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Isa Soares Tonight

Russia`s Wagner Fighters Mount Flag In Bakhmut Ukraine; Families Protest Poisoning Of School Girls In Iran; U.S. Citizens Kidnapped In Mexico; Ukrainian Troops Defend What`s Left Of Bakhmut; Bangladesh Police investigate Rohingya Refugee Camp Fire; Harry and Meghan Invited To Coronation Of King Charles. Aired 2-3p ET

Aired March 06, 2023 - 14:00   ET



CHRISTINA MACFARLANE, HOST, ISA SOARES TONIGHT: A warm welcome to the show, everyone, I`m Christina Macfarlane in for Isa Soares. Tonight, Wagner

fighters plant their flag in the eastern part of Bakhmut, but Ukraine claims it`s hanging on to the territory. And Iran`s supreme leader is

calling the poisoning of school girls an unforgiveable crime.

But parents accuse the government of trying to silence them. And four Americans kidnapped in Mexico, we expect an update from Mexican officials

this hour. Now, at this hour, the battle for Bakhmut is not over. The city still officially in Ukrainian hands with defense forces holding on to their

positions despite massive pressure from Russian troops.

Fighting in the eastern Ukrainian city has now reached the highest level of intensity in the months-long siege. That`s according to the command of

Ukraine`s land forces, who visited troops there, Sunday. But the private military group Wagner claims they are on the cusp of victory. Wagner posted

video of fighters planting their flag on a tank in the eastern part of the city.

But a so-called Russian victory in Bakhmut will come with tremendous losses. NATO estimates that five times as many Russians soldiers have died

for every Ukrainian soldier. So let`s get straight out to -- joining us now live from Kyiv. Melissa, it has been a long -- what? More than seven

months, and now we hear of Russia appearing to be on the brink of capturing Bakhmut.

Given that estimate we just heard from NATO there, walk us through the symbolic or the costs that this is going to have for Russia, not just --

obviously, we know this is a symbolic victory, but at what cost will this come for Russia, this victory in Bakhmut?

MELISSA BELL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Extremely high, Christina, and that`s something that an adviser to President Zelenskyy has just been speaking to

in a conversation with CNN, saying that the strategic objectives of Ukraine had been 100 percent achieved. That was two-fold, Christina, he explained.

It was first of all costing Russia as many of its men as it could, and depleting its war machine.

That he suggested the buying of time had been achieved. And yes, while they are still holding on that flag, extremely symbolic because at that

position, that monument you see on it is about 500 meters from the river, and it does suggest that they are inching closer towards the town center.

Still again, that aide to President Zelenskyy confirming that right now, they continue to try and buy time because even if they do choose to

retreat, they`ll be trying to fortify their positions beyond Bakhmut.



BELL (voice-over): Ukrainian forces giving all they can to defend Bakhmut, or what`s left of it. After the longest battle of the war, one of the

oldest cities in the Donbas lies in ruins.

VOLODYMYR NAZARENKO, DEPUTY COMMANDER, UKRAINE NATIONAL GUARD (through translator): There were no orders, no decisions were made regarding

withdrawal from Bakhmut. There have been no tactical changes. We are holding the defense.

BELL: Abandoned by more than 90 percent of its population over the course of the seven-month siege, only those who couldn`t leave before are left.

The intense fighting means that only 5 to 10 people a day can now be evacuated compared to the 500 to 600 a day when the evacuations started at

the end of February, according to the city`s deputy mayor.

The Russians throwing all they have at the city, says the deputy mayor. Heavy artillery, mortar fire, airstrikes, and a substantial commitment of

ground forces, both regular soldiers and Wagner mercenaries. But Russian advances have come at huge cost, wave after wave of Russian soldiers have

been sent to their deaths. And Ukraine has accused Russia of exaggerating its gains, claiming they still control one of the major highways into

Bakhmut, a lifeline for Ukrainian defenders.

With one Ukrainian commander tweeting that there are many ways still to get into the city. Analysts have questioned the strategic importance of

Bakhmut, but that has not stopped Moscow`s intense campaign to capture the city nor Ukraine`s existential fight to keep it.


The unceasing barrage of artillery fire hasn`t just killed or forced out most of the city`s civilians, it`s taken a huge toll on Ukrainian soldiers

too as the battle turns to close quarters street fighting. But Ukraine continues its fierce fight for victory, even as Russian forces continue to

close in on a city that`s already a by-word for Ukrainian resilience on the battlefield. Melissa Bell, CNN, Kyiv.


MACFARLANE: And our thanks to Melissa in Kyiv for that, we will have more on the status of the Ukrainian battlefield in about 20 minutes when

Lieutenant General Mark Hertling joins me to discuss this live. Now to what Iran`s supreme leader calls an unforgivable crime. Ayatollah Ali Khamenei

is speaking out about a wave of suspected poisonings of school girls across the country.

He says if proven deliberate, those responsible should face severe punishment. So far, there have been no arrests of the apparent attacks that

have been going on since November. Medics, teachers and parents are accusing the government of attempting to silence the victims. Our Nima

Elbagir has more.



NIMA ELBAGIR, CNN CHIEF INTERNATIONAL INVESTIGA TIVE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Furious parents outside an education office in Tehran,

challenging Iranian authorities desperate for answers. After what is believed to be the worst day of incidents of suspected poisonings at girls

schools, these videos were filmed on Saturday, which marked the start of the school week in Iran.

For months now, Iranian school girls and their families have been speaking out about incidents of suspected poisoning, the numbers of incidents

reported to CNN in the dozens. Then, over the weekend, dozens more. CNN was able to verify these new incidents using video and witnessed testimony

across ten provinces. The U.S. and others are calling for Iran`s authorities to investigate these incidents.

But speaking to CNN, medical sources say they have been barred by hospital administrators from sharing details of symptoms and test results even with

the patients` parents. We dubbed this doctor`s voice for his safety.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): I am inside Iran, my phone is being monitored, I can`t share any more with you.

ELBAGIR: Iran`s interior minister, after months of vague statements now says, "suspicious samples have been found, and are being assessed at

laboratories." Parents though say they don`t trust authorities to investigate.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (through translator): To hell with this country and its rulers. We would be better off without a leader. This is our country.

They don`t know what they`re doing. They don`t even have medicine.

ELBAGIR: All the incidents begin in a similar manner, as described to us by students. "A noxious smell, and then, I felt dizzy and fainted. I had

dimness of vision and heart palpitations. All of us had identical symptoms, palpitations, my hands and legs were numb and frozen, I was shaking. We had

tears coming out of our eyes."

With no one so far held to account, and parents no closer to answers, many continue to risk their lives to challenge Iran`s authorities.


MACFARLANE: And Nima is here with us now with more on her reporting, good to see you, Nima. So the comments from the Ayatollah would undoubtedly have

given parents hope that this case would have been treated seriously. But soon after that, the deputy health minister came out and denied that there

were any incidents of poisoning. So how do you read this mixed messaging?

ELBAGIR: Well, and even in that very same statement said that the girls had inhaled some kind of suspicious irritant. So it really feels like

Iranian authorities are trying to walk this knife edge, of trying to clamp down on internal dissent and internal upset. And you saw the images there

in our piece around the anger that parents are articulating, often at great risk, while at the same time trying to accuse these girls of submitting to

hysteria, was something that the deputy health minister said.

There is a real concern at the heart of all of this, which is that while young women are pushing and fighting for their freedoms, in the process

movement, which was clamped down. There is now this other danger that is challenging their basic freedom to an education.

MACFARLANE: And it`s so jarring to see those parents pushing for information at a time when you say that there is no sort of cohesive

movement to help. We should also talk about some developments following your previous reporting. A U.S. Senate Committee are saying that they want

the U.N. to investigate a network of Iranian secret torture chambers that was brought to light by you, your team and your reporting. Just tell us the

significance of that step if it`s taken.

ELBAGIR: Well, the U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee, essentially leads on U.S. foreign policy.


So, to have them publicly in essence refer these findings to the U.N. Human Rights Committee, I mean, those who spoke to us have been reaching out this

morning, saying how hugely vindicated they feel. But it also speaks to the fact that the U.S. is in essence acknowledging that many of the usual

pressure points that they were using against Iran like sanctions no longer are working because of the vast escalation that happened under former

President Trump`s administration.

So, now they`re leaning back against this internationalization, and it comes at a time really when the regime is under all this scrutiny

internally from their own populace, from the parents that we saw there, but clearly now, the international community is also very much putting them

under the microscope. A very tricky line for them to tread, but for those we are speaking to, it feels like finally the world is listening.

MACFARLANE: Yes, and so important to keep up with this type of reporting and keep pressing, even though we don`t know an awful lot about what is

happening --

ELBAGIR: Absolutely --

MACFARLANE: Internally. Nima, thank you so much and thank you for your reporting. Now, Afghanistan is dealing with its coldest Winter in more than

a decade, many people are now in desperate need of humanitarian assistance. The Taliban policies are preventing aid agencies from doing more to help.

CNN`s Anna Coren has this report.


ANNA COREN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Fresh snow blankets the hill tops of Ghor Province in central Afghanistan, creating the illusion of a

Winter wonderland. But, for those who live here, there is no wonder, let alone glimmer of hope. Simply staying alive is a deadly struggle. For this

family, their young son lost that battle. Now, they huddle around his hillside grave, offering prayers to six-year-old Wahid(ph) who just days

ago froze to death.

"I miss my brother, and that is why I came to visit him at the graveyard", she says. Abdul Zahed(ph) moved his family to the township of Feroz Koh in

Ghor looking for work as a laborer. But with an economic and humanitarian crisis gripping Taliban-controlled Afghanistan, he was unable to make ends

meet. "I had nothing to burn to keep the house warm", he explains. "I checked on the children during the night and their bodies were numb. I

realized my son had died a frostbite.

This is a photo of him last year", he says. "And this is his dead body." An unprecedentedly brutal Winter has claimed countless Afghan lives this year,

but so too has extreme poverty. This has been exacerbated by the repercussions of the Taliban government`s dystopian gender policies, and

the response by the international communities.

Almost a year ago, the Taliban banned female secondary students from attending school, that has morphed into a nationwide ban on all female

education. But it was the Taliban`s decision in December, banning women from working for non-governmental organizations that forced humanitarian

aid groups to abruptly halt or suspend operations.

JAN EGELAND, SECRETARY GENERAL, NORWEGIAN REFUGEE COUNCIL: There is 28 million Afghans in desperate need at the moment, 28 million! And we`re not

even reaching a fraction of those.

COREN: The Norwegian Refugee Council says they normally helped 700,000 Afghans each year. But their operation has been drastically paired back.

Secretary-General recently traveled to Kabul, pleading with the Taliban to allow female aid workers to return to work.

EGELAND: It`s at its worst hour, it`s never been as bad as it is now.

COREN: Thirty five-year-old Saforo(ph) wipes away her tears as she grieves for her husband who perished from the cold also in Ghor Province, father

and breadwinner for their eight children, the youngest of just two. Now, she`s wondering how to keep her family alive.

"I have no education", she says. "My children need food, what should I do?" Three of her children are girls, including 12-year-old Mamlikat(ph) who

knows all too well what happens to poor young Afghan girls who reach puberty. "I am worried that if we don`t have food, my brothers will be

forced to sell or marry me under pressure", she says. I don`t want to get married. I`m a kid. I don`t want a husband."

U.S. charity Too Young to Wed says it`s been able to provide emergency aid for the family and many others. But founder, Stephanie Sinclair, says the

avalanche of need is overwhelming and they`re unable to help everyone.

STEPHANIE SINCLAIR, FOUNDER, TOO YOUNG TO WED: To me, it`s unconscionable that the international community is not paying more attention to what`s

happening to women and girls in Afghanistan. It is simply just inexcusable that we are not doing everything in our power to try to change the course

of what`s happening there. We have to do better.


COREN: And with the U.N. predicting two-thirds of the population will require humanitarian aid this year, Afghan children like Mamlikat(ph) can

only hope the world is listening. Anna Coren, CNN, Hong Kong.


MACFARLANE: It is a desperately sad situation. Anna mentioned the organization Too Young to Wed, and you can find out more about their

Afghanistan appeal at their website, Now, still to come, four Americans kidnapped in Mexico. The very latest on the investigation

including what authorities think they were doing in the notoriously dangerous Mexican state.


MACFARLANE: In a Mexican border city known for lawlessness, a violent act against four Americans has triggered an international manhunt. The FBI says

the four had just crossed from U.S. into the city of Matamoros when gunmen fired on them and forced them into a vehicle. Mexico`s president says the

whole government is working on finding the Americans.

CNN`s Rosa Flores is tracking the investigation for us live from Houston. Rosa, this border city in Mexico is hardly known as a holiday destination

for U.S. travelers. So what more have you been learning about why these four citizens were there in the first place?

ROSA FLORES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: You know, according to Mexico`s president, these four Americans were in Mexico in Matamoros, Mexico, specifically to

purchase medicines. Which is what a lot of people in that area do. They cross over to Mexico to buy medicine or to get medical procedures.

According to the president of Mexico, after these Americans crossed over, there was a confrontation between two different groups on the border, and

that`s where these Americans got caught in the middle and that`s when they were kidnapped.

Now, according to U.S. officials with knowledge of the investigation, this official confirms to CNN that these Americans were in Mexico getting some

sort of medical procedure, and that there were receipts found in the vehicle that referenced that medical procedure. Now, what we know from the

FBI is that there were four Americans who crossed over to Matamoros, Mexico, on Friday, and that`s when they were kidnapped, and that they

crossed over in a white van with North Carolina plates.


Now, CNN has obtained video and also photographs of the scene. Now, I have to make one thing very clear, because this video is very jarring and it`s

very raw. In that video, you see some individuals being dragged into the bed of a pickup truck at gunpoint. Now, we do not know if these are the

Americans. What CNN has been able to do is we have confirmed through a source familiar with the investigation that this is the scene where the

Americans were kidnapped.

And we`ve also geo-located these photos and videos to confirm that this is indeed the location. But we cannot confirm that these are indeed the

Americans, we do not know who these individuals are. But based on those photos and based on that video, you can see that there was a collision

between what is that white van that the FBI described and a red vehicle.

And there is a woman who we`re seeing, individuals were lying on the street. And then that individual, that woman is then loaded onto the bed of

a pickup truck. Christina, I can tell you that both American authorities and Mexican authorities are on the hunt, trying to figure out where these

Americans are if they`re safe.

They`re trying to figure out who is responsible, exactly at this point, the Americans have not been identified. The FBI has announced a $50,000 reward

for information that brings back these Americans. That leads to the arrest of those who are responsible. But we don`t know at this time, and we have

no more information from the FBI at this time.

One of the things that I should mention is that the U.S. Ambassador to Mexico, Ken Salazar, also confirmed that there was an innocent bystander

who also died in this scene, in this particular confrontation between these two groups that the president of Mexico was mentioning. But again, Mexican

authorities and U.S. authorities on the hunt trying to figure out where these Americans are, and also who is responsible.

MACFARLANE: Yes, and as you say --

FLORES: Christina --

MACFARLANE: Rosa, at this hour, a lot we do not know. But we have heard, and we are indeed expecting an update from the Tamaulipas Attorney General

we`re hearing and the Secretary of Public Safety within the next hour. Do you have any indication of what that update might relate to?

FLORES: We don`t know exactly what they will be talking about. But we are expecting some clarification and a little more clarity about what happened

on Friday. Because this happened on Friday, and I can tell you from talking to individuals who are in Matamoros, Mexico. Now, I cover this area,

because I normally cover the border for CNN, and I`ve been in contact with individuals who are on the Matamoros side, and they`ve been telling me that

they heard about the shootings on Friday.

They -- word spread about these shootings on Friday, but nobody knew that they were Americans. So, there`s a lot of skepticism about what exactly

transpired, the timing of all of that. So we`re hoping to get more clarity. We`re also hoping to learn more about these individuals who are in this

video and in these photographs who are at the scene where the Americans were kidnapped.

We don`t know if they`re the Americans, but we`re hoping to learn more, where the people that were in the red vehicles with the innocent

bystanders. At this point, it`s unclear, there`s a lot that we don`t know, so we`re hoping that Mexican authorities can clarify a lot of the

information that we`ve been able to surmise from photographs and in video. Hopefully, they`ll be able to answer some questions. Christina?

MACFARLANE: Yes, let`s hope so. Rosa Flores, appreciate your reporting there from close to the border. Thanks very much to you. Now, Tunisia`s

government is rejecting allegations that it`s racist after the president made inflammatory remarks about migrants. The comments sparked not only a

diplomatic firestorm, but also a backlash against some migrants themselves. As CNN`s Larry Madowo reports, many are now fleeing the North African



LARRY MADOWO, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): An unexpected return home. Hundreds of people arrive in Mali from Tunisia, where they say is no longer

safe for them.

ABRAMANE DOUMBIA, STUDENT (through translator): I didn`t go out anymore, I stayed in my house. I didn`t go to school anymore. I was locked up at home.

MADOWO: Almost two weeks ago, Tunisian President Kais Saied sparked a backlash against migrants with his controversial remarks, saying illegal

immigration from sub-Saharan Africa was a conspiracy to change the racial makeup of Tunisia. Saied also blamed illegal migrants for crime in the

country and ordered security forces to crack down on them.

Migrants with and without papers say they now live in fear in Tunisia. The incendiary remarks resulting in evictions, firings and even attacks on some



Many say they want to leave the country, lining up at their embassies for repatriation rather than face prejudice or worse if they stay.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): Landlords are kicking us out, we are beaten and mistreated. For more security, we prefer to come to our

embassy, to register to return to Ivory Coast.

MADOWO: Saied has since denied his comments were racist, saying illegal migrants have nothing to fear. But reiterated his belief that illegal

immigrants are causing the downfall of the country.

KAIS SAIED, PRESIDENT, TUNISIA (through translator): This is a matter for the state. It must take its responsibilities. There is no question of

allowing anyone in an illegal situation to stay in Tunisia. There`s a state and institutions.

Saied`s remarks are causing shockwaves across the continent. The African Union calling them racist and shocking. Countries like Ivory Coast, Mali,

Guinea and Gabon are now working to help their citizens leave the country. But some migrants say they`ve got nothing to go back to in their home

countries, even though, some are living rough on the streets, after they say mobs ransacked their homes fueled by the president`s words.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We need help, we only need help from all over the world because we are really suffering here. Things are not easy. You can see the

place that we are sleeping, this is not a place for humans to sleep. We are suffering

MADOWO: Tunisia is home to about 20,000 migrants from south Saharan Africa. The country is visa free travel for many African countries, it

has become a transit point for many illegal migrants trying to cross to Europe. It`s also a country sliding away from democracy to one man rule. In

2021, Saied suspended parliament, making way for a new constitution that took away many of the government`s checks and balances, consolidating power

with himself.

On Sunday, Tunisian demonstrators gathered in the capital, Tunis, despite a ban on the rally to protest against the president and the recent arrests of

opposition leaders. A crackdown on critics, and a purge of migrants signs Tunisia`s time as a democracy may be ticking away. Larry Madowo, CNN.


MACFARLANE: All right, still to come tonight, Russia appears willing to lose staggering numbers of troops in order to capture the Ukrainian city of

Bakhmut. We`ll ask why, ahead. Plus, an investigation is now underway after a massive fire ripped through a Rohingya refugee camp. And this is not the

first time this has happened.


MACFARLANE: Welcome back. Let`s go back to our top story now. The brutal fight for Bakhmut. Ukrainian troops are holding out against Moscow`s forces

which are trying to encircle the city in the eastern part of the country. It`s one of the bloodiest battles we`ve seen in this war. Our CNN Military

Analyst, Lieutenant General Mark Hertling joining us live now. General, good to see you again. Just wanted to, obviously, get your take on this. We

heard the U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin saying earlier that playing down the strategic significance of Russia taking Bakhmut, saying that any

victory there would, of course, be more symbolic. But that said, General, this has been a battle that has raged for over seven months now with

significant losses on both sides, admittedly more on Russia`s side. How do you see this?

MARK HERTLING, CNN MILITARY ANALYST: Christina, first of all, thank you for having me, but it is -- I agree with Secretary Austin, there is no

strategic importance to this particular location in the Donbas, but it is become a cycle -- it has become a psychological issue of who will maintain

ground from the standpoint of the Russians and who will regain their territory from the standpoint of the Ukrainians, you know. There was a --

Oleksiy Danilov, who was the head of the Ukraine`s National Security and defense console was in the area of Donbas last Thursday, and he claimed

that Russia was losing seven soldiers for every one Ukrainian killed in the city.

So when you`re talking about that kind of advantage, and unfortunately, sometimes, battles are measured that way, with body counts, and with how

much you give up, it has been just a horrific fight. But as you said, it`s been seven months since this battle has been going on and Russia has tried

all sorts of ways to conquer this relatively small city that was, before the war started, a city of about 70,000 population. It has just become a

cauldron of death for both sides, but certainly more so from the Russian side than Ukrainian one.

MACFARLANE: Yes. And to your point on the losses on the Russian front, General, we know or we`ve heard that Ukrainian forces have been told to

hold the line in Bakhmut to inflict, in fact, as many losses as possible on the Russians. Even in losing Bakhmut, how much would this amount to a

victory or a tactical advantage for Ukraine, especially in the possible counter offenses to follow?

HERTLING: That is the perfect question to ask Christina because it will become a tactical, and perhaps even operational victory for Ukraine,

because they have been able to hold off the Russian troops, they have prevented Russian units from going to other places. And this is, in fact, I

believe, that is in fact part of the Russian offensive that they declared they were going to execute a few weeks ago.

At the same time, we had yet to see a major Ukrainian offensive because they have not received some of the Western equipment that are -- they are

now being trained on. So all during the time this slugfest has occurred in Bakhmut, the Russians have been drawn to this area and Ukrainians have been

able to look at intelligence capabilities for where they might attack in other locations to regain more territory. So unfortunately, it`s become a

trading of bodies for time in this particular case.

MACFARLANE: And I`m sure you saw this, General what there had been, or there has been an admission by the head of Russia`s Wagner group that they

are not getting the ammunition they need from Moscow as they attempt to take control of Bakhmut going as far as accusing Moscow actually of

betrayal in that regard. How do you read that apparent riff that we`re seeing emerging here?

HERTLING: Well, we -- we`ve talked about this several times, Christina, it has to do with the personality churn inside of the Kremlin. And it seems

when things go wrong, there`s always the pointing of fingers at others for why the failure has been occurring. It`s been occurring because of bad

general shift, bad leadership, rift in the Ministry of Defense. Now you have the Wagner group`s leader, Prigozhin, saying it`s because he`s not

getting enough ammunition. So when you have this much of a personality dynamic that --


Where everyone is blaming everyone else, that also contributes to failed public policy, and in this case, political strategy on the part of the war.

All of this is adding to more and more confusion, more and more losses for the Russians. They have been trying to focus on the battlefield, but they

have been so poor in executing their operations, that truthfully, Ukraine has been able to focus on what their operational and strategic objectives

are, while those in the Kremlin are fighting it out.

MACFARLANE: And just on the potential lack of ammunition, I get what you`re saying in terms of, you know, this is another symptom of the infighting and

the disruption within Russia. But if there is a lack of ammunition, how will that affect the, you know, the expected spring offensive to come? We

know that Ukraine as well are suffering from the same situation.

HERTLING: Well, it`s not just ammunition, Christina, I would suggest the Russians have not been able to mobilize the forces which they attempted to

do. Remember back in September, they said they were going to mobilize between 300,000 and 500,000 new troops, there have been problems with not

just ammunitions, but weapons, tanks, artillery pieces, precision munitions, all of the things that have contributed to what they have been

doing thus far in this campaign. And all of the things which truthfully their logistics and their resupplies are not keeping up with the demands of

the frontlines.

Now, that`s true on both sides. But it seems to be more ominous on the Russian side. There were stories today of Russian soldiers, part of the

Prigozhin group outside of the Donbas, attacking not only with rifles that didn`t have enough ammunition, but also with shovels. When you`re sending

your soldiers into battle unarmed and unequipped, you`re going to have problems. And I think that`s been reported through various intelligence

agencies in the West. But Mr. Putin was not willing to accept the kind of losses, not only in troops, but also the reduction in the amount of all

kinds of ammunition to the frontline soldiers.

MACFARLANE: And, General, just returning to Bakhmut finally as a final point, despite the withdrawal of civilians, we have really no idea -- way

of knowing if Ukraine are withdrawing right now or where they are in this withdrawal, for obvious reasons, right? Because they would be secretive

operations. But that said, to your knowledge, how difficult and long is a tactical retreat like this likely to take from Bakhmut?

HERTLING: Yes, anytime you do a tactical withdraw, it`s one of the more difficult operations, Christina. First of all, you have to leave soldiers

in contact, to make the enemy believe that there are still forces there. At the same time, I would suggest Ukraine, because of their capabilities of

their special operations force, they`re going to continue to try and attack behind the lines of the Russian forces. So, you can`t just rid the trenches

of all Ukrainian forces and have them take off willy-nilly, you really have to leave a phased approach to the defense if you do conduct a tactical


Again, it`s a very difficult operation, you have to fool the enemy to think you`re still there. And then suddenly, he wakes up one day and finds

there`s no forces left on the battlefield. That`s a perfect withdrawal, and it`s very difficult to execute.

MACFARLANE: Yes, well, we`ll continue to look for signs of that. But in the meantime, General, it`s great to have your perspective on this. As always,

thank you so much.

HERTLING: Thank you, Christina.

MACFARLANE: Now, a huge fire broke out at a Rohingya refugee camp on Sunday in Bangladesh. The camp is home to around one million Rohingya who escaped

the Myanmar`s military crackdown in 2017. Police tell CNN that the cause of the fire is still unclear and that 12,000 People are now homeless.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: A massive fire ripped through a refugee camp in Bangladesh as residents flee escaping, if lucky, with any belongings. Local

firefighters and volunteers use what little they have to try and put it out. One mother says she couldn`t save anything.


KULSUMA KHATUN, ROHINGYA REFUGEE (through translator): Chickens, houses, and clothes have been burned. I couldn`t take anything out of the house. I

just took shelter to save my children.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Another man said he was saved by crossing barbed wire fences. After two hours, the fire is brought under control. Through the

smoke, a man wipes his tears. This is Cox`s Bazar, home to around a million Rohingya Muslims. Most of whom fled neighboring Myanmar during the brutal

military crackdown, which the United Nations has called genocide, a claim which Myanmar denies. It`s one of the world`s largest refugee camps where

people live in overcrowded and squalid conditions.


Now, some 12,000 people are left homeless and crucial facilities like health centers and water facilities have been destroyed. Many were already

struggling to survive after the U.N. slashed food aid from $12 to $10 per person this month due to a massive funding gap.


NUR MOHAMMAD, ROHINGYA REFUGEE (through translator): Earlier, our rations were not enough. Now, they have been reduced further.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: To make matters worse, the area is exceptionally vulnerable to climate change.


REGINA DE LA PORTILLA, COMMUNICATIONS OFFICER, UNHCR BANGLADESH: They`re living in an area that is very prone to natural disasters exacerbated by

the climate crisis. So what we are seeing is a very dry season with way hot weather that can lead to fires.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It was just two years ago that at least 15 refugees died and more than 10,000 families were displaced in another fire at the

camp. Aid agencies say they`re working to provide food and temporary shelter to those who lost their homes. As authorities evaluate the damage

and continue to investigate the cause of the fire, the fire yet another blow to a community already so devastated.


MACFARLANE: Now still to come tonight, Donald Trump continues with his presidential campaign, making some wildly inaccurate claims in the process.

We`ll tell you what he said after the break.

Plus, an invitation has been sent but will Prince Harry attend perhaps the most important public event in King Charles`s life?


MACFARLANE: Welcome back. Former U.S. President Donald Trump was met with an adoring crowd at this year`s Conservative Political Action Conference,

appearing to kick off his campaign for presidency in earnest. The 76-year- old made some bold statements.


DONALD TRUMP, FORMER U.S. PRESIDENT: In 2016, I declared I am your voice. Today I add, I am your warrior. I am your justice. And for those who have

been wronged and betrayed, I am your retribution. I am your retribution.


MACFARLANE: But his lengthy address, which was almost two hours long, was filled with wildly inaccurate claims on a range of topics, including

foreign affairs, crime, elections, Joe Biden`s presidency, and, of course, his own. And let`s bring in CNN Politics Reporter Stephen Collinson for


Stephen, CPAC in the past has been designed as a kind of showcase for up and coming members of the GOP.


But this year, not only was the attendance low, but it was overwhelmingly more MAGA than ever. How do you interpret that overwhelming support for

Trump as the sort of barometer of where the American right are leaning right now?

STEPHEN COLLINSON, CNN POLITICS SENIOR REPORTER: Right. For many years, CPAC was dominated by the legacy of Ronald Reagan, who, although a real

conservative, was a much different kind of conservative than Donald Trump, an internationalist conservative, more ideologically detailed if you`d

like, than Trump. That speech that you just showed, the clips there was pure Trumpian demagoguery that you might see from any strongman leader, any

in the -- anywhere in the world. And you`re right, that it was full of, you know, absolute nonsense on almost everything that Trump spoke about.

I think this is clear here that this is part of the Republican Party. Trump is still very strong among his most loyal supporters. That was the reason

why one of his biggest rivals potentially, if he runs, Ron DeSantis of Florida, did not show up at that conference and gave speeches elsewhere

because there wasn`t much there for him to win. The question is, is that crowd representative of the Republican primary electorate that will decide

the Republican nominee for the 2024 presidential election at this point, I don`t think we can say that. Clearly, Trump has lost some juice more

broadly. But he`s still very strong in that particular section of the Republican base.

MACFARLANE: And as you say, Stephen, Ron DeSantis, was notably absent and that was because he was attending a rival event delivering a speech, I

think around about the same time as Donald Trump. We have a short clip of that, let`s just play that.


RON DESANTIS, FLORIDA GOVERNOR: I can tell you in four years, you didn`t see our administration leaking like a sieve, you didn`t see a lot of drama,

or palace intrigue. What you saw was surgical precision execution, day after day after day. And because we did that, we beat the left, day after

day after day.


MACFARLANE: Stephen, I think this was kind of the clearest preview we`ve had yet as to how a sort of Trump-DeSantis presidential rivalry is going to

look -- what it`s going to look like, even though, of course, DeSantis has not yet declared. In what ways did he choose to both distance himself from

Trump, but also appeal to Trump`s space in an effort to kind of peel away some of his sport?

COLLINSON: Well, you picked out the key quote right there, that is the core of what DeSantis`s message would be if he goes up against Trump. He`s

basically saying that he`s appealing to the same instincts in the party, the same cultural issues, this what he calls wokeism he`s pledging to

attack on the left that Trump has done for the last five or six years. But he`s saying he`d be more effective in getting laws passed. He`s pointing to

his own governorship of Florida. He won the governorship very narrowly to begin with, and then he won a massive reelection victory last year.

He is basically saying that Trump didn`t get what he could do done because of the massive chaos that he engenderedly, you know, the scandals, the

noise. DeSantis is a much more intellectual, ideologically coherent candidate, much more methodical, and he is trying to tell Republican voters

that he would be actually much more successful in implementing some of the cultural policies, the conservative economic and social policies than Trump

would be. The question is, do Republican voters want that or they -- do they still have this emotional connection to Trump and his kind of backlash

politics? I think that will be one of the key questions if Trump decides -- if DeSantis decides to run against Trump.

MACFARLANE: Yes, it is a fascinating question, and one we`re likely to see play out in the months to come. But for now, Stephen Collinson, thank you

very much. Appreciate your thoughts on this.


MACFARLANE: Now after nearly two decades of talks, almost 200 countries have agreed to a treaty aimed at helping protecting the world`s oceans. It

was a historic win for environmentalists on Saturday that could bring 30 percent of the oceans under protection by the end of the decade. The treaty

aims to limit fishing in certain waters, consolidate shipping lanes, and acquire environmental checks on deep sea mining. It also includes an

agreement to share marine genetic resources, which was a sticking point in negotiations since they have potentially lucrative pharmaceutical uses.

Now Prince Harry and Meghan, the Duke and Duchess of Sussex, announced they have been invited to the coronation of King Charles in May. But a

spokesperson refused to confirm whether or not the couple will attend. CNN Royal Correspondent Max Foster has the details.

MAX FOSTER, CNN ROYAL CORRESPONDENT: Buckingham Palace have told CNN that they haven`t sent out any formal invitations for the coronation in May just

yet, but they have sent out save the dates, letters, and emails, one clearly landed in Prince Harry`s inbox.


Because his office have confirmed that an email correspondence from His Majesty`s office regarding the coronation has been received. They respond

an immediate decision on whether the Duke and Duchess will attend will not be disclosed by us at this time. So it`s not clear if, when they do get the

formal invitation, Meghan and Harry will reply positively to it. There is still huge amounts of tension between the Sussexes and the rest of the

royal family, particularly after Harry`s book was published, in which he even went as far as accusing the Queen consort of leaking stories,

something that really offended different parts of the family.

We do know also that Harry and Meghan had been asked to vacate their official residence in the U.K. by King Charles. They will be able to use

it, as I understand it, for the coronation, but possibly not for future visits. And this is something which would only have added the tension

between the two sides. Harry would have been expected to be invited to a coronation, not just because this is a family event and he`s still a part

of the family, it`s also a state occasion, and Prince Harry is still fifth in line to the throne. Max Foster, CNN London.

MACFARLANE: Well, thanks, Max.

Now still to come tonight, a year on from the infamous Oscars slap, Chris Rock is having the last laugh. We`ll explain.


MACFARLANE: Chris Rock is addressing last year`s infamous Oscar slap in his new Netflix comedy special called "Selective Outrage." And in it, he

doesn`t hold back about his feelings about actor Will Smith`s actions. CNN`s Stephanie Elam has more on the comedian`s reaction a year later.


CHRIS ROCK, STAND-UP COMEDIAN & ACTOR: I`m going to try to do a show tonight without offending nobody, OK? I`m going to try my best. You know

why? Because you never know who might get triggered.


STEPHANIE ELAM, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Chris Rock, on stage, and hitting back at Will Smith nearly a year after the infamous Oscars slap.


ROCK: People say they always say words hurt. That`s what they say. Got to watch what you to say because words hurt. You know, anybody that says words

hurt has never been punched in the face. Will Smith practices selective outrage.


ELAM: Rock suggesting Smith responds to his Oscars joke about wife Jada Pinkett Smith`s hairstyle was more about their relationship than him.



ROCK: His wife was (BLEEP) her son`s friend. She hurt him way more than he hurt me.


ELAM: Rock covered a wide range of topics, including addiction, abortion, and racism, but left some of his sharpest lines for Smith.


ROCK: You all know what happened to me, getting smacked by Suge Smith. My whole life I loved him. My whole life I root for this (BLEEP) OK? And now I

watch Emancipation just to see him get whooped.


ELAM: Referring to Smith`s role as an enslaved man in the period drama Emancipation. Smith, who has apologized publicly, has said he worries the

slap could impact Emancipation`s success.


WILL SMITH, ACTOR: My behavior was unacceptable.


ELAM: Rock not holding back, ending the special with this final blow.


ROCK: How come you didn`t do nothing back? I got parents. And you know what my parents taught me? Don`t fight in front of white people.


ELAM: Stephanie Elam, CNN, Hollywood.


MACFARLANE: Definitely not holding back. OK. Thank you for watching tonight. Stay with us. "QUEST MEANS BUSINESS" is coming up next. Have a

good evening.