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Hala Gorani Tonight

Russian Navy Evacuates Badly-Damaged Warship In Black Sea; Russia Threatens Nuclear Buildup If NATO Expands; U.K. To Relocate Illegal Migrants To Rwanda; Russia Threatens Military Buildup If Sweden And Finland Join NATO; Eastern Ukraine Prepares For Russia's Expected Assault; Estonia Houses Ukrainian Refugees On Cruise Ship; WTO Slashes Global Trade Outlook For 2022. Aired 2-3p ET

Aired April 14, 2022 - 14:00   ET



HALA GORANI, CNN INTERNATIONAL HOST: Hello, everyone, live from CNN in London, I'm HALA GORANI TONIGHT. Russia could be facing a major setback

after an explosion onboard one of its key warships in the Black Sea. But was it a Ukrainian attack? We'll have the very latest. Then Russia

threatens to deploy nuclear weapons to the Baltic region if Sweden and Finland join NATO. We'll talk about that.

And later, the U.K. announces it will relocate illegal migrants to Rwanda. We'll have more on what has been a very controversial announcement. But we

begin with a huge blow potentially to Russia's war effort in southern Ukraine. The flagship of its Black Sea fleet was significantly damaged

today after a fire and an explosion onboard.

There are two versions as to what happened. Ukraine says it hit the ship with missiles. Russia has evacuated the crew, and says it's investigating

what happened without acknowledging any attack. Fighting is escalating in eastern Ukraine ahead of a threatened major offensive there. A senior U.S.

defense official says the first Russian troops that had left northern Ukraine have now began appearing in the Donbas.

And also today among the key developments, Russia claims Ukraine carried out cross-border strikes that hit several Russian villages including

Klimovo. Ukraine says it's part of Russia's attempt to stage false flag attacks. All this is happening as Russia is still trying to negotiate with

Ukraine at the barrel of a gun. It laid out conditions for talks between Presidents Vladimir Putin and Volodymyr Zelenskyy, saying they can meet

only if an agreement document is ready to sign.

And we're a very long way from that, obviously. Russia's Defense Ministry says that damaged warship remains afloat and will be towed to port. That it

is not acknowledging as I said in the beginning that the Moskva was attacked by Ukraine. But whatever happened, an accident, an unsuccessful

attack or a successful attack by Ukrainian forces or something else altogether. Whatever happened is a massive blow to the Russian side. CNN's

Matt Rivers explains why?


MATT RIVERS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The guided missile cruiser Moskva is one of the Russian Navy's most important warships named after

Russia's capital city. The Moskva is the flagship vessel of its Black Sea fleet and one of three Slava-Class missile cruisers in service. At 186

meters, the Moskva is nearly twice as long as London's Big Ben tower is tall. It can carry a crew of up to 529 and reach speeds of nearly 60

kilometers per hour.

The Moskva is armed with anti-ship and anti-aircraft missiles, torpedoes, guns and missile defenses. The ship was commissioned into the Soviet Navy

in 1983, and was renamed the Moskva in 1995. It's been extensively overhauled twice. The Moskva played a crucial role in Russia's intervention

in Syria's civil war, providing support to Russia's war planes. The Moskva is also symbolic for the Ukrainians.

It was one of the ships involved in the Snake Island incident at the start of the invasion when a Ukrainian soldier was heard over the radio saying,

"Russian warship, go f yourself". In the wake of that now famous exchange, Ukraine's government is issuing a new postage stamp to honor those

soldiers. Ukraine says it hit the Moskva with two Neptune anti-ship missiles, whiles Russia's defense ministry claims there was a fire that

detonated ammunition onboard, and that's now been extinguished. The Pentagon says the cause is unclear.

JOHN KIRBY, PRESS SECRETARY, DEPARTMENT OF DEFENSE: We're not quite exactly sure what happened here. We do assess that there was an explosion,

at least, one explosion, on this cruiser, a fairly major one at that, that has caused extensive damage to the ship. We assess that the ship is able to

make its own way and it is doing that. It's heading more towards now we think the east. We think it's going to be putting in at probably -- so

that's the port for repairs.

RIVERS: If the Moskva has been badly damaged, it would be the second large Russian Naval vessel to be lost in the war with Ukraine. A missile strike

destroyed a Russian landing ship at the port of Berdyansk late last month. If the Moskva was struck by cruise missiles, there would be questions

raised about its anti-missile defenses, in any event, it won't be quickly replaced as the flagship of the Black Sea fleet.


Analysts say the incidence strikes at the heart of the Russian Navy as well as Russia's national pride. Matt Rivers, CNN, Lviv, Ukraine.


GORANI: A senior U.S. defense official tells CNN the U.S. had assessed that this warship was still battling a fire as of a short while ago, and

was now moving east. I want to bring in Thomas Bullock; a senior Open Source Intelligence analyst at Janes. Thanks very much for joining us. Is

there any way to assess what damage to this ship with satellite imagery or something along those lines to give us a sense? To give us eyes on this

actual vessel?

THOMAS BULLOCK, SENIOR ANALYST, JANES OPEN SOURCE INTELLIGENCE: Hi there. So there may be some opportunities to see satellite imagery in the coming

days, but the first issue there is really, you have to find the ship in the Black Sea to take satellite image of it, those images will probably take a

couple of days to permeate through and reach us. I think our best chance of figuring out what happened to the ship will be looking for photographs when

it enters what we suspect will be some masterful in the next few days.

GORANI: And does Ukraine have this missile capability that it claims it used against this ship?

BULLOCK: Yes, it does. Ukraine definitely has the capability to have hit the ship and from what we understand, the vessel was around 60 miles from

the Ukrainian coast, which is well within the range of actually anti-ship missiles.

GORANI: What does it do to Russia's Naval capability to have a flagship like this damaged, even if it hasn't, you know, it's not completely out of

commission? It certainly having to leave the Black Sea waters, and is pretty severely disabled?

BULLOCK: I think it's best to consider based upon what we've heard from the Russians and the Americans who are both saying that the vessel is

severely damaged, the ship will be out of action for the foreseeable future, like with needing a full overhaul or repair. It's something that

the Russians may not even bother to go ahead with, given the level of damage we just don't know until we see the ship.

But in terms of Russia's war-fighting ability in the Black Sea, definitely cuts down on their ability to control Ukraine's air space along the western

Black Sea coast.

GORANI: So they used this Moskva warship in Syria as well? It's a decades- old ship. Our reporter Matthew Chance actually was onboard the Moskva a few years ago. This is a clip from his report at the time, it gives us a good

sense of what it was like onboard the ship before it sustained the damage. Take a look.


MATTHEW CHANCE, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, this is an extremely impressive bit of military hardware out here in the eastern

Mediterranean. It's a missile cruiser, and you can see it's got this enormous missile launching tubes, which can carry a nuclear missile,

although we're told there are none onboard at the moment.

It's got this big gun as well to defend itself, but most importantly, this ship, the Moskva has very sophisticated surface-to-air missiles, and that's

why it's been deployed here off the coast of Syria to provide air defenses for the Russian war planes as they carry out the air strikes back there in



GORANI: That was in 2015. It was instrumental, this ship, in helping the Russians bomb targets inside of Syria by providing cover for war planes. So

presumably, that means that in Ukraine, if the Russians plan on using war planes, that capability will be severely diminished?

BULLOCK: Yes, it will. Those definitely are going to be a limitation to what Russian air defense can do especially in the western Black Sea. But

Russia also has lots of land-based systems in Crimea and some inside occupied Ukraine as well. So it really depends on where in Ukraine we're

talking. Further west you go --

GORANI: Yes --

BULLOCK: The more the impact of losing that ship will be felt.

GORANI: But it's bad for morale?

BULLOCK: Oh, definitely. Losing your flagship is always a huge blow for a fleet, and this is now the second large warship that the Black Sea fleet

has lost whilst fighting Ukraine, and the third of also surface vessels that have been lost so far.

GORANI: Thomas Bullock, thanks so much for joining us, we appreciate your time this evening live from London. Ukraine --

BULLOCK: Thank you --

GORANI: Says its special operations forces destroyed a bridge in the Kharkiv region as a Russian convoy crossed it. Kharkiv has come under

fierce attack for weeks, leaving entire neighborhoods destroyed, it's in the eastern part of the country and it's been one of the main targets for

the Russian military since this invasion began. CNN's Nima Elbagir and her team show us some of the destruction up-close.


NIMA ELBAGIR, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Desolate, bare, lifeless. This is what it looks like after weeks of relentless

Russian shelling. Saltivka, the most densely populated district in Kharkiv, it's been bombed day after day, night after night.


There are very few people left. The elderly mostly. One man stayed behind to keep his mother safe.

(on camera): Igor(ph) says that he lives on the 16th floor of one of these buildings with his mother. He says his mother is deeply religious and

deeply committed to staying here even though they're almost entirely surrounded, and she won't leave, so he won't leave.

(voice-over): But this is a front line under renewed pressure. The Russians are pushing hard.

(on camera): That is so close. Those are Russian positions, they're shelling towards us. We are just over a mile away from the Russian forces.

This is their route into Kharkiv and then on into Ukraine. For now, this is the front line, that could change at any moment now. They are trying as

hard as they can to push that front line inwards.

(voice-over): The soldiers want to show us more evidence of the heavy bombardment.

(on camera): The soldiers want us to move very quickly because Russian snipers are operating in this area. We've got to move. The rumble you hear

is the constant shelling. The shelling has just been absolutely relentless. From the moment that we've arrived, we've been hearing it. We have to be

careful where we step because the Russians are also dispersing mines from the rockets that they're sending over into here.

The shelling has intensified over the last few days. Regional officials told CNN this is evidence of the renewed Russian military push.


ELBAGIR: Yes, let's go! So from where we are, we're pretty much surrounded by Russian troops on three sides. Tens of thousands of Russian troops are

believed to be amassing to come into Kharkiv, to come into Ukraine, from this direction. We've got to move.

(voice-over): The soldiers wanted us out of there. It was becoming too intense. Just 30 minutes later, we saw why. This warehouse is in the south

of Saltivka. It took a direct hit. This is an area that after the initial aborted invasion has been beyond the reach of Russian ground troops, but

now once again nowhere is safe. Nima Elbagir, CNN, Kharkiv.


GORANI: So Ukrainians obviously bracing there from this renewed offensive coming from the east. But before that happens, there is renewed talk of

potentially some sort of diplomatic -- not solution, but a diplomatic route. The Russians -- Matt Rivers joining us live from Lviv, are saying,

well, there's a possibility of a meeting between the presidents of Russia and Ukraine, but on one condition. What is that condition?

RIVERS: Yes, basically, the Kremlin saying that, you know, Vladimir Putin has never ruled out in theory the possibility of meeting with President

Zelenskyy of Ukraine. But basically, that the condition would be that the agreement of the text that would be a document that both leaders would

eventually sign has to be worked out. Now, it's a little bit vague, but basically, that's what the Kremlin is saying, that, that's what would need

to take place before any meeting could take place between the two men.

The Kremlin also adding, Hala, that there had been no updates, no progress on that front. So, while it is never a bad thing to hear either side talk

about diplomacy, talk about the idea that these two leaders could potentially meet to avoid the bloodshed that is certain to come if and when

this offensive launches in the east, I don't think that we're really looking at a situation where that kind of a diplomatic meeting is imminent.

GORANI: Right. Sure. I mean, obviously, a document -- there isn't even a document to go over or negotiate over at this point.

RIVERS: Right --

GORANI: Let's talk about Mariupol because the Russians are claiming that there were mass surrenders by Ukrainian Marines. What's the status of

Mariupol right now?

RIVERS: Well, it's one of those situations where frankly, it is difficult for CNN to have an exact idea of what is going on in that city, simply

because we can't get in there. The people who are there who need to be evacuated, some 180,000 people according to the Ukrainian government, they

can't get out, and so -- and they also have very limited internet, if at all. So, it's very difficult to communicate with people inside the city.

And so, we're therefore reduced to listening to what both the Ukrainians and the Russians are saying. From the Russian side, I think we need to be

very careful. You know, consider the source. I mean, the source of this news about Ukrainian soldiers laying down their arms are coming from

Russian state media which is just a propaganda outlet or series of propaganda outlets serving the Kremlin's narrative.


That said, they did produce video that they say shows Ukrainian forces surrendering if that is, in fact, the case, that would be a huge blow to

the city that Ukraine has, you know, tried to hold on to for weeks now, despite the fact that it's been besieged on all sides by Russian troops, a

lack of ammunition, a lack of food and water, medical supplies. These Ukrainian troops have held on against all odds, frankly, against an

overwhelming Russian onslaught.

On the other side, you're hearing from the Ukrainians who are saying, Mariupol has not yet fallen, they have not conceded defeat. They say there

are still Ukrainians inside there fighting to hold on to that city that the Russian side so desperately wants. So, it is kind of an information block-

hold at this point, Hala, but the Ukrainians at least on their point say that the surrendering didn't happen, that the fighting goes on.

GORANI: All right, Matt Rivers, thanks very much, live in Lviv. We'll talk about Ukraine a little bit later this hour, but still to come, an extremely

controversial asylum plan that was announced by Boris Johnson. The government of the United Kingdom plans to send illegal migrants to Rwanda

to be processed there, and they're paying Rwanda money for this. We'll break it down for you.

And Elon Musk's multibillion dollar offer to buy Twitter, we'll discuss his stated plans to put free speech, according to him, front and center. Will

it change anything? Will he succeed? We'll be right back.


GORANI: The last member of the notorious ISIS cell known as the Beatles has been convicted on eight American federal charges. A jury in Virginia

has found El Shafee Elsheikh guilty of conspiracy and hostage-taking that resulted in the deaths of four Americans.

Other former hostages testified during his two-week trial to the merciless beatings and torture that they suffered after Elsheikh and his cohorts

kidnapped them in Syria. Of the our other so-called Beatles, one has pleaded guilty, the other was killed in a drone strike. Going to be

spending a lot of time in prison.

More than 300 people are now dead after what officials are calling one of the worst stories South Africa has ever seen.


Heavy rain, flooding, there were also mudslides, those have all pummeled the east coast of the country for several days now, destroying completely

in some cases homes, roads and bridges. The President Cyril Ramaphosa has been visiting some of the worst-affected areas, you're seeing images of

that visit now on your screens in Durban.

Despite a brief respite today, more rain is forecast over the weekend, unfortunately. The British Prime Minister says illegal migrants will be

given a one-way ticket to Rwanda as part of a new controversial plan. Take a listen.


BORIS JOHNSON, PRIME MINISTER, UNITED KINGDOM: So from today, our new migration and economic development partnership will mean that anyone

entering the U.K. illegally as well as those who have arrived illegally since January the 1st, may now be relocated to Rwanda.


GORANI: Instead of being processed in the U.K., they will be -- the prime minister says, relocated, others would say they are being deported over

16,000 kilometers away to Rwanda in Africa -- 6,000, I should say, sorry. Boris Johnson says thousands of economic migrants quote, "taking advantage

of the asylum system could be permanently resettled in the small east African nation." That presumably they've never been to and didn't really

want to relocate to.

CNN's Nada Bashir joins me now to discuss this. So, I mean, it's not the only country, Australia has sort of a similar outsourcing of the asylum,

the processing of asylum seekers. But in this case, what are we talking about? How will it work practically?

NADA BASHIR, CNN REPORTER: All we've heard from the prime minister today is, they are looking at relocating people they deemed to have arrived in

the U.K. illegally. So, largely, those people crossing the Channel in those small boats that we've seen frequently or coming in on the back of lorries

and trucks at very high risks, and then being immediately relocated to Rwanda, where they are then given three options.

They can either settle in Rwanda, the plan put forward by the government is in up to five-year process where they'll receive training, accommodation

and healthcare to eventually integrate into Rwandan society. But as you mentioned, many of these asylum seekers didn't necessarily wanted to

relocate there, so the other options they have are to return to either their country of origin --


BASHIR: Many of these fleeing persecution and violence and conflict of course, all to move to a third country where they've been granted access.

But that of course is hugely difficult.

GORANI: But they can't apply for asylum in the U.K.? That's ultimately their main goal, their main objective?

BASHIR: Well, exactly. And that is the heavy criticism we've heard from human rights organizations across the board. You have highlighted that two-

thirds of people who do come into the U.K. deemed to be asylum seekers are then later on found to be actually refugees, so illegitimate need of that

sanctuary that the U.K. offers. The U.K. now saying it's bolstering its processing centers here in the U.K., its detention centers, really.

Expanding those, it's investing millions of pounds in expanding those centers, but it is essentially off-shoring its asylum process. That is a

key concern, because many of these people have no other option.

GORANI: Right, they certainly have no family links in Rwanda presumably. Those who want to come here often have families already established here. I

mean, human rights organizations, the Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants said this is unspeakably cruel, that they're deporting desperate

people. The timing is interesting also, because this government has come under heavy criticism for not accepting Ukrainian refugees at the rate that

they had promised. What -- is there something? Is there a political angle to this?

BASHIR: Of course, there is a wider political angle. There's of course the nationality --


GORANI: I think this studio is still standing.


BASHIR: But in the wider context, the British -- there is the nationality and borders bill which is slowly passing through parliament. That has been

under scrutiny and heavy criticism where many human rights organizations have called it a discriminatory approach to immigration and the asylum-

seeking process. But there is of course also the question of why the prime minister has taken the stance toward what they called illegal asylum


GORANI: Right.

BASHIR: We've seen the government touting its different schemes for Ukrainian refugees, the prime minister today saying that since 2015,

they've accepted 50,000 Ukrainians, that is going up in light of the conflict. But of course, we've seen over the last few months with the

Afghan refugee crisis. The U.K. government pushing out this very ambitious plan to resettle thousands of Afghans, following the Taliban takeover. That

hasn't taken lift.

Really, there are still hundreds, thousands, even stuck, languishing in temporary accommodation. So, it is a question of the direction this

government is going when --

GORANI: Yes --

BASHIR: It comes to refugees.

GORANI: Well, it's not a done deal. They still have to go through many steps, but the announcement was made today. Nada Bashir, thank you very

much for joining us.


In China now, COVID cases are surging across the country, and some people are panicking as you can -- as you can see here. People in Suzhou city,

Shanghai's neighbor rushed to the supermarket and completely cleared the shelves. This was just before the city went into partial lockdown, urging

its 13 million residents to stay at home.

Forty four Chinese cities are now in some kind of lockdown. Conditions are deteriorating and quarantine centers like this one and more makeshift

hospitals are being built. To Israel now. We're seeing an outpouring of grief in the West Bank the day after a 14-year-old Palestinian boy was

killed by Israeli soldiers. Hundreds of people turned out for his funeral, draping his body in the Palestinian flag. The Israeli army says soldiers

fired at the boy after he threw a Molotov Cocktail at them.

His death comes as the Israeli military had stepped up operations in the West Bank after a series of deadly attacks in Israel. Elon Musk says he has

put in his best and final offer to buy Twitter. According to an SEC filing, he's putting more than $43 billion on the table. Just last week, Musk

disclosed that he is the company's largest shareholder.

The Tesla and SpaceX CEO says if the bid is not accepted, he would need to reconsider that position as a shareholder. So, what would this mean for the

social media giant. CNN's chief media correspondent Brian Stelter Joins me now to discuss. Is he going to pull it off, Brian?

BRIAN STELTER, CNN CHIEF MEDIA CORRESPONDENT: I would be surprised if he pulls it off, but he has surprised me before. Look, right now, investors

are very skeptical. You look at the stock price, right now, it's around $46, he's offering $54 a share. But investors are not bidding it up to that

price. That suggest there's a lot of uncertainty over whether he can actually do this, whether he can find the financing and pull it off.

What we've not heard yet is from the Twitter board directors. We know meetings are under way, and a staff meeting for Twitter employees is coming

up in a couple of hours. So, I think later today, we will hear from the head of Twitter what the battle plan is as Elon Musk tries to attempt this

hostile takeover. But look, this is uncharted territory for Twitter and it's a huge test of free speech on the internet. Elon Musk says he wants to

free Twitter from the centers of the Twitter platform. But whether he can do it is a very open question.

GORANI: Right, but the investors don't seem to be buying it because the share price hasn't gone up to the level that --


GORANI: Musk is offering, right? Why not?

STELTER: I think because no one knows whether to take Elon Musk seriously. You know, because he's often a world famous troll in it for the lulls. I

mean, today, the stock price he offered $54.20, 420, that's code term for marijuana. We know he's talked a lot about weed in the past. So, you never

know how serious he is, although he was on stage at the TED Conference an hour ago, he acted very serious about this.

He said he wants to open up Twitter, make it much more permissive, get rid of most of the content moderation, which is very easy --

GORANI: Yes --

STELTER: To say but incredibly hard to do. You come up against laws in many different countries, you come up against user experiences and what

they expect when they sign on. I think he has a high school or college version fantasy about what the internet could be, that is frankly very far

from reality.

GORANI: Right, and also, I mean, given what we already have on Twitter -- anyway. What we already --

STELTER: I get you --

GORANI: Have to deal with. Thanks very much Brian Stelter --

STELTER: Thank you --

GORANI: For joining us on that story. And still to come tonight, as Sweden and Finland discuss joining NATO, Russia is already brandishing threats

including a nuclear one. We'll speak with the former NATO Policy Planning director about how any NATO expansion could affect the global security

situation in Europe. We'll be right back.




GORANI: Well, Sweden and Finland's new interest in possibly joining NATO is getting quite a sharp response from Russia.

The deputy chairman of Russia's security council says there will be no more talk of a nuclear-free Baltic region if NATO expands to Scandinavia. But

Finland's foreign minister speaking a short time ago on CNN said NATO is well prepared to defend against any Russian threats.


PEKKA HAAVISTO, FINNISH FOREIGN MINISTER: We are quite prepared for different kind of threats. But of course, one issue that we know is that

there is more loose augmentation (ph) about the using of nuclear and chemical weapons also in the Ukraine conflict.

And then we are looking for possibility to strengthen our security through the NATO members. Of course, that means that NATO Russian alliance had

better possibilities to respond to different kind of threats.


GORANI: Sweden and Finland have steadfastly stayed out of NATO for generations. But as Anna Stewart explains, Russia's war on Ukraine is

changing their thinking entirely.


ANNA STEWART, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Stirred by Russia's invasion of Ukraine, rumblings of a momentous geopolitical shift in Europe. War now

uniting the West against Moscow as NATO's military alliance may receive new membership and move closer to Russia's doorstep.

Standing side by side in Stockholm Wednesday, the prime ministers of Finland and Sweden say they are strongly considering joining NATO.

MAGDALENA ANDERSSON, SWEDISH PRIME MINISTER: Even though our respective security choices are independent, it is up to every country to decide for

themselves, who do depend on each other in our deep security cooperation.

SANNA MARIN, FINNISH PRIME MINISTER: There is no other way to have security guarantees than under NATO's deterrence and common defense as

guaranteed by NATO's Article 5.

STEWART: The benefits of collective defense growing more appealing to both Sweden and Finland. NATO's Article 5 states an attack against one ally is

considered an attack against all allies ensuring members would come to one another's defense should they be invaded.

If the two countries join, NATO's land border with Russia would double, adding more than 1,300 kilometers along the Finnish perimeter. That would

likely enrage Russia, potentially triggering a backlash as Kremlin officials repeatedly warn against expanding NATO.

DMITRY PESKOV, KREMLIN PRESS SECRETARY: The alliance remains a tool geared toward confrontation. It's not the kind of alliance which ensures peace and

stability and its further expansion will not bring more security to Europe.

STEWART But Russia's attempt to disrupt NATO appear to be backfiring. Instead, Moscow's aggression has led to a dramatic shift in public

sentiment particularly in Finland where support for joining NATO jumped up to 68 percent according to a recent poll by private broadcaster MTV.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You never know what Russia is going to do. So I think that should be -- if it is not NATO, something has to be done to make our

lives safer here.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think Russia has shown their two faces. I think we should join NATO.

STEWART: Finland's prime minister says Parliament is expected to make a decision on the coming weeks. While Sweden is anticipated to finish

reviewing its security policy by the end of next month.

It is possible that by June, both countries could be seeking membership in NATO, expanding an alliance against Russia as its brutal war in Ukraine

rages on -- Anna Stewart, CNN.


GORANI: To help us sort out the implications of Finland and Sweden potentially joining NATO, I turn now to Fabrice Pothier via Skype from

Bayonne in France. He's a senior consulting fellow at the International Institute for Strategic Studies and foreign NATO policy planning director

and the CEO of Rasmussen Global.

Do you fit all of that on a business card?


GORANI: Thank you very much for joining us. So do you -- nice to be with you.

Do you think Sweden and Finland -- I know they're now assessing whether or not they want to join NATO -- but do you think they're going to go ahead

and join the alliance?

FABRICE POTHIER, RASMUSSEN GLOBAL: Listen, I think we have to be prepared to have a NATO summit in Madrid in mid-June with 32 members. This is what

we are heading toward.

So yes, I think they are lining up the political track, both inside each country but also vis-a-vis the NATO members, especially the United States,

for them to become full-fledged members by the NATO summit in Madrid.

GORANI: So was this a huge miscalculation by Vladimir Putin, this invasion of Ukraine pushing Sweden and Finland into the NATO orbit firmly?

POTHIER: I think it's something particularly fervent (ph) about Putin. Basically he's triggering what he claims to prevent. So yes. It is actually

really before already Finland and Sweden were very closely aligned with the alliance but they were still partners.

I think that civil war in Ukraine was really the final trigger for them to cross that Rubicon and become potentially full-fledged members, indeed.

GORANI: What about critics of this move, who say, not because they're pro- Russian but anti-war, saying doing this is pretty reckless, because you're going to trigger Vladimir Putin even more and you might have even more sort

of Russian military assaults on a wider territory?

Is that something that should be concerning to us?

POTHIER: I think what should be concerning is this mindset of always reading and overinterpreting Vladimir Putin's next move. And often we get

it wrong and we actually inhibit ourselves.

Look at now, we are being a much more forward leaning posture in helping Ukrainians and it does make a difference. So I think we have to stop

calculating and interpreting what Putin will do and just focus on our values and our interests.

GORANI: NATO has said they, for instance, don't want to police a no-fly zone, because they feel this would put NATO members in direct conflict with


Would the other NATO members, do you think, be happy to welcome Finland and Sweden into the alliance?

Is everyone on the same page, do you think, within NATO?

POTHIER: I think it fills an important gap we had in the overall NATO posture, especially in the Baltic region, where you have two countries that

were closely aligned but not really integrated in the NATO decision-making and planning.

In that sense, we are boosting the NATO deterrence, which is really in the interests, especially of the eastern alliance. So I think it's a win-win

for everybody.

GORANI: What about -- and I want to ask you about Russia, kind of saber rattling but another nuclear saber rattling, very worrying. They said

essentially, look at Finland and Sweden joining NATO. We're going to reposition assets in the Baltic Sea, including potentially nuclear assets.

That also has to raise alarm and concern not just in that part of the world but elsewhere.

POTHIER: I feel nuclear saber rattling should concern all of us. And you're right because I think China and others are watching closely how we

respond to that. And I was very concerned when Vladimir Putin started to play with the nuclear kind of flag and the West and especially NATO were

(INAUDIBLE) to respond to it.

Now I think they've clarified things since the last NATO summit. And now the threat of Russia putting nuclear weapons in the Baltic, that's already

de facto done. In Kaliningrad, according to NATO intelligence sources, the Russians have already positioned some nuclear weapons.

So they have already breached that and their sovereignty (ph) is something we are considering in our planning.


GORANI: All right. Thank you --


GORANI: -- for joining us.

POTHIER: Thank you very much.

GORANI: Well, speaking of France, it says it's moving its Ukrainian embassy back to Kyiv very soon. The embassy, you will remember, with many

others, moved to the western city of Lviv in early March as the situation near the capital worsened. France says the move will allow it to, quote,

"deepen its support of Ukraine in every area."

Still to come, after break, a new phase of the war is coming and Eastern Ukraine preparing as Russian troops advance.

Plus Belarusian exiles hope to help Ukraine defend themselves against Russia. They fear their country could be next.




GORANI: Russian troops are showing up in the Donbas region after leaving northern Ukraine. They're relocating there, according to a senior U.S.

Defense official, saying Russia is sending forces to support "more aggressive ground movements" in Eastern Ukraine. That's a quote.

The U.S. is providing Kyiv with high-powered weapons for the first time since the invasion to fight off what it warns will be a new phase of this

war. Ben Wedeman shows us how residents are preparing.


BEN WEDEMAN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): All is not quiet on Ukraine's eastern front. Not far from the town of Barvinkove,

Russian mortars warn of what's to come.

WEDEMAN: Ukrainian officials say the offensive in the Donbas region, the eastern part of Ukraine, has begun. Perhaps it has.

WEDEMAN (voice-over): Or perhaps this is the softening-up before the onslaught; among Ukrainian troops, bravado.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We are stronger than them.

WEDEMAN (voice-over): This officer gives a more sober assessment. The Russians are building up for an attack.

"They're coming and coming and coming," Lieutenant Leonid (ph) tells me. "We're not in an easy situation."

Russian shelling Tuesday killed three people.


WEDEMAN (voice-over): Including a 16-year-old girl, according to the town mayor, who has been urging residents to leave. Not everyone heeds his call.

The stubborn few wait for supplies.

"This is our town," insists Galena (ph). "We're staying here. We know our soldiers are protecting us."

Ludmila (ph) looks to a higher power.

"We'll pray to God," she says. "Maybe He will save us all."

83-year-old Elizabeta (ph) sits outside her home. She, too, is staying put.

"My son's wife is scared and will probably leave today," she says, "but I'm not afraid."

And then, off she goes on her bicycle, gathering storm be damned -- Ben Wedeman, CNN, Barvinkove, Eastern Ukraine.


GORANI: So Belarus is obviously -- at least the government of Belarus -- is an ally of Vladimir Putin and it's playing a critical role in Moscow's

war on Ukraine, offering verbal and tactical support to the Russian president.

But there are dissidents in Belarus, who want to untangle the country from Mr. Putin's grasp. One group believes joining Ukraine's army to defend

against the Russian invasion may stop Russia from doing the same in Belarus. Salma Abdelaziz reports.


SALMA ABDELAZIZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): With pristine uniforms and clean boots, these Belarusian exiles say they want to join the battle

for Ukraine. We followed the men to their training at an undisclosed location in Poland. They call themselves the Pohonia battalion, a group of

around 2 dozen aspiring volunteer fighters.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Their age is from 19 to 60. Their occupation is from rock musician to a professional poker player to ex-business man.

And you see those (INAUDIBLE).

ABDELAZIZ (voice-over): Dissident Vadim Prokopiev is the organizer. Here they can only carry Kalashnikov replicas.

But they hope Kyiv will admit them into the army's international legion.

ABDELAZIZ: Why fight for Ukraine?

PROKOPIEV: That's step one before the step two for the battle for Belarus.

ABDELAZIZ (voice-over): Most of them fled Belarus in 2020, when a popular uprising threatened strongman Alexander Lukashenko's then 26-year rule. The

Kremlin backed regime brutally cracked down. And now these exiles say they must fight President Putin, even if on foreign soil.

PROKOPIEV: If Ukraine loses this war, Belarus will have zero chance to get free. If Ukraine wins this war, that means Putin's hands are too busy and

he's too weakened.

ABDELAZIZ: This is a tiny group. None of these guys have front line experience but they say it's about the symbolism of Belarusians standing

alongside Ukrainians in their battle against President Putin.

ABDELAZIZ (voice-over): There are hundreds of Belarusian exiles on the battleground. Four were killed, says opposition leader Sviatlana


SVIATLANA TSIKHANOUSKAYA, BELARUS OPPOSITION LEADER: Now they are defending Ukraine and operations in Ukraine and who knows. One day they

could defend Belarus as well.

ABDELAZIZ: So the Belarusians fighting for Ukraine are part of the wider resistance movement?

TSIKHANOUSKAYA: Absolutely, absolutely. Without a free Ukraine, there will be no free Belarus.

ABDELAZIZ (voice-over): And there are signs of defiance inside Belarus. Activists cut a rail line used to supply Russian forces. But these are

small measures.

ABDELAZIZ: What threat do you all actually pose?

PROKOPIEV: A long journey starts somewhere. So we build a small force to build a bigger force to change the game in Belarus.

ABDELAZIZ (voice-over): The fate of two nations tied. Many believe Putin's grip on Belarus may be loosened if he is defeated in Ukraine -- Salma

Abdelaziz, CNN, on the Poland-Ukraine border.


GORANI: Tens of thousands of people who fled the war in Ukraine have ended up in Estonia. The government there has turned a cruise ship into a

shelter. It's now docked in the Estonian capital. Scott McLean is aboard the ship, showing how authorities are dealing with the situation.


SCOTT MCLEAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Now they suddenly have more than 30,000 Ukrainian refugees, almost all of them women and children. For the last few

months, this has been a mad scramble for the government to actually find places for them to stay.

Hotels gotten quite expensive. So instead, the government came up with this. This is the top deck of a cruise ship, actually. Normally this would

be shuttling people back and forth from Latvia to Sweden.

Now it is parked here in the center of Tallinn. You can see the skyline there. It's serving as housing, potentially for up to the next four months.

Let me take you inside and show you briefly what it looks like. This is the 11th floor. There are seven other floors that look a lot like this, with a

lot more space actually, where people can gather, mill about.


MCLEAN: The kids can run around and be kids here and they have all the space in the world. The rooms are extremely small here. Some really only

hold about a bed and maybe a tiny little bathroom. There's not a lot of room.

But of course, that is a lot better than a school gymnasium. A lot better than sheltering in a bomb shelter in Ukraine. The government tells me, by

and large, Estonians want to help Ukrainians, which is why they are being so, so generous in taking so many.

It's obviously a big financial burden but Estonians understand the constant threat of Russian aggression, as an ex-Soviet state themselves.


GORANI: That was a report there from a ship welcoming refugees in Estonia.

We'll be right back.




Well, Russia's war on Ukraine is having ripple effects across the globe. The most concerning food security. Soaring prices of fertilizer and natural

gas making businesses in parts of Africa unsustainable. David McKenzie has our report.


DAVID MCKENZIE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The early starts and the intense work at the Phillips-Sakekela (ph) bakery in Lagos used to be worth

it, used to be profitable.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Entirely this year, precisely around the time of the bombing of Ukraine, it has affected the supply of wheat, which has affected

our primary item of our production, which is the white wheat loaf. Our flour has been very expensive. The prices are changing constantly.

MCKENZIE (voice-over): Now they can only afford to produce half of what they did. And each tin gets less dough.

This war is horrifying for Ukraine's people. It could be devastating for global food security. Russia and Ukraine are agricultural export


On the field of battle, farmers will struggle to plant crops. With export ports blockaded by Russian warships, it has pushed the prices even higher.

So the 10 hours Maria Maridoke (ph) spends selling bread won't be enough to feed her two children. She says customers don't have the cash anymore and

often refuse to pay the going rate. And even on the fertile slopes of Mount Kenya, they are hurting.

Caroline Kimarua had to slash her workforce. The cost of fertilizer for her tea and coffee plantations has doubled in recent months.


CAROLINE KIMARUA, FARMER: You have no money to buy the fertilizer, at that high cost.

MCKENZIE (voice-over): And Russia is one of the world's biggest fertilizer producers. Sanctions and trade disruptions likely to push prices even


MCKENZIE: Could this be any worse time?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The war is starting at one of the worst times. We were already thinking we are in a recovery mode. On top of that, there are

already inflation pressures that were across the world. Africans are spending a lot on fuel and spending a lot on food. The need in this current

moment, this is a tough time for the continent.

MCKENZIE: The impact of this conflict is coming on top of already soaring global grain prices. And if you look at this map over here, of course,

countries across the world could feel the pain. But economists point to specific African countries, like Senegal, which imports more than 50

percent of its wheat from Ukraine and Russia, and Somalia, which imports more than 90 percent.

MCKENZIE (voice-over): And in Somalia, already suffering from generational drought, hundreds of thousands of children, like this 7-month old, are

hollowed out by hunger and sickness.

If the rains fail again, the war in Europe could push this crisis into a catastrophe, even into famine. Aid agencies depend heavily on grain from

Ukraine -- David McKenzie, CNN, London.


GORANI: And thanks for watching tonight. I'm Hala Gorani. Stay with us. "QUEST MEANS BUSINESS" is next.