to the murderous regime in Kyiv.

He also touted the strength of the Russian economy, which according to the latest data, shrank by 2.1 percent last year, despite predictions of a collapse. I will say, it is showing signs of strain now with the drop in oil and gas revenue as a result of sanctions -- Christine.

ROMANS: Yeah, the IMF predicts it will grow in the first quarter, but not by very much.

All right. Clare Sebastian, thank you so much.

Let's bring in CNN global affairs analyst Kim Dozier, and CNN military analyst, Colonel Cedric Leighton.

Nice to see you both this morning. I know you've been monitoring this Putin speech.

Kim, let me start with you. What do you make of Putin blaming the West for starting this conflict? He says everything that Russia is doing is defensive in nature.

KIM DOZIER, CNN GLOBAL AFFAIRS ANALYST: Unfortunately, I think there is a large audience where this argument is going to play well with, across Russia and in parts of Africa, Latin America, that have strong ties to Moscow. He is setting up a situation where he has argued this is existential for Russia to win this fight. And for Ukraine, which is much smaller, it's roughly 45 million in population versus Russia's 140 million, this is a devastating argument. It spells never ending or, just in terms of the sheer numbers game.

But it also spells this idea of firming up the Russian side together with China, Iran against the West. He went so far in parts of his speech to call out the United States, talking about the U.S. invasion of Iraq, leaving devastation behind there, as saying that is what is happening in Ukraine.

And for a lot of people across the world, this sells. And this will help convince anyone within the Russian audience, perhaps they need to keep knuckling down, giving their assets and manpower to this war.


ROMANS: Colonel, what impact do you think President Biden's surprise visit to Ukraine has on Putin, what influence might that have had on this speech from Putin right now?

CEDRIC LEIGHTON, CNN MILITARY ANALYST: I think it forced Putin to be much more combative, maybe a little more combative than he otherwise would have been.

He was going to be combative anyways, Christine. But I think in this case, I think it kind of forced him to go back into the corner, to drop the arguments that Kimberly mentioned, because these are arguments that the Russians believe they can win with. They have their audience domestically. They have their audience of course in parts of the third world.

They are also looking at trying to convince people in Europe to peel off from NATO the United States, and support some kind of an accommodation with Russia that will in essence, secure Russia's border.

So, when you look at what Putin is saying, he's basically saying we are justified in this war, because we are the defenders of our faith, we are the defenders of our country, our way of life. Neo-Nazis as he calls them in Ukraine are the ones that are causing all of these problems. The West is supporting them because they want to go against Russia and destroy Russia.

So he is casting it in existential terms for the Russians. And this is everybody's backup and forces them to think in those frankly, apocalyptic ways.

ROIMANS: And, Kim Dozier, you then have the China factor or China question here. Secretary Blinken warned of consequences if China were to provide lethal military aid to Russia. We know tensions between the U.S. and China are at their highest, the relationship at their lowest after the balloon incident. What do you make of the China factor here? Will there be consequences if Xi Jinping does offer aid to Russia, and side with Russia, with military aid over here?

DOZIER: Well, one complicating factor for that is China has business dealings with Ukraine, and has, while not condemn the invasion, said supportive thing into Ukraine throughout this past year. But it seems that what Beijing is trying to do is that set them selves up again as the reasonable party, versus the U.S. giving weapons to Ukraine.

What this could do to China, though, is damage it in a way that some of the politicians have not quite caught up with. Speaking to senior European official last week, who briefed the head of the Munich security conference, he talked about how nations across Europe are watching China's tacit support of this war, and reconsidering their business dealings with Beijing, and spoke of -- you know, if China does go ahead and arm Ukraine, sorry, arm Russia, that Europe and the U.S. accuses the same sanction regime against Moscow against Beijing, at a time when Beijing's economy is really struggling.

ROMANS: You know, Colonel, President Biden pledged new military assistance to Ukraine, it doesn't have fighter jets or long range missiles yet.

Do you think it's a matter of time?

LEIGHTON: I do, actually, Christine. I think it is really important to understand, as the Russians tried to move forward in certain areas in the Donbas region, perhaps the south of Ukraine, they are going to have a situation on the ground, which will force the west to provide greater support to Ukraine defenses, and in essence, it will open up the pipeline because the tactical situation will get precarious enough for the Ukrainians to be more than justified in asking for these kinds of weapons.

We are talking about weapons of the F-16, weapons like the missile system, these are the kind of things which will play a large role, and the Ukrainians are trying to establish that bond of trust, which has been pretty successful with the west. I think that will pay, pave the way for weapon systems of this type to enter the Ukrainian battle space.

ROMANS: All right. Kimberly Dozier, Colonel Cedric Leighton, stay with us.

We have more to discuss as the president heads to Poland. He's arriving in Warsaw, Poland, overnight. In just a couple of hours, he will meet with the Polish president and later deliver a speech, reinforcing U.S. and NATO support for Ukraine ahead of the first anniversary of Russia's invasion.

I want to bring in CNN's Kevin Liptak. He is live in Warsaw, traveling with the president.

Kevin, you write that the president is set for a symbolic clash with Putin after the surprise Ukraine trip? What are you expecting?


KEVIN LIPTAK, CNN WHITE HOUSE REPORTER: Yes. This is really expected to be quite a dramatic split screen. The president, speaking only a few hours after President Putin is making.

And we did just hear from the national security adviser, Jake Sullivan, who's been helping the president write this speech. I asked the president was watching Putin speech, he says he was not sure but, he did want to make clear this is not meant to be sort of a rhetorical head to head between the two men. President Biden really does want to speak to something larger, when it comes to Ukraine, to really reiterate western support, to let the Ukrainians know and let the world know that the United States remains at their back.

This has been a speech he has been wanting to deliver for several months. He really does want to build on a similar speech that he delivered here in Warsaw, 11 months ago. You might remember, Christine, that was kind of an interesting speech.

The president ad libbed at the very end, that President Putin cannot remain in power. Essentially, he was calling for a regime change in Moscow. President Putin of course remains very much in power as the war in Ukraine enters this uncertain new phase. ROMANS: All right. Kevin Liptak for us in Warsaw, thanks, Kevin.

Let's bring back Kimberly Dozier and Colonel Cedric Leighton.

Kim, you know, what message is President Biden sending across European nations by going to Poland right after that Kyiv visit?

DOZIER: Well, Biden is trying to shore up any support for Ukraine. In some populations across Europe, there are doubts about whether arming Ukraine and tempting Russia into further conflict is the right thing to do. That is they minority right now.

But at this point, you know, minorities can grow, as the expenses of higher energy prices, and also the looming threats from Moscow sink in. So Biden will be looking to also set an example of, this is what the U.S. is doing in terms of providing weaponry, lets everybody else also meet their promises and get that weaponry into Ukraine as quickly as possible, so that there can be some kind of battlefield victory sooner rather than later.

ROMANS: And, Colonel, you expect the president will cast this as a fight between autocracy and democracy? You say he has a good story to tell here?

LEIGHTON: Yes, he does, Christine. I think it is really important that a lot of people have kind of panned the autocracy versus democracy construct. But it is good enough to kind of be a slogan. It also seems to crystallize the kind of battle that we are actually facing, Putin's speech he's giving in Moscow, if you compare that with the speech Kevin mentioned, which Biden gave in Warsaw 11 months ago, those are the kinds of contrasts you can see.

And, you know, frankly, when you look at the way in which the situation has unfolded, it is very clear that truth is on the side of the democracies in this case, and in order to defend those democracies, a lot of actions have to happen. One of those actions is the increase in defense spending in Europe, particularly Poland, which is approaching 4 percent of its GDP for the next budget cycle, which is enormous. That's even larger than what the United States spends on defense.

So that tells you what Poland is thinking. And I think a visit by the president of the United States is a thank you to Poland for stepping up the way that they have.

ROMANS: Kim, let me quickly ask you about support in the U.S. for providing U.S. weapons to Ukraine. We look at last May, a majority of Americans supported it. The most recent polling from "AP" shows just about half.

Do you think that the president's trip to Europe will change minds over here in the U.S.?

DOZIER: Well, it is certainly a way to try to remind the American public that this war is still going on. Then message to them why it is important. While I don't think that many among Republican voters will be listening to him, it might help with his Democratic base. Also, what it does is a line at the success of the Ukrainian fight with his own presidency. It makes it harder for the GOP to later say that, you know, this hero in Ukraine, president Zelenskyy, this just fight is something that we do not think needs funding anymore.

ROMANS: All right. Kim Dozier, Colonel Cedric Leighton, thank you for your analysis and expertise this morning. And Putin is still speaking.

All right. Ahead, help for residents in East Palestine, Ohio. They are concerned about what is in their air, water and soil, more than two weeks after a toxic train derailment.



ROMANS: Welcome back.

New this morning, Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg says he plans to visit East Palestine, Ohio, when the time is right, while calling for a safety regulations from Congress and from train companies. This, after a Norfolk Southern train derailed more than two weeks ago speed spewing toxic material, forcing residents to evacuate. The state is now opening a health clinic today for people who have reported rashes, nausea and trouble breathing in the wake of that spill.

All right. Experts say racial disparity in the medical field that still exists in the U.S. For more than one century, fewer than 6 percent of American doctors have been Black, creating concerns about the health implications for minority populations.

CNN's Jacqueline Howard has more.


JACQUELINE HOWARD, CNN HEALTH REPORTER: Christine, the concern here is that the percentage of black doctors is smaller than the percentage of black people in the United States. This means our physician workforce does not reflect the patient population that we serve.

And the Association of American Medical Colleges has the most recent numbers on this. Here is what they found. In 2021, the year with the latest available data, only 5.7 percent of physicians in the U.S. identified as black or African American. That is even though at least an estimated 12 percent of the U.S. population identifies specifically as black or African American.


Now, looking at all other racial or ethnic groups, fewer than 1 percent of doctors are Native American, Alaska Native or Native Hawaiian. About 6.9 percent are Hispanic, around 20 percent are Asian and 63.9 percent are white.

And the American medical association says, increasing diversity among our doctors can decrease racial and ethnic health inequities.

I am talking about how black and brown communities are at higher risk for certain chronic diseases, infectious diseases and deadly complications during pregnancy and childbirth. And the association also says admitting and retaining a diverse pool of medical school students is an important part of that process to get our country closer to having a workforce of doctors that resembles the patients living in this country -- Christine.


ROMANS: All right. Jacqueline Howard, thank you so much for that.

And major aftershock hit southern Turkey two weeks after a massive earthquake which killed more than 40,000 people. But is what it looked like from a dash cam. Search crews surveying the damage from this new tremor.

We are live in Turkey, next.



ROMANS: At least three people are dead, hundreds injured after a magnitude 6.3 aftershocks rocked southern Turkey, Monday. Just a devastating step back after the massive earthquake which killed more than 40,000 people two weeks ago. Rescuers, still working to save survivors, even been spotted falling asleep on the rubble.

CNN's Nada Bashir live in Adana, Turkey for us. And that dashcam video just shows you how violently this new quake has struck the region.

How are officials saying they are helping displaced people here?

NADA BASHIR, CNN REPORTER: Well, look Christine, officials are on the ground, that search and rescue operation has to some extent, winded down now. But there are still aid workers are on the ground, many looking through the rubble. A lot of buildings destroyed in the previous earthquake as well, two weeks ago, were deemed unsafe, have now collapsed.

Of course, we are learning more details from the Disaster and Emergency Management Agency over here in Turkey around the casualties behind this aftershock. At least 294 people injured so far, including 18 people in a critical condition. Last night, we have the confirmation of at least three deaths.

Now, if a disaster and emergency agency has confirmed a further three deaths. This brings the total death toll from this aftershock to around six people. But of course, many of the people in southeast Turkey have already been through so much, have already lost so much. We are talking about an overall death toll of more than 41,000 since the earthquake two weeks ago. There is a real sense of shock and fear over here. And we are in Adana, which is about 70 miles away from the epicenter,

in the Hatay province, among the hardest hit provinces following that earthquake two weeks ago. And we felt the tremors over here.

Families staying in our hotel are piling into the lobby with their children, hoping to spend the night there for fear of being in their rooms. They wanted to be close to an exit. You can imagine the fear, the shock, the trauma that people here in southeast Turkey are going through once again -- Christine.

ROMANS: It is hard to even fathom the scale of the disaster over there.

Nada, thank you so much for being there for us.

President Biden is set to meet Poland's president in just a couple of hours. Our analysis straight ahead. Plus, Republican hard-liners are slamming the presidents surprise visit to Ukraine. Who they say he neglected?