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Snowden Requests Asylum in Ecuador; Arming Syria Rebels; Interview with the Son of Mikhail Khodorkovsky

Aired June 24, 2013 - 15:00:00   ET


CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CNN HOST: Good evening, everyone, and welcome to the program. I'm Christiane Amanpour.

Here's what we know about Edward Snowden right now, the self-confessed National Security Agency leaker. On Sunday he was seen on a plane from Hong Kong to Moscow. Beyond that, nothing is completely clear. The White House, which wants him brought to justice, says that it assumes he's still in Russia and reports from there say he's possibly at the Moscow airport transit area.

Snowden had checked in for an Aeroflot flight to Havana. Several journalists made the flight; apparently Snowden did not. Of course, he could be on a later flight; we just don't know. There's no love lost between Presidents Putin and Obama and this has been an opportunity for Moscow to poke the U.S. in the eye again.

As for China, which let Snowden leave from Hong Kong, his allegations of U.S. surveillance on China was a propaganda coup against U.S. complaints of Chinese cyber-hacking.

And as for Snowden's final stop, well, presumed final stop, Ecuador says that it's considering his request for asylum. And in a press conference from Hanoi, the foreign minister, Ricardo Patino, lashed out at the United States.


RICARDO PATINO, FOREIGN MINISTER, ECUADOR (through translator): In the last few days, there have been mentioned the words treason. We will have to ask who has betrayed who.


AMANPOUR: So neither Ecuador nor the other transit countries we mentioned are friends of the United States, nor are they friends of freedom of the press. In a moment, I'll speak to Britain's foreign secretary, William Hague, about the Snowden affair and, of course, other matters.

But first to CNN's Paula Newton, who's in Ecuador's capital, Quito, which now finds itself the center of a political storm.

Paula, what is the reaction there to people, now that they know that he has decided to try to come over to there?

PAULA NEWTON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, I think at this point ambivalence is the best thing that you could say. That's not to say there are not strong reactions on either side. But having said that, people here taking a wait-and-see attitude, they want to know what this does for Ecuador and what it does for the country's reputation and, quite frankly, Christiane, the country's finances.

Having said that, you know, Ecuador is part of a long list of countries, a good handful right now, that like nothing better than to thumb their nose at the United States and by doing this they certainly have put themselves on the map.

The Ecuadoran government making it very clear that, look, we are considering this request for his refugee status, for him to have that landed in refugee status here in Ecuador on the basis that he would prosecuted if he entered the United States.


AMANPOUR: Well, Paula, like you are all going to be waiting to see what his final destination is. Thank you.

And Britain's foreign secretary William Hague has some experience with these kinds of cases because WikiLeaks' Julian Assange was also wanted by the U.S. for leaked secrets. He's holed up at the Ecuador embassy in London.

I spoke to Hague from the United Nations, where he's chairing a major debate on violence against women in war. We spoke about all these issues, including what the West has decided if anything to do about helping the Syrian opposition level the battlefield.


AMANPOUR: Foreign Secretary, thank you very much for joining me.


AMANPOUR: Obviously the United States is extremely worried about the secrets that have been leaked. They're concerned also that maybe even China or Russia had an opportunity to somehow download the computers he's carrying.

Are you concerned about that information getting out?

HAGUE: Well, I'm not going to comment on any of the detail of leaked information or whether it's true or false or therefore any degree of concern about it. I will say that said in our Parliament that everything that we do takes place at a very strong legal framework. That's the position in the United States as well.

We have two of the strongest frameworks of law and accountability of any countries in the world, for what we do on intelligence matters.

AMANPOUR: All right. Well, let's move on to Syria.

There was a Friends of Syria meeting over the weekend, foreign ministers from the group were in Qatar. And of course there is a notion that perhaps the United States will start arming in some way the rebels.

I want to ask from Britain's point of view, your prime minister has been very forward-leaning -- so have you - on the need to do something and yet I hear that the security establishment in Britain is not in favor of arming the Syrian opposition on the ground.

What kind of a dilemma does that pose for the British government?

HAGUE: Well, let's forget, we are in favor of giving assistance and more assistance to the Syrian opposition, to the national coalition, what we might call the democratic, sensible opposition in Syria, and we're doing that in many ways. We give an enormous amount of humanitarian assistance. We're sending them, at the moment, equipment that save lives.

We're sending body armor. We're sending vehicles that are bulletproofed. We're sending communications equipment, water purification equipment and things of this kind. So the U.K. is already committed to give that support and to increase that support over the coming months.

And at the Friends of Syria meeting, which I attended in Doha, there were 11 countries there who give their assistance in different ways. And this is the way that we're doing it at the moment in the United Kingdom.

AMANPOUR: Well, then, let me ask you a direct question. Will Britain arm the rebels, the moderates that you have just talked about right now, you're obviously instrumental in getting the E.U. to lift the arms embargo.

Will you arm them?

HAGUE: We haven't taken any decision about that, is the answer to that. I was absolutely instrumental in getting the E.U. to lift the arms embargo but also said at the time on that same day that we wouldn't be doing so at this stage and that we hadn't taken any decision to do that.

What we wanted to create, as I explained at the time, was flexibility in policy. After all, the European Union has set its sanctions regime for 12 months now. And we want the flexibility over that time to change our policy if necessary. But we haven't taken any decision to do that. We would go to our Parliament with it if we did take such a decision.

So we haven't done that. But we are helping in very many other ways. You know, it is not just a question about arms.

AMANPOUR: Except for you clearly want to change the balance of power on the ground. It appears that the West, you, the French, others and the United States have been very -- well, not surprised, maybe, but don't want to see the Assad regime winning as they did with support from Hezbollah and Iran and Qusayr and perhaps other places.

So I just want to ask you to listen to this little bit of an interview with the Free Syrian Army commander. He told me this just a week ago.


GEN. SALIM IDRISS, SYRIAN OPPOSITIOIN FORCES: If the balance on the ground doesn't change, there will be no Geneva conference. There will be no peace talks.


AMANPOUR: What is your reaction to that?

HAGUE: Well, I think there are two things to say to that. One is that it's very important for the regime and the opposition to be ready to go to Geneva and for them all to remember that if the Geneva conference takes place, it will be based on what we agree that Geneva (inaudible).

The only thing we really agree that Geneva last year, which is that a transitional government should be created in Syria with full executive authority made up from the regime and the opposition by mutual consent.

But I do agree that a political solution requires a better situation on the ground for the opposition. That is what we said together at Doha. I say again that different country among the Friends of Syria will help in different ways.

And the United Kingdom is giving a lot of help of the kind that I have described. Clearly there are other countries the United States has spoken about direct military support. And clearly the opposition do receive direct military support from other nations as well.

AMANPOUR: Well, they do indeed. And to that point, I'd like you to react to something that the Syrian foreign minister has said just recently about arming the opposition.


WALID MOALLEM, SYRIAN FOREIGN MINISTER (through translator): Technically they'll be arming the Nusra Front. I ask everyone to go and click on the Facebook page of the Nusra Front and see what they boast about. They behead, kill and eat the hearts of their opponents and they publicly post these videos online.


AMANPOUR: Your reaction to the Syrian foreign minister?

HAGUE: We must not fall for the propaganda of the Syrian regime. You know, the problems in Syria did not begin from outside, were not created from outside. This was the people of Syria who many millions of whom clearly want dignity for themselves and their country. They want political freedom. They want economic opportunity, the things they haven't had under the Assad regime.

And that is something that people all over the world can identify with and, yes, some terrible things have happened, including on both sides.

The most of those things have happened at the hands of the regime that has butchered and tortured tens of thousands of its own people. So we must never fall for the propaganda of a regime that would have us believe that a vast part of the population of their own country are fanatical extremists.

AMANPOUR: And finally, you are in New York at the United Nations as part of your work on behalf of violence against women or combating violence against women.

What progress has been made insofar as making rape as a tool of war illegal?

HAGUE: Well, we're making some progress. And I was pleased that this morning we agreed a new resolution of the U.N. Security Council, Resolution 2106, that strengthens the work of the United Nations on this, I think over the last year, we've succeeded in bringing a lot more global attention on this.

The fact that more than 50 countries wanted to speak today here at the United Nations is a really encouraging sign. We've got the G8 nations in April to agree a declaration together. We're now deploying British experts into different parts of the world to help gather evidence of crimes of sexual violence in conflict.

So I think this work has begun well over the last year. My ambition is to shift the entire global attitude on these subjects and to shatter the idea of impunity for rape and sexual violence in conflict.

AMANPOUR: Certainly many women will be really pleased to hear that. And what can you say specifically to the women of Afghanistan, who are really terrified once the international forces pull out, particularly if there's some kind of agreement that allows the Taliban any kind of political reemergence in Afghanistan? They're very, very worried about violence and their rights being taken away.

HAGUE: Well, in Afghanistan, as anywhere in the world, women's rights are a fundamental part of human rights and of course, the commitment to those who set out in the Afghan constitution, what we want to see in any peace process is the Taliban turning into violence, break links with Al Qaeda and accept the constitution of Afghanistan.

And then it matter how people interpret that and work with that over the years and decades to come. And Afghanistan will be a stronger society and a more peaceful society if women are more heavily involved.

AMANPOUR: Foreign Secretary William Hague, thank you very much for joining me.

HAGUE: Thank you very much indeed.


AMANPOUR: And you can check out our website for Mr. Hague's assessment of the new Iranian president and whether he opens a window for a diplomatic solution to the crisis over the country's nuclear program.

And after a break, if Russia plans to use the Snowden affair to raise questions about free expression in America, doesn't that sound a little bit like the pot calling the kettle black? I'll speak to the son of Russia's most famous political prisoner when we return.




AMANPOUR: Welcome back. And we try to connect the global dots over the NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden. We do know that he was in Russia and he may still be there.

And it really doesn't seem like the Obama administration can get any help from the Putin government as one senior U.S. senator told CNN, Putin seems eager to stick a finger in America's eye. And the senator threatened serious consequences.

But this defiance from Russia is more than matched by Putin's pressure on any opposition at home. This week, the country's most famous prisoner will spend his 50th birthday behind bars.

Mikhail Khodorkovsky was once Russia's richest man, worth some $15 billion. But now he spends his days in a prison camp near the Arctic Circle. The former head of Yukos Oil Company, who backed an opposition party, was locked up 10 years ago on fraud charges that he claims were politically motivated in what he blasts as double jeopardy, he was tried and convicted again in 2010.

Khodorkovsky is said to be released in October 2014, but his family and friends say they'll believe that when they see it.

His son, Pavel, has been fighting for his father's freedom for nearly a decade. And he joined me earlier today in the studio to talk about the case and what's happening in Russia today.

AMANPOUR: Welcome to the program.


AMANPOUR: We want to talk about your father, but I think his case is also indicative of a lot of action that's going on in Moscow by President Putin.

I want to ask you what you make of right now, the Russian president and the Russian authorities having and allowing Edward Snowden to be right there in the airport. It just seems like yet another deliberate provocation to the U.S., to the West.

KHODORKOVSKY: It seems to me that, unfortunately, the Russian government has chosen for the past 10 years the U.S. as an international adversary, and has taken many steps to both instill that image in the popular minds and also have taken many opportunities to kind of stick it to the U.S. on any fortunate or unfortunate occasions for both parties.

AMANPOUR: Well, now, you know this very, very personally, because many people believe that it is a political fight that President Putin has against your own father. He has been tried twice on pretty much the same charges; he's been jailed once. And then again his sentence was confirmed and extended a couple of years ago.

What hope do you have now for your father, Mikhail Khodorkovsky's, release?

KHODORKOVSKY: My father is scheduled to be released in October of next year, 2014. Now I'm hoping that that really will be the case. There are wide speculations that as long as Putin is in power he will try to keep my father in jail. That goes back to his psyche.

I try not to hold high hopes. But at the same time, it's very tough not to -- not to look forward to 2014. And of course, our entire family does.

AMANPOUR: You know, he's spending his 50th birthday in prison, your father. What is it like in prison for him? What does he do? What is his condition?

KHODORKOVSKY: Unfortunately, the actual birthday, the 26th of June, you know, his anniversary, the 50th anniversary is not going to be any different than any other day in prison. He has to work. He is making plastic folders. He unfortunately has very few hours during the day to devote to reading and writing and has very little free time.

But the good news is that the next day, on the 27th of June, my family is going to see him and they will have an opportunity to spend almost 2 and a half days together in a little apartment, a small room within the prison compound, where they can be together, albeit under closed circuit television surveillance. But nevertheless --

AMANPOUR: Big Brother will be watching anyway.

KHODORKOVSKY: Big Brother is always watching, but nevertheless, it's an opportunity for them to share that moment.

AMANPOUR: Putin has said it's not personal. This is a crime that's been committed; I have nothing personal against Mikhail Khodorkovsky.

Do you believe him?


It's very simple. Mr. Putin is afraid of my father. He is for some reason afraid of my father as a political adversary, which is not the case. My father has never been involved directly in politics.

He has helped to shape our civil society by using Open Russia Foundation, his unfortunately now-closed organization, to invest in the development of civil society, to invest in education. And that was taken as a sign of his political involvement.

AMANPOUR: Now he gave -- your father -- a very impassioned speech in court back in 2010.

He said before the verdict in his second trial, "A state that destroys its own best companies, a state that holds its own citizens in contempt, a state that trusts only bureaucrats and the security services is a sick state. I am ashamed for my country."

He said that in 2010.

Does he still feel that way? And how would you evaluate the health of Russia today?

KHODORKOVSKY: He still very much still feels so, not the least because of the certain actions that the Russian government has taken in the last year and a half. The deterioration of the rule of law and the deterioration of the judicial system has been taken to the extreme.

Following the protests in 2012, people are now jailed. NGOs are raided and that are -- those actions are coming directly from the -- President Putin himself. He is afraid of challenge to his authority.

AMANPOUR: He obviously did see your father as a challenge to his authority and as a political challenge to his authority. I know you say that your father was not politically involved. But actually a lot of people do believe he had political aspirations. And obviously he was a very successful businessman but that he may have just not recognized the danger of getting too far ahead of the curve politically.

KHODORKOVSKY: My father -- and that is true -- was financing the opposition parties on both the left and the right side of the spectrum, because he believed in political pluralism.

Unfortunately, those beliefs were not shared by the president and his administration at the time. Mr. Putin firmly believed that there should be one party and there should be no challenge in the parliament to the legislative agenda of that party.

AMANPOUR: And you're obviously working hard to publicize his case and to keep his case alive. What is your action call?

KHODORKOVSKY: It's frankly been a miracle that, for the past 10 years, my father's case and his fate have not been forgotten.

And I think in advance of the Winter Olympics in Sochi next year, 2014, there's a chance to call on our elected leaders to ask for the Russian government to release its recognized political prisoners, prisoners of conscience.

That includes my father and his business partner, Platon Lebedev, and also the members of the rock band Pussy Riot, for them to be released ahead of the Sochi Olympics as a gesture of goodwill.

AMANPOUR: Any chance that that's going to happen?

KHODORKOVSKY: I really hope so. The West and -- the entire group of the Western nations unfortunately often underestimate the amount of influence they have over Russia. And this is an opportunity to use that influence to do what's right.

AMANPOUR: Pavel Khodorkovsky, thank you very much for being here.

KHODORKOVSKY: Thank you, Christiane.


AMANPOUR: And what will Khodorkovsky do when he is released? Check out our website. And when we return, imagine a rugby final changing a nation and the world. It happened 18 years ago today, the incident inspired a film called "Invictus," and it was yet another great victory by the one and only Nelson Mandela. We'll explain when we come back.




AMANPOUR: And finally tonight, as Nelson Mandela lies critically ill in a Pretoria hospital, we, along with the rest of the world, send our thoughts and our prayers. And we also want to remember this day in history, as yet another testament to the true genius of the man.

Imagine the world 18 years ago on June 24th, 1995, South Africa's Springbok Rugby Team staged a stunning upset to win the Rugby World Cup against heavily favored New Zealand. But this of course was much, much more than a victory.

This was the day Nelson Mandela cemented himself as the leader for all South Africans. He had been elected the year before democracy was still fragile and the racial divide was still raw. Rugby was an all-white game and Springbok captain Francois Pienaar was their hero. But Mandela enlisted his help to use this final to unite instead of divide.

Several minutes before the big match began, the great man walked out onto the field, wearing the distinctive team jersey and Pienaar's number 6 on his back. He shook the hand of every player. Mandela had entered the lion's den, the mostly white crowd seemed stunned to see him there of all places.

And then a massive chant rumbled through the stadium, "Nelson," they shouted, as their brand-new president grinned and waved back. And in that brief, shining moment, their new leader won the allegiance and the hearts of blacks and whites.

Later, Pienaar said that Mandela had won the match for them, a beautiful game that transformed a nation that day and in so doing transfixed the world.

And that's it for tonight's program. Thanks for watching and goodbye from New York.