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Isa Soares Tonight

Emboldened Putin Looks To Build On Gains In Ukraine; Ukraine Reports It Shot Down Several Russian Warplanes; U.S. Vetoes An Arab-Backed U.N. Resolution Demanding An Immediate Humanitarian Ceasefire In The Israel- Hamas War; Russia Will Face More Sanctions From U.S.; Russia's War On Ukraine; Following Avdiivka's Fall, Russia Continues To Invade Ukraine; After Retreating From Strategic Town Of Avdiivka, Ukrainian Military Strengthening Its Fortifications; Commander Of Ukraine Anticipates More Advancements From Russian Soldiers; Prison Order Attempted To Be Restored By Ecuadorian Military And Police; Inside The Prison Cell Of Escaped Ecuadorian NARCO "Fito"; Following The Drug Kingpin's Escape, "Fito", Violence Erupts Throughout Ecuador; 100 Million Fragments Of Garbage Orbiting The Earth; Pork Garnish Added To Lattes At Starbucks In China. Aired 2-3p ET

Aired February 20, 2024 - 14:00   ET



ISA SOARES, CNN INTERNATIONAL HOST: Hello, and a very warm welcome, I'm Isa Soares. And tonight, international sanctions haven't stopped him, neither

has dwindling pressure at home. Now, with waning support in the West for his enemies, Russian President Vladimir Putin appears more emboldened than

ever to pursue his war on Ukraine.

And he met with his Defense Minister today, saying Russia should expand on its recent battlefield success after the fall of Avdiivka. Putin mocked

Ukrainian forces, saying they fled the town in chaos. Have a listen.


VLADIMIR PUTIN, PRESIDENT, RUSSIA (through translator): The leadership of the Ukrainian armed forces issued an order to withdraw its armed forces

when they were already on the move and leaving the settlement. As I understand, that was done for political reasons in order to cover up the

move and give it the appearance of an organized withdrawal.

We see and know that was not the case. That it was in effect, they ran away in the literal sense of the word.


SOARES: Well, Putin also feeling confident on the domestic front, cementing his power after the death of his fiercest political rival Alexei Navalny.

And in less than nine short months, he could see a much friendlier face in the White House. There is a real possibility that Donald Trump may be

elected again.

Of course, Trump is already furthering Putin's goals by pressuring House Republicans to deny Ukraine additional aid and appending his party's

tradition iron-clad support of NATO. Now to an update from the battle front in Russia's war on Ukraine.

Ukrainian Air Force reporting on Monday it shot down two Russian fighter jets in the east. It says more Russian warplanes were shot down over the

weekend. On the ground, Ukraine's Armed Forces said they held off Russian attacks in the Zaporizhzhia region after quote, "difficult night".

And this dramatic video looking out from Ukraine shows the intense fighting with explosions ripping across the snow-covered fields. All this, of

course, after a stunning loss for Kyiv. The Ukrainian military is expecting Russian forces to keep advancing after they captured Avdiivka in the

Donetsk region.

Let's get more on all of this, joining us now from Kyiv is our chief international correspondent Christiane Amanpour. Christiane, great to see

you. Let me pick up really with Avdiivka. For weeks on the show, we've been hearing from our correspondents saying that Ukrainian troops in the ground

have been rationing ammunition.

How much then is the fall of Avdiivka here linked to this waning support, Christiane, from U.S. What is the view from Kyiv?

CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CNN INTERNATIONAL ANCHOR: Well, the view from Kyiv is that this is a very critical time. They are pointing out to the world that

they were thought to be, you know, going to lose the war after a few days after the invasion two years ago.

Of course, they didn't. They held off the Russians, they pushed them back, and since the Western NATO started helping them with weapons, they more

than held the lines. They regained territory. Now, obviously, the counteroffensive didn't go as planned.

But here they're saying, and also indeed today at the White House, they said, that the congressional gridlock that disallows any Ukrainian military

aid to get here in time is directly responsible, for instance, for the fall of Avdiivka over the weekend. And I spoke to the Foreign Minister Dmytro

Kuleba about the situation.


DMYTRO KULEBA, FOREIGN MINISTER, UKRAINE: We wouldn't lose Avdiivka if we had received all the artillery ammunition that we needed to defend it. That

is my answer to your question.

AMANPOUR: Simple as that.

KULEBA: I don't think it requires any additional comments. There is a war. This war will continue, Russia does not intend to pause, Russia does not

intend to withdraw. They will undertake other offensive operations, and they always act in a very simple -- I would say even Salami tactics. They

slice one town or one village and then they focus all of their resources on another one.


AMANPOUR: So, they are focusing resources on another one as Kuleba says, because they appear to be pushing further towards the northern city of

Kharkiv, which is the second biggest city here in Ukraine.


And that will be clearly a worry. President Zelenskyy has been to the front, and you know, in answer to the viewpoint from inside the Kremlin,

that it was a chaotic withdrawal from the Ukrainian side they say, and they sent up extra, you know, an assault brigade and others to help what they

said -- withdraw the troops and prevent them from being encircled by the Russians and at least, get them to be able to live to fight another day.

There were many Ukrainians wounded. There were many who could not even be evacuated, who were alive and couldn't be evacuated in time. And the

Ukrainians say that the Russians reneged on a deal to help basically the prisoners and the wounded Ukrainians to get off the battlefield and then

have a prisoner exchange with Ukraine for their prisoners that are held over here.

But Russia then released a video showing a certain number of those dead, and Ukraine believes they were shot and killed. So, this is a really dire

situation. The president said that, look, we do not have the artillery ammunition that we need right now, and we are heavily outgunned.

And so, they insist that they're not going to fall, that they will win one way or the other. But each day that they don't get this help from the

allies who pledged that help, that is yet more lives on the front.

SOARES: And on that point, Christiane, you've been in and out of Ukraine since the war began over nearly two years. What is your sense then of this

moment, the juncture that Ukraine finds itself in as U.S. of course, heads into an election, and as the U.S. falters then in providing more ammunition

to Ukraine?

AMANPOUR: I'd like to answer it like this because when I first came in and if you'll remember about a month or so after the war began, after everybody

thought Ukraine would crumble and fall, remember, they pushed the Russians back from Kyiv, they pushed them out of Bucha and Irpin, they revealed the

horrors that Russia had committed to the people, on the people here.

They pushed them away from Kharkiv and they were on the front foot, and Russia was on the back-foot. That was the moment that many international

experts and many Ukrainian military experts said was a window of opportunity to rush aid in, military aid in, even up to they said,


Now, we saw over these years that a lot of aid was rushing in and even aircraft apparently have been promised, but too slow and late. Even with

that, even with the late and the slow, Ukraine has held them off. Now, you can see the exact opposite. The minute the pipeline is frozen and that it

doesn't move, it is -- it is showing up on the frontline.

It's as brutal and as simple as that. Ukraine was trained, the people were able to use all the aid that was sent here, and they were motivated and

they were holding the Russians off. And now it's a very difficult situation, and we're entering the third year of this war, and Ukraine is

somewhat on the back-foot in those key areas that you were mentioning and showing on that map up there.

So, they just hope that, you know, Congress will, in fact, get its act together and pass the aid that, you know, United States has been promising.

And let's face it, for all of NATO, this has been about supporting and defending, you know, democracy and freedom and the international rules of

the game.

But also as Ukraine keeps saying, you know, Putin may not be satisfied with just Ukraine. It may go further. And that Ukraine is fighting the battle

between Putin and the West. So, the battleground is being fought and upheld by Ukraine. And they're fighting it and not having to bring NATO soldiers

here to fight it. So, the least they ask is the weapons to do it with.

SOARES: Christian Amanpour for us this evening in Kyiv. Good to see you, Christian. Thank you very much. Well, Alexei Navalany's mother has a strong

message for Russian President Vladimir Putin. Let me finally see my son, her words.

What you're about to see is Navalny's mother standing outside the notorious Polar Wolf colony, where he reportedly died on Friday. Have a listen to



LUDMILA IVANOVNA NAVALNAYA, ALEXEI NAVALNY'S MOTHER (through translator): Behind me is the IK-3 Polar Wolf colony where my son, Alexei Navalny died

on February 16th. I haven't been able to see him for five days, they won't give me his body. They don't even tell me where he is.

I'm addressing you, Vladimir Putin, the solution to the issue depends only on you. Let me finally see my son. I demand that Alexei's body be

immediately handed over so that I can bury him humanely.


SOARES: And Melissa Bell is following the story and she joins me now. Melissa, why? What do we know about why his mother hasn't been able to see

her son's body? What are you hearing?

MELISSA BELL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, what we've heard from a spokesman for Alexei Navalny's movement yesterday was that it's going to be a couple

of weeks, Isa, before the family gets any access at all to his remains.


Now, the accusation on the part of Alexei Navalny's widow specifically is that, this is to allow any traces of Novichok, these Soviet-era nerve agent

that has been used to such devastating effect over the course of the last few years on opponents, whether inside or outside of Russia. The idea she

says being that this will allow it to leave his system.

And yet, in that nine-minute video we saw her publish yesterday really announcing to the world that the criminals, as she described them behind

his killing would be exposed and brought to account. And I think when we listen to what the other woman, Alexei Navalny's life, his mother had to

say just a moment ago in front of that Polar Wolf colony where he was last held before being killed.

We have to stop and reflect on the extraordinary courage that she's showing to be directly challenging. Here's a 69 year-old, nearly 70-year-old woman

standing in the Arctic Circle directly challenging Vladimir Putin at the time when we know, Isa, that any expression of grief for support or sadness

for Alexei Navalny has been very quickly erased. Flowers taken down, people arrested in their hundreds ever since he was killed last Friday, Isa.

SOARES: Melissa Bell for us in Paris with the very latest, Melissa, thank you very much. Let's get more then on all these threats that we've been

covering in the last ten minutes or so. CNN's political national security analyst David Sanger joins us now from Berlin, his newest book, "The

Perfect Weapon War: Sabotage and Fear in the Cyber Age", and an "HBO" documentary by the same title, "Examine the Emergence of Cyber Conflict and

Its Role in Changing the Nature of Global Power".

David, welcome back to the show. Let me start off with what we've heard in the last what? Few hours or so from John Kirby, who basically said that the

U.S. is going to impose a major sanctions package against Russia to -- I want to quote here, "to hold Russia accountable for what happened to Alexei


And quite frankly, for all its actions over the course of this vicious and brutal war that has now raged on for two years." I mean, David, will this -

- will this deter Putin? I mean, isn't Russia already heavily-sanctioned?

DAVID SANGER, CNN POLITICAL NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: You know, it's hard to imagine at this point, a meaningful sanction, that the United States and

its allies have not already imposed. The biggest problem with sanctions right now is that the Russians have figured out pretty ingenious ways

around them.

SOARES: Yes --

SANGER: They've been able to get parts for their drones. They've been able to bring drones in from Iran and North Korea, which obviously don't adhere

to sanctions. And they've been getting parts from China and selling oil to China.

So, you know, sanctions are what you do when you don't want to sit around and do nothing. And I can imagine after all what we've seen in the past

week and in the past two years, no president would. And when you obviously don't want to commit troops, but that, you know, we've hit the point now

where sanctions do more to make the country that's imposing them or the countries imposing them feel good than they are doing damage to the Russian


SOARES: And we saw the global outcry following Navalny's death. Of course, you at the Munich Security Conference last week when the news broke, I

believe. How much is his --

SANGER: Yes --

SOARES: Death, David, galvanized opposition to Putin? Has it converted at all those skeptics of military aid for Ukraine? I'm thinking here, some of

the Republican voices.

SANGER: Well, there are two big questions. How has it galvanized people inside Russia at a moment that Putin is holding an election that he will

certainly win? And the question is, can then Navalny movements stay together after his death? Will inspiration of his mom, of his death and his

sacrifice be enough to keep these groups organized.

Obviously, Putin believes it will not. Then the question is what difference does it make to Republicans in Congress who have been holding this up. At

the Munich Security Conference, I saw a number of members of Congress who thought that when Congress gets back, they would figure out a way to get

the Ukraine money going.

But the fact of the matter is that former President Trump is urging that the money not go, and that it gets held up. I think he probably believes

that the more chaos there is between now and the election, the more he could put blame on President Biden.

He also has never particularly believed that the U.S. should be involved in the Ukraine war. I'm not sure that even then Navalny's death will make that

big a difference. What may make a difference is more revelations about the Russian plan denied by the Russians today to put a nuclear weapon in space.


SOARES: So, you think that, that potentially could -- which they have denied, like you say, could have --

SANGER: Yes --

SOARES: Rattled off -- changed minds on the GOP front?

SANGER: It could only because it's such a direct threat to --

SOARES: Yes --

SANGER: The communication systems that run the -- that run the U.S. I mean, if Republicans were very sensitive to the Navalny death, I suspect you

would have seen a lot more pressure on former President Trump to say something about the Navalny death over the past four days. And he has said

nothing except a brief mention and then he compared himself --

SOARES: Yes --

SANGER: To Navalny, persecuted by the government.

SOARES: Which was quite a comparison in itself. Look, we are --

SANGER: It was --

SOARES: Seeing -- we are seeing, David, I think it's fair to say an emboldened Putin. His troops are back on the march in Ukraine, also

emboldened, of course, after that win, we were just speaking to Christiane Amanpour about in Avdiivka. At the top of the show, we also heard from

Ukraine's Foreign Minister speaking to Christiane in Kyiv.

He said the town will not have been lost if ammunition had been delivered. I mean, that seems quite frankly like a pointed message to the U.S. So,

speak to -- for our international audience here, David, to the hardening GOP sentiment against providing Ukraine with more aid. Why is it

fundamentally, they are opposed to this? Is it just because they want to take the stand or they want to stick with supporting Trump here?

SANGER: So, I thought the Foreign Minister's statements to Christiane were fascinating, and they were along the lines of what you heard from President

Zelenskyy at the Munich Security Conference. When he said, I don't know who is the traitor, because it wasn't their line. He said, dictators don't take

vacations --

SOARES: Yes --

SANGER: Noting that Congress has been out of session and will be for a few more weeks. But to your very important point here, I think it's a mix, I

think that there are many Republicans who have basically become more isolationist, and there --

SOARES: Yes --

SANGER: I think that there are a fair number who just say Trump tells us not to do this. So, let's hold off. We'll worry about it after the


SOARES: I have spoken David, here on the show to numerous European Foreign Ministers, and my sense is that they see that this is a difficult juncture

here, that what Ukraine is going through. But also, they see the urgency of stepping up this sort of military support and also stepping up their own


In fact, the last 24 hours, we've heard Denmark is donating its entire artillery to Ukraine, Sweden announced $683 million, that's a record in aid

for Ukraine. Did you sense that urgency when you spoke to some of the European officials at the conference over the -- on Friday?

SANGER: I did, but there is this odd disconnect where the United States has the capacity to make a big difference. But right now is having trouble

gathering the will. The Europeans --

SOARES: Yes --

SANGER: Have had the will, and of course, contributed $54 billion over four years to reconstruction -- the kind of arms you suggested, but they don't

have the capacity to make that big a difference. And in part, that's Europe's fault, because --

SOARES: Yes --

SANGER: Despite all the evidence of what was happening with Putin, they were very slow. And look at this now, we're only at two-thirds of the

country even hitting 2 percent of GDP for their defense budgets. And many countries including Germany, where I'm in right now, now I think were

realizing it's going to take far more than that.

SOARES: Yes, and some may say the writing was on the wall way before the war started.

SANGER: Well --

SOARES: David Sanger --

SANGER: Eight years --

SOARES: And always -- yes, exactly, great to see you. Thank you for your expertise and analysis. David Sanger there for us. And still to come on the

show, Israel's strongest ally uses its veto power at the U.N. Security Council to block demands for an immediate ceasefire in Gaza.

We'll tell you what the United States is proposing instead, that's after this short break, you are watching CNN.



SOARES: Well, the United States has blocked a new effort at the U.N. Security Council to secure an immediate ceasefire in Gaza. Today, the U.S.

cast its third veto since October the 7th, sinking an Algerian drafted resolution. U.S. is pushing an alternative measure that calls for a

temporary ceasefire.

And while that goes further than any U.S. proposal on the war so far, a senior U.S. official says there are no plans to rush any vote. U.S.

Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield says a veto was necessary to protect talks underway aimed at securing the release of hostages in Gaza. This is

what she said, have a listen.


LINDA THOMAS-GREENFIELD, U.S. AMBASSADOR TO THE UNITED NATIONS: And so while we cannot support a resolution that would put sensitive negotiations

in jeopardy, we look forward to engaging on a text that we believe will address so many of the concerns we all share. A text that can and should be

adopted by the Council so that we can have a temporary ceasefire as soon as practicable.


SOARES: While the veto drew swift condemnation from other Security Council members including U.S. allies like France, which said the human toll in

Gaza is intolerable and Israeli operations must stop. We're joined now by our senior U.N. correspondent Richard Roth.

And Richard, I mean, the U.S., of course, has its own draft resolution as we heard there on Gaza. And they are calling for a temporary cease-flower -

- ceasefire, I should say. The use of temporary ceasefire, is this shift in the U.S. position here?

RICHARD ROTH, CNN SENIOR U.N. CORRESPONDENT: Yes, it is a shift. The U.S. ambassador was asked by the press following that Security Council veto by

the U.S ambassador, asked about the change in language, and Linda Thomas- Greenfield said, it reflects what we've been doing all along. It hasn't changed what we've been doing.

But at the U.N., the matter is words, and the U.S. has vetoed previous resolutions, refusing to even mention what type of ceasefire. So, it's a

gradual adjustment. The U.S. is just hoping the whole war can be settled before it's got to go to a -- what the other countries on the Council want,

which is an immediate ceasefire. Here is the reaction of the Palestinian envoy who called the veto reckless and dangerous.


RIYAD MANSOUR, PALESTINIAN AMBASSADOR TO THE U.N.: It is not Israel that should be protected by the veto. It is Palestinian children, women and men,

who must be protected by this Council acting now. The message given today to Israel with this veto is that it can continue to get away with murder.

Israel cannot and should not, and will not get away with it.


ROTH: The U.S. ambassador said other countries on the Council were in favor of Washington's position, but didn't want to come out publicly. The U.S.

ambassador in her remarks said she urged the other side, the Algerians and others, don't rush to failure.

The U.S. believes this resolution, any either veto or to even approve would harm the ongoing process to get hostages released, and to get Hamas

publicly cited in these resolutions, which is not often been the case. Back to you.


SOARES: Richard Roth, appreciate it, thanks, Richard. Let's go now to Jeremy Diamond, who joins us in Tel Aviv. And Jeremy, as you heard there,

the U.S. of course has its own draft resolution on Gaza calling for a temporary ceasefire. How is this being interpreted by the Netanyahu

government, Jeremy? And are we seeing a public rift here between the U.S. and Israel on this?

JEREMY DIAMOND, CNN JERUSALEM CORRESPONDENT: Well, there's no question that we've heard U.S. criticism of Israel's military campaign in Gaza rising

over the last several weeks in particular. There's no question that this potential offensive in Rafah has opened a very deep rift between Israel and

the United States.

And yet, it's also important to keep in mind that the United States has once again today played its traditional role of defender of Israel at the

United Nations Security Council, using its critical veto power to once again safeguard Israel from a potential resolution here, that Israel

clearly was not in favor of.

You know, and so, the United States, very much playing that role, also looking at this temporary ceasefire resolution. And so, you're seeing them

kind of try and stand by Israel, play their role of traditional stalwart ally, while also being increasingly vocal in their criticism of what they

see Israel as doing is out of bounds.

Israel for its part has not yet reacted to that temporary ceasefire resolution that the U.S. is currently drafting, but we did hear the Israeli

ambassador to the United Nations slam Algeria's ceasefire resolution, which failed only because of that U.S. veto, saying that this ceasefire

resolution would ensure only one thing.

And he said that, that is the survival of Hamas. He also said that, that resolution would essentially ensure that the 130-plus hostages who remain

in Hamas captivity would remain in Gaza. And he said that Israel does seek a ceasefire, but on its terms only. And those terms are to see Hamas

unconditionally surrender and also to see the release of all of these hostages.

So, there's no question that Israel is finding itself increasingly isolated on the world stage. The United States, once again, backing up Israel. But

even there, it's clear that there are -- there is a lot of tension, and that tension could continue to escalate should Israel move into Rafah

without properly accounting for the evacuation of civilians that would, of course, cross the line for the United States.

SOARES: Indeed, Jeremy Diamond for us there, thanks very much, Jeremy. And still to come tonight, the White House says it's moving ahead with new

sanctions on Russia. We'll have details on what's in these sanctions when we come back.



SOARES: Welcome back, everyone.

The U.S. is set to pile new sanctions on Russia, they will be announced later this week. Officials say, the package is meant to punish the Kremlin

over the death of opposition leader Alexei Navalny and for the war in Ukraine now about to enter its third year. President Biden addressed that

just a short time ago. Have a listen.


JOE BIDEN, U.S. PRESIDENT: I told you we would be announcing sanctions on Russia. We'll have a major package announced on Friday. I'll be happy to

sit with you all on doing that, OK?


SOARES: Well, of course, Russia has been hit with waves of sanctions, as you know, over the past two years.

Let's get more now from CNN's Senior White House Reporter Kevin Liptak. And, Kevin, I mean, Russia's already heavily sanctioned. What is the U.S.

targeting here? Do we have any more details?

KEVIN LIPTAK, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE REPORTER: Well, officials are keeping the details fairly close to the vest, and you did hear President Biden

saying as he was leaving the White House to come out here to California, describe it as a major package of sanctions. And you'll remember back in

2021 when President Biden sat down with President Putin in Geneva, he actually warned him of, "Devastating consequences if Alexei Navalny were to

die in jail".

But the ensuing years, the U.S. has piled tons of sanctions on Russia for the invasion of Ukraine, so has many European countries, many in the West.

So, it does limit, I think, the options that President Biden has on his plate to further punish Russia for this particular instance.

But President Biden certainly making clear that he does hold Putin himself responsible for this death, whether he was directly responsible in the form

of ordering up his killing or responsible through imprisoning him in this labor camp. The U.S. and President Biden making very clear that they hold

the Kremlin and hold President Putin directly responsible.

So, what sort of sanctions these looks like, I think, remains to be seen. We did hear from the U.S. National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan speaking

about this a little earlier. And he described this as sort of another crank, another turn of the wheel on the sanctions regime on Russia.

He said that the U.S. had been, sort of, going through the targets. That it still had available to it and trying to identify where they could, sort of,

tighten the noose even more on Moscow as they work to punish it, not only for the killing of Navalny, but also for the ongoing war in Ukraine.

And so, certainly we will hear more about this later this week. But this all comes against this backdrop of this broader political debate in the

United States about providing more assistance for Ukraine that has been caught up on Capitol Hill. A number of congressional Republicans just

opposed to sending billions and billions more American dollars to Ukraine to sustain its fight against Russia.

And I think, certainly, the death of Navalny only ratchets up the stakes of that debate. And President Biden has made clear, in his words, that history

is watching and that not providing Ukraine the support it needs would essentially amount to handing a victory to Putin himself. And so,

certainly, I think, this only ramping up the stakes for Biden as he tries to make this case to Congress. Isa.

SOARES: Kevin Liptak for us from a very gloomy L.A. Kevin, good to see you. Thank you very much.

Now, back to Russia's war on Ukraine. Ukraine's foreign minister says the fall of Avdiivka may not have happened if Ukraine had received all the

artillery ammunition it needed. As the Russian flag was raised over the city, there are still desperate concerns about the USA to Ukraine.

Right now, the congressional battle, as you heard Kevin there, over funding is impacting the front line troops. Our Fred Pleitgen has the latest.


FREDERIK PLEITGEN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): One of Ukraine's main strong points in Avdiivka under a hail of Russian bombs.

Moscow's defense ministry released this video of what they say is their forces targeting a Coke fuel plant at the northern edge of town.


On the ground, a fight for sheer survival. Ukraine's 3rd Assault Brigade posting this video of their troops breaking through Russian encirclement to

escape Avdiivka. They claim, all their soldiers made it out alive.

This week, all caring hearts, not only in Ukraine, were concerned for our heroes, for our Avdiivka, for every defender, and for the fate of our

people, for the fate of the entire state, Ukraine's president said.

But among front line soldiers, bitterness and anger at a lack of both manpower and firepower. The Ukrainians say, they killed thousands of

Russian troops with both artillery and drones only to be overrun in the end.

We didn't have enough people. We didn't have enough shells, this soldier said. We didn't have enough possibilities to throw them back. If we had a

large amount or at least an OK amount of shells, we could have stopped the enemy but unfortunately, we didn't have them.

And it's increasingly becoming clear not all Ukrainians made it out as the noose was tightening. A video call between a wounded Ukrainian soldier and

his sister indicates some were left behind.

So what? No one is coming, she asks. Your guys are there too, or are you alone?

Everyone left, he answers. Everyone retreated. They told us a car would pick us up. I have two broken legs, shrapnel in my back. I can't do


Are you alone or what, she asks.

No, there are six of us, he replies.

How could they leave you, she pleads.

I don't know, just like that. Four people who are like me can't walk either, he answers.

The Ukrainians now claim the wounded soldier and several others were killed by Russian forces. The Russian army gloating, claiming this video of Moscow

soldiers shows them raising their flag on a building inside the Avdiivka Coke plant.

Under the continuous fire of Russian troops, only a few scattered formations of Ukrainian militants managed to hastily leave Avdiivka,

abandoning their weapons and military equipment, the spokesman says.

Avdiivka is Russian President Vladimir Putin's biggest victory in months. And the Ukrainians fear other frontline towns could also fall if they don't

get more weapons and ammo soon.

From Pleitgen, CNN, Berlin.


SOARES: Well, joining us now with more is retired Lieutenant General Ben Hodges, who led U.S. forces in Europe. General, welcome back to the show.

We heard at the top of the show from the Ukrainian foreign minister who was speaking to our Christiane Amanpour, who told CNN that the fall of Avdiivka

there may not have happened if Ukraine had said, had received all the artillery ammunition that it needed.

Do you agree with that? Would the city be under Russian occupation right now if U.S. military assistance, for example, had continued to flow


LT. GEN. BEN HODGES (RET.). FORMER COMMANDING GENERAL, U.S. ARMY EUROPE: Well, there's no doubt, Isa, that the West, the United States and others

failed to deliver to Ukraine what was needed for them to continue the successful defense of Avdiivka, there's no doubt about that. I think that

the Russians see of -- the Russians know, of course, that ammunition is not flowing like it used to be. And so, I think we're going to see increased

pressure in other places along the line as well.

SOARES: And after the fall of Advika, you know, Russian forces, General, seem to have -- I think, it's better to say, you correct me if I'm wrong,

momentum. And that makes the eastern front -- I'm going -- my producers to bring up a map here, that the Donetsk region, in particular, quite

vulnerable. What do you anticipate will be Putin's next move here?

HODGES: Well, I think it's important to put things in context. You see where Avdiivka is on your map. I mean, this is in the eastern five percent

of Ukraine. I mean, this is way, way far to the east of Ukraine. Of course, the Russians are gloating and celebrating as if they had just, you know,

captured Stalingrad or some great battle like that. This is way after years.

So, I think the potential for what comes next depends a little bit on the ability of the Ukrainian forces to stabilize the line. I do not -- I have

to say, I do not think that the Russians possess the capability to exploit Avdiivka anytime soon, to break through.

SOARES: You don't think they can? You don't think they can exploit Avdiivka and break through that? Because it does seem that, General, that Russia is

advancing, kind of, in five directions at once. Five major lines of attacks that we have seen. And it's clear that what we have heard, what we have

been hearing that they are outmanned and outgunned.


So, talk to potentially the significance of this moment. Is this the most dangerous situations since the beginning of the war for the Ukrainian

forces here?

HODGES: Well, it certainly is a dangerous time. I mean, if you're being forced back to a new position, you become vulnerable because you're

exposed. The potential for losing people. People getting left behind in the confusion, that's always there. So, this is where the new commander of

Ukrainian forces, General Syrskyi, is probably thinking about preparing lines so that soldiers can pull back to new positions.

But the reason, I guess, I'm a little bit skeptical about what Russia can do to break through and really exploit would require them to have large

mobile forces with all the logistics that they have not shown the ability to use yet. So, that's why I'm a little bit skeptical.

SOARES: OK. So, there's skepticism there. But clearly, they are -- they have remained, they have kept pushing and pressing whilst, I think it's

fair to say, the West has dithered somewhat. I wonder what your message then, General, is to U.S., to House Republicans who are holding up this $60

billion in potential Ukraine funding. What is the dithering doing to Ukraine? What does it do also to Putin here?

HODGES: Well, for Putin, this gives him encouragement that the West is not truly committed to helping Ukraine win. The fact that this reinforces the

Russians' idea that they just have to wait for us to give up, to do exactly what we're doing right now. So, that -- that's bad news.

On the other hand, never in my life did I imagine that the Republican Party would be part of something that enabled Russia to have this kind of

success. But I have to also say the president who, otherwise has done a good job here, the president has also failed to clearly identify that we

want Ukraine to win. Nobody believes this statement anymore that, you know, we're with you for as long as it takes. Apparently, it doesn't look like we


So, it's not just the Republicans in Congress that have failed here, the administration, and also our allies have got to do more to have -- they

have to be committed to helping Ukraine win.

SOARES: And we have heard from -- here on the show, from many foreign ministers, from many allies. We've heard in the last 24 hours, the Denmark

generals donating its entire artillery to Ukraine. Sweden announced a record $683 million dollars in aid for Ukraine. And shells from what I've

been speaking to in terms of foreign ministers since the beginning of the year, even last year, seems to be the concern, right?

The E.U. has somewhat conceded that it would be -- it's not going to be able to deliver -- only going to be able to deliver, I should say, half of

the promised 1 million shells by that March deadline. Why has this been a problem?

HODGES: Well, there's -- I think there's two or three reasons. First of all, we got out of the business of large-scale ammunition production. All

of us did, including the United States, that's number one. Number two, now people are -- nations are scrambling to find what's out there. They're

actually is a lot of ammunition available, but most of what is produced is already on order for other customers, like in the UAE or Uganda, places

like that.

So, the European Union has to reprioritize where some of this ammunition is going to. And of course, they will have to protect companies somehow. These

companies are not charities. So, there is ammunition available. Do we have the political will to do what's necessary to focus it towards Ukraine?

That's where we are falling short.

And I will say also, if the way that you neutralize Russian mass, what they're doing around Avdiivka, for example, is with long-range precision

weapons that can destroy Russian headquarters, Russian artillery, Russian logistics. So, why does the administration continue to refuse to provide

ATACMS, which is a 300-kilometer range weapon. It has that precision. This is where -- there's a disconnect.

SOARES: Lieutenant General Ben Hodges, always wonderful to get your analysis and expertise. Thank you. Thank you, General. Good to see you.

HODGES: It's a privilege.

SOARES: And still to come tonight, behind the gates of Ecuador's prisons. We'll go inside the cell of one of the country's most notorious escape

prisoners, that is next.



SOARES: Well, one of Ecuador's most notorious gang leaders lived, "Like a king in prison." That is according to a soldier who got a look inside the

cell of Los Choneros. Gang leader Jose Adolfo Macias, the NARCO better known as "Fito". His jailbreak kicked off a storm of violence, if you

remember, across the country last month.

Now, as the military attempts to regain control, CNN's David Culver takes a closer look at "Fito's" lavish lifestyle inside bars.


DAVID CULVER, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): It's as though they're stepping into a war zone. Ecuador's military and national police trail an

armored vehicle in a raid at one of the country's 35 prisons.

Inside, prisoners stripped down, hands tied. Scenes like this have played out across Ecuador over the past few weeks. The armed forces making a very

public show of force, attempting to reinstate order within their own prisons.

CROWD: (Speaking in a foreign language).

CULVER (voice-over): It's part of Ecuador's effort to neutralize terror groups and weed out gangs, which have unleashed chaos nationwide. From a

live TV studio arm takeover, to random shootings in the streets. This most recent surge in violence sparked by the suspected escape of this man, Jose

Adolfo Macias, known as "Fito".

On January 7th, officials reported that while serving a 34-year sentence for murder and drug trafficking, the notorious gang leader vanished from

this prison in Guayaquil. A drone's view allows us to grasp the scale of this complex. It is sprawling.

CULVER: Not really much of a prison uniform. They're all kind of in their own clothes.

CULVER (voice-over): Officials tell us, it's made up of five different prisons. Through military and prison sources, we get a sense of the layout.

We learned the women are kept here. These buildings house the men and they range from minimum to medium security. And over here, maximum security,

known as La Roca, or The Rock.

With a military escort, we go past the first of three perimeters. Any farther, we're told, too dangerous, even with armed soldiers. We're told

inmates are separated based on gang affiliation and are essentially self- ruled.

CULVER: And you can see behind one of these gates, folks, kind of, moving comfortably and casually from cell to cell. It's kind of an indoor-outdoor


CULVER (voice-over): CNN obtaining these videos from inside, by prison standards, they reveal a life of luxury for "Fito", the drug kingpin. The

images captured last year by members of Ecuador's military. They appear to show "Fito's" cell, messy but complete with home comforts.


A mini fridge, a queen bed, upscale shower fittings, artwork featuring an image of "Fito" himself with guns and cash.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (Speaking in a foreign language).

CULVER (voice-over): He lives like a king, you can hear one of the soldiers say in this video, obtained by CNN and verified by Ecuador's military.

Outside, his own courtyard, and a half dozen fighting roosters believed to be his. A military source tells us "Fito" had fresh fish imported for his

meals, and somehow even managed to shoot a music video from within the prison walls.


CULVER (voice-over): Ecuavisa showing these images of "Fito's" 42nd birthday in 2022. The prisoners reportedly enjoyed cake, music, and drinks.

The night capped off with fireworks.

He had more power outlets than a Marriott hotel room, Ecuador's president, Daniel Noboa, said late last year.

So why escape? Ecuadorian security experts believe that "Fito" was tipped off that he was going to be transferred in the same complex back to The

Rock, maximum security. "Fito" spent a few weeks in The Rock last year. Moving him there involved an estimated 4,000 police and soldiers. His

sudden disappearance suggesting he wasn't ready to leave the comforts of his cell.

The government's focus now is to reassert control within, but it won't be easy. Prison raids have turned up everything from laptops to guns.

Noboa also announcing the construction of new prisons, designed by the same company behind El Salvador's notorious mega prisons where thousands of

suspected gang members are locked up.

Back outside of the prison in Guayaquil --

CULVER: You can hear there's church services going on, some sort of religious ceremony, loudspeakers.

CULVER (voice-over): Soldiers and police stand guard on the perimeter, knowing that it's often the gangs who still dictate what happens on the


David Culver, CNN, Guayaquil, Ecuador.


SOARES: Our thanks to David for that report.

Still to come tonight, efforts to remove so-called space junk picks up steam, or in this case, orbital debris. Stay tuned.



SOARES: Well, space is increasingly becoming littered with trash. Everything from spatulas to dead satellite is circling the globe, and the

junk is extending out into the universe. And there's some coming our way. A 5,000-pound satellite is expected to fall to Earth on Wednesday morning,

that is according to the European Space Agency. It is expected to reenter and largely burn up in Earth's atmosphere, so no need for alarm. Don't pick

up. Don't worry just yet.

Perhaps worry about this. Forget an extra espresso shot or whipped cream, Starbucks, I kid you not, in China is adding a heartier garnish. Take a

look at this. This -- yes, you read it right there on your screen, that's a slice of pork topped on your latte. The Abundant Year Savory Latte, is what

they're calling it, is a special drink to celebrate the lunar new year.

The drink mixes a pork flavored sauce with espresso and steam milk. I like both, not together, ideally. Starbucks says, it's a unique blend of sweet

and savory flavors. And the drink costs, well, 68 won or about $10. So, that will be hard to swallow.

That does it for us. Thanks very much for watching. Do you stay right here. "Quest Means Business" is up next. I'll see you tomorrow. Bye-bye.