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CNN Live Event/Special

Russia Escalates Attacks on Major Ukrainian Cities; Kremlin Warns Russians not to protest Against War; Latvian PM: Kremlin's "War Crimes" in Ukraine Must Stop; Ukraine asks IAEA for help Keeping Nuclear Plants Safe; Assets Seized as Sanctions on Russia Begin to Bite; Putin: Russians and Ukrainians are one People. Aired 11a-12p ET

Aired March 03, 2022 - 11:00   ET



JULIA CHATTERLEY, CNN HOST: He suggested that the Russians are blocking aid coming into the country.

We don't have independent verification of that. But if we get it, we will bring that to you. His ultimate message was where the line of defense between Russia and civilization? Our continuing coverage begins after this.

ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

CHATTERLEY: You're watching CNN; I'm Julia Chatterley in New York. We continue our special coverage of the humanitarian crisis and the economic cost of war in Ukraine.

BECKY ANDERSON, CNN HOST: I'm Becky Anderson in Abu Dhabi. Let's get you a look at the very latest headlines. We fear for our families we fear for our country the words of Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, who spoke to reporters a short time ago, take a listen.


VOLODYMYR ZELENSKY, UKRAINIAN PRESIDENT: I think if someone is not afraid to lose their life or the lives of their children, then I think that's not a healthy person. So if you're sending somebody to war, as it's happening in that other country and you're not thinking that these people may die, and you're not afraid, you don't have any emotion.

You don't feel any emotion about this. I don't think that's normal. So as any living being I am - I fear for the lives of my family. I asked for a no-fly zone. I asked President Biden and Schultz and Macron I think, because I don't remember because I have 20, 23 international phone calls every day. Every day I do this. And I said if you can't provide a no-fly zone right now, then tell it was when?

If you can't give Ukrainians a date, when how long do you need? How many people should still be blown up? How many arms and legs and heads? How many should be severed? So that you understand, so that you understand I will go and I'll count them. And we will wait until we have a sufficient number.

But if you can't even give us the dates, that's what's happened with the sanctions. I asked for preventive sanctions before the war. You will see they will not advance. Give us a full package of sanctions I asked all the leaders for this. You know, the response was, thank God. Thank God the whole world can see this act that this is working. I asked to the support.

Right now I'm asking for a no-fly zone and if you don't have the strength to provide no fly zones and give me planes. Would that not be fair?


ANDERSON: Well, that is Volodymyr Zelensky; he was speaking to reporters for about an hour that has just finished. Meantime, his second round of Ukrainian Russian ceasefire talks is underway the delegations meeting at an undisclosed location along Ukraine's border with Belarus and each shaking each other's hands.

The Ukrainian Presidential Adviser says key issues under discussion include an immediate truce and the opening of humanitarian corridors. The first round of talks ended on Monday without any progress. Well, Russia is stepping up its attacks on Ukrainian cities. In Kherson the Mayor is indicating it's now under Russian control.

But British military intelligence says the situation remains unclear. We do know Kherson's Mayor is urging residents to follow orders from those he calls armed visitors. The southern city is strategically important. It is located near the Black Sea just north of Russian occupied Crimea.

At the same time, Russian troops are also laying siege to the Southern City of Mariupol cutting that off from the rest of the world. It hasn't fallen. But its Mayor says Mariupol needs help. And it needs it fast because the Russian military is creating what he calls a humanitarian catastrophe, blocking food supplies. The Deputy Mayor telling CNN "We are waiting for military help".

Well, CNN's Scott McLean joining us now from Lviv in Western Ukraine. I do want to talk about what we understand to be happening on the ground. I know it's extremely difficult to get clear indication of what is happening across the country. Let's start with that crucial southern part of Ukraine right now. What do we know at this point?

SCOTT MCLEAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hey, Becky yes. So things are not looking good in Mariupol right now. As you said humanitarian crisis going on and that is because Russian troops have essentially surrounded the city.


MCLEAN: The Mayor - sorry the Deputy Mayor said this morning, they have been shelled for more than 24 hours right now. They have no electricity, no sewage, no running water, the only thing that they have right now is natural gas still running.

So you can imagine what it is like inside of that city. The Ukrainian National Guard says that there are no plans to surrender at all, though they acknowledge the situation right now is obviously difficult. You mentioned Kherson as well, that city, also on the southern part of Ukraine appears to have fallen to the Russians.

You said it yourself, Becky, that the Mayor has indicated that armed people have come to the city hall and essentially said that they're going to be setting up an administration that looks very similar to the two breakaway regions of eastern Ukraine and the arrangement that they've had in the past.

Right now, the Mayor says that the Ukrainian flag continues to fly, but that people need to follow the directions of the Russian soldiers in order to keep it that way and keep this sort of tense understanding at least that they have at the moment. But it doesn't seem like people are all that interested in that at the moment.

They are showing signs of defiance of video shot just recently showed people waving a Ukrainian flag right in front of a line of tanks and Russian soldiers that had parked outside of the regional administration building. Obviously, things are tough right now.

So a local resident on the ground says that there is food and medicine shortages, there has been looting and Russian soldiers have been arresting people as well, which is why they're telling people not to antagonize those soldiers.

And then Becky, the situation in Kyiv also seems to be heating up a little bit as well. Just yesterday, just late last night, there was an explosion that took place right near the central train station. In fact, it shattered the windows of that station, or some of the windows of that station.

And this explosion, actually, there was debris from the damage to building on a platform just 700 feet from that station as well. And so at this point, they're not entirely certain what caused the blast, but they think that it might have been a cruise missile being shot down by Ukrainian anti-aircraft defense systems, and then the debris ended up near the train station, because you would hope that that would not be a target for the Russians, obviously, Becky.

KING: Right. And meantime, in the last hour, and as you describe the Russian assaults, the invasion on the country and as I understand it, President Macron of France has spoken to the Russian President, and France has said and I quote here, the worst is yet to come. That's the line from Elysee Palace following that call. What more do we know?

MCLEAN: I can tell you they're certainly planning on the worst yet to come. You know, a million people have already fled this country. The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees says that if the fighting doesn't stop, you could have millions upon millions more.

What's interesting Becky, is that the situation at the border seems to have eased a little bit, it's quite easy to pass the border on cars, by car or even by foot at most of the crossings into Poland. But a colleague of mine just went through that way earlier today and they said that there were long lineups getting into the country, not because people want to come back into Ukraine.

But because there is so many aid trucks trying to get through the border trying to get through checkpoints, which is obviously desperately needed considering the situation here considering the food shortages going on in Mariupol food shortages going on in Kherson and they're trying desperately to get supplies to those frontlines Becky.

ANDERSON: Scott McLean is in Lviv. Scott, thank you very much indeed for that. And just a little more on that call between Macron and Putin, according to a source at the Elysee Palace and I quote here this conversation is unfortunately an occasion to hear the President Putin will continue military interventions and to go all the way.

Well, Russia's invasion of Ukraine is based on unjustified claims by Russia's President. Sam Kiley looks at the cruel irony of Vladimir Putin's rationale with a visit to one Ukrainian Jewish community have a look at this.


SAM KILEY, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice over): Air raid sirens in Uman, civilian seeking shelter from Russian bombs and what Vladimir Putin says is partly a campaign to read Ukraine of a Nazi leadership. The absurdity of this claim lost on no one. We're heading to the basement of a synagogue.


KILEY (voice over): The Jewish population of Ukraine has suffered terribly over the last few 100 years. It's had pogroms that have been inflicted on it by the - regime, it's suffered miserably under Stalin and of course, the Jews here were murdered on mass by Hitler.

The Tomb of Rabbi Nachman of Breslov is a pilgrimage site for thousands of Hasidic Jews, and has flourished under Ukraine's recent governments. Now, the streets of its Jewish community are almost deserted the result of Putin so called de-nazification program. Military sites in the town was bombed on a day one of the Russian campaign against Ukraine.

KILEY (on camera): Do you think Ukraine has a government of national socialists of Nazis that is what Putin says?

RABBI YEHUDA TURGIMAN, UMAN, UKRAINE: No, I think they're in Ukraine - you see the two Ukraine in the last year that they give us to come to - they don't make us problem.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I have been living here for seven months and it's been amazing, very loving, very caring for the Jewish people. KILEY (voice over): Putin's called on Ukraine's military to rise against the government, which he says, is a gang of drug addicts and Neo Nazis who settled in Kyiv and took the entire Ukrainian people hostage. On Tuesday, Russian bombing of Kyiv's radio tower also damaged a holocaust memorial at the Baby Yah where more than 30,000 people were murdered in 1941. Many tens of thousands were murdered later.

Now, Ukraine's Jewish President suggested that Putin is following Hitler's lead. He said this kind of a missile strike demonstrates that for many people in Russia, our Kyiv is absolutely alien. They don't know anything about our capital about our history. But they have an order two erase, our history, two erase our country, two erase all of us. In Uman, the synagogues underground - is a bunker for Jew and Gentile alike.

DASHA BORSCHT, UMAN, UKRAINE RESIDENT: I know that Uman is Jewish, but exactly this place where we are. I just know that it's bomb shell areas. Safe to be here that's why I am here.

KILEY (voice over): Like many people in this town, Dasha and her family are joining an Exodus out of Ukraine. For those left behind, there's little but the promise of a long hard winter. Sam Kiley, CNN in Uman.


CHATTERLEY: In Russia, the Kremlin warning against further anti-war protests, saying it introduced extra measures to "Ensure law and order". More than 7500 protesters have been arrested over the past week. That's according to an independent organization that tracks human rights violations in the country.

The Russian military say around 500 soldiers have died so far. According to Ukraine, around 6000 Russian troops have been killed. Nic Robertson is live in Moscow for his us. Nic, whichever way you look at this, that's several 1000 families that have had a family member a loved one arrested.

We don't know the actual number of those have lost lives. But that's again, many, many families in Russia that are going to have loved ones that simply don't come home. Is there any sense of that? We've talked about this before, but a sense of that, from the people that you're speaking to in Russia.

NIC ROBERTSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL DIPLOMATIC EDITOR: The Kremlin says that it's sorry for those families who've lost husbands or sons in the conflict so far. The Kremlin says that this is a necessary war, the Kremlin says that they're fighting, you know, a seven year seven years of the government in Kyiv's aggression towards Russia.

That's the Russian view from the government. When you go on the streets, you hear different versions of that, because that's what's played out on state media here. I was just out talking to people this afternoon. And there's an interesting split. It's not a hard and fast split, but generally older generations believe what they're seeing on state TV, mostly because that's where they get most of their information. I was asking people, you know, where do you get your information? And older people I was talking to generally were saying the television, some get a little bit on the internet.

But couple of people actually repeated to me what the government is saying that this is unnecessary war. It's not the start of a war. It's stopping a war. This is what the government says it's stopping Ukraine's war. So that message that the government has, and I talked to people as well about the Russian casualties among, you know Russian soldiers.

And people we're sorry to hear that I talked to people about the civilian casualties on the Ukrainian side and whether or not they were they even knew if that was happening. They're not getting any information about it on state television here. Some people did.


ROBERTSON: I find in the younger generation people were very sympathetic towards Ukrainians and actually saddened and angry with what their government is doing and really feeling that their government is telling them lies over state media that they get their information, either from talking to friends in Ukraine, or talking or talking, you know, look going on the internet using social media a lot more rather than relying on state media.

So there really is that split, but the majority of people by polling here, at least, that's funded by the Kremlin; the majority still seems to support President Putin. And I would say that was that's the experience I found on the streets today that the majority of people I spoke to did sort of fall in line with the Kremlin not everyone, and not everyone by any means but the majority.

CHATTERLEY: Yes, but it's important where you get your information from and the source of that information and that does divide tends to divide by age group too Nic, thank you for that Nic Robertson there. Now something else the country faces the Russian Ruble trading at fresh record lows, one Ruble is now worth less than one U.S. Penny.

Also today, Russian stocks are being removed from index provider MSCI Emerging Market Index they're calling Russian markets "Un-investable" and this means fund managers that track or replicate mirror the index will also have to sell Russian stocks too.

The Russian stock market, of course, remains closed yet again today, which means if you can't sell in Russia, you sell elsewhere. Russian stocks trading in London have lost some 98 percent of their value just over the past two weeks.

And in commodity land a volatile day for oil once again currently low as you can see by around 1 percent. Earlier today, Brent oil prices leaped above $118 a barrel that's a 14 year high. Wheat prices in the meantime, still surging Russia and Ukraine of course key global exporters. Wheat as you can see by that chart, up more than 70 percent year over year. We're experiencing the biggest weekly rise in broader commodity prices in more than 50 years.

Now, the United States has planned to impose new sanctions on Russian oligarchs and members of their families as soon as today. That's according to sources familiar with the matter. U.S. President Joe Biden had promised to go after what he calls - gotten gains of the oligarchs including yachts and private jets.

The U.S. sanctions are expected to include many of the same oligarchs targeted with sanctions by the European Union earlier this week. In the meantime, banking giant JP Morgan is warning that Western sanctions have "Significantly increased" the likelihood of a Russian debt default, the country has the funds, but perhaps not the access to make the payments.

Anna Stewart joins me now. Anna, they may not have the access, nor may they have the will. The reason why you pay your debts and you pay interest on your debts is because you hope to borrow again in the future at some point. That's looking likely at any time soon.

ANNA STEWART, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, repaying debts would be more challenging as a result of sanctions and assets being frozen in payment issues. But really, it's whether or not Russia actually wants to pay back its debt, some of which do fall due in the next couple of months.

Looking at the picture right now, and the fact that Russia is doing everything it can to actively prevent capital flowing out of the country, the stock market is closed for the fourth day, capital controls for foreign companies, so they can't sell off assets, I would suspect the answer to that is no.

Now the good news is that wouldn't have a huge contagion effect. It's actually quite a small chunk really of its external debts much bigger is corporate debt. Now that could be very painful for some investors, I imagine. And there are a few big payments coming up, we can show you some of those Gazprom is probably the biggest.

And I wonder actually whether Russia will try and prevent the servicing of corporate debt externally, given the capital controls they've already announced. So that's something to look at. And the days come there you go deadlines are coming up to you.

CHATTERLEY: Really important point. But that's a really important point because sometimes you trust corporates more than you trust governments. And we saw that during the financial crisis in the European debt crisis too. What about the oligarchs and a low let's talk about this briefly, where we've seen some sanction.

We've seen many that haven't, but some that haven't been sanctioned, sort of acting like they anticipate being sanctioned.

STEWART: This is really interesting. And following on, of course, from the announcement we've just had from the Biden Administration, who are going to add more names to the list following the EU and probably bigger, more expansive sanctions as well.

But we are seeing these enacted so France has actually seized a super yacht owned by Igor Sechin. He's the CEO of Rosneft and also a close ally of President Putin. It's easy, though, isn't it to well, not easy, but it's easier to freeze assets when they're physical assets that you can see so fast cars, private jets, super yachts, palaces around Europe.

Much harder though is going off to the wealth is squirreled away in very opaque layers of shell companies and offshore countries. That will be much, much more challenging I think. Russian oligarchs aren't going to be too worried at this age. I wouldn't have thought it's probably an irritation. I don't think they're going to penniless anytime soon.


CHATTERLEY: I agree with you but their lifestyles are being heavily curtailed and that matters too, Anna Stewart, thank you. OK, coming up after this with Russia intensifying its attacks on Ukrainian cities, President Zelensky says thousands of foreign fighters are joining the war ahead. Will ask the prime minister of Latvia about their parliament's vote to allow citizens to go and fight in Ukraine.


ANDERSON: With NATO saying Russia is shifting to more direct attacks on Ukrainian cities. Ukraine's president says the first wave of foreign fighters has arrived, he didn't specify where the 16,000 volunteers had come from.

But on Monday, Latvia's parliament voted to allow its citizens to fight in Ukraine. That's despite the fact that it does not share a border with Ukraine. It does, however, share a border with Russia. Well, the Prime Minister of Latvia, Krisjanis Karins joins me now live from the capital of Riga. And so how many Latvians have gone to fight in Ukraine? Or do you think may go to fight in Ukraine?

KRISJANIS KARINS, LATVIAN PRIME MINISTER: Well, I don't have any specific information on the numbers. But certainly what our Parliament did was decriminalized this fact. Most countries don't like their citizens participating in wars outside of their own country if they're not in the armed forces with a distinct order to do so.

In this case, we've opened up the opportunity because many people in my country certainly we all feel that this is Putin's direct attack on democratic countries. Ukraine is a democratic country. This imperialistic brutal attack that Putin is doing the invasion of Ukraine is very difficult to fathom.

The government is supporting Ukraine in many ways with funds with material with weapons. We have a huge outpouring of grassroots support people donating money, people taking refugees into their own homes, wonderful support, and we're simply allowing if someone wants to go fight that that would not be a crime. ANDERSON: But with the scale of the invasion escalating fast, are you OK with the prospect that that Latvians may die fighting for another country?

KARINS: Once again, what each individual does is really an individual's choice. What we do as a country is support the Ukrainian government in any and all ways possible. We've done that so far, and we will continue doing this.

ANDERSON: Interesting. Following yesterday's vote at the UNGA you tweeted and I quote you here, "The international community has spoken clearly today, 141 countries are demanding Putin's regime to stop the war and cease its aggression against Ukraine.

The war crimes of Kremlin's regime and killing of innocent people must stop #StandWithUkraine. So the unanimous vote is for sure a positive step. I'm trying to get a sense for our viewers as to what a non- binding U.N. resolution means practically for Ukrainians who are under assault besieged on the ground.


KARINS: Well, this is an unprecedented worldwide support and actually a condemnation of Putin's war in Ukraine. 141 for the motion only four countries against them, if we look at the list of those countries, North Korea, Eritrea, Belarus, Syria, these are countries, shall we say not the best friends maybe.

ANDERSON: So, this is a diplomatic sort of result as far as the world is concerned. But I'm wondering about how people will be protected on the ground. You've said that establishing a no fly zone over Ukraine would lead to NATO forces indirect war with Russia.

But President Zelensky just in the last hour, once again, calling for a no fly zone to avoid what he says are war crimes. NATO has involved enforce the closure of skies in other conflict zones, so why not now?

KARINS: Again, the situation in this conflict is slightly different. What many NATO members are doing and European Union member states are doing is providing all kinds of support to the Ukrainian government and the Ukrainian army. This is being done on a bilateral basis.

And even the European Union for the first time decided to collectively support Ukraine militarily. That is, right now what is being done on a quite massive level?

ANDERSON: Right. But with respect a no fly zone, according to President Zelensky could make an enormous amount of difference in preventing attacks from an Air Force, which, frankly, is far, far superior to Ukraine. So just I put you again, do you see a time when that is a possibility?

KARINS: I don't think anyone is interested in a major world war coming out of all this because of course; a no fly zone would put NATO forces in direct opposition to Russian forces. But what we are seeing is the Ukrainians continued ability to fight also in the air, they have active air defenses, and they have fighters also in the air, so no one is having supremacy over the Ukrainian skies.

And this is a great tribute to the tremendous strength and durability of the Ukrainian army. And it says bucket loads about the actual strength of the Russian military.

ANDERSON: That's not to suggest that that superiority won't be established in the days to come, unfortunately. And just lastly, Antony Blinken will travel to Europe later this week. Latvia is on its scheduled agenda. What will you are asking of the U.S. at this point?

KARINS: Well, we're speaking with all of our allies, also including the U.S. We're very thankful for the enhanced U.S. presence throughout the eastern flank also in Latvia, so there are additional U.S. forces, U.S. military equipment in Latvia in other countries on the eastern flank.

What we have to talk about is how we can all continue to work together the transatlantic bond, the NATO bond, which is strong and I can say that Putin has made us stronger and more united than ever.

ANDERSON: With that we'll leave it there. Sir, we thank you very much indeed for joining us. The Prime Minister is speaking to you live. While Ukraine asking for helps keeping nuclear plants safe, what can be done to protect those? I'll ask that you head of the International Atomic Energy Agency up next.



CHATTERLEY: Welcome back. I'm Julia Chatterley in New York.

ANDERSON: I'm Becky Anderson in Abu Dhabi. Now the International Atomic Energy Agency is calling on Russia to stop actions against nuclear facilities in Ukraine. The IAEA member states passed a resolution just a short time ago condemning Russia's aggressive activity as they call it and attacks against nuclear sites in Ukraine and seizing and taking control of nuclear facilities.

And quote "Well, Ukraine has 15 nuclear reactors, including the largest power plant in Europe, the nuclear power plant in Europe". Russia claims to have taken control of the area around that massive plant.

Well, on Wednesday, Ukrainian civilian set up a roadblock hoping to stop Russians from getting to it. The Director General of the IAEA Rafael Grossi, Rafael Mariano Grossi says and I quote, "The best action to ensure the safety and security of Ukraine's nuclear facilities and its people would be for this armed conflict to end now".

Well, Rafael Grossi joins me now from Vienna. Welcome, sir. With all due respect, the armed conflict doesn't look as if it's about to end any time soon. In fact, Russia's Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said earlier today the Third World War involving NATO and Russia would be, "nuclear". Should we be concerned or just how concerned should we be? RAFAEL MARIANO GROSSI, DIRECTOR GENERAL, INTERNATIONAL ATOMIC ENERGY AGENCY: I think we should always be concerned with these armed conflict anywhere in the world. In this case, as far as I'm concerned, I have a very concrete mission, apart from political statements that may be quoted from one side or the other.

My mission is to ensure the safety and security of nuclear facilities in all the member states of the IAEA, in this case, Ukraine. And the situation is as you I think, you described it very well in your introduction, the situation is very tense, in particular, around Zaporizhia, which is this big site with six nuclear reactors.

The biggest in Europe, where as you rightly described, and I think here we have to be extremely careful when we say what's going on, because we hear information and sometimes I would say a bit frivolous reports indicating what may or may not may be going on, I think you described it very well.

There are forces military forces that have taken control of the village which is very close to the police plant. You know, that in the old Soviet Union used to have the nuclear power plants and then you had a village with not where most of the stuff, these are huge industrial compounds as you may imagine.

So there are thousands of people in those places. So they got control, control meaning ensuring, you know, the security of the entire place displaying their armored vehicles et cetera.


GROSSI: And then they moved into the vicinity of the perimeter of the nuclear power plant. And as you are indicating, there have been some physical you know, proximity confrontation among some of the local population and these forces. Yes, this is what is going on.


ANDERSON: OK. That's what's going on in Ukraine. Moscow has said it has put its nuclear forces on alert.


ANDERSON: Some say that was just a frightened the west. Others say that Putin is serious about using them. What's your sense?

GROSSI: Well, I think we have to make the distinction again, so that people are not confused between what is going on with the nuclear facilities in Ukraine and the safety operation of these facilities, all of them, including Chernobyl. And an announcement made by the President of the Russian Federation, indicating that his nuclear forces is in one stage alert.


GROSSI: So I think we should make this distinction otherwise, we are mixing up things. As far as that is concerned, it's an announcement, it says political announcement, and I don't, you know, have views on political announcements of the president of the member state of the IEA.

What I can say is that, of course, this is something that is attracting a lot of attention is not a banal thing to say that you are putting your forces in a state of alert, it doesn't mean that they're going to be used.

As you know and this is a general statement I'm making, it doesn't have to do it has nothing to do with this particular one. But as you know, there is a gradient, there are a number of steps and grades that you have with your nuclear deterrent when you use it, and this is one of the initial ones. Yes.

ANDERSON: Understand. You've said that the IAEA was in discussions with Ukraine about sending personnel to help secure the safety of those nuclear plants that you've been talking about. Will you and have you notified the Russians that that is going to happen?

GROSSI: Well, first of all, again, and to clarify, the nuclear regulator, the Nuclear Safety Authority of Ukraine, which is my counterpart, I deal with them because it's about Ukraine has requested me for immediate assistance.

Of course, this assistance has different manifestations; we are already engaged with them, with the operators in the different sites in Ukraine. I would say almost permanently getting information from them, and when it when it's possible, giving them some technical advice on different safety operations.

On top of that, we must evaluate the opportunity and the advisability of sending a physical presence. And of course for this--

ANDERSON: Are you going to send people in, I guess is the question at this point, very briefly.

GROSSI: I'm talking to both sides and seeing whether this would be possible, but for this to be possible first, you have to define what you are sending people for. So let's not forget that these plants are being operated and are being run normally, by their own staff.


GROSSI: So when it comes to sending people, you have to be very clear in defining what kind of activity they should be performing. The Ukrainians have informed us that there is a lot of concern, because on some cases, shifts are not proceeding.

So people are staying on, on their posts for longer than the necessary or for longer than it should normally be. And of course, - a nuclear power plant is something quite delicate. So you have to have people who are rested, et cetera, et cetera.

ANDERSON: Understand.

GROSSI: I'm talking to both sides, and as you can imagine, am quite a delicate operation.

ANDERSON: OK. All right, sir, and with that, and I can understand it must be a very delicate operation. With that, we'll leave it there. We thank you very much indeed, for joining us.

Once upon a time, he was one of the biggest foreign investors in Russia. Then he called out corruption was hunted for over a decade and played a role in developing the sanctions that are actually being used today. Bill Browder's take on how to stop Vladimir Putin is up next.



CHATTERLEY: Welcome back. Chelsea Football Club looking for a new owner Russian billionaire Roman Abramovich says he plans to sell Chelsea in the best interest of the club, the fans, the employees as well as the club sponsors and partners quote.

Abramovich who bought Chelsea in 2003 sees net proceeds of the sale will be donated to a foundation to help victims of the war in Ukraine. CNN's Alex Thomas joins us now. Alex, that's a statement in itself not yet sanctioned to himself but clearly preparing or acting accordingly. What are the fun things about this? Do they understand the bigger picture on what's happening here?

ALEX THOMAS, CNN WORLD SPORT: There are still lots of question marks over how this sale is going to go through. But it's certainly a momentous time for this football club. It's enjoyed over the last 19 years, unquestionably the most successful period in its history.

You know, Chelsea Football Club have been around for around 98 years before Roman Abramovich became the owner back in July 2003, winning arguably around eight major trophies. And in his 19 years since taking over Chelsea have won something like 18 major trophies you could notch that count up above the 20 mark include various Super Cups as well.

So it's been quite astonishing. He's pumped billions of dollars into this team buying star players whose names are known throughout the world, Didier Drogba, Torres; you've had Shevchenko play here at - many others as well. They've won the Premier League title on five occasions.

They've been champions of Europe twice, including most recently as last year, and even became Club World Champions just weeks ago. So as far as the football is concerned, real concern amongst player's staff fans uncertainty over the future.

But certainly Roman Abramovich has been mentioned when it's come to discussion about these oligarchs that many western governments are going after. U.S. President Joe Biden himself said we're coming for you when it comes to seizing assets, reclaiming them in this bid to put pressure on Russian President Vladimir Putin to end his war in Ukraine.

And that's why Abramovich says he's setting the club for its benefits for its future because he knows that he's quickly becoming persona non grata as the west looks to put pressure on Putin.

CHATTERLEY: Yes, him and others. Alex Thomas, thank you so much for that now, football clubs, just one of the choice of the oligarchs. This is the luxury super yacht owned by the CEO of state owned Russian oil company Rosneft.

Now, it's in the hands of French customs, the latest of a number of seized assets belonging to people with close ties to President Putin. Sources say a similar move is being planned by the United States as we've discussed, applauding all of this Bill Browder.

He was a major investor in Russia before he started to campaign against Kremlin corruption. He was the driving force behind U.S. legislation used to impose sanctions after his own lawyer died in jail in Russia.

Browder says it was murder. Bill Browder is also an author and has published Red Notice, A True Story of High Finance, Murder and One Man's Fight for Justice. I began by asking him how important it is to tackle the oligarchs and Putin directly as a way to undermine his power.

BILL BROWDER, CEO & FOUNDER, HERMITAGE CAPITAL MANAGEMENT: It's crucial that we go after the oligarchs and to give you some sense, how much this affects him personally. It wasn't until we started talking about seizing the assets of the oligarchs that Putin then started.

He pulled out the nuclear card and said he was threatening nuclear war so you know that you've hit the Achilles heel when Putin starts doing that. This is what he cares about. This is what's important to him. Now, I should say that going after the oligarchs is not going to help because we're going to get the oligarchs to either influence him or overthrow him that's never going to happen.


BROWDER: But this helps because the oligarchs look after Putin's money, we want to punish Putin personally indirectly, for what he's done. And this is the most direct way of doing that.

CHATTERLEY: But if it's not a way to remove him, or to pressure him in some way, what's the true Achilles heel? Is there an Achilles heel, ultimately for Putin?

BROWDER: Well, so Putin doesn't have a reverse gear. Once he starts something, he can't go backwards. He can't show weakness, he comes from a prison yard mentality where he has to be the toughest guy in the prison yard.

And so now that he's launched this invasion, all we can do at this point, is try to wear him down. So he doesn't go further. And when I say further, what I mean is, we don't want him to then show up at NATO's door later on, because that's what will happen.

And so the best thing we can do is we can deplete his resources. So this expensive war becomes more and more costly to him, and he doesn't have the money. And the way we can deplete his resources, is to get rid of his resources offshore, which is the oligarchs wealth, and get rid of the resources on shore, which is central bank wealth.

And if we do both and we do them properly, then eventually he's not going to have enough money to execute this war.

CHATTERLEY: I mean, you know more about what's possible in terms of sanctions, I think the most other people in the world as a result of your own experiences, there are clear leaks here.

The energy sector in Russia, is a leak, there are other leaks that you can see there in terms of the banks that haven't been sanctioned. And perhaps those payments can flow through what just under a third of the banks that haven't been sanctioned, did those leaks need closing to.

BROWDER: Those leaks definitely need closing. They've sanctioned with 70 percent of the banking system. And as you say, they're just going to move the money through the other 30 percent of the banking system. It's the different countries of sanction different oligarchs.

But we're not looking at a very long list. If we want to curtail Putin's ability to execute this war, we need to sanction more, we're like 50, or 100 oligarchs, not 10. And so we're beginning to do the right thing.

It's a remarkable sea change from the appeasement attitude that many countries had a week ago. But we still have a lot more to do if we're going to seriously put a dent in Putin's ability to execute this war.

CHATTERLEY: So what you're saying is we're still moving too slowly. I mean, everyday people are dying.

BROWDER: And every day, the Ukrainians are begging for us to take more action. And since we're not in any position to assist them militarily, we should use whatever financial and economic tools we have to the maximum possible pain for Vladimir Putin.

CHATTERLEY: Just China also hopes the key here to Russia's ability to sustain this conflict. We're on CNN reporting today that China asked Vladimir Putin to delay beyond the finish of the Beijing Olympics.

We know that they were increasing trade ties financial ties in the run up to this. Do you believe that China's willing to accept or risk secondary sanctions in order to help Russia avoid the sanctions that have currently been put into place?

BROWDER: Well, I think that China will do whatever is in China's best financial interest to do. And so the fact that we're slowly but surely strangling the economy and finances of Russia, eventually Russia is going to be with their begging bowl at China's door.

And China will probably see some big economic advantage to giving Russia a little bit of help. And so if China weren't there, it would be a lot easier to totally isolate Russia, China is there. And that's going to be, you know, delay the inevitable, which is that Putin runs out of money. CHATTERLEY: You're talking about economic depression in Russia. Can you flesh that out for me? What does that look like? And how long before the people feel it. And to circle back to our conversation about Achilles heels, what about the people when they start to feel the significant consequences? And we've already seen many of them with currency collapse and capital controls? Does that make a difference?

BROWDER: People feel it profoundly from a few days ago, the currency has collapsed. They can't get dollars and Euros out of their ATMs anymore. You're going to see a massive economic slowdown in Russia's businesses. And so, the people are feeling it, and they're very upset.

I mean, why would anyone want that to happen to them, and most people have not been given a good explanation of why Putin has invaded Ukraine. In fact, they're not even allowed to know these invaded Ukraine. They're not even allowed to call it an invasion.

And so the Russian people over time are going to become more and more disheartened with how they're being, you know, economically disadvantaged. Putin is going to try to turn that as anger towards the west, but many people will probably be pretty angry towards him.


BROWDER: Now, does that mean there's going to be a revolution and uprising? I think not because Putin has specialized in quelling and suppressing dissent. He arrests any leader of any opposition group sometimes kills them, he arrests random protesters, then I think more than 1000 people have been arrested for protesting against the war. And so--

CHATTERLEY: Vladimir Putin is speaking; let's listen in to what he has to say.

VLADIMIR PUTIN, RUSSIAN PRESIDENT: Security of our motherland, our officers and soldiers, acting heroic just and courageous electro here, our military are fighting, firmly, fully understanding what's happening. Even once wounded, our officers and soldiers are still in the ranks in the troop sacrificing their life so they can save their friends and peaceful population.

In the course of this fight, as well as them, our soldiers as well as the people in Donbas who are with us, they're truly courageous. And our worries under the commandment of - in the region of - got through the well protected protection, which nationalists have been building up nearly for eight years.

The commander of the Tank Division - in the course of the fight, destroyed five tanks. On the 25th of February, near - a commander of division 163 met the nationalistic divisions which had 15 tanks and 6 armored vehicles.

And they attacked their enemy and easily destroyed five tanks and all armed vehicles without any losses on their side. And I signed the decree to give senior - to avoid Senior Lieutenant - the war of the Hero of Russia. Unfortunately posthumously in the battle, he was very confident in the way he commanded his soldiers. As a true commander, he stood up for his soldiers. Heavily wounded, he fought until the last minute and, and got himself exploded, together with those nationals.

The reason why he did this was just because he was fighting those neo- Nazis who are torturing their prisoners. I'm a Russian and you know what, if I look around my family, we all Russians. And when I see examples like this, the examples of such heroism, which is not of in Russian, and he's a - and other heroes.

I would like to say, I am from - I'm from Chinchin. I am - I am from a city, I'm from --. And it would be hard it would be impossible for me to count all of those over 300 various ethnic and national groups that we have, but I'm proud that I am part of this huge multinational people of Russia.

And at the same time, I will never step back from my conviction that Russians and Ukrainians are one people despite the fact that the population of Ukraine is so scared by the nationalistic propaganda.

And many of them consciously have followed Nazis and Panther and everyone who fought on the site of Hitler during the Second World War. And it is clear that we are fighting the Neo Nazis, the Nazis, and we can see this in the course of the fight.

We see that they have foreigner, foreign mercenaries even from the Middle East. And they are covering up and they're using the civilians as they're alive shield and they're using mill armored vehicles in their residential neighborhoods.

And this is exactly only the extreme. People doing instead of fulfilling their promise to remove those armored vehicles from the neighborhoods where there are --.


PUTIN: They actually moving more equipment and artillery and, and rocket launchers. They have actually even captured foreign residents, thousands of the foreign students. In hark of day; they've kept on the cork of trail rail station for 3179 foreign students.

And also in - and Neo Nazis have started firing Chinese students who are trying to leave the country and two of them got wounded. Hundreds, hundreds of foreigners are trying to leave these combat territories.

But they're not allowed to do that. They keep them captured, and they just track the time or they suggest them to be evacuated via - and Poland. And that means they put them at risk.

Our military has given corridors; they've provided corridors in all of these zones of combat action. They've provided vehicle, so the civilians, the foreign residents could have this possibility to leave and go into the safety.

And I would like to reiterate this; the nationalities are not allowing doing this. Moreover, they've been telling their foreign residents to refer to their government, so they would come to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Ukraine.

Moreover, even worse, that Neo Nazis are treating their own civilians, they're covering up themselves with the people, the civilians, as the life shield. And we've already recorded in - the Donetsk region.

People from the multiple flat buildings have been taken out of the building, or have taken in one place, and then they've got snipers and gone on the roofs and the basement. It's only the first Nazis who've been fighting like this, there were brutal.

They were brutal with a local population. And again, I would like to emphasize this that our warriors are doing everything possible to make sure that there are no victims. And that includes the Ukrainian population.

And it is our duty to support military that are fighting for us, for our people for Russia. So everyone who - all the families whose members died during this special operation, they will receive 7 million plus rubles and also monthly compensation.

And additionally, there will be additional compensation for every military from the Ministry of Defense; there'll be compensation in the amount of 5 million for both for all of the wounded ones, and every military will also receive insurance and some other kind of compensation.

And if it happens, so that if a military was in contract, and then won't be able to continue their service, they will receive compensation as well as a monthly compensation. And all of this has already been envisaged by the law. In addition to that, I also believe we also have to add more pay to the military troops who are participating in this special military operation and wounded.

So I would like to emphasize that currently in Ukraine, our officers and soldiers are fighting for Russia, for peaceful life, for the people of Donbas for the de-nazification and demilitarization.

So no one can put a threat to us, including nuclear weapons just like they've done recently. Our people are proud of their armed forces. We will always remember the ones who we've lost, we'll do everything to support their families, their children to give them education, to be with their relatives and close ones.