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Isa Soares Tonight

Alexei Navalny's Widow Vows To Continue Her Late Husband's Fight Against Corruption; Ukrainian President Zelenskyy Visits Frontline Troops To Boost Their Morale As Russia Captures Another City After Months Of Battle; Israel Threatens To Expand Operations In Rafah Unless All Hostages Are Released By Month Of Ramadan; U.S. Attacks Underwater Houthi Vessel For First Time; Ukraine's Defeat At Avdiivka Darkens Mood In The West; Shanghai Stock Exchange Reopens After 8-Day Chinese Holiday. 2-3p ET

Aired February 19, 2024 - 14:00   ET



LYNDA KINKADE, CNN INTERNATIONAL HOST: Hello, a very warm welcome to the show, everyone, I'm Lynda Kinkade in for Isa Soares. Tonight, Alexei

Navalny's widow brings her husband's message to the world and vows to carry on his fight against corruption.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy visits the frontline troops to boost their morale as Russia captures another city after months of battle.

Israel threatens to expand operations in Rafah unless all hostages are released by the Muslim holy month of Ramadan.

We start in Brussels where the death of Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny looms over today's meetings of EU officials. Navalny's widow, Yulia, has been

there speaking with leaders like European Council President Charles Michel.

She's vowing to continue her husband's work against Russian President Vladimir Putin. Navalny's death comes amid concerns the U.S. could abandon

its allies in the face of Russian aggression. U.S. presidential candidate Donald Trump has even said that he would encourage Russia to do whatever

the hell they want to any NATO member not paying their dues.

Well, NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said last week that he expects the U.S. to remain a staunch ally. And speaking in Munich, he said

Russia had serious questions to answer following Navalny's death.

With the exact circumstances about what happened to Navalny remain a mystery, and Russian authorities have not yet provided any official cause

of death. Spokesperson for the Navalny family says his mother and lawyers were denied access earlier today to the morgue, where his body is allegedly

being held.

And over the weekend, the human rights group says hundreds of people were detained after attending vigils for him across Russia. CNN's Matthew Chance

has been talking to us from Moscow. Take a listen.


MATTHEW CHANCE, CNN GLOBAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT (on camera): Well, I mean, it's been a shocked reaction. And everybody knew who Alexei Navalny, is the

country's most prominent opposition leader, and everybody is shocked, if not surprised, that he met this untimely death in his Penal Colony in the

far north of the country.

You're joining me now in the middle of Moscow right outside the FSB headquarters where you can see people are still coming. There's a lady just

done that now, and some more people over here. They're coming to pay their respects to offer sympathy and condolences to the family and friends and

the organization of Aexei Navalny.

These are all the flowers that have been put down so far. Just go ahead (SPEAKING IN FOREIGN LANGUAGE). And as I say, this is a monument to the

victims of repression during the Soviet period. And so, it's interesting that this is the place where people have chosen to come and pay their

respects to Alexei Navalny.

There's a photograph of him here, somebody's laid that. People are putting traditional red roses, there were children's picture over here saying on

the tombstone there, Alexei Navalny, "geroy", which means hero. And that's how, of course, many people in this country seem has.

Now, just the act of putting that flower on this memorial is risky in a country like Russia, because all kinds of dissent, all kinds of political

opposition of been crushed by the Kremlin. And even though people are doing this now, it's not large numbers.

But as I said, steady flows, as you can say, shows just how angry and how much people are sort of braving that repression to come out and put these

flowers on this monument. Remember, across the country, hundreds of people have been dragged from these snowy parks in towns and cities across Russia

and taken away and detained for doing exactly this.

And so, it is a huge risk that people are taking -- there's a whole line of people coming here now. A huge risk that people are taking to come out and

pay their respects to Alexei Navalny, Russia's most prominent opposition figure.



KINKADE: Our thanks to Matthew Chance though. Well, for the latest, I want to bring in CNN's Melissa Bell, who joins us live from Paris. Good to have

you with us, Melissa. So, we were just hearing there from Matthew Chance, people laying flowers to honor Alexei Navalny, but we also know that over

the weekend, hundreds of people were arrested.

And we are hearing more from Navalny's wife, Yulia, who believes that Russia may have poisoned her husband, and is now waiting for the poison to

leave his body before they will release it to his family. What else is she saying?

MELISSA BELL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That's right, there are some pretty harrowing scenes earlier when Alexei Navalny's mother tried to get access

to the morgue where it is believed his corpse may lie in search of answers, but just in search of her son's corpse, and that was denied.

What we understand from Alexei Navalny's widow, Yulia, and I think what we heard from her today was probably the clearest indication we've had so far,

that in the wake of her husband's death, she intends to carry things forward herself.

She'd never really sought the limelight until now, but it was a nine-minute video message in which, she really called on Russians not to let the death

of her husband go in vein. Have a listen.


YULIA NAVALNAYA, WIDOW OF ALEXEI NAVALNY (through translator): I ask you to share your rage, anger and hatred with me towards those who were daring

enough to kill our future, and I address you with Alexei's words, which I believe it is not ashamed to do. It's not ashamed to do little, but it's a

shame not to do anything. It's a shame to make yourself intimidated.


BELL: So, her call there for Russians to share in that anger, to share in what had been Alexei Navalny's extraordinary courage that we've been

reminded of over the course of the last few days, because we now have access to much of his correspondents, thanks to a number of different news

outlets that have been able to get their hands on and to publish it, Lynda.

That show the great courage, the fortitude, the resilience that he showed right up until the end. And there was little suggestion that he was going

to make it out of this Penal Colony. But that the end should have come as suddenly as it did, of course, raising so many questions not least amongst

those members of his party's surroundings who are now outside the country.

We've been hearing from his spokeswoman who says that they've now been told they won't have access to his body, Lynda, for 14 days. So, of course,

plenty of time for what? Yulia, his widow, has suggested, maybe the Novichok to be -- to leave his system. But that certainly is the fear

amongst those around him, that the body is being kept in order that any signs of what might have caused his demise will disappear.

What the authorities say is that this is an inquiry that is ongoing, and we will learn more once they've had a chance to examine the late opposition

leader's body. Lynda.

KINKADE: Well, for now, I want to turn to the frontlines in Ukraine because we know Melissa that, and now the Ukrainian city has fallen to Russia. How

is that being viewed in light of the fact that American Republicans are been criticized for failing to pass the latest military aid bill.

BELL: Well, clearly, there is -- this is a blow to Ukraine. Avdiivka was a city that they had defended tooth and nail for a year-and-a-half because it

represents such an important position on the frontlines of Ukraine. It's been described as a gateway to the Donetsk city that is in Russian hands,

and has been since 2014.

Ukrainians have defended it because of what it meant for its supply lines and what it meant also for Russian, Russia's ability to strengthen its

positions around Donetsk and bring reinforcements beyond. And what is left of the city is now in Russian hands. That is a blow to Ukrainians.

And of course, as you say, it comes at a time when they've desperately been asking for more help for their fight against these forces that have so

often over the course of the nearly two last years, proven to be stronger in numbers, stronger in equipment and outgunned and outmanned the Ukrainian

attempts at defending places like this town that has just fallen.

So, a blow to them that it has come back on Russian hands, and I think it is no surprise that what you're seeing on state Russian media is not only

the usual entertainment channels, very little about Alexei Navalny and a great deal about the fall of this particular eastern Ukrainian city and

what Russia believes it might mean. Fritz hopes of being able to go further than it has already, Lynda.

KINKADE: All right, Melissa Bell, we'll leave it there for now, live for us from Paris. Thank you.


Well, U.S. President Joe Biden says he fears other Ukrainian towns will fall without further American assistance. He is calling on Republican

lawmakers to do more to help Kyiv on the battlefield by passing a critical aid package. The White House is also making it clear it believes Vladimir

Putin is directly responsible for Alexei Navalny's death.

Mr. Biden says the U.S. is looking at a number of options to punish Russia for the death of the opposition leader. Well, joining us now is CNN White

House correspondent Arlette Saenz for more. So, Arlette, the division within the Republican Party over support for Ukraine seems to becoming even


ARLETTE SAENZ, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Lynda, President Biden once again today expressed his disbelief and the fact that Republicans have

not gotten on board with passing additional aid for Ukraine. This really took on heightened significance over the weekend following the death of

Alexei Navalny, who died while in a Russian prison.

President Biden himself has directly blamed Vladimir Putin for Navalny's death, and he's told reporters that he's considering additional sanctions

he could implement against Russia following the death, of course, Biden had warned Putin that there would be devastating consequences if Navalny were

to die while in prison.

But the president is also using this moment to really ramp up the pressure on House Republicans to get this additional aid for Ukraine passed. The

president expressed frustration just last week with the fact that Republicans went on a two-week break without passing this aid.

And he again expressed his shock with the approach that Republicans have taken when he spoke to reporters a bit earlier today. Take a listen.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Mr. President, would you go as far as to say that Alexei Navalny's blood is on the hands of House Republicans right now

JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Well, I wouldn't use that term. They're making a big mistake not responding. Look, the way they're walking

away from the threat of Russia, the way they're walking away from NATO, the way they're walking away from meeting our obligations, it's shocking.


SAENZ: Now, this comes after the Biden administration has warned for months that soldiers in the battlefield in Ukraine would be severely hampered by

the fact that they didn't get this additional aid passed. And that is something President Biden raised in a phone call with Ukrainian President

Volodymyr Zelenskyy over the weekend.

The White House saying that the president directly spoke about the fact that Ukrainian forces were forced to withdraw from a key town due to the

fact that they don't have enough ammunition, they don't have enough military assistance coming into their country.

The president himself said that he could not completely rule out whether other towns in Ukraine could also fall as they are facing these ammunition

and weaponry shortages. But even as the president is trying to ramp up this pressure on House Republicans, he's running up against the political

reality that there is still a small group of Republicans who do not want to see this aid package come up for a vote.

The president said he's willing to talk with House Speaker Mike Johnson if he actually has anything to say. But it really remains entirely unclear

if the president will be able to get this aid passed or if Republicans will simply just dig in, in the wake of these latest situations.

KINKADE: All right, Arlette Saenz for us at the White House. Good to have you with us, thank you. I want to turn now to Israel's war on Gaza and

Israeli war cabinet minister is giving an ultimatum for the release of hostages in Gaza, and again says if they aren't home by Ramadan, which is

about three weeks from now, troops will begin their assault on Rafah, which is the severely-overcrowded town where more than a million Palestinians are

seeking shelter.

Ramadan begins at the sighting of the new moon over Mecca. And this year, Islam's holiest month will run from early March to early April. The

comments from the Israeli minister give the clearest indication yet of a timeline for the Rafah offensive.

Well, Gaza's Health Ministry says more than 29,000 Palestinians have already been killed in the war. He says most are women and children. And

today, new concerns that the conflict could be expanded beyond Gaza's border. The IDF says it carried out airstrikes in Lebanon hitting Hezbollah

weapons' depots.

This is the deepest Israel has gone into Lebanon against Hezbollah targets since October 7th. Well, I want to bring in CNN's Jeremy Diamond who joins

us live from Tel Aviv this hour. Good to have you there for us, Jeremy. So, we are learning that Israel has given this deadline for this ground

offensive in Rafah a few weeks from now according to the Israelis. The prime minister there saying they want to finish the job. Are they offering

any other details?

JEREMY DIAMOND, CNN JERUSALEM CORRESPONDENT: Yes, that's right. And you know, the threats of that Rafah offensive are already starting to ripple on

the ground. We are starting to see people beginning to flee that southernmost city of Rafah where about 1.5 million people have been


And as they flee north, they are seeking safety. But too many of them are finding out that central Gaza is no haven.


Eighty-six people, at least killed over the weekend in strikes in the area of central Gaza, including some of those who had fled from Rafah. I do want

to warn our viewers that they may find some of these images disturbing.


DIAMOND (voice-over): One after another after another after another as victims of the latest Israeli airstrikes flood into this hospital in

central Gaza, and mostly children. Some of them still clinging to life, others bloodied and limp. Without a pulse, the life gone from their eyes.

Here, children comfort children, even as they are still trembling from the shock.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (through translator): I was on the rooftop, and suddenly, I heard an explosion. I flew away and fell down, my back hurts. I

saw smoke and stones falling, then I heard people screaming.

DIAMOND: A hospital spokesman said at least, 18 people were killed and dozens of others injured Sunday in an Israeli airstrike on a home in

Darrell Bala(ph). The Israeli military did not respond to a request for comment about the strike. Witnesses say many of the victims had just

arrived from Rafah, Gaza's southernmost city where fear and confusion have set in as Israel threatens a coming military offensive. But central Gaza is

no haven, a reality revealed in the cruelest of ways.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): I can't speak, innocent children we see, they killed them all. They didn't even try --

DIAMOND: In the ruins of the Al Baraka(ph) family home, the target of Sunday's airstrike, the desperate search for survivors is underway. As one

man dives into the rubble, another shouts, get out of there. You'll die down there.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): We could only pull two alive from under the rubble and the rest are all missing. We don't see safety in a

loss or in an onerous school or in a hospital. The word safety is not something that exists anymore. They evacuated us from place to place,

claiming its safe. There is nowhere safe.

DIAMOND: Shouts praising God rise as a girl is pulled from the rubble, but her body is lifeless. Added to the list of more than 12,000 children killed

in Gaza. Bystanders try and cover her body, but the man carrying her throws the blanket off. He wants the world to see what this war has wrought.


DIAMOND: And I do want to give our thanks to journalists Mohammad El Sawahi(ph) who filmed those images for us on the ground in Gaza. But as you

were saying, Lynda, the Israeli government is getting increasingly specific about this deadline for Hamas to agree to a deal in order to prevent a

military offensive in Rafah, at least, for the time-being.

Talking about this needing to happen by the start of Ramadan. But even as they are getting more specific about their threats of this military

offensive, so far, no details about how or when they would evacuate those 1.5 million civilians who are currently sheltering in Rafah. And instead,

what you are seeing are people taking their lives into their own hands, starting to flee north, and in some cases, dying in airstrikes further

north. Lynda?

KINKADE: Yes, just horrific images, this war now in its fifth month. Jeremy Diamond, thanks so much for that reporting from Tel Aviv. Thank you. Well,

still to come, Palestinians take their case against Israeli occupation to the International Court of Justice, saying their people have been denied

freedom and justice for far too long.

And later, the U.S. launched new strikes on Houthi rebels. We'll look at what the targets of those strikes may indicate about a new Houthi strategy.



KINKADE: Welcome back, I'm Lynda Kinkade, good to have you with us. Well, Palestinians are urging the U.N.'s top court to order an immediate and

unconditional end to Israeli occupation of their lands, saying justice has been denied for decades. The International Court of Justice opened a week

of hearings at The Hague today on the legal implications of Israeli occupation since 1967.

Israel is not taking part, but has urged the ICJ to dismiss the case, calling it fundamentally distorted. The Palestinian Authority Foreign

Minister says his people are suffering, quote, "colonialism and apartheid and deserve self-determination". Well, any ruling will be non-binding.

But the hearing comes amid growing international pressure on Israel to stop the war in Gaza. His voice cracking with emotion. Palestinian U.N.

representative Riyad Mansour said international law has failed Gaza's children.


RIYAD MANSOUR, PALESTINIAN AMBASSADOR TO THE U.N.: It has protected neither them nor their child. It has not protected their families or communities.

It has not protected their lives or limps, their hopes or homes. We are a proud and resilient people that has endured more than its share of agony.

It is so painful to be Palestinian today.


KINKADE: Well, this case is separate from the one brought by South Africa that accuses Israel of genocide in Gaza. Well, I want to discuss these

landmark cases now with South Africa's Justice Minister Ronald Lamola who joins us live from Pretoria. Good to have you with us.


KINKADE: So, Minister, today, these hearings began at the International Court of Justice, an unprecedented number of countries are taking part in

this, 52 countries in all. And today, as we were just listening, we heard the Palestinian foreign minister. I just want to play some more sound from

him if you could take a listen.


RIYAD AL-MALIKI, FOREIGN MINISTER, PALESTINIAN AUTHORITY: Ending Israel's impunity is a moral, political and legal imperative. Successive Israeli

governments have given the Palestinian people only three options: displacement, subjugation or death.


KINKADE: So, he, today, he is demanding the end of Israeli occupation on Palestinian land, Palestinian territories. South Africa is due to testify

tomorrow at the court. Where does South Africa stand on this?

LAMOLA: Thank you very much. We support the Palestinian submission that indeed did apartheid occupation by the Zionist state of Israel. That the

non-binding opinion obviously by the ICJ has to be issued, and that will definitely continue to assert the rights of the Palestinian people, but

also to assert the international rules-based law that we expect that they must be able to end the exceptionalism of the state of Israel.


KINKADE: And Minister, as you said, this is non-binding. So, no matter what the court decides after listening to 52 countries, we know that Israel

could just reject it. So, what then?

LAMOLA: Yes, it remains a very important authoritative opinion, although, it is non-binding, but it is an authoritative opinion that is influential.

It is also very important for the other bodies of the U.N. to be able to have the clear position in terms of what the rule of law is with regards to

the occupation.

And it is also for that reason why we also went to the ICJ with regards to them. One, which is binding on the genocide convention, because we believe

that the rulings of the court are very important, the binding one that we have intricate to the six provisional measures. It's important, and even

this one with regards to the fact that it will also be an advisory opinion.

It remains very authoritative and influential in terms of them -- of the rule of law which we hope that it will appeal to the conscience of the

international community to continue to put pressure on the state of Israel. And it will also appeal to the conscience of the state of Israel to abide

by international law.

KINKADE: And Minister, just on your case, South Africa, of course, has called on the court to consider whether Israel is committing genocide in

Gaza of the preliminary ruling as you were pointing out, in that case, has called on Israel to prevent the deaths of Palestinians, to provide

humanitarian aid and also to provide the court with updates on how it's doing that. Has Israel done any of that?

LAMOLA: As you're aware, and also from your report, it's clear that they are continuing to kill innocent civilians, innocent children. And it's

clear that international law up to so far has not been able to protect the rights of the Palestinian people as a protected group, as ruled by the


We found out that the court -- there is indeed a plausible case of genocide. We expect that the international community must put the necessary

pressure to the state of Israel to comply with that -- with the six provisional measures of the court, as the court has said, those provisional

measures are binding and applicable in the entirety of the Gaza Strip through its ruling with regards to our request to prevent Israel from

continuing with their operation in Rafah.

So, we expect that the international community will continue to put pressure, including various organs of the U.N., so that a rules-based

international system is maintained and it is the future through which future generations must be able to maintain law and order in the affairs of

the international community.

KINKADE: Ronald Lamola, South Africa's Justice Minister, we appreciate your time today. Thank you.

LAMOLA: Thank you very much.

KINKADE: Well, Israel's Foreign Minister says the President of Brazil is quote, "persona non grata", a Latin phrase meaning an unwelcome person in

their country. It comes after President Luis Inacio Lula da Silva referred to the war in Gaza as quote, "genocide", and went on to say the situation

has no parallel in history outside Hitler's killing of Jews during World War II.

Mr. Lula da Silva also said this is not a war of soldiers against soldiers, this is a war between a highly prepared army and women and children.

Israel's Foreign Affairs Minister said Israel would not forget or forgive Brazil's president for his statement. Well, the U.S. is continuing its

campaign against Houthi attacks on ships in the Red Sea.

This time targeting an unmanned water vessel along with Houthi anti-ship cruise missiles and vessels. The new round of strikes by the U.S. occurred

over the weekend. The underwater vessel is the first used by Houthis in their attacks on the Red Sea shipping and may indicate a new strategy for

the rebel group.

With more on all of this, I want to welcome Natasha Bertrand, our CNN reporter, good to have you with us, Natasha. So, the attacks continuing,

Iran's -- these Iranian-backed rebels claimed to have shot down a U.S. drone, and say a ship that they hit is now sinking. What are the details?

NATASHA BERTRAND, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Lynda, so what we're learning is that this vessel which was a Belize(ph)-flagged U.K.-

registered and Lebanese-operated cargo ship. It was hit by a Houthi missile earlier today, and the crew of that vessel was actually forced to evacuate

that ship.

Now, according to a statement from U.S. Central Command, a U.S. warship as well as another commercial vessel in the area, they assisted the crew of

that ship to get to safety, but it really underscores just how relentless these attacks by the Houthis have gotten in this area. And I can tell you

that when I was on these warships, these American warships in the Red Sea just last week, they are extremely concerned, the personnel on these ships,

about the fact that the Houthis clearly do not seem to have been deterred by the relentless strikes as well that the U.S. is carrying out on Houthi

infrastructure inside Yemen. They don't have a good idea at this point of just how much of the Houthi weaponry and capabilities have actually been

destroyed by these attacks by U.S. and coalition forces, including by the U.K.


And so what we're learning also is that this comes just days, of course, after the U.S. did conduct a series of strikes on Houthi targets, including

anti-ship ballistic missiles, and as you noted, an underwater drone, which was also a particular concern to the officers I spoke to on board these

ships, who said that this is a potential new capability that the Houthis have, that we could see them deploying more often. Now, yet another

development in this region, we saw that the Houthis have claimed to have shot down an American MQ-9 Reaper drone, which was conducting surveillance

over Yemen.

Central Command says that it is not clear at this point whether that drone just crashed or whether it was actually shot down. But again, just

underscores the very dangerous environment that the Americans are operating in and the fact that the Houthis clearly have not yet been deterred by the

many threats by the U.S. and the international community against them and the many kinetic strikes that the U.S. has carried out to date.

KINKADE: Yes, you did some great reporting from the region last week, but clearly they're not deterred at this point in time. Natasha Bertrand, our

National Security Correspondent, thanks so much.

Well, still to come tonight. We may be seeing a pivotal moment in Russia's full-scale invasion of Ukraine details ahead of Volodymyr Zelenskyy's visit

to the front lines as his country faces the defeat of yet another city.



KINKADE: Welcome back. I'm Lynda Kinkade. Good to have you with us.

Well today, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy visited the front lines in the north eastern Kharkiv region. It comes in the wake of Ukraine's

retreat from the eastern city of Avdiivka. It is the first big gain since Russia took a Bakhmut nine months ago. Well, CNN's Nick Paton Walsh has the

details on this pivotal moment in the war, but I must warn you some of the images in his report are disturbing.


NICK PATON WALSH, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): A sight not seen for a while, a Russian flag going up over Ukraine. But Ukraine's withdrawal

announced on Saturday from Avdiivka means more than the loss of a town bitterly fought over since Russia first invaded a decade ago. It is perhaps

the first sign a delay in U.S. aid spells death and loss here. These images released of their last defenses rushing into support under fire.

From a resurgent Russia, who President Volodymyr Zelenskyy says sent seven Russian troops to die for every dead Ukrainian. This is what it was like in

the basement defending down to the last, treating the injured in the darkness, yet aware their options, their ammo, their chances were ebbing.

"Shelling, endless, it spoiled my drink." This soldier complains, a commander clear Monday why this happened. "We didn't have enough people,"

he says. "We didn't have enough shells. We didn't have enough possibilities to throw them back."

Russia's Ministry of Defense released images of their final onslaught on that coke plant and what they claimed were the casualties inflicted on

Ukrainians as they tried to flee in the dark. Other images and reports emerged Monday in Ukraine of the fate of their wounded, one of whom called

home in his last moments. Allegations that, in the horrifying rubble here, both the wounded were left behind by Ukraine but also shot dead in cold

blood by Russian forces.

Russian drone images of their spoils released again displaying their odd pride over the rubble. Zelenskyy may have to get used to more of this,

putting on a brave face, as he visited troops in the likely next Russian target, Kupyansk, just outside Kharkiv. "Although there are different

political sentiments in the world," he said, "different flashes of problems that distract attention, we still, all together, do our utmost to have the

world with us, with Ukraine." Words no longer enough, not in Avdiivka and certainly not in the West, where $60 billion in missing aid now means Putin

can slowly edge further and further West.

Nick Paton Walsh. CNN, Kherson, southern Ukraine.


KINKADE: Well, joining us now is Lieutenant General Mark Hertling. He is our military analyst and has served for 37 years in the U.S. Army, retiring

in 2013 as the commanding general of U.S. Army Europe and the Seventh Army. Good to have you with us, General.

MARK HERTLING, CNN MILITARY ANALYST: Good to be back with you, Lynda, under a very difficult circumstances.

KINKADE: Yes, it's certainly a ton of events for the worst for Ukraine. We just heard the President Zelenskyy a short time ago and he's nightly

addressed, say that the situation on the front lines is extremely difficult. And he added that Russia was taking advantage of shortages of

aid from the West. What's your assessment?

HERTLING: It's absolutely true. Putin does see what's happening right now. He has a very strong vision of what is occurring with the support from the

West. And he's taking advantage of it. It is emboldened, Mr. Putin, not only in his international affairs, but also in his domestic affairs in

terms of the killing and the bombing. All of these things are tied together to an individual who is leading Russia down a very terrible path.

Unfortunately, in this case, Ukraine is the object of their passion right now. And because of manpower shortages, resource shortages, support from

the West, I think there are going to be continued dire circumstances in Ukraine for a force that has been fighting exceedingly well above their

weight class for the last two years.

KINKADE: And I want to play some sound from President Zelenskyy. He spoke to our Christiane Amanpour over the weekend.


KINKADE: Speaking about the dire consequences, should Russia take Ukraine and what comes next. Let's just listen.


VOLODYMYR ZELENSKYY, UKRAINIAN PRESIDENT: If Ukraine will be alone, you have to understand what will be. Russia will destroy us, destroy Baltic,

destroy Poland, and they can do it.


KINKADE: And General, he went on to speak about this psychology and how nations and allies in that region psychologically are not ready for an

invasion, the one that Ukraine has been enduring, because Ukraine, of course, well before Russia invaded, was dealing with Russian aggression for

years, well before the annexation of Crimea. What do you make of his point?

HERTLING: They're very good points, Lynda. As you said in your very kind introduction of me to the show, I served for 37 years, 12 of those years

were in Europe. I got a feel for the expansionism of the Russian Republic, especially for the Russian Federation, rather, especially since Mr. Putin

has been in charge. I think President Zelenskyy is right on target, and unfortunately, some of the American politicians don't understand that, what

he might try and do next. He's already shown what he can do in places like Georgia and Moldova in some of the Baltic States.

So the European nations, for the most part, especially the ones that used to be under Russia's thumb as part of the Soviet Union, understand his

psyche. They know what he wants to do to reestablish the old Soviet Union. That's what he's attempting to do. And unfortunately, there's a lot of

people who don't quite understand that. They're somewhat immature in their approach of understanding what Mr. Putin is looking for. We should have

received a wake-up call for what's been happening over the last two years in Ukraine, but unfortunately, some people who are claiming war fatigue,

who have not experienced the war, they're outside the limits of the war, are unfortunately going to learn a very valuable lesson.

And that's why I think the U.S. Congress should act and should act very quickly in supplying the amount of resources and the aid that they have

planned to give.

KINKADE: And just looking at the issues with weaponry and ammunition, I mean, of course, when the U.S. failed to pass this bill, Europe stepped in

with more aid. But I want to ask and understand about the gaps in NATO. Where are the gaps when it comes to weapon systems and maintenance and


HERTLING: Well, a lot of those NATO countries buy equipment from the United States through the defense industries in the United States. So, some of the

material resources are coming from the U.S. Others have not, you know, the ones who have not lived up to their 2 percent goal of the GDP have made

decisions not to financially support the kinds of stockages and stockpiles that they need to sustain a very long war. We are learning lessons from

this conflict in Ukraine. We are learning that it is intensive, that it doesn't just stop in a short war scenario.

I think we were misled by some of the actions in Desert Storm in 1990, thinking that all future conventional fights were going to be quick and

precise. And that's not what the history of war teaches us. Sometimes war lasts a very long time using imprecise weapons and we have to continue with

a strong will to counter all those things.

KINKADE: Yes, you're exactly right. General Mark Hertling. We'll leave it there for now. Good to have you with us as always.

HERTLING: Great to be with you, Lynda.

KINKADE: Still to come tonight, why the Shanghai stock market has seen a boost. We'll take a look at where things stand right now.



KINKADE: Well, the Shanghai Stock Exchange reopened Monday after a holiday break and finished off higher to start off the year of the Dragon. China

reports its domestic tourism numbers and spending reached record highs during the Lunar New Year holiday period.

But as CNN's Marc Stewart reports from Beijing despite the strong numbers not everyone is convinced all is well.

MARC STEWART, CNN CORRESPONDENT: China is reporting record travel data for the Lunar New Year holiday as the world's second largest economy works to

regain its footing, but there is some room for skepticism. There's no question people were on the move domestically, 474 million trips according

to the government up from pre-COVID days although international travel was below pre-pandemic levels, but you can look at this at its face value.

CNN calculations based on official data show the average tourism related spending per trip was below pre-pandemic. This most recent holiday season

took place over eight days from February 10th to February 18th which was one more day than previous periods. China's economy is dealing with many

challenges. In January, consumer prices fell by their fastest pace in 15 years marking a fourth straight month of decline and the property sector

remains sluggish while the job market is still under pressure.

Perhaps a sign of people trying to escape all the gloomy news, movie ticket sales reached a record of more than $1 billion during the holiday. The end

of the holiday marked the opening of the Chinese stock market with the Shanghai Composite and the Shenzhen Index seen modest gains. Marc Stewart,

CNN, Beijing.

KINKADE: Well, still to come tonight, a short film shines a light on the loss of women's freedoms under Taliban rule in Afghanistan from the young -

- from the eyes of a young woman buying her first burger.



KINKADE: Welcome back. Oppenheimer was the big winner of the 77th British Academy Film Awards, which is also known as BAFTAs. It's the annual event

in London where movie royalty mixes with actual royalty. You can see there Prince William making an appearance on the red carpet. But all eyes were on

Oppenheimer the bio epic about the man who helped usher in the nuclear age which got 13 nominations and won seven awards.

The winner for Best Documentary was 20 days in Mariupol and is about the war in Ukraine. And the plight of women living under Taliban rule is

highlighted in a 2023 short film called Yellow. It showcases the changes women in Afghanistan are increasingly forced to confront starting with

wearing the burqa. Take a look.

Well, the film follows a young woman buying her first burqa right after the Taliban restrictions come into place. The film by Elham Ehsas qualified for

an Oscar and was nominated for a BAFTA. CNN's Isa Soares sat down with him.


ISA SOARES, CNN ANCHOR: What struck me the first time I saw it is the fact that this is written, directed by a man but at the heart of it is a subject

of a woman. How hard was it for you to touch on a woman subject? Something that is so inherent to the woman experience in Afghanistan.

ELHAM EHSAS, DIRECTOR, BAFTA-NOMINATED FILM "YELLOW": It is really interesting you asked that because I have been asked that question before.

How hard was it to tell a story from a female perspective? I did it -- I said it from a male perspective that Afghan women and girls who are being

treated as second-class citizens right now, we feel their pain. They are our Afghan sisters, our Afghan mothers, our Afghan family members. And I

wrote that film from a perspective of an Afghan man just to show that we are there with our Afghan females and women in solidarity and that's what I

want the film to be a message for.

SOARES: How has it been received for other Afghan women?

EHSAS: Yes. I mean, it's -- I always get messages a lot from people all over the world who have seen it either through festivals. We've released on

YouTube for a month prior to the BAFTA and the Oscar short-listing and it's incredible to know how many people it's touched and resonated with. And I'm

very proud of the film, I'm very proud of my team who helped me bring it to life. This is a tiny film that we did with almost no budget and just a

bunch of friends who are passionate about this story and we thought this story was important to tell and to tell it in a way that isn't preachy,

that isn't heavy, but that makes you think and makes you actually question there is no reason for Afghan women.

Afghanistan is the only country in the world where girls are banned from an education after the sixth grade. They do not have access to gyms, they do

not have access to parks, jobs, and there is absolutely no excuse for the Afghan government to do that. The Afghan government needs to be questioned

on their intentions with half of their population.

SOARES: On that, Human Rights Watch put out a report that since the Taliban has regained power that they've created the world's most serious kind of

women's rights crisis and we have been following that. You have touched upon that in more way, but they say, and I'm going to quote, "The response

of the international community has been tepid and seems to lack an appreciation of how the situation in Afghanistan has grave implications for

the rights of women and girls globally." How disappointed are you by that lack of response from the international community?

EHSAS: Incredibly disappointed. Afghanistan is in a place right now with a new government who need to engage with the political system of the wider



And that gives the international community bargaining chips, sit with the Taliban because the Taliban want you to recognize, they want to open

Afghanistan for business. They want you to recognize by the international community, by the international system, the financial system. But you, us,

as international community, have the bargaining power to sit down and to say, right, we will recognize you as soon as you recognize a woman. That is

something that they need to seriously consider and get into a room and have a conversation with them.


KINKADE: Well, the BAFTAs are often seen as the British version of the American Oscars. And of course, the Oscars are scheduled for March 10th.

And Oppenheimer has a great chance to walk away with at least half a dozen Oscars.

Well, thanks so much for joining us tonight. I'm Lynda Kinkade. Stay with CNN. "QUEST MEANS BUSINESS" is next.