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CONNECT THE WORLD

Syrian Report States Prisoner Killings Systematic; Pope Sends Message To Davos For World Economic Forum; Syrian Refugees Struggle To Survive

Aired January 21, 2014 - 15:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


BECKY ANDERSON, HOST: Tonight, a farewell to arms, or at least that is the hope, as delegations begin to arrive in the Swiss city of Cointreau ahead of the much anticipated Syria peace conference. We're going to tell you why these talks matter. Two reports on lives torn apart inside and outside the war ravaged country.

Also ahead, wanted in Sochi. Officials warn of the threats from female terrorists, we'll ask what these games mean for the Russian people.

And sea lovers look away now, we talk to the man who was caught in this avalanche and lived to tale the tell.

ANNOUNCER: Live from CNN London, this is Connect the World with Becky Anderson.

ANDERSON: A very good evening. Delegates are beginning to arrive in Switzerland for the first direct talks between Syria's government and the opposition since the civil war began.

The umbrella Syrian National Coalition says it will fight a, and I quote, "diplomatic battle" to remove President Bashar al-Assad from power. But other opposition groups are boycotting the Geneva II conference, refusing to negotiate with the Assad regime.

Well, the Syrian president appointed his foreign minister to head the government's delegate there. A short time ago, we received this video of U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry arriving.

The long sought conference is being overshadowed, though, by allegations of war crimes committed by the Syrian government first brought to light in an exclusive report from CNN. A warning, the next images you see are extremely graphic.

Thousands of photos, which experts call direct evidence of torture. CNN cannot independently confirm the authenticity of the images, smuggled out by a Syrian military defector, the U.S. State Department today called the photos horrific.

Reuters quotes spokeswoman Marie Harf as saying they suggest, and I quote, "widespread and apparently systematic violations by the Syrian regime."

Well, a very difficult backdrop, then, for these peace talks in Geneva. The U.S. -- or the UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon arrived there today. He is under fire from Iran for withdrawing its invitation to the conference at the last minute.

CNN's Christiane Amanpour spoke about that today in an exclusive interview with the Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CNN HOST: One hundred thousand-plus people have been killed in the last three years in Syria. There is starvation in the land, haunting many people. And there just doesn't seem to be any way out of this.

What are your real hopes for this Geneva 2 conference this week?

Do you think that there's really going to be some kind of solution?

DMITRY MEDVEDEV, PRIME MINISTER OF RUSSIA (through translator): The thing that has happened with the revoke or withdrawal of the invitation to Iran, I believe that's unacceptable.

Can someone think that Syrian problem may be seriously discussed without the Iranian factor, without the account of it?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ANDERSON: Well, these talks will not be easy. It's been tough getting people to the table. And not everybody is there who some parties want.

In just a moment, we're going to bring you two reports of the reminders of the terrible toll of the war on the Syrian people.

First, though, let's get a preview of these talks scheduled to get underway tomorrow in Montreaux near Geneva.

CNN's senior international correspondent Nic Robertson is live in Montreaux for you tonight.

And this idyllic Swiss city of Montreaux providing of course the backdrop to Ernest Hemingway's great novel "A Farewell to Arms." The organizers must hope that the title of that book will be an inspiration, Nic. What's the aim of this meeting?

NIC ROBERTSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, the aim is to get the two Syrian parties here to be able to sit down together and to agree a transitional government that will ultimately have executive authority over the country.

But it is expectations, if you will, being very much played down. This is the beginning of a process. Patience and persistence will be required. Secretary John Kerry arrived a little earlier, Sergei Lavrov, his Russian counterpart. These are two main political powers behind this. But there are some 30 nations total. British will be here, Chinese as well, Turkish, Saudi Arabia will have a representatives here as well as well as many of the Gulf States. So it really is a gathering of all parties minus Iran that didn't accept that Geneva I communique that did outline that this conference should be about finding that transitional government for Syria.

So a lot of people here -- and we're expected to hear from those -- all those delegations tomorrow morning, Becky.

ANDERSON: So that's the aim. Who do you expect to be there, Nic?

ROBERTSON: Well, we will expect the all foreign ministers of these countries to be here -- Kerry, Lavrov, William Hague and obviously the Chinese, the Turkish, Saudi Arabia as will have representatives here as well.

But the aim is to -- with all these countries that have a stake in Syria and see resolving Syria's crisis as hugely important is to convince the Syrian parties, the opposition and the government that they should talk and come to agreement, but already those hopes are begin played down, or at least being made to sound more realistic. From the Syrian government point of view, they come here saying that they're willing to offer a ceasefier in Aleppo, but that ceasefire calls for the rebels, the opposition to pull out of Aleppo in the first place.

So, the agendas here are not matching. And there's a huge amount of work to be done -- patience, persistence, perseverance are the watch words here, we're being told, Becky.

ANDERSON: Yeah. All right, Nic, thank you for that. Nic Robertson is there in Montreaux.

Let's move then, viewers, beyond the diplomats talking about peace and return to what is the reality of war. Switzerland seems like another world altogether when compared to Syria. People desperate to escape the fighting often end up in dire circumstances as we're going to show you now in two exclusive reports.

Atika Shubert is going to tell us about Syrians who trek long distances to seek shelter in Jordan.

First, though, Fred Pleitgen visits a besieged Palestinian refugee camp near Damascus in Syria.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

FRED PLEITGEN, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: After months of hunger, cold and violence, for some of the weakest the nightmare is over. The youngest, Hadi Feraz Bakhir (ph) is only 15 days old.

"There's not enough food inside. I simply didn't have enough food for him," Hadi's mother says.

This is the Yarmouk area just a few miles from central Damascus, inhabited mostly by Palestinians, it fell into rebel hands more than a year ago. Yarmouk has been under siege by pro-Assad forces since September. Activists inside say dozens have died of starvation and lack of medical care.

This 75-year-old says the lack of food is devastating.

"Most of the people want to get out. They're hungry. There's no food. And hunger is the killer," he says as gunshots ring over the area.

Yarmouk has seen fierce battles between pro and anti-regime forces. International aid groups have accused the government of denying food to civilians trapped inside.

The regime says armed rebels did not allow food and medication to enter.

(on camera): We are now inside Yarmouk camp. This is the final area of government control. This is also as far as the military is going to let us go they say otherwise it's too dangerous because there are snipers in the area behind us. But that area is the place where thousands of people are still trapped.

(voice-over): Now in what the government says is a goodwill gesture ahead of the Geneva peace conference, some aid is being allowed in and some people allowed to leave.

But a resident we spoke to inside says little has changed. And he has no faith that the peace conference in Geneva will lead to an end of hostilities here.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think that nothing will change after Geneva. But I hope something different will happen. I hope that, but I'm sure that nothing will change.

PLEITGEN: The opposition says the Assad regime is using acts like this as a publicity stunt. But for those able to leave Yarmouk after months of siege, politics are an afterthought and most are happy to simply be alive.

Fred Pleitgen, CNN, Yarmouk Camp, Syria.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ATIKA SHUBERT, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: The open desert stretches across Jordan and into Syria. There are no landmarks in this flat and barren land.

We're driving with Andy Harper from the UN high commission for refugees, guided by the Jordanian border police.

ANDY HARPER, UN HIGH COMMISSION FOR REFUGEES: There's no roads here, so we generally check out some. If there's any problems with what we've been hearing is it's been more refugees building up, because of the situation in Syria.

SHUBERT: But nothing prepares you for this - one jagged line into the horizon, refugees from Syria walking to safety towards Jordan.

This is just such an incredible scene, hundreds of people coming across the desert here, walking for 20 kilometers more just to get to this border post. You can see they are just utterly exhausted by the effort.

The (inaudible) thing is how many of these people coming across are kids and how many of them are mothers on their own? This woman with four children coming across, walking for miles and miles. I don't even know how she does it.

You can see carrying kids in their arms, Jordanian soldiers helping carry cans of water to help them get across, many of them empty now. And of course the injured.

The weakest are the last to arrive - the injured and the elderly.

In this desert landscape, it can be hard to tell which direction you're facing in. So if you look that way, that's Syria. And they get dropped off in these trucks by smugglers and then they walk miles and miles to get here. And what they're aiming for is Jordan right over there. And you can see the trucks by the Jordanian military there waiting to bring them across.

Often, they say, they come by night. And they have no way of knowing which direction they're heading in. All they can see sometimes is one beacon on the border post in the distance.

These refugees have come from the outskirts of Damascus, skirting the fighting in the big cities to this remote border post far to the east.

One old man offers us a biscuit. His son, Abu Mohammed (ph) says their home was first destroyed in the fighting three years ago. They have been moving ever since.

He wears a scarf to hide his face for fear of being identified.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): One of the reasons why I decided to flee the country because the concept of displacement. I used to move from one village to another escaping the conflict.

SHUBERT: Once all refugees have crossed, they are loaded up into Jordanian border police trucks. But rains have created dangerous pools of mud in the desert. Soon they are bogged down. It takes an armored personnel carrier to haul them out.

They finally made it to the border base. They've been traveling for days, but tonight a place to rest, get clean, and best of all a playground for the kids.

But it's still another 24 hours of registering as refugees and driving 400 kilometers to the main refugee camp.

This incredible journey across the desert continues to happen here every single day.

Atika Shubert, CNN, on the Jordan-Syria border.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ANDERSON: And another note about that exclusive report and allegations that thousands of prisoners have been tortured and killed inside Syrian prisons. Since we broke the news here on CNN, this story has been generating huge interests globally with nearly 10,000 comments so far online. Our story includes a link to the actual report. You can read it for yourself.

We've also put together a gallery of some of those images that have been smuggled out. And I warn you, they are incredibly disturbing.

Find it all at CNN.com/international.

Well, still to come this evening here on CNN. I'm Becky Anderson in London. 14 minutes past 8:00. Car bomb attacks intensify in Lebanon as a Beirut suburb falls victim to another deadly blast. We'll get the latest on this attack and who is behind it.

And they were trapped in ice for 30 days. We go to Australia as the Russian ship stranded in Antarctica makes its way back to (inaudible).

Plus, what message did Pope Francis send to the global business elite gathered in Davos? That and much more after this.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ANDERSON: Welcome back now in Lebanon. At least four people were killed and dozens were injured during a car bombing in southern Beirut. There is now a security (inaudible) in the area, which is known to be a Hezbollah stronghold. Investigators, we're told, have been deployed to the site, the same area, of course, was targeted in a deadly explosion earlier this month.

Football star Nicolas Anelka has been charged by the English Football Association with making an anti-Semetic gesture known as the quenelle after scoring a goal last month. The West Brom player faces a minimum five match ban if found guilty. Anelka has until Thursday to respond to the charges.

West Brom meanwhile says once the FA concludes its disciplinary proceedings, it will conduct its own internal inquiry.

New Jersey's governor Chris Christie has been sworn in for a second term in Trenton, New Jersey. During his inaugural address he steered clear of the recent scandals swirling around his office. The latest involves allegations of using Superstorm Sandy relief funds to bully the mayor, the neighboring mayor of Hoboken. Christie's administration denies that charge.

Well, after more than six weeks at sea and an international rescue effort, dozens of people who were stranded in Antarctica have arrived back on dry land. These are live pictures coming to us of an Australian vessel which carried out the rescue mission arriving back in Hobart's Tasmania. A group of 52 scientists, journalists and tourists originally set sail December 8 aboard a Russian research ship bound for Antarctica. But on Christmas Eve their ship was trapped in heavy ice, I'm sure you'll remember this.

The Chinese icebreaker was called to help, but it, too, got stuck on January 2. A Chinese helicopter airlifted 52 passengers from the stranded Russian ship to a nearby Australian vessel.

Now that icebreaker, the Aurora Australius was able to steer clear of heavy ice and head for warmer waters. It is just arrived back in Hobart, Tasmania.

Well, normally quiet Antarctica has had its fair share of visitors recently, including Prince Harry. Nearly a month ago, the prince trekked to the South Pole with a group of disabled soldiers for the charity walking the wounded.

Now at a press conference today, Prince Harry praised the resilience of the injured soldiers who took part.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

PRINCE HARRY: Our wounded, injured and sick do not want pity, they don't want -- they just simply want to be treated the same way they were before they were injured -- with respect and admiration.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ANDERSON: Dominic West took part in the Antarctic adventure. He said Prince Harry kept up morale on the trip by telling jokes and by building elaborate castle-style toilets.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DOMINIC WEST, ACTOR: He built this amazing one. We stayed at this camp for about two or three days. And he really went to town on it, it took him hours. And it was sort of (inaudible) wind break and lovely lou- roll holder and platform for your feet and a list of instructions. And I thought, come on, this guy has got real flare.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ANDERSON: Coming up on Connect the World, (inaudible) humanity is served by wealth and not ruled by it. Pope Francis makes a desperate plea for the poor to the business elite gathered in Davos. We're going to get to the top of that mountain and find out what's going on there.

And concerns over safety at the Sochi Olympics continue in the runup to the Winter Games. Why Russian secret services are tracking down female terrorists. Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ANDERSON: Well, Pope Francis wants the global business elite to do more to help the poor and vulnerable, that is the challenge he has given the heads of state, central bankers and CEOs gathered for the start of the World Economic Forum in Davos today. Who is there? Well, my colleague Richard Quest is there. And he spoke to the cardinal sent to the meeting by the Vatican to deliver the papal message.

He joins us now live from Davos.

Now, Richard, given that the pope is the de facto CEO of the world's largest organization, that being the leader, of course, of the world's 1.2 billion Catholics, I guess he sort of felt he might be amongst his friends, as it were when he sent his spokesman there to challenge the great and the good gathered at the top of the mountain.

How will his words be received, do you think?

RICHARD QUEST, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Oh, I think the words were received extremely well, Becky, because what the pope said is that there had to be a broader sense of responsibility from business. There had to be an inclusive approach. And then the pope's statement came up with this line, which I think everybody thought -- gosh, this is rather well put -- "humanity must be served by wealth, not ruled by it."

Now the cardinal, Cardinal Turkson, who came as the envoy of his holiness afterwards exclusively spoke to us here at CNN. And I really needed to put it to the cardinal fundamentally the pope had sent him right into the heart of capitalism.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

QUEST: This is Davos. This is bankers, governments, CEOs.

CARDINAL PETER TURKSON, PRESIDENT, PONTIFICAL COUNCIL FOR PEACE AND JUSTICE: But they remain human beings, right? It's -- this is our occupation and engagement of the human person. And that needs to be accompanied.

QUEST: What do you want them to do?

TURKSON: Well, we want them to do is to recognize the fact that the excesses of all of these human endeavors serve the one goal of advancing the well-being of the human person. And if at any point -- at any moment there is a deficiency in this, then I think, you know, we just want to serve a small general reminder, that's all.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

QUEST: Now Becky, the pope's message fundamentally was all about the idea of the growth of equality, which is very much on the agenda here means more about a better distribution of wealth, better distribution of education or health care. And to some extent, yes, there may be the bankers and the elites here, the great and the good, if you will, but they tend to be the liberal elite that comes to Davos. So I suspect it probably has a fairly fair hearing.

ANDERSON: Yeah. No, and you make a very good point. I mean -- and we promise we wouldn't say it, but the gathering of the great and the good, the 2,500 business leaders and politicians from around the world -- we come up with these lines year after year. This is an important networking meeting. And what happens at Davos tends to set an agenda for the rest of the business year.

And I think that's a very interesting and important point, because while people can bang on about the -- you know the rich and the wealthy and those sort of cutting deals, there is a really important agenda that is set at the top of this mountain, isn't there?

QUEST: There is. And our colleague Nina Dos Santos and I disagree completely on this. She thinks raising equality here is hypocritical. I happen to think that raising inequality here is exactly the right place to raise it, because you raise it where the people in the forum at the time and the place where you can get something done. And that's why Pope Francis sent this message here, because he knows if you're going to make a change the people who can make a difference, they are the ones who tonight are having cocktails and canapes.

ANDERSON: And to push our point, and I absolutely fundamentally agree with you, which is quite unusual, but I will say I do this evening. You know, 2005, aid for Africa, 2006 or '07 I think it was climate change. You know, I have been -- and I've been with you there at Davos for many a year. And there were behind the sort of, you know, the chat -- the big meetings on, you know, WTO, whatever it was, there have been fundamental issues which have been good to get out, to flesh out, and to get those with clout to think about and act on.

QUEST: Because they're the ones who can make the changes.

Now look I'm not going to be halcyon about this. I'm not going to suggest that everything is rosy. But I can tell you the very fact -- and I'm sure Klaus Schwab -- well, I know because we were told -- Klaus Schwab went to Rome to try and get the pope to come here personally. And it wouldn't surprise me in the future if his holiness does come to Davos.

But for this year the fact that Cardinal Turkson came with this message and help elevate that issue is significant.

ANDERSON: Yeah, no, I absolutely agree. Let's hope that people listen, they hear it. They think about it. And hopefully they act on it, because these are the real operators who will be joining Richard at the top of the hill for Wednesday, Thursday and Friday of this week. It is a big meeting. Our coverage of the exclusive forum continues online in a special second of our website.

Get the latest news and join the debate. What's being discussed, we want to know. What's your economic mood. There's an interactive graphic, for example , that poses four simple questions then compare your answers to other participants around the world. Find it all at CNN.com/Davos.

The latest world news headlines are just ahead.

Plus, protesting for the right to protest. Live with Diana Magnay in Kiev. We'll tell you why Ukrainians took to the streets once again today.

Also ahead, police are hunting suspected female terrorists ahead of what is the most expensive Olympics ever. We're going to hear what the Russian prime minister has to say about Sochi security.

And imagine skiing into an avalanche and catching -- well, the outcome on film. One Colorado man did just that and survived the experience. I'm going to talk to him coming up.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ANDERSON: International diplomats, including US Secretary of State John Kerry, are gathering in Geneva for what are long-awaited peace talks on Syria. These are your headlines this hour. Syrian government negotiators arrived just a short time ago after their plane was delayed during a refueling stop. Preliminary talks get underway tomorrow.

A bomb struck a bus carrying Shiite pilgrims in Pakistan's Balochistan province. At least 22 people were killed. Officials say the victims were coming back to Quetta from a religious trip to Iran. Women and children are said to be among the dead.

Thailand's government has declared a state of emergency for Bangkok. It will go into effect on Wednesday for 60 days. Protesters have been attempting to shut down the city there, trying to pressure the prime minister and her government to leave.

Demonstrators are facing off with police in the streets of Kiev over a controversial new law aimed at eliminating protests. Dozens of demonstrators have been detained and more than 100 police officers have been injured. Now, the new legislation makes it illegal to wear helmets or masks to protests and bans setting up sound equipment without police permission.

Well, for more, let's get to CNN's Diana Magnay, who is in Kiev tonight. And the law comes into effect tomorrow. This is controversial at best, Diana.

DIANA MAGNAY, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Becky. It is. It effectively criminalizes these protests, which have been going on for two months now, with a maximum penalty of 15 years jail time for being involved in a mass disturbance, as you say, for crimes such as wearing a helmet or a mask or putting up audio equipment.

Well, as you can hear behind me from the stage, that stage has been broadcasting since this began. And there are some bangs going on a little further afield. Basically, Becky, now you have two protest sites: the Independence Square, which has always been a site of peaceful protest.

And a little further down in European Square, the area where over the last two days protesters have faced off with riot police, prompted, really, by a small group of radicals -- we're not quite sure who -- who started confrontations with police, but resulting in mass detentions, as you say, and large numbers of people injured.

We're hearing from volunteers in the square that as many as 1400 people have gone to their makeshift facilities to try and seek medical help because they're scared of going to hospital, where they will be registered by police as having participated in this kind of disturbance.

So, you see the level of fear that this new anti-protest legislation has introduced. And it's exactly why the people are protesting now. It's exactly why they came out on the streets two months ago to try and prevent their country from going in this sort of direction, Becky.

ANDERSON: Diana Magnay is in Kiev for you this evening.

Well, Russian officials have ramped up security operations ahead of next month's Winter Olympics in Sochi. Authorities now looking for a number of female terrorists -- terrorism suspects, one of whom the Russian government says was killed in a raid on Saturday.

Meanwhile, special forces are conducting operations in the restive Republic of Dagestan. Phil Black has the details from Volgograd for you.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

PHIL BLACK, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Russian police are racing against the clock to find this woman, who they say may be working with a known terrorist organization planning an attack on the Olympics. And she may already be inside Sochi, ready to strike.

JEFF BEATTY, SECRUITY CONSULTANT: Obviously, the Russian security forces are concerned that perhaps people have already penetrated their outer perimeter and are in Sochi.

BLACK: Twenty-two-year-old Ruzanna Ibragimova is described as a "black widow," a notorious type of suicide terrorist that's emerged in Russia's classes with Chechen separatists. Police distributed fliers to hotels in Sochi and are asking staff to be on the lookout for her. Experts say there could be other so-called "black widows" planning a strike.

FRANCES FRAGOS TOWNSEND, CNN SECURITY ANALYST: We shouldn't assume that she's the only one they're concerned about. She's likely part of a larger network that they're looking at.

BLACK: Ibragimova is believed to be from Dagestan, a Russian republic in the Caucasus region. In the US, law enforcement agents have been conducting knock-and-talk interviews with people from that region for weeks, asking community members if there are any issues where they should be focusing.

This morning, the Russian anti-terrorist committee posted a statement saying they killed seven rebels in Makhachkala, Dagestan, early last week. One of those killed is a black widow by the name of Zaira Alieva.

CNN has confirmed she was one of three women who Russian authorities believe were planning a suicide bomb attack in the southern city of Rostov- on-Don, targeting the Olympic torch relay on Tuesday or Wednesday. This notice was sent to local hotels, again asking workers to help find the women.

All this after a new terror threat this past weekend from two young men in this video, claiming responsibility for twin suicide bombings in Volgograd last month. And they say, as for the Olympics, "we've prepared a present for you."

Terror analysts say Sochi is uniquely at risk because Islamic militant hotbeds are within the country, leaving the Olympics closer than ever to danger.

TOM FUENTES, CNN LAW ENFORCEMENT ANALYST: This group does not have to fly in from the Middle East or North Africa or Asia or some other remote location. They are already in the neighborhood.

BLACK: Phil Black, CNN, Volgograd, Russia.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ANDERSON: Well, CNN's chief international correspondent Christiane Amanpour sat down with the Russian prime minister, Dmitry Medvedev in Moscow earlier today. In an exclusive interview, she asked him about the security surrounding the Games. This is what he told us.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CNN CHIEF INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Let me start by asking you about the Sochi Olympics. This is a moment of great pride for Russia, great anticipating for the world's athletes.

And yet, you have a major security threat, a major security alert that your government and security forces have stated. Can you tell me what you know about this threat? How dangerous is it?

DMITRY MEDVEDEV, PRIME MINISTER OF RUSSIA (through translator): On public events, there are always some threats, not only in this country, but also in others. In this country, they have some specific nature and consequences. Definitely we are aware of that, and we will take that into account during the Olympics.

I'm referring to the mobilization and build-up of police forces. And we want -- a huge number of policemen will watch the process of the Games.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ANDERSON: "We are aware of those threats." That -- those are the words of the Russian prime minister. Let's get more from Andrew Kuchins, who is senior fellow and director of the Russia and Eurasia program at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, joining us from CNN Washington.

Andrew, we are well aware that Sochi is key to Putin's legacy. In fact, this is the title of a piece that you wrote for CNN just in the past 48 hours or so. How credible do you believe these threats are?

ANDREW KUCHINS, SENIOR FELLOW AND DIRECTOR, RUSSIA AND EURASIA PROGRAM, CENTER FOR STRATEGIC AND INTERNATIONAL STUDIES: The specific threats that have emerged about this -- young woman, Ibragimova, is impossible to verify how real that is.

But -- and also, the video that has emerged of the two young men who claimed to be the perpetrators of the Volgograd bombings at the end of last year is also impossible to confirm. But there's no question that the threat is very, very, very real. And if --

ANDERSON: Do you have --

KUCHINS: -- in fact it is true that a so-called "shahidka" or black widow has penetrated into Sochi, it's extremely disheartening and confidence-diminishing for the rest of us about these Games, confidence which was already diminished by the tragedy of the Volgograd bombings at the end of last year.

ANDERSON: You rightly pointed out in your piece for CNN that Sochi has been virtually under lockdown for the last six months or so, certainly over the last four weeks or so. And yet, you say -- and I quote you here - - "attacking the Sochi Olympics itself would be the Holy Grail for one of these terrorist groups."

How long do you believe plans may have been in the making, and what sort of attack might you imagine, given the security, the iron steel of security, the ring of security that now surrounds the town itself?

KUCHINS: Well, I would expect that the plans go back to at least July of last year, when Doku Umarov, the self-appointed head of the Caucasus Emirate, the loose network of terrorist groups and individuals, basically took the handcuffs off and said that we should, now, attack civilians and that we should attack the Sochi Games themselves and destroy their success.

Now, what kind of attacks in Sochi itself could be possible? I think it would be very, very difficult, for example, to do something like what happened in Moscow in 2002, where a theater of 800 people was taken hostage, which requires 15 to 20 people to do.

If they're able to pull off anything in Sochi itself, I think it could only be probably a single suicide bomber. But they don't have to be -- to attack Sochi to actually be successful.

ANDERSON: Sure.

KUCHINS: If there were a series of attacks of the magnitude of what we saw in Volgograd at the end of last year elsewhere in Russia, that would raise the terror level in the country and in the international community to such a level that the Games themselves would be imperiled.

ANDERSON: Listen. Andrew, in the past, people have accused President Putin of using the threat of terrorism to clamp down on the Caucasus, and there is sympathy for those who have felt the sort of -- the iron hand of authority from Moscow and, indeed, from the Kremlin.

But it is clear that there are pockets of insurgency in the region. How big and how well-developed are those pockets? Who are we talking about? How many people, and how active are they?

KUCHINS: I think it's hard to pinpoint an exact number, but what we're looking at, I think, in the Northern Caucasus and in Dagestan, probably the epicenter of it at this point, it's a low-level insurgency where probably hundreds of people are involved. I don't think thousands.

And we should also probably be thankful, ironically, that in fact the conflict in Syria is still going on, at least from the standpoint of the Sochi Games, because there are reputedly hundreds of North Caucasian jihadist fighters in Syria, and if they weren't in Syria, then they might have well come home and wreaked havoc on their home territory.

ANDERSON: Given the meeting going on, of course, in Geneva as we speak, certainly getting ready. Listen. How important are these Games for the Russian people?

KUCHINS: I think the Games are very important for the Russian people. But obviously, the person that they're most important for are Vladimir Putin. It is never in my lifetime, certainly, has any Olympic Games, Summer or Winter, been attached to the identity of the leader of a country as these Games are with Vladimir Putin.

How much airtime did Stephen Harper get, for example, four years ago in Vancouver when Canada held the Games? So, it's quite, quite unique in that respect. And Putin has made a very kind of brazen bet. Because he sees one of the historic roles that he has played has been to stabilize the North Caucasus. Well, unfortunately --

ANDERSON: Sure.

KUCHINS: -- the North Caucasus aren't as stabilized as he would like, and by holding the Sochi Olympics in such close proximity to, in effect, a conflict zone, he's taking a big risk. If things don't go well, then all of his claims about the stability that he has brought to the North Caucasus -- and in ways, more broadly to Russia -- are going to be greatly diminished.

ANDERSON: Yes. No, I get it. Thank you very much, indeed. Fascinating analysis from you out of Washington this evening. Thank you very much, indeed.

She is the highest-ranking female executive at a huge technology company, but is it enough? We're going to speak to Intel president Renee James after this short break.

And an anxious time on the slopes for one Colorado skier who found himself caught by an avalanche and filmed the experience. It is incredible video. That after this.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ANDERSON: Well, she is the president of Intel, the tech giant's highest-ranking female executive ever. Renee James is a 25-year veteran of the company and advices the US government on telecoms security. Yet when James was promoted to president of the company, many questioned her suitability for the job, some of whom were questioning her suitability -- questioning it because of her gender.

In this week's Leading Women, Renee James talks to CNN's Poppy Harlow about using criticism as a motivator.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

POPPY HARLOW, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Renee James, president of tech giant Intel. She's the highest-ranking female executive at the company ever.

RENEE JAMES, PRESIDENT, INTEL: We build transistors atom by atom.

HARLOW: I sat down with her at the Fortune Most Powerful Women summit.

HARLOW (on camera): This is a conference of role models. Of women that I aspire to be. Do you ever wish that gender was not a part of the discussion? Do you ever wish it was one of the most powerful people in business?

JAMES: I think when I was younger, I wished it didn't, because it used to bother me so much. Like, who cares what my gender is?

HARLOW: Right.

JAMES: Am I good or not? And I actually wouldn't speak at women's events because I didn't want that to be my calling card, that I'm a woman. But I realize now that I'm a role model, and so I feel more of a responsibility to give back to other women.

HARLOW (voice-over): James became president of Intel after more than 25 years at the company. With more than 100,000 employees worldwide, she's number two in the executive ranks.

HARLOW (on camera): When you were promoted to president, there were some headlines. Is she the right fit for this job? What did you think of that? Did that bother you?

JAMES: You know what? No. I expected it. There haven't been a lot of women at the top of semiconductor companies.

HARLOW: So, what did you do when you read that criticism?

JAMES: I tried not to read it. Mostly, it makes me want to be successful more. So, I find it very motivating when I do read it.

HARLOW (voice-over): James is a mother of two. Her mother was a sheriff in their native California and a powerful example. Her business mentor along the way has been Andy Grove, former Intel chairman and CEO.

JAMES: I met him in a presentation that I had to give about the technology I was working on, and we got into a little bit of an argument, because he started to tell me how it worked. And I said, no, no, no. And apparently you don't argue with Andy Grove, but I was too young, too stupid to know better.

And so, he said to me, "Who are you? Where did you come from?"

So I thought, I'm going to get fired. But it turned out that many years later, several years later, he called and I had made the short list to become a technical assistant.

HARLOW: Today, her role includes overseeing software services, human resources, and security.

HARLOW (on camera): Do you want to be CEO of Intel one day?

JAMES: Oh, yes. Absolutely.

HARLOW: You're already at the top. What is about being CEO that's important to you?

JAMES: I've been there for a long time, and I'm very goal-oriented. So, it's like the one last thing that I want to do.

HARLOW: Is it also about something bigger than you and this goal? Is it about having, frankly, a woman at the top?

JAMES: No. I think it's about the legacy of the company and its role in the history of Silicon Valley and its role in technology and bringing that forward.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ANDERSON: You're watching CONNECT THE WORLD, this is CNN at ten to 9:00 in London. Now, Pope Francis wants the global business elite to do more to help the poor and vulnerable. That is the challenge he has given to the heads of state, central bankers, and CEOs gathered for the start of the World Economic Forum in Davos. We told you that story earlier on.

So, what's the weather like up at the top of that mountain? Because there are 2,500 people gathering up there. It's -- well, I saw it earlier on, Jen, and it is not as snowy as it might be. But I don't think you're going to start there. Where are you going to start this evening.

JENNY HARRISION, CNN METEOROLOGIST: I'm not. And you're right, actually. The first thing I noticed was a distinct lack of snow on those trees behind Richard and everybody else, but I'm sure there'll be more snow, of course, as the week gets going.

Where we have got more than enough of that snow is across the northeast of the US. The last 12 hours, this storm has really been winding up and just really steaming towards all of these main areas here: Boston, New York, Philadelphia, Washington. The snow has been coming down constantly.

It began Tuesday morning outside the White House, and I can tell you now, it's continuing to snow, so we will really see some pretty good accumulations, I think, by the time this system has passed.

And this is a live view right now, looking out across -- this is Columbus Circle, this is Central Park West, here. And what I can tell you, again, is that the snow's been coming down quite steadily. The traffic has certainly slowed up in the last few hours.

Right now, at the JFK, it's minus 9, and as you can see, the snow is coming down, and the winds now are coming from the north-northeast at a fairly brisk 31 kilometers an hour. So, it really is once again about these cancellations, over 2,500 of them. The numbers keep going up. We've just updated this. It's on FlightAware.com, you can see all of these numbers, obviously arrivals and departures.

So not a good day. I doubt tomorrow will be a good day either. Because as the snow came through, it began to really impact these different airports at different times of the day, but you'll notice apart from DC, we do expect these delays to carry on even as late as 7:00 in the morning in Boston on Wednesday morning.

Here's the storm system coming through. Some very heavy amounts of snow, as well. It really isn't clear in the east coast until Wednesday morning, frankly late in the morning, for some areas. And these, of course, are the numbers showing you how much snow is in the forecast: 18 centimeters in Philadelphia in the next 48 hours, 13 centimeters in New York.

Widespread warnings in place. There's even a blizzard warning here around the cape of Massachusetts. At times we've got winds at about 60 kilometers an hour, but it's not just about the snow and those strong winds, it is about the bitterly cold air. This will continue through Thursday.

The first shot of cold air comes across the northeast, even down to the southeast, and then there's another shot of bitterly cold air that's coming down across the midwest. Right now, it's minus 9 in New York, minus 3 in DC, minus 11 in Chicago. Feeling colder because of the winds. And look at what the wind is doing to those temperatures.

So again, all these areas under some form of wind chill watch or advisory. Temperatures feeling as cold as minus 35 Celsius. And you can see that second blast of cold air come down into Chicago on Thursday, minus 12. The average this time of year, minus 1. New York, well below the average there, minus 9 as we go into the next 24 hours.

But it moves swiftly away. There is, of course, still that very cold air in place, so the thing with this system, Becky, is the snow is going to stay on the ground for a while to come as these temperatures are going to be rising on Wednesday. At best, the highs of New York, minus 9, even just 4 Celsius in Atlanta. And look at Minneapolis: minus 15 degrees Celsius.

And as for the weather in Davos, Becky, I will talk to our Mr. Quest about that in the next hour. I'll save it for him, shall I? He's bound to have something to say about the weather in Davos.

ANDERSON: Oh, please do. I always -- when he takes himself off there every year -- and I don't do it these days, but we did it together for about a decade -- and when he takes himself off there, I always sort of check his equipment and his gear, as it were.

Because what normally happens -- and you and I know this, Jen -- is that it's sort of green until the actual event continues, and then suddenly, it snows and the backdrop is wonderful. Anyway, talk to him next hour. That's "Quest Means Business," coming up, of course.

In tonight's Parting Shots, it began as a beautiful sunny day in the Colorado back country, but as skier Lance Light made his way down the mountain, things began to go very wrong. The snow split below him and he was caught up in what was an avalanche while his camera was rolling.

I spoke to what is this very lucky skier earlier today and asked him to relive that, what must have been incredibly frightening experience.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

LANCE LIGHT, SKIER WHO SURVIVED AVALANCHE: Yes, definitely. So, me and a friend went back country skiing and we were very close to a highway in a really well-traveled back country area in Colorado. He had decided to go down a slightly mellower slope and stopped on a ridge line, so he was out of harm's way and had full visibility on my run that I was about to take.

I took about two turns. I heard a big popping sound under me. I felt the entire slab move, and then I saw all the blocks of snow start to go to the left. I was kind of already on course and I didn't want to be taken over the cliff by the avalanche, so I just decided to straight-line it.

And then, as soon as I landed, I landed right in the debris field, and then I was just immediately looking for the rip cord on my avalanche air bag, and luckily, it deployed with no issues and it carried me for about 75 yards.

ANDERSON: Wow. Wow.

LIGHT: And I ended up and never was buried at all and then just walked away.

ANDERSON: Lance, take me back to that moment when you felt that snow engulf you. What was going through your head?

LIGHT: Yes, definitely. So, I wasn't really expecting it, obviously, but I was definitely prepared, I thought, and it didn't really faze me at all. I was just kind of acting all on instinct, because I knew exactly where my ripcord was, I knew that my buddy was right there, I wasn't very far off the road.

So, it just all happened so fast that I didn't really have a lot of time to think a lot about it. I just kind reacted on instinct and everything worked out well.

ANDERSON: So, if I was to put it to you that you were taking a risk and possibly putting other people's lives at risk, what would you say?

LIGHT: That is accurate. We try to do a lot of things directly. My friend that I was also there with, Nick Ryan, skied a different slope and we never exposed ourselves to the same slope at the same time so that both of us didn't get buried. We had all the avalanche safety gear: beacons, shovels, probes.

He had an Avalung, I had an airbag. There was no one at the bottom of the slide path. There were a few other people in the vicinity that saw.

ANDERSON: Do you consider yourself very, very lucky?

LIGHT: Yes. I'm definitely lucky to walk away with that. I'm just glad that we were on a shorter slope. It may not look like it, but there were lots of other huge mountains in the background, and if those slid, they could run five times as far as the path that I was on.

So, luckily, I was just on a shorter slope. It did break pretty big, but I was kind of on the outside of the debris field, and then was just lucky to have all the eyes in the right places and all the gear.

ANDERSON: Lance, can I suggest that you take up take up water skiing?

(LAUGHTER)

LIGHT: I live in Colorado. There's not too many lakes around here.

ANDERSON: Good stuff. All right, thank you, sir.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ANDERSON: I'm Becky Anderson, that was CONNECT THE WORLD. Thanks for watching.

END