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Hala Gorani Tonight

U.S. Cites Russia Is Taking "Steps Down The Path To War"; Kindergarten In Eastern Ukraine Hit By A Shell; Russia's Valieva Falls To Fourth Place In Figure Skating Competition; Blinken: Russia Causing "Moment Of Peril For Millions; NATO Chief: No Sign Of Russian Deescalation At Ukrainian Border; U.S. President Says "Every Indication" Russia Is Prepared To Attack; Dark Legacy Of Slain ISIS Leader; Over 100 Dead, 400 Displaced In Massive Brazilian Landslide; Honduran Court Detains Former President, Weighs Extradition To U.S. Aired 2-3p ET

Aired February 17, 2022 - 14:00   ET



HALA GORANI, CNN INTERNATIONAL HOST: Welcome, live from CNN in London, I'm HALA GORANI TONIGHT. One of the strongest warnings yet. The U.S. says

Russia could invade Ukraine in the next few days. We're covering the crisis for you from all angles. Then CNN is inside the Luhansk region of Ukraine,

just a few miles from the front lines where shelling was reported only hours earlier. Our reporter will bring us the latest.

And later in the program, the Russian skater at the center of that doping scandal in Beijing leaves the ice today in tears. We'll have that full

story coming up. The United States says a scenario that could lead to war is unfolding right now, warning more urgently than ever that Russia is

planning a pretext to invade Ukraine. The Secretary of State Antony Blinken took that message to the United Nations today as the Security Council

addressed the crisis.

He said the U.S. doesn't know exactly what the quote, "manufactured provocation might be". But he suggested that it could be a staged bombing

or even a real chemical weapons attack. The U.S. President Joe Biden also sounded a similar alarm.


JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We have reason to believe that they are engaged in a false flag operation to have an excuse to go in.

Every indication we have is they're prepared to go into Ukraine, attack Ukraine. My sense is it will happen within the next several days.


GORANI: So, that's the U.S. position, keeping the spotlight there on these warnings while Russia meantime is denying that it's planning any kind of

invasion, insisting that some troops are in fact returning to their bases. But western officials now warn that almost half of Russia's battle groups

surrounding Ukraine are within 50 kilometers of the border. Also today, Moscow gave its formal response to the U.S. answers on its security


And the Russian Foreign Ministry says, quote, "in the absence of the readiness of the American side to agree on firm, legally binding guarantees

to ensure our security from the United States and its allies, Russia will be forced to respond including through the implementation of military

technical measures." Now, we know that some of these demands including not expanding NATO further eastward, and that's something that the United

States and its NATO allies have said is a non-starter.

All of this is happening amid new violence in Ukraine, an area that's already a tinderbox. Our chief international correspondent Clarissa Ward

visited a kindergarten that was hit by a shell today, and she spoke a short time ago with John King.


CLARISSA WARD, CNN CHIEF INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: So, we are here at a kindergarten less than 3 miles away from the front line where Ukrainian

authorities are telling us that pro-Russian separatists fired two shells on this -- on this kindergarten. There were 20 kids roughly here at the time

it happened this morning between 8:00 a.m. and 9:00 a.m. Fortunately, they were in a different part of the building.

You can see just behind me, I'm trying not to move too much because our signal isn't great here, but you can see behind me, the aftermath from

where that shell hit, and three people who worked at the school, according to local authorities were treated for concussion, they have subsequently

been released from the hospital. The children were all safe as I said, but really, what this goes to show is an escalation of incidents here on this


There had been regular ceasefire violations along these frontlines, but you might see two or three a day. Ukrainian authorities say today, they have

seen more than 30, and hitting a kindergarten is, of course, a significant escalation. No sense that this was specifically targeted. But I think what

this gives you a sense of, John, is just how dangerous things can become very quickly with, you know, a lot of people believing that the Russian

side is looking for a pretext to launch some kind of an incursion.

And I should say, while we are here on the Ukrainian side looking at this aftermath of a pro-Russian separatist shelling, on the other side of the

border, they're claiming that Ukrainian forces have been shelling them as well. And I don't know if you could hear that, there is some shelling in

the distance there that we can hear.


As I mentioned, less than 3 miles from the frontline, but clearly, a lot of fears that the situation is certainly escalating here. John?

JOHN KING, CNN: And so, Clarissa, you know this issue better than most as you just mentioned. The Russians are saying the Ukrainians are --

WARD: Yes, I hear it --

KING: Causing trouble --

WARD: John, please excuse me. But our Ukrainian military minders are asking us to move because of that shelling. So, we will check in with you

as soon as we can.


GORANI: And that was our chief international correspondent Clarissa Ward, she was reporting from that kindergarten that was hit by a shell in eastern

Ukraine. And let's take you now to our team of reporters, Sam Kiley is in Kharkiv, Ukraine, Nic Robertson is in Moscow. Kylie Atwood is at the U.S.

State Department. Kylie, let me start with you, you heard from Tony Blinken; the U.S. Secretary of State at the U.N. Security Council today,

delivering a strong message to Russia. With the dialogue still open at least, we can say still open between the different participants of this


KYLIE ATWOOD, CNN U.S. SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Yes, the dialogue is still open, but the Secretary of State making it very clear that the stakes

couldn't be higher right now. He called this a moment of peril, and he said if there were a Russian invasion into Ukraine, there would be implications

globally. He also laid out in very explicit detail what Russia may have in its playbook to create the sense that there is a justified reason for an

invasion, to create the illusion, the fake basis that they have a justified reason to invade Ukraine.

And he said that those situations could involve them fabricating a terrorist attack or also carrying out a fake or real chemical weapons

attack. Those are just two of the very explicit details that he provided in this speech today before the United Nations Security Council. And the

secretary also said that this, about the number of Russian troops that are along Ukraine's border right now, and how the United States would respond

if Russia doesn't actually go forth with this invasion.


ANTONY BLINKEN, SECRETARY OF STATE, UNITED STATES: While Russia has repeatedly derided our warnings and alarms as melodrama and nonsense, they

have been steadily amassing more than 150,000 troops on Ukraine's borders as well as the capabilities to conduct a massive military assault. If

Russia doesn't invade Ukraine, then we would be relieved that Russia changed course and proved our predictions wrong.


ATWOOD: And the secretary also said that he is there presenting this information to prevent a war, not to start one. He said, of course, the

United States remains committed to diplomacy. He said that he has asked the Russian foreign minister to meet him in Europe next week. We're waiting to

see if the Russians have agreed to that meeting.

GORANI: All right, let's ask Nic Robertson who is in Moscow. Sergey Lavrov has spoken today, any idea whether or not the Russian side will accept that

invitation from Tony Blinken?

NIC ROBERTSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL DIPLOMATIC EDITOR: No indication so far. And what we heard from Sergey Lavrov was potentially raising the bar on

future conversations. We'd heard from President Putin a couple of days ago saying that Russia's core issues had not been addressed, and that if it was

to discuss the other issues like arms control agreements, missile launcher locations, troop dispensations across the border, then these two things

could be -- should be done at the same time.

What we heard from the Russian foreign minister today is an amplification of what was sent in that written response. The written response as you were

saying there, that because core demands have not been met, Russia could invoke using military technical measures. Also saying that Russia -- that

the United States and NATO's troop deployments to the eastern borders of NATO's areas are undermining confidence in the prospects of making any

headway in those talks.

And what he laid out, what Sergey Lavrov laid out appears as a new threshold for those talks is, that before you can even get into these other

issues that might be discussed where there is some commonality, it will have to be from the Russian perspective, the United States will have to

address those -- Russia's core issues first. This is how Sergey Lavrov explained it.


SERGEY LAVROV, FOREIGN MINISTER, RUSSIA (through translator): Our priority is not seeing isolated issues plucked from the package of measures and then

claim we've resolved all issues. We won't resolve all these issues until we agree on key positions, overall security and Europe depends on. That is

NATO's non-expansion to the east, non-placement of the strike weapons and respect to the military and political configuration at the time of the

signing of the Founding Act between Russia and NATO.



ROBERTSON: So, as we know, the United States' position and NATO's position on those core principles of Russia, the answer is, no. So, it's not clear

that Secretary Blinken, if he is able to have this meeting with Sergey Lavrov, then Sergey Lavrov is going to be at the camp with anything, but

will allow the pair of them to get into something more meaningful and move the situation further forward. Hala.

GORANI: All right, thanks, Nic. And Sam Kiley in Kharkiv, Ukraine. Meantime, what are we hearing from the Ukrainian leadership and just

ordinary Ukrainians as the U.S. and its western allies continue to say that a Russian invasion could happen within days?

SAM KILEY, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, it's quite extraordinary, Hala. On the one level, things remain relaxed. But behind

the scenes, there are obviously and inevitably growing tensions. But if you take this exchange of fire that we -- that Clarissa was just reporting

about there, a shelling of a kindergarten, allegedly, from the Russian- backed rebels in the east of the country into Ukrainian territory, and allegations of shelling back.

Those are the sorts of triggers, as was pointed out in the U.N. Security Council by Secretary Blinken that could be -- that could result in a full-

scale war. Now, the extent of the war is really debated by the Ukrainian authorities here who stick to their line that there isn't enough, there

aren't enough Russian troops to take and occupy Ukraine. No military analysts would dispute that. What is worrying people, though is an

incursion perhaps just north of here.

The United Kingdom has just published a military map from the Ministry of Defense alleging a whole series of phases of potential invasions, one of

which includes a thrust directly to this location. A city of a million and a half people. But here in the city, there are efforts being made to

organize civil defense. They haven't yet opened up properly bunkers as they have in Kyiv and elsewhere, and they do seem fairly relaxed. But every time

there's one of these little changes, you do feel the tension ratchet up a little bit.

GORANI: All right. Sam Kiley in Kharkiv, Kylie Atwood in Washington and Nic Robertson in Moscow. Thanks to all three of you. We continue our

coverage as the world waits to see how this crisis unfolds. Russian military forces are not the only ones on the move. Just an hour away from

the Ukrainian border on the other side in Poland, several thousand American troops are now arriving. But there are key differences. CNN's international

security editor Nick Paton Walsh is there.


NICK PATON WALSH, CNN INTERNATIONAL SECURITY EDITOR (voice-over): They don't really want you to see this, but it's hard to hide. These are U.S.

troops landing near the Polish border with Ukraine. High-end Black Hawks, C17 cargo planes, dozens in the past days. Media haven't been given

official access, but they're pretty hard to miss. Trucks, pallets, signs these 82nd airborne from Fort Bragg are not here, an hour's drive from

Ukraine just overnight.

They even came this day with a Cessna light aircraft which seems to be innocently carrying top brass who get on to a nearby helicopter. Moscow may

point to these scenes as NATO massing troops on Ukraine's border, But these are here with the approval of Poland, a NATO member.

(on camera): In a standoff that's all about messaging, these American troops are about ensuring U.S. allies feel their presence.

(voice-over): The unit we saw decamped to a nearby conference center. They're here just in case to help stranded Americans in Ukraine if the need

arises. These sort of movements in NATO war games and drills have been practiced for years.

They don't really want us to see this, a larger base where they are.

(on camera): Are the Americans over here? This is their main base, yes.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We can't talk about it.

WALSH: I understand. Can we talk to somebody about this, or --


WALSH: They walked right by us. Come and talk -- don't be afraid. It's all right.

(voice-over): And the size of the operation, these are a lot of tents over a wide area. Is both what you might expect to support that many soldiers.

But also something that is almost definitely not for show and portrays a lot of readiness even if you hope they all stay bored and cold under canvas

in the weeks ahead.

The border with Ukraine an hour away is normally busy, but Sasha is on his way back in as his visa ran out. "Ukraine is my country, I have to stay",

he says, "yes, in the army if needs be, but not running away." But another crossing, Ukrainians returning a pretty blunt. "He won't get as far as

Kyiv, we won't let him", one says. "We'll raise a resistance --


Fighting in the woods. It will be like Stalin, and his own people will kill him." Bravado running hot, far away from a front line that is still mostly

cold. Nick Paton Walsh, CNN, Rzeszow, Poland.


GORANI: That's not far from the border with Ukraine. Joining me now from Warsaw, Marcin Przydacz is Poland's deputy minister of Foreign Affairs.

Thanks for being with us. What are these U.S. troops doing in your country right now? What's their mission?

MARCIN PRZYDACZ, DEPUTY FOREIGN MINISTER, POLAND: Well, good evening from Warsaw. Yes, there are several thousands of American troops deployed on the

territory of Poland on our invitation. It was the invitation of the Polish and the government as they're a member of the NATO, we have the right to

do so.

GORANI: Yes --

PRZYDACZ: Of course, it is continuation of the deterrence policy. What we want to do is to show that we are united as NATO allies and we will

continue to deter. We don't want Russians even to think about moving ahead towards the borders of NATO. The first reason.

The second reason, of course, what we may expect in case of war or any incursion to Ukraine, of course, is the wave of refugees or migrants from

the territory of Ukraine towards Poland. So any -- I mean, all the hands will be very much needed to help us in order to secure those people, to

help them, offer them assistance.

GORANI: So they're a deterrent presence, but they're also there just in case there is some refugee flows that are a result of any Russian invasion.

How would they act as a deterrent, then? Because they won't have a combat role.

PRZYDACZ: You know, the presence of American troops, the biggest army and the biggest country in the world in terms of economy, is already the fact

which is taken into consideration by Moscow. So even the presence of American troops, but there are also British troops, there are other allies

on the territory of Poland, not only in Poland, Baltic states, Romania. This is the fact which is for sure, that's taken into consideration.

And as for now, it's enough. Of course, if something may go wrong, I mean, if there will be the worst-case scenario, we expect that the allies will be

even more presence down here in the territory of Poland.

GORANI: And how many additional American troops are on your territory right now?

PRZYDACZ: Well, it's several thousands. First, there was less than 2,000 of American troops. The first wave, the first decision. Then an additional

3,000. So around 5,000 American troops. We will discuss, of course, further cooperation tomorrow, since the Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin is coming

to Warsaw, he's paying a special visit to Warsaw, talking to our president, our minister of defense. So, of course, we will try to foster our


GORANI: What would be the role of Polish military in case of any Russian invasion of Ukraine?

PRZYDACZ: Well, as I said, we are a NATO member, so for sure, whatever we'll do it's on the NATO command. As for now, we are very much

concentrated on the diplomatic efforts, on political support, humanitarian support to our Ukrainian neighbors, and we do expect and we do believe that

there is still room for diplomacy in order to avoid possible incursion.

In 21st century, I do believe that there are other ways to somehow find a solution, how to deal with that one without compromising on our values,

without breaching the international law as Russia wants us to do.

GORANI: How would you respond to a Russian observer, for instance, saying, well, Poland is inviting these thousands of U.S. troops, they're amassing

troops of their own on their territory. This is a -- going against one of our key security demands, which is to, on the contrary, retreat NATO

influence away from our borders? How would you respond to that? Because that's what -- that's what a Russian pro-Kremlin voice would be saying

right now.

PRZYDACZ: Well, but those situation -- I mean, those facts are completely incomparable. I mean, on the Russian troops, there are more than 130,000

troops based in a close vicinity of the sovereign country of Ukraine --

GORANI: Well, they say --

PRZYDACZ: Have announced --

GORANI: They say -- they say it's on our territory. You can't tell us what to do with our troops on our own territory. I'm just giving you the Russian

position, which you're familiar with, obviously.


PRZYDACZ: I got it. Yes, 5 kilometers to the Ukrainian border, having in mind that Russia already invaded Ukraine couple of years ago, and still is

occupying illegally a part of Ukrainian territory of Crimea, Donbas, and putting a lot of pressure, pushing Ukrainian government in order to stop

any further cooperation with the western democracy, with the European Union, with the U.S., with NATO, other countries.

So, it is quite obvious and I would say to our Russian neighbors, stop playing that kind of game. It's not -- it's not -- the right way to do.

GORANI: Yes --

PRZYDACZ: And we as ally -- as a NATO country, we have the right to continue this deterrence policy.

GORANI: And in a word, if you can, do you think the Russians are more or less likely to invade today than they were just a few weeks ago?

PRZYDACZ: Well, the facts we're following. There are still thousands of Russian troops just next to Ukrainian border. There were cyber attacks.

There are -- there are already attacks on the kindergarten even --

GORANI: Yes --

PRZYDACZ: Today and from -- in the eastern Ukraine. So the tensions are very high, and so, of course, there is -- it is very likely. There is a

huge probability that there will be unfortunately something wrong going in Ukraine, but as I said, there is still room for diplomacy, and we as

diplomats will continue to work with Russia.

GORANI: The Deputy Foreign Minister in Poland, Marcin Przydacz, thank you very much for joining us this evening from Warsaw. Still to come tonight,

Russia says NATO expansion is the key security issue. We were just discussing it there with the deputy foreign minister, and there's a threat

to its very existence. We'll explain why it feels Washington and not Moscow, from the perspective of Russians, is the one pushing towards war.

But first, two Russian women finished in the top three in the Olympic figure skating final, but not the teenager at the center of that doping

controversy. We'll explain.


GORANI: The Olympic medal ceremony for the women's singles event in figure skating is happening after all. You remember, it would have been canceled

had the Russian skater who is at the center of the doping scandal Kamila Valieva had ended up on the podium. And going into Thursday's free skate,

she was in fact in the lead, but the 15-year-old fell multiple times, and it was -- that's a quite a shock given her talent.


She finished fourth in the end after leaving the ice in tears. One of her Russian teammates took the gold. "WORLD SPORT" anchor Don Riddell joins me

now live with more. Did the pressure get to her, in the end?

DON RIDDELL, CNN WORLD SPORT ANCHOR: I can only assume that it did, Hala. When you consider everything that she had achieved before the Olympics. As

you say, she was the gold medal favorite, she was expected to do very well here. But she -- for the last week or so has been in the eye of this most

extraordinary storm. A 15-year-old girl, we cannot state or overstate that a 15-year-old girl in this position with the whole world tuning in to this


It wasn't clear that she even would be able to skate, but the Court of Arbitration for Sport rule that she should be able to because they deemed

that it would cause irreparable harm to her if she was thrown out of the Olympics, in other words, it might damage her mental health.

But we might now ask, was what happened today and what we saw even worse? Because it was just -- the whole thing was such an unsettling experience. I

watched it all live. i watched it all play out to see her falling multiple times, that's never happened in her senior career in the free skate.

So, I guess to answer your original question, yes, I'm sure the pressure of the situation did get to her. But when you saw what happened afterwards and

the tears and the emotion, and it wasn't just her, everybody had been impacted by what had been going on in the last week.

All of her competitors just seem angry, stunned, confused, it was just a very unsettling episode, the whole thing.

GORANI: And so, what happens to her now? Because there's still an investigation into that doping allegation?

RIDDELL: Right, well, so that remains to be seen. When will we see Kamila Valieva compete again? Of course, she had won a gold medal with her team

earlier in the Olympics, but that's under investigation. So, we don't know if she'll ever be receiving that.

GORANI: Yes --

RIDDELL: The investigation seems to be focusing on the adults around her. Her coach, the doctor, the Russian Olympic Committee. What role did they

play? I think many people seem to have come to the conclusion that a 15- year-old girl doesn't seek to go out and cheat at the Olympics. And even if that was her intention, she would need help to be able to do it. So --

GORANI: Sure --

RIDDELL: Clearly, the investigation is going to focus on the adults in the room, but she, I would imagine, is facing a very uncertain future.

GORANI: Thank you, Don Riddell, for that. And still to come tonight, the president of Belarus is voicing support for Russia, unsurprisingly, while

offering choice words to the West. We'll take you to Minsk for our correspondent's sharp exchange with Alexander Lukashenko. Plus, I'll speak

with a veteran French ambassador about the risk of war in eastern Europe. And what it would take to achieve peace. We'll be right back.




GORANI: Back to our top story: the intense push for diplomacy to avoid war in Ukraine. Western leaders say Russia's military buildup near

Ukraine's borders shows no sign of slowing down, despite the country's claim to the contrary.

Instead U.S., U.K. and NATO officials are warning that Russia is in fact trying to set up a pretext to invade. The U.S. secretary of state spoke to

the U.N. Security Council today, saying this is a moment of peril for millions of people.

And he dared Russia to declare that it won't invade Ukraine. Russia, for its part, says the West has ignored its demands for a NATO pullback from

its borders. Russia has been holding joint military drills with Belarus, which is where our Fred Pleitgen spoke today with Belarusian president

Alexander Lukashenko, and joins me now from the capital, Minsk.

What did he tell you, Fred?

FREDERIK PLEITGEN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Hi, there, Hala. First of all, he said he was very much in the corner of the Russians,

he felt there was a big unity between Russia and Belarus.

But in general, it was remarkable, some things we were able to see today. Actually it was the first time we were able to see these Russian forces,

that, of course, the U.S. believes are threatening Ukraine. To actually see them up close and operated. They are in the big military drills conducting

together with the Belarusian army.

And we saw today them using fire jets, tanks together with Belarusians, as well. But we also saw the Iskander missile system, which is one that is

currently here in Belarus for those drills but which could easily from here shoot all the way to the Ukrainian capital of Kyiv.

So a lot of very dangerous military hardware here and certainly something the U.S. is very concerned about because they believe Belarus could be used

as a launching pad for Russian forces to invade Ukraine. I put that to Alexander Lukashenko. Here's what happened then.


PLEITGEN: The United States has said that there will be severe consequences for Belarus if an attack on Ukraine were launched from

Belarusian territory by you or the Russian army.

Do you still support Russia in its course toward Ukraine?

ALEXANDER LUKASHENKO, BELARUSIAN PRESIDENT (through translator): Do you still believe we're going to attack Ukraine from here?

Or have you already overcome this mental block?

PLEITGEN: Sir, it's not about what I believe. It's about what the United States says. The United States says there's a very real threat of an attack

from Russian territory or Belarusian territory toward Ukraine.

LUKASHENKO (through translator): We have an agreement between Belarus and Russia. We have practically formed here a united Russia-Belarus group, a

united army, that is, you might say. And this is our official position. Please take it into account as we're taking into account your position.

And on a broader subject, what are you doing here, thousands of kilometers away?

What about your experts in Ukraine, your troops in Poland, in Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia?

What do you have to do here thousands of kilometers away?


PLEITGEN: Belarus' president there, obviously equating us with the United States government there at end of what he told me there. But he also said

there was no intention of invading Ukraine. In fact, he kind of mocked that as well.

But one of the reasons why the U.S. is so concerned are some satellite images that have popped up over the past days, showing bridge construction

of a pontoon bridge in the south of Belarus.

And that would make it a lot faster and easier for Russian or any force to get into Ukraine from the northern border of Ukraine, which is, of course,

Belarusian territory. So the U.S. very concerned.

But again, Russians and Belarusians say all troops currently taking part in those exercises are going to be leaving Belarus when those exercises are

done -- Hala.

GORANI: All right. Fred Pleitgen live from Minsk, thank you.


NATO is planning its strategy and calling for meaningful de-escalation.

So where are we really in this saga, this threat to Ukraine from Russia?

Lets get perspective from Gerard Araud, a former French ambassador to the U.S. and the U.N.

Thanks for being with us. So one of the things you tweeted was, in the last -- well, today, in fact, "I'm at a loss. Russia has made some unacceptable

demands. The U.S. is announcing every day that the Russians are coming. Between them, the Europeans are in disbelief."

What do you mean by that?

GERARD ARAUD, FORMER FRENCH AMBASSADOR TO THE U.S. AND THE U.N.: Well, you know, it's a very real situation, because, every day -- and I've not seen

it in 40 years of my diplomatic career -- we have an American official announcing that the Russians are coming.

You know, today, it was with the president; another day, it was Jack Sullivan and so on. On the other side, you have Russians, who are making

unacceptable demands, really. And I think they know it.

So what does it mean?

We Europeans are between a rock and hard place.


What does that mean concretely?

How do you think Europe should act now?

You believe Europe is between a rock and a hard place.

Could you explain why?

ARAUD: You know, it's really -- basically, as you know, the president, the French president and the German chancellor went to Moscow. And they spent

hours with Putin. And Putin was dark, you know, brooding about the past.

And basically they have been unable, really, to launch a negotiation process because we need a negotiation process. So it's very strange why the

Russians have created this circumstances.

And how they are going to get out of it?

Because on the other side, Ukrainians telling us, oh, don't be so excited. The Russians are not going to attack.

And all Russians I know are telling me, of course, there won't be a war with Ukraine. And you have the American president saying, the Russians are

coming. So frankly, I'm a bit dizzy, if I might say, between all, really, contradictory information coming to us.

GORANI: You've spent many years in the United States and you yourself have just said the Americans every day are warning of an imminent invasion.

Do you think that's part of the strategy, maybe, that keeping up the pressure on Vladimir Putin, keeping this in the news, keeping the spotlight

on this, is part of the American strategy?

ARAUD: I'm sure it is a strategy. When you see, you know, such a deliberate way of warning, day after day, at the highest level of the U.S.

administration, it's obviously a strategy.

I'm not sure that it's a very effective one. Really, I'm not sure that it's a deterrent or a strategy against the Russians but obviously it's a way for

the Americans to say, if the Russians attack, to say, oh, we told you so.

Either Russians don't attack, to say, oh, it's because we have deterred the Russians to do so. But I think what we have to try to think about is trying

to get out of this farce a farce (ph) and trying to launch a real negotiation, which has to be a global negotiation on European (ph)


GORANI: But the Russians have made demands and they probably even know themselves they're unreasonable. They're not going to get a veto vote on

who joins NATO and they're not going to get legally binding guarantees that Ukraine will never join the alliance.

So where do you negotiate here?

And do you think Putin wants to negotiate?

Or do you think this is all a pretext to take some territory in the east of Ukraine?

ARAUD: I think your question is really particular (INAUDIBLE). Nobody knows what Putin wants and he will be the only one to decide the outcome of

this crisis. So that's the first point. Maybe Putin has decided that, anyway, he wants to launch a military operation against Ukraine.

We have to take into account and we are ready, in a sense, you know, by really saying that we will inflict devastating sanctions on Russia.

But going to the negotiation path, if there is a negotiation path, I think we have to go out of this Ukraine-NATO, Ukraine-NATO story, because, in a

sense, as you say, it is a dead end.

But there are a lot of security issues that we have, really, because you know that most of the disarmament agreements we had in Europe have

collapsed. (INAUDIBLE) INF, so we have a lot of substance to talk with the Russians.

GORANI: Yes. So I guess -- every day seems to be a day where it could all explode.


So it's becoming very stressful for everybody. Although the Ukrainians seem a little bit more relaxed than you would expect the citizens of a country

to be, on the verge potentially of being invaded.

How do we take that temperature and turn it down a little bit, so that there's room for conversation?

ARAUD: So I, first, I think you're right. I think President Zelensky, the president of Ukraine, has been a very, actually, calm and deliberate and

cold-blooded leader. I think he's really, I think, a, the -- the good, the mensch of the crisis.

No, I think, we need, in a sense, if the French and the Germans take an initiative about a security conference in Europe, I'm sure that some

European countries, Poland, for instance or the Baltic states, won't trust them.

So I guess that we need an American initiative, a global board (ph) initiative, the Americans telling Putin, OK. Let's sit down and let's look

at all the security architecture of Europe.

GORANI: All right, well, thank you very much for joining us with your thoughts on this fast-moving story. Appreciate your time this evening.

Still to come tonight, why it is taking so long to hold ISIS accountable for crimes against the Yazidis, that the U.S. has labeled as genocide. That

story is next.




GORANI: A recent U.S. raid that killed a top ISIS leader showed the militant group is Still a menace in many ways. U.S. officials say he was a

driving force behind the atrocities against the Yazidi people in Northern Iraq in 2014.

The religious minority suffered mass killings and sexual violence and a brutal campaign against its community that the U.N. has called a genocide.

But as CNN's Jomana Karadsheh reports, justice has been slow in coming for the Yazidi people.


JOMANA KARADSHEH, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Most hadn't heard his name until the U.S. president declared him dead after a U.S. Special Forces

raid in Syria this month. But those documenting ISIS' crimes had been investigating Abu Ibrahim al-Qureshi, AKA Haji Abdullah, long before he

became the group's leader in 2019.


(voice-over): An exclusive CNN report in 2017 revealed one NGO's secret mission to hold ISIS accountable for its crimes. Investigators from the

Commission for International Justice and Accountability, CIJA, collected evidence in Iraq and Syria, part of a Western government-funded effort.


mass murder. He oversaw a program of enslaving Yazidi women and females. He himself took a slave, who we believe was aged 12 years.

Again, our evidence is he took that girl as his third wife.

KARADSHEH (voice-over): According to CIJA, Haji Abdullah was the main architect of one of the worst crimes of our time, the genocide of Iraq's

Yazidi minority. Justice has been painfully slow for a people who have lived through the unspeakable.

Thousands are still searching for loved ones who disappeared nearly eight years ago. For others, the wait is over; the anguish is not as the buried

remains identified in some of the mass graves exhumed by U.N. investigators.

Malas is still waiting. Every day she says she cooks a little extra food. Maybe her husband will be back. Then reality strikes. She hasn't heard from

Saad (ph) him since ISIS dragged him away, along with other men from their village in 2014.

There's a permanent sadness imprinted on her face, testament to the chilling cruelty she and her three children endured. For more than three

years, Malas (ph) says, she was an ISIS slave, went from Iraq to Syria for a few dollars, bought and sold in a market with her children.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (through translator): They used to continually assault and beat us. They forced us to do everything. To this day, my children

don't sleep well at night. They live with fear in their hearts.

KARADSHEH (voice-over): When news of Qureshi's killing broke, his protests (ph) circulated on Yazidi survivor groups online. Malas (ph) says she

recognized a man she says she saw three times in 2014. They called him Haji Abdullah.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (through translator): He ordered they take all men from our village. He took my husband and father-in-law. He hit me and my

children. He ordered them to separate the women, the old ones, the young ones, the pretty ones and those with children.

They put us in the back of pickup trucks like cattle. Until we got to Syria, we did not know where our children were. We could only hear their


KARADSHEH (voice-over): Malas says his death was good news but she had hoped he and others would have faced justice in court, then executed so

they could get the taste of the kind of hell they put Yazidis through.

Establishing specialized courts in Iraq or elsewhere to hold ISIS members accountable has been a long and complicated process, tied up in politics

and jurisdictions. But the road to justice for Yazidis is now beginning.

In November, a German court sentenced an ISIS jihadist to life in prison, the first ever ISIS member convicted of genocide.

For Malas, her struggle is not only for justice; it's about survival now. Like countless others Yazidis, whose towns were destroyed and lives

shattered, she remains displaced, forgotten.

This little caravan is the only home her little girls have known. Life is so hard, she says. Recounting how her husband was ripped away from them is

just too much. But she has to be strong, she says, for her children. She's all they has left -- Jomana Karadsheh, CNN, Abu Dhabi.


GORANI: Still to come tonight, a look at the devastating floods and landslides in Brazil. We'll hear from the people, who are on the front

lines of the rescue efforts.





GORANI: I want to bring you latest on the devastating flooding and landslides in Brazil. Rescuers say at least 105 people have died and 134

others are missing, after heavy rains triggered hundreds of landslides just outside of Rio.

Brazil's national civil defense says at least 24 individuals have been rescued and more than 400 so far have been left homeless. Shasta Darlington

spoke to survivors.


SHASTA DARLINGTON, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The pulling, the sifting, the digging; the race continues in Brazil to try to

find survivors after heavy rainfall caused flooding and landslides in the city of Petropolis.

A mountainous region of Brazil's Rio de Janeiro state. Scores are dead and many are missing as streets were washed away and homes buried. Officials

say a month's worth of rain fell across the city in just hours.

There are fears the death toll could continue to climb as firefighters and volunteer rescue workers used backhoes and heavy equipment to dig through

the rubble. Rio de Janeiro's governor compared it to a war zone and vowed every effort will be made to find survivors.


GOV. CLAUDIO CASTRO, RIO DE JANEIRO (through translator): The teams work 24 hours a day. They will not stop the search at all. It will continue

unless for technical reasons it has to stop one or two hours. But if everything goes normal, we won't stop at all.


DARLINGTON (voice-over): Drone footage showing the massive scale of the damage as the landslides destroyed everything in their path; 269 landslides

were recorded Tuesday, according to Brazil's civil defense secretariat.

Many residents pick up what personal belongings they could salvage from what's left of the hillside neighborhood of Alto da Serra, one of the areas

hardest hit. Others comfort each other as they take in the magnitude of what was once their livelihood.

One man searched all night for members of his family.

JOSE CARLOS PAIVA, PETROPOLIS RESIDENT (through translator): Today, I'm removing bodies. I'm removing my mother's body. Yesterday, I rescued my

son, rescued neighbors and took them to the emergency room. My son is fine. He's in the hospital but he's fine. I managed to get him out alive, despite

the mud.

DARLINGTON (voice-over): A local church has opened its doors, offering victims shelter, food and clothing, small comfort to those who have lost so

much -- Shasta Darlington, CNN, Sao Paulo.


GORANI: The former Honduran president Juan Orlando Hernandez remains in detention today as the courts there weigh a U.S. request to extradite him.

The U.S. wants to prosecute him on drug trafficking charges. Matt Rivers explains it is an extraordinary case because it's only a few weeks since

Hernandez left office.


MATT RIVERS, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: It has been a dramatic week so far in the country of Honduras, which began on Tuesday, when we saw the

arrest of the country's former president, Juan Orlando Hernandez in some dramatic video. You can see Honduran national police arresting Hernandez

outside his own home.

They put shackles on both his ankles and his wrist and then they take him to a waiting police car where he is then brought to a detention center.


Honduran National Police say they did so, they arrested him on this at the request of the United States.

They said the United States put into extradition request for Hernandez, where they say he is facing drug trafficking charges in the U.S.

Fast forward to Wednesday morning, where Hernandez made his very first appearance in a Honduran courtroom for his first extradition hearing. It

was in that hearing that the Honduran judge basically said that Hernandez needs to remain in detention on a provisional basis.

As these extradition hearings play out, the next hearing is set for the middle of March. Afterwards, you could eventually see Hernandez extradited

to the United States.

And as dramatic as it is, to see a former president of a country like Hernandez being put into shackles and being discussed at being extradited

to the United States. In some ways, this has been the writing on the wall for some time now because of what we have seen happen in the United States.

Hernandez's brother, Tony Hernandez, is currently serving a life sentence in a United States prison for drug trafficking. In the court filing

surrounding Tony Hernandez's case, U.S. investigators actually identified one Orlando Hernandez, the former president, as a co-conspirator, basically

saying that he funded, in large part, some of his presidential campaigns over the past decade using money from those drug trafficking operations.

It is a stunning downfall for a former president of Honduras, who, just a few weeks ago, was still the president of that country and is now sitting

in a Honduran detention center -- Matt Rivers, CNN, Mexico City.


GORANI: For his part, Hernandez has repeatedly denies being a coconspirator in his brother's alleged drug trafficking operation, saying,

in a message, quote, he would face the situation and defend himself, unquote.

Remember we started the hour with Clarissa Ward outside that kindergarten that was shelled in Eastern Ukraine and we want to finish tonight by

returning to that story. This video that CNN has just recorded inside that nursery, that school, hit today by a shell, you can see some footballs

there and, obviously, what looks like clearly a hole, a big hole caused by possibly a shell in the wall. Other toys amid the rubble.

It's not clear who launched the shell but Ukraine and Russian-backed separatists are blaming each other for cease-fire violations. Looking at

the damage, it is quite miraculous no one was hurt. The children were in a different part of the school when the shell hit. This is new video coming

to us from Lugansk in Ukraine.

We'll continue to follow this developing story for you on CNN. I'm Hala Gorani and I'll see you next time. "QUEST MEANS BUSINESS" is next.