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Isa Soares Tonight

Thawing Frost Affecting The Fight In Ukraine; New Deadly Attack In West Bank After Weekend Of Violence; U.K. Prime Minister Claims Brexit Breakthrough; U.K. & E.U. Reach Deal On Northern Ireland Protocol; Latvian Leaders Want Russia Poses A Larger Threat; E.U. Sanctions Wagner Group Subsidiary For Abuses In Sudan. Aired 2-3p ET

Aired February 27, 2023 - 14:00   ET



ISA SOARES, HOST, ISA SOARES TONIGHT: A very warm welcome to the show, everyone, I'm Isa Soares. Tonight, Bakhmut under heavy assault. But

Ukrainian forces are claiming an unlikely ally. But we'll explain how thawing frost could bog down Russia's progress. Authorities say a shooting

in the West Bank today is the latest in a string of terror incidents.

We'll explain what both the Israelis and the Palestinians are doing to try and lower the temperature there. And the British Prime Minister and the

European Commissioner President take a victory lap here in the U.K., claiming they finally cracked Brexit. But first, Russia is starting the

week with deadly air attacks on Ukraine, firing 14 Iranian-made drones in what Ukrainian officials describe as two waves of attacks.

In a city southwest of Kyiv, two rescue workers were killed trying to help those injured in the first wave. This targeting of civilians is one reason

why the U.N. says Russia's invasion has triggered the most massive violations of human rights that are occurring in the world today.

Meanwhile, fighting in eastern Ukraine continues at fever pitch.

Alex Marquardt is there for us. And Alex, good to see you. That western front is where we're really seeing some of the fiercest fighting,

particular, Bakhmut. What is your sense, Alex, on the ground of as to how the Ukrainian forces are faring. Do they believe they can hold it and

absorb the pressure?

ALEX MARQUARDT, CNN SENIOR NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Well, the Russians are pushing forward at several points along the eastern and part

of the southern front as part of the beginning of this offensive, which is underway according to Ukrainian officials, but Isa, there is no doubt that

the most ferocious fighting with the heaviest casualties on both sides is taking place in and around the city of Bakhmut.

Remember Ukrainian forces are facing primarily mercenaries and convicts from the -- from the Wagner Group. Those are being backed up by regular

Russian forces. The Russians do appear to be making some progress. They have claimed that they have taken several villages to the north of


Ukrainian officials say that they are holding on, but it is clear that the Russian forces are trying to encircle the city, they are trying to press

forward with absolutely everything that they have, using all of the weapons and ammunition and men that they have. Ukrainian side says that the

Russians are suffering significant casualties.

Remember, the White House just a week and a half ago says that the Wagner had already lost some 9,000 men, but it is clear that it is taking a major

toll on both sides. Isa, this was a fight that over the past few months has gotten closer and closer quarters. This is now a fight that is street to

street, block to block.

They're using rifles, they're using artillery, if they're outside the city, they're fighting in the trenches. So, this is the focal point certainly

for the Russian side when it comes to this eastern front. But when you zoom out, big picture, if the Russians were to take this, yes, it would be a

symbolic victory for Russia, it would be a symbolic victory for Vladimir Putin, it would likely not change the battlefield all that much.

Ukrainians would be expected to dig in just to the west of Bakhmut, but of course, it would be a significant symbolic defeat for them. But we are not

there yet, Ukrainians say that they are hanging on, one thing that is complicating the fighting is the fact that it is getting relatively warmer,

and that is leading to muddy roads, flooding.

That is one thing that Ukrainians hope will slow down the Russians, but it also makes everything all that more complicated. So when it comes to the

fighting on the eastern front, Bakhmut is what we are watching the most closely, Isa.

SOARES: And does -- you were talking, I'm wondering if I can get my producer Laura(ph) just to bring up that map again, because I was speaking

to a military analyst last week, Alex, who basically said that the Russians have created a three-pronged offensive, let's say, from the east, the

south, and the north. How are Ukrainian forces then slowing that advance from the west in particular as we look at the map?

MARQUARDT: Well, they're using all the weaponry that they have gotten from NATO countries and from the West to try to slow that down as much as

possible. Ammunition is an issue on both sides. These are -- all of these fights that you mentioned, these are battles of attrition where it is going

to come down to which side wants to put more men on the line, which side wants to dispense with more ammunition both in terms of what they use in

their small arms, their artillery, their mortars, their tanks, et cetera.


I think one of the more interesting fights is down in Vuhledar where we just spent some time with some international fighters, that is at the

intersection of the southern and the eastern fronts. They are -- the Russians are trying to cross these fields, cross minefields, and take the

small town of Vuhledar, which they have been absolutely pummeling.

They have not had much success so far. But these fights that we're talking about in the east, of course, they are primarily starting to push it and

push deeper, but actually more of eastern Ukraine into Luhansk and Donetsk regions, that is the stated goal of Russia, that they really want to focus

on this part of the country. So far, Ukraine holding on. Of course, we have heard Zelenskyy recently. The minute security --

SOARES: Unfortunately, we seem to have lost Alex, you can understand that he is covering this war, the connections are particularly great, especially

given that he's in eastern Ukraine. But you get a sense, really, of the pressure on Ukrainian forces and the battle that is being raged there in

Bakhmut and on the Donbas, where the fighting has been the fiercest.

We'll stay on top of that story for you. Now, to Israeli, because Israeli forces are reporting a new attack in the West Bank after a weekend of

deadly violence. They say an Israeli man was shot on a highway near Jericho, he was taken to hospital, and later died of his injuries. Tensions

were already high after armed settlers went on a rampage against Palestinians in Huwara on Sunday, following the fatal shooting of two


The settlers torched cars and homes with families inside. One Palestinian man was shot and killed. Other people were injured with stones or metal

bars. Residents are recounting moments of sheer terror. A girl describes what happened when settlers smashed the windows of her home. Have a listen.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (through translator): The settlers attacked and broke them. We moved down to the floor. We started to hear sounds from outside

the house, I moved to the windows in our room, but they were shooting, so I moved down to the floor. Then they broke the windows. My mother moved us to

a corner because there was no safe place. They broke all the windows while we were inside.


SOARES: It sounds absolutely terrifying. CNN's Hadas Gold is following developments tonight for us from Jerusalem. So Hadas, just bring us up-to-

date on what you're hearing, what really has unfolded in the region in the last 24 to 48 hours. Because it is escalating, isn't it?

HADAS GOLD, CNN JERUSALEM CORRESPONDENT: It's very much escalating. And it's sort of unprecedented in the way it's escalating. You know, just in

the last few hours, we heard about this new shooting attack, an Israeli man in his twenties was shot and killed seemingly while driving along what's

usually a relatively quiet part of the West Bank, near Jericho, near the northern Dead Sea.

A lot of tourists and Israelis and civilians use this road to get to the Dead Sea. And this follows, of course, the events of yesterday that were

really unprecedented, just in the scale, we had, of course, those two Israeli brothers who were shot and killed at point-blank range while

sitting in traffic along a road in the West Bank in Huwara.

This is a flash-point area, that road where this took place, but this sort of point-blank shooting, I think has caught everybody off, as well. And it

just goes to show the proliferation of guns and how a lot of these attacks have become more attacks-focused on guns. But then I think what was really

shocking to a lot of people was those settlers in the evening.

These were essentially revenge attacks, and they have even been described by the IDF as acts of terror. That's very unusual for the Israeli military

to essentially say, yes, what the Israeli settlers did, those are acts of terror. They burned houses, they burned cars, as we heard from that young

girl about what they did. And one Palestinian man was shot and killed.

And then we know that at least several others were injured, as well. We do know from Israeli authorities that something like eight people have been

detained in connection to those attacks. But we're hearing reports from Palestinians in these villages that there were dozens, if not up to a 100

settlers essentially, rampaging through these towns.

This of course, all happening in the shadow of the summit that was happening in Aqaba on the same day between Israelis, Palestinians, the

Jordanians, Egyptians and the Americans were there, all with the effort to try to bring some sort of calm to intensifying situation. Of course, the

events on Sunday only further illustrating how much it is so necessary to have some sort of system in place, some sort of mechanisms that can at

least calm situations down on the ground.

Their communique talked about, you know, Israelis not pushing for its settlements, and the Palestinians not going after Israel and United

Nations, and maybe Israel and the Palestinians having some sort of security committee set up. All of those statements are well and good, but here on

the ground in the region, I can tell you, Isa, things are incredibly tense.


The Israeli military are sending out more battalions into the West Bank, they say not only to go after attackers, they say, but also to help keep

Israeli settlers and the Palestinian villagers essentially separated and try to keep the peace as much as they can. Isa?

SOARES: And you mentioned IDF commenting on this, but we've also heard from Ben-Gvir, who has criticized the Israeli settlers for their revenge

attacks. I want our viewers to have a listen to this.


ITAMAR BEN-GVIR, MINISTER OF NATIONAL SECURITY, ISRAEL: I understand the hard feelings, but this is not the way. We do not take the law into our own

hands. The Israeli government, the state of Israel, the IDF, the security forces, they are the ones who should be questioning our enemies.


SOARES: What does all this mean then for Benjamin Netanyahu? Much pressure does this put on him.

GOLD: Yes, Isa, I mean, barely two months I think it's been, since he's taken over power once again. And he is just facing challenge after

challenge, internal, external, domestic politics as well as international pressure, and they just keep mounting.


GOLD (voice-over): Benjamin Netanyahu is the most experienced prime minister in Israeli history. But he's facing unprecedented multi-faceted

battles on nearly every front. Tensions and violence between Israelis and Palestinians at a 20-year high. On Sunday, the occupied West Bank burned,

two Israeli brothers shot point-blank, killed while sitting in traffic, in what officials say was a terrorist attack.

Then, in what's been deemed a revenge attack by Israeli settlers, a Palestinian man shot and killed. Houses and cars burned just hours after

Israeli and Palestinian officials met in a summit in Jordan, meant to calm tensions. A joint communique pledging to take steps to restore calm,

seeking a just and lasting peace.

Meanwhile, Netanyahu's far-right wing coalition partners seemingly dismissing the summit in Jordan, claiming there will be no freeze in

settlement construction, considered illegal under international law.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The message is coming out --

GOLD: Netanyahu biographer Anshel Pfeffer, says much of the controversy around Netanyahu is thanks to these governing partners.

ANSHEL PFEFFER, AUTHOR: I think this is the least Netanyahu has ever been in control as a prime minister. He is not -- he is not running his

government, his government is being run by the coalition partners who have him over a barrel.

GOLD: Meanwhile, for eight weeks in a row, tens of thousands of Israelis have been taking to the streets to protest against Netanyahu's planned

massive judicial reforms. The most sweeping of these changes would give the Israeli parliament power to overturn Supreme Court decisions. Many critics

arguing it's part of a ploy to help Netanyahu out of his ongoing corruption trial.

Something he denies. Dramatic scenes in parliament as the legislation is pushed through its first stage, but also dramatic warnings from the

normally a political and lucrative Israeli high tech sector. The money is starting to leave Israel, thanks to these reforms.

JACOB FRANKEL, FORMER GOVERNOR, BANK OF ISRAEL: We have been called the start-up nation, and we basically say, come on, don't risk it. Foreign

investors have voted with their feet.

GOLD: And Netanyahu faces increasing international pressure from allies, notably the United States which has criticized not only settlement

expansion and some of Israel's actions in the occupied West Bank, but also a rare presidential incursion into internal Israeli politics. President

Biden urging a consensus be reached on the judicial reforms.

PFEFFER: We've never had this kind of differences between Jerusalem and Washington. It's always been over the Palestinian issues, it's been over

the Iran issue, it's never been about the way the Israeli government is legislating on a democratic agenda. And this is the first time that we've

ever seen a president almost -- openly rebuke an Israeli prime minister over such matters.

GOLD: Looming ahead in the calendar, the highly sensitive period of overlapping Muslim and Jewish holidays of Ramadan and Passover, threatening

to set Jerusalem aflame as well. Yet another battlefront for Netanyahu, Israel's ultimate survivor for now.


GOLD: Now, Isa, in speaking with political analysts, many of them don't believe that Netanyahu prefers to be in the situation, to have a government

that it seems like every moment, there's another minister making some comment that seeming going against what his government says. Now, Netanyahu

has always said when there have been questions about these right-wing ministers, he says, I'm in control.

My party is the biggest party, I am the prime minister. But clearly, what we're seeing is without these governing partners, without this coalition,

he is not in power. So the question is, really, who is driving the bus here? Isa.


SOARES: A very good question, Hadas Gold there for us in Jerusalem this hour, thanks very much, Hadas. A tragedy now in the Mediterranean. Women,

children and an infant among at least 63 people have died following a shipwreck in the rough seas off southern Italy. Dozens of migrants are

still missing. Our Ben Wedeman has more now from Rome.


BEN WEDEMAN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The tide brings in wreckage of a boat, the wreckage of more lives lost in the

Mediterranean. Among the dead to wash up on this lonely Calabrian Beach, an 8-month-old infant. The 20-meter long wooden boat reportedly took to sea

from Turkey, Thursday, with perhaps as many as 250 people on board.

Coming from, among other places, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iran and Syria. Fisherman Luchano Vichenso(ph) was one of the first on the scene before

dawn. "When we arrived, we found ten dead", he said. "And as dawn broke, we found more and more." Only around 80 people survived the shipwreck. The

rest, perhaps well over a 100, either dead or missing.

"This type of tragedy should have been avoided", said the Governor of Calabria, Roberto Occhiuto. Sunday, Pope Francis told the faithful in Saint

Peter's Square, "I pray for each of them. For the missing, and for the other migrants who survived." But thoughts and prayers won't save lives.

Since 2014, more than 20,000 people have died trying to cross the Mediterranean. Escaping war, famine, repression, chaos and hopelessness.

Increasingly, Europe, including Italy, has taken a hard line on those from the global south fleeing their native lands. In a statement, Italy's right-

wing Prime Minister, Giorgia Meloni, expressed what she called her profound pain in the disaster.

But Meloni rode to power on an anti-immigrant platform, and last week, the Italian parliament approved new laws, making it ever more difficult for

volunteer groups to carry out rescues at sea. What Europe can do for those in need has been made vividly clear by its embrace of millions of Ukrainian

refugees. An embrace that doesn't extend to those braving deadly voyages such as these to reach Europe's shores. Ben Wedeman, CNN, Rome.


SOARES: Well, Francesca Basile; head of the Migration Union for the Italian Red Cross joins me now live from Rome. Francesca, thank you very

much for taking the time to speak to us here on the show. Can you give us a sense of what your team on the ground, from Italian Red Cross, what they


FRANCESCA BASILE, HEAD OF MIGRATION UNIT, ITALIAN RED CROSS: Yes, thank you for this invitation. The team on the ground, they were on the ground

from the very beginning on Saturday early morning. It was dark, and the scenarios that they had in front of their eyes was apocalyptic. I want to

use this word, made by suffering humanity in need. From one side, they had to assist quickly, the survivors that needed health assistance.

First aid, needed to be safe, but needed also to look for their relatives and their beloved. From the other side, we had a lot of dead bodies, and

well, they described that this moment as very hard. They describe as a carpet of death, Isa. This scenario that they saw yesterday morning.

SOARES: And you also -- apocalyptic is -- well, we're looking at some of the images. I can only imagine as well, Francesco, that those who did

survive are heavily traumatized. Can you give us a sense, in terms of the help that's been provided on the ground, but also, do we know their

nationalities? Do we know -- do we know any more in terms of ages?

BASILE: Yes, as a -- as a -- there are a lot of information that are starting to be collected about these people. But I would like to start,

saying that they were human beings. They were women, men, children, babies, teenagers seeking for a better life, and with a lot of hope. Now, they are

-- to those that survived, now it's time for -- realizing what happened to recover and being recovered from the trauma of the trip and of the last



But also to realize that some of their family members are not with them anymore. For them, at least, it's sad, but at least, we can close the

circle because the bodies have been retrieved. But for -- rather, this circle won't be closed for a lot of time, maybe. So the situation, it's

very hard, and we are trying to support them with psychological support, cultural mediation and restoring family link services.

SOARES: Yes, important that you point out, they are human beings, it's unbelievable really that we are back here again talking about this. This is

still happening here in the Mediterranean. And Francesca Basile, really appreciate you taking the time to join us, and I thank the team on the

ground as well for all the incredible work. Thank you very much, Francesca.

BASILE: Thank you, good evening.

SOARES: Still to come tonight, a nation on edge as Nigerians await the results of their presidential election. We'll hear from some voters furious

over election day violence, and incompetence they say cost them their vote. That story, just ahead.


SOARES: Well, two days after Nigeria's landmark presidential election, there are allegations of suppression, fraud and violence, technical

glitches, angry disenfranchised voters, and still no winner.




SOARES: But provisional results indicate the underdog Labor candidate Peter Obi has won a surprised victory in Nigeria's largest state, Lagos.

Some voters say they couldn't vote due to violence or simple incompetence. This video shows a gang attacking a polling station in Lagos before

soldiers took control. Other voters say no election officials showed up at this polling station.

The Election Commission admits technical glitches are allowing -- are slowing the vote result. But insists it's not due to manipulation. CNN's

Larry Madowo is in Lagos tracking the election returns, and of course, the widespread anger. So Larry, when will these glitches be fixed? I mean, just

paint us a mood really of the mood on the ground.

LARRY MADOWO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It's not clear how many of these glitches will be fixed. Because so far, the independent National Electoral

Commission has not addressed so many of the issues head on.


Which is also building up in this anger among the people who didn't get their chance to vote, or for whom their polling stations, polling units

were disrupted, where thugs, as they call in Nigeria, essentially came in and destroyed the ballot materials. And what the commission has done is

continue to announce results from states including in Lagos, in other parts of the country.

And yet, there are people who feel disenfranchised, that people now accusing the commission of colluding with the government of the day to deny

them their rights to vote. So how much of what we've seen, the violence, the destruction, the disruption was incompetence? And how much of it was

deliberate voter suppression? It's hard to tell.

And until independent analysis entirely is done, we're going to have to rely on what we're hearing. But I've been speaking to people who didn't

have a chance to vote because polling officials there didn't just did not show up to their polling stations and they were outraged.



MADOWO (voice-over): Fighting for the right to vote in what could be Nigeria's tightest presidential election ever. The Nigerian army rolls into

a neighborhood in Lagos where voters at two polling units spent all of election day, waiting to cast their ballots, but poll officials did not

show up. They returned the next day and waited several more hours, growing impatient as the chance to vote slowly slipped away.

ABIGAIL SAMUEL, LAGOS VOTER: Nothing works in this country. Nothing works in this country! There's no security. There is no good hospital, there's

neither good roads, nothing works. The educational system is in shambles. And for once, youths are coming out to vote, and we are being

disenfranchised in broad-day light. It is heartbreaking!

MADOWO: Abigail Samuel's pain is shared by other young people who register to vote in record numbers in this election, hoping to reboot a deeply

dysfunctional Nigeria.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I must fight for my daughter's place. I must fight for -- she must have a better life. She must go to better school. I'm tired,

I'm tired.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We are tired! Me, I'm tired. I'm tired of seeing this crab.

MADOWO: Officials of the Independent National Electoral Commission say they're already tallying the results of the area without the missing

polling units.

FOLAYEMI BUKOLA BISOYE, ELECTORAL OFFICER, ETI-OSA FEDERAL CONSTITUENCY: You know, we use constitution, anywhere there's violence, there's no way to

vote again.

MADOWO: But CNN saw no signs of violence at the polling units where election workers did not show up. As people cast ballots just steps away.

(on camera): So there will be no other elections in these places where the election didn't take place?

BISOYE: There's no -- there's no other election again. There's no other election. The election we want to do is what we've done.

MADOWO (voice-over): The disenfranchised voters see this as an attempt to deny their preferred candidates' crucial votes by the establishment. In an

election without an incumbent president or a former military leader running, it was seen as a fresh start for Nigeria.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We are suffering in this country! We are suffering! It's very bad. I don't even call them leaders, I call them rulers!

MADOWO: Musician Banky W. stood on the main opposition PDP's ticket in the Lagos area with the affected voters.

OLUBANKOLE WELLINGTON, NIGERIAN SINGER: They understand that their votes are their voices, and they want their voices to be heard. So when it starts

to seem like there is allegedly some sort of intentional suppression of that voice, people get frustrated. People get agitated.

MADOWO: Nigeria's agitated youth could be a powder keg at risk of exploding if enough of them feel that their voices were not heard in the

most significant election of their life-time.

(on camera): What did voting mean to you?

SAMUEL: It's my choice and I did my best.


SAMUEL: That's what it means to me.


MADOWO: The Nigerian youth I've spoken to wanted to prove that they're not lazy. They're not just Twitter warriors, that they can effect real change

at the ballots. And that is why you see that emotion and that anger. And the thing that's bubbling under here is that, when the outcome of this

presidential election is announced, Isa, and they feel that it does not represent their voices and their will, I think that will be a problematic


And so far, there's no sense that the electoral commission is handling that in a way that is satisfactory.

SOARES: Larry Madowo for us in Lagos, Nigeria. Thanks very much. Still to come tonight, one of Ukraine's staunchest allies is calling for western

nations to offer more military help, and quickly. We'll hear from Latvia's foreign minister, just ahead.



SOARES: Welcome back, everyone. "A decisive breakthrough," that message of victory from British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak today after he struck a

long-awaited post-Brexit trade deal, have a listen.


RISHI SUNAK, BRITISH PRIME MINISTER: Today's agreement delivers smooth flowing trade within the whole of United Kingdom, protects Northern

Ireland's place in our union, and safeguard sovereignty for the people of Northern Ireland.

URSULA VON DER LEYEN, EUROPEAN COMMISSION PRESIDENT: This new framework will allow us to begin a new chapter. It provides for long-lasting

solutions that both of us are confident will work for all people and businesses in Northern Ireland.


SOARES: Well, Mr. Sunak is hoping the New Windsor framework will resolve years of dispute over how post Brexit trade will work between Ireland,

which is part of the E.U., and Northern Ireland, which is part of the U.K. It is a thorny issue, which has already got the better of successive U.K.

governments. Right now, the Prime Minister was presenting his new deal to lawmakers in the House of Commons.

And CNN International Diplomatic Editor, Nic Robertson, just outside Parliament. He was listening in. Nic, just first of all, walk us through

the details of this deal.

NIC ROBERTSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL DIPLOMATIC EDITOR: Well, there's going to be a -- an improved way for getting goods from mainland U.K. into Northern

Ireland. There's going to be green and red channels. The red channel is for the trucks carrying goods that will go through Northern Ireland onto the

Republic of Ireland, the European Union. And the green channel will be for goods where manufacturers declare that they are going to be only remaining

in Northern Ireland. So, our British prime minister was laying out how, you know, anything from oak trees, to seed potatoes, to parcels, to sausages,

and I -- he said sausages, and I say it again now, because that has, at one time, over the past couple of years, been a hugely contentious issue.

What he is saying is that it's going to be easier to get goods from mainland U.K. into Northern Ireland. So people in Northern Ireland will be

able to buy the same supermarket sandwiches in Northern Ireland that they could buy in the rest of the U.K. and that, he said, is a significant move

forward, that there will be less oversight. But the other key area he spoke about today as well is what he's calling the storm on break, which is a

sort of a "get out" or a "control" mechanism for those Northern Ireland parties. and here is the Democratic Unionist Party, the principal Unionist

Party in Northern Ireland, who are concerned, as are some of Sunak's backbench Conservative MPs, staunch Brexiteers, concerned that the European

Court of Justice will have too strong a say.


Or any say at all, in the affairs of the people of Northern Ireland. And he spoke about the storm on break as being a mechanism that could be triggered

by Northern Ireland politicians to essentially hold back any unwanted E.U. legislation. But it was interesting listening just before when Jeffrey

Donaldson, the leader of the DUP, spoke in parliament in response to Rishi Sunak. And he said, look, there are still some areas where the ECJ will

have read -- where E.U. law will have read on certain businesses in Northern Ireland. So, you can already see there's some contention there,

but Donaldson and other Northern Irish leaders have all said that they're going to go away and study this deeply legal document to see if they can

support it or not.

SOARES: And that you and I, Nic, will be talking about this for the rest of the week. Nic Robertson there, thank you very much, Nic.

I want to return now to Russia's war on Ukraine to speak with one of the country's key allies, one who really understands all too well the threat

Russia poses to the region. Edgars Rinkevics is Latvia's Minister of Foreign Affairs. He joins me now from Riga. Minister, thank you very much

for taking the time to join us here on the show. Let me start really where our show started this hour in eastern Ukraine, we're focused in Bakhmut

that mode where we have seen some of the faces fighting. Our correspondent was telling about it's become a kind of -- almost like an -- urban combat

field. Do you think, sir, that Ukraine can hold on to Bakhmut?

EDGARS RINKEVICS, LATVIAN MINISTER OF FOREIGN AFFAIRS: Good evening, and thank you very much for having me. I do believe that Ukraine can hold on

and Ukraine can win, but only with one condition, that we continue supplying Ukraine with more weapons, with more ammunition. I think that

this is critical precondition for Ukraine winning this battle or winning the war.

SOARES: So, what more does it need? Because many countries have promised to send Abrams, the United States, tanks in parts of Europe. What else is it


RINKEVICS: Well, let's start with a very simple thing, ammunition. I think that Ukraine needs a lot of ammunition. And I think that we already have

discussed that at the E.U. level, I believe that he also needs to step up to finance the production of ammunition and sending that. And, of course,

this is also about tanks, about air defense systems, about long range artillery systems. I wouldn't exclude also sending jets, but I understand

that the current major issue and major priority is sending more ammunition and sending more tanks and the weapon systems. But if you speak about

Latvia, we have already reached and actually passed one percent of GDP mark in the military assistance. I very much hope that many other NATO and

Ukraine allies would follow Latvia's example on this.

SOARES: And I will ask you about jets in just a moment, but you mentioned ammunition. Is more -- where -- is Europe doing enough to actually start

producing more ammunition? Where's that production coming from?

RINKEVICS: Oh, I think that the major problem that we are now finding is that the military industry is not currently producing enough ammunition.

And I think that when we were having the Foreign Affairs Council in Brussels last week, last Monday, that we are discussing about the kind of

European initiative, and probably for the European Union, to have a joint procurement, joint financing, joint kind of defense industry policy would

be the right thing to do. So from that point of view, no, we are not doing enough, and that's an issue that we really need to fix.

SOARES: So how do you fix that? I mean, you're all talking about it. You're all having summits and meetings, but when is it actually going to --

they're going to metal -- it's going actually start producing what is needed?

RINKEVICS: Well, put more money, make this as a joint European project, and talk like we did it during the COVID pandemic, with vaccine producers,

stockers, defense industry, secure contracts, and start producing. Actually, that ammunition is needed not only for Ukraine, it's badly needed

to almost for all NATO and the E.U. countries because we have been giving a lot to Ukraine. And we also need to replenish our, let's say, depots, and

also we need to call our defense ministries and armed forces having some have used already ammunition to be replenished. So, I agree, there are a

lot of summits, a lot of discussions, but only that's the way how you can push for some work.


And that's what we are currently doing. A lot of like-minded nations, they are asking, and they are pushing the European Commission, also the European

Union institutions to work on this issue and proposals and also to have some mechanisms in motion.

SOARES: Are you frustrated? Are you disappointed, sir, at the pace that this is going?

RINKEVICS: Well, I think that the only feeling that I have is not a disappointment, but urgency. And I think that, yes, from time to time, you

can get a little bit frustrated, you can get a little bit frustrated that it takes weeks to discuss issues where almost everyone knows, but at the

end of the day, we are going to decide on tanks or something else. But unfortunately, those things sometimes, from the political point of view,

and sometimes also from bureaucratic point of view, it takes some time. So I think that everyone in Europe, in NATO, now needs to have only one

feeling, and that's urgency. All other emotions, we can leave after the war.

SOARES: Let me ask you about what we are hearing from the United States. U.S. has been warning that China is going to face real costs is their

words, if it moves ahead with giving Russia weapons for the war in Ukraine. What would China's involvement mean here in your opinion?

RINKEVICS: Of course, this would be a very serious turn. But I think that in that case, and, of course, I understand that, at this point, there is

still diplomatic dialogue with China. That point, of course, we should treat anyone who helps Russia in this work in the way as we treat Russia or

Belarus. And I think that in that case, we need to look into economic restrictive measures, or sometimes called sanctions, all other instruments

at our disposal and here, U.S., so-called G7, And the E.U., needs to stand together.

But I do hope that China understands all the consequences and also what it would mean for the international law and order, and that I do hope that

China will not supply Russia with lethal or non-lethal military agreement. I do hope that also those proposals, we can discuss. I would say that I see

a lot of deficiencies in those base proposals or peace plan, but I think that this is very important that China is not helping Russia in any way

from the military point of view.

SOARES: Minister, I appreciate you taking the time to speak to us. Thank you very much, sir.

RINKEVICS: Thank you.

SOARES: Now the E.U. has issued sanctions against a subsidiary of the Russian Wagner group by committing human rights abuses -- for committing

human rights abuses, I correct myself, in Sudan. The group is called Meroe Gold. Last July, if you remember, a CNN investigation uncovered how they

plunder gold from Sudan skirting U.S. sanctions to build up Russia's war chest. The E.U. also named one Russian national, Mikhail Potepkin, saying

both he and Meroe Gold have had -- have aided in torture and extrajudicial executions in several countries, and that includes Sudan.

Still to come tonight, an updated classified intelligence report from Washington. It says the lab leak was -- probably triggered the COVID-19

pandemic. We'll explain next.



SOARES: The U.S. Ambassador to China is now calling on Beijing to be "More honest" about the origins of the COVID-19 pandemic. This is over a newly

updated classified intelligence report from the U.S. Department of Energy that concluded the pandemic was likely caused by a Chinese laboratory leak.

Beijing says a lab leak was highly unlikely and accused Washington of smearing China. I want to go now to our National Security Reporter, Natasha

Bertrand, who joins me now. So Natasha, what prompted then this Energy Department assessment now?

NATASHA BERTRAND, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY REPORTER: Yes, Isa. So what we're learning is that the intelligence community provided Congress with an

update into its investigation of the origins of COVID-19. And as part of that update, which was provided pretty recently, it included a section

noting that the Department of Energy had shifted its position, essentially from not having a formed opinion on the conclusion, to now believing that

it did likely originate from a lab leak. And that is the product we're told of some new intelligence that the Department of Energy gleaned. But we

don't know exactly what that intelligence is at that -- at this moment.

And we should note that this was an assessment that was made with low competence. So, essentially, what the Energy Department is saying here is

that they believe that, while this is the most likely explanation for how the pandemic originated based on the wide array of theories as to how this

could have started, it is still not -- they're still not able to say that this was -- decisively begun in a laboratory, because they don't have

enough intelligence to decisively conclude that. The sources that they do have perhaps were not solid enough. Essentially, they didn't have a full

enough picture to present this analysis with either moderate or high competence, for example.

So the Department of Energy does join the FBI in assessing that the most likely origin of the pandemic did stem -- was from a laboratory leak. But

we're told that the rest of the intelligence community, including the four kind of prominent ones, including the CIA, they really have not come to a

definitive conclusion one way or the other. And that is primarily because it has been really difficult to glean accurate, reliable information about

the origins of the pandemic without China's full cooperation here. And that is something that the 2021 report released by the intelligence community

made very clear, which was that without that help from Beijing, with that on the grounds analysis, ultimately, the U.S. and the world may never

actually know how this pandemic began, Isa.

SOARES: Natasha Bertrand there for us in Washington. Thanks very much, Natasha.

Now to Hong Kong, where four people have been charged in connection with the killing of model and influencer, Abby Choi, including her ex-husband.

Kristie Lu Stout has more, but we warn you, the report contains graphic details.


KRISTIE LU STOUT, CNN CORRESPONDENT: A fashion model and mother, brutally murdered in Hong Kong, in a case that is sending shockwaves through the

usually safe city. 28-year-old Abby Choi was a well-known social media influencer with more than 100,000 followers on Instagram, who, just weeks

ago, appeared on the digital cover of a luxury magazine. She was reported missing on Wednesday.

On Friday, police say pieces of her body were found in a refrigerator in the northern Tai Po district of Hong Kong. They also found a meat slicer

and an electric saw. And later, police discovered a head, ribs, and hair in a soup pot.


ALAN CHUNG, HONG KONG POLICE SUPERINTENDENT: It's a skull, with hair, OK? And as I said, unfortunately, there's a hole on the right-side rear on the

skull. So, that -- the pathologists believe that that should be the fatal attack on the victim.


STOUT: Police arrested Abby Choi's ex-husband on suspicion of murder on Saturday. Police said they caught him at a pier in the city's Lantau



STOUT: Well, there's reports that Choi's ex-husband, Alex Kwong, appeared here at the Kowloon City Magistrates court on Monday, along with his father

and brother. They are all accused of murder. Now Kwong's mother also appeared in court. She's accused of obstructing the case. All four were

denied bail.


STOUT: Over the weekend, authorities launched a massive search operation to track down the rest of the models remains.


They deployed more than 100 police officers, including an abseil team and divers to search a cemetery and nearby catch water in the area of Tseung

Kwan O. They're still looking for several body parts. A gruesome murder of this young woman in the spotlight who leaves behind four children,

including two from the ex-husband who is now in custody. Kristie Lu Stout, CNN, Hong Kong

SOARES: And we'll return after the short break.


SOARES: Welcome back. Rising sea levels due to climate change are putting many island nations more at risk from natural disasters like tsunamis. In

our special report, Transformer CNN Meteorologist Allison Chinchar meets a scientists on a mission to map an underwater volcano to help protect island

countries like Tonga in the South Pacific Ocean.


ALLISON CHINCHAR, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Late December 2021, in the middle of the South Pacific, an underwater volcano is active once again.

Two weeks later, a series of eruptions will reverberate around the planet and be visible from space. Tsunami warnings were issued across the Pacific.

And the next afternoon, a series of waves hit the island country of Tonga, some as high as fifteen meters, killing three people and leaving mass

destruction in their wake. When the dust had settled a few months later, a ship from New Zealand's National Institute of Water and Atmospheric

research, or NIWA, set sail to find out what had triggered the eruption. Marine Geology Technician, Erica Spain, was on board.


ERICA SPAIN, MARINE GEOLOGY TECHNICIAN: The voyage up to Hunga Tonga-Hunga Ha'apai, to map the volcano was really exciting. It's multidisciplinary

voyage. So, you've got multiple science streams working together to try and figure out what was going on and why it interrupted so violently. These are

the multibeams on either side.


CHINCHAR: Spain's mission was to map the seafloor around the volcano, using a machine called a multibeam echo sounder.


SPAIN: An acoustic pulse. So, a ping, or sound, is emitted or sent out from the bottom of the ship.


And then it echoes effectively off the seafloor. And then we have hydrophones or a listening ear that receives that echo. And from that, we

determine how deep the sea floor is and build up an idea of its shape and geometry. Every volcano has a different trigger in terms of when it might

erupt. And by mapping Hunga Tonga-Hunga Ha'apai, and in comparing that to other volcanoes, we can begin to build up a better image of what these

triggers might be or what they might look like on the seafloor.


CHINCHAR: Mapping, taking rock samples, and filming underwater, all help build a bigger picture of what happened here.


SPAIN: So, you have to become a seafloor detective to piece all those small parts together.


CHINCHAR: That detective work can help countries like Tonga, better prepare for tsunamis to keep people safe.


SOARES: And that does it for this evening. Thanks very much for your company. Do stay right here. They will be back with "QUEST MEANS BUSINESS"

in just a few minutes. Don't go anywhere.