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Isa Soares Tonight

U.S. Considers Expanding Training Of Ukrainian Forces; Biden Hosts Macron In Macron's First State Visit; A Race Scandal Threatens To Overshadow Royals Visit To Boston; Charity CEO Questioned About Background; Russia Claims Small Advances In Ukraine; Iranian Killed By Security Forces While Cheering U.S. Victory; Spain Boosts Security Over Letter Bombs. Aired 2-3p ET

Aired December 01, 2022 - 14:00   ET



ISA SOARES, HOST, ISA SOARES TONIGHT: A very warm welcome to the show, everyone, I'm Isa Soares. Tonight, the U.S. considers dramatically

expanding its training of Ukrainian forces, as Russia's brutal assault on Ukraine's energy infrastructure continues. Then, President Biden hosts

Emmanuel Macron in his first state visit. We'll have all the details on that for you.

Plus, a race scandal threatens to overshadow the Prince and Princess of Wales trip to the U.S. I will be speaking to Ngozi Fulani; the charity

worker questioned about her heritage at Buckingham Palace. That is happening later in the show. But first tonight, Russia is pushing ahead

with its brutal war on Ukraine's critical energy infrastructure.

Heavy shelling knocked out power for the already-battered, of course, city of Kherson. Ukrainian officials are restoring electricity for residents,

but the attacks there killed at least one person. Further north, in Zaporizhzhia, to be exact, Ukraine's state energy company has imposed more

emergency power outages until there's basically enough supply.

And the mayor of Kyiv is telling residents to stock up -- stock up on water as well as food and warm clothing in case Russian attacks do cause a total

blackout. Well, the White House, meanwhile, is considering a dramatic expansion in the training of the U.S. forces give to Ukrainian troops. It

would be, of course, a significant boost, not simply in the number of Ukrainians that the U.S. military will train, but in the type of training

they will receive.

Natasha Bertrand joins me from Washington. So Natasha, talk me through this training program. It's a signi -- a significant move -- pardon me, by the

United States. But what more can you tell us and how soon, Natasha, will this start?

NATASHA BERTRAND, CNN WHITE HOUSE REPORTER: Yes, Isa, well, that's really the biggest open question right now. This proposal is kind of making its

way through the administration. Still waiting a final sign off by certain senior officials. But essentially, what this proposal would see is the U.S.

training as many as 2,500 Ukrainian troops in Germany per month.

And that is a big expansion of the amount of troops that we've seen to date being trained by the Americans in Europe. About a couple thousand only to

date since the conflict began, have been trained by the Americans there. So, this would be a big expansion of the training that they're doing.

And it would also be a training in more sophisticated battlefield tactics. So, to date, again, the U.S. really has only been training Ukrainians

really primarily on specific weapons systems. Training that, of course, they need in order to use all these new systems that they're getting from

the U.S. and the West, right?

But now, this would include more sophisticated kind of battlefield tactics, including combined arms training. So things like combining, you know,

infantry maneuvers with artillery support. Just allowing the Ukrainians to kind of have a better handle on their maneuvers on the battlefield, short

of --

SOARES: Yes --

BERTRAND: Just having a good handle on these weapon systems. So, definitely a more sophisticated approach the U.S. is looking to take here.

SOARES: But that's -- I suspect, Natasha, would mean that soldiers would need to leave the battlefield to be trained at U.S. base -- at the U.S.

base in Germany. Does Ukraine have the luxury of that, given the attacks, the incessant attacks that we've seen by Russia as of late?

BERTRAND: Yes, that's definitely a question that's been facing U.S. officials as well. An what they say is that they believe there's going to

be kind of enough of a lull in the fighting, in the Winter, which will allow Ukrainian soldiers who have been on the frontlines to actually take

some time off from the frontlines and go to European countries like Germany and Poland, to receive this kind of training.

But of course, it's still going to be a big chunk of the soldiers who are out there fighting against Russia on the front, Isa.

SOARES: Yes, I mean, so far, there hasn't been a lull, of course, and Winter is just setting in. But we'll keep an eye on that. Natasha Bertrand,

really appreciate it, thanks, Natasha. And while Ukraine is topping the agenda, as U.S. President Joe Biden and French President Emmanuel Macron

meet. Mr. Macron has said his goal is to get Vladimir Putin to the negotiating table while Mr. Biden's strategy is less clear.


But that's not stopping them from celebrating more than 200 years of friendship between their countries. Mr. Biden is hosting his French

counterpart right now. It's the first state visit since the U.S. President took office.


EMMANUEL MACRON, PRESIDENT, FRANCE (through translator): I'm pleased with where with your choices that they're able to match your history and your

campaign commitments.

The fact that you're back on major international challenges such as health and climate, it is really a new deal and we've been resisting for a number

of years, and now we're being able to re-engage with you.


SOARES: Well, there's a whole list of meetings on the schedule as well as state dinner that is starting in a few hours. It will be the first one

since COVID-19 took off in the U.S. Let's get to Jeremy Diamond, he was listening in. And Jeremy, I believe both leaders have spoken, what? The

last 30 minutes or so. Give us a sense of what they said.

JEREMY DIAMOND, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Yes, that's right. That press conference just wrapped up, and what you heard from the two

presidents, particularly on the issue of Ukraine, which there's no question that, that was obviously the central focus of this meeting between the two


You're seeing more alignment, frankly, than we've seen over the last couple of months. There was a sense that perhaps there was a bit of a divergence

between the French president, who is eager to -- you know, who has maintained this back channel with the Russian president, who has been eager

to push Ukraine towards the negotiated solution.

And the United States, which has made very clear from the beginning that it was not going to pressure Ukraine to rush to the negotiating table before

they were ready. What has happened in the last few weeks before this meeting is that you've heard Ukraine express more willingness, including a

12-point plan for the conditions and the types of negotiations that they would be willing to engage in.

And what you heard from the French president today was an acknowledgment of that. And saying, essentially, the same thing that the U.S. has been

saying, which is that, you know, we are not going to pressure Ukraine to accept conditions that are unacceptable for themselves. And President

Biden, for his part, he said that, look, he has no plans to speak with the Russian president at this time.

He doesn't see the value of that, given the way that Putin has been conducting his brutal campaign in Ukraine. But he did say that if the time

came, where Vladimir Putin comes to his senses and essentially is looking for a way to end this war, that he would be willing to sit down with him.

But he would do so not alone, but in consultation with the French president and with the United States' NATO allies.

There was also some discussion, of course, of this one issue that has been a point of contention between the two on the Inflation Reduction Act. These

electric vehicle subsidies that benefit only vehicles that are made in North America. President Biden tried to defuse the tension there a little

bit, saying that it was never the intention to hurt Europe, and that there's going to be these ongoing discussions with the European Union to

try and find a way to minimize any detrimental impact that, that might have on industry in Europe.

But overall, obviously, this was a moment for the two leaders to celebrate the historic alliance between these two countries, and also this

partnership that I am told by both French and American officials has really grown a lot closer, in particular, through the coordination that they have

had in confronting this war in Ukraine. And, of course, that partnership, that (SPEAKING IN FOREIGN LANGUAGE) as we say will be on display, certainly

this evening as well, as they sit down together for the state dinner.

SOARES: Yes, and we saw that Chamonix, didn't we in that press conference? In fact, we've seen it throughout the day. President Biden saying, you

know, he's the strongest partner, a more capable partner as well and they share the same values. Are both sides walking away here, Jeremy, feeling

that they gained something or is this about the symbolism here?

DIAMOND: Yes, I mean, there were no major deliverables out of --

SOARES: Yes --

DIAMOND: This meeting today. We were told not to expect any as well. But certainly, there are going to be, you know -- you look at the statement

that they released following this meeting. It is lengthy, and that's because there is a partnership between the United States and France on so

many areas, right? Everything from defense coordination, the economy, space, cyberspace, all of these -- and so, today was about reaffirming that

they plan to continue to coordinate their approaches on all of these issues.

And of course, the China issue is certainly one that it didn't come up in this press conference, but I am told that it was going to be a major point

of discussion between the two leaders. President Biden had only just recently met with Xi Jinping on the sidelines of the G20 in Bali. And

President Macron, he's expected to make his first visit to Beijing sometime early next year.

And he will also meet with President Xi. So, they are trying to coordinate their approach there, even though, again, that's another issue where

they're not necessarily in perfect alignment between the United States and France.

SOARES: And we'll see that friendship, the unwavering partner, as we heard today from President Biden. Later on today at the state dinner, won't we?

So, thank you very much Jeremy, really appreciate it, Jeremy Diamond there for us at the White House. We take you to China now where in some cities,

lockdown barriers are being removed and citizens are enjoying freedoms they've not had in months, in fact.





SOARES: A man there on the streets Guangzhou shouting, we are unsealed. And in an increasing number of cities, local Chinese health officials are

lifting lockdown restrictions, seeming to respond to widespread protests and public demands to end zero COVID policies. CNN's Ivan Watson is

following developments for us from Hong Kong.


IVAN WATSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (on camera): We're seeing a shift in tone from the Chinese government when it comes to its strict zero

COVID policy. And this comes after the biggest wave of protests that this country has seen, really, in a generation, with ordinary Chinese people

pushing back at the strict lockdowns, the restrictions, the mass testing of the zero COVID policy.

Here is a statement coming from China's Vice Premier Sun Chunlan, who says, quote, "with the decreasing toxicity of the Omicron variant, the increasing

vaccination rate and the accumulating experience of outbreak, control and prevention, China's pandemic containment faces a new stage and mission."

So, let's look at the city of Guangzhou. Tuesday night, some pretty fierce confrontations between angry residents and riot police in white hazmat

suits. The very next day, the city government issues this video, showing people celebrating the removal of barricades that had been imposed as part

of the lockdown, trying to send a message that things may be getting better.

But it does appear to be piecemeal. For example, another city in the northeast, Jinzhou, its leaders saying that they will not be easing

restrictions. They think that they can completely snuff out the COVID virus. There have been no images of the protests that have gone on

throughout the week in different cities across the country, on Chinese state media.

Instead, we've seen somber crowds lining the streets of Shanghai, bidding farewell to former Chinese leader, Jiang Zemin, who was flown, afforded all

honors to the Chinese capital, met by the current Chinese leader, Xi Jinping. This is a moment of mourning for the entire country, and it will

also be important to see how the authorities will respond to people who may want to gather together to hold vigils for their former leader.

We're seeing a wave of nostalgia on the heavily-censored Chinese internet, with some people pointing out that they felt more free during Jiang Zemin's

time in office than they do now in zero-COVID China. Ivan Watson, CNN, Hong Kong.


SOARES: And that says a lot, doesn't it? We'll stay on top of that story for you. Still to come tonight, what Spain is doing to boost security after

a series of letter bombs in the country. We're live for you in Madrid. And I'll speak with the woman at the heart of the British royals racism

controversy. Women's rights campaigner Ngozi Fulani joins me after the break. You are watching CNN.



SOARES: Welcome back. Britain's Prince and Princess of Wales are visiting Boston for the second annual Earthshot Prize awards ceremony. U.S.

President Joe Biden is due to greet William and Kate on Friday, at the royal couple's first overseas trip since the death of Queen Elizabeth II,

has been overshadowed by allegations of racism in Buckingham Palace.

A member of the royals inner circle, lady Susan Hussey, as you can see there, has resigned her honorary role at the palace after being accused of

interrogating a guest about her heritage. CNN's Max Foster is in Boston for us this hour. Max, so just explain how much is this racism scandal

overshadowing what's going on where you are with the Prince and Princess of Wales?

MAX FOSTER, CNN ROYAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, there's a lot of excitement about seeing the prince and princess here. There's a lot of focus on the

Earthshot awards, and you know, that big event, the prize given tomorrow night.

But inevitably, a lot of the conversation is about what happened back in London and the Prince of Wales has had to respond to that, at least, his

team have, saying racism has no place in society, and this senior royal aide was right to step down immediately. So, certainly a talking point, and

it just isn't going away, Isa.


FOSTER (voice-over): A royal visit to the United States, overshadowed by accusations of racism back home. A black charity executive, Ngozi Fulani

told the "BBC" how she attended an event at Buckingham Palace earlier this week. It was asked again and again where she was really from.

NGOZI FULANI, CEO, SISTAH SPACE: I'm really from here. Yes, but, OK, so, I can see that this is going to be a bit of a challenge. She said, what's

your nationality? And I said, lady, I was born here, I'm British. I was thinking that would be the end of it. No, where are you really from? Where

are your people from?

FOSTER: British media identified the palace official as 83-year-old lady Susan Hussey. The late queen's lady-in-waiting for more than 60 years, and

godmother to the Prince of Wales. Buckingham Palace responded quickly and unequivocally. "The individual concerned would like to express her

profound apologies for the hurt caused, and has stepped aside from her honorary role with immediate effect."

William and Kate touched down in Boston on Wednesday, ahead of their three- day visit for the second Earthshot Prize Awards, a prize they helped set up for advances in climate science. The fiasco threatens to overshadow any

focus on environmentalism. Behind closed doors, the royals will be devastated that the issue of racism within the monarchy has reared up yet


Speaking to Oprah Winfrey in 2021, the Duchess of Sussex, Meghan, pointed to her own experiences of racism inside palace walls.

MEGHAN MARKLE, DUCHESS OF SUSSEX: Concerns and conversations about how dark his skin might be when he's born.

HENRY CHARLES ALBERT DAVID, DUKE OF SUSSEX: And I had to do everything I could to protect my family.

FOSTER: Incidentally, the duchess of Sussex and her husband, Prince Harry, released the trailer for their upcoming Netflix docu-series on Thursday.

And the pair will shortly receive a human rights award from the Robert F. Kennedy Foundation for their heroic stand against structural racism within

the royal family, according to organizers.

Like William and Kate's recent visit to the Caribbean when they were dogged by questions about the monarchy's colonial past, this royal tour has again

felt the effects of history.


FOSTER: Now, after the allegations were made by the duchess of Sussex, the palace said they'd look at their diversity policies and procedures. They

did, and again, they're reminding members of staff to look at those and take them in. But you know, a lot of people of course, saying there is the

problem having to remind staff to look at their diversity policies, it's not part of their every day. So this is a big challenge, I think, Isa, for

Buckingham Palace still, certainly in terms of optics.


SOARES: Indeed, let's talk about the trip, Max, there in Boston. What can we expect to see from the Prince and Princess of Wales tomorrow?

FOSTER: Well, more engagements today, which we'll be able to tell you about as they unfold. There are very security concerns around that.

Tomorrow, they'll be heading to Harvard University and linking up with Caroline Kennedy, because of course, it was JFK who came up with the idea

of the Moonshot and the Earthshot is based on that idea.

Moonshot being about exploring space, Earthshot being about exploring climate solutions. And then, of course, culminating in a big, red -- not

red carpet, a green carpet event, where those prices will be given out in the hope of encouraging solutions to the climate crisis. That's what Prince

William wants this to be about.

And it's about keeping calm, carrying on, sticking to the message, not being distracted too much by all these other things whilst recognizing how

important they are.

SOARES: Indeed, great to have you there, Max Foster for us there in Boston, Massachusetts. Well, as you heard Max reporting there, the charity

worker questioned about her heritage is Ngozi Fulani, who joins me now live, and she is joined by, I believe her daughter, as well as her senior

manager. Ngozi, great to see it, ladies, great to -- great to have you on the show.

Ngozi, I have to say, you know, we told the story here on the show yesterday, and the exchange that we read out was so hard to read, I can

imagine, it must have been much harder, no doubt, for you to hear. What crossed your mind when you heard this persistent questions from the queen's


FULANI: First of all, thank you so much for the invitation to speak and for recognizing. And this is to, you know, Americans -- American families

to recognizing the trauma that this kind of event has on somebody. What was going through my mind was so many things. I wanted to leave straightaway.

But first, let me give you the context.

So, we were invited there because it's the 16 days of activism. This is the time when we are focusing on the elimination of violence against women and

girls. So, there is 300-plus people there representing all different kinds of organizations and charities and government agencies. There are survivors

of domestic abuse, and so it's a mix of people.

We got the invitation at Sistah Space because we specialize in domestic abuse and the racism that black women face when trying to seek support for

abuse. So, I've been there five minutes or so, and this lady comes over to me, an elder, and the first thing she does is, I've got locks, they're

rolled up now, but they were down.

She takes my locks and lifts it, and says she wants to see my name badge. Now, I don't know that you would have the audacity to invite yourself to

touch somebody's hair, especially if you don't know them. And in our culture, that's a no-no, yes? So, then, she says, where are you from? I'm

from Sistah Space -- now, we're there because of domestic abuse, so I would imagine that you're asking me which organization I'm from.

SOARES: Yes --

FULANI: I said Sistah Space. And I want to say, African -- it's a charity for African and Caribbean heritage women and girls. So, she asked me, what

part of Africa am I from? And I said, I don't know, they didn't leave records, yes? And then the one --

SOARES: Yes --

FULANI: Who is in the noble understand what that means. I can't -- I haven't traced where I'm from. But then she says, no, where are you from?

So I said, I was born here, that being the U.K. No, where are you really from? Now, I had to make sure that I'm not talking to someone who can't

understand me, can't hear me, or has some kind of health problems, because I've answered your question and you're still asking.

And then, I said, again, I was born here, in the U.K. Yes, but where are you really from? Where are your people from? And then I'm like, lady, what

do you mean, my people? Because I'm standing next to two other black women, and the look on their faces shows me that this is not my imagination. I'm

not being, you know -- she's really going at it hard here.

And then she said, I can see I'm going to have a challenge to get where you come from out of you. And I -- so, then, she says, what's your nationality?


Lady, I'm British, yes? Now, bear in mind that I am very proud of my African heritage, and I'm not there for you to question me about my

nationality because it bears no relevance to why I'm there, it's about domestic --

SOARES: Yes --

FULANI: Abuse. But what -- you know, we're in a setting and she's an elder, and in our community, we try very hard to show respect to the

elders. But this is going somewhere. So, I'm trying to shut it down, but I'm not sure how to. So, again, she says something --

SOARES: And Ngozi, you said -- I mean, you said that you wanted to leave right away. I mean, did you -- did you feel trapped as you saw the

conversation, that persistent questioning going on and on? And did you feel like you were trapped there? Did you feel that this was abuse? What did

that make you feel?

FULANI: I didn't feel like it was abuse, I'm sure it was abuse. I am a domestic abuse adviser, I've been doing this for seven years. I know abuse

when I see, yes. Had that been any other scenario, had that been a perpetrator and a victim, we would all be clear what that was.

SOARES: Yes --

FULANI: Now, because she's a white elder and I'm a black woman, then, you know, people are going to make all kinds of assumptions or excuses and

stuff like that. But I think that, you know, we need to address this head on. So, while I was standing there, I did want to leave. But then I'm there

representing Sistah Space.

I have the right to be there. There are also other organizations who want to engage with us. I shouldn't have to leave, so I stayed. And I stayed and

for the next two hours, it was a blur. To be honest, I can't remember any conversation. I remember bits and pieces, but all I could -- I couldn't

wait to get out. I couldn't wait to get out.

SOARES: And I mean, have you ever --


Go ahead, go ahead.

FULANI: At the end of the conversation, when I had said, look, I am -- my parents came over here in the '50s, I don't know if you all are familiar

with the windrush generation --

SOARES: Yes --

FULANI: Because that's what --

SOARES: I actually --

FULANI: Identify us as black. So, I'm what you call first generation. My parents came over, I was born here. I am -- you know, I have a right to,

you know --


FULANI: I'm British and there's no debate about it. So, then, when she says, oh, I knew eventually I would get where you come from. And I -- you

know, so when she established in her mind, that I didn't have a right to be called British, off she went. And there's three of us, as black women,

just stood there for, I don't know how long just looking at each other.

I'm so glad they heard it. But I'm also glad that she didn't contest. She admitted it and she apparently, she apologized, I don't know who she

apologized to, because she didn't -- I haven't spoken to anybody from the palace or for -- I haven't spoken to anybody.

SOARES: So, let me just clarify that, Ngozi. I mean, we reported that she's resigned, but you haven't heard anything from Buckingham Palace, no

apology whatsoever, is that right?

FULANI: Well, I know that there are attempts -- there have been made attempts to contact us, that's what we are told. And we were able to

rectify that by giving them permission. Because I think that was the issue. They weren't sure that they had the permission to contact us directly. We

have something, you know, called GDPR, don't know if you have it, which is about --


FULANI: Data protection. So --

SOARES: Yes --

FULANI: They didn't want to, you know -- so they say. But we would welcome that conversation because it really does need to be had. It isn't enough

for this lady to be able to walk off into the sunset and, you know, OK, we should put it behind us. There is an issue, there is a problem, yes? That

we need to address. And as uncomfortable as it is for the monarchy, what about those of us who have had to endure it? We are not going to walk away

from this.

SOARES: And Ngozi, you know, you bring such a good point, a very important point. In my editorial meeting today with my team, several members of my

team said to me, we've been asked this several times, right? We've been -- we've asked -- we've been asked these questions several times in different

sectors of society.

I mean, we've heard also, and you would have known this, Harry and Meghan raised questions about racism within the royal family. So, I mean, is the

British monarchy racist or does this go beyond the British monarchy? Have you experienced this elsewhere here, Ngozi?

FULANI: There are several questions here. Let me be clear, yes? I am a domestic abuse adviser. I am clear what racism is, and I am clear when

somebody speak to me in a particular way. I don't think there's any African heritage people who have not experienced some kind of abuse or racism. So

we know it when we see it. This thing about, well, you know, some people just ask where you come from.

Now if I said to you, where do you come from?

That is fine. But when I answer you seven times and you still do not want to accept that answer because it doesn't fit what you perceive as a British

then there is a problem. We're not going to walk away from that.

When you make the statement, oh, I can see this is going to be a challenge for you to say where you come from, I've said it several times. But it does

not suit you. At the end, when you say, there, and you're Caribbean, I knew it, this is somebody who refuses me my rights as a British citizen to say

that I am a British citizen.

And you cannot invite me or anybody else to Buckingham Palace, especially as we're dealing with violence against women and girls, so don't forget

violence does not only take a physical form, it takes other forms.

And I've heard people use the term, microaggression. That was not micro, that was out there --


FULANI: So we are going to address this, we are not going to cover it up.

SOARES: And, final question to you, I mean, what would you like to see?

What would you like to hear from the royal family at this point?

FULANI: I am still processing everything. But I know that there needs to be a difficult conversation. This is not the first time that the royal family

has been accused of being racist or having racism. So they need to have that difficult conversation. It's difficult for them, yes.

But how much more for us?

If somebody has said to you, this happened to me and you acknowledge it to the point where the person has gone, and you have issued a statement, if

you think that's the end of it, no, because mine is not the first, as I am learning.

You know, there has been other allegations of racism. So the very least that the royal family can do is sit down with the people who are concerned

about what they have been subjected to and have that difficult conversation.



SOARES: Go ahead, go ahead.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: -- one thing that keeps getting brought up here is that a lot of people have experienced this type of question before. One, it

does not make it OK. Two, context plays a massive part.

And I think these, these are treated as isolated events. (INAUDIBLE) but when put together, it is undeniable. You have somebody who's a victim of

this confirming. You have witnesses confirming. You have the accused confirming. So there is no other narrative of then what took place.

To find an excuse or to justify behavior or create your own narrative in this situation is not only the problem, it speaks to your own determination

to find a fault with the victim. And that in itself is racism.

SOARES: And sorry, what is your name?

I did not get your name. I want to double check.


SOARES: Great, I really appreciate your chipping in. Thank you very much, you raise such an important point.

Ladies, thank you so much for taking the time to speak to us. I know this is a discussion that is not going away for all the right reasons. Ngozi

Fulani, thank you very much.


SOARES: We'll be back after the short break.

Thank you.





SOARES: Welcome back, everyone.

Russia is relentlessly pounding Ukraine's energy infrastructure, leaving millions of civilians, of course, without water, heat or even electricity.

This is the Kyiv train station, as you can see there, operating on minimal lighting.

And on the battlefield, where Russian and Ukrainian forces are fiercely fighting for control over even small settlements in the east.

Neil Melvin is the director of international security studies at the London based think tank RUSI. He joins me now.

Neil, great to have you on the show. Let's start really with the battlefield that we've been talking about for a while. My graphics are

frozen; I'm hoping that you can help me out.

If I can get my team to move to the battlefield graphic, if they have control of that, we have been focused so much for a while on Kherson in


Where are we now?

Because obviously we're nine months in and the weather has changed significantly.

NEIL MELVIN, DIRECTOR OF INTERNATIONAL SECURITY STUDIES, RUSI: Yes, really, since the summer we've seen this effort by the Ukrainians to launch a

counter offensive. So this has been taking place far to the north, to the east of Kharkiv, but also there in Kherson.

We saw two big breakthroughs, one was in September, when the Ukrainians pushed east of Kharkiv and they took territory. They ground down the

Russians here through the autumn, leading to the Russians eventually pulling back across the Dnipro River last month and Ukrainians seizing the

whole west bank and critically Kherson city (ph) itself.

SOARES: That is still very much the push, it is still very much going on. The focus also seems to have taken to Bakhmut in Donetsk. If I can get my

team to move those graphics. We have seen the relentless fighting in the last week or so.

There we are. This is part of Donetsk.

Explain the significance here.

What is the strategy in your view?

MELVIN: I think most analysts, certainly in Ukraine on the western side, are a bit skeptical of the strategic importance of Bakhmut. But Russia want

to keep showing they can make progress. They've been in retreat since the summer, as I said. In this area to the north, where they've been pushed

back and forth in Kherson, they're focusing on this area.

It shows in the area they want to claim ultimately, this Donetsk area, they can still push, so Bakhmut has become the focus of that. Then there are

throwing troops and they're losing a lot of troops.

SOARES: Just for ,context if I can get my graphic to work, Bakhmut is further to the side, right?

We're looking a lot at the battlefield.

So Bakhmut is around here?

Around here?

Around this area?

OK. That's where the battle was focused. And we also have seen movement, I believe, at the tip near Kherson.


So to give you the overview, we're looking at this little bit that looks like a jetski here. We're looking at this bit here. Explain the

significance of this region in particular.

MELVIN: In the overall battle, what we've seen now is the Ukrainians on the west bank, the Russians are pulling east, the Russians now, they want to

dig in.


MELVIN: They're digging trenches all across the southeast of Ukraine and the access points to Crimea. They want to hold the Ukrainians during the

winter months, to slow everything down, to bring up their newly mobilized resources so that, by the spring time, they will have more forces heavily

dug in.

The Ukrainians, the question is, can they break across the Dnipro River and begin to push the Russians back and maybe even come around here and

eventually get access to Crimea?

So this is important because it's still actually controlled by the Russians. It controls access to the port of Mykolaiv.

SOARES: Important for grains and so forth.


MELVIN: Exactly, the Ukrainian economy, to get the food to get the exports going, so they can get them out of here but also there is shelling across

the Russians in here.

If the Ukrainians can take this area -- and what they're doing is sending commanders across with small boats, fighting on this spit, it also opens a

second access point into the southeast of Ukraine, potentially into Crimea.

Then the question, is there going to be a pincer --


SOARES: -- coming from the top and the bottom?

How likely is this?

Are we talking six months?

Are we talking a year?

This seems like a big, big strategic plan here.

MELVIN: As I said, the Russians want to hold now. They want to restock, bring up the resources. Ukrainians also, I mean, they need to restock over

the winter months but they also need to keep moving. They need to keep winning.

They are reliant on Western support. So this was a big strategic victory.


MELVIN: It shows they can keep moving forward. The winter months, they still need to keep some victories, some progress. So I think we'll see them

continue to fight, even though it's the winter. Once the ground freezes --


MELVIN: -- they can


MELVIN: -- armor and start to move. So I think that's the next couple of months what's going to really --


SOARES: -- keep an eye, of course, in Kherson but also around Donetsk and in Bakhmut, where we know they have seen Russian mercenaries operating in

this area.

This is part of (INAUDIBLE). Neil, appreciate is always.

MELVIN: Thank you very much.

SOARES: Thank you.

Still to come on the show tonight, a young man was killed in Iran while celebrating his country's loss at the World Cup in Qatar. We will tell you

what happened and how Iran is responding.

And a historic first, teams saying goodbye and titans of football fighting for survival. We'll have more of the World Cup action live from Qatar after

the break.




SOARES: A cheering crowd greeted Iran's football team at Tehran airport after the team was eliminated from the World Cup in Doha by Team USA on

Tuesday. Remember, human rights activists report that Iranian security forces killed a 27 year old man who was celebrating Iran's loss on Tuesday.

CNN has obtained footage from his funeral, where mourners chanted anti government slogans. Prosecutors say an investigation has been opened in to

Samak's killing. Let's bring in Jomana Karadsheh, who has closely followed the protests.

Talk us through what you know happened here and this investigation, I mean, I don't even know to say, we've been here so many times, right?


Can we even take them at their word?

JOMANA KARADSHEH, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Isa, here's the thing, the Iranian regime is saying that they are investigating the death of 27 year

old Mehran Samak. We have also heard from the judicial authorities, saying that they're describing this as a suspicious staff (ph).

The police chief in his city denying that the security forces killed him. They say they've arrested several suspects. But we have been here before. I

mean, several protesters, young women, young men, have been killed over the past couple of months of these protests.

Every time we hear the authorities denying any involvement and saying they're investigating, we also heard from the United Nations, saying that

these investigations lack credibility.

Really so, it is very difficult for anyone to take them seriously when they are not independent and impartial, as we've heard from U.N. officials in

recent weeks as well.

What we do know, Isa, from human rights monitor based in Norway, Iran Human Rights, as well as activists, they say the 27-year-old Samak was out, like

many other Iranians, on the streets, early hours on Wednesday, celebrating their national team's defeat at the World Cup because, you know, as we've

discussed before, for many Iranians who are opposed to the regime, that defeat is the regime's defeat.

They felt that the Iranian government had taken away football from them, had hijacked this team for its own propaganda purposes. So we saw these

surreal scenes of people celebrating the defeat.

You know, Isa, we've been trying to get more information about the details of what happened. There are some reports he was out in the car with his

fiancee when he was shot in the head. He was honking his horn when he was shot.

Very difficult for us to get this information because the Iranian regime, as we've discussed so many times over the past two months, has made it

very, very difficult to get information from people on the ground.

It's very dangerous for anyone to speak with the international media and of course, we're not allowed to report from inside Iran. But we are continuing

to try and get more details, Isa. So many Iranians are heartbroken over the news of his tragic death.

They believe that Mehran Samak is the latest in a list of victims of this crackdown that seems to be increasing by the day.

SOARES: Yes, you and the team, of course, will stay on top of this and continue to seek those answers, to get those answers. Jomana Karadsheh,

thank you very much, Jomana, good to see you.



SOARES: Still to come tonight, what Spain is doing to boost security after a series of letter bombs in the country. We're bringing you that story





SOARES: Welcome back.

Spain is ramping up its security after a series of letter bombs were sent throughout the country. One of them targeting its prime minister. The 6th

and latest one was intercepted at the U.S. embassy in Madrid on Thursday.

On Wednesday, if you remember, one person was injured when a letter bomb exploded at the Ukrainian embassy. I want to bring in Al Goodman, he's been

following this closely in Madrid.

Al, what more are you learning from authorities about these bombs and who may be behind it here?

AL GOODMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, at this hour, a day ago, we knew about two of these letter bombs, now we know about six of them, including the

most recent one at the U.S. embassy behind me.

Spanish police managed to do a controlled detonation of that bomb as they did some others so, no injuries in those cases the. Only injuries so far in

the Ukrainian embassy situation, where one man was slightly injured in an embassy.

Importantly, police say they managed to deactivate one of these letter bombs, which they don't reveal which clues. They say there are some

similarities among these six bombs. Here's what a senior official told reporters earlier today.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): The material is homemade. The material in the five envelopes is the same, in all of them. Regarding the

delegate's statements yesterday, what I have just said is that there is an appearance they have been sent from the same international factory. But I

insist on caution.


GOODMAN: Officials have not said very much, Isa, in answer to your question. Spanish media saying this could have something to do with Spain's

support for Ukraine and in its battle against Russia.

Spain is a NATO member. One of the bombs was sent to Spain's defense minister, who is in Ukraine this day. Spain is about to deliver missile

defense systems to Ukraine. She says that these letter bombs will not deter Spain's efforts to help Ukraine in its fight.

Another one of these letter bombs was sent to a company in northern Spain that makes combat weapons, according to Spanish officials.


Spanish media says that company's rocket launchers were sent by Spain to help Ukraine earlier this year. The company is not commenting but

especially here in Madrid, people are on edge, wondering when these announcements every few hours of another letter bomb, when that is going to

stop, how this will end?

SOARES: Yes, understandably so. Al Goodman, thank you very much, great to see you.

And finally, tonight, dinner is at the Bidens' tonight as America's first family hosts French president Macron, as you can see there, in their first

ever state banquet. You can see a preview of the tantalizing menu. It does look great. That includes, if we have it here, it includes butter poached

lobster, a calotte of beef, I've been told it's a very lean part of the cow. And to top it off, everyone's favorite, ice cream.

The theme is red, white and blue, illustrating America and France's enduring friendship. The first lady, Jill Biden, said that dinner is an

expression of welcome and friendship, a way to connect through language that transcends words.

No better way to express that language than food. That does it for us tonight. Thank you very much for your company. Do stay here. "QUEST MEANS

BUSINESS" is up next. I will see you tomorrow. Bye-bye.