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CONNECT THE WORLD
Eurozone Crisis; Interview with Domenico Lombardi; Tense Night in Moscow; Ashura Attacks; Russian Election Protests; Final Round of Group Stage; Protests in Moscow; Anti-Putin Sentiment Reaches Boiling Point; Protester Shares Experiences; Iraq After the War: Camp Warrior Drawdown; Young Iraqi Burn Victim Healing in US Nearly Five Years After Attack; NASA Finds Planet Similar to Earth; Parting Shots of Ash Clouds from Mount Gamalama
Aired December 6, 2011 - 16:00:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
MONITA RAJPAL, HOST: The president of the European Council calls to have more power. Tonight, how his radical shake-up plan could see bailed out countries stripped of their voting rights.
Live from London, I'm Monita Rajpal.
RAJPAL: Tensions flare in Moscow. At least 250 anti-Putin protesters are arrested.
Could this be a turning point in Russian politics?
And a Champions League showdown is happening right now here in London, with Chelsea getting off to a flying start against Valencia.
But first, just days before a crucial EU summit designed to bring the Eurozone's finances closer together, a confidential EU paper shows just how far apart its key policymakers are. The draft proposals of the memo go much further than those agreed by Germany's chancellor and France's president on Monday. And with European Council President Herman Van Rompuy suggesting that bailed out countries who consistently fail to meet their commitments could be stripped of their EU voting rights and be forced to submit their budgets for for preapproval.
Well, with the threat of a downgrade by credit rating agency Standard & Poor's hanging over them, the Eurozone's leaders are under pressure to reach an agreement quickly.
Earlier, I asked Nina Dos Santos why some of Herman Van Rompuy's proposals would be a bitter pill to swallow.
NINA DOS SANTOS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It does seem a bit extreme, doesn't it?
What we're talking about here, Monita, and I'll paraphrase some of the quotes that are in this exact document, this memo that he's sent to the heads of state ahead of their summit at the end of the week, basically he's proposing that member states that have received bailout money and haven't managed to adhere to the deficit targets, or, indeed, put forward budgets that don't seem as though they're going to manage to rein in the deficit enough, well, they could be facing certain sanctions that would be put forward by the European Commission.
So, effectively, what we're talking about here is the executive arm of the European Union being granted the powers to put forward sanctions. And that could even mean taking the voting rights away from some of these countries that have been bailed out and are still not implementing enough austerity.
RAJPAL: All of this comes as there's also talk about the -- the EFSF being downgraded, as well.
What kind of impact would that have?
DOS SANTOS: This is interesting, because it's come just a day after the leaders of France and Germany, the Eurozone's two biggest economies, put forward their sort of five stage plan, if you like, for trying to get this kind of budgetary discipline in place and try and solve the Eurozone crisis once and for all.
Then we had S&P, Standard & Poor's, one of the major credit rating agencies, saying that it -- that it's put about 15 Eurozone countries on watch for a possible downgrade. And that includes some of the stronger performers, like France and also Germany. and now they've said that what they could see is the Eurozone bailout fund, or so-called EFSF, being put on credit watch, negative, as well, which means they could be earmarked for a downgrade.
If that were to happen, we'd better remember, Monita, that this is the main vehicle that Eurozone leaders are hoping to borrow money with. And so if they brought the creditworthiness down, if that were not -- that could have difficult consequences.
RAJPAL: And the interesting thing, also, is that there was a potential that Eurobonds would not be on the agenda at the summit. But it seems as though it has been now pushed up.
DOS SANTOS: Well, again, the kind of statements that we're getting here in this memo to EU leaders from Herman Van Rompuy, the person who, as I just said, is the president of the European Commission, would be steering these discussions. He seems to open the door to Eurobonds just about a day after Angela Merkel and Nicolas Sarkozy eventually agreed that they said that Eurobonds, for the moment, weren't on the cards. And this is the quote that is interesting the comes from this memo. It says, quote, that Van Rompuy would recommend that leaders consider, quote, "opening up the possibility, in the longer-term perspective here, of moving toward common debt issuance in a stage and criteria-based approach."
So basically what he's saying here, it seems, is that once they get the budgetary discipline in place, you know, we could be talking about a closer fiscal union. That could involve pooling the debt pile.
(END VIDEO TAPE)
RAJPAL: Nina dos Santos there.
Well, with doubt continuing to hang over the future of the Eurozone, countries at the heart of the crisis are desperately trying to reduce their deficits. And for the people of Greece and Ireland, that means more financial pain.
In just under an hour, Greece's parliament is expected to approve yet more spending cuts in a vote on next year's budget, while in Ireland, the government there announced tax rises worth more than $2 billion.
Geraldine Lynagh is in Dublin.
She joins us now -- Geraldine Lynagh, thank you very much for being with us.
It was interesting, the finance minister said the Irish people have paid a high price for mismanagement of the economy and he was talking about there will be thousands slipping into poverty and, of course, more -- more tax hikes.
How is all of this playing out in the Iri -- among the Irish people?
GERALDINE LYNAGH, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, we are, indeed, in a bit of a mess, Monita. But the Irish government seems to be saying that although -- although we did have to go to the IMF and the EU cap in hand and ask for a bailout earlier this year and all the embarrassment that entailed, that Ireland is going to be the model scholar of Europe. We're going to meet every deadline, every target set down for us by the EU and the IMF.
Now, with that in mind, we have just had two days, two consecutive days of austere budget announcements here. For the first time ever, yesterday, in the Irish parliament here behind me, 1.4 billion euros worth of spending cuts was outlined. And today was all about taxation. We heard about the various indirect taxes that the government is going to impose on the country in the next year, indirect taxes like there could be an increase of 2 percent on the higher VAT rate, which means that certain goods and services are going to be a lot more expensive next year. And, also, most of us were very hard hit today. We're going to see an increase in fuel and petrol and diesel coming into effect at midnight tonight, and also a car tax is going to rise substantially next year.
So it's not going to be easy for Ireland in the next year. And it will be one thing that if these two days, I suppose, were -- were the end of it, if that was it, if these two announcements and -- were all that was coming our way. But we have been warned by our prime minister at the weekend that there are several more years of austere budget measures to be announced yet.
RAJPAL: All right, Geraldine Lynagh, thank you for that.
Geraldine Lynagh there in Dublin.
Well, this is a crisis that's sending shockwaves right across the world. And as to underline the far being felt on a global scale, U.S. Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner arrived in Germany today, the first stop on a three day trip to urge Europe's policy makers to take decisive action. well, CNN's Diana Magnay is in Berlin -- and, Di, what did he have to say?
DIANA MAGNAY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, what he said, he gave his backing, really, to the steps that France and Germany have made, the proposals that they're going to bring to the table for closer fiscal union at this very key EU summit on Friday, which is why it was so important that President Obama sent the Treasury secretary over here, to try and sort of galvanize support, really reinforce that message that something has to be done, because a stronger Europe is not just important for the European economies, but also for the U.S. economy and also for the broader economy as a whole.
Now, Mr. Geithner said that he was impressed, encouraged by the steps that he's seen from countries like Italy, Greece and Spain, putting in austerity programs, but also that it really had to be this careful balance with national governments working together with central banks to create renewed confidence in the Eurozone economy.
Let's take a listen to what he said.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TIMOTHY GEITHNER, SECRETARY OF THE TREASURY: As the leaders of gaff have recognized, the three key elements of success are these -- economic reforms in the member states to lay the foundation for future economic growth, reforms to create the architecture of fiscal union, to make monetary union more viable for the long run and financial support by European governments and central banks in the form of a stronger firewall that will allow the financial system of Europe to provide the oxygen necessary for economic growth and that will enable governments to borrow at sustainable interest rates.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MAGNAY: Now, Monita, he said that he wouldn't be drawn on what kind of a role the ECB should be taking here in Europe, despite the fact that he met with the European Central Bank president, Mario Draghi, earlier this morning. And another interesting point was that he said that the IMF would not be given any extra funds by the Federal Reserve to try and help embattled European nations. He dismissed media reports that suggested otherwise, all the time, though, acknowledging, though, that it wasn't just Europe that was having to firefight right now.
He said, you know, America has its own problems. The U.S. economy is in deep trouble, now, too, and we are doing our bit to try and improve things there. The last time he was here, he was kind of criticized for adopting what many here consider to be a bit of a preachy attitude, given the problems that America is also facing right now -- Monita.
RAJPAL: Yes, that leads me to my next question, Di, is whether -- even though he's saying that, of course, America has its own problems to deal with, how has his visit and his opinions, how have they been received there?
MAGNAY: Well, I think the fact that he has meetings with heads of state on this trip, he's going to be meeting with President Sarkozy of France tomorrow and also with the Spanish and Italian premiers, is an indication of the fact that the big economies here in Europe are prepared and want to listen to what the U.S. has to say. You know, they both feed into each other's economies, the Eurozone and the U.S. are, of course, each other's biggest trading partners. And the financial systems are incredibly closely intertwined.
So although there might -- might have been some sort of ruffled feathers last time around, that is not to say that European leaders don't constantly have telephone conversations above and beyond these kinds of meetings that we discussed and aren't really convinced that they do have to take each other's opinions on board to move ahead in what is effectively a global crisis -- Monita.
RAJPAL: All right, Diana Magnay there at CNN in Berlin.
Thank you so much.
So just why is the U.S. so concerned and how could the fallout from a crisis across the Atlantic affect the lives of Americans?
Well, to discuss that, I'm joined by Domenico Lombardi, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution and a former executive board member of the IMF and the World Bank.
Sir, thank you very much for being with us.
I guess I want to ask your opinion first, you know, what do you think about this Van Rompuy's potential proposals, if you will, of this new treaty, of the very stark, stark measures that need to be taken, more centralized control of -- of the Euro crisis?
DOMENICO LOMBARDI, FORMER IMF EXECUTIVE BOARD MEMBER: This is certainly an important aspect of a more comprehensive plan that the Europeans will be crafting in the next few hours and days and for which, you know, that Secretary Geithner is traveling to Europe, in, really, a last ditch attempt to renew a sense of urgency.
And as I was saying, the first layer of a convincing, credible response by the Europeans ought to be announce the cooperation at the fiscal level and the sort of treaty changes that have just been proposed by France and Germany seem -- seem to go in the right direction.
RAJPAL: The interesting thing, is, though, sir...
LOMBARDI: And, yes, this will not be enough...
RAJPAL: -- the interesting thing is, is that, you know, even Britain -- granted, Britain isn't part of the -- the single currency, if you will - - but David Cameron himself, the prime minister, saying he would not vote for any new treaty, in fact, he would veto it. So there is definitely some blocking, some sort of blocking of these new treaties, because that's the problem with the EU in itself, there's no real consensus.
LOMBARDI: That's correct. But for now, this has already been discounted -- discounted by France and Germany and the other Euro Area countries. And, in fact, if the avenue of treaty changes does not seem feasible because of the opposition of other EU countries, not members of the Euro Area, then the Euro Area countries will for some form of announced cooperation, finding a -- an agreement among all the 17 Euro Area member countries. Certainly, the future of the euro is at stake and enough fiscal cooperation is one of the required pillars of a credible response.
But that's not going to be all, of course. Given the stage of the European crisis has moved to, we also need in place a credible financial firewall. And, in fact, Secretary Geithner was mentioning the central bank several times in the remarks you have previously aired. Secretary Geithner does see the ECB as a vital player in this crisis, especially because, you know, coming from the United States, here they're used to a hyperactive, a hyper creative U.S. Federal Reserve. And, therefore, you know, it's since a little -- they have some the best, you know, understanding, really, the complexity in which the ECB is trying to -- to move itself.
But that said, Secretary Geithner will try to bring a renewed sense of urgency, asking for the Europeans to come forward with bold measures, bold, big enough, they have to be commensurate to the threat that the Europeans are confronting with right now. To try to be readily implementable, and certainly something that, you know, who's implement -- implementation will be postponed by several months is not something that markets will react positively to. And it should be clear what needs to be done and by whom.
If these three ingredients will be in play, then, of course, you know, this summit will be a big step forward. And certainly, other countries outside of the Euro Area can also relax a little bit.
LOMBARDI: If not, we are heading toward, you know, a major disruption of the global economy and the global financial system.
RAJPAL: All right, sir. Thank you very much.
Domenico Lombardi there.
Appreciate your time.
You are watching CONNECT THE WORLD live from London.
Still to come, unprecedented attacks leave dozens dead on the most important day of the Shia Muslim calendar.
The final round of the Champions League group stage is underway. We will have the latest scores from CNN's Alex Thomas a little later in the show.
And a once bustling military base becomes a ghost town. With the withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq, a tour of Camp Warrior, when we return.
RAJPAL: You're watching CNN, the world's news leader.
This is CONNECT THE WORLD.
A tense night in Moscow.
About 250 people were arrested as police cracked down on demonstrators protesting what they called irregularities in Sunday's parliamentary elections. Despite accusations that votes were rigged in favor of Prime Minister Vladimir Putin's United Russia Party, it still emerged with a diminished majority and sharp criticisms from a former cold war rival.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON, SECRETARY OF STATE: And, as we have seen in many places and most recently in the duma elections in Russia, elections that are neither free nor fair have right same effect. We have serious concerns about the conduct of those elections. Independent political parties such as Parnas were denied the right to register. And the preliminary report by the OSCE cites election day attempts to stuff ballot boxes, manipulate voter lists and other troubling practices.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
RAJPAL: And we'll have more on this story, including a live report from an eyewitness in Moscow later here on CONNECT THE WORLD.
Now, here's a look at some of the other stories that we're connecting our world this hour.
Twin suicide blasts in Afghanistan have killed at least 60 people on a major shite holiday -- holy day, I should say. The Taliban are denying responsibility.
CNN's Nick Paton Walsh explains why today's attacks are unprecedented.
NICK PATON WALSH, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Central Kabul, the most important day of the Shia Muslim calendar, Ashura. Pilgrims beat themselves to draw blood a part of their mourning. And then...
(SOUND OF EXPLOSION)
WALSH: A blast and smoke nearby. Our cameraman takes cover, but the worshippers remarkably carry on. Panic, chaos, so tightly packed together, making it so hard to flee. Some have crossed the river, its sewage and trash. Some rally.
WALSH: Some (INAUDIBLE) shots. Children caught in the blast passed injured between adults. The injured piled into cars.
Kabul has never seen sectarian violence targeting Shias like this before. Fears high, this is a new departure in a decade-long war.
(on camera): Here, you get an idea exactly how central we're talking about. Just over there is the finance ministry and further down there one of the key mosques here in the center of Kabul. And the Taliban have made it their specialty to show how into the center of the city they can penetrate at times like this. As you can see around me, very edgy. Police trying to move us on at this point.
(voice-over): But the Taliban, rather than claiming the attack, condemned it outright, leaving many terrified not only of the violence, but also whether this horrific targeting of Shia Muslims marks a new chapter of sectarian violence in a decade of war that's left so many Afghans past exhaustion.
Nick Paton Walsh, CNN, Kabul.
(END VIDEO TAPE)
RAJPAL: An update on that U.S. drone that Iran says it shot down over its air space. U.S. officials now say the unnamed RQ-170 Sentinel was deployed on a CIA reconnaissance mission, but they don't think it was flying over Iran, because it could gather all the information it was seeking while flying along the border in Afghanistan.
More violence in Syria. Nearly two dozen people were reported killed Monday in protests against the government of President Bashar al-Assad. Although growing more isolated, Mr. Al-Assad is still backed by Hezbollah and Iran.
But in a rare interview, a top Syrian opposition leader told CNN's Rima Maktabi that Iran's support for the Syrian government might come back to haunt it.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BURHAN GHALIOUN, SYRIAN OPPOSITION LEADER (through translator): The Iranians do not hide that they are helping and supporting the regime. They support the regime logistically, maybe financially, and support in tactics and intelligence. This has been proven. They are in some way or another participating in suppressing the Syrian people. I hope the Iranians realize the importance of not compromising the Syrian-Iranian relationship by defending the regime, whose own people clearly reject and has become a regime of torture to its own people.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
RAJPAL: You're watching CONNECT THE WORLD live from London.
It is crunch time for Chelsea in the Champions League. We'll bring you the very latest from Stamford Bridge and across Europe in just a moment.
RAJPAL: Things are heating up in the UEFA Champions League. The final round of the group stage is being played on Tuesday and Wednesday. And the pick of the action is taking place right here in London.
Chelsea are up against Spanish-led Valencia right now. And they need a win to guarantee them a place in the knock-out stage.
Well, here to bring us up to date with the very latest on this must- win match for Chelsea and the other matches underway tonight is "WORLD SPORT'S" Alex Thomas.
What's going on tonight?
ALEX THOMAS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: yes, well, there was a scenario where Chelsea could draw -- draw 0-0...
THOMAS: -- and go through it. But essentially, winner takes all in Group E, already won by a ba -- by Bayer Leverkusen on the German side. And Chelsea, you just take it for granted that with all their money and with all their star players...
THOMAS: -- they're going to get through to the knock-out stages.
But if we look at the scenarios from our cunningly crafted map of Europe, we can see what we're talking about. And I can tell you, I can bring you up to date. Chelsea 3-0 up at the moment over Valencia, an astonishing performance from a side that's been struggling for form. And manager Andre Villas-Boas under fire. The DA drop has been superb for the Blues tonight.
Bayer Leverkusen is actually losing a waited game. So it could mean that Chelsea topped the group after all our concern over there.
And let's move on to Group F, Monita. Arsenal have won that already. And they're losing tonight, 0-8, to Olympiacos, which means the Greek Cup could go through because Marseilles are losing to Dortmund.
And in Group G, if we move on to that one, we can see that Apoel, already the first team from Cyprus every to reach the knock-out stages of the Champions League, they're losing today. But it's all about Porto against Zenit St. Petersburg, another winner takes all there, 0-0 a short time ago in that one.
And in Group H, we already knew Barcelona would win it. AC Milan was second. It's all about Plzen and BATE, who can claim the third spot. At the moment, it looks like it's going Plzen's way, although they're both losing to those European giants.
Anyways, so that's the latest. Full details in "WORLD SPORT" coming up. I've not let you get a word in edgewise.
THOMAS: But I can't go without showing you some really, really lovely video.
RAJPAL: All right.
THOMAS: Even lovelier than our map of Europe. And it's from two French daredevils...
THOMAS: -- I think it's best to call them.
THOMAS: If it's there. Maybe it's not there. I mean we've haven't been -- oh, there we are.
THOMAS: Throwing themselves off cliffs.
THOMAS: Tightrope walking from the same sort of heights. It's either very, very good entertainment or just plain daft. But we'll have more on that, as well.
THOMAS: I'm -- I'm pretty impressed with those cartwheels, actually.
RAJPAL: Granted, it's not (INAUDIBLE)...
THOMAS: Want to try it?
RAJPAL: Oh, no, no, go ahead.
RAJPAL: Maybe when I was like three years old...
THOMAS: You could do in the backyard.
RAJPAL: -- I could do that. Yes. Not anymore. Wow! We're looking at some amazing stuff.
All right, Alex, we'll look for that. I'll actually watch.
Thank you very much.
Still to come here on CONNECT THE WORLD, resentment against Russia's prime minister, Vladimir Putin, and his party fills Moscow's streets as well as its jails.
Plus, ever wondered if we're not alone in the universe?
A new discovery by NASA could be a step toward that answer.
Then, a boy we first met four years ago in Iraq who barely survived a vicious attack shows us his new life in California and his amazing fighting spirit.
MONITA RAJPAL, HOST: You're watching CONNECT THE WORLD on CNN. It's time now for a check on the world headlines.
The president of the European Council has suggested that bailed-out countries who failed to keep their commitments -- keep to their commitments could be stripped of their EU voting rights. In a leaked memo, Herman Van Rompuy also proposed that the European Commission could be given powers to pre-approve their budget.
A suicide bombing at a shrine in Kabul killed dozens of Shiite worshipers marking the Ashura holy day. Officials say an almost simultaneous blast occurred in Mazar-i-Sharif. At least 60 are dead with another 150 wounded.
Hezbollah will continue to add fighters and stay more armed than ever. That's what the group's leader, Hassan Nasrallah, told a crowd in Beirut. It marks the first time he's appeared in public since 2008.
Some 250 people were arrested in Moscow as demonstrators, angry with Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, once again took to the streets to protest alleged corruption in Sunday's parliamentary election.
Well, CNN's Phil Black joins us now live from Moscow with more on the protests and what's behind them. Phil?
PHIL BLACK, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Monita, a second night of protests here in Moscow, but I think protesters, opposition protesters who were hoping to continue the momentum of yesterday's rallies, which brought thousands of people onto the streets, will have been disappointed. They didn't achieve anything close to it.
Rather than thousands of people, there were only hundreds of people, voicing their anger, their disappointment at the way they believe those parliamentary elections were conducted over the weekend.
So, there were only hundreds of them, they were met with a very firm response from security forces here. And so, that small crowd was essentially driven away, chased away, or arrested in pretty big numbers, too. Around 250 of them, we're told.
So, it means that the night here in Moscow on the streets really belonged to the thousands of protesters who rallied -- well, not protesters, but thousands of supporters who rallied in a number of different locations in support of Vladimir Putin's United Russia party, Monita.
RAJPAL: What does Putin actually -- has he actually reacted to all of this, now?
BLACK: Well, his reaction to the protests themselves is that they won't tolerate any sort of illegal gatherings or rallies.
In terms of addressing the significant losses that his party suffered, well, he's trying to put it in some context, essentially saying that United Russia is the incumbent party, has been for some time. And so, it's understandable that they would suffer losses.
This was Vladimir Putin making this point, trying to play down those election results earlier today.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
VLADIMIR PUTIN, PRIME MINISTER OF RUSSIA (through translator): Yes, we suffered losses, but they are unavoidable. They are unavoidable for any political power, especially a political power that has held the responsibility for the state of a country for some time.
In today's conditions, the result is good. You and I see what has happened recently in countries with much more stable economies and culture spheres.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLACK: Much stronger language has been used by the Russian government in addressing the criticisms from international observers and international governments over those concerns about electoral proceedings.
The belief that there were, perhaps, inconsistencies, breaches of procedure, that the whole process in some way favored the United Russia party, that is the allegation, it has been made by the United States' administrations. They have serious concerns.
In response to that, the Russian foreign ministry has described that language as unfriendly and unacceptable and potentially damaging to the relations between these countries, Monita.
RAJPAL: Phil Black in Moscow, thank you so much.
Although it may appear this anti-Putin groundswell came from nowhere, it's actually been simmering for a long while. CNN's Senior International Correspondent Matthew Chance chronicles the growing resentment in Russia has finally reached the boiling point.
MATTHEW CHANCE, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): These are unprecedented scenes on the streets of Moscow. Never before have so many protested against Russia's powerful leader or the system over which he presides.
(CROWD CHANTING IN RUSSIAN)
CHANCE: Parliamentary elections were the spark. Vladimir Putin's ruling party was panned, even amid widespread reports of ballot-rigging. Simmering anger about official corruption and economic stagnation appears to have finally boiled over, and there was no denying it.
PUTIN (through translator): Yes, we suffered losses, but they are unavoidable. They are unavoidable for any political power, especially a political power that has held the responsibility for the state of a country for some time.
CHANCE: Plus, the timing of the results is crucial. Just last month, Putin, now prime minister, was nominated to return to the Kremlin next year. The current president, Dmitry Medvedev, will simply step aside.
Loyal supporters may have been rapturous in their applause, but many Russians feel conned that a man they voted for was merely keeping Vladimir Putin's seat warm.
Even before, there were anti-Putin stirrings. Speaking at this martial arts competition in Moscow last month, he was jeered by the crowd. The Kremlin played this down, but his words are virtually drowned out by the boos and hisses.
GRIGORY YAVLINKSY, YABLOKO PARTY: There is no -- rule of law in the country. And now, the people more and more understand this is not acceptable in the 21st century to live in a country like Russia without rule of law.
CHANCE: For his part, Putin has now promised change, to reshuffle his cabinet and more. But it may not be enough to address the grievances many Russians are now prepared to so publicly air.
Matthew Chance, CNN, London.
RAJPAL: What was it like to be in that crowd in Moscow discovering there were others who felt as you do, watching as a small army of police descended on the square. Well, photographer and iReporter Irina Kryuchkova was there, and she joins us now on the line from Moscow to share her experiences.
Irina, thank you very much for being with us. And as we talk, I understand you got some footage that we're going to show now. Describe for us what we're going to see and what it was like for you to be there.
IRINA KRYUCHKOVA, PHOTOGRAPHER (via telephone): Hi, good evening. Thank you very much for inviting me to speak up, because at the moment for us, it is very important to be heard.
And the video that you're going to see is video that was taken yesterday at the demonstration, which was set up by some of the leaders who actually say that we do mind that the elections have been sabotaged and the setting up was not actually free or satisfied the Russian citizens because the figures are totally incorrect. So, we have come out to the streets just to say that.
RAJPAL: What was it like to be there and to notice that there were so many people who were vocally -- vocally complaining and criticizing what the government has been doing, and actually want change in Russia?
KRYUCHKOVA: Well, it was actually a very good feeling of unity, because all people, despite whichever party they have voted for, they have all come together to share one point of view, that we do not want to see one major leading party to actually not care about our world.
And in comparison to a lot of other protests, all the people were very polite. All the people were very correct to each other, and it was a pleasure to be there.
RAJPAL: How many of the -- how much of that -- the courage and the strength to be there and the will to want to demonstrate has come from what you've been seeing, what's been happening in other parts of the world and in the Arab world, as well? How much of that has been an influence on what you've been -- what you saw and what you took part in?
KRYUCHKOVA: Well, I would not really say how it could be correlated to what is then generally going on in the world. But I must say that during the last few years, this is the first time that the people have come together so united in their opinion and that they have all come out of their own will, and that they actually said something.
RAJPAL: All right, Irina --
KRYUCHKOVA: You could feel it was very sincere.
RAJPAL: Irina Kryuchkova, thank you so much, and thank you for sharing with us your video, as well.
You're watching CONNECT THE WORLD. When we come back --
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
YOUSSIF, IRAQI ATTACK VICTIM: I'm doing, like, soccer games and practice. I never used to do that in my country.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
RAJPAL: A new life in California for a young boy who almost didn't make it out of Iraq.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Today I can report that, as promised, the rest of our troops in Iraq will come home by the end of the year. After nearly nine years, America's war in Iraq will be over.
(END VIDEO CLIP
RAJPAL: It was just about six weeks ago that US president Barack Obama made that announcement, speeding up a withdrawal plan that had been in the works since 2008.
All this week on CONNECT THE WORLD, we are taking an in-depth look at how US troops are preparing to go and the state of the country they are leaving behind. One American colonel should us what now remains of Camp Warrior in Kirkuk north of Baghdad.
TEXT: CAMP WARRIOR DRAWDOWN, KIRKUK, IRAQ
ANGELO RIDDICK, COLONEL, US ARMY: All of these MRAPs that you see here? They will be gone.
We're bringing the perimeter in.
And the impact on the soldier's leaving? This is our living support area here to the left and to the right. At any given time a few weeks ago, you would see a couple hundred soldiers moving in and out of this living support area. Right now, we barely see one.
Now, as we're securing the area that the Americans will occupy, we're reducing the size of the installation.
This was once a heavily-traveled intersection. On the other side will belong to the Iraqi Air Force, and on this side and to the north -- or actually, to the south -- the Americans will occupy that area. A much smaller footprint than we had before.
You'll see the motor pool is practically empty, now. At one point, this motor pool was thriving with combat vehicles, combat maintenance teams, combat operations that no longer exist here. We've all moved out.
There's no more operations center. There are no more battle captains. There are no more commanders. There are no more military titles on the base. My official title is Site Lead for the Office of the Security Cooperation Iraq, Kirkuk.
These walls were constructed as a memorial to the fallen soldiers who gave all they had for the mission in Iraq. It was an initiative by soldiers for soldiers. It wasn't something that was planned. It was something that was necessary. Soldiers identified the requirement, and they constructed these walls.
Here, you'll see some of the names of the fallen soldiers. And this is throughout Iraq. These walls were actually located around different parts of the base. When we had the mission to close the footprint of Kirkuk, we decided to bring these walls in. We're going to maintain this memorial until our mission is terminated.
RAJPAL: And as we heard there, thousands of American soldiers and Iraqi civilians were killed during the war. Many more suffered grievous injuries, including the young boy you're about to meet. As CNN's Arwa Damon reports, though, generous donations and world-class treatment have given him a second chance at life.
(CHILD SHOUTS AND LAUGHS)
ARWA DAMON, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Now nine, it's hard to believe that this is the same Youssif we met in Baghdad four years ago. There's no trace of the sullen, withdrawn, and angry boy he once was. No trace of the boy who could only speak a few words of English.
YOUSSIF: I'm still making it!
I'm doing, like, soccer games and practice. I never used to do that in my country.
DAMON (on camera): Why didn't you do it in your country?
YOUSSIF: Because it was kind of dangerous.
DAMON: Do you remember that day when those guys attacked you?
DAMON (voice-over): He used to.
This was Youssif, just five years old at the time. He was attacked by masked men right in front of his home in early January, 2007.
(CHILD SPEAKING IN ARABIC)
DAMON: His family begged for help, desperate to see their boy smile again. A plea heard around the world. CNN viewers donated hundreds of thousands of dollars to the Children's Burn Foundation, based in Los Angeles, that took on his case.
Today, Youssif's mental recovery has by far outpaced his physical one. He will be needing more surgeries. We don't know for how many years, but says his looks no longer bother him.
YOUSSIF: No. I kind of don't, really. Because none of our friends make fun of me.
DAMON: He even received a citizenship award at school, given to students who are nice to others.
YOUSSIF: Once, a kid got hurt, and I helped him. He got hurt here, his whole arm started bleeding. So then I just took him to the office and they helped him -- put ice -- an ice pack on it.
DAMON (on camera): And when you saw that this kid was hurt, what made you want to help him?
YOUSSIF: Because he was my friend, and I cared about him.
DAMON: Do you think it's also because you got hurt once?
DAMON (voice-over): But life in the US has not been easy for this Iraqi family, soon to become American citizens. Along with a younger sister, Youssif also now has a two-year-old brother.
His surgeries are covered by the California state children's services, as they would be for other children who live in California. But the family has to make ends meet on their father's security guard salary of $9.00 an hour, plus welfare and food stamps.
DAMON (on camera): Where do you guys sleep?
YOUSSIF: We sleep over there.
DAMON: Will you show me?
YOUSSIF: Yes. We sleep right here.
DAMON: You sleep right here on the ground.
DAMON: And Aya, you sleep there?
DAMON: And Youssif, you sleep here?
DAMON: Now, the family's had a pretty tough time, despite the fact that they're very grateful to everyone for everything that has transpired since they came to America since being in Iraq. But it hasn't been entirely easy for them, and then there's, of course, financial difficulties, as well.
And so, as Youssif was showing us, the kids are literally sleeping on the floor. There's two levels of carpeting here, but that's all they have, and then these flimsy blankets.
DAMON (voice-over): And the family is desperately homesick, despite all of Youssif's friends.
DAMON (on camera): Do you want to go back to Iraq?
YOUSSIF: Kind of, yes.
YOUSSIF: Because it kind of is my country, and I miss everyone that I knew there.
DAMON: But aren't you scared the same thing could happen to you?
DAMON (voice-over): And it very easily could.
DAMON (on camera): When you talk to your family, what do they tell you about the situation there? I mean, obviously we're still not showing your face on camera.
WISSAM, YOUSSIF'S FATHER: Still not safe. Still not safe. I mean, sometimes when I tell them, I wish I could visit, they say, no, it still isn't -- you cannot come.
DAMON (voice-over): And with US troops leaving, they do worry that Iraq may never be safe enough for them to go back home.
YOUSSIF: Aw, man! My leg is -- all that is starting to come higher.
DAMON: Arwa Damon, CNN, Los Angeles.
RAJPAL: Such a sweet boy. Be sure to stay tuned for "BackStory" at the top of the hour for much more on this heartwarming story. Arwa Damon will be live talking about her time with Youssif.
You are watching CONNECT THE WORLD live on CNN. When we return, how looking at the stars helped scientists find a planet they couldn't see. Stay with us for that.
RAJPAL: Welcome back to CONNECT THE WORLD. It's a question us earthlings have been asking for as long as we've been staring into space. Could there be life on a planet other than our own? Well, scientists may be a step closer to finding an answer.
The Kepler spacecraft has confirmed the discovery of what NASA calls the first alien world. The satellite searches for planets of a similar size to Earth that orbit a host star much like our own sun. On Monday, NASA announced it had found a planet 600 light years from Earth with similar conditions to our own, meaning liquid water and perhaps even life could exist.
Joining us now to help us understand more about what could be Earth's twin planet is space expert Dr. Michael Shara at CNN New York. Dr. Shara, thank you very much for being with us.
What -- how do we know that -- we understand that -- how do we know that a second planet or a twin Earth actually exists without having actually seen it?
MICHAEL SHARA, ASTROPHYSICIST, AMERICAN MUSEUM OF NATURAL HISTORY: We don't actually have to directly see it because NASA's Kepler satellite has been staring at the host star of this planet for the last several years, and what we've seen now are three eclipses.
The planet has actually passed directly in front of the star, made it a tiny bit dimmer, and by measuring the dimming, we've been able to measure the size of the planet. It's about two and a half times the size of our Earth, and it's in an orbit that's very, very similar to the Earth's.
So, in many ways, it is the closest twin to Earth we've ever found anywhere else in the cosmos. It's right in the middle of the habitable zone where it's just far enough away from the host star to not have is surface frozen over and to not have its surface boiled away. It's easily possible that it has a large liquid ocean of water.
RAJPAL: Do the dips in brightness -- do the dimness actually have to mean that there is another planet? How reliable is this -- I guess what they're calling it, the transit method.
SHARA: If you only see it happen once, you don't believe it. If you see it happen twice, you begin to believe it a lot more. When you see it happen at least three times and with perfect periodicity, that is the interval between the first and the second and the second and the third transit is exactly the same, then you know you have a planet in orbit around the host star.
And that's the ring of truth. That's the ground truth you've got to have, and that's what NASA now has, and that's what the Kepler astronomers have now found.
RAJPAL: So, for those of us who -- or for those people who would ask -- or say that we are not alone on this -- in this universe, what would you say to them, especially after this discovery?
SHARA: Well, I would say that the Earth is not alone. The eight planets of our solar system are not alone. We now know that there are hundreds of billions, perhaps even a trillion planets that occupy just our own Milky Way galaxy, and of course there are a hundred billion galaxies in the universe.
But we have no definitive evidence one way or another whether there is life on this planet or any other. It remains, perhaps, the single most important question in all of science. Is there life elsewhere in the universe? This is a step in that -- in the direction of answering that question.
RAJPAL: Do we know how similar conditions on that planet would be to Earth?
SHARA: We can guess. We don't know with absolute certainty. If it's anything like the Earth, then the surface temperature is probably a very balmy and mild 22 Celsius. It could be a little warmer during the day, a little colder at night, and of course there are going to be variations with latitude on the planet. But it should be not dramatically different.
If, on the other hand, it has a mostly iron-nickel core, so it's pulled into a very dense configuration, it's conceivable that the planet has a kind of runaway greenhouse effect.
It's going to take several more years and many, many more observations to determine what the surface characteristics are like. But for now, we have something that is both in the right place in that Goldilocks zone, not too hot, not too cold, and which is very similar to Earth in size.
RAJPAL: Fascinating. Dr. Michael Shara, thank you so much for your time, sir. Appreciate that.
In tonight's Parting Shots, gray skies over Indonesia, but these aren't rain clouds. They're plumes of ash. Mount Gamalama, a volcano that forms an entire island, erupted late on Sunday, shooting dust particles up to 2,000 meters into the air.
A local airport was closed for safety reasons on Monday, and people were forced to run from their homes. Fortunately, there were no reports of casualties.
I'm Monita Rajpal, this is CONNECT THE WORLD. Thank you for watching. The world headlines and "BackStory" are up next, after this short break.