Return to Transcripts main page
Isa Soares Tonight
IAEA Inspectors Enter Embattled Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant; U.N. Accuses China Of Human Rights Abuses Against Uyghurs; A U.S. Judge Is Hearing Arguments On Whether To Appoint An Independent Official To Oversee A Review Of Documents Taken From Donald Trump's Estate; Putin Pays Last Respects To Gorbachev; Ukraine Claims Success In Southern Counteroffensive; E.U. Considering Energy Price Cap To Tackle Rising Costs. Aired 2-3p ET
Aired September 01, 2022 - 14:00:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
ISA SOARES, HOST, ISA SOARES TONIGHT: A very warm welcome to the show, everyone, I'm Isa Soares. Tonight, nuclear watchdogs are in the
Zaporizhzhia power plant and they are worried. What they're trying to do to stabilize the situation. Then, a new United Nations report is slamming
China over abuses against Uyghurs. Details and China's response, that's just ahead.
And a U.S. judge is hearing arguments on whether to appoint an independent official to oversee a review of documents taken from Donald Trump's estate,
what that means for the criminal investigation. But first, after navigating a gone plant really of shelling and delays, international nuclear
inspectors arrived hours ago at the embattled Zaporizhzhia power -- nuclear power plant in Ukraine.
A caravan of U.N. vehicles entered the Russian-occupied plant after fierce artillery fire nearly delayed for several hours their drive, really,
across, as you can see there, the frontline. Now, inspectors then spent a few more hours inside, examining the plant's safety, as well as operations,
including, of course, the reactors. Once back in Ukrainian territory, the head of the delegation said, he is still worried about the plant. Have a
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RAFAEL GROSSI, DIRECTOR-GENERAL, INTERNATIONAL ATOMIC ENERGY AGENCY: It is obvious that the plant and the physical integrity of the plant has been
violated several times. By chance, by deliberation, we don't have the elements to assess that. But this is a reality that we -- that we have to
recognize, and this is something that cannot continue to happen. Whatever you stay, whatever you stand, whatever you think about this war, this is
something that cannot happen.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SOARES: And this is just one shell that slammed into the nearby town of Enerhodar as inspectors made their way there. The mayor told CNN, the
relentless shelling began at 5:00 a.m. and killed several civilians. Russia and Ukraine both blamed each other, as they have done when it comes to the
situation near Zaporizhzhia.
Well, five IAEA inspectors are reportedly staying at the plant, at least, through Saturday, but a Ukrainian employee working under the control of
Russian soldiers says the plant's staff fears inspectors won't see the whole story, telling CNN, they live in terror. Our Melissa Bell spoke with
her and joins us now from Kyiv.
And Melissa, well, talk about what she told you, what some of the people working there told you, but give us a sense, first, about what's happening
with those five inspectors inside that nuclear power plant. How much do you think they got to see and to access -- to assess, really?
MELISSA BELL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well look, Rafael Grossi was in there for just a few hours and came out saying, I've seen the four of five key areas
that I needed to see. But clearly, what this five strong group of experts is now staying behind to do, he said, is going much more in-depth, asking
more questions, looking in more detail, trying to figure out exactly what's going on, in order that they can produce a report on what's happening at
Of course, the difficulty they're going to have, Isa, as you mentioned, is that because we've been able to speak to some of those workers at the
plant, we've been able to get a much better idea of just how difficult things are. Bear in mind that this is a plant that's now been under Russian
control since March.
And what the workers have been telling us, the Ukrainian workers who manned this plant, is that over the course of the last few months, and
specifically the last few weeks, things have been getting harder. Confirming what the Ukrainian side, but also American Intelligence have
been suggesting for a while.
That the plant is being used to keep military hardware, that it is being used to launch attacks. That they live in fear, not just of the forces
themselves that are occupying their buildings, but also, of course, ultimately of what could happen. These are the people, after all who know
exactly what should or should not happen in a nuclear power plant, and what a nuclear meltdown would look like.
They spoke to us of some of their terror. Now, clearly, that is part of Rafael Grossi's plan, leaving five people behind for the next few days will
at least ensure some sort of peace around the plant. And that is an important step forward. But more than that, he said, he'd spoken to some of
those workers, acknowledging that they were working under extremely difficult circumstances.
And he pledged to them that the IAEA was there to stay. The plan is that beyond the next few days when the five strong team are there, a permanent
mission will be set up by the IAEA at the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant, in order to ensure that what we've seen over the course of the last few
months, which is the plant being used as a military base and being at the heart of so much dangerous fighting and shelling.
Each side claiming that the other is responsible can no longer happen again. And as you heard him say there, this cannot go on.
SOARES: Our Melissa Bell there for us in Kyiv this hour. Thank you very much, Melissa. Well, a new United Nations report accuses China of
committing human rights abuses against Uyghurs, as well as other Muslim groups. It says the violations may even amount to crimes against humanity.
Beijing has always defended its treatment of Uyghurs in the northwestern province of Xinjiang.
Now Chinese officials are calling the report a farce planned by the U.S. Our Anna Coren has this report.
ANNA COREN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Tears for missing family, harrowing details of torture, of imprisonment and even death.
MEHRAY TAHER, HUSBAND DETAINED IN XINJIANG: The next thing you know, your husband is in a detention center and you can't even see him, you can't even
communicate with him.
COREN: Now, a vindication of some of that pain suffered by Muslim minorities in China's west, at the hands of the state apparatus. Four years
after stating its initial concerns, the United Nations has documented that abuses are occurring in Xinjiang. And since, China may have committed
crimes against humanity, in its internment of some 1 million people, in what Beijing calls, vocational education training camps.
The damning report published minutes before U.N. Human Rights Chief, Michelle Bachelet left her post, China vehemently opposed its release.
RAYHAN ASAT, HUMAN RIGHTS LAWYER, UYGHUR ADVOCATE: Since World War II, this is the second time we're ever seeing a government, a powerful
government, building massive and a large scale concentration camps, to collectively punish a population for just being who they are.
COREN: China insists its cancer used to de-radicalize religious extremists. And that the facilities have closed, a claim the U.N. says, it
couldn't verify. Its propaganda paints a picture of violent separatism in a Xinjiang region. The U.N. says, ultimately, China's anti terror campaign
has led to the large-scale arbitrary deprivation of liberty.
The liberty of people like Ekpar, brother of New York human rights lawyer Rayhan Asat. A successful entrepreneur, Ekpar traveled with a Chinese
delegation to the U.S. In 2016 for a month-long trip, even visiting CNN headquarters in Atlanta.
ASAT: He was in weeks, returning from the United States, he was forcibly disappeared by the Chinese government into the shadows of one of these
camps. And it's been six years, four months, and still counting.
COREN: China has kept the world away from its alleged crimes in Xinjiang. Bachelet herself was not allowed to speak to any Uyghurs in Xinjiang for
her report. But for years, rights groups and news organizations, including CNN, have uncovered alleged abuses in Xinjiang, including sexual violence
and forced sterilization inside the Xinjiang camps.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Don't do this, don't do this! I cried. Please don't do this.
COREN: Human rights groups say the international community can no longer remain silent.
SOPHIE RICHARDSON, HUMAN RIGHTS WATCH: Your states should be going into the Human Rights Council thinking, armed with this report, what best can we
do to end violations in that region? And find justice for the victims and survivors? That's what should be driving their next actions, not boil back
COREN: Despite the mounting evidence, Beijing refers to the human rights allegations as the great lie of the century. It says, the report is a
farce, that the United Nations has succumbed to a western plot to discredit China. The report itself accuses China of intimidating Uyghurs abroad,
threatening those brave enough to speak out against the system they say is designed to destroy them. Anna Coren, CNN, Hong Kong.
SOARES: Well, rights groups are now asking, will China ever be held to account? CNN's Will Ripley is in Taipei for more. And Will, this is, of
course, as Anna just laid out, a truly damning report. But what comes after the report really remains uncertain. Nevertheless, this could be, of
course, a catalyst for change. So, what has been the reaction from the Asia Pacific region? What would they like to be done here?
WILL RIPLEY, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, those allied with the West are certainly joining in this course of condemnation that has been
really happening for years when it comes to Xinjiang. I mean, these reports first started being investigated by the U.N. four years ago, and the fact
that this report, a 45-page report has taken this long, speaks to the influence that China has --
SOARES: Yes --
RIPLEY: In the United Nations and the pressure, the extreme pressure that they were putting on not to have this report publicized at all. And not
only, you know -- I mean, just -- you know, not only did the commissioner basically dropped the report and then -- and then leave, you know, office,
leave her post. You had -- you had China putting out its own 131 pages as a rebuttal, if you will, calling this a, you know, disinformation and lies,
this conspiracy by the West, by anti-China forces.
This has been China's response all along. The bottom line is, they look at human rights very differently in their authoritarian systems than the West
looks at human rights. Whereas, you know, China feels that assimilating people, forcing them to speak a new language, ripping families apart, some
of them not having seen each other for years, that's all part of creating this social order that is the prize, you know, prize-goal of Chinese
President, Xi Jinping. Whereas in the West, of course, you know, diversity is embraced. That's not the case in China --
SOARES: Yes --
RIPLEY: Which has 1.5 billion people. And if President Xi and the leaders have their way, everybody would basically look the same, sound the same,
speak the same, and be part of this unit of society, this ideal that they're trying to create in China.
SOARES: So, I suspect from what you're saying really, Will, that perhaps this is not even making news in China, on state TV? How -- is it being
RIPLEY: They certainly -- yes, they control the message. They control the message on state media, and you know, just like the Taiwan issue, just
like any -- you know, how they spin, you know, the Russian invasion of Ukraine, you know, people in China who rely on television news, state
media, for their information have a very different perception of what's happening in the world right now.
But the bottom line is, this report is damning as it is, and as much as it may be condemned, China has so much influence in the U.N. --
SOARES: Yes --
RIPLEY: There's really not going to be any tangible consequences. It's really unlikely there will be international tribunal that will amount to
anything. And certainly, there will not be any consequences inside the country itself or change, frankly.
SOARES: And that says -- speaks volumes like you said of how much power and influence they have, really, at the U.N. Let me pivot, really, and get
your thoughts on a business story that we have been covering here on CNN today. Just two of America's top chip makers, I believe, have been ordered
to stop selling some of their technology to China. Why are they doing that? And what has been the reaction from Beijing here, Will?
RIPLEY: Nvidia and AMD, yes, these are big players in the chip industry. Of course, the number one chips manufacturer right here in Taiwan, TSMC.
But in the United States, these two companies have been basically ordered by the U.S. government to halt the exports of these high performance chips
that they sell in large quantities to the world's second largest economy, China.
That's because the U.S. says that these chips can be used for artificial intelligence, and that, that could have a military purpose potentially. So,
they're losing about $400 million worth of business. Their stock -- both companies, were down single digits in after-hours trading. And basically,
these new rules are just a reminder of the tensions that it continue to exist between the U.S. and China, when it comes to technology.
I mean, this is something that goes back to the Huawei days, where, you know, the United States, under the Trump administration, was pressuring,
you know, pressuring countries around the world not to install Chinese technology out of fears that it could also be used for espionage and what
So, this is yet another extension of this ongoing dispute, of course. China denies this, and they again say, what they say about, you know, the
accusations of human rights abuses, that this is a western plot, you know, to try to contain the rise of China.
SOARES: Yes, so, the rhetoric remains the same. Will Ripley for us in Taipei, Taiwan, great to see you, Will. Thank you. And still to come
tonight, a high stakes hearing is underway involving the criminal investigation into classified documents found at Donald Trump's Mar-a-Lago
estate. And this top Russian oil executive died suddenly. We have the details -- mysteriously, next.
SOARES: Welcome back, everyone. Now, a hearing is underway that could impact a criminal investigation involving former U.S. President Donald
Trump. He is urging a judge to appoint an independent official to oversee a review of documents taken from his Mar-a-Lago estate during an FBI search.
The Justice Department says that's unnecessary and could significantly harm national security.
It says the search uncovered more than a 100 classified government documents, several found in Trump's desk. And says records were likely,
quote, "concealed and removed from a storage room to obstruct an FBI investigation". Trump's position has evolved from accusing the FBI of
planting evidence to now acknowledging on social media the documents were kept in, quote, "cartons" at his home.
His attorneys made their case in a new filing, but have been more significant for what it didn't address. I want to bring in CNN's Kristen
Holmes for the details. So, Kristen, talk us through what we can expect from this hearing today.
KRISTEN HOLMES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, this is the first time we're going to see these two sets of lawyers, Trump's team and the Department of
Justice attorneys face-to-face. So far, this has been a civil lawsuit that has been fought through filings. And the thing to watch when it comes to
Trump's attorneys is, this is also the first time we're going to be hearing from Chris Kise, he was just hired to be part of Trump's legal team this
week after huge concerns from Trump allies about the competence of his current team.
And he is well respected. He's a former Florida solicitor general, he's argued in front of the Supreme Court a number of times and won. So, one
thing we're looking at is if his arguments, if Trump's arguments change with this new lawyer -- and as you mentioned, this is all about that
Trump's team says it is necessary to have this third-party review the documents that were seized at Mar-a-Lago and make sure that none of them
were protected by privilege, either executive or legal. The Department of Justice says -- as you noted, that this could harm national security. They
also say that it's unnecessary.
That they had their own filter team, a small group that's separate from the investigations, so it's not to cloud the investigation that separated out
documents that could fall under attorney-client privilege. They also say that this would just dramatically slow down the investigation. Well, in a
filing last night, Trump's team argued that, that doesn't really matter.
They expressed a deep skepticism of the Department of Justice. And they said that the filter team was essentially acting unchecked and at their own
discretion. So, there needed to be this third party here. Now, the judge that they're appearing in front of is a Trump- appointed judge. And she
had expressed earlier at leaning towards, actually, appointing the special master.
But again, that was before we saw that bombshell DOJ filing two nights ago that accused Trump's team of obstructing the investigation.
SOARES: A lot -- we'll of course, we'll wait to see what comes out of it. Kirsten Holmes, appreciate it. Thank you. Well, let's get some perspective
now from former U.S. federal prosecutor, Michael Zeldin; he was Robert Mueller's special assistant at the Department of Justice. Michael, thank
you so much for joining me this hour. How do you think this is going to go? How do you think it will play out?
MICHAEL ZELDIN, PODCAST HOST: Well, it's interesting. The first threshold question the judge has to answer is that which was raised in the DOJ
filing, which is, does Trump even have standing, the right to come to court to challenge the retrieval of these documents?
The government's initial position is, he has no ability to be in court because these records are not his. He has no -- what they call possessory
interest, ownership of them, and therefore, throw them out, full stop, end of case. But if the court says, well, you know, let's get to the matter of
the special master request, and then she has to --
SOARES: Oh, I think we have lost you, Michael. We'll try and reconnect and go back to you as soon as we have Michael Zeldin's connection there. So,
apologies for that. Well, in just hours, U.S. President Joe Biden will give a rare prime-time address, warning that Trump's extremist supporters pose a
grave threat to American democracy.
Let's talk about this with senior politics reporter, Stephen Collinson. And Stephen, I believe we heard a pretty impassioned speech from President
Biden on Tuesday, very much about kind of democracy and the battle for the soul of the nation. Are we likely to hear something similar today, in
STEPHEN COLLINSON, CNN SENIOR POLITICS REPORTER: Yes, I think we'll hear some of the same themes, perhaps in a less shrill and campaign-style
setting. The president has chosen Independence Hall where the U.S. Declaration of Independence and the constitution was debated and signed.
So, he's looking for, you know, historic resonant here.
So, I think it's quite likely this will be a very sober, and perhaps even dark, speech. But perhaps, it won't be quite as amped-up as the president
was in recent days on this issue. I think what we're going to see is, he is going to warn that democracy that came under great threat in the 2020
election, remain so, especially with the return to the spotlight of former President Trump, as you were just hearing about.
SOARES: Yes --
COLLINSON: And the former president's efforts to get, you know, fellow election-denying candidates on the ballot, in many of the states in the
midterm elections, who could end up controlling and adjudicating future U.S. presidential elections.
SOARES: How risky is this, new offensive by President Biden here, this new attack against Republicans? Because in 2020, he calls for unity, he's seen
as a moderate, isn't he? Is this going to alienate some people, you think, Stephen?
COLLINSON: You know, American politics is so polarized. The idea that standing up for democracy could alienate some voters seems a little far-
fetched. The president did this, in fact, during his 2020 campaign. Democrats argued very strongly that if Trump won, democracy would be at
stake. Notwithstanding the fact that once he was inaugurated, Joe Biden then called for the country to come together. What we've seen is the
Republican Party has not responded to calls for unity.
So I think it's therefore not surprising that the president is taking this tack. For example, the GOP, the Republican Party is dominated by Trump.
Looks likely to nominate him for its presidential ticket in 2024 at this moment. And this is a former president who refused to accept the results of
a democratic election.
He called a crowd to Washington, he incited them, and they ransacked the Capitol when it was trying to ratify the result of an election. It's a
pretty strong case that the president has to make. How that plays out in the most crucial swing states is unclear. But it is obvious that the former
president, President Trump is not popular in some of the suburban areas among more moderate voters and independent voters, that tend to decide U.S.
elections. So, while it's a sort of an esoteric argument that the president is --
SOARES: Yes --
COLLINSON: Making, there are some views that, you know, this is a good political strategy as well.
SOARES: Yes, it will be interesting to see how it plays out, given, you know, for many people, the priorities right now, it's soaring inflation,
putting food on the table and so forth. Let me ask you about Sarah Palin and her loss in Alaska. I mean, how much is this a sign do you think of the
troubles to come for Republicans, or is it?
COLLINSON: I think it's difficult to take too much, you know, intelligence about what might happen in future elections from an election in Alaska,
especially. There was a new ranked choice voting system in action there. It's a state with an independent streak. Trump did strongly back Sarah
Palin, and there are a lot of people who wondered whether some of the candidates that he's put in place to run for the -- on the Republican
ticket in a lot of these swing states could end up alienating more moderate voters.
So, I think that is a real question. What happened in Alaska, actually more people voted for a Republican candidate than voted for a Democratic
candidate, but because Palin was unable to appeal to more moderate and independent voters, she lost on the basis of people's second choices.
So, that is not a system that's in action across most of the United States. So, it's an interesting data point. There have been some recent special
elections in which Democrats have done a lot better than expected, and that you would expect if they were going to get wiped out in the midterm
elections in November, but it's still, you know, a pretty small control group, politically, to draw any big conclusions, I think.
SOARES: Stephen Collinson, appreciate it, thanks very much.
SOARES: And now we can go back to former U.S. federal prosecutor, Michael Zeldin, on former President Trump's legal issues. We've got your
connections sorted, great to have you back. Let me ask you this. You know, what we have been hearing, Michael, is that, you know, Trump's team, Trump
saying that this is much about nothing what's happening today. He's been arguing on social media, and you can correct me if I'm wrong.
That the declassified docs, that these docs are declassified, but then the filing, from what I understand, Trump's lawyers did not argue that any of
these docs taken were actually declassified. So, what do you make of this, this back and forth?
ZELDIN: Well, he has had lawyers who've been saying things that are conflicting filing by filing, and they have been conflicting with what
Trump has been saying in the public media, Social Truth, whatever his social media thing is. The bottom line here though is the question of
whether or not a special master needs to come in and review over the top of the DOJ's already completed review.
SOARES: Oh, I seem -- we seem to have lost Michael again. I apologize to all our viewers. We'll of course fix that connection. Do stay right here.
Still to come tonight, paying his respects. Russian President Vladimir Putin bids farewell to former Soviet leader, Mikhail Gorbachev. But the
Kremlin says he won't be attending the funeral. We'll have that story ahead. Fred Pleitgen is in Moscow for us this hour.
SOARES: Welcome, back everyone.
Russian president Vladimir Putin has been paying his respects to Mikhail Gorbachev. Putin laid flowers at the coffin of the last Soviet leader, as
you can see there. The Kremlin says Putin will not be attending the funeral on Saturday. Fred Pleitgen is joining us from Moscow.
He won't be attending, do we know why?
Do we know whether he's getting a state funeral?
FREDERIK PLEITGEN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: It's a very good question, because, obviously, so many people in the West feel Mikhail
Gorbachev was one of the greatest leaders of the 20th century.
He helped, was pivotal in bringing down the Iron Curtain, doing that in a peaceful way. However, here in Russia, the feeling toward Mikhail Gorbachev
is a lot cooler than it is in the West.
The reason the Kremlin gave for why Vladimir Putin is not attending the official ceremony, it's going to be on Saturday, is that there are
scheduling issues. Vladimir Putin has other things to do, important things to do. So he won't be able to attend.
As far as a state funeral is concerned, the Kremlin not being very clear on that, either. They say that the event, which will take place, the ceremony,
which is going to take place in quite a famous place here in central Moscow, that that will have elements of a state funeral.
They say there will be an honor guard, a farewell ceremony and the state is going to help organize everything. But at the end of the day, it is not
officially a state funeral, which was something done for Boris Yeltsin when he passed away.
I think that does underline the way in which the Russian government, certainly a lot of the Russian people, view Mikhail Gorbachev.
SOARES: Thanks, Fred.
An Russian oil executive has died after falling out of a hospital window. That's according to Russian state news agencies. Ravil Maganov chaired
Lukoil back in March. The company called for a quick resolution to Russia's war on Ukraine. Anna Stewart joins me for more.
Do we know exactly what happened here?
It's all very mysterious.
ANNA STEWART, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It is. His death raises many questions. Here's what we know from Russian state media.
This was the chairman of Lukoil. He died, according to one state media, by suicide. They say he most likely committed suicide by falling out a window
of a hospital. Another media outlet quoted a different source, saying he died as a result of his injuries. That, much I think everyone can agree on.
The question is, did he actually fall out, was this really a suicide?
So many questions are being asked regarding this man because he was the chairman of Lukoil, second biggest oil company in Russia, one that's very
notable in recent months because it came up very publicly and criticized Russia for the invasion of Ukraine, an incredibly risky thing to do.
We can show you the statement that they wrote all the way back in March. This is the board of directors, of which he was one. It says Lukoil
expresses here with its deepest concerns about the tragic events in Ukraine.
They called for a determination of the armed conflict, expressed empathy for the victims affected. They ended by saying we support a lasting cease-
fire and a settlement of problems through serious negotiations and diplomacy.
That was in March. The following month, the founder, CEO and major shareholder of Lukoil resigned from his position. He was also targeted by
sanctions in the U.K. He says he was stepping down so he wouldn't interfere with the company's operations.
This death follows that. Also, Isa, it follows a string of deaths of Russian business men this year.
SOARES: We're starting to see a trend here.
STEWART: I think we are. Since January of this year, by my count, at least six Russian business men have died in mysterious circumstances, five
reportedly by suicide. That's all from Russian state media.
Four of these deaths had associations with Gazprom, which is the biggest energy company. Two of them worked for Lukoil. The one today, the chairman,
but also another one, who died back in May, an executive, lightly lower down, more of a manager.
But he was also on the board of directors. He signed that letter that was so critical of the war in Ukraine. He died from a heart attack, according
to Tass, state media outlet. He was found in the basement of a shaman's home, according to this report, intoxicated with alcohol and drugs.
He was in this house, where Jamaican voodoo rituals took place. These deaths are mysterious. They make no sense. But the string that holds them
together is that they are Russian business men, with associations to Gazprom or --
SOARES: Huge oil giants. Anna, appreciate it. Thank you very much.
Still to come tonight, a fierce push to reclaim lost territory. We break down Ukraine's counteroffensive. That's just ahead.
SOARES: We want to take you back now to Ukraine. A major counteroffensive is underway in the south of the country. Ukrainian forces are pushing hard
to retake territory lost to Russia earlier in the war.
Experts say they have just weeks, in fact, to regain the ground before winter sets in. Meanwhile, fighting is continuing around the Zaporizhzhia
nuclear plant. Locals reported heavy shelling throughout the day.
That, of course, as a team of U.N. nuclear inspectors are making their way to the site. Five are still within the site.
Neil Melvin, director of international security studies at RUSI, is joining me now to break all these developments down.
Neil, great to have you on the show. Let's start in Kherson, that's where that counteroffensive is taking place.
Do we know how effective Ukrainian forces have been in trying to push the Russians back?
NEIL MELVIN, DIRECTOR OF INTERNATIONAL SECURITY STUDIES, RUSI: This is a long awaited counteroffensive, coming for many weeks now. The government
announced earlier in the week, in the last few days, the Ukrainians have been pushing hard.
Initially, they broke through the first line of defense. Around these areas, where there was some light Russian forces, there were reports of
heavy fighting. Ukrainians are taking some losses. That would be expected.
But we are not seeing a major breakthrough at the moment. We are seeing intense fighting, taking small amounts of ground and a lot of use of heavy
weapons on both sides.
SOARES: When you say they've taken that area, to our viewers, these are the four villages. If I just go back, this is a close-up, really, of around
here. We are looking at four villages that have been taken by the Ukrainians.
SOARES: It's going to be slow, it going to be a slow grind, I think, as the Ukrainians said. One thing that stood out to me this week, if we could
widen that perspective for our viewers, sources within the U.S. and the West were saying that the tactical, the counteroffensive Ukrainians wanted
was broader, more than just the south.
Obviously, the influence of Ukraine to try and change their mind and focus on Kherson, how important is that?
Is that the best strategy here, in your view, Neil?
MELVIN: I think we have a number of questions. Understandably, the Ukrainians want to take back as much as possible. President Zelenskyy spoke
about taking Crimea just after they hit Crimea few weeks ago.
The most realistic strategy at the moment, I think, for the Ukrainians, is to try to grind down the Russians. We've seen this going on for many weeks,
many months now, using the Western artillery systems to hit sites all across the south and in Crimea, the ammunition dumps, the airfields,
hitting the bridges.
This is a strategy to try to cut off these troops on this western bank, 20,000 to 30,000 Russian troops, to stop supplies coming in from this area,
to cut off the bridges. The Russians are trying to build pontoon bridges across to keep supplies --
SOARES: That's part of the Ukrainian tactics, breaking those pontoon bridges, to try to stop them in their advance.
You think that's been effective. But it's going to be a slow grind, like you said.
So can they push them back by winter?
We've got, what?
Ten weeks or so until winter steps in?
That comes with a host of challenges here.
MELVIN: What I think we'll see is a strategy that will look very slow. Then suddenly it will move very fast and be successful. What will happen is
the Russian forces will start to run out of supplies. Their morale may break. So they may collapse.
Then you may see, actually, Ukrainians making quite rapid progress. So we are still seeing this continued strategy of squeezing Kherson, hitting
these supplies and hoping eventually these 20,000 to 30,000 troops begin to crumble and their morale breaks.
SOARES: Is there a way, probably a silly question, is there a way of knowing which direction would be better to push through?
Are they pushing through here?
Are they going to take this way?
We've got the river here.
From a logistics point of view, strategy, what would be the best way to push the Russians back?
MELVIN: I think Ukrainians talk about these villages but they are actually pushing in a number of different directions.
What we are not yet clear of is, indeed, is this the main actual thrust?
Part of the fog of war is that the Ukrainians may be trying to pull the Russians into this area when, in fact, the main thrust will come when the
Russians weaken somewhere else. So we are still in the early phases of probing and trying to find out where exactly the main Ukrainian thrust will
SOARES: In the meantime, what we have seen is them destroying many of these bridges, which is what you were saying as part of the tactics, to try
and push them back, to grind them down, as you were saying.
One thing we've all been reporting on is the HIMARS, how much that has made a huge difference in this counteroffensive. Now we've been reporting that
the Russians are going to get drones, Iranian drones.
Is that going to be -- how will that change the battlefield, do you think?
MELVIN: The Iranian drones, maybe 1,000 of them, may well help the Russians. They will need those to use their artillery and targets and
defend these areas. Initial reports are that the Russians were quite unhappy with the quality of these Iranian drones.
I think they will help but they won't make a big difference. The HIMARS really has changed the situation because it has leveled the battlefield,
allowed the Ukrainians to hit the bridge repeatedly and to hit beyond the Russian front line.
SOARES: Final question to you, do you think the Ukrainians will be successful, will be able to push the Russians back by the end of this year,
really, before winter?
MELVIN: I think there is a high chance they will be able to move quite considerably to the east, certainly to the Dnipro River.
Then the question, can they cross the river?
It is a big barrier, pushing into these other areas. I think that's going to be a big ask before winter arrives.
SOARES: Neil, great to have you on the show.
MELVIN: Thanks very much.
SOARES: Thanks very much.
Stay right here. Still to come tonight, energy prices are soaring. Winter inching closer.
What is Europe doing to tackle this?
We will put that question to Spain's energy minister. That is next.
SOARES: Welcome back.
Now as the war on Ukraine goes on, energy costs are skyrocketing across Europe. It's making it more and more expensive for people to heat up their
homes and put fuel in their cars.
Russia's closure of Nord Stream 2, its gas pipeline to Europe, is making matters worse. It's expected to be back up and running on Saturday.
And now, the, the E.U. is considering a bloc-wide energy price cut. Member states will gather in Brussels for an emergency meeting. That's going to
happen on September the 9th.
Spain's energy minister Teresa Ribera joins me now live from Madrid to discuss how her country is tackling this worsening crisis.
Minister, thank you very much for joining me here on the show. Let me ask you whether Spain, first of all, would back a cap on energy prices this
Do you think this is something that E.U., as a bloc can agree on?
TERESA RIBERA, SPANISH ENERGY MINISTER: We need backing European measures, both to tackle the question of the price caps on electricity and eventually
on gas. We think that the market is not working. It has been distorted by energy being used in the war by Vladimir Putin.
And this is considerable damage to the European society, households and (INAUDIBLE). So we need to tackle this in a different manner. We need to
address this issue with emergency, urgent intervention (ph) measures to protect consumers and our industry. And we need to find ways to provide a
clear sign of what is the price that we consider is acceptable when --
SOARES: So you would back a price cut?
Other E.U. states, other E.U. countries would back it, too?
RIBERA: I think it depends very much on what are the proposals of the commission. I think the meeting on the 9th may be very key. It will provide
(INAUDIBLE) electricity and the gas prices.
And yes, it can happen but there may be some member states. We have already seen what is happening in Hungary that could be backing (INAUDIBLE). But we
think it is very important to stay united in this context.
We think that it is very important to identify how we can go on this year and the years to come that can (INAUDIBLE) some opportunity to accelerate
the (INAUDIBLE) which is much more meaningful and is stable in terms of prices, which is the (INAUDIBLE) strategy we have already picked up (ph)
SOARES: Minister, you, of course, have been putting -- Spain has been putting energy saving measures in place since August, turning off lights in
public buildings, strict temperature controls.
How successful has this been?
Is this enough, Minister, to carry you through into winter?
RIBERA: It has been quite successful. I think it has been a kind of measure that wanted to facilitate the reduction of consumption in
(INAUDIBLE) consumption. So something that we don't really need.
(INAUDIBLE) empty (INAUDIBLE) with the lights on, with (INAUDIBLE). That would not make much sense. The conflict (INAUDIBLE) within the public
buildings, can be restrained to a different level.
So I think that this (INAUDIBLE) by the society, by the different citizens. And people have reacted reasonably positive in this context. Of course, we
need to identify other measures that do play toward efficiency or (INAUDIBLE).
In our case (INAUDIBLE) could be played so to facilitate an effective use of gas or (INAUDIBLE) and renewable gases, renewable energy, more than
coming back to coal, which is something that could not make sense or coming back to fuels (ph) in use in the (INAUDIBLE) doesn't make sense, either.
SOARES: Talk us through what else Spain here is prepared to do to help people cope with the surging gas prices, soaring inflation?
I think the prime minister was going to cut VAT, I think it was 5 percent. Talk to us about that and whether you think that would get the green light.
RIBERA: I think that this is also important. In this context, we need to pay attention to all the means that can facilitate the affordability of the
energy bills coming from households and from (INAUDIBLE) companies.
Dealing with the fiscal measures is (INAUDIBLE) so probably it's not meaningful in the long run. But in the short run, it can help a lot to
make them affordable. So our intention is to go down with a VAT in the couple weeks, so to be fully operational since October, (INAUDIBLE) as soon
So the beginning of the winter season. In Spain it's a little bit later. So it could provide some additional time for consumers and households. But I
think that it could get (INAUDIBLE).
So we already did so in the electricity bills. So the fiscal measures have reduced almost to zero (INAUDIBLE) electricity bills. And even in that
context we know that it is expensive, that when compared with -- in comparison to the bills that we have been receiving in the previous years,
they are (INAUDIBLE) the capacity to introduce additional measures to go out to consumers, to fill their (INAUDIBLE), the taxation of the
extraordinary (INAUDIBLE) rockets (ph) coming from the (INAUDIBLE) from gas prices.
It has provided some additional effective measures to protect consumers. But still, I think we need to coordinate some additional measures, both
regulation terms, (INAUDIBLE) of the (INAUDIBLE) dimension of energy policies in Europe, together with a much more connected energy market,
energy context in our geography.
SOARES: But Minister, this all sounds great. And consumers, of course, would be applauding this no doubt, especially the VAT decision. But this is
costly, fiscally. This will be costly for Spain. It's going to be costly for many governments.
In the long term, how will you cope?
RIBERA: This is one of the most relevant piers (ph) of our discussion. We think these are alleviation measures. And this can be something that we can
keep for a while. But we need to address the group houses (ph) of this and this means transforming our system.
So the structure necessary to facilitate being much more effective and smart from producing and consuming energy, going toward a much more
renewable energy-based system, with biogas, with hydrogen in the gas side.
But also production of electricity in a much more effective manner through (INAUDIBLE) wind and (INAUDIBLE) is part of what we are (INAUDIBLE) the
numbers so that we are somewhat being successful.
But we need to accelerate this transformation and part of --
RIBERA: This is the main reference. In terms of the references from the -- on the price and the day-to-day measures today, we consider that it was
inevitable, to take into consideration how to reduce our energy bills through this measure, which, of course, goes down -- the incomes come into
But I think that it is worth it. I think it would be in very difficult to stay this context with such a big social impact in our society.
SOARES: Minister Teresa Ribera, really appreciate you taking the time to talk us.
SOARES: Thank you very much, minister.
RIBERA: My pleasure. Thanks a lot.
SOARES: Thank you.
SOARES: Thank you very much for your company tonight. Do stay right here. "QUEST MEANS BUSINESS" with our Richard Quest is up next. I'll see you