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Hala Gorani Tonight

NATO Warns Threat From Russia Is "New Normal In Europe"; Two More Substances Found In Kamila Valieva's Test Sample; Xi Jinping Urges Hong Kong To Control COVID Outbreak; Kharkiv Responds To Nearby Russian Troops; Russia Continuing To Send Forces To Ukrainian Border; Russian Opposition Leader Alexei Navalny Could Get 15 More Years In Prison; Missing Child Found In Compartment Under Stairs; Details About Prince Andrew's Lawsuit Settlement Unclear. Aired 2-3p ET

Aired February 16, 2022 - 14:00   ET



HALA GORANI, CNN INTERNATIONAL HOST: Hello and welcome, I'm HALA GORANI TONIGHT. Our top story, NATO warns that the threat from Russia has become

the new normal in Europe, announcing new measures to counter what it calls the worst security crisis on the continent in decades. NATO says it has

seen no de-escalation of Russian troops around Ukraine's borders, rejecting Russia's claim that videos such as this one verify a partial withdrawal.

The Secretary-General of the alliance Jens Stoltenberg says NATO is beefing up its eastern defenses and will not be bullied into compromising on core

principles. Listen to Stoltenberg.


JENS STOLTENBERG, SECRETARY-GENERAL, NATO: When we see this massive Russian military build-up combined with threatening rhetoric, proposing

something which has actually formulated -- that's a kind of ultimatum, that if we don't accept this and that, then there will be what they call

military technical consequences. And we know the track record of Russia using force against neighbors, then of course, we had to take that

seriously. And that's the reason why we in a defensive way, have increased our presence in the east, and are considering to increase it further.


GORANI: Well, Ukraine is also sounding defiant today. President Volodymyr Zelensky met with troops in the west, then flew to the eastern city of

Mariupol and delivered a day of unity address. He says Ukrainians are not afraid and will defend themselves if attacked. Alex Marquardt is covering

Mr. Zelensky's visit to Mariupol, Melissa Bell is outside NATO headquarters in Brussels with more. Alex, let's start with you and Zelensky's visit to

Mariupol. What was the message that he delivered to people there?

ALEX MARQUARDT, CNN U.S. SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Well, Hala, he was on a National Guard base and he handed out medals to National Guard service

members for their valiant service. Let's remember where this day of national unity was first mentioned. It was two days ago when President

Zelensky made this address and he said that in light of the reporting and the information that he got, that an invasion was supposed to happen today

on Wednesday, the 16th.

Instead, we will hold this day of national unity. And so, today, he said whether it's the 16th, the 17th, the 18th of next month, Ukrainian forces

will be ready. Now, it is important that he comes to visit here. We are in the southeastern most corner of the country. To the south there you've got

what has been called the third front from which Russia could possibly invade. Back behind me, just about 25 kilometers, you had fighting that has

raged for about eight years now ever since Russia invaded Crimea.

And today, there was a security meeting here in Mariupol that was attended -- that was hosted by President Zelensky. He was asking about the security

situation in these break-way Republics as they're called. These separatists enclaves. He said that they need to fight against Russian propaganda and to

spread Ukrainian media as a way of shoring up support. Hala, we also spoke to one of Zelensky's spokesmen before this event tonight.

And he said that despite this 150,000 figure of Russian troops that are around Ukraine, that President Biden mentioned just yesterday, that the

Zelensky administration does not believe that, that is enough for a large scale invasion of Ukraine. And it is not enough to take Kyiv and to hold

Kyiv. We also asked the spokesman about this -- about the Russian troop movements, and he was hesitant to say that it was a positive move. He said

that they're watching closely, but in the past, they have seen Russian draw-downs before, notably last year, only for those troops to come back


So like NATO, they are still waiting to see whether this means anything at all, or whether the troops are simply moving around. Hala?

GORANI: Yes, certainly, that's going to be the big question. And you are in Brussels, Melissa Bell, where NATO defense ministers have been meeting.

So, we know that NATO has said they don't necessarily believe that these troop movements are a sign of de-escalation. Do they believe that Moscow

still is intent on invading Ukraine?

MELISSA BELL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: They say that they simply don't know. We heard from Jens Stoltenberg after that meeting of NATO defense ministers

who said look, we don't know what's going to happen with Ukraine.


But what we do know is what's been done so far. And so what you heard tonight was a very united, very strong response to that. Almost regardless

of what happens going forward, one of the results of what's been happening these last few weeks is that NATO if anything is more unified than it was,

and it's certainly going to be strengthening its position. So if Vladimir Putin's point in all this had been to divide NATO, had been to weaken it,

that appears to have failed.

In fact, what Jens Stoltenberg announced was that beyond the reinforcement of NATO, a NATO presence, its battle groups in the Baltics, for instance,

after 2014, its recent reinforcement of its eastern front, we're also going to see now over the coming weeks, new battle groups positioned in places

they haven't been positioned before with France, for instance, Hala, leading one of the first ones in Romania.

Battle groups that will be stationed along NATO's eastern flank to protect it further. So, that is the result of what we've seen so far. What they say

in terms of the Intelligence is that as far as NATO can tell, there has not been a withdrawal. They can't tell if there's been a further escalation or

not, they're keeping a close eye on it. As far as they are concerned, the troops that were surrounding Ukraine continue to do so.

And as far as intent, they continue to keep a close eye on what Vladimir Putin has to -- will do. But the fact, said Jens Stoltenberg, that he was

willing to use force to threaten a country like Ukraine, the fact that he was willing in a sense to try and get NATO to sit down and enshrine In a

new treaty, things that are contrary to the very foundational principles of European security, he said, was enough to convince NATO members that they

needed to act more strongly against Russia.

GORANI: And Alex in Mariupol, what kind of preparations are people making there? Because even if it didn't happen today, as some people had predicted

that perhaps February 16th would be the day Russia would decide to invade, it doesn't seem like that's going to happen. What are we seeing in terms of

military preparations on the Ukrainian side?

MARQUARDT: Well, almost nothing, Hala, in terms of military or civilian preparations. I think that is probably one of the most striking things to

see here on the ground. When you hear what is coming out of Washington D.C. and out of NATO in terms of the alarm, the predictions that Russia could

invade in a very significant serious, bloody, horrific way in the coming days. It's as if no one here is getting that message, but they would tell

you that they have been living with this threat for the past eight years.

Not only have they always had Russia perched on their border, but they've had this war that has been going on for the last eight years. Crimea, which

was seized eight years ago, you have had a very concerted effort by President Zelensky and his leadership to make sure that the people remain

calm, that there's no panic. That appears to have worked. We have spoken to a lot of people in central, southern, eastern Ukraine, people are out and

about, they're going to school, they are going to work.

There is not a hint of panic. Many are concerned, of course. They do see and hear what is going on. Many are dismissive, but they do say that this

is something that they have lived with for a long time. Hala.

GORANI: All right, Alex Marquardt in Mariupol, Melissa Bell in Brussels, thanks so much. NATO is also warning Moscow not to recognize two breakaway

Ukrainian regions that are controlled by pro-Russian separatists, saying that by -- doing that would violate international law. Russian lawmakers

want Vladimir Putin to recognize -- you see them there on the map, the self-proclaimed republics as independent, and that would effectively kill

the Minsk accords, which Russia has repeatedly accused Ukraine of violating.

Russia is also accusing Ukraine of plotting to take back those regions by force. But Kyiv says it will use diplomacy instead.


DMYTRO KULEBA, FOREIGN MINISTER, UKRAINE: We will not stop until we free our territories in Donbas, Crimea, until Russia pays for all he damage it

caused in Ukraine. This is the process that will last until our victory.


GORANI: And just in the past few minutes, we heard that Ukraine has formally asked the U.N. Security Council to discuss the possibility that

Russia might recognize those separatist territories in Donbas. Let's bring in our Nic Robertson who is live in Moscow. So, if Russia goes ahead, the

Duma goes ahead and recognizes these territories as independent, what difference would that make on the ground?

NIC ROBERTSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL DIPLOMATIC EDITOR: Well, at the moment, the Duma has taken that decision, but it goes to President Putin to make

the final decision on it. And at the moment, he's minded to follow the Minsk process. In fact, he's calling on the United States and Germany and

France to pressure Kyiv into talking to the separatist leaders in that eastern pro-separatist enclave. The advantage for President Putin to do

things this way, he believes -- and this is where Minsk, and this is rather where Kyiv and Moscow have a very considerable difference of opinion over

interpretation of what the Minsk Agreement wants.


But for President Putin, if he continues with the Minsk Agreement, and it goes the way that he wants it, potentially he ends up with pro-Russian

separatists in the east being in the Duma of -- in Ukraine's Duma, which would give him in his mind, a potential veto over NATO, over Ukraine

becoming a member of NATO. It sounds complicated, and perhaps it is, because Kyiv's interpretation is that Russia needs to abide by the Minsk

Agreement and pull its forces, its border controls out of the Ukraine- Russia border in the separatist area, and then other things can flow from that.

But for President Putin, the advantage to ignore what his Duma is calling him to recognize those areas as independent, allows him to follow this

legal track through Minsk, and perhaps get the control he wants in Ukraine through legal means. He can resort to doing what the Duma has said, and it

would absolutely break the Minsk Agreement --

GORANI: Yes --

ROBERTSON: And there would be the potential then for further pressure on him to go in and support the separatists there who he claim are facing

attack, and he claims other things that the separatists are doing to those -- other things that the Ukrainian forces are doing to those pro-Russian

separatists. He accuses them of genocide in fact, without substance. So, there are a lot of levers he can pull there, I think is the best way to

understand that.

GORANI: Sure, he certainly did use the term genocide to describe what's going on in Donbas, which was a very big and as you mentioned not

necessarily accurate claim. But let's talk about these Russian troop movements. Is there any evidence at all that Vladimir Putin is de-

escalating and kind of trying to kind of send the message that, OK, you may have been concerned about an imminent invasion, but that's just not in the


ROBERTSON: He's trying to send that message, for sure. And he's trying to say as well the track of diplomacy is open and that he wants dialogue. His

terms for the dialogue are at a variance with NATO's terms and with the terms that President Biden laid out last night. He still wants his

Maximalist demand that Ukraine can't join NATO, NATO go back to 1997 levels, and we heard from the Secretary-General of NATO today saying, NATO

is not going to compromise on its core principles.

Not going to compromise on that. President Biden said the same thing last night. So this feels like some rhetoric about withdrawing -- some visuals

about drawing down forces without the substance of any of it being verified in a meaningful way. While maintaining that narrative of continuing to want

talks, it looks and feels very much like the status quo. Putin in a way has survived that moment where there were predictions that his forces would

invade this week.

The current international position that NATO and in the United States is that this -- Russia still has that opportunity in the days, weeks or months

ahead. So, Putin --

GORANI: Sure --

ROBERTSON: Can continue to maintain this position with his forces, maintain that -- maintain that visage of pressure and continue to go over -

- go for his Maximalist demands.

GORANI: All right, our diplomatic editor Nic Robertson is live in Moscow. Thanks. The territorial integrity of Ukraine is one big point in the

ongoing diplomatic efforts. Another is obviously NATO's eastward expansion. This is what NATO looked like before 1991 during the era of the Soviet

Union, but now Russia says NATO is just too much on its doorstep after welcoming multiple eastern European countries since 1999.

They include Poland, Hungary, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Slovakia and others. Well, Latvia's Defense Minister Artis Pabriks joins me now live

from Brussels. Thanks, minister, for being with us. You met with your colleagues, fellow defense ministers of NATO countries in Brussels today.

You don't sound convinced that Russia is de-escalating and pulling back troops away from Ukraine's borders. Is that correct?

ARTIS PABRIKS, DEFENSE MINISTER, LATVIA: It's very correct because we have no reason to trust announcements of Russian government-controlled media

that they're moving troops somewhere away. Because we can't confirm this, and we know that Putin is simply keeping all his cards close to his chest.

So, he can use a military option, and he can wait.

GORANI: Right, so do you think, therefore, that Vladimir Putin is still actively planning an invasion of Ukraine?

PABRIKS: He cannot exclude this. And you know, in the military or defense field, we always have to count on the worst scenario.


If we are wrong, then it's fine with us. In this case, I think Putin has approximately three possibilities. The one possibility is to kind of invade

Ukraine and start to wage a war. The second possibility as we could see from the developments in the last days, he can use his proxies and so-

called independents, Daniel Skanluhartz(ph) republic, which actually --

GORANI: Yes --

PABRIKS: Cannot even -- sorry for my expression, freely breathe of his own support of Moscow, and then try to destabilize the situation, including

pressing the very wrong Minsk Agreements on Kyiv. And the third version could be -- of course, he feels that his troops are too tired and he can't

reach any kind of result with us, with the west, then he can withdraw for a moment, temporarily. And by that, he simply will find a way how to

humiliate western leaders, telling that look, these people are coming to me all in a queue to Moscow, We were discussing, but actually they were so

wrong, because I never, ever wanted to attack Ukraine.

GORANI: So you listed three scenarios. But you didn't list the scenario where Vladimir Putin and the West come to some sort of agreement. The de-

escalation is a real and lasting one. Vladimir Putin and the Kremlin withdraw their troops and Ukraine maintains its territorial integrity. How

-- can we get there? Can we get do that scenario? And if so, how?

PABRIKS: Well, the tricky part is that Russian ultimatum that they gave to us about months or more ago, it simply undermines the very fundament of

free liberal democratic independent societies in Europe.

GORANI: That's asking -- if I can jump in to remind our viewers, that is asking NATO never to accept Ukraine as a member. That's what you're saying

that their demand --

PABRIKS: Oh, not true --

GORANI: Was, and that's an unacceptable one for you?

PABRIKS: Not only, because actually, this game, what Putin is playing is not only about Ukraine. Ukraine is a pretext just like Czechoslovakia in

1978. In fact, his major goal is to humiliate the West, fragmentate Europe, fragmentate Trans-Atlantic unity. For instance in stalling and asking for

returning to the situation of 1997.

GORANI: Yes --

PABRIKS: You see, Russian diplomats and Kremlin is a brilliant tacticians. And they are such cherry-pickers in international relations that we should

wonder. Because you see, we still remember at the beginning, for instance, of our independence in early -- early 20th century when --

GORANI: Yes --

PABRIKS: Then Soviet Union which Putin wants to actually recreate of Stalin's -- and it was written, actually, we have our peace treaty where

they told they will never ever claim these territories again. Never ever for Russians in those days, 20 years. So in this case, this simply is not

trustable partner, and it's very clear, and I think Putin gets the signal slowly, that we can't retreat this time. We were retreating with Georgia In

2008. We were --

GORANI: Yes --

PABRIKS: Retreating with annexation of Crimea. No more.

GORANI: Yes, so you're saying this time is different. This time it's different from Georgia, different from Crimea in 2014. So, do you -- how is

it different? Is it different in the sense that you think Vladimir Putin will blink this time? That this time, he will not go ahead? If so, why?

PABRIKS: Well, he might not blink, but he might under estimate other resolve, because we are in some way as the West, we are pressed in the

corner. We can see the soldiers from the countries like Finland and Sweden which are not NATO members, but which are not going to blink anymore. Just

like we in the Baltics. And the problem is that in such a situation, Putin has to find a way to retreat. My advice to our allies would be that in

this case, Putin had put himself in the corner.

He has to figure out himself as well how to get out of this corner. But it should not be the price of our freedoms and liberties.

GORANI: Now, when you spoke with your fellow defense ministers in Brussels today, did they suggest to you that they are a little bit more relaxed in

terms of the imminent nature of a possible Russian invasion? Are they a little bit more reassured than they were? Because two weeks ago, the United

States was basically telling us, you know, this is -- this could happen in five minutes. We're not there yet. Are you a little bit more relaxed, I

guess, is the right term here?


PABRIKS: Well, I can't tell about everybody. But I am not stressed. I understand the huge responsibility which lies on our shoulders. But I also

have this feeling of lightness, because we are on the right side. We are defending our freedoms, and we know that if we will not stand b Ukraine

this time, the next time -- and the next time will come afterwards very soon, we would have to stand by ourselves because this person in Kremlin

will not stop.

Why he's choosing such a path? Is his personal, emotional drive, or it is simply wrong calculation? It's difficult to say. But my assessment would

be, if Putin really wants the war, then that might be the end of his regime also in Moscow and in Russia. And he must take the sink because this time

very seriously. So, yes, nobody wants a war, and we should of course try to avoid this, but we can't avoid the war on the expense of what is

fundamental to us. And i really could converge this times when Nazis have been discussing future of Germans.

GORANI: Well, thank you for being so candid in your answers --


Thank you so much. It was a pleasure speaking to you. Artis Pabriks who is the defense minister for Latvia and who met with defense ministers from all

the other NATO countries today amid this crisis between Russia, Ukraine and western countries. Thank you so much, sir, for joining us. Appreciate it.

PABRIKS: Thank you.

GORANI: And a lot more to come tonight. The Russian figure skater who failed a drug test is carrying a lead into Thursday's Olympic competition.

And we have new revelations about other drugs in her system. Stay with us.


GORANI: The women's singles competition in Olympic figure skating wraps up tomorrow. And so far, Kamila Valieva is in the lead. But now we have

learned that the Russian teenager on top of having a banned heart drug in her system also had two other substances. Other athletes are outraged that

she's being allowed to compete at all. CNN's Selina Wang has more from Beijing.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: This whole situation is just devastating.

SELINA WANG, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Kamila Valieva; Russian figure skater and favorite to take individual gold at these

Olympics raced into the lead at the women's single skating competition in the short program Tuesday.


Taking the ice despite testing positive before the games for a banned drug. Valieva blamed her positive drug test on a mix-up with her grandfather's

heart medication.

DENIS OSWALD, CHAIRPERSON, IOC DISCIPLINARY COMMISSION: She presented elements which brought some doubts about if she would miss the

competition at these games, the damage would not be repaired.

WANG: The 15-year-old stumbled on her first jump, but still easily sealed her place in Thursday's free skating program. Valieva emotional when she

finished her routine. Valieva returned the drug test on Christmas Day, but it was only last week that the sample was reported to have come back

positive for the drug, Trimetazidine, after she and her teammates had already won gold here.

It was further revealed that Valieva declared use of two other substances, one of which the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency tried to ban due to its

performance-enhancing capabilities.

TRAVIS TYGART, CHIEF EXECUTIVE OFFICER, UNITED STATES ANTI-DOPING AGENCY: Having these three, you know, two declared and one, obviously, testing

positive that wasn't declared, the one that is prohibited just raises, you know, significant red flags and alarm bells.

WANG: The World Anti-Doping Agency says it will also be investigating her entourage if she medals as expected, the award will be put on hold with no

ceremony during these games.

TYGART: There is someone behind, whether it's coach, doctor, the state, that's helping this young athlete and teaching this young athlete to use

these substances in order ultimately to increase and enhance performance.

WANG: A glimpse behind the glimmering surface into the murky world of Russian sports.

DICK POUND, FOUNDING PRESIDENT, WORLD ANTI-DOPING AGENCY: Maybe it's time for a time-out for Russia in the Olympics. You simply say, sorry, you will

not be invited to the next games. You will not be able to host any -- you know, Olympic sport events and so forth. That will get their attention.

WANG: Not holding back in a statement, quote, "this appears to be another chapter in the systematic and pervasive disregard for clean sport by

Russia." The Russian Figure Skating Federation president labeling the decision common sense and justice. But other athletes slamming the decision

as a mockery of clean competition. And an Olympics dogged by politics and China's human rights record, this doping scandal tainting the sport here as

well. Selina Wang, CNN, Beijing.


GORANI: Well, staying in that part of the world, the Chinese President Xi Jinping says Hong Kong must, quote, "take all necessary measures to control

its spiraling COVID outbreak." Hong Kong has a record number of new COVID cases. Some hospitals are so full that they're having to treat patients

outdoors. Kristie Lu Stout is in Hong Kong.


KRISTIE LU STOUT, CNN CORRESPONDENT (on camera): Chinese President Xi Jinping is urging the Hong Kong government to take the main responsibility

to stabilize a growing COVID-19 outbreak. This according to local pro- Beijing media on Wednesday. According to Xi, they say "the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region government should take up the main

responsibility. It should mobilize all forces and resources that can be mobilized and take all necessary measures to protect Hong Kong people's

lives and health as well as ensure Hong Kong's social stability."

Other reports add that Beijing will help Hong Kong by boosting its testing, treatment, and quarantine capacity. Hong Kong's top leader Carrie Lam

issued a response thanking Xi for his concern while promising to unite Hong Kong to fight the virus. Now, Xi's message comes as Hong Kong grapples with

a growing fifth wave of infection. On Wednesday, the city reported 4,285 new daily COVID-19 cases, and 7,000 more preliminary positive cases.

A significant rise from the previous day. Now, a number of public hospitals are running out of beds, and some have set up outdoor treatment areas. At

the Caritas Medical Center, patients are waiting outside for care. The parking lot has been turned into a field hospital and isolation facility.

Now, despite the worsening situation, Carrie Lam on Tuesday said that the city remains committed to its dynamic zero COVID strategy. A policy

designed to suppress every outbreak. Kristie Lu Stout, CNN, Hong Kong.


GORANI: And on COVID, Germany plans to ease restrictions starting March 20th. The Chancellor Olaf Scholz says some measures will be lifted

depending on the situation in German hospitals. He says face masks requirements indoors and on public transit will remain in place, but

restrictions on how many people can be gathered will be lifted for those who are vaccinated or who have recovered from COVID.

Scholz says Omicron may have peaked in Germany, but warns that the pandemic is not yet over. Austria meantime says it will loosen some restrictions

starting Saturday and lift most restrictions by March the 5th. Still to come, Ukraine's second largest city is very close to Russia's border and

very close to that build-up of Russian troops.


We'll show you how people in Kharkiv are reacting today. And later, Russian dissident Alexey Navalny is back on trial. I'll speak to a colleague of

Navalny's about what this could mean for the Kremlin's most well-known and vocal critic. We'll be right back.




GORANI: NATO's secretary-general said there are no signs that Russia is pulling forces away from Ukraine's border, despite Moscow's claim. He's

pushing for dialogue to end what he calls the most serious security crisis in Europe in decades.

But what's it like inside Ukraine?

Sam Kiley is in Kharkiv.



SAM KILEY, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The chorus of Kharkiv opera house singing in defiance of this: Russia amassing what

the U.S. says are 150,000 troops on three sides of Ukraine's border.

In Kharkiv, 25 miles from the front here, a day of national unity is quickly marked amid dire warnings from Washington.

JOE BIDEN (D), PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: An invasion remains distinctly possible.

KILEY (voice-over): Here, though, a message of calm.

Do you expect an invasion?

(voice-over): "No, we don't expect it," he says. "I think we should be ready for anything. But I'm also sure everything is going to be fine."

If the Russians did attack, they would have a short run to Kharkiv.

We're driving north toward the border with Russia, which is now about 15 or 20 minutes away. About a half hour beyond that, is the city of Belgorod.

Now around Belgorod, according to Russian reports, there is the first guards tank army.


On paper, they're capable of mustering 50,000 or so infantry, 600 to 800 tanks. They have scanned their surface to surface missiles. But there isn't

a single sign on this road, north of Kharkiv, a city of 1.5 million people, of any kind of Ukrainian military activity.

(voice-over): Just trucks, waiting for routine crossing into Russia. And business as usual at the border crossing here. Russia's on the other side

of that fence. The locals here, relaxed.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: (Speaking foreign language).

KILEY (voice-over): Ludmilla (ph) says, "How is it that we're forced to quarrel with our brothers?

"I just can't comprehend it. On the contrary, we should not have borders at all."

"There is no will to fight with Russia and we don't see the will of the Russians to fight with us. There are no armed forces, not even a hint,"

says Oleksandr (ph).

In case Russia does send tanks into this vast landscape, Ukrainians insist that they recall the words of their national anthem, "Our enemies will die

as the dew does in the sunshine and we brothers will live happily in our land" -- Sam Kiley, CNN, Kharkiv.


GORANI: Let's get Russia's perspective on this. Joining me from Moscow is Andrey Kortunov, head of the Kremlin founded think tank, the Russian

International Affairs Council.

Thank you for being with us.

Do you think the Russian president Vladimir Putin is backing down?

Is he retreating?

Is this a real deescalation?

Or is it, as NATO says, not a provable sort of retreat by Vladimir Putin?

ANDREY KORTUNOV, RUSSIAN INTERNATIONAL AFFAIRS COUNCIL: Well, I think that it's probably too early to make the final judgment on what Vladimir Putin

is up to. But it is clear that he authorized minister Lavrov to give diplomacy a chance.

It means that Russia's likely to engage with the West on specific issues where a compromise is not beyond the reach and where some kind of Russian

grievances and Russian complaints can be considered by the West.

So I think that invasion is definitely not the option which is considered right now as a practical step of the Russian Federation. War can still

happen. But if it does, it's likely to happen because of an inadvertent escalation.

GORANI: OK, let's talk about what's changed then.

What has changed?

We know that the Western countries and NATO members won't compromise on the biggest, most important security demand of Russia, which is to guarantee

that NATO will not expand farther eastward.

So what has changed between today and two weeks ago, that has led Russia to believe that there can be compromise on certain issues?

And what are those issues?

KORTUNOV: Well, I think that, first of all, these demands from Russia are still there. They're not dropped. The Kremlin will still insist on

(INAUDIBLE) Biden guarantees that NATO would not move eastward.

But I think that the decision has been made that it's better to have something than to have nothing. And a couple of issues where it seems to be

possible to start a meaningful dialogue with the NATO and with the United States, for instance, with the United States, Russia can discuss a

bilateral moratorium on the deployment of the new generation of midrange and nuclear missiles in Europe.

With NATO, it can talk about how to resurrect the NATO-Russia council, including the military dimension of the council. They can also discuss

inspections on BMD facilities that the United States has deployed in Romania and in Poland and, arguably, in exchange for some inspections on

the Russian side as well.

They can talk about a low-intensity military activities corridor between Russia and NATO. So there are many issues which --


GORANI: Those issues were there -- those issues were there before today.

I guess my question to you is, why was there a shift a couple days ago, when you mentioned that Vladimir Putin gave Sergey Lavrov, his foreign

minister, the OK to explore the diplomatic track?

Was there -- do you think that perhaps, from the Kremlin side, there was a concern that really Russia is not up to now mounting a full-scale invasion

and that there's no real appetite inside your country for a war like this?

KORTUNOV: Well, I think it's an open question whether this option has ever been considered by the Kremlin.


Maybe it was more a demonstration to get the Western attention to the demands coming from the Russian Federation.

And we don't know what was the game-changer, if there was a single event that changed the moods in the Kremlin.

But I can imagine that, for instance, the meeting that President Putin had with Chancellor Scholz was an important factor that probably shifted the

balance in the Kremlin.

Allegedly, Chancellor Scholz considered some kind of a moratorium on the (INAUDIBLE) enlargement (ph) as a possible option and, arguably, he also

promised President Putin to exercise more leverage of the Ukrainian side in terms of meeting the conditions of the Minsk agreements.

GORANI: OK, got it. Thank you, Andrey Kortunov, as always, for joining us. We really appreciate your time this evening from Moscow.

I want to update you, by the way, on what the U.S. State Department has just said about the Ukraine situation at their daily press conference. The

spokesperson, Ned Price, says, "America's concern about a possible invasion has not abated a single bit," that's a quote, abated a single bit.

But he added there is still time for diplomacy. Here's a sampling of what he said.


GORANI: All right.



NED PRICE, U.S. STATE DEPARTMENT SPOKESPERSON: -- stop the Russians from advancing these false claims --


GORANI: OK. Yes, we're going to -- we're going to pull out of that. We'll get you that Ned Price sound bite once we fix that technical problem.

But just kind of summarizing what he said during that news conference, "Our concern has not diminished an iota. In fact, our concern continues to grow.

An attack could start at any moment."

So this is kind of a repeat of the message we've heard coming from the United States over the last several weeks.

Now here's one of the Kremlin's fiercest critics and now Alexei Navalny supporters say he could face up to 15 more years in prison. The Russian

opposition leader appeared at the start of a new trial on Tuesday.

He could be seen embracing his wife. And he looks just absolutely emaciated. He faces fresh embezzlement charges, which he calls politically

motivated. The U.S. secretary of state tweeted, "Navalny and his associates are targeted for their work to shine a light on official corruption. This

time, he goes to trial in a penal colony out of public view."

Vladimir Ashurkov is a Russian dissident and colleague of Navalny, he's the executive director of Navalny's anti-corruption foundation. He joins me

from Italy.

First, I want to get your reaction to the images we saw of Navalny. You know him so well.

Was this your first opportunity to see how his physical appearance has changed in the last few months?

VLADIMIR ASHURKOV, RUSSIAN DISSIDENT AND NAVALNY COLLEAGUE: Unfortunately, his court appearances are the only images that we can see of Navalny. And I

was glad to see him in good health and I was glad that he was able to embrace his wife.

GORANI: Yes. I mean, he is standing but he's very, very thin.

Are you concerned about the treatment that he's subjected to in prison?

ASHURKOV: In the beginning of his prison sentence, about a year ago, his medical situation deteriorated so much that he had to resort to a hunger

strike. And he endured that for several weeks. I was more concerned then.

I believe now, despite his thinness, I think he is in better health. And I think he's in good spirits.

GORANI: Talk to us about what your biggest fears are with regard to this trial, which I know you believe is a politically motivated trial.

ASHURKOV: It's not the first trial of Navalny which really is a mockery of justice. The trial is held in the penal colony. It is an unheard of thing

in Russia. It should have been in Moscow court.

The charges that are that he stole money from his own foundation. That was the main, the anti-corruption foundation, which is the main platform for

his work. It all looks very arbitrary and, of course, it is politically motivated.

GORANI: What are -- I mean, what can happen now to try to fight this?

It seems -- I mean, from the outside looking in, with the current political situation in Russia, the way Kremlin critics are treated in your country,

is there an out for Navalny here at all?


ASHURKOV: I think it will take a substantial political change in Russia for Navalny to be out. For us, it's important to maintain attention on his

case and to attract the international media and the international public.

Navalny is now probably the most famous political prisoner globally. And history is really epic. He is poisoned by his enemy, the -- sort of the

czar of Russia, Vladimir Putin. He miraculously recovers. Then he talks with one of his assassins as part of an investigation.

And then he returns, despite all dangers, to Russia; is illegally imprisoned. I think we're in the middle of this epic story. And I think

we'll see a few more miracles down the line.

GORANI: Vladimir Ashurkov, thank you very much for joining us from Italy, the executive director of Navalny's anti-corruption foundation. We

appreciate your time this evening.

We're going to take a quick break. When we come back, police make a shocking discovery under the stairs of a home.


GORANI (voice-over): In this hidden compartment, they found a little girl, who had been missing for two years. We'll be right back.





GORANI: This next story is just going to break your heart. Whether you're a parent or not, it was a stunning ending to the case of a missing child in

New York.

Police say they found a 6-year-old girl, Paislee Shultis, and her noncustodial mother here, in a hidden compartment under the stairs of the

house. And here's the thing. The little girl had been missing for two years. Police say they made several trips to that very home, looking for

the child.


CHIEF JOSEPH SINAGRA, SAUGERTIES, NY, POLICE: Our officers were up and down those steps several times and never heard -- the child never made a

sound. But the detective said there was something odd about the stairs, just the way they were constructed, the way they felt when he was walking

on them.

And he said he took a closer look at the stairs. And between two of the stair boards, there was a crack. He used a flashlight and looked in there.

And he saw what he believed was a blanket at the bottom.


So they used a tool to start removing the steps of the staircase. And sure and behold, they found a little pair of feet.


GORANI: Shimon Prokupecz has more on this story. And this was the biological mother of her girl, basically who had abducted her own child and

hidden her under the stairs.

SHIMON PROKUPECZ, CNN CRIME AND JUSTICE PRODUCER: Yes, it's this makeshift room underneath the staircase. And the police had been to that house

before, as you heard the police chief there say.

But they were never really able to get inside and look until they got a search warrant. It was a tip from someone in the community, who gave some

information. And because of that, the police were able to get this search warrant and go in and find her.

It's really remarkable, when you think about the fact that this detective, this police officer, was just walking up and down the stairs. They were in

that house for over an hour and then suddenly he realized, wait, something doesn't make sense here.

And then as you heard there, he looked through this crack and then that's when they found her and her mother. We don't know why the parents

ultimately lost custody of this child. She has an older sister, who is also not in their custody. She's with guardians.

So they've all been reunited with a guardian and the older sister. The girl, Paislee Shultis, who was 4 at the time, now 6, the police say she's

going OK. She's back home with the guardian.

Really in all, like a heartwarming way, sort of, when the police were taking her out of the house and bringing her to the police station, they

drove by a McDonald's. And then she realized it was a McDonald's and she asked them to buy her some food.

And they bought her a Happy Meal and then they took her to the hospital and reunited her with her guardian. The mother, the father and the grandfather,

who all lived in this home, are all facing charges. They're expected to be in court later today.

But there are still so many questions here surrounding this and, specifically, why these parents lost custody of this kid. So there's still

a lot more.

But in the end, this is really also about this police department that never gave up. For over two years, they kept coming to that house. They believed

that she was there. And they just never gave up. They were getting tips, constantly getting tips.

And then finally, one worked out and it allowed them to get in the house and to get her out of that house and back with her guardian.

GORANI: All right, well thank you very much, Shimon Prokupecz, and I'm so glad that kid is out of there. Thank you so much.

Still to come tonight, Prince Andrew has settled a lawsuit by Virginia Giuffre, even though he had said previously that he wanted to clear his

name in court. What this means for the British royal family going forward. Stay with us.





GORANI: Prince Andrew's legal battle in New York may be over now that he's reached a settlement with Virginia Giuffre. But there's a lot we don't know

about the deal. Here's Anna Stewart.


ANNA STEWART, CNN CORRESPONDENT: We still don't know just how much Prince Andrew has agreed to pay Virginia Giuffre in this out of court settlement.

It hasn't stopped the British newspapers from flashing numbers across the front pages today.

Here's the "Daily Mail," they're putting it at 10 million pounds; the "Daily Mirror" has got it higher at 12 million pounds. That's around $16

million. We really don't know. They just haven't disclosed that.

And there's a lot of speculation today on who will pay for this. In addition to the considerable legal costs that Prince Andrew would have

incurred over the many months of fighting this case, Prince Andrew has no discernible income, aside from a small pension from the Navy and an

allowance from his mother, the queen.

He's reportedly in the process of selling a multimillion dollar chalet in Switzerland, which would release some equity and he could also seek some

financial help from his mother, the queen, who generates a private income by the Duchy of Lancaster estate.

The victory for Giuffre isn't just about money, though. Prince Andrew has settled with someone he previously said he had no recollection of ever

meeting. He didn't, for instance, even remember this photo being taken.

His legal team had called her claims baseless, frivolous; they even suggested her claim was motivated by money, saying in October she wanted to

achieve another -- and I'll quote -- "payday at his expense."

Yesterday's carefully worded statement says Prince Andrew has never intended to malign Ms. Giuffre's character, a huge shift in tone. The

settlement means Prince Andrew will no longer be deposed next month, avoiding the potential release of embarrassing details.

Last month he was stripped of military and royal titles by the queen. Given his name has not been cleared in a court of law or in the court of public

opinion, I think it's unlikely he'll make any return to public life.


GORANI: All right. Thanks for that.

I want to end on a happy note. A sloth in Colombia found a precarious perch and was in danger of being basically electrocuted. People saw the animal

and called for help. But the sloth backed away from the utility worker who showed up to save it. The sloth was not going for that.

Eventually the man got the animal to cling to a broom instead of the wires and started bringing the sloth toward him after a 20-minute rescue effort.

You can hear the people cheering him on. The worker got the sloth into his arms. He said he spoke in a soothing voice and the sloth was released back

into the wild.

I love happy endings. Thanks for watching tonight. QUEST MEANS BUSINESS is next.