Return to Transcripts main page
CONNECT THE WORLD
Violence in Ukraine; Mood on the Streets; Journalists on Trial in Egypt; Nuclear Negotiations; Facebook to Buy WhatsApp; Rebekah Brooks Testifies; Solidarity in Georgia; Political Divisions in Ukraine; Agreement Ready; Ukrainian Protests Felt at Sochi Olympics; Plea to the World
Aired February 20, 2014 - 15:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
ISHA SESAY, CNN HOST: Hello, everyone, I'm Isha Sesay with a check of the day's top stories.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SESAY: Violence exploded in Ukraine this morning with anti-government protesters confronting riot police who responded with live ammunition. Opposition sources say 100 people were killed in the clashes in central Kiev. A city official said 67 people have been killed since Tuesday.
Not long after a delegation of E.U. ministers met with President Viktor Yanukovych in Kiev the European Union announced sanctions on anyone found responsible for human rights violations, violence or the use of excessive force. The sanctions are to include freezing assets and banning travel within the E.U.
Three Al Jazeera journalists detained in Egypt will spend at least the next two weeks behind bars. The trial began today for Mohammed Fahmy, Baher Mohamed and Peter Greste. They're part of a group charged with spreading false news and aiding terrorists. No evidence was presented and the trial was adjourned until March 5th.
There's new concern that terrorists may be targeting overseas flights coming into the United States. Two sources say security officials are warning airlines that terrorists may try to hide explosives in shoes. It comes just two weeks after U.S. officials warned of a possible plot to hide explosives in toothpaste on flights heading to Sochi.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SESAY: You're watching CNN, the world's news leader. I'm Isha Sesay. CONNECT THE WORLD starts right now.
ATIKA SHUBERT, CNN HOST (voice-over): A truce shatters, country wounded by crisis. And tonight's special edition of CONNECT THE WORLD, we ask what's next for Ukraine.
SHUBERT: Ukraine is reeling tonight from the single worst day of violence in decades. It's just after 10:00 pm in Kiev where there's a very tense calm as anti-government protesters reinforce their barricades in Independence Square. Earlier, it looked like a war zone.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SHUBERT: (voice-over): Fierce clashes broke out with police as a truce crumbled. An opposition medic says 100 people were killed today alone. Some protesters hurled Molotov cocktails and rocks to drive off police from behind smoldering barricades. As you can see here, one protester's clothing briefly caught fire.
Now Ukraine's interior ministry is accusing protesters of seizing 67 police and warns that security forces may use arms if necessary to free them.
European Union officials are also in Kiev for crisis talks with both sides and they plan to stay the night. The E.U. announced today that it is imposing sanctions on Ukranians responsible for the violence. CNN's Phil Black has more now on the deadly day and we must warn you: this report contains disturbing and graphic images.
PHIL BLACK, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): This is the morning after a truce. Fallen bodies on the streets of Kiev. Protesters confronting security services who respond with live ammunition.
Here a CNN photographer catches the moment when a group of medics is seen helping a man lying on the ground. There is a shot: one medic falls to the ground and tries to crawl away. We don't know if he survived.
The casualties climb quickly. Some are carried to a nearby hotel.
BLACK: Here in this building, the protesters set up an emergency medical clinic. This is where some of the very first casualties were brought. They say three people were still alive when they were first brought here. But the efforts of the medical teams here have not been enough to save the lives of at least these 11 people who now lie on the marble floor of this hotel lobby.
DR. OLGA BOGOMOLETS: (Speaking Ukranian).
BLACK (voice-over): Dr. Olga Bogomolets, the head of the medical team, says they had little chance of surviving their injuries.
BOGOMOLETS: They were killed by snipers directly with the metal bullets, with guns, shooting directly through to heart, eyes, shooting for death.
BLACK (voice-over): Later, as she conceals the bodies while they are identified by family.
Anton says he did his best to clean the bodies for them.
ANTON: I was cleaning blood on the floor and I'm crying because this is really, really hard for me. I can't.
BLACK (voice-over): The confrontation started just after dawn. A barrage of stones.
. fireworks, Molotov cocktails.
. hundreds of protesters spread along the barricades on Independence Square, throwing whatever they could get their hands on. They targeted lines of security forces, a short distance away, standing beyond the range of rocks and bottles.
But we also saw one man firing a shotgun. We don't know what he was using for ammunition.
These people had no theft (ph) in the government-declared cease-fire.
The president said no more violence.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No, no, no, the president only says -- they say all times.
BLACK (voice-over): This is the hardcore element of the protest crowd, wearing homemade body armor, carrying shields, those prepared to take the fight directly to the security services.
Shortly after those officers received an order to pull back, once again giving up the square to the opposition. But some of the protesters pursued them through the streets. The response: gunfire.
The result: more blood and death in Kiev -- Phil Black, CNN, Kiev.
SHUBERT (voice-over): Now to give you a better idea of where all of this is happening, here is a map of Independence Square or Maidan. It's in the heart of Kiev and it has been the flashpoint of anti-government protests for months.
We'll now get a live update on this situation. Senior International Correspondent Nick Paton Walsh joins us from Kiev.
Nick, you've been on the streets there. But the numbers are staggering; 100 people killed today reportedly, truces just aren't holding.
Is there any sign that we can get some sort of security back on the streets, some sort of a calm? Or is it just going to get worse?
NICK PATON WALSH, CNN SR. INTL. CORRESPONDENT: Well, that's the real fear and the obvious question as night has fallen now here, Atika. What does come next? There is a large gathering in the square; there are severely reinforced barricades up the street, literally 24 hours ago a street that was full of police officers. They've been pushed well back.
Now no one's quite sure what comes next. But we are sure about is the rhetoric we're hearing from the government is pretty strong. The police are saying they have the right to arm themselves, to protect their families, to protect themselves from being taken hostage.
The army's saying that they have the right to take up arms to prevent the country from slipping into civil war. The president blames the opposition for the violence. Acutely interesting, you know, Viktor Yanukovych has been pretty silent today.
We've heard that he's spoken to Vladimir Putin, Vladimir Putin sending a human rights ombudsman here to try and assist in negotiations with the opposition. We've also heard Russian state media, in fact, citing the Polish president, suggesting that he was willing to maybe hold earlier elections.
But noticeably he's been pretty absent from the public arena today, many asking questions about that. Plus also we had the resignation from his ruling party of the Kiev mayor who said he'd keeping doing that job of running the city; he just wouldn't have anything to do with the ruling party. That's a key defection at this point.
So signs of fissures at the top here, hard rhetoric from the security services, large numbers of people behind me, enforced barricades and the real question now, what do the police and maybe the army actually do next - - Atika.
SHUBERT: Yes, and we're just getting in some news now. Of course we have three European foreign ministers who are in Kiev at this moment, trying to negotiate some way out of this. And we just have an update. They've been meeting with the Ukranian opposition and with President Viktor Yanukovych. Those negotiations do continue into the evening, but they've now gone on for about five hours.
To quote the Polish foreign minister, simply saying progress has been made, but clearly still a long way to go.
If these negotiations then go on and continue, but there doesn't seem to be a solution out of this yet, then what happens next? What are the ways out, Nick?
WALSH: Well, they're very slim. I think the people behind me won't stop until they see Viktor Yanukovych leave power. I have to say after today's bloodshed, I think possibly even his sponsors in Moscow may think that he's less a safe bet than he was a week ago.
It's put this country, which is really not known for political bloodshed or aggression, in a very ghastly situation this morning. Those numbers of dead, if confirmed later on of nearly 100, quite staggering. And I think possibly down to the live fire we saw coming from police positions in a majority of those cases.
So it's been a day of vast turmoil here. And I think these talks going on into the night are presumably aimed at trying to find some sort of middle ground between the two. But I still fundamentally think the opposition needs to see Yanukovych go. And that's probably what's going to be on the table, if anything, tonight during those talks.
SHUBERT: Yes, very long night ahead.
Well, thank you very much, Nick Paton Walsh, for staying on top of that situation for us in Kiev.
A brief reminder now of how the unrest began. On November 21st, President Viktor Yanukovych withdrew from a proposed political and trade agreement with the European Union. That brought protesters into the streets by the tens of thousands, demanding a new government.
But on December 3rd, the opposition failed to pass a no-confidence vote in parliament, keeping the current government in power.
Two weeks later, President Yanukovych entered into an agreement with Russia that cut Ukranian debt and gas prices but distanced the country even further from the E.U.
On January 16th, the government passed strict anti-protest laws, fueling yet another round of demonstrations.
And on January 22nd, four people were killed, the first lives lost in this unrest.
And that brings us to Tuesday night, when 26 people died in the violent clashes.
Well, within the past hour, we spoke with Ukraine's ambassador to the United Nations. He says the only way out of this crisis is to get all parties involved to the negotiating table.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
YURIY SERGEYEV, UKRANIAN AMBASSADOR TO THE U.N.: The violence should be stopped and what is needed, the wisdom and responsibility from all the sides, the first demand of all the people from around the world to stop the violence and then to return to negotiations. This is badly needed. We are too far with this crisis. When people are being killed for nothing.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SHUBERT: Now let's get some perspective on this crisis. We're joined by Andy Hunder. He is director of the Ukranian Institute in London.
It's pretty shocking to see these kind of images now in the Maidan, Independence Square in Kiev. But there doesn't seem to be a way out yet.
What are you seeing in terms of the possibilities?
ANDY HUNDER, DIRECTOR, UKRANIAN INSTITUTE IN LONDON: I think the news coming out is truly shocking. The numbers of people killed and it's people that have been standing out there for a number of months.
Our institute is affiliated with the Ukranian Catholic University and one of the lectors (ph) of the university was shot dead today.
So it's all -- it's really getting personal. And I think the way out at the moment is -- the only way out is for Yanukovych to leave. I think it's finding a way, putting him on a plane to either Kurdistan or Belarus and that's his really option now, is to leave, because it's going to be very difficult for the protesters to come up with anything more.
He has started shooting with live ammunition against his own people.
SHUBERT: Well, this is what I want to ask you, is this just a big -- the tipping point? I mean, when you see numbers like 100 people killed in just one day on the streets of Kiev, you have to wonder, is there any going back at this point?
HUNDER: Now, see, this is -- this is the pivotal moment. And I think it's really -- Yanukovych must understand that there's no future to him in Ukraine. He has to leave. And I think it's really the E.U. now or/and the U.S. to give him assurances that he can have a future outside of Ukraine.
SHUBERT: OK. We will come back to this in a moment. But we're going to move on to a few other events unfolding at this hour in Ukraine.
They're reverberating around the world and CNN this hour will be bringing you the story from multiple angles. We will take you to the Olympics in Sochi and the message Ukranian athletes are sending to their compatriots back home.
Also, the ethnic division that runs right through Ukraine and how that affects what we are seeing on the streets of Kiev. And you may have seen the plea to the world that went viral. Well, now here and the filmmaker behind it and why he believes it's having such an impact.
SHUBERT (voice-over): But first, diplomatic dance or geopolitical game? As battle lines are drawn in central Kiev, we look at the diplomatic fight being waged beyond the Ukranian borders. Stay with us.
SHUBERT: You're watching CNN and this is a special edition of CONNECT THE WORLD with me, Atika Shubert -- welcome back.
If the unrest in Ukraine has brought the simmering East-West tensions within the country to the fore, well, it has also exposed deep divides within the international community.
While the European Union and the United States are denouncing the violence, the Russians are calling on the West to, quote, "stop meddling" in Ukranian affairs.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
VITALY CHURKIN, RUSSIAN AMBASSADOR TO THE U.N.: Our standard line which we have been maintaining, that the only thing we need is Ukraine to be stable and for it to go through a political process, which President Yanukovych has always -- I mean, he has offered the post of prime minister to one of the opposition politicians. And he rejected that.
Why should then he do that? If he wanted to conclude this association agreement with European Union, he could do that and also take the responsibility for the consequences because the consequences could have been quite dramatic in terms of economic impact on Ukraine. He didn't want to do that. He wanted to go all the way to take political power democratically on the shoulders of those radical thugs. And this is not a democratic mode of behavior and it's high time the United States and the European Union act on principle, but not out of some geopolitical ambitions they may be having with detrimental effect to Ukraine and to the stability of Eastern Europe.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SHUBERT: Now for more on the diplomatic fight over Ukraine, I'm joined here in London by CNN's Jim Boulden.
I'm also joined by CNN's world affairs reporter, Elise Labott, in Washington, D.C.
Jim, let's start with you, particularly with the response from the E.U.
What has the E.U. been doing to try and stop the violence?
JIM BOULDEN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, as you said earlier, the foreign minister of Poland, Sikorski, and the foreign minister of Germany and France are in Kiev and they're negotiating with the president and with the opposition leaders while the rest of the foreign ministers had this emergency meeting in Brussels earlier today to talk about sanctions.
These are not economic sanctions; these are targeted sanctions against individuals they think are responsible for the violence we saw today in Kiev. And they're talking about targeted visa requirements, so stopping them being able to travel in the European Union and also trying to freeze assets if they can.
They're also talking about stopping the ability of Ukraine to buy what they're calling sort of riot gear, for instance, and so they want to stop E.U. companies from selling to the Ukraine that specific kind of thing.
So Catherine Ashton held a press conference afterwards. And she's the E.U. policy chief. And this is how she described the sanctions.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CATHERINE ASHTON, E.U. FOREIGN POLICY CHIEF: We need to look at targeted sanctions. We have agreed to suspend export licenses for equipment for internal repression. And we have asked the relevant working bodies of the council to make the necessary preparations immediately.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BOULDEN: Now what we haven't heard is whether it could be further economic sanctions, even though, of course, Ukraine's not in the E.U.; enormous amount of money has been spent to help build up the infrastructure of Ukraine so that the European Union could have a stable neighbor. And those -- of course, that could be in jeopardy if talks do not have fruition, where you could actually stop the violence on the street.
SHUBERT: Yes. And quite incredible, just to have three foreign ministers actually negotiating right there.
Elise, if I could ask you a question, I mean, where does the United States stand on this? And, I mean, the echoes of the Cold War are all over this.
Are we seeing those Cold War lines being redrawn again?
ELISE LABOTT, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, President Obama himself said that this not a renewed Cold War between the U.S. and Russia. But it certainly seems that way. You know, a few months ago, I was in Moldova with Secretary Kerry. He was supposed to go to Ukraine but didn't go because Ukraine didn't sign that agreement with the E.U.
And he said, oh, this isn't a bidding war. But it certainly does seem that way.
Right now the United States is kind of leaving it to the Europeans to handle the mediation; there's been some consideration of sending a U.S. envoy to assist with that.
The U.S. has already slapped some sanctions, some of these visa bans on these individuals that Jim was talking about.
We're told that there are some additional sanctions, some asset freezes on individuals, ready to go. But the U.S. clearly on the side of Europe here wanting Ukraine to bend towards the West. But as we've been discussing, this country is in a lot of turmoil because it's very divided on which way it needs to go. But one thing is clear: the U.S. very concerned about the violence on the ground and prepared to step up their punitive measures if the violence continues.
SHUBERT: But, really, Jim, how much leverage does the E.U. and the United States have in this case?
Sure, they can -- they can certainly try and negotiate.
SHUBERT: But, really, what kind of leverage do they have over the president?
BOULDEN: Well, of course, this is how it all began, isn't it? It is about who's going to have the influence. Is it going to be Moscow? Is it going to be Europe? With half of the Ukraine wanting to look toward the West and the other half wanting to look toward Russia. But what the E.U. has, of course, ultimately is the European Union itself.
Does Ukraine want to become eventually a member of the European Union? Does it want to have negotiations on that level? Does it want to have open free trade agreement? Does it want to have more open borders and open skies, which, of course, is very, very, very important to many people in Ukraine for the economy.
Russia, of course, holds the gas and holds, of course, a lot of political influence, especially those people on the east, who are very, very much looking toward Moscow.
SHUBERT: Exactly. Now at least Russia and the United States already have a very strained relationship; this certainly cannot be helping.
LABOTT: It's certainly not helping. And it seems that it's kind of all the -- all roads lead to Russia. They need Russia on Iran. They need Russia on Syria. They obviously need Russian cooperation to end this standoff in Ukraine because while they're not saying explicitly that Russia is pressuring President Yanukovych, they're pointing to a lot of things that are going on in terms of Russians buying up Ukranian bonds. There was some progress over the weekend in terms of a political solution after President Yanukovych went to Russia and came back. That kind of fell apart.
And so definitely they think the Russians are playing undue influence on President Yanukovych. The Russians are saying the same about the United States. So it's kind of an issue where are they going to just trade barbs at each other? Are they going to actually -- more on a case of what's going on in Syria, try and work cooperatively together to get all sides to the table to end the standoff?
SHUBERT: Yes, an incredibly complex tug-of-war at this point.
Thank you very much, Elise Labott, for us in Washington, and Jim Boulden for us here in the studio.
Now coming up next, we'll take you back to Kiev with the very latest on the escalating crisis there.
SHUBERT: You're watching CONNECT THE WORLD live from London. Welcome back. I'm Atika Shubert.
Now we're following the tense situation in Ukraine's capital city tonight. Anti-government protesters are reinforcing their barricades in Independence Square, bracing for more violence. We can now cross to one of those protesters, Olya Shatna. She's part of a women's self-defense group in the square.
Olya, tell us, you've been at these protests from the very beginning and, frankly, you look like you're in it for the long haul. What are you expecting to happen tonight?
OLYA SHATNA, UKRANIAN PROTESTER: I'm expecting for a battle (ph) here because we are waiting for emergency situation (ph) in Ukraine. And by the way, there was free streets and free street of Yushchenko (ph) and Ukraine has its streets (ph) but just now we are waiting. There was sort of eight bodies of backers coming from Takata (ph) to Kiev. And a lot of bodies from (INAUDIBLE) coming over. And we are waiting; we are, I think, empowered (ph) to take some jackets to helmets and just give them money for buying some guns.
SHUBERT: So you're saying --
SHUBERT: -- you're saying you're --
SHUBERT: -- yes, I do hear you. And you're saying you're expecting more people to come out onto the streets tonight, even though we're hearing reports that 100 people may have been killed.
Are you worried that the violence could get much worse?
SHATNA: Yes, yes. The reason is a lot of people are dead, but we have no information about them. There are some dead bodies, by the way. There are other people, two days ago, when everything was beginning, there was just like 200 of -- 100 people. And I was staying on the Marinski (ph) Park, and I was watching every three minutes, medical men. And they just --
SHUBERT: Hold on --
SHATNA: -- guns shooting --
SHUBERT: -- a second please. (INAUDIBLE) to your interview in just a moment. We actually now have on the phone with us from Munich is the Swedish foreign minister, Carl Bildt.
If you can hear me, Foreign Minister, I want to --
CARL BILDT, SWEDISH FOREIGN MINISTER: I can hear you.
SHUBERT: -- I want to ask you some questions now about these ongoing negotiations that are happening in Kiev and the influence of the E.U. to try and negotiate a solution out of this.
How optimistic are you that you can negotiate a way out of this peacefully?
BILDT: Well, we've been trying for quite some time. And now we have, as you know, the foreign ministers of Poland, of Germany and France there. I understand they have now just entered another meeting with President Yanukovych.
It's not a question of being optimistic and pessimistic. We have to try to do our utmost, so to secure a peaceful and democratic solution to an absolutely horrible situation because the alternative is far worse.
SHUBERT: Who do you think is to blame in this situation, this -- the protests have been going on now for some time. But this surge in violence recently seems to have been triggered really quite suddenly.
So what do you think is at the root of this?
BILDT: Well, I mean, immediately, no question, President Yanukovych is the one responsible. He happens to be the president of the country and it has been in his power to resolve this particular conflict for quite some time.
But he has been wavering back and forth; he has been cheating the opposition. He has been playing games in order to try to survive. He has been using violence and it is his forces that have been Wednesday night first killing people in fairly large numbers. There have been violence from the other side, including killings from guns, all right.
But there's no question that President Yanukovych is not on his hand, is the one primarily responsible.
SHUBERT: If he is the one primarily responsible, is really the only solution then to see him go, which is exactly what the protesters are asking for?
BILDT: That's up for the Ukranians. And I think what we can do or try to do from the E.U. side is to facilitate the peaceful political process; exactly what should be the content of that particular process, that's up for the Ukranians. It's not up for us to dictate.
I can have a lot of understanding for those who believe that he has lost all credibility. But at the moment, I think the stability of the country, the stopping of the killing, the possibility of the democratic transition or solution, that has to be the priority.
SHUBERT: Let me ask you, we are just getting this news in, apparently from the Polish prime minister, Donald Tusk (ph), saying that an agreement has - - is now ready with Ukranian president, Viktor Yanukovych, for early elections to be held in Ukraine this year. And that agreement also includes the formation of a new government within 10 days, and a change of constitution by the summer of this year.
Do you think that is a solution, that will be accepted by the opposition and by the protesters on the street?
BILDT: Those are -- those are the elements that have been under discussion during the course of the day. And I think the issue is to make absolutely certain and absolutely credible to each and every one that this is really going to happen. That, I think, is the key task to have their mechanists that make it absolutely credible, that there is no further cheating or no further maneuvering, no further trying just to buy time.
SHUBERT: Well --
BILDT: But these are the elements that could be issues.
SHUBERT: -- well, it's good to hear at least that those elements are now in place.
Thank you very much.
That is Sweden's foreign minister, Carl Bildt, joining us on the phone from Munich.
Now if we could go back to Olya Shatna.
You are, of course, in the midst of those protests and we've just heard there that there appears to be an agreement for early elections this year and then an agreement for a new government within 10 days and a change of constitution by the summer.
This seems to be a lot on the table. Is that enough for you personally to accept?
SHATNA: I'm thinking of our new constitution of Ukraine, and I see nothing about it because we should write a new constitution and about this negotiation. Our position can do any right because they're afraid of everything, they didn't want to have a -- to improve their situation.
And the reason is, I don't know about proving and about press conference about the opposition, but the are located somewhere in Maidan. And the reason is, I think the negotiation will be failed because people also are very aggressive to their government, because a lot of people have died.
And the reason is everything is organized by people. There is no Berkuts here, and we are waiting for coming from the UDAR, from the Batkivshchyna, and from the Svoboda. And the reason is Svoboda is taking the Ukrainian House and they help people to get inside, because --
SHUBERT: So --
SHATNA: -- today in the afternoon at 2:00, 3:00, they will also get back inside. There is a lot of personal things of the Berkut and of the police. Their passports are there, their own personal things, clothes and something like that.
And I was trying to tell you about the reason is there is a Metro station in Kiev, and there is a medical university by Bogomolets. Their students today, the students from there are forbidden to study there because there are a lot of snipers and Berkuts.
SHUBERT: What I'm trying --
SHATNA: They're trying to get inside. They're allowed to get inside --
SHUBERT: If I could interrupt you for just a second --
SHATNA: And --
SHUBERT: I'm hearing you saying that the snipers are there, and that --
SHATNA: Can you hear me?
SHUBERT: Yes, I do hear you, and I can understand, there's a lot of anger on the streets, especially when you describe sniper attacks on a medical facility there, and for a lot of the protesters out there.
But what I want to know from you is, is it enough? If there are early elections for you to say, OK, we'll call a truce, and we'll stop -- we'll have an end to the violence. Do you think that will put an end to the violence?
SHATNA: I think the violence will be maybe two weeks, one month, before the election. But the reason is we didn't want to have an election, we want to change the government. That's why we are not standing for yes, we're not standing for -- we're standing for freedom.
That's why I think the violence will last before the elections, and the election will be failed. I think Maidan will be also reorganized in other organization.
SHUBERT: So, this could still go on --
SHATNA: Can you hear me?
SHUBERT: Yes, I do. Could still go on for some time. Well, thank you very much, Olya Shatna, for talking to us at this point. Please try and stay safe tonight.
Well, we also now have images coming out of Ukraine, and they are just startling. We'll -- they show you just how violent and destructive these protests have become. CNN has put together the best of those images in a photo gallery online, from mourning the dead in the streets to standing behind a line of riot police. You can find those photographs at cnn.com/international.
Also on our website, a striking before and after look at Kiev's Independence Square. You can use the interactive slide to see what the square looked like then and now. That's all at cnn.com/international.
Now, we're going to cross to our Phil Black, who is on the ground in Maidan. That, of course, is Independence Square, where most of that -- of the action has been taking place. Phil, I know you have been in the thick of this from the beginning now. Are we -- are you seeing the possibility of more violence tonight? What is the mood on the streets?
BLACK: Atika, tonight it is -- it's a little more low key. It is, perhaps, one of the smallest crowds I've ever seen in Independence Square, and they're quite softly spoken, too. We've heard prayers up on the stage, some speeches. But it is not the rousing, thumping, cheering crowd that we've come to expect here in Independence Square.
One key change, though, and this took place early this morning, just before firearms started to be used against the protesters, the protesters again control all of Independence Square.
Because just before the use of firearms, before things really escalated, the security forces pulled back from their positions on the square, and those positions were quickly claimed by the protesters, who have moved their barricades forward, rebuilt them to an impressive size, clearly with the intention of trying to hold onto this whole square again, Atika.
SHUBERT: Well, it sounds as though, then, this violence has had sort of a sobering effect. The numbers are just shocking: 100 people reportedly killed today, but it doesn't sound like the opposition or the protesters are giving up, either. So, what then do they want to see in order to find a peaceful way out of this?
BLACK: Well, I think what the protesters want are very much the things that you've been describing, what you were discussing with the Swedish foreign minister there, those key demands. They want fresh elections, they want a constitutional change, so they want the chance to be able to choose a new parliament, new government, a new president for themselves in the near future.
These are the things that have been talked about, these are the things they've been demanding from President Yanukovych, and he hasn't really budged on any of this.
So despite the fact that there are these reports tonight coming from the Polish prime minister that President Yanukovych may be open to the idea of constitutional change or, perhaps, elections in the near future, I think we need to wait to hear what -- just what these people say precisely when these talks end between President Yanukovych and the three European foreign ministers he's meeting with this evening.
It'll be very interesting to hear the language that they use, to what extent he is signed on to such an idea, to what extent he is prepared to follow through with it. Because up until now, it's been pretty much a no go. He's talked about the willingness to negotiate at various times, but has not really budged on those key points that the opposition are demanding.
And ever since, things continue to escalate. We've had this terrible increase in violence, as you say. Some 25 people killed at least on Tuesday, as many as another hundred more today.
And today, a statement from the Defense Ministry here in Ukraine, which points to a possible further escalation, not that Ukrainian troops will be getting involved in this anytime soon, but they believe they have the right to get involved if extremist groups continue, if they believe innocent civilians are at risk, and if they believe all other methods of trying to deal with this situation fail.
So, the key point there is no, the military are not getting involved, which would certainly be condemned by the international community, but they're not ruling it out, either. The specter still hangs over this ongoing political crisis, Atika.
SHUBERT: Yes, a very ominous warning, there, but possibly a road map out of this crisis. Well, thank you very much. That's Phil Black for us, watching the situation in Kiev. He'll have more on those negotiations that are ongoing there.
And there's plenty more from Ukraine in just a moment, but first, let's take a look at the other stories we're following.
Three Al Jazeera journalists are on trial in Egypt. Officials shot this video when the men were arrested in late December. They appeared in court today and have all pled not guilty to aiding a terrorist organization. CNN's senior international correspondent Sara Sidner has the details.
SARA SIDNER, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: At the first court date in this case, the journalists were brought in and sat in a caged area to listen to the proceedings. The court for the first time read out the charges in open court. The journalists responded "not guilty."
Now, the court ultimately decided at the end of the hearing that it would move the case to another date. On March 5th, the court will hear the evidence.
Now, as for the journalists and their families, the decision was a huge disappointment. The journalists and their families and the Al Jazeera news channel had hoped that they might be released today. They're saying this has been a roller coaster ride of emotions that simply won't seem to end.
The Al Jazeera news channel has sent out a statement expressing its disappointment, but also calling for a global day of action to try to put pressure on the Egyptian government to release their journalists. That day on February 27th.
Now, these journalists, eight of them, have been in prison behind the walls of Tora Prison for more than 50 days now, and now, they will stay a bit longer.
But when it comes to the families, only one of the family members could get into the court today, that of Peter Greste, his brother Andrew going into court and watching the proceedings and relaying the information to the rest of his family. His parents have been outspoken, saying he was simply doing his job, and now he's been jailed for doing so.
But the Egyptian government says these men are being accused of some very serious crimes, and there is evidence linked to them that can prove that. That is what the prosecution has said. They say that they have done everything from airing false news to, in some cases, being a part of a terrorist cell, all charges that the journalists denied.
The other issue the journalists had is that two of the men who were brought into court today, the Al Jazeera journalists said they had never met before and did not know, but the government says they are somehow linked to Al Jazeera.
So, on March 5th, we'll hear more about this case. But in the meantime, there are families extremely worried about their loved ones, who will still be in Tora Prison.
Sara Sidner, CNN, Cairo.
SHUBERT: Six world powers and Iran have reached a deal to hold detailed negotiations over Tehran's nuclear program. EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton and Iranian foreign minister Mohammad Javad Zarif announced the breakthrough in Vienna on Thursday.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CATHERINE ASHTON, EU FOREIGN POLICY CHIEF: We've had three very productive days, during which we've identified all of the issues we need to address in reaching a comprehensive and final agreement. There is a lot to do. It won't be easy, but we've made a good start.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SHUBERT: Now, talks between the international powers have been taking place since Tuesday in Vienna. Iran says the next round of talks will take place in March.
Well, Facebook is getting ready to take the lead in the world of messaging with its planned purchase of WhatsApp. The social network is shelling out a whopping $19 billion for the five-year-old company. The WhatsApp instant messaging service has about 450 million users around the world, and each day, about 1 million users are added.
Rebekah Brooks, the former boss of News International, testified at her London trial today. The former tabloid editor is accused of being part of a conspiracy to intercept voice mails of high-profile figures. The judge instructed the jury to drop one charge against her today. She still faces, however, four charges, including trying to pervert the course of justice.
Well, live from London, you're watching CONNECT THE WORLD. We're back to Ukraine after this break to speak to one of our iReporters about the situation on the ground.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
LANA GHVINJILIA, CNN IREPORTER: On Tuesday, quite spontaneous meeting was organized at midnight in front of the old parliament building. Up to 300 protesters gathered there, and they sang Georgian and Ukrainian anthems.
And the anger is no longer just through Facebook. In one hour, unfortunately, has been covered by all national TV channels.
Since December, when protests started in Ukraine, in Kiev, here in Georgia, supporting events have been held not only in the capital city, but in the regions as well.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SHUBERT: Now, that view there is from one of our iReports in Georgia. You see some of those protests there in solidarity in the situation in Ukraine. But across the world, the situation in Ukraine is seen differently. The country has long been divided between East and West, and you can literally see those divisions playing out geographically.
This map shows how the country voted in the 2010 presidential election, and that of course is when Viktor Yanukovych narrowly defeated Yulia Tymoshenko. Now, Tymoshenko supporters are mainly in the western part of the country, the area in yellow.
Most people there speak Ukrainian and they want closer ties to Europe and the West, while Viktor Yanukovych is from the eastern part of Ukraine, the area in blue. And this is where Russian is widely spoken and people are more in tune with Moscow.
Now, I'm joined in the studio by Andy Hunder, director of the Ukrainian Institute in London. What I want to get your first reaction to is this news that's just come in of a possible way out of this crisis. Early elections, a new government formed very quickly, and then a change in constitution by the summer. Is this enough to calm down the protests on the streets and call off the opposition?
HUNDER: I think it's what we saw even last night. Last night, a truce was declared and people were being a bit optimistic. But in the course of that night, when the truce was declared, the government shot dead a hundred people. So, it's really about trust now. How can people trust somebody that shot so many people dead?
I think it's moving into the right direction. I think Viktor Yanukovych is cornered. His future, I think, is very bleak. I can't see him coming out of this, because after shooting his own people, it's going to be very difficult for him to stand and for people to forgive him.
SHUBERT: Let me ask you, we just saw this map that showed this sort of political divisions and geographical divisions in the country. But after last -- after yesterday and after today, with a hundred people killed today, do those divisions, do you think they still exist, or are we looking at an increasingly isolated president?
HUNDER: I think what the president has done that even his electorship will be very -- I'm not sure they will be voting for him in the future, after shooting at his own people. I think the divisions, it's politics. I think even in parts of the UK, we have more Labour voters --
HUNDER: -- more Tory voters. I think Ukraine is one nation, ethnically, it's one nation. So, I think it's the people that stand together for one cause, and that they feel themselves to be Ukrainian.
SHUBERT: Yes, and something like this really tends to unite people. If I could just bring in another guest here, we can now cross to Maia Mikhaluk in Kiev. Now, she is a freelance photographer and she is one of our iReporters. Maia, you have been seeing some of these scenes on the streets, these protests. Tell us a little bit about what you have been experiencing in these protests over the last few days.
MAIA MIKHALUK, CNN IREPORTER, FREELANCE PHOTOGRAPHER: Well, the -- Maidan and the protest has changed quite a bit over the last three months. It started quite peacefully, and over the last three days, it has escalated into the kind of violence none of us could have ever imagined taking place in our country.
So, it's been really horrible. It's scary, it's heartbreaking to see people in blood, to see people shot by our own police, to see how unprotected we are from our system, our corrupt government. It's been heartbreaking, and it's been very difficult, especially today, with so many people killed.
All this -- these men who were killed today, they have mothers. More than a hundred mothers today are crying over their dead bodies, sons. It's just --
SHUBERT: I want to ask you, the public reaction to seeing this kind of violence, has it further isolated the president at this point, and has it sort of solidified that opposition demand that he has to go?
MIKHALUK: Absolutely, it did. I think the events of the last three days have sealed the determination of people. Just maybe a month ago, what we're hearing today, early elections would have been enough. But after what just happened on the streets the last three days, President Yanukovych has to stand down, and he has to be held responsible for the death and the blood on the streets of Kiev.
SHUBERT: I want to stop you there, because we just have some new developments coming in. The Ukrainian parliament has now passed a motion declaring illegal an anti-terrorist operation originally declared by the country's security service. Now, that motion ordered security forces to return to their stations.
Now, this is actually a very interesting development, because of course, there were those sort of security laws that were initially passed several weeks ago, quite harsh, and that was the reasoning for really coming out in force on the streets. Now, this appears to reverse some of that --
SHUBERT: -- and order the security forces to go back. And also, order -- the parliament has ordered to unblock the streets and prohibit the use of firearms. So, this is clearly an attempt by parliament, which has just now been convening, to try and deescalate the situation. Do you think this is likely to work?
HUNDER: Yes. I think it's -- the cracks. I think the sort of the monoliths of the president's party are starting to show the cracks. And I think the majority of 239 members of parliament now have actually voted this in just now, I think that is showing that it's starting to crack, and people are walking away from the president.
The head of the city administration, he left -- he's walked out, and he's left the Party of Regents, the president's party. So I think one by one, and by groups, people are going to start leaving the president, because they do not want to be associated with a tyrant, a dictator, who's been shooting his own people.
So, I think these cracks that are appearing, I think it's a very good step that parliament -- this could be a new majority in parliament. Let's hope it's not undermined overnight, because there will be attempts to undermine this majority.
But I think what I'm hearing also from members of parliament that there is a lot of interest from people from the president's party to jump boat and to stand up for the people and not be associated with a dictator and a tyrant.
SHUBERT: Yes, it's moving very rapidly, but it's very interesting that we are starting to see these political developments trying to find some way out of this crisis. Thank you very much to Maia, who joined us, one of our iReporters. Thank you very much, keeping an eye on events in Kiev. And thank you very much, Andy Hunder, from the Ukrainian institute. I appreciate that.
Well, coming up after this short break on CONNECT THE WORLD, a compelling plea for freedom from one of the thousands of protesters in Ukraine.
SHUBERT: Welcome back to a special edition of CONNECT THE WORLD, where we are focusing on events in Ukraine. We're just receiving news from the Polish prime minister's office that an agreement is ready for early elections this year. According to his office, the agreement also includes the formation of a new government within ten days and a change of the constitution by summer, also this year.
We're also hearing now that the Ukrainian parliament has passed a motion declaring illegal an anti-terrorist operation originally declared by the country's security service, ordering security forces back to their stations.
Now, the unrest in Ukraine is being strongly felt some 1400 kilometers away at the Olympic Games in Sochi. Ukrainian athletes there gathered for a moment of silence today in honor of those killed in Kiev. Meanwhile, Ukrainian alpine skier Bogdana Matsotska has withdrawn from the Games in protest against President Yanukovych.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BOGDANA MATSOTSKA, UKRAINIAN ALPINE SKIER (through translator): My friends are at Maidan, people I know, close friends of mine. To go on the start line when people are dying and when the authorities broke the main rule of the Olympic competition, which is peace, I simply cannot do it.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SHUBERT: CNN also spoke exclusively with Sergei Bubka. He is the head of Ukraine's national Olympic committee. The former world pole vault jumper says -- champion, excuse me -- says he's shocked by what he's seen unfolding in his homeland.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SERGEI BUBKA, UKRAINIAN NATIONAL OLYMPIC COMMITTEE: I couldn't believe that happened in my country, because Ukraine is so nice. The country's beautiful. We are kind, we are friendly, and we show in many international events our outstanding hospitality.
And foreign guests, foreign friends, when they're visiting, they're really amazed about us. What in this moment I cannot believe it. We cannot go against each other. We need to understand each other. We must listen. We must go back to dialogue.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SHUBERT: Now, from behind the protest lines in the Ukrainian capital came a daring plea to the world. It's from a young woman who explains what thousands of Ukrainians are so desperately seeking. Miguel Marquez has the details.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I am Ukrainian, a native of Kiev. I want you to know why thousands of people all over my country are on the streets.
MIGUEL MARQUEZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): This two-minute video now an internet sensation, bringing attention to a violent struggle playing out on an international stage.
BEN MOSES, FILMMAKER: She is a 25-year-old citizen of Kiev, born and raised in Kiev, married, who cares deeply about her country.
MARQUEZ: A 25-year-old whose name we cannot use. She fears retribution. Ben Moses made the video. He met her when he was making another film, "A Whisper to a Roar." In it, Ukraine, one of several struggles for democracies profiled. The award-winning and longtime LA-based documentarian never saw a reaction like this.
MOSES: I e-mailed my friends and said, take a look at this. This woman really cares about her country and kind of explains why they're really on the streets. And boom.
MARQUEZ: Ukraine descending into darkness for weeks now, marked by an aggressive government response toward its own citizens demanding the very basics.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I want these people who are here, who have businesses, who are brave, we want to be free.
MARQUEZ: Her video highlighting the power of the individual in a social media world. Despite how complex, violent, and distant the struggle might seem, in our data-overloaded world, somehow, the message breaks through.
MARQUEZ (on camera): How is there room for this sort of video in a cynical world?
MOSES: It's all about this woman. She has -- she has a spirit, a caring, a deep caring about her people, about her country, that when you meet her this far away, it just radiates.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We have these freedoms in our minds, and now, I ask you to do this freedom in our country.
MARQUEZ (voice-over): A call for help for history written in real time.
Miguel Marquez, CNN, Los Angeles.
SHUBERT: I'm Atika Shubert, and that was CONNECT THE WORLD. Thanks for watching.