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Voice of America: The Inside Story-Flashpoint: Ukraine TRANSCRIPT


The Inside Story: Flashpoint Ukraine

Episode 62 – October 20, 2022


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Kamikaze drone strikes cripple critical infrastructure as Russia’s war on Ukraine grinds toward an eight month.


While concern grows about where those drones came from…


Ukraine and Europe prepare for an economic and energy winter chill.


Plus, Russian hackers go on the offensive in the United States.


Now on the Inside Story: Flashpoint Ukraine.



The Inside Story:


KATHERINE GYPSON, VOA Congressional Correspondent:

Hi. I’m Katherine Gypson, VOA Congressional Correspondent. 


Ukraine’s chief of defense intelligence says, “Russia’s loss is inevitable” and predicts victory by next summer. 


But first, Ukraine must get through a winter that may find electricity at a premium. 


Russia is now targeting Ukraine’s critical infrastructure with airstrikes after hitting civilian sites in response to a daring attack on a bridge connecting Russia with Crimea. 


Ukraine’s president Volodymyr Zelenskyy says about 30-percent of Ukraine’s power stations have been destroyed by the attacks since October 10 — causing blackouts in more than a thousand towns and villages across the country. 


Many of the attacks on Ukraine this week — especially those in the capital Kyiv — were carried out by drones, made by Iran. 


Tehran denies supplying Russia with these self-destructing drones, but Ukraine’s foreign minister is floating the idea of breaking diplomatic ties with Iran over the issue. 


VOA Chief Diplomatic Correspondent Cindy Saine begins our coverage. 



CINDY SAINE, VOA Chief Diplomatic Correspondent:


Ukraine is reeling from a week of intense attacks on civilians and infrastructure in the capital, Kyiv, and across the country, like this one in in the southern city of Mykolaiv.


The United Kingdom’s Defense Ministry has confirmed that Russian forces have been using Iranian-made Shahed-136 drones since at least August, and that they were used in the brutal attacks this week.


John Kirby, spokesperson for the National Security Council, spoke to VOA about the Iranian drones.


John Kirby, National Security Council Spokesperson:


We knew that these drones were going to be introduced onto the battlefield when we said publicly that the Russians were going to Tehran to buy them. It remains to be seen how much of a factor they are, but clearly, they have lethal capabilities.




Kirby said the U.S. and its NATO allies are providing Ukraine with the air defense systems they need to respond to Russia’s attacks.


One expert told VOA there is likely a practical reason Moscow turned to Tehran for drones.



Mary Glantz, US Institute of Peace:


It’s probably likely that he is running out of his precision and more modern weaponry. He has tons, lots of older, Soviet-style weaponry and older Russian weaponry, the sort of dumb bombs, and that’s probably what he’s going to have to rely upon more.









Another expert told VOA it is noteworthy that Iran is getting involved in Russia’s war against Ukraine.


Alex Vatanka, Middle East Institute:


This is the first time we’ve really seen the Islamic Republic of Iran since 1979 to get involved in another military operation in this fashion. We haven’t seen this before in terms of another sovereign state. Iran does a lot of activities in the region in terms of supporting proxy groups, Hezbollah and so forth, but here is Iran supporting Russia. This is unusual.






Vatanka told VOA he does not believe Iran providing drones to Russia will have a strong impact on the already stalled U.S. attempts to revive the Iran nuclear deal. And he said Tehran is trying to play down its cooperation with Moscow.



Alex Vatanka, Middle East Institute:


They don’t want to be seen to be taking part in this conflict because they’re worried about public opinion in Iran, which is very much against the Russian invasion of Ukraine.






Late last month, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy condemned the use of Iranian drones to attack his country and reduced the number of diplomatic personnel at the Iranian embassy in Kyiv.

Cindy Saine, VOA News



CARLA BABB, VOA Pentagon correspondent:

Russia rained down missiles and even Iranian-made suicide drones on Ukraine ((on Thursday)) as President Volodymyr Zelenskyy appealed for more Western aid.


Volodymyr Zelenskyy, Ukrainian President:


We want to have a possibility to close the sky. Our capabilities are not enough.We have 10% of what we need, to be honest.



The United States, the Netherlands, France and Spain all answered the call, pledging to deliver more air defense systems to Ukraine as quickly as possible. And earlier this week, Germany announced the first of its air defense systems for Ukraine had arrived in the country.



Jens Stoltenberg, NATO Secretary-General:

Just over the last few days, we have seen that when we mobilize, when you call on NATO allies to do more, they are actually doing more.



The recent Russian attacks raise fears of escalating brutality.


Mary Glantz, US Institute of Peace:

I think “He’s sort of taking the gloves off.

I know we’ve already seen atrocities; we’ve already seen attacks on civilians. But I think that what we’re going to see now is even more of that.



U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin cautioned that NATO would need to increase defense spending to better defend itself and Ukraine.


Lloyd Austin, US Secretary of Defense:

We’re going to have to invest more in expanding industrial bases and making sure that we’re doing the right things to replace those things, some of those things that we provided to Ukraine.


But the U.S. defense leader made clear that NATO allies would not be dragged into what he called Russia’s “war of choice.”

Carla Babb, VOA News, The Pentagon



Rape …  

Summary executions. 


Those human rights violations were among many discovered by a Commission of Inquiry from the U.N. Human Rights Council. 


In a report released Tuesday, the Commission said Russian forces are responsible for the vast majority of war crimes and violations of international humanitarian law they discovered. 


Beth Van Schaack is the U.S. Ambassador-at-large for Global Criminal Justice. 

In an interview with Alhurra television, Van Schaak explains what is being done to bring those who commit war crimes to account. 



Beth Van Schaack, U.S. Ambassador-at-large for Global Criminal Justice: 


Indeed, almost immediately after Russia relaunched the current invasion in Ukraine, we saw the commission of war crimes literally in every place that Russia’s forces were deployed. These were attacks on the civilian infrastructure within Ukraine, but also interpersonal violence evidence that civilians were being killed at point blank range with their hands tied behind their back.

We also have heard credible reports of women and girls who experienced sexual violence at the hands of Russia’s forces. And finally, Russia has erected an enormous trans national infrastructure of filtration operations that involve the deportation of Ukrainians into Russia, where they’re either held in detention or they’re forced to relocate within Russia, often under terrible conditions. Thousands of children have also been subjected to filtration and have been separated from their families and provided to Russian families.

The United Nations has established a commission of inquiry. These are experts that are focused on a whole range of international law violations and human rights violations across Ukraine. And also, now there are UN entities looking at human rights abuses within Russia itself, particularly Russian crackdowns on peaceful protesters who are protesting Russia’s renewed invasion of Ukraine. So, we are all working in concert together in order to try and identify potential evidence that can be shared with courts around the world when they are able to exercise jurisdiction over those individuals who are responsible for these terrible crimes.


The real challenge now is custody over the accused. Ukraine has some prisoners of war in custody and some of those individuals have been prosecuted now by Ukrainian courts.

However, most of the more senior officials who are responsible the true architects of the violence, are not within Ukrainian custody. They are enjoying safe haven in Russia.

So that now will be the challenge. When will those individuals try and travel? When will they think that the world has moved on and is no longer paying attention to them?

The world’s prosecutors will be ready with indictments in hand, and there is no statute of limitations for war crimes or other international crimes and so those prosecutors will be able to bring charges essentially for the rest of their lives.




Drone attacks in Kyiv have ended a relative sense of normalcy in Ukraine’s capital, sending people scrambling for safety. 


Before the war, Denys Minin was a TV host in Ukraine. 


Now he is one of many volunteers helping evacuate Ukrainians from areas under Russian occupation. 


More from our Lesia Bakalets. 



Denys Minin, TV Host and Volunteer:

Hello and welcome! We’re glad we could help you, glad you made it!


LESIA BAKALETS, Reporting for VOA:   

Locals call the 57-kilometer road from the city of Vasylivka north to the city of Zaporizhzhia the “road of life.” 


It runs from Russian-occupied Ukraine to the free city of Zaporizhzhia. But it’s controlled by Russian forces.


Denys Minin, TV Host and Volunteer:

Occupiers decided to force all the residents of occupied territories to go through Vasylivka. Now they ask for bribes. At times, they just don’t let cars out for two, three days as they wait for updated directions.



Denys Minin, a TV host before the war, has created a volunteer network of drivers to help people leave occupied cities like Mariupol and Berdyansk. 

He started doing this because he is from the area and still has family there. 


Denys Minin, TV Host and Volunteer:

I was praying to hear my parents’ voices again — there was no connection, like in all of Mariupol. I created a Telegram channel ‘From Mariupol to Zaporizhzhia.’ I found volunteers, worked with the military, and every morning, cars from all over Ukraine came to Mariupol. We used to send some one hundred cars to get people out.



When Russia announced its partial mobilization, word got out about Minin’s work, and people from the occupied territories started getting in touch with him personally, asking for help.


Denys Minin, TV Host and Volunteer:

Usually, people reach out through Instagram. They can leave a request where they indicate their name, home address in Mariupol and phone number. My phone is always on; I’m used to it now – that’s what life is these days.


((People on the bus applaud))

((People on bus)): Thank you!



Minin says he is endlessly grateful to his team. 


Denys Minin, TV Host and Volunteer:

Every driver has his or her own story to tell. I have a driver who – according to him – is atoning for his sins. He used to sell drugs here in Zaporizhzhia, and now he’s helping people, driving them out of Mariupol since March!



Minin finally got in touch with his parents in mid-April, but they decided to stay put.   

Since April, Minin and his team have helped over 5,000 people leave occupied Mariupol and Berdyansk. And though he believes things are only going to get tougher, he has no plans to stop helping those who need him.  

For Lesia Bakalets in Washington, Anna Rice, VOA News.



Vladimir Putin has declared martial law in the four regions of Ukraine that he claims to have annexed — Kherson, Luhansk, Donetsk and Zaporizhzhia.


We know the city of Zaporizhzhia mostly as the home of Europe’s biggest nuclear power plant that is under siege. 


But for centuries, it has served as a fortress during foreign invasions. 


Today, it is a haven for thousands of internally displaced people pouring in from eastern and southern Ukraine.


Our Anna Chernikova takes us inside Zaporizhzhia. 





ANNA CHERNIKOVA, Reporting for VOA:          


The city of Zaporizhzhia in southeastern Ukraine has been under constant and ruthless Russian attacks for months, with no end in sight.


The city, known for its historic connection to Ukraine’s legendary warriors — the Zaporozhian Cossacks — is now a hub for internally displaced Ukrainians who flee Russian-occupied territories in the south and east.


Zaporizhzhia has welcomed about 400 thousand internally displaced people. More than 100 thousand have found a second home here.


Valentyna escaped from the occupied city of Henichesk in the Kherson region, with her son.  She told us it took them three days to reach Ukrainian-controlled territory.:




Valentyna, Displaced Resident:


We really wanted to finally get to the city of Zaporizhzhia because psychologically, we can’t stand this situation. We finally wanted to see our native flags, our native people, to feel our native land under our feet, to see the smiles of our sincere Ukrainian people.


It was a very difficult trip, very stressful. We came under shelling and were sent back. We spent the night in a minibus. Very difficult.






Zaporizhzhia is also a strategic point for the Ukrainian counteroffensive in the south. It has come under some of the most intense shelling in the past few weeks. Russian missiles have already killed a large number of civilians, and wounded hundreds more.


Many charity organizations are working here. Representatives say people need immediate humanitarian and psychological support.



Viacheslav Dundukov, Posmishka UA:


We have to understand the new reality and that every type of such kind of unimaginable risk is possible just now. So, unfortunately, we have to live in these circumstances.






The city of Zaporizhzhia is living up to its historic reputation as Ukraine’s southeastern fortress, a reputation earned across the centuries. Its citizens are ready, once again, to make the sacrifice. 


Anna Chernikova, for VOA News, Zaporizhzhia:





Russia’s war on Ukraine is sending economic shockwaves throughout Europe. 


Inflation is at a 50-year high and soaring energy prices threaten to make it harder to keep homes and offices warm this winter. 


Europe’s biggest economy — Germany — already has energy-saving measures in place, bracing for economic uncertainty. 


From Berlin, Jacob Russell takes us inside Germany’s economic edginess. 




JACOB RUSSELL, Reporting for VOA:


For the last two decades, Germany has been synonymous in Europe with economic stability and prudence. Now an energy crisis provoked by war in Ukraine is joining with persistent inflation to threaten the stability that some had come to take for granted.


Marcel Fratzscher, German Institute for Economic Research:

The war in the Ukraine and the energy crisis has hit Germany particularly hard because Germany is very dependent on the import of fossil fuels. Prices have exploded. With high energy prices Germany’s economy now is sliding into recession.





SmaIl and medium enterprises have driven Germany’s growth in recent history. In 2020 they accounted for more than half of all employment in the country. Now, those same businesses are threatened.

Jan Schmieder-Balladur runs Le Brot, a bakery that employs 20 people in the Berlin suburb of Neukölln.


Jan Schmieder-Balladur, Bakery Owner:

The biggest challenges we face right now are the uncertainty of soaring energy prices and rising inflation, and maybe coming blackouts in the winter. Energy prices have gone up 30% so far. We expect they can go another 100% but it depends on the winter and how the politics solves the problems.



Consumers are just as affected. That means business owners cannot simply pass on rising costs.


Jan Schmieder-Balladur, Owner of Le Brot:

We try to reduce costs and still welcome all the customers, but of course if you raise more the prices you have less customers.



The German government has announced several large packages of assistance for businesses and consumers, but the fundamental changes brought about the war in Ukraine mean that Germany’s biggest challenges are yet to come.


Marcel Fratzscher, President of the German Institute for Economic Research: 

The big or even bigger challenge is not the next one year, as difficult as it may be, it’s more the next five to ten years because Germany has to undergo a massive economic transformation in many dimensions. Companies in Germany, they basically have to face the challenge of how to deal the massive competitive disadvantage compared to companies in the US or China or Korea which don’t have the same increase in energy costs as German companies have.


Economists estimate that a family with an annual income of 39 thousand dollars will face an extra 48-hundred dollars in energy costs alone, meaning that it will be those on low and middle incomes that will bear the brunt of these challenges.


Jan Schmieder-Balladur, Bakery Owner:

Every business is challenging, but if it’s not running, then I close the business, do something else. But it would be (a) pity for the employees because we have about 20 employees and for them it’s the earning for their families. So, it’s quite important to continue business.



As autumn turns to winter, Germany faces a more uncertain future than it has for many years.

Jacob Russell, for VOA News, Berlin.




Even further from the front lines, cybersecurity experts are sounding the alarm over recent attacks on websites of major U.S. airports. 


The attacks appear to be the work of a Russian hacking group. 


While the hacks have caused some minor issues for air travelers, they highlight a major vulnerability. 


From Los Angeles, here’s VOA’s Mike O’Sullivan. 



MIKE O’SULLIVAN, VOA Correspondent:


The “denial of service” attack targeted the websites of at least 14 U.S. airports, flooding them with traffic in an attempt to shut them down or make it difficult for customers to use t to use them.


Behind it, experts say, the Russian hacking group Killnet, which has tens of thousands of followers  on its channels on Telegram, a social media site popular in both Russia and Ukraine.


The Russian hackers complain of Western sanctions against Russia prompted by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. The hackers call the sanctions an act of aggression.




Ivan Righi, Senior Cyber Threat Intelligence Analyst:


They have claimed that any groups siding with Ukraine or providing support to Ukraine, they are contributing to this aggression against Russia.  And that’s the reason why they’re conducting these cyberattacks.  And I remember back in May of 2022, Killnet actually declared war officially against 10 countries, which included the U.S., U.K., Germany, Italy.






A war of cyberattacks.


Meanwhile, the physical war continues. October 8th, an explosion damaged a bridge linking Russia and Russian-occupied Crimea.


Russians retaliated.


Cyber experts and a senior U.S. official say there is no evidence yet that the Russian government was behind this cyberattack. And the impact of the hackers was limited.



John Hultquist, Mandiant Vice President of Intelligence Analysis:


They’re looking for critical organizations or critical infrastructure organizations, but they’re actually not targeting the infrastructure, right. They targeting the websites associated with these organizations, which really has nothing to do with the operations.





Airline operations were not affected.


The hackers display varying skill levels, from beginner to expert, and they publicize their successes.






Ivan Righi, Senior Cyber Threat Intelligence Analyst:


They are very interested in their attention in the media, and they have basically built themselves to become a brand.






A brand with a following in Russia. But experts say the damage from attacks like this is minimal.




John Hultquist, Mandiant Vice President of Intelligence Analysis:


They’re really superficial, they’re really short term, but ultimately, they’re hard to ignore.





He says they’re likely to continue. 


Mike O’Sullivan, VOA News, Los Angeles.





Since Russia attacked Ukraine in February, communities across the U.S. have mobilized to support the people of Ukraine. 


Just outside New York City, residents of Secaucus, New Jersey have stepped up to help. 

Our Iryna Solomko takes us there. 




IRYNA SOLOMKO, VOA Correspondent:


Oksana Bats is a Ukrainian activist living in the New Jersey town of Secaucus.


From here, Bats says she’s doing what she can to help people in her homeland.  And, she says, so is the town’s mayor, Michael Gonelli, even though he has no personal connection to Ukraine.



Oksana Bats, Activist:


He answers our every plea for help. We come and say – Michael, we need so and so. And he just says – no problem!





Michael Gonelli has been the mayor of Secaucus for over 13 years. He admits before Russia launched its war on Ukraine, he knew very little about the country. But when residents came forward asking for help, he quickly agreed.




Michael Gonnelli, Mayor of Secaucus:


We’re doing another fundraiser this week with them at the town pool… We do a lot of fundraising for them – they are part of my life now; they are really part of everything that we are about.





Ukrainian Daria Herasymenko has lived in Secaucus for over 16 years. Originally from Dnipro, when the war started, her parents, niece and sister all lived in Ukraine. 


Her family came to the U.S. in May, after the start of America’s “Uniting For Ukraine” program, which makes it easier for Ukrainian citizens fleeing the war to enter the U.S.



Daria Herasymenko, Secaucus Resident:


I didn’t want them to wait until a missile hit our town. We lived close to Donetsk, and you just never know…







Herasymenko’s parents, Nina and Volodymyr Herasymenko left Dnipro in March. They voiced gratitude for all the things the town has done for Ukrainians.

Nina and Volodymyr Herasymenko, Ukrainian Refugees:


The kid walks in the street and sees Ukrainian flags; this makes us so happy!





Safe and happy, but Daria Herasymenko’s parents, sister and niece came to the US with nothing. And again – the mayor and community helped them through.


A few years ago, Mayor Gonnelli partnered with businesses that sell clothing, household items and shoes and that agreed to donate some of their goods to charity.



Daria Herasymenko, Secaucus Resident:


The mayor would call us and say – come into the store. There are new clothes there, brand new.





On August 24, Ukraine’s Independence Day, Gonnelli flew the Ukrainian flag, right next to the US flag.


The mayor said the flag will remain in the city center until Ukraine wins the war. 


For Iryna Solomko in New Jersey, Anna Rice, VOA News.




That’s all we have for now. 


Stay up to date on the war on Ukraine at 


Follow us on Instagram and Facebook at VOANews. 


And catch up on previous episodes on our free streaming service VOA Plus. 


You can follow me on Twitter at k-g-y-p. 


Thanks for being with us. 


See you next week for The Inside Story. 



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