CNN’s “Tug Of War” has begun a special ongoing season about Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Clarissa Ward, CNN’s Chief International Correspondent, hosted the first season of the podcast documenting some of the greatest power struggles of our time. Ward covered the United States’ removal of troops from Afghanistan last summer and the Taliban’s swift takeover of the country. She also informed us of the recent struggles in countries like Myanmar, Sudan, Syria, and Nicaragua. And as Russia continues to close in on Kyiv, Ukraine, the stakes are raised again in the fight for democracy.
CNN reporters on the ground in Ukraine and Russia will help bring us this season of “Tug Of War.” Ward herself has been covering the Eastern European region for over 15 years, which has seen the continuation of the Russo-Ukrainian War since 2014 especially amongst the pro-Russian separatists in the region of Donbas. She is located there now with her producer and cameraman.
The first episode of this new season was released on February 27, three days after Putin ordered the invasion of Ukraine. It is 15 minutes long.
In it, Ward speaks with her producer, Brent Swails, who is with her, basically recapping what had happened in the weeks leading up to the invasion. They said that they continued to get information from U.S. intelligence that Russia was gearing up to invade and would eventually do so. But in Ukraine, people did not believe that there would be an all-out invasion and were upset by the messaging coming out of the United States’ media. The trio were leaving their station in their free time, noting how normal everyone was acting, continuing to go to restaurants and cafes up to the day before the invasion.
They ask the essential question: why now? Ward and Swails speculate, with Ward saying that authoritarianism has been on the rise for years as noted in the first six episodes of “Tug Of War,” and liberal democracies face great challenges. She was speaking with a Ukrainian just days before the invasion, who said that while Americans fight their culture wars, Ukrainians are fighting not only for their way of life but for everyone’s way of life. Ukrainians have lived under authoritarianism before and do not want to live under Russian rule.
The two discuss Putin’s long rambling speech just hours before the invasion – how he claimed that Ukraine was not a sovereign state, why Russia was the creator of the country, and accused Ukraine’s leadership of being drug addicts and Nazis. He also accused the Ukrainians of genocide in the Donbas region, which has bore the brunt of war since Russia’s first invasion in 2014.
This episode is brimming with interviews from the subway stations that have turned into bomb shelters for Ukrainian citizens, filled with families and their belongings, pets, and whatever food they could bring. The two also speculate what happens next. What happens if Putin’s invasion does not go as planned, which we are already starting to see? What happens in the coming weeks? In the coming months? They talk about sanctions, Putin’s nuclear threats, and more.
Be sure to follow along with “Tug Of War” for direct updates from Ukraine from Ward and her experienced wartime team.